Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pull List Review: Threshold #3

"The Hunted" continues to pile on new characters without having established anyone enough for the reader to latch onto them. The closest we get is Jaime Reyes because, as the newest contestant on the murderous reality show, he has the least knowledge about the game and almost acts as a POV character. But even he can be confusing if you don't have any preexisting knowledge of how he interacts with his Blue Beetle armor or what the scarab is. I have only the most basic understanding of that myself, and was lost in a few places when Jaime was bemoaning the fact that his armor was functioning differently. Having never read the New 52 Blue Beetle, I'm not 100% sure how the armor used to work, so whatever changes have taken place to it in Threshold are lost on me. Still, Jaime seems like a decent kid trapped in a shitty situation, and that makes him the most likable member of the cast so far.
     Not that everyone else is unlikable, necessarily, there's just so damn many of them it's hard to feel strongly one way or another about anyone. They're all still introducing themselves to the reader, and so far that amounts to most of them hitting the same notes repeatedly. Jediah Caul is always the same brash, self-reliant jerk. Stealth is an incessant skeptic and cynic. K'Rot won't shut up and never says anything serious. Etc.
     There are moments of strong humor but just as many jokes that fall flat, and as a whole there seems to be a tonal uncertainty to "The Hunted." Keith Giffen has a long history of balancing the comedic and the dramatic in his writing, which seems to be the target here, but I am not sure he's hit the sweet spot yet. Too many of the would-be humorous moments are just K'Rot ans his crew giving each other shit and/or revealing thesmelves as uneducated. It's another example of the repetitive nature of much of the cast.
     And I'm already bored with the crowded-street chase scenes, in a series all about a show where people get hunted through the streets.
     The art didn't do much to improve things, especially with the awkward and ill-fitting change in penciler halfway through the issue. Regular artist Tom Raney handles the first ten pages, and does a decent job. Again, Blue Beetle was the standout character. Raney put a lot of nice detail into the armor, and was able to clearly express Jaime's intense rage when he was mindlessly hunting Caul, as well as his frightened and depressed confusion when he finally snapped out of it. But Raney had some weaker moments, too, like Caul throwing a cleaver in the wrong direction or the overly-busy and confusing opening pages. Not too strong a showing, especially considering it was only the issue's first half.
     I'd like to know the story behind Phil Winslade being chosen as the artist for the rest of the issue, because his style does not mesh in the least with Raney's. Winslade's work is blurry here, rough around so many of the edges and generally feeling hurried and/or unpolished. It's not TERRIBLE overall, but it has panels that are, and it is so much less lively and detailed than Raney's stuff. A very poor decision on someone's part at DC, pairing these guys.
     As is becoming the routine for this title, the "Larfleeze" back-up was far and away the best part. Scott Kolins is so sure of himself with that character, making him look nasty and greedy as he should but in a way where you never quite take him entirely seriously, either. And Branx Rancor is an excellent addition, obnoxious on the same level as Larfleeze but for completely different reasons. And, similarly to Larfleeze, Kolins makes Rancor look immediately both formidable and comical. It all comes together in the stellar splash page of Larfleeze and Rancor trading blows, without a doubt the high point of all of Threshold #3. Chances are that, at this point, the Giffen-DeMatteis-Kolins Larfleeze title is going to replace Threshold on my pull list come June. These back-up stories are only just enough right now to keep this book from being dropped already, but when I can get a full twenty pages of orange lantern ridiculousness and adventure, I'll probably walk away from "The Hunted" and/or whatever else this book is about by then.

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