It's the last TWiP of September, and it's a good one! There's the last lot of DC Zero Issues, a new creator-owned series from Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson, and new instalments from the likes of Winter Soldier, Gambit, Secret Avengers and The Ultimates.
As always, click the links to head to a forum thread.
Amazing Spider-Man #694– Marvel’s historic ‘1 Month Of Alpha’ comes to an end, and overall it was a satisfactory one. Andy is no longer uber-powered, but he still has some remnants, and the door remains open for him to return in the future as a less annoying character. I certainly look forward to that. But what I found odd about this issue was that it wasn’t really about Alpha at all, and instead most of the story was Peter trying to save Aunt May from certain death for the umpteenth time. I guess I’m just bored of ‘Aunt May in danger stories’. At least this one seemed to have some consequences, May will now need a cane to walk, and J. Jonah Jameson was actually nice to Spider-Man! Could their relationship finally be evolving? And then at the end… yet another Hobgoblin teaser. This upcoming story should be good, at this point we as fans have no idea what’s going to happen with Spider-Man post-#700. Is this Slott’s final run of issues? If so, he’s going out with some strong stuff, this whole Alpha arc was clever in how it paid tribute to what’s gone before, even with simple stuff like the cover to this issue, which is of course a homage to Superman Vs The Amazing Spider-Man from back in the day, an all-time classic.
Invincible Iron Man #525– I love how the cover to this issue seems like an impressionistic bit showing Mandarin cracking open the Earth, but then at the end of the issue, Fraction reveals that this is actually what he’s planning! Very cool. Though the less said about the multi-coloured logo the better. The insides of this issue were very exciting, the tide has turned in the battle against the Mandarin, and you really got the epic scale of things, and how this is Fraction bringing everything in his long run together. It was great seeing the Triumph Division and The Dynasty show up again, and I also got a kick out of Tony and Stane teaming up alongside the ‘Three Amigos’ of Blizzard, Living Laser and Whirlwind. Classic Iron Man elements with a new lick of paint. It’s also cool how Mandarin is just freaking out and being a massive diva about things, it’s an interesting take on a supervillain, and it works. The best scene in this issue was probably the one where Pepper and Bethany Cabe went to visit Rhodey’s mother, very strong dialogue there. Only two issues left! Oh man, it’s the end of an era.
Captain Marvel #4– I really find Kelly-Sue DeConnick’s ambition laudable, most creators who launch a book go for something fairly simple with the opening arc in order to introduce the status quo, but not DeConnick, she just jumps headfirst into a rather complex time-travel story arc which has now seen Carol Danvers go from the present day, to WW2 and now to 1961. It’s a bit of a headfuck, but it’s very interesting (and informative, I’ve actually learned stuff about women pilots) and she’s also managing to good character work with Captain Marvel at the same time. I feel like even though I’ve been reading about Carol as a member of the Avengers since I was about 11, this is the first time I’ve really gotten to know about who she is as a person in any great detail. I also find the character of Helen Cobb to be pretty intriguing, in #1 she was set up as a heroic inspiration for Carol, but the 1960s scenes in this issue seem to show a darker side of her, hmmmm.
Incredible Hulk #14– Man, I just love Jason Aaron’s sense of humour, he writes some of the funniest comics around, and they aren’t just jokey for the sake of it, there are actual stakes (although another Aaron comic out this week is an exception) and foundations to the humour. This issue, the penultimate one of his run, was incredibly exciting and entertaining, with some really great moments and ideas. The revelation that the villain of this whole story is not actually Doctor Doom, but a bunch of Doombots preparing for his return is a great one, and allows for some damn good comedy, that still doesn’t allow you to forget how scary Doombots can be. The Mad Squad are also reliably batshit, and there’s also the glimpse we get inside of the Hulk’s mind, where the controls contain a big button that just says ‘SMASH’. This was just a great issue, and I love the contrast of the funny stuff and the more serious elements like the new villain, who, while scary, is called ‘The Vegetable’. After a shaky start, Aaron’s Hulk is going out in a big way, and I’m loving how crazy it is.
Winter Soldier #11– After the last few issues of Winter Soldier blew my socks off, this one, whilst still good, was a bit of a disappointment. Not much of note happens apart from Bucky and Hawkeye chasing after Black Widow and Leo, and even then, those scenes were lacking the emotional heft Brubaker gave things in #10. I guess this was the equivalent of a 10-minute action sequence really. And make no mistake, there was good action, Guice kicked ass on the art once again, and the fight between Winter Soldier, Hawkeye and AIM was very cool, especially when he just crashed the Helicopter on them. The best sequence was the flashback stuff, with all the reds and blues, this book makes very strong use of colour, more so than pretty much any other Marvel Comic. So yeah, whilst this wasn’t a gangbuster issue, it was still very strong, and it had a doozy of an ending, here’s hoping #12 is has enough awesome for 2 issues!
The Punisher #16– Greg Rucka wraps up his run on The Punisher in strong style, and it looks like we’re saying goodbye to Rachel Cole-Alves. In the aftermath of the bloodbath and the death of Detective Bolt in #15, the NYPD are now well and truly gunning for Frank and Rachel like never before, and so they split up. Rachel turns herself, planning a ‘suicide by cop’, but she gets played by Frank. Not only did he remove the firing pin from her gun, but he also took out all of the police snipers surrounding her. I wonder why Frank did this? Is he protecting her? Or does he see her arrest as an even more fitting punishment? Basically, is Rucka portraying Frank as heroic or as a terrible monster? It’s the age old question of the character really, and I don’t think we’ll ever get an answer. I am surprised that Rachel survived though, and I reckon we will see her in War Zone. Rucka’s take on The Punisher has been a very strong one in my book, I liked how little the character spoke, and it was interesting to see the Marvel Universe from such a grimy, street-level perspective, this is very much a spiritual successor to Gotham Central, and as such, the best thing Rucka has written in a while (alongside Stumptown). Here’s hoping the upcoming mini-series is as strong as the ongoing was, the stakes are raised, but I think it will be.
Gambit #3– Remy LaBeau’s Sexy Adventures continue as he and his mysterious female companion head to Guatemala for witty banter and giant spiders. I’m really enjoying this book, it’s taking a character like Gambit outside of his usual wheelhouse, which is X-Men related stuff, and having a lot of fun with it. If anything, this issue reminded me of Indiana Jones, what with all the mysterious caves and stuff. Clay Mann’s artwork is still amazing, I really like his style, and even though he didn’t do the whole issue, the fill-in pages came from the equally excellent Leonard Kirk, who kicked a lot of ass on a double page spread of Gambit discovering new abilities thanks to the weird starfish thingy. This is just a fun book really, Asmus’ take on the title character is a lot of fun, you don’t know what’s coming next and the whole package is just cool. I’m excited to find out what the deal is with these relics in #4, and I hope that this book is selling decently enough. Even though it’s X-related, I feel like it’s flying under the radar.
Secret Avengers #31– With the arrival of ‘Null’, all of the Masters Of Evil along with Hawkeye and Valkyrie have been possessed, so it’s Venom, Ant-Man and Black Widow who have to step up and save the day. It was good to see Remender once again focus on Venom, and this issue almost felt like an instalment of his solo title, as we were inside Flash’s head. It was also interesting to see Ant-Man’s response to not being possessed, which is presumably down to him being a robot now. But there was enough ambiguity there that I don’t know if it was evil Ant-Bot lieing to Venom, or if this version of Eric doesn’t even know that he’s a robot, which would be suitably tragic. The scene where Black Widow wakes up Human Torch just to be a baby was very funny, but for me the highlight was the big action sequence, where Ant-Man saved the day. Whether or not he knows he’s a robot, he’s still cool. The fight between Hawkeye and Black Widow looks good, although it’s odd how over in Winter Soldier, Hawkeye is trying to take down a mind-controlled Black Widow, and here, it’s the other way around, those guys need to get better mind protection!
FF #22– The second part of a crossover which began in the most recent issue of Fantastic Four, this was a very strong issue which focussed on one of my favourite FF supporting characters, Bentley 23. I did find it a bit odd that most of the issue took place at the same time as the first part of the story, and we only got to the cliffhanger towards the end, but it was fun seeing the Future Foundation kids play Ping-Pong with eachother. The artwork from Andre Araujo was very good, I don’t know his work, but he’s another artist for this book who brings a children’s illustrator style to things, which is a good fit. In the end, Bentley rejects his ‘father’ and demonstrates that he has free will. This was a powerful scene, and then Hickman tops everything off with a sweet romantic bit at the end, I didn’t know he had it in him! I’ve really been enjoying these last few months of coda issues, and I hope that Hickman’s last issue finishes things off well in time for Fraction and Allred to come in and have some fun.
Wolverine & The X-Men #17– Much to my shame, and to the detriment of my ‘comics hipster’ status, I haven’t read Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s seminal X-Force/X-Statix run (although I do have one eye on the omnibus), so I’m not familiar with Doop, apart from that he’s a big green blob. Thankfully, it looks like that’s all I needed to know to enjoy this insane and hilarious instalment of W&XM. Aaron has always imbued this title with a sense of humour, but this was an all-out comedy and I loved it. The conceit is that Doop has been hired by Wolverine to protect the school, and despite looking like a useless blob, he’s actually incredibly powerful and the greatest hero of all. We seem him take the pre-emptive action that even X-Force can’t, and it is awesome. My favourite bit was his team-up with Howard The Duck, but pretty much every page had something funny and clever on it, this review could basically turn into one big list, like ‘Wolverine dressing up as Cyclops and stabbing himself in the face’ or ‘Doop seducing each member of the Westchester School Board’ and ‘The League Of Nazi Bowlers’. Aaron’s imagination was in overdrive with this issue, and it was just fantastic. I’m sure some people who like their superheroes to take themselves a bit more seriously, or who just don’t get the joke of Doop won’t like this, but I personally loved it. Mike Allred’s artwork was of course brilliant, he nailed all the humour, and as Doop’s co-creator, was the perfect choice for this issue. Normal service resumes next month, but this was the perfect palate cleanser in between heavy AvX stuff.
The Ultimates #16– God help me, I think I may be the only person in the world who legitimately loves Sam Humphries’ Ultimates. This issue was AWESOME. Yes, Cap as President is pretty dumb when you think about it, but this issue doesn’t let you stop to think about it, and instead just goes whole hog with President Cap going around kicking a humongous amount of butt and basically fixing everything that’s gone wrong with America. Captain America’s inauguration speech was just a brilliant moment, the kind of thing you can only get in comics, and only really get in the Marvel Universe. It was also immensely satisfying to see all of the petty characters who have been messing with The Ultimates for the last 6 months get what’s coming to them, so Director Flumm getting a beatdown, or that Senator being threatened by Hawkeye. Humphries is not letting President Cap get bogged down in policy, and is treating it like the big idea that it is, this is an all-action President and it’s fun to see. Heck, if I was American I’d vote for Steve Rogers! So yeah, this comic is not subtle, but it is fun, and with the ending, which reveals that the mysterious Morez is, like many guessed, Thor’s son Modi, it looks like there’s even more action to come, and the seemingly random events that have made up Humphries’ run will start to make sense.
Hit-Girl #3(of 5)– I’m pretty much desensitized to the Kick-Ass franchise’s disturbing level of violence by now, so to me, the best elements of this issue were Mindy’s attempts to fit in at school, at first by putting on make-up, and then by resorting to threats. It was a great skewering of teenage girls from Millar, and very funny. The story of Red Mist/Mother Fucker is also interesting, in Kick-Ass 2 he was a hardcore bastard, but so far in this ‘midquel’, he’s still a fuck-up loser, I’m guessing this book will end with him killing his various uncles. Romita Jnr’s artwork is as impressive as ever, I really do think the various Kick-Asses are his best work, with plenty of good action, humour and of course, guts. I do still find myself enjoying this series less than the others due to the lack of jeopardy that comes with it’s bridge status.
Superman #0– What at first seemed like a fairly standard story about Jor-El discovering Krypton is about to destroyed is rescued at the end by the revelation that Superman (who narrates the issue) is somehow on Krypton and watching these events. This of course raises a hell of a lot of questions, but when taken in tandem with Supergirl #0 it looks like the Superman family are going to be taking a trip across time and space to Old Krypton, which should be an exciting story. I do find it interesting that the destruction of Krypton in the new continuity didn’t just happen for environmental reasons or even for no reason like it did in the past, but that there are certain elements on the planet who are behind it. It’s good to have that kind of mystery really. The epilogue was strange though, we see the mysterious space-horn from #1 get blown again, and it looks like Lobdell is setting up a big threat to Earth in the form of ‘Oracle’, which I’m assuming is not Batgirl. Overall, this was a decent comic, I liked Rocafort’s art a lot, and it was fun to see more of Krypton and to know that Lobdell and the rest of the Super-writers have a unified take on the planet. Let’s hope that Lobdell’s run proper is as enjoyable as this was, and that Superman being on Krypton makes sense.
Batman Incorporated #0– This was a very enjoyable globe-trotting issue, which showed us more details of how Batman went about setting up Batman Inc and recruiting who he recruited. Some of this I don’t think we really truly needed to see, but it was still a lot of fun. I certainly enjoyed seeing all of the various international Bat-folk again, especially since the first 3 issues of the new title have only really featured Batman and Robin, this zero issue brought the title back to it’s global scale and was a handy reminder of just who Man Of Bats or Dark Ranger are. Plus, it’s always great to see Knight and Squire again, a bit of British Pride wot wot cheerio. Frazer Irving’s unique style may not be to everyone’s tastes, but I’m a fan, and I think he was a good fit for this issue, especially with the repeated images Morrison was using, and his use of colour was as good as ever. I also found it interesting that Morrison pretty much quoted Year One verbatim. Miller’s take on the character is very different from Morrison’s, so it was interesting to see the two cross paths.
Talon #0– When this book was announced, I admit I rolled my eyes, but it turns out that this was actually pretty damned good! This issue introduces us to Calvin Rose, a former Talon who turned on the Court Of Owls and who looks like being an interesting character. We see a lot of Calvin’s history, and Snyder and Tynion IV expand the idea of the Court using Haly’s circus as a secret training ground for the Talons, but whereas Dick Grayson escaped their clutches, Calvin, ironically an escape artist, didn’t, and became an assassin for them. The escape artist as superhero as always been a good one, going back to Mister Miracle and of course The Escapist, so it was very cool to see a character who is more about that than just violence. This was a very strong opening issue, although I am wondering how much of what we saw here will be present once the series gets going in #1 in the present day. The origin story is good, but can the character sustain an ongoing? We shall see, but I am intrigued. I was very impressed by the art of Guillem March, he’s been getting a lot of stick online lately for his Catwoman covers, but he’s a very good artist, reminding me here of Rags Morales and even Joe Kubert, really nice, and not a contorted spine in sight.
Aquaman #0– Johns and Reis take us back to before Aquaman even was Aquaman for a very enjoyable issue that answers some questions and of course raises even more. The opening was actually pretty damn beautiful, as Arthur escapes the curious people on the surface into the calm silence of the water. Johns wisely drops out and lets Reis tell the story and we get 6 or so pages of no dialogue and beautiful artwork as Arthur swims to the depths and discovers his powers to an even great extent. It did seem a bit like Johns had to overcompensate with words at the back end of the issue though, as the newly introduced Vulko launches into long exposition about Aquaman’s mother and all sorts of events in the past. The main crux is that Aquaman’s mother is dead and his evil half-brother Orm, AKA Ocean Master is King of Atlantis, so it’s up to Arthur to fight him and reclaim his throne. It’s a bit annoying that this story isn’t going to be continued any time soon really, as it ends with a great splash page with Arthur finally seeing Atlantis, but in #13 we’re going to be straight back to the fight with Black Manta. Did I read somewhere that the upcoming JL/Aquaman crossover will feature Ocean Master? Maybe there will be flashbacks there, that’s my hope. Overall, this was a very good issue, Johns has been at his best with this title, and Reis’ art is just brilliant, this is classic old-school superheroes done right. Oh yeah, another plus of this issue: No Mera!
All-Star Western #0– This issue was pretty much a retelling of Jonah Hex’s origin. We see him as a kid, beaten by his dad, then sold to the Native Americans, then as a soldier in the Confederate Army, and then how he got his face burnt. I’m not especially familiar with Hex’s past, so it was good to see it all again, but I do know that there’s not much here that’s actually new, so it was fairly pointless in some ways. But then, when you think of it, all comics are pointless, so as long as it’s enjoyable, it doesn’t matter. I particularly liked the opening scene with Jonah’s dad absolutely destroying a group of Mormon hunters, that was some hardcore violence right there. The ending of the issue was cool, we’re back in the present and learning more about the Jekyll and Hyde plotline. It was great to see Pia Guerra show up to draw these scenes, where has she been since Y: The Last Man ended? I love her art, she needs to do more stuff!
American Vampire #31– The Blacklist continues to be very exciting, and it’s interesting to see how Snyder is really going back and revisiting the events of the first story arc here. Pearl comes face to face with Bloch again, and there’s also the return of Hattie at the end. But it’s more than just returning villains, all of the character stuff between Pearl, Henry and Skinner is hearkening back to then. It seems like this arc is a culmination of a lot of what Snyder has been doing, the look Pearl and Henry took through their photo album was a sign of that, of how some things have changed, but Pearl herself hasn’t, and how she can’t escape her past. Skinner’s outburst at Pearl, explaining why he ‘turned’ her was also very interesting, does he mean it? Or is he in love with her? Hmmm. It was also cool to see the events of ‘Lord Of Nightmares’ referenced in this issue, it looks like they are happening pretty much contemporaneously, I wonder if they will link even more, like will Dracula take control of the LA Coven at some point? Probably not, I don’t think Snyder will get that continuity heavy, even if it is only 2 titles.
Invincible #95– This issue featured the longest Robot and Monster Girl Flaxan section yet, and it was very interesting indeed. I really enjoyed the way Kirkman played with the differences between aging and time in different dimensions, and the huge amount of change the characters went through in such a short space of time (to them) was amazing, we got to see a rise and fall and rise and all of that stuff in double-quick time. I did find the idea that Monster Girl being a bi-sexual and being the father of a Flaxan a bit odd though, it seemed like Kirkman did it just to titillate, why couldn’t she just have slept with a male Flaxan? But then I guess if she was the one who got pregnant, then she couldn’t have not know about the kid. It’s a puzzler, I also got annoyed at the scene where Monster Girl was amazed by her big boobs. I know I normally find people complaining about sexism and stuff like that in comics to be dumb, but stuff like this, and the scene where Atom Eve admitted she made her boobs bigger with her powers, are just childish and boorish. Kirkman is better than that basically, but it’s only a minor thing, I’m not going to write a long Tumblr rant about it or anything, because the big ideas in this arc over-power the goofiness of that by a long way.
Happy! #1(of 4)– Image Comics’ big push continues with perhaps the biggest creator so far making the move to the Big I. It’s only bloody Grant Morrison and he’s only gone and written another completely fucking crazy piece of possible genius. Alongside one of my favourite artists, Darick Robertson, Happy! is one of the strangest comics I’ve read this year, it starts out as a very dark, very sweary and very violent crime thriller, with gangsters, prostitutes and serial killers, and then, out of nowhere, a talking blue cartoon horse shows up. It’s odd. It was interesting to see Morrison get filthy again, because even his recent Vertigo work like Seaguy or We3 or Joe The Barbarian has been fairly family friendly, and this is decidedly not. Nick Sax is a bad man, and the situation he finds himself in is dark. I was particularly shocked by the page where he shoots the serial killer who was dressed as a prawn (I told you this was weird), with a panel focusing on the killer’s ejaculate. I did feel like Morrison dropped us in at the deep end a bit, because Nick as a character is not very well defined, we know he’s bad, and we know he either used to be a cop or still is a cop. I’m sure we’ll find out later though. The arrival of Happy The Horse though, that’s the main event here, what the heck is that? I can’t wait to see where this is going, is Nick just crazy, or what? Either way, this was a great way to kick-start my Christmas season, and with the promise of a Paedophile Santa, it’s only going to get more twistedly festive. Robertson’s artwork was excellent, the same level as his The Boys work. This won’t be for everyone, but if you like Morrison, this is him uncut, and there isn’t anything else like this out there.
Not sure what my favourite was this week, I think it was probably Wolverine & The X-Men, which was just fucking hilarious.
Join me next week when DC's numbers get back to normal, as well as the final chapter of Avengers Vs X-Men, the return of Bendis to the world of Daredevil and the penultimate issue of The Boys.