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Comic Reviews: Astonishing X-Men and Nightwing!

COMIC REVIEWS!!!! 

Astonishing_X-Men_1_Cover.jpgAstonishing X-Men #1 (Marvel Comics)

Not content with just two X-Men series for ResurrXion (three if you count Weapon X), Marvel’s putting out a brand new edition of Astonishing X-Men, the series that achieved instant classic status thanks to Joss Whedon and John Cassaday, only to then be watered down by Marvel trying everything and anything to make that magic work again. This time though, they’ve tasked Charles Soule, the writer of about 15 other comics (give or take) with coming up with new adventures for the team of mutants, and are pairing Soule with a different artist each issue, which is kind of brilliant when you think about how inconsistent Marvel is with keeping artists on a series. With Jim Cheung as the first artist on deck, there’s a lot of hype around this new version of Astonishing, and while it doesn’t live up to it, there’s still great potential for this series.

While walking around London, Psylocke is attacked by the Shadow King. Desperate for help, she sends out a psychic distress call to members of the X-Men that she’s worked with in the past, which conveniently gives us the team you see on the cover. After helping Psylocke subdue the carnage around her and regain her control, she realizes that Shadow King has not only grown in power, but is attempting to create a “web” of psychics that he can use to completely overtake the planet. With this new team assembled, the X-Men prepare to jump into the Astral Plane to take on Shadow King.

While Charles Soule’s script is a lot of set up, the one thing where Astonishing shines is characterization. Often times writers have trouble writing the X-Men simply because it’s such a large team. With so many characters, there’s bound to be some that either don’t sound like they should or are completely written out of the series. But with Astonishing’s opening issue, every character gets a moment to shine in some pretty great introductory pages. Soule is able to give succinct back stories for the characters on this team, and even teases at adventures that are going on just prior to this series that I really want to see (especially Gambit and Fantomex).

If you’re going to open a series with an excellent artist, you could do no better than Jim Cheung. Cheung’s style is expertly utilized here, and he sets the bar extremely high for the next artist. The devastation in London is drawn incredibly, and Cheung’s even able to nail some pretty intricate emotions and facial ticks on the characters. There’s a few odd panels here and there (Fantomex’s arms look a little thin at times), but I pity the artist who has to jump in on issue two.  These are quite the shoes to fill.

Astonishing X-Men may not leave the same impression as the Whedon and Cassaday run that came before it, but it’s still a solid set up issue that actually serves as a pretty good jumping on point for new and lapsed X-fans. Soule has crafted a really interesting team filled with dynamic personalities. Really the only thing that has me worried is the different artists for each issue gimmick that Marvel is putting out on this series. If done poorly, it could give the series an identity crisis. But for now, this issue was pretty damn great, and worth a read for X-Men fans.

 

 

Nightwing #25 (DC Comics) NTW_Cv25_ds.indd

While Batman has been fighting Bane and proposing to Catwoman, Dick Grayson has been building a nice life for himself in Bludhaven. He’s got a new girlfriend, some sweet job prospects, and things seem to be settling down for him. Until this issue, where Tim Seeley and Minkyu Jung really put ol’ Dick through the wringer. As the finale for the “Blockbuster” story arc, Nightwing #25 uses its extra pages to really bring in the emotional gut punches and set up some pretty interesting ideas for future issues.

Tim Seeley’s storylines for the past few months have involved Dick Grayson trying to come to terms with if he wants to be Nightwing for the rest of his life. After settling in with his girlfriend, he seems like he’s ready to put it all behind him, but all that changes in this issue, as old foe Blockbuster (who’s actually the brother of the original Blockbuster) pushes Dick to the brink. Surrounded by enemies on a boat with a ticking time bomb, Nightwing seemingly has no choice but to let the bad guys blow up. Or does he?

Seeley’s script wraps up this cliffhanger from last month fairly quickly, but he makes up for it with a surprisingly emotional element that comes later in the issue and a pretty cool spin on what Dick Grayson will be doing for employment in the upcoming months to come. By putting a focus on the personal side of Nightwing, he’s really invigorated this series and made the character a lot more personal. Dick Grayson is struggling with growing up, and as he watches his friends grow and change, he wonders if it’s time for him to do the same.

Minkyu Jung does a great a job of fitting in with the typical “Nightwing style” that fans will come to expect. While he doesn’t do anything that really makes his art stick out, that’s clearly what DC is going for with a lot of their DC Rebirth titles. There are plenty of excellent action and fight scenes, but like Seeley’s emotional beats, the real surprise here is the quieter moments. Jung‘s pages are able to bring the emotions in Seeley’s script out even more with some stunning and stark pages by the issue’s end.

Nightwing has a been a series that’s been flying under the radar since Dick Grayson returned to his costumed ways, but it’s been a very solid and fun superhero book since the first issue. While this issue probably isn’t the best one to jump onto, all signs are pointing towards issue 26 being a pretty interesting place to check in on the first Robin. Honestly there couldn’t be a better time to check this character out.

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Secret Agent Man

1397500147000-GRAYSON-COMICS-jy-3912-So Dick Grayson is going to be a secret agent.

Ooooooookay.

Yes, Nightwing is surviving Forever Evil (spoilersI guess), and is going to come out of it a very different character than when he went in. For one, his identity is out in the open (and still no one pieces together that Bruce Wayne might be Batman), and the world at large will believe he is dead. So what’s a presumed dead guy in the DC universe to do? Pull a Winter Soldier, of course!

Look, I don’t want to knock this new direction before I try it, but this seems really, really weird. As much as DC will probably deny it, this move does seem like a stretch, and this is coming from a guy who unabashedly loves the Flash Thompson Venom.  Maybe my apprehension stems from seeing Dick Grayson, a guy who’s been trained by the Batman himself, wielding a gun on the first promotional image. As far as I can remember, Dick Grayson’s never been against guns in the same way that Bruce Wayne is, but if someone has been trained by a man who directly tells his wards that “guns are the weapons of cowards”, I have a hard time believing that Dick would be all for grabbing the nearest pistol and taking out foreign bad guys.

Perhaps the thing the bothers me the most behind this new status quo is that it reeks of DC trying to pitch this as TV series concept.  It’s really not that far off if you think about. In many ways, a Grayson TV show could serve as their answer to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., except for the fact that Arrow is a sizeable hit for the CW, and they could just copy that show’s formula for a show focusing on Nightwing. If this does turn out to be the case, why use Dick? Why not re-do Human Target again, or make Jason Todd this new secret agent. At least his use of guns has been explained already.

I’ll give DC this, Grayson is at least a different idea, and sometimes different is good. Take a look at Superior Spider-Man, or replacing Batman with Dick Grayson. But sometimes change can be bad, like lady Ghost Rider or FrankenCastle bad (which, in fairness, I loved because of it’s badness). . If anything, I give this new direction a year, which is the standard for any big change in the comics medium. By then there’ll be some reason to explain away Dick’s sudden career change.

For example, maybe he’ll make a deal with the devil so everyone forgets his identity.