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Punchy takes a look at this week's comics, including Batman/Superman, Uncanny Avengers, Justice League, Lazarus, FF, Gambit, Aquaman, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man and more.
Hi there! Yep, it’s time once again for This Week In Punchy, where I review all of the comics I read in a particular week.
Apologies for this week’s column being a little late, I do surprisingly have a life, and some other things came up, plus, there were more books this week than usual.
But more books is actually a good thing, especially when they are as good as the likes of Thor, New Avengers, Lazarus and Aquaman. There’s also 3 comics with ‘Uncanny’ in the name, the final chapter of ‘Trinity War’ and Matt Fraction’s final issue as the full writer of FF. Oh man, I’m sad about that.
As ever, click the links next to each review to head to the OH forums, where the debate is, well, it’s actually pretty lukewarm this week. But maybe you can heat it up! Say that the New 52 raped your childhood, call another poster a fascist because they like Cyclops. DO SOMETHING.
Thor: God Of Thunder #12– After wrapping up the epic ‘God Butcher’ story in style, Jason Aaron slows down the pace a bit for this issue, as all three Thors return to Midgard/Earth, and whilst this issue is light on explosions and action, it’s still a fantastic comic, and one that really nails just why Thor is such a good character, and why he always returns back to Earth.
The opening scene shows Young Thor back in Iceland, and back to shagging wenches, and in a great speech, Aaron really shows why Thor loves Earth and the Humans, and that throughline of why he always returns is present throughout the issue.
The bulk of the story focuses of course on ‘Thor The Avenger’, our Thor, and Aaron packs the issue full of great little scenes that show Thor interacting with the world. We see him return to his favourite Pub in New York to drink mead, we see him feed street-children with alien fruit, we see him have a chat with the Dalai Lama, we see him hanging around with Army veterans and we see him bring rain to the desert. In just these small vignettes, you see how Thor is much more than just another superhero.
The longer scenes were also very interesting, is Fulton, the death-row prisoner who Thor visits a pre-existing character or someone totally new? Either way, Thor giving him his final meal and walking with him to the execution chamber was very touching.
Aaron also deals a lot with Thor’s love life, as we meet what looks to be a new love interest in SHIELD environmental scientist Roz Solomon. After only a few pages, I already like Roz as a character, her interactions with Thor are very charming, and her role as an Agent (sort of) of SHIELD should make for a cool relationship. The best scenes in this issue however involved Thor’s ex-girlfriend, Jane Foster, who we discover is undergoing Chemotherapy for breast cancer. I really enjoyed these scenes, especially Jane’s insistence that Thor leave her to battle this with Earth-science rather than fine some ‘healing runes’ or some shit. A close family member is currently dealing with cancer, so this stuff hit close to home, and I really appreciate Aaron not treating lightly and having it be cured.
I also loved the scene of Thor and Jane sitting on the moon, it’s almost as good as the classic Superman and Lois bit from All-Star Superman. When your book draws comparison to Morrison and Quitely, then you’re on to something special. Whilst this issue is mostly a standalone, slice of Thor’s life type of thing, the closing few pages do kick-start the plot a little, as we see King Thor return to the Midgard of the far-future, and it’s a blackened ruin. How did this happen? Well, it looks like we’re going to find out.
Nic Klein steps in to provide the art for this issue, and he does an excellent job, his Thor is nice and imposing, and from his work with Ivan Brandon on Viking, we know he can handle, well, Vikings. This was another top-notch issue of Thor, and one which demonstrates the versatility of Jason Aaron, he can go from huge epic battles, to smaller personal stories, and they all ring true. This was a nice breather before the next big arc and the return of Malekith. With that character set to be the villain in the next Thor movie, I expect big things.
Captain Marvel #15– As much as I’ve been enjoying Infinity so far, I can’t help but feel like the crossover has kind of mucked up whatever Kelly Sue DeConnick had planned for Captain Marvel.
At the end of ‘Enemy Within’, Carol was left floating in space with her brain all-fried and no memories. But in Infinity, she’s fine and dandy, hanging with the Avengers, flying a Quinjet and bantering with Captain America. DeConnick (and co-writer Jen Van Meter, hey, this is like a team-up of writers who are always referred to as ‘so-and-so’s wife’) has to try and square this, and I think she did as well as can be expected.
This issue goes into greater detail about the giant space battle we saw in the pages of Avengers #18, and we see Captain Marvel’s though processes, we see how she’s having to fake having any emotional connection to her teammates, which is interesting, and in the end, any complaints about her role in the main Infinity stories are alleviated. I do think the nature of Carol’s memory loss is a little bit weird, she seems to know who all of the Avengers are, and she seems to know that she and Spider-Woman are best friends, but she doesn’t feel it. So she remembers the facts of her life, but not the emotions around it? It’s odd. I suppose that’s a cool distinction, but it’s a fine line to walk. Hopefully in future issues, DeConnick will define this a bit more.
The ending of this issue was pretty good too, as we see what happens after Captain Marvel and co’s Quinjet gets blown up… Carol turns into Binary! This moment would have been even better if it hadn’t been spoiled on the cover, but hey, it’s a great cover from Quinones, you can’t really complain.
The interior art here comes from Pat Oliffe, who is one of those artists who consistently delivers solid superhero stuff, but never really steps above solid, but I did feel his clean and simple art did a perhaps better job at depicting the ‘Battle Of The Corridor’ than Leinil Yu did.
If you’re reading Infinity, this issue is by no means essential, but it’s another good issue of Captain Marvel, as DeConnick does a good job at dancing through the crossover raindrops and telling her own story of Carol Danvers’ journey in amongst whatever the hell it is Hickman is up to.
Gambit #16– The penultimate issue of James Asmus’ Gambit really brings things back around to the core question of the whole series. Is Gambit a hero or is he a thief? Or can he be both? It’s a compelling question to be sure, and Asmus does a sterling job of exploring the two sides of Remy LaBeau once again and showing just how cool of a character he can be.
The issue opens with Gambit trapped down the bottom of a well, tied with an ‘unpickable lock’ and about to be drowned by his father. But of course, Gambit is more than a thief, and he uses his mutant powers to charge the water in the well and explode his way to freedom in what was a pretty awesome moment.
It turns out Gambit wasn’t really being executed, it was just a test, a way for Gambit to prove that he is worthy to become leader of the Thieve’s Guild. Oh yeah, that’s the hook here, the Thieve’s Guild is in danger of splintering and losing it’s honour, so Gambit’s dad and Fence want him to take over and leave the X-Men behind. Gambit is of course conflicted, but first, he has to deal with his rivals for the throne, including a dickish ‘Technomancer’ called Nil. In order to prove himself, Gambit has to do to Nil what Nil did to him last issue, and steal his ‘White Whale’, his biggest robbery, which in this case, is an heirloom that his father has locked up with him in High-Security Jail.
Asmus once again gets to write a scene where Gambit gets to look like the supreme bad-ass by breaking into the Jail, one of the best things about this series is getting inside the mind of a master-thief, and it’s given this book a different feel to your average superhero title, as most of the time, Gambit is not exactly being heroic. Of course, it all goes wrong and Gambit is double-crossed, and left face to face with.. Borya Cich, bringing things right back to where it all started.
It’s a shame that this title is coming to an end next month, but it looks like Asmus has been able to tell a complete story. Although, there’s a whole mess of new concepts and character’s introduced here, so I bet he could have gone on longer. But still, next issue will close the book on Gambit and Cich, and hopefully answer the question of just who Remy LaBeau is.
Clay Mann provides all of the art for this issue, and it’s always awesome when he draws a full issue, he’s just perfect for this character, he even makes the purple costume look good. After his run on this title, I’ll definitely be on the look out for what he does next for Marvel.
New Avengers #9– With the main Avengers title off in space, it looks like New Avengers is showing us the events on Earth, and how Thanos and his army are going about trying to find the Infinity Gems. This was another truly excellent comic, and so far, Hickman is 3 for 3 with his Infinity books, if he keeps up this pace, it could be the best event comic in a long time, and I generally like events more than most.
In this issue, Hickman focuses on each member of the Illuminati being attacked by a different member of Thanos’ lieutenants, the ‘Cull Obsidian’. Iron Man and Reed Richards get in a fire-fight, and Black Panther gets a moment of ‘holy shit he is awesome’ as he faces off against Black Dwarf, who is pretty fucking big for a Dwarf.
What I liked best about this issue is how Hickman used the prior events of New Avengers to fuel the plot, in particular, the war between Atlantis and Wakanda. When Proxima Midnight arrives to fight Namor, he’s already been defeated by the Wakandans, so they don’t actually fight, and in a great moment, Namor lies to her and says that Black Panther has the Infinity Gem, and that all of the Cull Obsidian should attack Wakanda together, which is… wow. Namor is such a dick, and it’s amazing, I love how all of this big massive cosmic war can be turned on its head by one man’s dickishness.
The scene with Doctor Strange was also very well-done, and highly disturbing, and the battle at the Jean Grey school was pretty great too, as Hickman brings back the idea that Iceman is actually am uber-powerful ‘Omega Level’ mutant and has Supergiant control him. Also, Wolverine gets owned, which is always fun.
The ending scene with Black Bolt and Maximus was a great cliffhanger too, is this where ‘Inhumanity’ begins? I’m guessing that Black Bolt thinks the only way to defeat Thanos without the Avengers is to turn on Terrigenesis and make a load more Inhumans. Hmmm… Mike Deodato once again delivers with his artwork, the battle scenes here are great, and his Black Panther may be one of the best ever.
As I said, this crossover has been brilliant so far, especially because it’s so unpredictable and everything from both of Hickman’s Avengers books is finally coming in to play. Let’s hope he can keep this up.
Uncanny Avengers #11 – After a few issues that really knocked my socks off, this one was less good, but still a lot of fun.
I think my problem with this issue was that it started with a massive exposition dump from the Apocalypse Twins, as they explain their plans to Scarlet Witch. Now, a lot of this was useful, and it cleared up a lot of things about this title, as well as bringing in some very interesting parallels and links between the Twins and that other set of famous mutant twins, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver (and where the heck is Quicksilver, has be even been around during Marvel Now?), but I think it was too much all at once. It did bring back Red Skull into the mix though, which was good, and I do like how Remender has given this series two big villains, but they are directly opposed to each other, and the Unity Squad are caught in the middle of Mutant and Human extremes. It’s the point of this series made manifest, and it’s effective. It was also cool to see that town that Archangel blew up in Uncanny X-Force again. Hmm, maybe I did like this scene after all? I dunno, maybe I should plan these out before I just start rambling on. Naaah.
Anyways, the best scenes in this issue where the interactions between the Avengers and the Four Horsemen, the personal relationships between them made these scenes really crackle. Grim Reaper really attacked Wonder Man verbally, and Remender does his best to make sense of one of Bendis’ worse ideas when he turned Simon against the Avengers. The meeting between Wolverine and Daken was also fantastic and packed with emotions, and man, Horseman Sentry is fucked up and scary.
I also really loved the scene between Rogue and Sunfire, as their past is brought back up, and I felt Remender did a really good job at making Sunfire interesting to me, and making him more than just a pompous jerk. Remender has gotten a lot of stick for his characterisation in this book, but that scene showed he’s really good at it.
In the end, it looks like the Apocalypse Twins have won, they announce their plans to the world (and it was useful to see the other Avenger and X-men characters here, this title has felt a little bit disconnected from what’s going on elsewhere, apart from when Kitty Pryde lectured everyone) to perform the ‘Mutant Rapture’, and that Scarlet Witch is going to help them do it. It’s a good cliffhanger, but no way is Wanda really helping them.
Daniel Acuna’s art is once again strong, with an artist like him who is really quite divisive, it’s hard to know what to say, I like him, but for people who don’t, this ain’t gonna change their minds. But for me, you have to be impressed, he’s not only drawing this title, but he’s colouring it too, and every page looks great to me. It looks like next issue is going to be a Kang-focus, which should be cool, he’s a great villain, and his role in this story needs to come more to the fore in my view.
Young Avengers #9 – Once again, Young Avengers falls short of being as good as I want it to be.
Only this time, it’s not because of the whole ‘trying too hard to impress Tumblr’ thing, although that’s present, it’s because I haven’t read Gillen’s Journey Into Mystery and have no idea who Leah is and don’t care about her at all. I don’t know why Loki is so scared of her, and the ending where she’s revealed as Hulkling’s therapist has no impact on me. Now, this is my fault, I suppose I should read JiM one of these days, but still, I have no connection to this woman, and it means this issue is lacking.
There was good stuff in here, like the break-up between Hulkling and Wiccan, which I liked because their relationship was taking up way too much room in the title and stopping other characters from doing anything interesting. The focus was on those two way too much, and they (Wiccan especially) are probably the least interesting characters in the Marvel Universe. Hopefully now that they are broken up, not only can the likes of Miss America (who’s mysteries are hinted at here) and Noh-Varr actually do stuff that isn’t side-jokes, and maybe Hulkling and Wiccan can develop personalities.
I also found the explanation as to why Prodigy kissed Hulkling to be pretty interesting, until Gillen seemed to back out on the implications of a character becoming bi-sexual because of their superpowers. Prodigy changing his sexuality because of being a mutant and absorbing other people’s sexuality is a very interesting concept, but nope, it just awakened something that was already there, which is more realistic and more PC, but I don’t want realism, I want crazy superhero nonsense, if Punisher can become a black guy for a few months, then Prodigy can turn bi because of his powers.
I did like the little meta-note Gillen slipped in, with Hulkling being confused because Prodigy’s Wikipedia doesn’t say he’s gay. I may find Hulkling and Wiccan’s nerdery to be shitty fanservice of the highest order, but sometimes a reference works.
The artwork from McKelvie and Norton was once again fantastic (I loved the use of plain white panel borders throughout) and the idea that when Kate Bishop grows up she’ll be on the side of ‘Mother’ is interesting, but still, this book is still frustrating me. I want to like it, but I think I may just be too old. Let’s hope that now this reality-hopping escapade is over, things will pick up, but I’ve been saying that since #1, and I don’t know how long I can keep waiting for that old Phonogram magic.
Avengers Arena #14– This title continues to be excellent each and every issue, and as we head towards the endgame, things are really getting crazy. In fact, this issue brings us back to the very first scene of the very first issue, with Hazmat being chased through the woods by a crazed X-23.
I love the way Dennis Hopeless has brought in X-23’s ‘trigger scent’ here, as Arcade fills the entire arena with it, virtually guaranteeing that X-23 will be constantly in murder-death-kill-mode. X-23 is the most famous character in this book, and therefore most people’s favourite to actually win and survive, and that’s looking pretty likely right now. I found it interesting that Hopeless didn’t revisit the original scene where Hazmat exploded, that either means she isn’t actually dead, or that he just didn’t want to waste time.
The character who’s the main focus of this issue is Cullen Bloodstone, and it’s a welcome spotlight, he’s been a very interesting character floating around in the background, and now we find out what his deal is. Basically, his dad left him in a fucked-up alternate dimension and now when he takes his ring off he turns into a massive monster. It’s pretty crazy, and that final page was a real doozy. Plus, we got some guest-appearances from both Ulysses and Ellie Bloodstone, which is always fun.
Kev Walker returns on art this issue, and he does his usual superb work, the characters in this title have so much personality, especially from the facial expressions. I should also praise the awesome Mike Deodato cover, which pays homage to the classic Frank Miller Wolverine cover.
This title has always been great, and it’s by far the best teen Avengers title Marvel are putting out, and as I said, now that we are nearing the finale, this book is only going to get better, secrets are out on the table, X-23 is in a rage, Hazmat is probably dead, Reptil is missing, shit is about to go down!
FF #11– If this is the last proper issue of Fraction’s tenure on the Fantastic Four titles, then it’s quite a one to go out on. This issue was just pure wacky fun, which makes sense, considering it stars one of Marvel’s wackiest characters, the Impossible Man.
Just as the FF are about to fire up Julius Caesar’s time machine to go find the other FF, they are yanked into the Impossible Man’s universe. It’s great to see the insane green and purple dude again, and Fraction has a lot of fun having him say funny, odd things. But there’s actually a more serious level to Impossible Man this time out, as the reason he’s captured the FF is because he wants them to look after his son, Adolf, The Impossible Boy. Only, Adolf is far from Impossible, he’s actually very Possible, he’s a quiet, timid boy who just wants to read books and not do anything weird, the total opposite to his dad. This is a great idea for a character and man, Allred draws him perfectly, like one of those serious kids who looks like an old man already.
The way Medusa talks Adolf down was written with a lot of heart and emotion, and it’s stuff like this that really makes you see the family-focus Fraction is bringing to these titles, these books are about more than superheroics, they are about families, both traditional ones like the Fantastic Four, and non-traditional ones like the Future Foundation. I can’t wait to see how Adolf fits in amongst all of the other kids, that will be a blast.
Speaking of the other kids, they are up to no good, sneaking Maximus (the mad) into the Baxter Building, where he wanders around, beats up a HERBIE and raids the fridge. I continue to really love what Fraction is doing with those robots, they are just so weird. I’m also intrigued by what ‘Julius Caesar’ is up to, at first I thought he was going to be a villain, but then he seemed like a stand up dude, but now it looks like I was right initially. What’s his issue with Doom? Why is he working with Maximus, and what about Kid Immortus?
It’s a real shame that Fraction is leaving this title, but I have high hopes that this book will still be good, Allred’s artwork is a major part of why FF is so good, and he’ll still be around, and hey, he’s a pretty good writer himself. So long Matt, thanks for all the crazy, and thanks for making the possible impossible! Wait, should that be the other way around?
Uncanny X-Men #11– Another excellent issue of Uncanny X-Men, and this one does a good job of setting up what the future of this book is going to be post-Battle Of The Atom with the introduction of a mysterious villain, who, of all things, appears to be that weird dude from a New Avengers variant cover that everyone thought was an unused design for Ronin. Who the hell is he really? I have no idea, but I’m excited to find out.
This issue was interesting, in that it was narrated by Cyclops. Bendis doesn’t often use interior-narration, so when he does, it’s intriguing, and doubly so here as we’re getting a look into Cyclops’ mind, and lately, Cyclops has been hard to read. What was surprising to me was just how angry Cyke was here, but also at the same time, how proud he was of his new team. Cyclops is one of superhero comics’ most complex characters, so it’s fitting that his thought process was complicated too.
Most of this issue involved the X-Men taking on the weird new Sentinel and getting their butts whooped. I really appreciated that this fight allowed us to see each of the new X-Men in action, we saw Hijack and Tempus use their powers in battle, and a great moment where Goldballs unleashed his balls to great effect. We even saw that healer dude do something useful. The only one we didn’t see in action was that guy who can shape-shift, but then it makes sense that he was useless. Since these characters are just about to be thrust into the madness that is an X-Crossover, it was cool to see them demonstrate just what they can do in a combat setting.
Frazer Irving once again impressed me with his art, especially since this was an action-heavy issue, and his style is not really your traditional superhero action style, but this fight was well done.
Kris Anka fills in on a few pages that show what Dazzler/Mystique is up to, and not only were they nicely drawn, but I’m very interested in what Mystique is up to, it seems like her plan to take over Madripoor has not been abandoned quite yet. She’s a real wildcard in the ongoing Mutant wars, and I can’t wait to see how this all plays out, plus, I think it’s great that Bendis is setting up subplots in one X-Book and carrying them on in the other, these books are really well connected.
So, up next is Battle Of The Atom, and I’m pretty damn excited, all of the X-Men books (except Brian Wood’s, but even that’s decent) have been on the top of their game lately, I can’t wait to see things on another level, it’s EVENT TIME MOTHER-HUBBARDS.
Wolverine & The X-Men #35– Unlike the Bendis X-Books, which seem to still be setting stuff up and continuing their plotlines for after Battle Of The Atom, Jason Aaron and Nick Bradshaw seem to have wrapped up a lot of his subplots here, as ‘The Hellfire Saga’ comes to an end. There is one exception, but even that is more set up for the new ‘Amazing X-Men’ series than W&XM itself.
This was a very satisfying conclusion, not only to this particular 5-issue storyline, but also to the Kade Kilgore/Hellfire Club story that has been going on since way way back in Schism. We get to see Kade be defeated, as well as other characters reach important turning points. Husk seems to be back to normal, Idie and Quentin Quire make out with each other, which was pretty great, the best thing about this title for me has been seeing Quentin Quire evolve from a villain into a hero. That panel where the thinks about how good it feels to well, be good, was a great moment.
We even got the return of Broo! I was not as enamoured with Broo as most fans seem to be, but I still like him, and it was a feel-good moment for sure. The reason Broo is back seems to be because of the Bamfs, and because of the man behind them, the one true Nightcrawler! I am so excited for my favourite X-Men to return, and even though there are already way too many mutie books, I am pumped for Amazing, even if they did steal Spider-Man’s adjective.
So in the end, the day is saved, the Hellfire Club is defeated, Wolverine has decided not to close the school, and the sun is shining. The perfect time for a massive crossover to come and kill everyone and crush our dreams, bring it on.
Thanos Rising #5(of 5)– Man, this is quite a week for Jason Aaron, new issues of Thor and X-Men, and also the final issue of this excellent mini-series, a story that really has turned me around on Thanos. Without this series, I would not be enjoying Infinity nearly as much, and it’s all thanks to Aaron and Bianchi’s dark, twisted, but surprisingly nuanced take on Thanos.
This finale is some heavy shit, as Thanos nukes the hell out of Titan, killing almost everyone on the planet, until it’s only him and his father left alive. The confrontation between Thanos and his dad was brilliantly written, and I loved how Thanos was forced to confront whether or not Death was real. I’m not sure myself if Death is real, and I don’t think it particularly matters why Thanos is a killer. But still, that moment where they finally kiss was fantastic, especially since it looked like Bianchi adjusted his art slightly, or maybe it was the colouring, but it looked less like a page of comic art and more like a fucked-up painting. It was great.
The final scene was also chilling, as we see that Thanos seems to have turned his back on Death and left her on Titan for all this time. I’m sure there are some fans of the old Jim Starlin stories that are annoyed by these retcons, but this story works for me, and it’s made this character into someone truly interesting to me. I mean, I liked his role fine in Giffen and DnA’s cosmic stories, but now he’s more than just a quasi-Darkseid to me, he’s a truly great villain, and one that’s awesome to read about in Infinity, and wow, I really hope that when the Marvel movies get around to using him (Avengers 3 I guess?), they use Aaron’s version.
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #26– Just this last week, I caught back up on the last year or so of Ultimate Spidey, reading from #16 to #25, and man, it’s good to be back on the horse. I still miss Ultimate Peter Parker, but Miles has grown into a great character, and Bendis is really writing this book wonderfully.
This issue continues the ‘Spider-Man: No More’ story and demonstrates, to me at least, why Ultimate Spider-Man is going nowhere, there’s no way Miles is moving to the Marvel Universe, especially since Bendis is setting up so many new plotlines and characters that are intrinsic to the Ultimate Universe setting. This whole Roxxon conspiracy plotline is something that can run and run, and I don’t see Bendis abandoning it.
The issue opens with a great fake cover of ‘Ultimate Amazing Fantasy #14’ depicting the debut of Bombshell, the foul-mouthed teenage villain who we last saw when Peter was alive. This issue delves into her origins, and whaddayaknow, Roxxon is involved. Much like how Layla Miller and her sinister brain trust fucked with Cloak and Dagger, they did the same to Bombshell’s mother and that’s why she has her powers. So much of the Ultimate Universe’s back-story and mythology is about the various attempts to recreate Captain America, so it was great to see that play a big part again. The reason Cloak and Dagger were after Bombshell was because they found some kind of Roxxon list, and thought that Bombshell was a part of the conspiracy, and not a fellow guinea-pig. It’s all connected!
It was also great to see Miles back in action as Spidey, even though for us readers it’s only been 3 issues and not a year, it brought a smile to my face. Especially since his banter with Spider-Woman is so much fun, and his rustiness was also utilised well, he hasn’t spun a web for a year, no wonder he misses.
This issue introduces the Ultimate Taskmaster, who is hired by Roxxon to take out all of the various problems they have running around, he’s pretty damn awesome, and he easily stops Spider-Man, Spider-Woman and Bombshell. Towards the end of the Peter Parker era, Ultimate Spidey had a real ensemble feel with Spidey, Human Torch, Iceman and more, and if Bendis is bringing that feel in for Miles with the likes of Cloak, Dagger and Bombshell, then I am down for that. Miles Morales and his amazing friends.
David Marquez’s art was brilliant as usual, and I loved how he used a slightly different style in the flashbacks, Bendis’ dialogue was terrific, and damn, it’s just good to be caught up with USM. Miles is back, and so am I, there’s nothing, not even Galactus eating the universe that can stop this train of comic-book awesomeness.
Batman/Superman #3– I think I’d be enjoying this title a lot more if I had read Earth 2 and therefore gave a damn about that universe’s versions of Batman and Superman. It just seems weird to me that so much of this story is focussed on those versions and not the Earth 1 characters.
The flashback where we see Clark and Bruce palling around as kids was very well-written and touching, but it was about a Batman and Superman that are already dead, and that I don’t care about. I suppose seeing them as friends works as a nice counterpoint to the adversarial relationship the ‘real’ Bats and Supes currently have, but at this point, those guys fee like afterthoughts.
I also find that all of the Darkseid foreshadowing that’s going on here is more about Earth 2 than the New 52 stories. I guess the universe (or multiverse) is telling me to read Earth 2.
There are good points here, as I said, the flashback was well done, and it was interesting seeing the differences between Earth 1 Superman’s abilities and Earth 2’s. I also liked the little piss-take of ‘Man Of Steel’ that Greg Pak snuck in there, that was fun. I just find it hard to care about what Kaiyo is up to here, her plot doesn’t really hang together.
The art is amazing however, Jae Lee is delivering truly great stuff on this title, his depiction of Apokolips is deeply scary. Yildiray Cinar’s art on the flashback was also good, but perhaps a bit too far removed in style from Lee’s.
I just think that Pak has gotten his priorites mixed up a bit here, he should be using the Earth 2 Batman and Superman to develop the Earth 1 versions more, not the other way around, because as I said, those characters are already long dead, so why bother? It’s odd, hopefully, once things are back on Earth 1, this will change up a bit.
Batman Incorporated Special #1– Like many people, I’m not ready to let Grant Morrison’s insane vision for Batman go yet, so this special focusing on all of the various international Batmen was a welcome last hurrah, and even without Morrison’s actual involvement, it was still a lot of fun.
After a rudimentary framing sequence (with great art from Declan Shalvey, I’d love to see him draw Batman properly), we get a series of fun short stories from the likes of Batman Japan, Knight, Raven Red, El Gaucho, Nightrunner, Dark Ranger and even Bat-Cow!
Yes, Bat-Cow has her own solo story, and it’s surprisingly good. Dan Didio may get a lot of hate for his editorial skills, but on stuff like this and the Metal Men story from Wednesday Comics, he’s shown himself to be pretty great at comedic writing. Plus, it was drawn by Ethan Van Sciver, so it looked good.
I think the best story here was Chris Burnham’s Batman Japan story, which was just mental, I loved the villain ‘Doctor Inside-Out’, and the way he used Japanese culture, like Vending Machines and Capsule Hotels was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the previous Batman Japan story that Burnham wrote, but this was even better because he drew it as well. His artwork is so damn good. I really hope he gets to do a Batman Japan mini-series or something.
The Knight story was good too, as Joe Keatinge and Emanuel Simeoni revisit the strange DCU version of Britain that Paul Cornell invented for that amazing Knight & Squire mini a few years ago, as a Brit, I loved it.
The Red Raven and El Gaucho/Nightrunner/Dark Ranger stories were a little more standard, but I’ll take John Paul Leon artwork wherever I can get it, and it was cool to see the colourist Nathan Fairbairn try his hand at writing.
If this is the last time we see these strange characters, then it’s a shame, but it was a nice celebration of the amount of new concepts Morrison brought to Batman, I hope DC don’t totally drop this stuff, especially Batman Japan, he needs to stick around. So yeah, if you liked Morrison’s run, give this a look, it’s unessential, but it should provide some closure.
Aquaman #23– The best thing about the last few issues of this book has been seeing 3 big threats loom towards Aquaman without him really knowing about them. Here, all of it comes crashing down on his head. He has to deal with Xebel, with the Scavenger attacking Atlantis, with the first King, and oh yeah, up on the Surface, some people are trying to rescue Ocean Master.
This was a crazily packed issue, and Johns and Pelletier really brought their a-game in the battle sequences, which were epic, and surprisingly brutal. That guy Urn got blown to pieces right on panel! Jeezus. It was also pretty damn cool to see Aquaman summon Topo to take out the Scavenger’s troops, that was a great scene, and a cool demonstration of just how powerful this character is.
The only real downside to this series continues to be the relationship between Aquaman and Mera, which I have no interest in. It’s crazy that DC got rid of pretty much every other superhero marriage for the New 52, and kept this one, the least interesting one. Gah! Hopefully Aquaman will find out that Mera was sent to kill him soon and they will break up.
But I doubt that, considering this issue does something pretty surprising right at the end and jumps forward 6 months. After summoning Topo, Aquaman passes out, and he’s out of it for 6 whole months, which is crazy. I’m very interested to see who’s in charge of Atlantis after this, is it Orm? The First King? Scavenger? Hmmm. Other titles like Ultimate Spider-Man have used a time-jump to good effect, so hopefully Johns can do the same for Aquaman. Although, how come the Justice League didn’t notice that one of their guys was missing for that long?
Justice League #23– In these reviews, I make a lot of wild predictions and random spitballing, and it’s not often that I’m right, but with this issue, I was proven to be spot on with my predictions not once, but twice. This either means that I’m a genius, or it just means that Geoff Johns is being really obvious in his writing. But either, way, this was a satisfying conclusion to the surprisingly good Trinity War, and a great set-up for Forever Evil. I know that people have ‘event fatigue’ or some crap like that (how the hell can reading make you fatigued? Some people have weak arms), but I’m excited.
The first prediction that I got correct was that Pandora’s Box was actually the doorway to Earth 3, and that once it opens the Crime Syndicate would come out, and that was correct. I’m a big fan of the CSA, because, well, they are evil versions of the JLA, it’s just a great concept, and it’s going to be interesting to see what these new versions of the characters are like, and how Johns’ take differs from what the likes of Grant Morrison has done with them before. I will say that I’m liking Ivan Reis’ costume designs for them already, but it is a shame that Earth 3 Aquaman had to die so soon, it was cool to see the bearded, hook-hand version of the character return, even as a villain.
The second prediction I got right was that the Atom was The Outsider’s mole in the Justice Leagues, as it turns out that she’s actually from Earth 3, and that she’s the one behind Superman killing Doctor Light and making him sick, because she went inside his brain and stuck some Kryptonite in there. I loved this reveal, as it explains just why this new Atom exists and why Johns didn’t use Ray Palmer or Ryan Choi, and opens the door for them to return. I have seen some complaining online that DC have screwed up by turning a minority, female character into a villain, but it’s worth remembering that just because she’s a villain doesn’t stop her from being a woman or Latina. Diversity should be present in the villains too ya know!
What else, oh yeah, the stuff with Cyborg here is pretty interesting, as Atomica hacks into him and turns his tech into ‘The Grid’ an evil AI that looks to be joining the CSA. It was shocking to see Vic’s mangled body without the technology, and even though I still find it weird that he’s in the Justice League, I’m liking the direction of his story now.
The opening of this issue was pretty great too, as we got to see Ivan Reis show his takes on some classic Silver Age JLA covers and see the likes of Starro and Amazo again.
The pages where the Justice Leagues were going all evil and crazy were kind of boring, apart from seeing Constantine as the only hero left, but once Atomica’s deception was revealed and everything went to shit and the CSA arrived, I was on board.
I think overall, Johns and Lemire have done a damn good job with this crossover, it took 2 seemingly disparate plots, tied them together very nicely, and Forever Evil looks like being a fun story. But then, I may just be praising this story because I correctly predicted some stuff, I am that shallow.
Lazarus #3– This series continues to be really excellent, Image are onto another winner here thanks to Rucka and Lark. I loved their previous collaborations, but having them create an entire new world is something else, and each issue just pulls back more layers on this all-too realistic dystopian future.
In this issue, Forever visits the compound of one of the Carlyle family’s rivals, the Morrays, to try and negotiate peace. And hey, what do you know? She actually does. I found the scenes at Morray to be fascinating, we got to see how a different clan works, and also a bit more insight into what exactly a ‘Lazarus’ is. Forever gets to talk to the Morray’s own Lazarus, Joacquim, and they surprisingly get along really well. Rucka does a good job at getting across the fucked-up situation these people are in, and how the Lazarus’ are totally under the control of their families. I found it interesting that Joacquim couldn’t eat a guava because it would fuck with his ‘implants’. The technology behind the Lazarus’ gets creepier and creepier, especially as the cover to #4 seems to show that Joacquim is part robotics.
The negotiation scene between Forever and the Head Morray was very well-written, especially with the way it was revealed that Daddy Carlyle didn’t just suspect that Jonah was a traitor, but already knew.
The Lannister-esque relationship of Jonah and Johannah is probably the weakest part of this book, because it is so seemingly indebted to Game Of Thrones, but the ending did bring things back, as Jonah launches a missile right at Forever and Joacquim, just as they were sharing a romantic moment. What a bastard! I expect the peace between Carlyle and Morray may be off now.
Michael Lark’s artwork was once again excellent, his realistic style really makes this world believable, and since Rucka is working with mostly real science, that’s very useful indeed. He only really gets to do one action scene in this issue, where Forever chops off that Morray guard’s hand, but it was very well-paced, a great depiction of how tough the Lazarus’ are.
Basically, this book is great, and I can’t wait to see how the first arc ends, I may make fun of Greg Rucka’s constant ‘strong female character’ use, but Forever Carlyle is awesome, and so is her world.
Uncanny #3– With this third issue, Andy Diggle really opens up the world of ‘Uncanny’ and things get really interesting. The first 2 issues were very tightly-focused crime/chase stories, but here, we are introduced to the wider world around Weaver’s strange abilities and also find out more about our mysterious protagonist.
Weaver is on a plane with Maggie, who explains her superhuman abilities (in this world, people with powers are called ‘Actives’) some more, and takes her to her employer, a very rich man called Deacon Styles. After a very strange scene with a very strange drawing of a wolf, Deacon demonstrates just how far his reach goes, as he tells Weaver that he knows all about him, not just that he has superpowers, but also his real name, and his tragic back story.
Styles then reveals why he was so concerned about saving Weaver. There’s a secret intelligence force that deals with Actives, and they have recently discovered just why certain people have powers, and how they can reproduce it. Styles wants Weaver and Maggie to steal that information so he can use it himself.
Once again, Diggle is doing an excellent job at balancing a realistic crime/spy thriller with very light superheroic elements. This is Diggle in his own sandbox, with his own rules, and it’s very fun to read. It’s always seemed like Diggle was restrained by working in the Marvel or DC Universe, and here, he can tell his kind of gritty superhero story in his own way. I’m excited to see just how Weaver goes about this heist, and just which the morally shaky world this story is built on goes. Is Styles to be trusted? Obviously not, but can the ‘Cadre’ be trusted too? There’s lots of interesting plotlines in this book already.
Aaron Campbell’s art was once again impressive, his style is very dark and gritty, so perfect for a book like this, where the sci-fi elements barely appear. I particularly loved the page where Weaver stares, Cameron from Ferris Bueller-style at the wolf-painting, and the way Campbell drew Weaver’s eye and the Wolf’s eye to look the same. That Wolf appeared before, and I’m betting it has something to do with the pink-haired woman Styles has hidden.
This book has been really good so far, Dynamite are really getting some great creators on board at the moment, it’s great to see companies like this follow what Image is doing, getting good writers and allowing them to do what they want.
And that’s your lot. A good week I think, and it was good to welcome back Ultimate Comics Spider-Man into the fold. Speaking of bringing things back, I also recently caught up on that other long-running teen superhero book where the main character was replaced by a black guy, Invincible! Although in this case, the character is no longer a teen, and the black guy was only temporary, but still. So yeah, I’m back reading Invincible regularly, and I’ll be reviewing #105 next week, along with the new issues of Trillium, Avengers A.I., Satellite Sam and Iron Man.
Oh yeah, and along with the newest issue of Infinity, the likes of Forever Evil, Villain’s Month and X-Men: Battle Of The Atom are kicking off. We have crossed the event comics event horizon for sure.
Crap, I forgot to say what my favourite book this week was, I’ll say it’s either Avengers Arena, Thor, or, here’s a left-field choice, Justice League. I loved the ending, the CSA are awesome, and when Geoff Johns is on is game, there are few better at delivering big event-mode comics.
Written or Contributed by Niam Suggitt
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