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Comics Catch for February 22, 2012

Comics Catch for February 22, 2012

Comics Catch compiles short reviews of a bunch of comics worth reading each week.

Green Lantern: New Guardians #6: Last month we expressed a little disappointment in New Guardians, a series that sounds like it would be super cool—it's a team book featuring one member of each of the seven Lantern corps, which is just a great idea. The book has a few pacing problems, though, which don't always make it the most fun—when you've got seven super-powerful characters to feature, you want something amazing to happen in every issue. So in a nice change from last month, New Guardians #6 lays the action on thick as our heroes (divided into three groups) face off against a villain called Invictus, who's created a miniature universe and made himself its God. These action scenes are explosive, fun, and beautifully penciled by artist Tyler Kirkham. New Guardians still feels a little light in the story department, but if it can maintain a high level of action it'll continue to be worth reading. B

Infestation 2: Transformers #2: This issue wraps up the story of a group of HP Lovecraft-style monsters invading 1880s-Earth, where (it just so happens) a group of Transformers stranded there have been taken over by their evil magic. To fight off the "Ancient Ones," the Autobots have enlisted the help of Nikola Tesla, one of the era's most controversial scientists, to find a way to revive their leader Optimus Prime, who's been dormant for centuries. This two-issue miniseries has been a fun mash-up of horror, sci-fi and historical fiction, although this particular book has a lot of plot to cover, and it feels like things happen perhaps a little too quickly to really enjoy. Still, artist Guido Guidi does a fantastic job both drawing the robotic Transformers (here in a steampunk style) and the horrific dark gods they fight, with the final showdown between Optimus and an ugly old sea monster looking especially cool (if not too brief). Still, this miniseries has definitely been a cool look at a world of Transformers we never get to see, and who doesn't enjoy Lovecraft monsters now and again? B+

Justice League Dark #6: There aren't a lot of comics featuring teams of heroes where the main characters don't really get together until the sixth issue. If Justice League Dark (which stars, as the title implies, heroes from the "darker" side of the DC universe) has one fault, it's that there's still no real sense of cohesion here. This particular issue, an epilogue to the opening five-part story arc, is designed to finally give readers a reason why these characters—Deadman, Shade, John Constantine and Zatanna—would want to work together, but it's not an especially satisfying one. Tension between teammates is good, but it seems like this book will be nothing but tension. Still, writer Peter Milligan comes up with some pretty cool plot ideas and dialog (his Constantine especially is fun), and artist Mikel Janin has really mastered the looks of these characters over the last six months. This book's recommended for fans of dark fantasy stories, though one wishes it could define itself just a little better. B-

Secret Avengers #23: Here Hawkeye's team of covert-ops heroes have to rescue a super-powered young boy from a madman who believes that his own robot/human hybrids will rule the world. We really enjoyed Rick Remender and Gabriel Hardman's debut issue of Secret Avengers a few weeks ago, but this issue doesn't quite seem to live up to its promise. Remender's still got some great ideas on the board (and, straight-up, the notion of black ops superheroes is already a winner), but he doesn't seem to have a hold on all the characters. His Hawkeye is a really unpleasant dude, for instance, and although another character calls him on it in this book, it's always kind of weird reading a story where practiced superheroes yell at each other like bickering parents. On the other hand, this issue throws the spotlight on the Eric O'Grady Ant-Man, an underused and interesting former scumbag-turned-(kind of) hero. It also introduces two new members to this Avengers team sure to grab some attention: the original (like, 1940s) Human Torch (who is part robot) and Venom (now being controlled by Flash Thompson, who you may know as the guy who used to make fun of Spider-Man). Both of these additions could be very promising, but they'd definitely garner more interest if our main character wasn't so unpleasant. B

Transformers: Robots in Disguise #2: Supposedly, it's a time of peace on Cybertron—with the Great War recently ended, the remaining Autobots, Decepticons and non-aligned citizens alike now must come together to form some kind of workable government. Things are changing for our favorite changing robots, and this series by John Barber and Andrew Griffith takes a look at how a species that's known nothing but war could possibly survive in peace. This is a really cool, smart approach to the Transformers franchise that turns a lot of what we know on its head. In this particular issue, for instance provisional governor Bumblebee gets word of an assassination attempt on his life meant to take place during a memorial for his deceased comrades. In doing this, the remaining Decepticons hope to generate enough chaos to usurp power in this government early on. But the notorious Decepticon turncoat Starscream has other plans—he plans to go to the Autobots and tell the truth. But why? Political maneuvering is probably the last thing you'd expect to make a really compelling Transformers comic, but here we are. As this issue nicely demonstrates, battles will no long be fought with guns but with words (okay, maybe just a few guns). It's a type of storytelling we haven't seen with these characters before, and it'll be really interesting to see it unfold. A-

BOOK OF THE WEEK: All-Star Western #6: After spending the last few issues investigating a string of child abductions and being thrown into a pit that would eventually become the Batcave, bounty hunter Jonah Hex and psychiatrist Amadeus Arkham finally manage to see the light of Gotham City's day again in All-Star Western #6. To be blunt, this series is just good comics. First of all, the gritty, heavy pencil art by Moritat/Gabriel Bautista is simply beautiful and perfectly fits this book's late nineteenth century setting. The story, too, is top-notch; writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have found a way to tell an exciting Western story in a very urban environment, and they manage to connect it to the world of present-day Batman comics in some really fascinating ways. This issue, in which Hex and Arkham get to the bottom of some recent child abductions, also manages to be politically and culturally insightful and relevant without being preachy, a tough feat for sure. Basically, this book is a joy: it's well-drawn, smart, and always interesting. Even if Westerns aren't typically your bag, there's a good chance this one could win you over. A-

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