Guess who’s back, back again, Punchy’s back, tell a friend.
Yes, that’s right! I’m back with a regular column wherein I review all of the comics I read in the week. Now, I’m not reading as many books as I was, so these columns will be shorter, but that should hopefully lead to higher quality writing. Hopefully.
The selection of books which kick-starts this new beginning is a good one, there’s new instalments of some of Marvel Now’s best books in Superior Spider-Man and All-New X-Men, there’s a new mini-series exploring the origins of Thanos, and both Swamp Thing and Action Comics get new creative teams.
As always, you can click the links next to each review to head to an Outhouse forum thread, where there will be deeper discussion, again, hopefully.
So, let’s get down to it!
Superior Spider-Man #7– I’m a huge fan of the concept behind Superior Spider-Man, it’s such a great, high concept, only-in-comics kind of deal, and it’s been a lot of fun to see Slott take things to not just where you’d expect them to, but beyond that. This issue continues the rapid pace of change we’ve come to expect from this series, Slott is not resting on his laurels, already Peter Parker is gaining more and more power over his body again. His interventions in the fight between SpOck and Cardiac were crucial, and though less dramatic, his being able to take control of his arm whilst Otto was asleep is a very interesting development. Also in this issue we see Otto also start to realise that something is up, it looks we are going to get some all-out war for control of Peter’s body. It’s Power Vs Responsibility in human form really. Of course, there’s more to this than just internal conflict, as Spider-Man’s erratic behaviour finally brings the rest of the Avengers into action. This intervention-turned-confrontation that closes the issue was very exciting, and I can’t wait to see the actual fight next issue. I just love seeing Otto burst out into pure Stan Lee villain talk at people, calling Captain America a ‘flag-waving fool’ was just fantastic. For me, this era of Spider-Man has reinvigorated the whole concept, it’s a blast, Slott and Ramos are at the top of their games and everything is running full-throttle towards an epic conclusion, whilst at the same time finding time for interesting subplots like the new Dwarf love interest (I’ve forgotten her name, sorry) and a new direction for Cardiac. Stop sending death threats and just enjoy the ride, people.
Indestructible Hulk #6– So far I’ve been enjoying Waid’s run on Hulk without loving it. The idea of SHIELD using Hulk as a weapon is really clever, but it hasn’t really clicked for me. This issue was a step in the right direction, but what else can you expect when you have Walt Simonson drawing a Thor guest-appearance. The man is the definitive Thor artist and whenever you get to see him draw the character smash up some Frost Giants it’s a good time. I also like how Waid is plunging Hulk right into the Marvel Universe and having him take on threats that he wouldn’t normally. We’ve seen him take on Attuma and AIM, and now it’s Frost Giants. Just like with Daredevil, this new cast of foes has been a refreshing change of pace. I love Abomination and Leader and all them, but there’s only so many times you can go to that well. Another plus here is that Waid is starting to really explore the 4 lab assistants Banner has, they have just been kind of there until now, but now that we know that each of them has a secret, the title has some subplots that can keep on bubbling for a nice long while. But really, this comic is all about seeing Simonson draw Thor (and classic look Thor at that) and about the pure, fanboy joy at seeing Hulk pick up Mjolnir. It’s a big, dumb moment, but it’s amazing nonetheless.
All-New X-Men #10– Much like Superior Spider-Man, the idea of the original X-Men coming into the present is a silly high concept that has worked really well for me. I rolled my eyes when I first heard about it, but this title has been some of the best X-Men stuff I’ve read since Morrison and early Whedon. This issue was very talky, but it’s Bendis, so it’s good talky. I’m a big fan of the current Cyclops, so I love it when he does anything, but his tackling everyone’s assertion that he killed Xavier was great, he was possessed goddamnit! He’s just such a fascinating character, I can understand why some fans hate him now, but even they have to admit he’s interesting. It’s better that you hate him than don’t care, right? Another interesting factor to this issue is whatever it is the Brotherhood Of Mutants is up to, Mystique says she just wants to make money, so then why pretend to be the X-Men? She must have a bigger plan up her sleeve. So yeah, whilst this issue was mostly dialogue, it was interesting, necessary dialogue which moved the overall story to it’s next phase, with some of Wolverine’s students leaving to join Cyclops’ new school. The Stepford Cuckoos are confirmed, but there’s another, and supposedly it’s shocking. It’s obviously Jean Grey, right? She’s going to go undercover and use Cyclops’ love for her to bring him down. Luckily we only have to wait for next week’s issue of Uncanny to find out. All-New X-Men continues to be fantastic comic, all 3 of the main X-Men titles are so good at the moment, Bendis is bringing the drama and the comedy to this, and Immonen is bringing some of the best art of his career. This is time-travel done right, this is superhero soap opera done right.
Age Of Ultron #4(of 10)– I think I might be the only person on the internet who’s been enjoying Age Of Ultron. Maybe I have low standards, but I enjoy big-event-mode Bendis and I feel like this is the best Bryan Hitch’s art has looked since The Ultimates 2. It also helps that the series has basically been coming out weekly, so I don’t feel the decompression nearly as much as I would if it was on a regular monthly schedule. This issue had some really great moments if you just stop moaning about it. She-Hulk’s death was great, and Luke Cage’s mid-air fight with the Ultrons and then his surviving a nuclear fucking explosion was epic heroism. I’m sure most of you will roll your eyes at Bendis once again fellating his man-crush Luke Cage, but it was awesome. I also really dig the idea of Ultron taking control of things from the future so that the heroes can’t get him, that’s a cool twist. I’m guessing that next issue the Avengers will head into the future and the second, Hitch-less phase of this story will begin. So yeah, I like Age Of Ultron, what are you gonna do? I can’t help it. Oh, and Ka-Zar showed up, I love Ka-Zar, more Ka-Zar please Marvel.
Thanos Rising #1(of 6)– I’ve read a lot of comics featuring Thanos, some of them good and some of them bad, but I never realised that I didn’t really know his origins. I knew he was a Titan and that superhero/date-rapist Starfox was his brother and that he was in love with ‘Death’ but that was it. This new mini-series delves into his past, and it’s… strange. I’m not sure why, but it’s just odd to see a character like Thanos, who is so irredeemably evil most of the time as a cute, misunderstood kid. I’m not sure how much of this origin is new but it’s just strange. Jason Aaron is once again proving himself as a supremely versatile writer, he became known for gritty, down to Earth stories like Scalped and Wolverine, but he’s just as great when off in Space with Thanos or Thor. He treats every setting with the same respect and the same focus on human (or Titan) emotions, it’s great to see. If anyone can make me care about baby Thanos, it’s Aaron. Simone Bianchi is an artist I run hot and cold on, but he’s well-suited here, his style really suits an alien world. This mini is an odd one so far, but it’s important context for Hickman’s upcoming Infinity crossover, and also probably for the next lot of Marvel Movies, so I’m excited to see where it goes and to see Thanos head towards the dark side (insert joke here about how he’s a Darkseid rip-off). I’m guessing the little girl that’s egging on Thanos to kill lizards is Death, which is interesting. We shall see.
Action Comics #19– A new era of Action Comics begins! Except, no, not really. I’m sure you’ve read about it, but Andy Diggle left the gig as writer of Action Comics before his first issue even came out. We don’t really know why, the best guess is excessive editorial interference, but it doesn’t really matter. Diggle only wrote 2 issues and the rest of his opening story will be finished off by the artist Tony Daniel. It’s another patented DC Comics clusterfuck and it makes it difficult to review this comic. Taken on it’s own merits, this is a very good Superman comic, there’s plenty of action, an intriguing mystery and the dialogue, particularly in the scenes between first Clark and Lois and the Lex Luthor and his psychiatrist was excellent. But reading this knowing that Diggle has already gone just makes you shrug and think… what’s the point? None of this is going to go anywhere, we’ll get an OK 4-part story and then someone else will take over and probably have their story fucked with by editorial. I liked this comic, but the nature of superhero comics is that they don’t exist in a vacuum, this is just a big old mess. Hopefully Scott Snyder and Jim Lee’s upcoming Superman Unchained will be left alone and will be good, it seems that the only way writers get to do what they want at DC these days is if they are Johns, Morrison or Snyder. Seriously, Morrison was able to tell an insane non-linear 5-dimensional storyline with no meddling, but Diggle gets shot to shit? Come on, have some respect for your writers who aren’t huge names DC. The state of Superman comics these days is just fucking sad, there’s a movie coming out this year! They should be on their A-game! Instead it’s Lobdell and Tony Daniel (who is a great artist, just not a great writer). Help us Snyder, Lee and to a lesser extend Greg Pak, you’re our only hope.
Green Lantern #19– For a title that was once the biggest thing going at DC, if not superhero comics as a whole, Green Lantern hardly seems to get discussed at all anymore. There was a brief flurry when Simon Baz was first revealed, but since then… not much. Maybe it’s because the titles have been on constant crossover for like 2 years, or maybe it’s just DC being kind of crap lately, but it just seems like Green Lantern has been forgotten. Which is kind of a shame, because the title has actually been pretty good. Johns’ man-love Sinestro finally has a place now that the character is a sort of hero, and Simon Baz is a cool new character. This issue was the Sinestro show, as the First Lantern comes in and does his usual alternate reality schtick, showing some intriguing possible paths that Sinestro could have taken. This thing has been a bit repetitive, as he’s done it to pretty much everyone, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, Carol Ferris, Saint Walker, even fucking Larfleeze, and it had the same result. But this is the last time, and something actually happens, he gains full reality-altering powers and blows up Korugar, which of course pisses of Sinestro no end. It looks like Sinestro will decisively go bad next month and return to the Yellow. But what’s the deal with Hal? Is he going to become a Black Lantern? We know he’s going to be the main GL for Venditti’s run, what’s the deal. And Simon Baz hasn’t really done much lately either. There’s a lot left for Johns to wrap up and I’m interested to see how he ends things. His run has been infuriating to me at times, but to be on one title for so long is a great achievement.
Animal Man #19– This book is in a weird place right now. It just wrapped up a storyline that was basically 18 issues long, it was an epic, and unlike Swamp Thing, the creative team isn’t changing. Where does Lemire take and Animal Man now that doesn’t seem like small potatoes compared to Rotworld? The answer is the up the personal stakes. Last issue ended with the shock death of Buddy Baker’s son Cliff, and whilst I thought that was kind of cheap at first, the way it’s handled here is really good. Obviously, having a kid that dies is one of the worst things that can happen to a person, and Lemire really nails the seriousness of this situation. I wonder if we’ll see Animal Man and Batman bond with each other over the deaths of their respective sons, that would be very interesting to see. But the immediate impact is more important, Buddy’s marriage is now over, he’s threatening to kill members of the press, and to top it all off, he’s been cut off from The Red. Now of course, the most famous Animal Man story before this involved all of Buddy’s family getting killed, and that was reversed, and I can’t help but feel that maybe Cliff will be back somehow. Maxine certainly seems to think so too. This was an emotional issue, and I’m excited to see where Lemire takes things. Also noteworthy in this issue was Steve Pugh’s art, he’s been good before, but to my eyes, this was a real step up, this issue was beautiful. So, whilst this issue doesn’t have the epic scale of Rotworld, it’s different, it’s more personal, it’s probably better.
Swamp Thing #19– Unlike its sister-title, Animal Man, Swamp Thing has undergone a change in creative team. Snyder has left for Superman and new Vertigo work (such a thing still exists, I swear), so in comes Charles Soule. Soule is a writer I’m not familiar with, but I was actually pleasantly surprised by this one. Just like Animal Man, there’s a step down in terms of epic-ness, but I appreciated the smaller scale and the more detailed exploration of where Alex Holland’s head is at. I also really liked how Soule goes to great pains to show that Swamp Thing is not a superhero, that he doesn’t do things for the good of humanity, but for the good of plants. Having your hero do things like take away food from starving people in the desert is dark stuff, but it works. Swamp Thing is above things like that, but Alec Holland is not, he struggles with it as a man, so he heads to Metropolis to ask someone who’s all about saving humanity, Superman. But on the way he runs into the Scarecrow who has headed to Metropolis to steal some fear plant or something. Chaos of course ensues, and it looks like next issue is going to involve Swamp Thing Vs Superman. This issue seems to have gotten a mixed reaction online, it’s certainly a departure from the mystical stuff Snyder was doing, but I think it mostly works. Soule is attempting to put Swampy into more superhero-type stories whilst at the same time showing how he’s not really a superhero at all. I like it so far, but it’s only been one issue, we shall see. I also really liked Kano’s artwork here, he’s always dependable, and it was good to have a Swamp Thing issue that was not overly complex in it’s layouts. I love Yanick Paquette, but at times he got a bit too over-elaborate.
Oh yes, it’s good to be back. I hope you enjoyed these reviews as much as I enjoyed writing them. My favourite this week was probably All-New X-Men #10, that book is just such great fun. But I pretty much enjoyed everything this week, even Action Comics, the overall narrative of the book itself may be a fuck-up, but this individual issue was strong. Make sure to join me next week when I’ll be looking at new issues from some of the medium’s best titles, Saga, Hawkeye, Batman and Avengers. We’ll also find out who the mystery person who joins Cyclops’ team is (it’s Jean) and there’s more Age Of Ultron and we can see how badly people can misinterpret Uncanny Avengers this time! Thor is transphobic!