This week on the Wal-Tor Weekly Review, we take a look at the second issues of We Stand On Guard and Civil War, as well as the Justice League: Gods And Monsters Wonder Woman one-shot.

 

We Stand On Guard #2

WE_STAND_ON_GUARD_2Following the discovery of the Canadian free fighter group, the Two-Fours, Amber joins the team as they continue their small resistance against the American forces.  Amber is lead back to their home base and shown the community they’ve managed to build for themselves in secrecy from the Americans.  Meanwhile, we get our first good glimpse the clear antagonists of the story, meeting a mysterious female leader of the Americans and Colonel Storz.  The Americans reveal that they clearly have a larger plan in the works and begin to push their stranglehold on the Canadians even further.

Brian K. Vaughan and Steve Skroce continue every Canadian’s favourite new series with the follow-up issue of “We Stand On Guard”.  Vaughan gives us a brief flashback to Amber’s childhood to show a little bit more of the difficulty she faced with being brought up in the midst of this war.  It’s during this issue that you finally feel as though you’re making some headway in feeling for this lead character, something that the first issue seemingly lacked.  Although the plot appears as though it’s moving somewhere, upon closer inspection not much happens, as this issue is more about setting pieces up (unsurprisingly) than revealing any big tricks that Vaughan has planned.  With that in mind, Vaughan also appears to be setting up his “big bad” with this issue, sprinkling in hints of who the Two-Four may come into conflict with by the end of the first arc.  Steve Skroce has the right kind of artwork for this story, having a gritty edge but still being fairly clean.  Through Skroce’s artwork you can feel the emotive toll this war has begun to take on all the characters involved.  I personally believe that Skroce shines his brightest during the simple character moments he illustrates as opposed to the massive settings or dramatic moments that pop up in this issue.

PROS CONS
+ Stronger character focus — Plot treads water
+ Excellent artwork
+ Expands overall series

Wal-tor_Rating_4Overall:

Brian K. Vaughan and Steve Skroce take another snowy step forward with a strong follow-up issue of We Stand On Guard.  Although the plot tries to make it seem like there’s plenty at work, it really cleverly shields the fact that not much at all really happens.  The upside to this is that it allows Brian K. Vaughan to try to have the lead character connect more with the reader this time around, which he succeeds at doing.  Steve Skroce continues to be the true treat of this series though, as he is 2-for-2 on drawing art that evokes the emotions of a long running, terrible war.  His characters all strike the right notes with how they are illustrated and actually end up being more memorable than some of the huge scenes he draws.

 

Civil War #2

CIVIL_WAR_2Following the assassination of Mariam Sharpe, the war between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark has never threatened to quite blow up in the way it’s about to.  Tony Stark begins to stealthy probe the nation of “The Blue” in an attempt to discover who shot Mariam Sharpe during a botched attempt on Steve Roger’s life.  Meanwhile, Steve Rogers, Peter Parker, and Hank McCoy look in on their top-secret weapon, Project Bellcurve, and try to figure out what they need to make said weapon work on a larger scale against Tony Stark and his nation, “The Iron”.  Both sides decide to try to infiltrate the opposing nation’s borders in a stealth manner to achieve their respective goals, showing that it’s only a matter or time before everything falls apart.

Charles Soule and Leinil Yu up the ante with Civil War #2, showcasing how delicate the monetary peace is right before the storm of war.  From almost the word go, this issue is immediately more interesting than the previous issue, taking time to do a great amount of world building and reveal details about both sides of the war.  We get a closer glimpse at the capitals and a few other key players, causing the issue to jump around a fair amount which is both a good and bad part of the story.  You most certainly get the bang for your buck on this one because of how much happens in just this one short issue, but the constant jumping around can be a little uncomfortable as you can never settle into a full scene.  Nonetheless, this is still a strong effort from Soule as everything he does in this issue not only sets up the rest of the series to be strong, but sets this issue out as a key piece in and of itself.  Leinil Yu is still consistent, shining where he usually shines but also still having the same weaknesses he’s always had.  Yu has always been excellent at rendering the faces of characters (especially when they are close-ups) so it’s no surprise he sticks to his strengths for much of this issue and gives the reader a great looking comic.  Yu’s artwork really only struggles when he has to display characters from a distance, as that’s when the quality of a character’s appearance begins to drop off.  Even with that in mind, together Soule and Yu continue to craft a thoroughly engaging Civil War series that shouldn’t be missed by any fan of Marvel.

PROS CONS
+ Lots of plot development — Plot jumps around a lot
+ Solid artwork

Wal-tor_Rating_4Overall:

At the rate Civil War is going, everything points to this series boiling over to have an excellent conclusion.  Soule and Yu advance the pieces considerably and into interesting areas with this issue, promising plenty of payoff to be coming soon.  Charles Soule packs a ton of story into just one issue, which results in a jumpy plot but one that still satisfies nonetheless.  It’s so much fun to see his take on these characters and how they are the same yet still wildly different from the characters we know and love.  Leinil Yu is as steady as ever on this issue, still giving readers the beautiful artwork they’ve come to know and love him for.  With two issues in the bag, Civil War continues on strongly.

 

Justice League: Gods and Monsters – Wonder Woman #1

justice_Leauge_Wonder_woman_1In this one-shot tying into the DC Animated film “Justice League: Gods and Monsters”, we get Bekka of New Genesis as the Wonder Woman for Earth.  Bekka narrowly escapes Apokolips to land on the planet Earth, taking up a new life as she tries to discover our culture.  She appears stranded on our planet for many years before the story settles into the late 60’s, where she meets two men named Doctor Psycho and Guitar Joe.  Together the three characters set out to create a new “haven” for humans to reside in, with Doctor Psycho developing his own psychotropic drugs in hopes of enlightening the user’s mind.  Not everything is as it seems though, as Doctor Psycho and Bekka butt heads as Bekka believes using drugs to find enlightenment is foolish, instead using her Mother Box technology to show humans how to reach beyond their minds.

This one-shot by J.M. DeMatteis, Bruce Timm, and Rick Leonardi is nothing if not ambitious.  The story is developed by DeMatteis and Timm but only scripted by the veteran DeMatteis, guiding the reader through the strange life of Bekka.  In some regards this isn’t your average superhero story as it genuinely feels like DeMatteis and Timm are trying to tell a story with more substance.  The exploration of Bekka’s character and her desire to find normalcy isn’t an uncommon theme in the superhero genre, but the way it is presented and explored just feels like a different step in examining that theme.  More so to the point though, the plot struggles early on in finding its footing before catching its stride just before the halfway mark.  When you finally settle into the story it’s largely enjoyable and something that will keep you hooked until the end.  Rick Leonardi keeps the ball rolling throughout the issue, illustrating a comic that feels a little lopsided before evening out.  The early parts of the issue feel dense due to the panel choices and how the plot is paced but by issues end, Leonardi has everything under control and illustrates a comic that is a blast to read.

PROS CONS
+ Unique approach —  Slow to start
+ Solid artwork — Artwork uneven at the start

Wal-tor_Rating_3Overall:

For a one-shot story about a DC Animated movie, Justice League: Gods and Monsters – Wonder Woman #1 is surprisingly enjoyable.  J.M. DeMatteis and Bruce Timm try to tell a different type of “fitting in” story with Bekka as the lead character.  Although it doesn’t always work, the story really finds its stride right before the halfway mark and becomes an enjoyable read from that point onwards.  Rick Leonardi is admirable in his attempts to bring this story to life, as he struggles at the start before finishing strong.  Take this comic for what it is, a simple one-and-done story meant to entertain you in any way it can.