Thursday, February 16, 2012

Paul's Picks, Double Feature! (Part 2) - Feb. 16, 2012

Well, it's that time again folks: Wednesday! And you know what Wednesday is?... Well, of course you do, you're reading a blog about comics, so you obviously know it's New Comics Day, a.k.a. Paul's favorite weekly holiday! And in celebration of this weekly, well, celebration, Paul is here to give you his favorite book of the week.

Double Feature, Part 2:

Hello friends and followers! Well, a day has come and gone since the first half of my Double Feature, and I have returned as promised to provide you with more talk of all things comics! To be more specific, I'm going to reveal my second pick of the week to all of you readers who've fallen victim to your own curiosity. It is typically strictly against my self-derived policy to award my chosen weekly favorite to more than one book, but given the circumstances, I decided to give it a shot. When it came down to decide which of the my two top choices would win the week, I just couldn't bring myself to lift one above the other for a number of reasons. I mean, come on, we all know (or should by now) that Batman #6 was an incredible issue that is absolutely pick-worthy! But on the other hand, the award has gone to Snyder and his Batman already on two separate occasions since this column began... And so I decided to give in to my own crazy impulse and deliver doubly by deeming the decided champion a duo! (Sorry, I may have gotten a little carried away with that...) And now, without further ado, I give you my Second and equally impressive pick of the week...
Wonder Woman #6 by Brian Azzarello and Tony Akins!

You gotta hate it when that happens...
Let me begin by saying that I am loving what Azzarello has been doing with this character since the relaunch. J.M. Straczynski had something pretty impressive going on pre-New 52 with this Odyssey storyline, but there has just been something special about the feel of this new book. With the help of artist Cliff Chiang (who was sadly on hiatus during issue number 6), the Amazonian princess has been given a new life. With that being said, I'd be lying if I said this book has been perfect... I have enjoyed reading every issue so far, because Azzarello's writing has felt perfect for Diana and her world. Up to this point, my favorite work by him was probably Superman: For Tomorrow, but he has a chance in this series to change that. The problem is, while the writing and the art have both been firing on all cylinders (when Chiang is around), I just haven't been pulled into the story yet. There were some really strong moments, such as the reveal about Diana's new origin, and the characters are all very interesting, but there hasn't been anything to just blow me away in terms of the story. The creators have been kind of setting everything up so far, creating motivation for Wonder Woman to go after Hera, introducing us to other Demigods (and of course, the pregnant mother of Zeus' newest offspring), and building up to something bigger than a single issue arc. For this reason, Wonder Woman had hitherto failed to earn a place on Paul's Picks.

But alas, her day has finally arrived! With issue number 6, the story has finally hit its stride, in part by introducing some age old characters in a very cool new way. One of the best (and at times scariest) things about the New 52 relaunch was getting to see these character redesigned and presented in a new light. In the pages of Wonder Woman, these Tony Akins has had the privilege of showing us a new take on the gods and goddesses that so often plague the DCU with trouble. Of these we've seen Hermes, Hera, Poseidon, and now Hades. At the very least, these guys deserve some props for the cool factor in presenting these interesting characters. Whereas we are typically accustomed to seeing Hades presented in a very devilish likeness, either black or with fire, here he is given one of the most unique faces I've ever seen. Not to mention the fact that Poseidon is attacking Diana in the form of a gigantic frog-like sea monster, I mean who thought of that?? It's the cool little things like this that make readers want to come back for more, myself included. 

Now that's an original look on Hades.
Let me just say that I'll be the first one to bash on a fill in artist. It's one thing to have a "guest artist" that gets a chance to pop in the middle somewhere and do something fun (weren't we all glad to see Andy Kubert's name on Action Comics, even if it was a result of Morales' shortcomings). But it really gets under my skin when we have random guys coming in on a book that is going great, only to make me sit back and scratch my head and wonder why these guys can't just come through when the readers need them to. This is especially annoying when a fill in artist takes everything in such a different direction visually than usual, which can really pull me out of the story altogether.

With that being said, I wasn't particularly keen to find Akins' name on the cover when I picked up issue 5. I absolutely love Chiang's take on WW, and I hated to see that slip, even if its only for a short time. However, in issue 6, Akins proves to us that he is more than just a guest, he deserves to be drawing these pages. The action is handled amazingly, and he provides us with an impressive first look at some of these gods and goddesses that are undoubtedly going to be making repeated appearances as this series goes forward. Azzarello has managed to write these otherworldly characters in a way that makes them feel very accessible, even to us mere mortals, while Akins has given them a life that shows us just how inhuman they really are. In issue 6, we don't get a man with slicked back hair and a black suit for Hades, or even a long haired king-of-atlantis looking Poseidon. We get a visual representation that not only looks cool for the reader, but it represents these ancient beings in a manner that shows us something about their character.

And there you have it folks, the second half of my Double Feature. While Batman continues to prove that it's arguably the best series in print right now, Wonder Woman has risen up to show us that she's not to be forgotten. The bottom line is, if you're not reading any of these books, why not? Those of you that buy and read regularly and just come to hear our take on things, we appreciate the support and we'd love to hash it out with you sometime. But for those of you who are just coming by to check us out, and you've yet to dip your feet into the wide world of comics, why not just go ahead and give it a shot? We're going to be doing some give-aways here soon, so keep your eyes and ears open for news of that; this just might be your chance to finally get on board! Until next Wednesday...

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