Another round of comics reviews from Punchy, including an incendiary issue of Daredevil, the final instalment of Spider-Men, some more DC Zero Issues and the return of Greg Rucka's Stumptown. Remember to click the links to head to individual forum discussion threads!
Venom #25– Cullen Bunn wraps up his first arc on Venom, and it was once again very very good. Flash defeats Daimon Hellstrom and the Monsters Of Evil, but the story is not over, and what’s coming up looks hella exciting. Get it, hella? Like Hell? Because this arc was about Hell! Come on! Anyways, yeah, the plotline Bunn sets up here, with there about to be a battle between Demons for the true throne of Hell is interesting and it provides a very good explanation for why Hellstrom turned evil and a good motivation for him going forward. Let’s just hope it turns out better than that mini-series DC did about Hell, that was a mess. Elsewhere… the relationship between Flash and Katy Kiernan is developing nicely, and I felt like this was the issue that Bunn really nailed Flash’s character and inner turmoil as well as Remender had, with him desperately trying to find a happy memory and the stuff with his dad. That’s the core of this book really, how fucked up Flash is, so it was good to see that Bunn has a handle on that in amongst all of the demons and stuff. So it looks like the story up next is a crossover with Scarlet Spider, has that book been any good? It’s pretty much the only Spider-related title I don’t read. But hey, any story with Venom and Carnage in it has to be good, right?
Mighty Thor #20– So I guess Loki is evil again right? Or is he? I honestly don’t know, at times it seemed like he was genuinely back to his old ways, but then at others it looked like being a triple-cross. Once again, you can blame all of this confusion on me not reading JiM. But apart from that, this continues to be epic Thor storytelling at it’s best, helped by fantastic artwork from Alan Davis, who is doing some of the best work of his career here I think. Seriously, this is JLA: The Nail level good. One of the things I liked best was how he drew Loki’s face differently when he was being ‘evil’, he didn’t look like a kid in those panels, but like his old self. I also continue to like how Fraction is using Volstagg not as a joke, which is refreshing. What was that thing at the end? A Hel-Wolf? Never heard of it before.
Daredevil #18– Another truly fantastic issue of Daredevil, this book really has been excellent since #1, and this new storyline may very well be the best yet as Waid gets even darker. The best thing about this book is the contrast between the lightness and the darkness, and this issue had that, with the introduction of a new, interesting case that has me scratching my head, and some very exciting action scenes with DD taking on the mob. But it was also really dark, super-dark, because of the return of Matt Murdock’s ex-wife, Milla Donovan. When last we saw her she had been driven insane by Mister Fear, and Matt was forbidden from even visiting her. I, like a lot of lot readers, assumed she’d been forgotten about, but no! Matt returns home from a date with Kirsten to find her in his house, with no memory of anything bad happening to her. A real WTF moment, and it only gets worse, as Matt gets Foggy to go to the Asylum to see how she escaped, only for Foggy to find that… she’s still there, and catatonic! What is going on? Has Matt gone even crazier? Or is he being manipulated by someone? (Probably the creepy looking dude on the cover to #19) I just don’t know. It’s great of Waid to bring back Milla, and exciting to see him trying to have his cake and eat it too. The dark days haven’t been dropped, but the contrast between the lighter tone has only made them more interesting. Chris Samnee’s artwork was brilliant as well, he works very well with Waid, and really, this is just one of the best books out there, there can be no argument.
Avengers #30– This was a strange one, as it wasn’t really an AvX tie-in at all, sure, it took place during the event, but it was pretty much just Hawkeye and Spider-Woman having relationship troubles whilst fighting Mister Negative and his goons. This was Bendis at his most talkative, and whilst there were some cool little bits of dialogue here, it was mostly pretty dull. I guess I don’t care about Hawkeye and Spider-Woman’s relationship. The most interesting thing was probably at the end when Madame Hydra’s involvement in the story was revealed, how she manipulated Spider-Woman. I wonder where that plotline will unfold? In Bendis’ last few issues? Walt Simonson’s art was good, but really, this was one of Bendis’ more forgettable issues.
Avengers Academy #37– The last chapter of ‘Final Exam’ is here, and wow, that was a blockbuster finish, Gage always finds a way to surprise you. I want to skip most of the issue which was just a fight, and get to the end where Finesse just leaves Jeremy Briggs to die. What a fantastic, dark moment. It’s not what you expect from Avengers or heroes in general, but as Finesse herself says, they weren’t chosen to be in Avengers Academy because they were the most heroic, it’s because they were at risk of becoming villains. Finesse’s actions here were shocking, and I can’t wait to see if there’s any reaction to it, wither in this title’s last 2 issues or Avengers Arena (and I think this issue demonstrated that some of these characters are actually pretty well-suited to a Battle Royale-type situation). I mean, not only did Finesse kill Jeremy, but she let X-23 think she did it, only adding to her guilt, and on top of that, the rest of the team didn’t seem that bothered about it. It’s going to be strange going from this to a game of Flag Football next issue, but that’s one of the best things about this book, it can go from one extreme to another and have it all fit together.
Dark Avengers #181– The story gets a little clearer with this issue, as we find out that Wender is a twin, and that the plan FACT had was to steal Sharzhad’s forcefield and use it to reinforce the prison, which is a pretty good scheme really. Of course, it’s all going wrong and it’s going to lead to the post-apocalyptic future the Thunderbolts are stuck in, but what are you gonna do? Parker once again juggles his two different timelines expertly, and things are really coming to a head now in both eras. The best scenes in this issue were Mach V being a total bad-ass for the first time in ages, and confirmation of the return of the Juggernaut. I wonder how powerful Cain Marko is right now? He was stripped of the Cytorrak Power, but isn’t he still a mutant? I dunno. There’s a lot going on (maybe too much) in this title right now, but it’s exciting, and I can’t wait to see how everything lands after the inevitable explosion. I’m also interested to see how this all leads into Way’s new book with Rulk and Venom and all them.
X-Factor #244– This issue of Breaking Points was a bit more connected to the whole than the previous ones, as the events of last issue (Polaris going ker-razy) were addressed and solved. So Polaris’ mind is saved, but it’s not without cost, as Siryn sacrifices herself to become the new Morrigan, which is… strange. I did like the opening scene where she was talking to her dad in the mirror, unsure whether he was real or not, but the strength of that scene was undone very quickly when it was revealed that Banshee’s appearance was due to the Morrigan. I still don’t have a clear picture of where PAD is going with this, but this was a good issue, Kirk’s art was great, but where is this all leaving? I hope #245 ties everything together, this arc, more than most, needs a strong ending so it doesn’t seem like random terrible events all happening at once.
Spider-Men #5(of 5)– One of the best comics of 2012 (and I really do mean that) comes to an end, and what a great end. Miles and Peter take down Mysterio fairly easily in the end, although I did like that it was Miles who beat him in the end, chasing him into the 616 Universe. In the end, the two Spideys part ways in touching circumstances, with Peter giving Miles plenty of sage (and funny) advice, such as don’t let yourself get cloned or let your Aunt marry Doctor Octopus. I wonder what Peter’s most important lesson was though? I guess it works better if we never found out, keep it open for a potential sequel! Speaking of sequels, the final page of this issue was a fantastic teaser, as Peter googles to see if there is a Miles Morales in his universe, and all we get is an ‘Oh My God’. What did he see? I’m on tenterhooks. My only real complaint about this issue was that we didn’t get to see a meeting between Peter and Ultimate Mary Jane, but that’s a small thing, apart from that, this was just brilliant, and put rest my fears about a 616/Ultimate Crossover. It worked really well, and was in no way a sign that Marvel have run out of ideas, because this was a good comic in every way. Pichelli’s art was brilliant once again, I can’t wait to see her return to the main book. This was a superb celebration of the world’s best superhero in his 50th year, and will probably go down as one of my favourite Spider-Man stories. High praise indeed, but I just loved this.
Ultimate Spider-Man #15– We get a double dose of Miles Morales this week, as his tenuous tie-in to United We Stand continues. This was a talky issue, but unlike this week’s Avengers, this was good talky, as there were some fantastic scenes. Miles and Ganke’s back-and-forth was hilarious once again, I just love their relationship, it was great to see them messing about with the web-shooters. The other standout scene was when a Police Officer came to Miles’ house to question him about Uncle Aaron’s death. Not only was this Ultimate Maria Hill (All 3 Maria Hill fans celebrate!), but it was a very intense scene, does she know he’s Spider-Man? How deep do her suspicions go? But in the end, it all works out pretty well, as Miles is exonerated, in his head at least, for the killing of Uncle Aaron. The end of the issue has Miles head to the Triskelion in an attempt to join The Ultimates. Bendis was seemingly heading towards Peter joining the team before he died, so I’m very excited to see where this is going. Even in an issue with not much action, this book is fantastic.
The Ultimates #15– Even though the ‘Captain America becomes President’ plotline had been spoiled for me by the Mainstream Media, this was still a pretty crazy issue, and the ending was damn cool. The opening scene of this issue, a news report, was actually very helpful exposition, as it explained just what is going on all across America and which areas are most fucked. It was also good to see Cap liaise with Nick Fury here and link things up with X-Men, because up until now, this hasn’t seemed like a unified event at all, each Ultimate book has been off doing it’s own thing, but now it all sort of makes sense. The story with Morez continues to intrigue, now he’s stirring things up with Hydra, which is promising. I really enjoyed the action scenes in this issue once again. There have been some pretty big problems in Sam Humphries’ run so far, but he and his artists have pretty much always nailed the action stuff, every character got something to do, and it was all very well-told. Seeing Cap do so many bad-ass things made it plausible enough that he’d be voted President. I’m a bit conflicted about this storyline really, it sounds dumb, but it could be cool. Let’s just hope it lasts longer than when Iron Man was Secretary Of Defence. It’s also cool that we only have to wait a week for the next instalment, roll on #16 for the inauguration! Oh yeah, and Tony and his magic tumor are still brilliantly weird, so strange.
Supergirl #0– Most of this issue was pretty much the standard Supergirl origin, Krypton is about to be destroyed, so Zor-El follows his brother’s lead and sends his daughter off into space to save her. We’ve seen it all before a billion times. But Green and Johnson managed to find some new wrinkles to this story, including one really amazing WTF moment that is messing with my brain. But more on that later. I liked how this book handled the relationship between Jor-El and Zor-El, with them not speaking to each other. The weird politics of Krypton have always been interesting to me, and this played into that, with Zor-El pushing the boundaries of what is considered right. Was the fact that Zor-El created the Worldbreakers something we already knew or is it a new detail? Either way, it was cool to see one of them in the background. This issue also answered the mystery of ‘who shot Zor-El’, as we find out that it is Alura, his wife. But how did she get there? This is the WTF I mentioned earlier, she is warned of what Zor is planning by… Superboy. How the hell did this happen? Has Superboy time-travelled? Or is this not Superboy at all? Is it a clone? My mind hurts with this little scene, and it really does elevate this issue above just another origin story. What does it all mean? I wonder if he’ll show up in next week’s Superman #0? The art from Asrar was very good, his depiction of Krypton was very strong once again, this book continues to be solid, and if the writers can make this Superboy appearance make sense, it could be reaching for the next level.
Wonder Woman #0– Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang take us back to Diana Of Themyscira’s childhood for what is now my favourite zero issue so far. This issue is a great amalgamation of Silver-Age tribute and what Azz has turned Wonder Woman into. So whilst the artwork was bright and the third person narration lovely and old-school, the events of this issue still feel like an important part of the ongoing story. This was not just an exercise in nostalgia. The main plot involves Diana, who feels ostracised from the rest of the Amazons because of her supposedly being made of clay (which we know now is not true), learning to be a warrior under the tutelage of War. The story culminates with her really demonstrating the core of Wonder Woman’s character, she is a warrior, but she shows mercy, she does not kill for the sake of it. Her sparing of the Minotaur was a very strong moment. Chiang’s artwork was once again superb, he really makes this title work and gives it a unique feel. This was a nice little break from the epic scale of the ongoing story, and I’m still amazed that not only does Azz have me caring about Wonder Woman, but has me interested in her teenage years! Roll on Year Two of this excellent title, and roll on THE NEW GODS!
Blue Beetle #0– In the recent JLI Annual, Blue Beetle was shot into space by OMAC, and this Zero Issue picks up where that left off, with the Scarab giving Jaime a history lesson whilst they’re floating about in space. We see the Scarab’s first attempt at taking over someone, and how it inadvertently led to the creation of Lady Styx, who is a villain I remember fondly from 52. I was surprised to see that show up here, but I bet it’s leading up to Bedard using the character in either this title of GL: New Guardians. We then see the Scarab crashing down to Earth, where he bonds with a Mayan Priest and basically becomes Quetzlcoatl. I’m a big fan of ‘secret history’ type stories where myths and legends from our world are revealed to have a superhero-related reasoning behind them, so this really worked for me. I was a bit bummed out to see that there is no Dan Garrett or Ted Kord in the New 52 Universe, but then maybe the treasure hunter who found the Scarab is Dan Garrett? That’s how it’s going to be in my fanfic! (Note, I will never ever write a fanfic). At the end, Bedard insures that this trip down memory lane was not for nothing, as Jaime is attacked by a load of other Blue Beetles. I’m very excited for this upcoming story, Jaime is way out of his comfort zone in deep space, it’s gonna be cool.
Justice League #0– Shazam takes centre stage in this issue, as Johns and Frank finally get round to Billy saying the magic words and becoming the hero who’s name we cannot say for legal reasons. Is it OK for fans to still call him Captain Marvel or do we have to call him Shazam too? I’ll call him Captain Marvel because I’m old-school like that, and I don’t care what Carol Danvers has to say about it! I’ve actually really been enjoying these back-up stories, so it was great to have a longer instalment, and it’s a lot of fun to see how Johns is reinterpreting the classic Captain Marvel origin. I think the best scenes in this issue were the discussion about whether or not there is a ‘pure good person’. Back in 1939 when Cap debuted, it was a more innocent time I guess (apart from WW2 kicking off), so the idea of Billy Batson being pure good would not have been questioned, whereas now, in 2012, we’re all so cynical that we don’t believe anyone can be purely good. Johns has realised this and therefore given us a Captain Marvel for modern times, who isn’t pure good, but who has the potential, who tries his best. I guess you could argue that it’s the job of superheroes like Captain Marvel and Superman to fight for ‘pure good’, but it does get a little cheesy. I also really liked how even though he’s now Captain Marvel, Billy still acted like a kid, running around getting into trouble. Those scenes with him and Freddy were like Big or something, and a lot of fun. I love the old-fashioned Big Red Cheese as much as anyone, but this new take has value too, plus, the artwork from Frank is amazing. The back-up was pretty bad though, I really don’t care about Pandora, and what the hell is (I assume) The Question doing getting involved in a story involving cosmic shit like this? Unless the ‘Man with the hat’ is referring to Phantom Stranger, but then, the story was in Hub City, traditionally The Question’s turf. Who knows? I just hope it’s Vic Sage and not Renee Montoya.
Green Lantern: New Guardians #0– Much like the Zero Issue for Green Lantern, this one doesn’t do what most of the others are doing and stays in the present, picking up pretty much where #12 left off. Kyle returns to Earth to try and find Hal, but because he’s dead (yep, totally dead, don’t even try to argue), he has to team up with Carol Ferris to take down the left over Zombies from Black Hand’s attack. It was good to get what is essentially a Kyle solo story, and I’m very interested to see what his future holds. That glimpse of him in all the different Corps was very interesting, I’m excited to see my favourite GL take centre-stage in the Third Army story. Aaron Kuder’s art impressed me in this issue a lot too, after seeing him use a very goofy style in last week’s Avenging Spider-Man, he adjusted himself here and delivered something that was still recognisably him, but more suited to traditional superheroics. I think this dude has a big future. So yeah, this was a good issue, but I’m still not sure why it was a Zero Issue, but that doesn’t matter, it’s only a number!
The Unwritten #41– Mike Carey and Peter Gross fill in the gaps left between the end of War Of The Words and the most recent arc. After the final battle against Pullman, Richie took a badly injured Tommy to Villa Diodati to recover, and then things get weird, because there are ghosts there. Ghosts of supporting characters who have died in this book, such as the writers Pullman slaughtered in the first arc, or Tom’s various ex-girlfriends and even Miriam Walzer, Wilson Taylor’s 1940s girlfriend. This issue featured a lot of tantalising teasers about the mythology of this series, and a shocking revelation of just how powerful Tom Taylor is. The idea of Richie just being dead and kept alive by Tommy’s powers of fiction is a great one, and it was shocking to see him as a walking corpse, how he would really look. This was possibly the darkest issue of The Unwritten yet, and I’m including the one where those two children got crushed to death. I’m very excited to see how Tom goes from here to the Tom we saw briefly at the end of #40, and just what the deal is with Leviathan now. This book continues to be one of the most gripping and mysterious on the stands, I have so many questions, and it’s so much fun following them down the literary rabbit hole.
Stumptown: The Case Of The Baby In The Velvet Case #1(of 4)– I really think we are living in a Golden Age of Crime Comics at the moment, and Stumptown, along with Criminal and Parker, is one of the standouts. Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth’s mini was a surprise pleasure a few years back, and now it’s back for a sequel. The series, for those who aren’t familiar, follows Portland-based PI Dex Parios, a hipster, female Jim Rockford, who gets involved in classic Noir-type mysteries with a modern twist. In this arc, she is tasked with finding a missing guitar (the titular baby) by a member of a fictional Indie band. But of course, this seemingly simple case is a doorway to a whole lot more trouble, as she comes face to face with some crazy bald guys who are also after the guitar, and then an agent from the DEA. It was just a lot of fun to be back in this world, I know I make fun of Greg Rucka’s endless number of tough female protagonists of ambiguous sexuality, but Dex is a great character and you just know that the mysteries are going to be well-constructed. If you haven’t read the first story, I urge you to check it out, and hey, if you’re impatient, you could just pick up this issue, there are a few references to supporting characters and previous events, but mostly, this stands on it’s own as a great little crime story that’s not like anything else on the stands. Highly recommended, especially given Rucka’s recent comments about Big Two comics, this is his best kind of work, not that Batwoman shit.
A good week, I'm sure you all agree. My favourites were Spider-Men, Justice League and Stumptown. I think it's so great that I can read a comic about a hero who first appeared in the 1930s in Captain Marvel, along with a new superhero from 2011 like Miles Morales, and then an all-new concept that's not even a superhero at all such as Stumptown, and have them all be equally as good. The mix of the old and the new is what makes comics exciting for me at the moment.
Join me next week for the last lot of DC Zero Issues, including Aquaman and Batman Inc, as well as new issues from the likes of Captain Marvel (the version we can actually call that), Gambit and Hit-Girl. There's also a new title from the twisted minds of Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson! Ooooooooh.
Written or Contributed by Niam Suggitt
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