Just some catch-up with some books that came out last month I hadn't found copies of yet. We'll cover two more on Friday, and I'll get to something from this week on Monday. Hopefully by then I'll have more than one of the comics I wanted that came out this week.
Atomic Robo: The Temple of Od #4, by Brian Clevinger (words), Scott Wegener (artist), Anthony Clark (colors), Jeff Powell (letterer) - I actually went with the variant cover for this one, not because there was anything wrong with Wegener's - could have made an illegal fishing joke pretty easily - but I thought Hollie Mengert's cover was kind of sweet.
Matsuda, with Dr. Lu back in his grasp, plans to have the doctor fix the damaged reactor, and proceed with his plans to help Japan conquer the world. But forces are aligning against him. Helen and Zheng were captured with Lu, and don't stay captured long. They're roaming his compound. The Russians have finally decided to get off their ass and do something about this secret fortress they've supposedly known about for months. And the Ghost Bandits have brought Robo to Matsuda, ostensibly as their prisoner, but really as a ruse to get themselves, Robo, and a burlap sackload of dynamite into the compound. Matusda doesn't seem too concerned, though.
Positives include the Ghost Bandits, who continue to be mostly delightful in their complete selfish amorality and secretiveness. Whether trying to gouge Matsuda over Robo, or gouge each other over how much of a bonus they get for doing dangerous stuff, they're pretty much full of greed and bravado at all times. Wegener draws some good expressions in there, and the scene where the Soviets notice their shells aren't exploding, and it turns out Matsuda's soldiers are catching them and throwing them back was cool. And the color work in the final panel, where the green of Matusda's Odic field is contrasted with the explosion of the dynamite hurled at him. It's a lovely swirl of red against green, and it just looks violent and angry. It's a nice cliffhanger.
But the whole thing feels padded. I enjoy the bandits, but it still feels like Clevinger and Wegener devote as much time to them as they do because there isn't enough else there to fill out the story. Which is odd. It seems like Helen and Robo crossing paths after a few years ought to be a little more relevant. Not in terms of some love triangle, but at least old friends meeting up in a place they wouldn't have expected. I don't know, it's just empty.
Blue Beetle #3, Keith Giffen (story and script), Scott Kolins (story and art), Romulo Fajardo Jr. (colors), Josh Reed (letters) - We've all been there, waking up in a spooky cave facing a bunch of angry green bug guys.
The scarab carries Jaime somewhere underground, where he is nearly killed by the mob on the cover. This understandably spooks Jaime enough he willing goes to Ted to talk about it. Ted isn't terribly helpful, other than revealing a little of what Dr. Fate told him. This doesn't serve to calm Jaime much. He tries talking to Paco, then to his dad, then to Brenda, none of which seems to help much. Paco doesn't seem too concerned, his dad does, but can't offer much advice, and Brenda alternates between impatient and somewhat supportive. Which is still a huge leap forward for the supporting cast in this book. And Giffen is going to add the aged-up versions of Sugar and Spike he was writing elsewhere recently to the cast, if that was something you were wanting more of. For me, all the bits of those stories I saw made Sugar seem like a massively unlikable person, so not real eager for her to join the cast.
It was nice to see Ted trying to stand up to Dr. Fate and argue on Jaime's behalf. Part of me wanted to see Ted slug Fate, but that wouldn't have been productive or bright. The problem here for me is the struggle between the plot and the characters. I'm curious about the mystery of what the scarab is in this reality, why Fate's worried about it, and what the Horde is (although something in the Horde's design screams "Parademon" to me, and please, no more Fourth World for awhile). On the other hand, I don't like most of the characters in the story, at least not based on what we're seeing here. They're coasting on residual affection from the pre-Flashpoint series. Giffen and Kolins are shooting for everyone to bicker, but have it come from a place of affection, and they aren't sticking the landing often. This issue was a bit better, but adding Sugar's acerbic attitude to the mix isn't going to help, unless it gives the rest of the cast someone to band together against. Which is what villains were for, I thought.
They're still using those black dots on white as the background on almost every page. Not sure why. In the panel where the Horde's master is getting in Jaime's head, it works, because one of the panel borders is gone, and the dots are like a presence encroaching on Jaime's reality. And so them being there all the time could be a deliberate symbol of this "master's" reach, or presence. But there are other panels where one of the borders are missing, and I can't tell what it would mean there. Ted repeating that he doesn't know enough to remove the scarab safely on page 11, or the panel where Jaime admits to his dad he's afraid he's losing control of the scarab. Although it could be significant that in the Kord panel, the area immediately around him is a white background, like he's banishing the presence by refusing to panic and endanger Jaime's life.
Next issue promises the origin of the Blue Beetles? Do they mean multiple scarabs, or multiple heroes calling themselves Blue Beetle? Am I a big enough sucker to buy the issue and find out? Yeah, probably.