Niam reviews the likes of Young Avengers, Aquaman, Lazarus, Hawkeye Annual, Batman/Superman and more!
Good morning! And in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening and good night.
Yes, once again it’s time for This Week In Punchy, the non-Eisner Award winning comics column that shines a light on all of the comics I read in a given week. Sometimes it’s informative, sometimes it’s funny, but it’s always 100% my own opinion.
This week has some pretty exciting comics, there’s 3 Avengers titles, the first ever Hawkguy Annual, the second issues of exciting new series like Lazarus, Batman/Superman and Uncanny and I actually read the whole of a crossover because I’m picking up Justice League Dark for Trinity War! For once I won’t be confused.
As always, click the links to zoom directly to the Outhouse forum discussions, the highlights this week include confusion about which Prodigy is which, and people hating on Rick Remender’s writing of Rogue.
Superior Spider-Man #14– The ending of Superior Spidey #13 saw Spider-Man begin to pick up his game in a big way. He’s taken over The Raft, naming it ‘Spider-Island 2’ and was on the look-out for Henchmen to help him fight crime in his own, unique way. In this issue, we see the ‘Superior Superior Spider-Man’ in action for the first time, and it is AWESOME.
I’m sure many people will have problems with this story, because it’s not how Spider-Man traditionally wages battle, but this is a new Spider-Man, and it’s exciting to see something different than ‘Spider-Man randomly swings past a crime’. SpOck is actively seeking out crime, and in this issue, he goes after it in the biggest way possible, and after the biggest man possible. Yes, it’s SpOck Vs The Kingpin, and it’s not what you’d expect. Kingpin has been hanging around in the background of Dan Slott’s run for a while now, and here it comes to a head as SpOck attacks Shadowland with an army of Henchmen and some huge Spider-Mechs! Not to mention a stylish new costume, very well drawn by Humberto Ramos, I know his cartoonish style doesn’t work for everyone, but I think it’s perfect for Spider-Man, even a darker take like the current one.
I loved the reveal of just how differently this Spider-Man was going to take the fight to the Kingpin, and how it really is ‘superior’. There was little to no villainy here, SpOck just increased the scale of his operation and really did save some lives. Of course, there are consequences here. Both Kingpin and Hobgoblin escaped, and I really liked the idea of Fisk having a big fat body-double so he could escape his death, and once more, the secret threat of the Green Goblin and his army rears it’s head, as the surviving members of Fisk’s Hand troops join up with Norman. That’s one of the best things about this series I think, for as much as Otto is actually achieving great things as Spider-Man, there’s one thing he’s overlooking, and that’s the Green Goblin, his only real contender for the title of Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis. Slott is building to an epic conflict between these two villains, and I can’t wait to see it play out.
But in the meantime, I’m loving the smaller stories within, and seeing how Slott and Otto are coming up with fresh new takes on how exactly to fight crime. Plus, seeing how these fresh takes piss people off, that’s amazing too. Sorry, not amazing, that word isn’t good enough anymore.
Hawkeye Annual #1– Kate Bishop takes centre-stage in the first ever Hawkeye annual, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. The story begins with a return to the conversation we sort of read in #11. Only this time, we actually see what the words are, because we aren’t dogs (no offence to any dog readers out there, I have checked my biped privilege).
Clint is in some kind of funk, and Kate tries to bring him out of it, but he’s so infuriating that she heads off to LA with Lucky instead. I said it about #12, but I’ll say it again, it’s very exciting reading these issues as they explain in greater detail what exactly went down in the dog issue.
So, Kate and Lucky are in LA, where they get tangled up in a revenge scheme from Madame Masque, who was humiliated by Kate in #4 and #5. I don’t really want to talk about the plot here, not because it’s not good or important, but because, like the Hawkeye series as a whole, this book is more about a certain mood or a sense of style. This issue was wonderfully drawn by Javier Pulido, who makes some interesting choices here, particularly in his heavy use of silhouette. Seriously, every second panel in this issue is silhouetted. It’s a little distracting at first, but by the end, I was really digging it, it made for a unique read. Hawkeye is one of those books where the artwork is so important, so I’m sure there’s some reasoning behind this choice, is it because the villain of this story is someone who hides their face? Hmmm…
I also really liked the little cartoon version of Kate inside of her narrative captions, they were cute and funny. That narration was also very important to this story, because getting inside her head made me really like Kate Bishop a lot more. Up until now, in both this book and Young Avengers, she’s been this surface-level bad-ass who’s good at everything and is super-cool and great, but here, we find out who she really is. I particularly liked the scenes with her Dad and her step-mother, they were really illuminating. This was another great issue of Hawkguy, there’s not much else to say really, you need to be reading this book.
Gambit #15– With only 3 issues left (sob), it looks like James Asmus is wrapping up this series with a bang. Gambit is back in the shower, once again trying to decide if he’s a hero or a thief, when he’s mysteriously alerted (someone wrote a message on his steamed-up mirror) to a robbery, and it’s one that’s personal to him.
Gambit’s big ‘white whale’ of a robbery was to steal the bell from the New York Stock exchange. It’s a relatively small physical crime, but one which would cause companies to lose billions of dollars. This was Gambit’s plan… only someone else has done it. He and Fence team-up to find out who was behind it, and what follows is a very enjoyable little trawl through the underworld. This issue is probably the best one since the ‘Bar With No Name’ story, and it’s because it does that job of showing the Marvel Universe crime world, of showing how the real-world business of doing bad shit intersects with superheroes and monsters. So here, the ‘illegal aliens’ that Gambit and Fence come across are actual aliens, which is cool.
This issue was full of great moments, Gambit actually using his head for once, Fence’s reaction to the idea of Gambit becoming an Uncanny Avenger, and best of all, the way Remy LaBeau sneaks into the Stock Exchange to snoop the scene of the crime… he uses a stolen Avengers ID Card that belongs to Hawkeye, complete with David Aja art on the card! I loved this moment, because really, this series and Hawkeye have a lot in common, both are showing what a big-time superhero, whether X-Man or Avenger, gets up to on their days off. Now, Gambit isn’t as good as Hawkeye, but it’s still good, so I loved the nod, James Asmus has a great sense of humour.
In the end, Fence betrays Gambit (which we as readers new to suspect after the end of the War Machine issue) and we find out who was behind all of this mess… it’s the Thieves Guild and Gambit’s father! Oh yes, the finale to this series is going to seriously personal.
Clay Mann returns to the art with this issue, and he does his usual excellent job, his Gambit just looks like the coolest motherfucker alive, and he’s a great traditional superhero artist. It’s a shame he needed so many fill-ins, because when this book is firing on all cylinders with him and Asmus… it’s not the kind of series that should be getting cancelled.
New Avengers #8– This issue was Jonathan Hickman in pure ‘setting stuff up for the future’ mode, and it was fine, but it’s not exactly satisfying to read. I will say that the Wakanda/Atlantis War really getting underway felt like more of a complete bit of story to me than the other threads, and it’s those sequences that I enjoyed the most here. The rest? We shall have to see.
You’ve got Iron Man and Mister Fantastic worrying about the Incursions and hiring some mystery person to help them out. I literally have no idea who this person could be, and I find I don’t really care. There’s also Namor plotting something with Black Swan, which could be interesting and finally, whatever’s going on with The Inhumans.
This all looks like set-up for whatever’s going to happen in Infinity which sets up Inhumanity. It’s set-up for more set-up, which is just weird. There was an excellent article on The Outhouse recently about how Marvel was stupid for revealing Inhumanity before Infinity had happened, but I actually think this issue showed it was a good thing. If I had read this issue without knowing that The Inhumans were about to become a big deal and were IMPORTANT then I would have enjoyed those sequences a lot less. I know you should read comics for their own quality level, not for how ‘important’ they are to a larger continuity, but sometimes I can’t help it. I know to be on the look-out for Inhumans stuff, and that made these scenes that could have seemed worthless, noteworthy. Especially since Hickman went to the Black Bolt speaking well twice, which is too much. Black Bolt speaking should be an event, not something that happens in two consecutive scenes! Stupid Hickman!
What else? Oh yeah, at the end, some strange aliens showed up to visit each of the Illuminati. What’s the deal with these guys? Are they something to do with the Incursions? Or are they Infinity-related? Hickman’s problem is that he’s building to so many different things that it’s not apparent which one of those stories any new development is linked to. Unless… they are all the same story. Mind = Blown. Mike Deodato’s art was good as always, even with uneven issues like this, his art holds things together.
Uncanny Avengers #10– It seems weird to say this about a title that combines both of Marvel’s biggest franchises and is the flagship of Marvel Now, but I really think that Uncanny Avengers is underrated. Seriously, nobody is talking about it. The only time it caused any serious discussion was when Rick Remender had the temerity to interpret a metaphor differently than Comics Alliance. When really, what we should be talking about is how Remender is telling a story with a huge epic scale, whilst also keeping things close and personal to the characters, all the while exploring that Mutant metaphor in interesting new ways and having crazy shit happen. Plus, Acuna art!
This latest issue picked up where the last one left off, the Uncanny Avengers have broken off into 2 factions, one lead by Wolverine, the other by Captain America, and the Apocalypse Twins’ new Horsemen are after them I really loved the revelation here that the reason Cap snapped on Wolverine last time out was due to the fact that he only just came back from Dimension Z recently, that he’s actually aged 10 years without anyone noticing. I haven’t been reading Remender’s run on Cap, but I’m kind of regretting it now.
I also liked getting a greater insight into Wonder Man’s new pacifist ideals, it’s certainly an interesting way to go with a superhero, has it ever been done before? I don’t think so? Wolverine’s torture of Ozymandias was also pretty bad-ass.
But the main thing here is the attacks from the Horsemen, as each of them in turn attacks the Avengers. This could get a little repetitive, but the personal nature of each of these dead characters stops it from being so. All of these Horsemen were either killed by a member of this Avengers team, or by a relative of them, so when Wolverine has to come face to face with Daken again, or Wonder Man with his brother, or Thor with Sentry, you know it’s going to be big and emotional. I think my favourite moment in this issue was Thor’s fight with Sentry inside the Apocalypse Twins’ pocket universe. I just love the insane cosmic scale of Remender’s story, that the Twins have an entire Universe as their secret base, it’s crazy, and the kind of stuff only comics can do.
I really think more people need to be talking about this title, it’s Remender’s X-Force on crack and with Thor. I know it’s not an underdog title like X-Force was, but still, it’s awesome, and totally not offensive to anyone anymore, I swear.
Young Avengers #8– I’ve been kind of down on Young Avengers up until now, ranting and raving about how it’s trying too hard to please it’s Tumblr-fans (and no, it wasn’t me who wrote the letter in this issue’s column, but I agree with it 100%), and I’ve mostly been right, but for some reason, this issue clicked with me a lot more than most of the others did.
Perhaps it’s because Gillen kept the plot moving at a quicker pace and didn’t use as much cutesy dialogue, I don’t know. It may be because I’m a sucker for Alternate Universes and this had loads of them. It may also be just because the music reference here was to someone I personally love and someone who most Tumblr-teens have no clue about in the amazing Gram Parsons. I am that shallow, if you reference Gram, I’m more inclined to like you. I guess that’s the big problem with this series, Gillen is hyper-focused on appealing to younger fans, and it runs the risk of excluding people like me (and I’m not even old, I’m 24). When that hyper-focus goes away, then things improve. I dunno, I’m rambling.
I suppose the main reason I liked this issue was the ending, where STUFF FUCKING HAPPENS. Like the team being split up, and Loki running into Leah, who, whilst I haven’t read Journey Into Mystery, I know to be important, and also dead. Plus… Prodigy kissed Hulkling! This was a great moment, it was a surprise, because I don’t think Prodigy was ‘out’ as a gay character before, and I particularly liked it because I fucking hate Wiccan and love anything that fucks with his boring romance. I’ve already talked about how much I love the idea of Wiccan secretly manipulating Hulkling into loving him, and I like this even more. Seriously, Teddy, dumb the mopey little idiot and get with Prodigy, he’s smart and cool and wears awesome goggles! I suppose you should also say… multi-racial gay love triangle, comics are reaching the 21st century!
Jamie McKelvie’s art was fantastic once again, I particularly love the stuff set in ‘Mother’s’ home universe, with all of the panel borders, that was great stuff. And the creepy mouth-faced Oubliette The Exterminatrix’s were awesome.
So yeah, I liked this issue of Young Avengers the best, maybe it is just the Gram reference, maybe it actually is getting better, I don’t know. What I do know is that no comic makes me question my brain as much as this one, which has to be a good thing. Right?
Wolverine & The X-Men #33– The Hellfire Saga continues to kick ass in all sorts of ways. I’m really enjoying how much this story is focused on the kid characters, and how the adult X-Men are barely a factor yet. Wolverine is hardly in this issue at all, and when he is, he doesn’t say much.
Nope, the focus here is on the awesome Idie and Quentin (and I suppose Toad as well, which is welcome). I was a bit weirded out about seeing a character who’s supposed to be 14 in Hellfire Club bondage gear, but hey, this is the X-Men, it’s got a rich history of weird bondage stuff, and she’s only a character. But still odd. I’m guessing that Idie ended up not killing Kade Kilgore, which makes sense, this whole issue was narrated by her, and about how she decided not to kill, but to love. For a character who’s personality from the start has been that she thinks she’s a monster, this is some very interesting development. I hope this will allow her to move past the whole ‘monster’ thing, because it is getting a little tired. And when you think about it, her killing people back in Schism is what led to the Jean Grey School, so it’s the ultimate vindication for Wolverine.
I also really enjoyed Quentin in this issue, but that’s nothing new, he’s enjoyable all the time. Most interesting for me was Dog Logan, who saved Quentin and who seems to have some sort of rivalry with Sabretooth brewing. I love how Aaron writes this character, how he’s not really a bad guy, and him fighting Sabretooth would be amazing. The scenes with Husk are also interesting, as Aaron continues to drop hints about why she’s suddenly crazy. I never much cared for Husk, but now I’m interested in what her deal is.
Of course, the X-Men are involved in this issue, as at the end they finally find out where the Hellfire School is, thanks to Krakoa. A lot of stuff has happened in this story, and there’s still 2 issues left, what else can there be? Nick Bradshaw’s art was good once again, apart from the aforementioned weird dominatrix Idie, but that’s not his fault really, although, he boobs did grow between panels on page 1, which was… strange.
Batman/Superman #2– Man, I bet DC feel stupid right about now. They relaunch this book with Batman having top billing, only for Warner Brothers to announce a movie called ‘Superman/Batman’! D’Oh! I suppose it’s easy enough to change the title of this series in the future, but still, it makes me laugh.
Anyways, this series continues to be a very enjoyable read, and after only 2 issues, it’s already up there with the best stuff DC is publishing. The story here is that Batman and Superman have been transported to Earth-2 by the mysterious ‘Kaiyo’. There’s not too much in the way of plot development here, because it’s basically both characters meeting their alternate universe counterparts and doing the usual thing and fighting each other. So whilst this was standard stuff, there were enough interesting character wrinkles in there to make it worth it. It was a lot of fun seeing the contrast between these two Universes, and seeing the differences between the Earth-2 Batman and Superman, and the ‘real’ ones. It was also interesting to find out that on Earth-2, Superman is married to Lois and Batman is married to Catwoman, I haven’t been reading Robinson’s book, so that was cool, and the reactions from ‘our’ heroes was cool.
The best scenes in this comic were either the awesome fight between the two Batmans, where they just knew each other’s moves, or the scene where Clark gets to reunite with his parents, that was very emotional. The real star of this series is Jae Lee, whose art is just mind-blowingly good. I do think he suits the Batman side of the series better than Superman, but that’s just a personal preference. I just love the architecture he draws, Gotham looks truly gothic and creepy. And man, the Earth-2 Wonder Woman that shows up at the end… amazing. This book is worth it just for the art, but luckily, the story is strong too.
As I said, this particular issue was light on plot, but made up for it with the small things. This book really gets at what makes these two iconic characters tick, and does that whilst showing multiple versions of them, well done Greg Pak.
Aquaman #22– After a bit of a lull, Geoff Johns’ Aquaman is back in full swing for me, as Aquaman has to deal with 3 major crises all at once. This was a packed comic, but I think in this issue Johns did the best job so far at balancing the triple-threat of The Dead King, the Scavenger and the plot to free Orm.
Here, one story takes precedence over the others, which is Aquaman taking on The Dead King, but the other two are constant presences in the background, and you know that even if Aquaman wins in Xebel, he may still lose the greater war. Johns drops a lot of mythology on us with this issue, as we find out more about the Dead King, and it’s certainly intriguing. We find out that Aquaman is not a descendant of this King, nope, Arthur’s family betrayed this guy and took his throne, which I think is very cool indeed, and makes the Throne of Atlantis more like a real-world monarchy, which are almost never unbroken. Aquman has no ‘divine right’, he just happens to be part of a family. But this isn’t just exposition central, as we do get a pretty hardcore fight between Aquaman and the King, including Aquaman smashing him to shit with a sunken battleship. Stuff like that does more to stop Aquaman being a joke than Johns’ more overt attempts.
As I said, the other plots are hanging in the background, as the Scavenger totally invades Atlantis and sits on the Throne. I have no idea who’s going to end up in charge at the end of this story, it could be the Dead King, it could be the Scavenger, it could be Orm, or it could just be Aquaman standing tall again. I prize unpredictability a lot, and this comic has a lot of it right now. Paul Pelletier continues to do good work on this title, it’s hard to replace Ivan Reis, but he’s managing it, the undersea world he’s depicting is very nicely detailed, and the character work is strong.
Justice League Dark #22– I’m picking up this title for the duration of the ‘Trinity War’ crossover, and it looks like I made a good decision, because it looks like this is one of those events where you pretty much have to read every part or you’ll be lost. I managed to follow all of the recent Green Lantern events without reading Red Lanterns, but this is a different kettle of fish.
The various Justice Leagues continue to deal with the various problems facing them, the Secret Society, Pandora’ Box, Superman killing someone, and most importantly of all, each other. This issue featured various scenes of the different Leagues facing off against each other, getting ready to fight, then splitting off into different factions. It’s all a bit much, but at least it feels like it’s important. I’m not really familiar with the JLD, but I enjoyed their role as wild cards here, and John Constantine fits surprisingly well into a big superhero crossover.
It’s also becoming increasingly obvious that the ‘Trinity’ in this story’s title is not Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, but actually Pandora, Question and Phantom Stranger, as all three of those characters have large roles in this issue guiding the action. I was impressed by the artwork here from Mikel Janin, as I said, I haven’t been reading this title, so his work is new to me, but it looks really good, reminding me of kind of a cross between Ryan Sook and Patrick Zircher.
This issue ends with an interesting cliffhanger, as The Outsider reveals that he has a mole within the Justice League. Who do we think it is? I reckon it’s either The Atom, who’s like, a triple-mole, or Doctor Light, who isn’t actually dead and is actually a villain like he was pre-Flashpoint. This story really is surprising me, I have no idea where it’s going, and even at this point, no idea who’s really behind what’s going on with Superman, is it Doctor Psycho and the Secret Society? Is it Pandora? I have no idea, and that’s a good thing.
Lazarus #2– Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s dystopian sci-fi gets even more interesting with this second issue as we find out a whole lot more about the state of the world, and most interestingly to me, about the Carlyle family.
This issue is a lot more talky than the first, with no real action sequences, but it’s very interesting seeing Rucka pull back the layers here, and find out more about this intriguing setting. The Carlyle family have been called to their Father’s home in Puget Sound, and not only do we meet Forever’s father, but also two more of her siblings. There’s her sister, Beth who’s a doctor, and another brother, Stephen, who seems to be a bit more responsible than the others. Not present is another sister, Johanna, who we see at the end, back in LA. It looks like comparisons to Game Of Thrones are pretty damn accurate here, as it at seems like Johanna and her brother Jonah (possibly twin brother?) are in an incestuous relationship. Holy Lannisters, Batman! I found the interactions between the various Carlyle children to be very interesting, these are a fucked up bunch, and it’s going to be fascinating to see them develop.
Rucka also drops a lot of hints about the true nature of Eve, we see the regimen of pills she has to take, and we find out that she may not actually be human. It seems like she’s a clone of sorts, and not a ‘real’ Carlyle. The subtle science fiction Rucka is using here is very cool, it’s only a few steps removed from real life, and that becomes even more apparent when you read the back-matter here too. Just like with #1, that’s essential reading, because not only is it a letters page, but Rucka provides a timeline of events leading up to ‘Year X’ and how this society came about. In the end, Eve slips away from her brother’s eyes, and heads off to meet with the Morray clan, who her family may be about to war against. Why did she do this? What is her father’s plan?
Already, I’m hooked on this book, it’s so good. Of course, a part of this goodness is Michael Lark’s art, which is as brilliant as usual, I particularly like his backgrounds in this title, the shots of a dilapidated Los Angeles were excellent. This world feels like a real one, and it’s thanks to Lark.
Uncanny #2– Andy Diggle’s crime thriller with a superpowered edge continues to be an exciting, fast-paced read. Seriously, Diggle does not let up with the pace of this story, it’s reminding me of The Losers at it’s best with this relentlessness.
Weaver is on the run from Lee, and his being helped by the mysterious Maggie. But Weaver being Weaver, he doesn’t want help, so he loses Maggie, and runs straight into trouble. As I said, this issue was a propulsive reading experience, and I enjoyed it hugely. After only 2 issues, I’m invested, not only in who Weaver is, but on the mystery behind his powers too. The central scene here is a great action bit, where Weaver and Maggie get into a shoot-out in a forger’s base (this is after Weaver leaves Maggie and gets caught again by Lee, and she saves him, a lot happens here), and this was a very brutal, cool sequence. I was particularly intrigued by the ending, as Maggie gets shot through the lung, and somehow survives. It looks like she has some kind of healing factor, so that means that Weaver is not the only superhuman individual in this world. I wonder who it is that Maggie is working for, and what the greater story is here?
This is a pretty unique book, and one I’m enjoying. As much as I would have enjoyed Diggle on Action Comics, he’s infinitely better suited to darker, more realistic stories like this. Aaron Campbell once again impressed me with his art, it’s dark and gritty, just like the story. When a crime comic has a Sean Phillips cover, it sets a high bar for the interior, and Campbell reaches it. This is an exciting new book, if you’re looking for something a little different in your superhero stories, check it out, because it’s barely even a superhero story. It’s a crime book but with mysterious abilities.
My favourite comic this week was either Lazarus or Uncanny Avengers, you need to check those titles out. Once again, it feels weird to be trumpeting a big Avengers title as being overlooked, but I really feel it is.
Next week is a 5th week! Which means Marvel release stuff as normal, but DC give us some odds and ends, the new Batman and Animal Man Annuals, the final issue of Batman Incorporated and another issue of The Wake! As I said, Marvel is normal, so there’s new issues of Daredevil, Indestructible Hulk, Uncanny X-Men and FF!
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Written or Contributed by Niam Suggitt
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