Niam Suggitt shines a light on this week's comics, including Superman Unchained, Batman, Avengers Assemble, Guardians Of The Galaxy, The Fabulous Killjoys and more!
Hi there, and welcome along to another edition of TWIP, where I review all of the comics I read this week.
This week was supposed to be a nice short one, but I screwed that up by buying two more comics than I planned to, and then writing way too much about Superman Unchained and Batman: Zero Year! Yep, I made a rod for my own back with awesome Scott Snyder comics. There’s also a double-dose of Jason Aaron goodness, the second chapter of the Enemy Within crossover, a new creative team for Green Lantern Corps and a brand new mini-series from My Chemical Romance and The Umbrella Academy’s Gerard Way!
As always, click the links next to each review to head to the Outhouse forum threads and get yourself into a flamewar
Thor: God Of Thunder #9– HOLY FUCKING SHIT. This comic was crazy awesome and I don’t even really know how to describe it. Basically, it’s a massive fight between all three Thors and Gorr and it is hardcore and heavy metal as fuck. There were so many great moments in this issue, so many brilliant over-the-top descriptions from Jason Aaron, this was just epic, and for once, that word is not being mis-used. I think the descriptions are what makes this series, they are so pitch-perfect for the scale of story that Aaron is telling, and they make everything, every punch, every hammer blow, feel like the most explosive thing in the world. Stuff like ‘the sky exploded with lightning and gore’, it’s just amazing. Of course, the dialogue is also fantastic, and of a similar tone. I think it’s amazing how well Aaron has managed to make each version of Thor feel different at the same time as still being the same person, that must have been a very difficult tightrope to walk, but he’s managed it. Esad Ribic’s artwork is also a massive part of why this book works, I’ve said before that his painted style is Frazetta-esque, and that is perfect for the epic, hard-hitting fantasy story that he and Aaron are telling. This art looks like an awesome metal concept album cover, and that is the highest of possible praise. So yeah, this issue rocked out with it’s hammer out, and whilst there wasn’t that much plot, just FIGHTING, it was amazing. And then there’s the ending, where… the Thors lose, Gorr is victorious and the God-Bomb is primed… Aaron and Ribic upped the ante with this issue, the next one should be even better.
Avengers Assemble #16– I’m picking up this title for the duration of the ‘Enemy Within’ crossover its’ having with Captain Marvel, and on the basis of this issue, it was a good decision. This was a really fun and enjoyable superhero comic that displayed everything that’s great about Kelly Sue DeConnick’s writing, which is her sense of humour and dialogue. This issue continues the attacks on Captain Marvel from her old nemesis, Yon-Rogg and it’s becoming increasingly clear that he is bringing back threats from her past. In this case, it’s The Brood. Cap and the Avengers take on The Brood in a fight full of funny moments. I loved Spider-Woman saying the fight was worse than High School, and then being corrected by Carol that she never actually went to high school, she was raised in a Hydra Camp. It was a fun way too use continuity and make it light. DeConnick’s mid-battle ‘banter’ is up there with the Bendis’ of this world, and it’s just a shame that Spider-Man wasn’t there, I bet she’d do a great job writing him, even in his Superior form. You can see why this is the book marketed towards movie fans, you can spot the Whedon influences. Also funny was the sub-plot showing Yon-Rogg attempting to get in contact with his Kree brethren, not only is he put on hold, but is rejected in his plans to conquer Earth. It was very funny to see the bureaucracy of an alien race like this. The artwork here comes from Matteo Buffagni, who I’m not familiar with, but his cartoonish style fit the tone of the story really well. The plots from Yon-Rogg (AKA Magnitron) and the lesion in Captain Marvel’s head may be dark stuff, but DeConnick’s dialogue always keeps things entertaining. My only real negative would be that this issue didn’t really advance the story too much, that the (inconsequential) fight with The Brood took too long, but hey, when an inconsequential fight is this much fun, then I don’t mind. Next issue brings a Kree Sentry into the mix! That should be good.
Guardians Of The Galaxy #3– Bendis’ fresh new take on the Guardians continues to be a whole lot of fun. We open with the GotG having been captured by the Spartax Empire, and it’s very interesting to see how backwards Earthlings are viewed to be by the rest of the Marvel Universe, we don’t even have universal translators! We might as well be goldfish! The intergalactic council scenes between J-Son of Spartax and all of the other heavy hitters also got a lot more interesting, as we see some signs of disagreement between the members of the council, and hints that J-Son is up to something, which makes sense. Spartax has never previously been shown as being on the same level as the Kree or Shi’ar or the Badoon, so he’s probably making a play. The Guardians of course escape, thanks to Groot, who has grown back to full-size and smashes shit up. The escape scene was very well done, with snappy dialogue and great, cinematic pacing from Steve McNiven, every member of the team was shown as a bad-ass, and heck we even saw how Tony Stark copes without his armour. If this is the basis for the movie, then I’m in. The artwork from both McNiven and Sara Pichelli was very good, I love both of these artists, and since McNiven is so slow, it only makes sense to have someone who has a pretty similar style fill-in for him. And to make things even better, any old-school fans still complaining about this book ‘selling out’ and going mainstream get a nice shout-out with a mention for Cosmo the talking dog. I hope that once this initial arc is over, Bendis starts bringing back characters like Cosmo and making this more than just the movie team. I want Vance Astro and Jack Flag!
Wolverine & The X-Men #31– The Hellfire Saga kicks off properly in this issue, and what a blast it is. Jason Aaron focuses pretty much all of this issue on the Hellfire Academy (there’s one short scene showing Wolverine and some other X-Men searching for the school) and you could tell he was having a lot of fun writing this evil mirror of the Jean Grey School. Each of the classes was hilarious, each of the villains cast of teachers was a brilliant choice, and there were even a few great ‘meta’ jokes in there, like the mention of ‘fridging’. It’s crazy how in the same week Aaron can write Thor, which is serious and epic and hardcore, and this book, which, whilst still having high stakes, has a lot of humour in it. He’s a really versatile writer. I loved the return of the Siege Perilous, and how it was used to swerve us as readers, we are led to believe that the weakling, Snot, has been killed by the Hellfire Club. But nope, he’s been put through the Siege and is now a bad-ass muscle-bound villain. It was also cool how the focus of this issue was on Quentin Quire, his arc throughout this whole series has been a sort of unwilling redemption, and whilst he’s probably only doing the right thing because he fancies Idie, it’s still good to see him be a hero. And once again, Aaron’s use of the new, teenaged Hellfire Club was fantastic and logical. I love how, for Kade Kilgore, everything comes down to business. He wants to make money by selling Sentinels, so he has a school to train new mutant villains in order to increase the fear of mutants, and then sell more Sentinels. It’s very clever and it makes a hell of a lot more sense than most super-villain plots. Nick Bradshaw returns on art duties with this issue, and he does his usual fantastic job, his style is just an amazing fit for the stone of Wolverine & The X-Men, he can do the funny stuff and he can do the more serious elements too. This is the story that Aaron has been building up to for 30 issues now. We already knew who the heroes are, and now we have a full picture of the villains, let’s get to the showdown!
Superman Unchained #1– Unfortunately, this first issue of Superman Unchained doesn’t involve Kal-El being freed from slavery by a kindly German dentist and killing Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L Jackson, but it’s still pretty good. Ever since Grant Morrison left Action Comics and Andy Diggle’s run was curtailed before it even begun, this has been the book I’ve been waiting to deliver a Superman comic that is actually good, and whilst it wasn’t perfect, I think it’s a good start. Scott Snyder (no relation to Man Of Steel ‘visionary director’ Zack) has become one of my favourite writers and one of DC’s best thanks to his work on Batman, Swamp Thing and American Vampire, and he brings his usual high quality to the world of Superman. Yes, he does return to some of his usual tics, like every issue beginning with an anecdote about the hero’s childhood or parents, but it’s one thing to read Bruce Wayne reminisce for the umpteenth time, than to read Clark Kent do it for the first time. Snyder has really built up a real and relevant world for Batman, and if he can do the same for Superman, then it’s all good. We see that here in the scenes with the classic trifecta of Clark, Lois and Jimmy. The dialogue between all three of them is very strong, and Snyder manages to make the Daily Planet seem real, with Lois worrying about ad placement in the paper. We also see some commentary on the state of the media today, Clark has grown frustrated by the tabloidy nature the Planet has taken and so is an independent blogger, which is very cool. I also like how Snyder is establishing a living and thriving Metropolis, complete with Bagel Shops. I really like DC’s fake cities, and when writers like James Robinson, Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder really endeavor to make them seem real and distinctive, then I’m going to love it. The actual Superman plot here involves Superman stopping a space station from crashing to Earth, in a very exciting, widescreen sequence wonderfully drawn by Jim Lee. I’m not the biggest Jim Lee fan in the world, but you know what you’re going to get from him, and the scope of this crash was real Jim Lee stuff. That massive double-sized poster was something else (albeit a bit unwieldy and hard to read, are we supposed to remove it from the cardboard? I dunno). Snyder manages to use this crash to not only show how awesome Superman is, but set up several interesting plotlines. There’s the possibility that a new cyber-terrorist group called ‘Ascension’ could be behind it. Lex Luthor could also be involved (and Snyder writes a pretty great Lex), and then there’s the biggy, the existence of another being, just as powerful as Superman who is working for the US Government and who stopped another Satellite from crashing. Who is this dude? We see in the opening scene that he was the cause of the A-Bomb explosion over Nagasaki in 1945, which is a very interesting divergence from real history. A lot of people seem to think it’s another Kryptonian, maybe Zod, but my guess? Captain Atom. I know we’ve already seen him in the New 52, but time-travel is part of his origin anyway. This was a strong start to this title, with a movie coming out, there needed to be a good Superman story out there, and this was that, and hey, it’s a perfect introduction to the character for any new readers who stumble into comic shops after seeing Man Of Steel. This is the kind of Superman we should be getting, two of the industry’s top creators, writing the top Superhero kicking some ass.
Batman #21– Not content with relaunching Superman this week, Scott Snyder kicks off his latest Batman epic with the first issue of ‘Zero Year’. Picking up where Batman #0 left off, we are seeing what Bruce Wayne got up to when he first returned to Gotham and how he became Batman. Yes, this is all stuff that we’ve seen 100 times before and probably don’t need to see again, but thankfully, Snyder provides enough new wrinkles to the story to make this worthwhile. I think the most surprising aspect of this story is that it reveals that Bruce Wayne actually had some relatives left alive when his parents were shot. Philip Kane is his Uncle (Martha Wayne’s brother and presumably some relation to Kate Kane AKA Batwoman) and whilst Snyder says they were never close, it is a bit odd that Bruce was left to wander the world alone as a kid, when he had an Uncle who should have been looking after him. But as we learn, Philip is kind of a bad dude, he’s working with Edward Nygma, the man who will become The Riddler, so yeah, perhaps it’s for the best that he didn’t do an ‘Uncle Ben Parker’ and step in. We also find out more about the Red Hood Gang that we saw in Batman #0, and about their charismatic leader who is probably The Joker. So there’s lots of interesting things to go on here, Snyder is not just covering ground that Frank Miller already did 30 years ago. There is a problem with this issue though, and it’s the time-jumps and flashbacks. We start off 6 years ago, where Bruce is Batman and Gotham City seems to be a post-apocalyptic wasteland with overgrown weeds. The we flashback again to 5 months before that, and then within that, there are flashbacks to Bruce Wayne’s childhood! It’s a bit ridiculous and needlessly complex. The artwork from Greg Capullo is as solid as always, he is fast becoming a definitive Batman artist for me, and this issue looked great. I also liked the big ‘censored’ bar that was across the panel when Bruce Wayne gave The Red Hood the finger, it wasn’t quite as good as Hawkeye’s censorship, but it was close. So yeah, we don’t really need this story, but this issue was good, and it looks like Snyder is going to do something different here, and show us a history of not just Batman, but everything around him. We even find out the origin of the Giant Penny for God’s sake! For some, this might be anally-retentive pointless continuity. I don’t know yet, we shall see.
Green Lantern Corps #21– A new era for the Green Lantern Corps dawns with a strong issue. I think my problem with the last few month’s of Tomasi’s run was that the star was clearly on Guy Gardner, and the rest of the Corps were kind of just in the background. This opening issue from the new writing team of Robert Venditti and Van Jensen doesn’t do that, yes, John Stewart is front and centre, but Soranik Natu and Salaak also get some decent focus, and we are introduced to a whole swathe of new Green Lantern recruits. I think the Salaak story is actually the most interesting thing here, with most of the other GLC members seeing him as a lapdog of the old, evil Guardians and blaming him for what happened. It’s going to be very interesting to see what’s next for the big pink-headed weirdo. I do like how thoroughly this and the main series are exploring the impact of what happened with the Third Army and the First Lantern. The Corps is really depleted, and on top of that, most of the Universe views them as evil, even cute little frog dudes. The John Stewart plot starts out pretty conventionally (though I did like the big exclamation that he’s not going to die today, one in the eye for the rumour-mongers?), with him and Fatality discussing their relationship and what it means, before running into some mysterious aliens, who are pretty blah. But then on the last page we find out that they are Durlans, which is pretty cool. Durlans are of course the evil shape-shifters most common scene in the 30th Century of the Legion Of Super-Heroes, where Chamelon Boy is the only good one. It’s going to be cool to see them in the present-day DCU, and since the GL rings can’t recognize them, they are a real threat. The art for this issue comes from Bernard Chang, who is awesome, I’ve been a fan of his work whenever it’s popped up at DC for a while, he’s got a great, unique style. So far, the new creators for the GL books are impressing me, which is awesome.
Suicide Squad #21– I picked up the first issue of Ales Kot’s run on Suicide Squad last month thanks to a recommendation from The Enthusiast Podcast, and I really enjoyed it, so… it’s on my list! This issue picks up where the last one left off, and provides some really dark superhero thrills. Amanda Waller’s attempts at mental manipulation of the Squad really backfire here, as Harley Quinn, who Waller had tried to make fall in love with Unknown Soldier, doesn’t do that, and instead stabs him in the gut and kidnaps Waller. This issue was just gripping, on every page you’re thinking that something dark is going to happen, that Harley will just slit Waller’s throat. I’ve never been a big fan of Harley Quinn, she’s always annoyed me to be honest, but she works here as a crazy wildcard, even if she did say ‘feelz’, she caused some chaos and was entertaining. I loved the fight between Deadshot and Unknown Soldier, that was supremely bad-ass. I also really like the use of James Gordon Jnr here. When I read #20 I didn’t know who he was really, but in the interim, I read Black Mirror, so I know the true story of this great new villain. His face-off with Harley was fantastic, and I loved him swearing on his sister’s grave, when we as readers know his sister (Batgirl) is very much alive. He’s such a creepy bastard. This is all delivered along with some fantastic Patrick Zircher artwork, he has been kicking ass ever since those Thor one-shots he did with Fraction, and this book just looked beautiful, I think it may be the best DC book of them all, art-wise, better even than Jim Lee or Reis. This book is really impressing me after only 2 issues, this is a dark comic, but it’s dark done well, the characters are evil, but with personality, and there’s some interesting commentary on Government evils (Harley flies some drones), which are very relevant at the moment. The framing device is also very intriguing, what kind of a deal did Waller strike? If you were turned off by this book when it first started, check back on for Kot’s run, it’s like Ellis’ Thunderbolts in the DCU, it’s intelligent, and it looks fantastic.
The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys #1(of 6)– Yes, this is a comic from the lead singer of My Chemical Romance, and yes, it’s a sequel to a concept album by them that came out 3 years ago, but it’s worth your time. First of all Danger Days is probably MCR’s best record, and Gerard Way’s previous comics work, The Umbrella Academy, is just damn good whichever way you slice it. Call me an emo or whatever, but I enjoyed this comic. This series picks up after the end of the Danger Days album, where the heroes, the Killjoys were killed. It’s kind of hard to follow the plot of a musical album, but I don’t think you really need to have listened to it, the post-apocalyptic world of the Killjoys is introduced well enough in the comic, albeit in a mysterious way that only begs more questions. I’m not really sure how to describe it, there’s Dracula zombies, masked teenage vigilantes and robotic prostitutes, it’s kind of crazy, but still very cool. Way and co-writer Shaun Simon really drop you into this fascinating world, and their dialogue is very strong, for those who have listened to the music, there are echoes of it here and there. The comic also features radio snippets from ‘Doctor Death-Defying’ just like the record, and it says something that you can really here that same voice in your head when reading it. I’m still not sure what the Danger Days album was about, and the comic isn’t helping, but it’s all very stylish and fun. Part of that comes from the artwork of Becky Cloonan, who is just as great here as she always is, perhaps better. The most recent work I’ve seen from her was Conan, which was dark and muddy, but here, with the bright, day-glo colours of Dan Jackson, everything really pops. This was a solid start to a very intriguing world, and I think it’s great to see a celebrity come into comics and stick around and deliver some really interesting work. If you like MCR, you need to pick this up, and even if you hate them, you’ll probably like this anyway, Way is a creative and interesting person to follow, in any genre. And hey, the villain is Grant Morrison, you can’t say no to that can you?
And that’s your lot! I hope you enjoyed it. My favourite book this week was definitely Thor: God Of Thunder, which was just mind-blowing. I also recommend Superman Unchained and Suicide Squad.
Make sure you’re here at the same bat-time and bat-channel for another TWIP, which will include my opinions on the epic finale to Age Of Ultron, the new creative team for GL: New Guardians and new issues from Indestructible Hulk, Superior Spider-Man and 3 varieties of Avengers. Get ready!
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Written or Contributed by Niam Suggitt
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