eXaminations, 4/23/14 releases

While eXaminations is usually a column for X-Men books, this week the only X-Book on my list was Uncanny Avengers and I don’t have a copy of it yet.  So instead you’re just going to have to deal with the other three books I read this week.

  • Avengers Undercover #3 in which the kids hang out with some villains.
  • Justice League United #0 in which I read a DC book for the first time in a long while.
  • Original Sin #0 in which we get to know the Watcher a bit.

It’s been a while, so in case you have forgotten, there will be some SPOILERS for any who are reading about new comics they haven’t read yet for some reason.  Weirdos.

Avengers Undercover #3
A while back, Marvel launched an odd little book called Avengers Arena seemingly to get in on all that Hunger Games fervor in which a number of teen heroes (a good chunk of whom were created for the book) were gathered up and dumped on an island and told to kill each other.  You know how that goes.  I went the entire book thinking that surely it couldn’t be what it seemed to be – there HAD to be more to it.  But nope, just a kill fest and a bunch of kids died before the book suddenly just kind of ended and everyone went home.

With that done, most of the cast have stuck around for the next chapter in which they all stick together to have adventures.  And that’s fine and all, since the book did make some of them pretty interesting after all.  The first story is the obvious one – the kids go after Arcade, the villain that put them through the island hell, for revenge.  Of course, they are supposed to be heroes and all, so where do they draw the line?  Do they simply kill him in cold blood like he had them?  Cullen Bloodstone thought so and tracked Arcade to Baron Zemo’s villain nation (which apparently he has) and the others followed him, and here we are.

So this issue, the kids have their big revenge battle with Arcade and pretty handily beat him.  Granted, that’s not very difficult, but it is a fun little rump until the end where the point gets down to it.  What do the kids do with him now that they have him?  Hazmat makes the decision and gruesomely kills him.  Now that’s done – the real story begins.  Turns out this was all Baron Zemo’s plan and he has something in mind for the kids.

Pointless name aside (these kids aren’t Avengers and they aren’t Undercover), this book has got me interested, which isn’t surprising since its predecessor had me sold on its characters.  Losing X-23 and Darkhawk from the cast hasn’t cost the book anything and since there are really no other constant book of young heroes doing actual adventuring (Young Avengers is currently in a retooling pause), it’s a good place for the youth fix.  Three issues in, and I’m sold.

Justice League United #0
I’ve been out of the DCU for quite some time now.  I’ve kept up here and there with some of the titles but really it’s been quite some time since I’ve picked up a title regularly.  Um…I’m going to say the bi-weekly JLU title from a few years ago was the last one, and before that you have to go back to the Legion Threeboot era.  Action Comics interested me, but that didn’t last long.

But as is usual, there’s one thing that can always bring me back – Ted Kord.  He’s been my favorite forever, and whenever he shows up, chances are I’ll be seeing what’s going on.  A while ago, it was announced that he would be making his New 52 debut in the final issue of Forever Evil and would then factor into the Justice League moving forward, so when I saw this book solicited, I decided it was as good a place as any to jump on and see what’s up now that the Big Event is over.

Turns out the Big Event isn’t over yet – it’s delayed over a month past its original solicited date – but in true comic fashion, DC has decided to go ahead with the post-Event material before it even ends.  It’s one of my most frustrating irks with mainstream comics in which everything is based on the Next Big Thing to the point that the Current Big Thing loses all semblance of importance by its conclusion because everyone is too busy hyping everything that changes next.  If you follow all the press releases and comic news, then you can likely guess the finale of a book by what’s solicited after it, and knowing that hardcore fans lap up any and all dribbles of news that hit the fandom floor, companies just go ahead and push ahead.  Who cares if the current event has to be so rude and finish up?

Bitterness aside, that means we have the new Justice League pushing forward from the finale that we haven’t seen yet and I’m assuming establishing its new roster.  I’m not familiar with how DC plays the Justice League, but hopefully it’s not like Marvel’s policy of EVERYONE IS AN AVENGER.  Here we have a Team Coming Together issue that sees an odd lineup of Martian Manhunter, Supergirl, Adam Strange, Stargirl, Green Arrow, Animal Man and new character Equinox.

Let me tell you, the lineup right there has me sold on this team.  You see, I’m not a big fan of the Huge Players only Justice League.  Having a lineup of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter seems really cool on paper, but I’ve always been troubled by the thought of just who could possibly be a reasonable threat to this lineup?  It’s why every enemy on the old Super Friends cartoon had some kind of Kryptonite embedded in their costume so Superman couldn’t just flick them through a wall and call it a day.  Stories end up having to be planetary threat or villain superteam.  I much prefer a team of B and C listers with maybe one A-list hero to pull the group together.  It’s what made the old JLI so much fun.  Well, that and the cat attack.

But the lineup isn’t the only solid thing about this issue.  It’s a straightforward introductory story.  This isn’t the old “leaders putting the pictures of heroes on a table” thing we’ve seen so often because a team is required for the premise of the book.  This is a handful of heroes that get brought together by a common threat that they cannot beat alone.  That’s good stuff – you get the team working together and then you have them realize they should be a team.  I see so many books get launched with no purpose as to why the characters are starring in that title – hell, I’m an X-Men fan.  It’s their MO.

So well done, Jeff Lemire.  You’ve got me interested in a DC team.  And if nothing else, I love me some Mike McKone.

Original Sin #0
There’s a difference between DC #0 issues and Marvel #0 issues.  DC tends to put out a #0 issue that is actually the first issue of a title.  It establishes the story, so when you get to issue #1, it’s actually the second issue which may be confusing for those who simply look for the big #1 on the cover.  Marvel, on the other hand, will put out an issue #0 that is more of an intro of sorts to the story that will begin in issue #1.  It’s really what an issue #0 should be in my mind.  Either way, both companies just do it so they can basically get #1 sales numbers on a second issue.  But then again, Marvel puts #1 on almost all of its issues these day, but now I’m on a tangent.

Original Sin is this year’s Mega Event and honestly I knew nothing about it before I picked up this issue.  Turns out the book is going to see Uatu the Watcher get killed which means all that info he’s been storing in that big ol’ head of his is apparently available…or something.  Realistically Uatu hasn’t been an important character since the days of Lee and Kirby when he used to help Reed Richards with a handy Deus Ex Machina to close out a story.  It was a Silver Age thing.  Since then, he tends to pop up when a writer wants to let the audience know that what’s going on is SUPER IMPORTANT.  That would be all well and good, but it tended to get overused as so many things do that lead to a cheap thrill.

What I’m trying to say here is from a reader’s point of view, The Watcher really isn’t THAT big a deal anymore and it would be safe to assume that some newer readers might not even know who he is.  That’s a problem if your Big Event is based on him, so we get a lead-in issue to tell his origin using the bright-eyed perspective of the teenage Nova.  Because apparently there’s a teenage Nova now.  It’s a fun little establishing issue that gets what you need to know out there, and that’s great.

But there’s one thing about this that does bother me a bit.  The artist is Jim Cheung, who I’m assuming will be the artist for the main story.  That’s not a good thing, because Jim Cheung is not one for hitting deadlines whatsoever.  This issue not only has Paco Medina helping with pencils, but five inkers.  When Marvel gears all for an all-inclusive Mega Event (which solicits suggest this will be) it’s not good if the book will likely either be plagued with delays or need a separate artist to get it done.

This issue was fine, but I can’t say I’m excited about the event.


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