Once more unto the breach dear friends, Punchy is back with another bumper collection of excellent comics reviews.
Amazing Spider-Man celebrates it's 50th Anniversary, Batman Incorporated is back, Supercrooks reaches it's conclusion and there's a new dawn for The Rocketeer! This is a properly great week of comics.
Amazing Spider-Man #692– Spider-Man celebrates his 50th Birthday in style, with an issue that manages to both move things forward and also pay a lot of respect to what’s gone before. The main story here is of course the debut of ‘Alpha’, Spider-Man’s brand new sidekick. The parallels between his origin and Spider-Man’s are obvious, and there’s a lot of fun spotting the references and nods to Amazing Fantasy #15 here. Andy Maguire is an outcast high-school student who attends a scientific display and is transformed into a superhero. It’s a very clever idea to have Peter Parker in his new role as a super-scientist cause a very similar accident to the one that he suffered, and it’s another great addition to the classic idea of power and responsibility. I also loved how self-aware Slott seems about the fan reaction to Alpha, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those quotes calling him a ‘Poochie’ came directly from The Outhouse or other forums! I personally don’t mind the character, as I don’t think he’ll be around for too long, and I just think the idea is so perfect for an anniversary issue like this one, allowing Slott to do some indirect nostalgia, but also, as I said, to do something new and demonstrate how much the character of Spider-Man has grown, from a nerdy teenager and hated vigilante, to a respected scientist and Avenger. The other stories in this issue are also solid, Dean Haspiel writes and draws a fun ‘between the panels’ story from way back in ASM #50 and Josha Hale Fialkov delivers a ‘day in the life’ that has plenty of the typical Parker Luck. So, Happy 50th to our friendly Neighbourhood Wallcrawler, and let’s hope the upcoming 700th issue party is just as fun! Spider-Man’s getting greedy with these anniversary issues, what is he, the Queen?
Venom #23– Cullen Bunn begins his run on Venom, and whilst it’s not quite as dark and personal as Remender’s got towards the end, it’s a very good start, and it looks like Bunn is building on some very interesting dangling plot threads that the outgoing writer left behind. Agent Venom is sent on a mission by Hawkeye to investigate some mysterious cult or other, and after being introduced to what is probably a potential new love interest, we’re onto the demonic action as Flash faces up to not only the DOA cult, but the Son Of Satan himself. It looks like Bunn is picking up on the ‘Circle Of Four’ storyline, which left Venom, along with Red Hulk, Ghost Rider and X-23 in debt to Mephisto. Somehow, this means that Venom can order demons about, and has led to a heelturn from Daimon Hellstrom, who is now working with a bunch of Nazi Occultists. I’ve always been a big fan of Hellstrom, and while I don’t like to see him as an out and out villain, it’s always good to see him guest-star in a comic, and it looks like Bunn has a good reason for him being such a dick. The fight between him and Venom was very good, and I feel like this was the scene where Bunn got closest to the raw personal drama that fuels this title and character. I’m very interested in seeing where this is going, and what kind of demonic trouble Flash will get into. New artist Thony Silas is new to me, but he did a good job, reminding me a little of Mahmud Asrar.
Invincible Iron Man #523– In the ongoing chess match between Tony Stark and the Mandarin, it looks like the tables have well and truly turned, as Tony is finally back fighting. Mandarin doesn’t know that he’s building a new Iron Man suit, that he’s working alongside a non-braindead Zeke Stane, and that he’s managing to get some of his villains, like Blizzard, on his side. That scene where Tony made his pitch to the villains was just great, classic Stark charm. I can’t wait to see this final battle when it happens, it’s been a slow burn, but that only makes the ending even better. Or at least that’s how it’ll hopefully turn out. Away from Mandarin City, Pepper sort of figures out that the new Iron Man is Rhodey, even if that is a little bit racist, and then, shockingly, she and Wyche are attacked by JARVIS in the Rescue outfit. I wonder who is in charge of JARVIS? Is it Tony trying to protect his tracks, or is it the Mandarin? This book is making me paranoid, I swear.
The Punisher #14– After what feels like longer than it should have been, The Punisher returns with the final assault on Stephanie Gerard and The Exchange. This was a very enjoyable issue, with both sides attempting to outwit each other, and of course, in the end, Frank Castle won. I do wonder just how he managed to bust in the window, was the bullet we saw in close-up some kind of tank-buster or something? I’m not a bullet expert. But any quibbles I had with that were ended by the awesome sight of the Punisher swinging into the room on a stolen web-shooter, that’s a classic moment of the Marvel Universe sneaking in to a grounded book, and it’s the kind of thing I love. In the end, Rachel Cole-Alves kills Gerard, and she has her revenge. So where does she go now? Will she stick around as ‘Punisher-Girl’? And just how do the events of this issue set us up for War Zone? The next two issues are going to be very exciting. Mico Suayan’s artwork was fantastic once again, he reminds me a little bit of an alternately reality JH Williams III who uses normal panel layouts instead of going crazy.
Secret Avengers #30– More fun in Bagalia with Hawkeye and the gang, and it was refreshing to see the Secret Avengers trying to be secret for once. Hawkeye doesn’t want to intervene in Venom’s fight with Taskmaster because he doesn’t want the supervillains to know that Venom is now working as a hero. At times this book has hardly been secret at all, so it was cool to see them try and be discreet, such as using Ant-Man to sneak inside Taskmaster’s head. Of course, then Hawkeye and Valkyrie have a massive motor-cycle chase through the city, so secrecy ends there, but hey. I think the best thing about this issue was Vengeance (the evil Ghost Rider) and his ridiculous pontificating rants and how Hawkeye made fun of them, you could tell Remender was having fun with that. In the end, we get to a moment that this book has been teasing since #1, the 3 Crowns are combined into one for Max Fury to use… and they don’t work, because he’s just a robot. That was a clever way to undercut things, and then to twist it again as Taskmaster puts it on and everything goes to shit. The Abyss is upon us. What does that mean? I’m very excited to find out. I was also very impressed by Mateo Scalera’s artwork in this issue, it’s growing on me, I thought it was a bit cartoony in #29, but here, it looked suitably grimy. Maybe it’s easier to serious when you don’t have to draw The Circus Of Crime?
Uncanny X-Men #17– The final chapter of the Mister Sinister story, and it was full of great moments as pretty much every member of the team got a chance to shine. Psylocke kicked ass because she’s a bloody ninja, Magneto flirted with Storm and Emma Frost made fun of Sinister’s accent. All good stuff, and I feel that this arc has showcased the best of what Kieron Gillen can do when it comes to dialogue, there’s been some classic exchanges. The artwork was a bit of a mish-mash though, Acuna does some pages, and Mike Del Mundo does others. I’m not sure how I feel about Del Mundo’s art, some panels looked fantastic, and some others looked really strange. But he has a unique style, and that’s always something to build on. The issue ends with Sinister getting burned to a crisp by the Phoenix, and Cyclops ominously declaring the Earth as belonging to the X-Men. Oh Scott, don’t say things like that, it’ll only fuel the internet hate brigade! I did feel a bit like this issue dropped the ball on exploring the rift between the Phoenix 5 and the rest of the team, but hopefully that won’t be forgotten, as it’s very interesting, well, it’s interesting to me at least.
The Ultimates #14– Divided We Fall continues to be one strange event. There’s a lot going on and Humphries doesn’t really pause to let us process it. I will say that I enjoyed the central setpiece fight, with the Ultimates fighting the terrorists in Texas, but the rest of it… what the? I thought we were worried about Texas, not the West Coast? What is this Morez guy’s plan? And who is he? Those guys had what looked like Asgardian gold, so my theory at the moment is that he is Thor’s son who got sucked into that tree during Hickman’s run. Although why does he have red and blue eyes? Is it some kind of commentary on red states on blue states? On America’s political divide? If so… oy vey, oy vey indeed. The art was once again a bit of a mess, Billy Tan and Tim Green do not really have similar styles, and Green’s pages in particular seemed very rushed compared to the work he’s done on titles like Annihilation: Conquest – Star-Lord and Avengers Academy. This title really is confusing me at the moment, one page will have me rolling my eyes, and the next will be really cool, what’s the deal?
Supercrooks #4(of 4)– Millar and Yu’s latest project comes to an end with a double-sized issue that really does deliver. We see the heist on The Bastard in it’s entirety, and the whole thing is very enjoyable, with some fantastic moments and twists. I particularly liked the very disgusting scene where those two brothers with healing factors repeatedly getting cut up in order to get through the lasers. That was the purest moment of Millar getting back to his awesome high concept of ‘Oceans 11 but with superpowers’ and it was great. Another great scene was Gladiator standing away from the fight with the Praetorian until the last minute and then fucking destroying him. Now that’s a gay character! I must admit that I was surprised that they got away with the crime, I was fully expecting one final twist and for the Bastard to kill them all, but for once it was a happy ending. This was a fun mini-series, not quite as good as Superior, but Millar and Yu make for a great team, I enjoyed myself and the art was great. Here’s hoping the upcoming movie is good too. Also of note, was that this issue featured preview art for Millar and Quitely’s upcoming Jupiter’s Children, which looks amazing.
Brilliant #4– After a loooooong delay, Bendis and Bagley’s superheroes meets The Social Network story is back, and it was good. It was a good idea from Bendis to have the first few pages be the characters introducing themselves in interrogation, because I had kind of forgotten their names! I knew one of them was a bald asian and one had curly hair… but that was it. I was very surprised that Amadeus died in this issue, it looked like Bendis was setting him up as the main antagonist of the series, but no, he’s dead. But he will still have a lot of impact on the series in death, his demonstration of superpowers is all over the internet and TV now, and the FBI are watching his friends. Oh yeah, and the girl one (Marie is her name I think) is also revealed to have given herself superpowers. That’s not going to end well. This was a talky issue, but that’s what Bendis does best, and the talking was interesting, I especially like the scenes with the FBI, it’s very cool that Bendis is not going the obvious route and making the FBI villains, the main agent in particular is a cool character. This continues to be a good comic, let’s just hope Bendis and Bags don’t take so long to get the next one out, now that their run on Avengers Assemble is nearly done, I reckon this will be coming out a bit quicker.
Superman #12– More solid, traditional stuff as Superman defeats the weird lizard alien that kicked his ass last time out. It all pretty much played out like you’d expect. It turns out the Alien is not really evil, and that it’s bad actions are mostly down to humans, we’re the real monsters etc, and there’s the usual playing up of parallels between Superman and the Alien Threat. All standard stuff, but it was entertaining. The ending of the issue was a little strange though, Superman decides to enjoy himself a little more as Clark Kent and goes on a date with Lucy Lane. I’m all for the possibility of Clark dating Lucy, because it would be something new, but what with this week’s news about Superman and Wonder Woman getting together, it seems a little bit pointless, like Jurgens didn’t know what Johns was doing in Justice League. Next month’s Zero Issue is the start of this title’s 3rd creative team in only a year, will Lobdell and Rocafort do better than Perez, Merino, Jurgens and Giffen did? Let’s hope so, this book needs more to it than just Superman doing Superman-type things.
Batman Incorporated #3– After a delay due to the Aurora Shootings (and I must admit, nothing in this issue seemed particularly reminiscent of those events to me, but I’m not very sensitive to this sort of thing, it would need to have been directly in a cinema for me to have a problem with it, but probably better to be safe than sorry), it’s great to have Batman Inc back, and this issue was just a lot of fun. After #2 detailed Talia’s back-story, this one picks up where #1 left off. Robin has faked his death, and Batman is investigating Leviathan, but not as himself, but as Matches Malone. I must admit I’ve always found Matches a problematic concept, but Morrison had a lot of fun with it here, and it made for a different kind of issue, and demonstrated the many different ways in which Batman’s war on crime operates, the character is a lot more flexible than many writers allow for. This issue was full of the weird little moments and characters that Morrison does best, like the villain Small Fry, or the ending sequence which was really freaking scary. Chris Burnham continues to improve with every single issue, he’s the 2nd coming of Frank Quitely! The pages where Damian, as Redbird attacks the Leviathan Compound were very stylishly done, you barely even see Damian, just his lethal efficiency. Add to that the triumphant return of Batcow, and this was just damn good comics, and really, the best tribute of all to the Aurora Victims is that Batman is still out there, fighting the good fight.
I, Vampire #12– Stormwatch stop by for a guest-appearance in another event-packed instalment of I, Vampire. Andrew and his allies need all the help they can get taking on the zombie-vampire-vampire hunters (I’m not making that up, it makes sense) and Fialkov has a very good handle on the members of the team that show up, particularly Apollo and Midnighter. One Milligan exits that title, it would be fun to see JHF have a go. I must admit though that seeing the normally dark and gritty Andrew Sorrentino draw Apollo was a little strange. I thought it was a nice touch that Mary knew about the existence of Stormwatch, as Midnighter said, they kind of suck and staying a secret. It would be really cool to have a flashback story showing Mary’s first meeting with an older incarnation of Stormwatch. In the end, Andrew uses some more mega-magic, and somehow cures all of the other Vampires, but turns himself evil. I swear, that guys changes from evil to good every other issue, it must be exhausting. The zero issue promises to show us Andrew’s origin, that should be very cool indeed.
Green Lantern: New Guardians #12– The first year of this title ends with the team itself breaking up, so where do we go from here? Kyle and the gang find out that they were brought together on false pretences, that Sayd tricked them all, and so they leave in disgust. I’m sure they’ll reconvene again soon, probably due to the events of the upcoming crossover (which reared it’s head here with another burst of ‘LET ME OUT’), but it will be interesting to see what happens in the interim. I personally would like to see Kyle have a solo story to himself, because it’s been too long, and he’s the most interesting GL. It’ll never happen though, knowing my luck, the book will become a Larfleeze solo title. I’m kind of skipping over the big fight with Invictus because of my disgust that Larfleeze didn’t die. Come on Bedard, do the right thing and kill the filthy orange scrotum! I’m also interested in what’s next for the Weaponer, he betrayed Munk and went off with Invictus’ ship, what is his plan?
All-Star Western #12– After this issue, I think it’s clear that Tallulah Black is the most bad-ass woman in comics. Seriously, the way she went about killing almost all of the Crime Bible worshippers in this issue was insanely hardcore. Throwing knives, decapitating people with axes, shooting with pistols, and then gouging out eyeballs. She is just relentless as fuck, and really, she was the main hero of this story, Hex and Arkham were the damsels in distress (oh alright, there was a flashback where Hex got to do some shootin’) which was very refreshing. In the end, all of the Crime Biblers are killed or captured (and then killed) and whichever member of the Wayne family it is ironically says ‘that’s the last we’ll see of them’. Don’t be so sure Mister! Just ask your great-great-grandson about it! Heh. The story then dovetails into the next one, with the appearance of a weird looking blond guy who claims to be working for a certain ‘Dr Jekyll’, and I think we all know where that’s leading. I think it’s really interesting how this title really isn’t even a Western anymore, it’s much more in the tradition of a Victorian Penny Dreadful or something. The Terrence Thirteen back-up was good once again, but it did remind me a bit too much of a Scooby Doo story, just with people actually getting killed.
The Unwritten #40– The final chapter of ‘The Wound’ and after what seems like forever, we finally get to see Tom Taylor again! And wasn’t it just like Carey to not have him come on to rapturous applause, but in a more low-key way. You build and build the anticipation, and flip the reader’s expectations, clever stuff. This issue felt to me like the culmination of a lot of what’s gone before, a greatest hits, as well as a real movement to the next phase of the story. So along with appearances from many of the books that have been most important to the story, like Moby Dick, Jud Suss and Willowbank Tales, new characters like Didge and Danny also get starring roles. Carey and Gross also draw a line under the ‘Cult Of Tommy’ as Tom outwits Lucas Filby and manages to do so in a way that avoids more people thinking he’s some kind of a messiah. I was also pleased to see that my prediction about Didge, that she was dyslexic, was correct, she’s a very interesting character, I hope she sticks around, although I’m not so keen on the Unicorn. This was a very solid arc, it managed to keep a fair amount of the epic scale of the ‘War Of Words’, but it also took a step back, and refocused the series in an interesting way. It was both a nice palate cleanser and a continuation in tone, I can’t wait for what’s next.
Invincible #94– Another issue of Invincible in which the title character doesn’t do anything at all (he says two words and kicks a coffee table) but it doesn’t hurt the story at all, this book has so many interesting supporting characters that Mark is not too big a loss, and of course, it will make his inevitable return all the sweeter. Even Mark’s replacement, Bulletproof doesn’t do much this issue, as the focus is on Robot and Monster Girl, both in the past and present. In the Flaxan dimension, Kirkman continues to have fun with the vagaries of interdimensional time differences, but he also wisely keeps the focus on the personal, as Robot and Monster Girl fall in love. And then in the present, back on Earth, we see Robot confess that he’s still in love with her, and then… a shocking reveal! The head Flaxan invader is their son! Huh? Wah? I’m sure we’ll see this explained in #95, and I bet it’s a doozy. Not long now until the big 100th issue, shit is getting crazy.
America’s Got Powers #3(of 6)– Jonathan Ross and Bryan Hitch’s story has already become more than the Reality TV show satire many of us worried it would be, this book is not really about the Reality TV aspect, but much more to do with politics, and how the government and the military attempt to take new weaponry and technology such as these superpowered kids under control. It’s a lot more ambitious than I certainly expected, and all the better for it. This issue expands the scope of the series, as we see just what it is that the Sarah Palin lookalike is up to, and are also introduced to a group of superpowered teens who are living outside of the system, as they attempt to recruit Tommy to their side. The ending of the issue was also very interesting, it looks like Tommy can also give powers to other people. Very intriguing. Bryan Hitch’s artwork was very good, it looks like he’s back to his best, and as I said, this story is much more interesting than the title suggests, this is a real 2010s century superhero comic.
Rocketeer: Cargo Of Doom #1(of 4)– With the announcement this week that Disney are considering doing a new Rocketeer movie, it’s exciting times for fans of Cliff Secord, even without the late great Dave Stevens. This new mini-series, from the creative team that’s currently kicking all kinds of ass on Daredevil, Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, really nails the tone and spirit of what Stevens had with this character, and it looks like being a great continuation for the character. There’s all of the stuff you expect from a Rocketeer comic, exciting airbound action, Cliff arguing with Betty, and surprise cameos from famous pulp characters. It seems to me like the villain of this series is going to be an analogue of Doc Savage’s great enemy, John Sunlight, which is very exciting. It was fun to have loads of different artists play with short stories for the character, but this long-form adventure is much more like what Stevens did, and I trust in Mark Waid to not make this a cash-in on a classic legacy. This isn’t Before Watchmen, this is a fantastic tribute.
I hope you all enjoyed that one as much as I did! It was a good one. My favourite books this week were Batman Incorporated and the slick finale to Supercrooks.
Make sure you join me next week, because there's gonna be a whole lot of DC Annuals, along with new instalments of Hulk, Gambit and Winter Soldier, plus Morning Glories! Ooooh.
Written or Contributed by Niam Suggitt
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