by Teresa Jusino
It wasn’t a stellar week, but it wasn’t bad. Also, not very many new titles caught my eye…but the one that did? LOVED it. Lastly, even though I’m not giving it its own review this week, I just have to say that I’m completely head-over-heels for Bobby Drake in Ultimate Spider-Man. If he were around when I was in high school, I would totally have wanted to make him my boyfriend. And with that, here we go…
***** So good it cures cancer!
*** Solid. Possibly the middle of a story arc.
** It had A redeeming quality?
* Don’t bother.
BEST OF THE WEEK
The Unwritten #14 ***1/2
For those who don’t know, The Unwritten is an amazing series about a guy named Tom Taylor, a man whose father has written a Harry Potter-esque series of books about a boy wizard who bears his name. All Tom wants to do is lay low, and not have to be associated with his father’s legacy. But both the real world, and the world of books just won’t let him. You read right, the World of Books. In this story, it’s difficult to tell where reality ends and fiction begins as fictional elements begin creeping into Tom’s real life. In this issue, Tom finally has an opportunity to speak with his father, who’s long since disappeared, at a book signing for the latest Tommy Taylor novel. He’s hoping that his father will have the answers about all the strange goings-on happening to him and his friends lately. However, just as he’s close to the truth, Lizzie, his fiercest ally in figuring out the mystery of his literary life is abducted, then runs away. Did I mention that her full name is Lizzie Hexam, which also happens to be the name of a character in Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend? The Unwritten is a perfect title for comic geeks and literature geeks. Literary references abound, and as reality and fiction come closer together, the story is exciting and goes to some unexpected places. Writer Mike Carey and artist Peter Gross do great work on this title. It wasn’t nominated for 3 Eisner Awards for nothin’!
WORST OF THE WEEK
Star Trek: Leonard McCoy, Frontier Doctor #3 **
Bones’ adventures in healing the sick on the outskirts of the universe continue on a planet that was supposed to be at the technological level of Earth’s Bronze Age, but when McCoy, Duncan, and Theela arrive, is significantly more advanced and seemingly war-like. Before they can figure out why, the team is captured by soldiers who suspect them of being spies. As it turns out *SPOILER ALERT*, the planet has been taken over by Klingons and turned into a war planet, where warriors are cloned and fight for their entertainment. But, um, now that the Federation is taking an interest in the planet, the Klingons are just going to, um, leave.
Way to take an interesting concept and totally suck out all of its potential. I blame Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln, who make a special guest appearance in this issue. Assignment:Earth was a fine episode of Star Trek, and might have worked as a spin-off series, but John Byrne needs to stop trying to stick those characters into everything! They are excruciatingly dated, which is to be expected, since Roberta is from the 1960s and Gary Seven lives there. Byrne’s Assignment:Earth mini-series for IDW was lame, albeit well-intentioned, and now he’s tried to bring those characters into a series that was doing just fine all by itself. They, along with the Klingons suddenly being really mellow and “meh” about Federation involvement in their affairs, make this issue toothless and boring. It does, however, end with a cliffhanger featuring a mysterious blast from McCoy’s past…so hears hoping that leads to more interesting storytelling next month.
Young Allies #1 ***1/2
I have a thing for teams of young superheroes. There’s something about having superpowers that resonates so well with the issues and concerns specific to teenagers. After all, nothing screams “teen years” like the idea of acquiring great power in the world, but then needing to figure out what to do with it in a really angsty way. Peter Parker bitten by a radioactive spider & gaining powers when he’s 15…puberty, much? And so, teams like the Runaways, the Young Avengers, and the Young Masters have my heart. Now, we can add another superhero team to that list; one that is – dare I say it? – better than the others! The Young Allies consist of five young superheroes, each with intriguing, complex backstories, and with different relationships to their powers. One of whom doesn’t actually have powers at all!
Benito Serrano is a boy in Columbia who is captured by the military, brainwashed into being part of a child army, and experimented on with genetic enhancements to complete his transformation into a merciless killer with the strength of a bull. Anya Corazon, otherwise known as Araña, has actually renounced the powers given to her by the Spider Society, but continues being a superhero through sheer skill and intelligence. Anya’s best friend, Rebecca Barnes, or Nomad, is a girl who used to be Bucky in an alternate universe that’s since been destroyed. She continues to fight crime in this universe, even as she’s getting used to the idea that Steve Rogers died, but is now alive, and is now in charge of the world. Angelica Jones, aka Firestar, was born with the mutant power to convert ambient energy into microwave radiation. After being exploited by Emma Frost and finding her way toward being a hero, she discovered she’s not immune to her own powers, which not only made her unable to have children, but gave her breast cancer. Her cancer now in remission, Angelica is a grad student at NYU…but she just can’t seem to give up being Firestar. Lastly, there’s Greg Willis, Gravity, a Midwesterner who is pulled into a black hole on Lake Michigan, giving him power over a thin layer of graviton particles that acts as a second skin. After enrolling at NYU, dying in a superhero battle, being revived by Galactus, and going back to Michigan as part of the Fifty-State Initiative, Greg is back at NYU, finding the time to be both a student and a superhero.
In this issue, the five heroes are brought together as they each respond to fending off a figure from Toro’s past who, along with a group of superpowered young people with a less than heroic agenda, is wreaking havoc on New York City. What’s great about this issue is that these college-aged young adults act their age. They’re not overly precocious, but they’re not overly child-like, either. Sean McKeever writes them with respect, and honestly captures the intimate moments between each set of friends. They’re not just characters, or superheroes, they’re people. David Baldeón is a perfect artist for this series as there’s a youthful exuberance about his work that’s appropriate for this title.
These characters are fascinating and have more complicated backgrounds than, say, the Runaways. The back of the issue contains a two-page spread on each member of the Young Allies, which not only summarizes their backstories in the Marvel Universe, but lists “recommended reading” for each, so that you can get to know them better.
There are also the title’s greater implications. Toro is a Columbian who speaks very little English. Araña is Puerto Rican (Best line: When an opponent talks about her “Mexican heat”, she says “I’m Puerto Rican, you dips@#!t!”). Having a language in common makes them fast friends, and they speak to each other in Spanish. Imagine that! Two Hispanic heroes on the same team! Not only that, but the team is made up of THREE girls and two boys. A higher female to male ratio seems to be the norm for young superhero teams these days, which gives me lots of hope for the future!
Young Allies is a great title for teens and adults alike, and it perfectly embodies Marvel’s Heroic Age.
OTHER READS THIS WEEK
Ultimate Spider-Man #11***
Invincible Iron Man #27 ***
Teresa Jusino was born on the same day that Skylab fell. Coincidence? She doesn’t think so. She is a contributor to Tor.com, a website that covers sci-fi, fantasy, “…and related subjects.” Her work has also been seen on PopMatters.com, on the sadly-defunct literary site CentralBooking.com, edited by Kevin Smokler, and in the Elmont Life community newspaper. She is currently writing a web series for Pareidolia Films called The Pack, which is set to debut Fall 2010! Get Twitterpated with Teresa, Follow The Pack, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.
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