Guten tag und Wilkommen! Sorry, I’m feeling a bit German after last night’s epic Champion’s League Final, hopefully it’s just a phase.
But on to more important issues, and that’s this week’s comics! This week is an absolutely huge week. There’s a bumper-sized issue of Daredevil, 3 Avengers books, a new Superior Spider-Man, some Batman Incorporated, and oh yeah, the small matter of Geoff Johns’ final issue of Green Lantern! It’s a momentous occasion, and it makes for a longer than normal column. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? It’s up to you!
As always, you can click the links to head to the Outhouse Forum discussions, most of which are bitching about Geoff Johns this week, but then, that’s every week.
Superior Spider-Man #10– And so, a new era dawns for the Superior Spider-Man! Ghost-Peter is gone, and Otto Octavius is free to do what he wants, and so is Dan Slott. This issue mostly involved moving forward each of Slott’s myriad subplots, with Spider-Man doing little more than beating up both The Owl and White Dragon (which was bad-ass of course). There’s movement in Otto/Peter’s relationship with Anna-Maria, which is actually surprisingly sweet. I think it’s important that you see SpOck in a romantic situation (and not one that can be misconstrued by more hysterical fans as rape), as it helps to humanise him a hell of a lot, you don’t hate him nearly as much when he’s falling in love with and showing compassion for a marginalised member of society as a dwarf like Anna-Maria. Speaking of Spider-Romances, two of the real Peter Parker’s exes storylines also continue here, as we see how MJ is coping now that Otto has decided to cut all ties, she almost dies because of her belief that no matter what, Spider-Man will save her. I wonder if Pedro the Fireman is a one-off character or if he’s going to become MJ’s new boyfriend? Carlie Cooper’s investigations into what’s going on with Spider-Man also continue, as she and Captain Watanabe (I was right on a prediction for once!) interview the Cops who saw Spider-Man kill Massacre and run into a lot of denials. I love how Slott has flipped things around and how now that Spider-Man is ‘evil’, the people who used to hate him like the NYPD and J. Jonah Jameson (I loved the dinner scene in this issue too, very funny) now love him. This storyline has freshened up almost every aspect of the Spider-Man mythos. But the biggest subplot that developed in this issue is what’s going on with the Green Goblin. Not content with recruiting the Vulture’s kid-henchmen, Stormin’ Norman is also picking up henchmen from all of the various gang-leaders that SpOck defeats. He’s building an army and calling himself the Goblin King. It’s pretty epic stuff, and I’m very excited to see where it goes. I’ve said before that this story for me has elevated Doctor Octopus to No.1 in my ranking of Spider-Villains, but the Green Goblin is always in that conversation, and he could be clawing back that top spot. Throw in the Hobgoblin storyline (which also gets a little nod here) and Slott is using all of the best toys in new and exciting ways. Ryan Stegman’s art was once again very strong, I think he draws the new, harder-edged fighting style of Spider-Man better than anyone. I just really like this book, it’s daring, it’s clever and it never does what you expect, if you’ve still got a problem with Superior Spider-Man, but I’m sorry, but the problem is with you, not the comic.
Daredevil #26– Yet another superlative issue of Daredevil from Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, this is just a fantastic title and each issue is better than the last. This double-sized special issue finally reveals who the mysterious figure who has been tormenting Daredevil since #1 is… it’s only fucking Bullseye! Yep, Bullseye is now a paralysed criminal mastermind. I’m not sure how I feel about this at the moment, part of me thinks it’s genius, and another part of me has a hard time buying that Bullseye, who has pretty much always been portrayed as not the brightest of psychopaths, could become a master of manipulation so quickly. But as a moment of shocking surprise? It really works. I think this issue was one of the most suspenseful comics I’ve ever read, just as Matt Murdock was on edge, so was I. That interview scene with ‘Lawrence Benson’ was masterful, you go from thinking he’s a threat, to not a threat, then back to a threat, and then not, and then back again all in the space of 3 pages. Waid and Samnee really portrayed Matt’s paranoia in a brilliant way. And then at the end, when Matt is hopped up on adrenaline and he kicks the shit out of Lady Bullseye? You felt every punch. I just can’t be more effusive about how good the team of Waid and Samnee are together, it’s very appropriate that they are credited together as ‘storytellers’, because that’s what they are, Samnee’s art works in confluence with Waid’s words and the amount of interesting visual tricks used blows my mind. I have enjoyed every issue of this run, and this story may be the best one so far. I have my doubts about Bullseye The Master Planner, but I’m willing to trust Waid and I can’t wait for another fight between Daredevil and Ikari next issue. The back-up story in this issue was also very good, and it made me quite emotional. I don’t want to say too much about it because a close family member is currently undergoing treatment for cancer, but this story worked really well, and went some way to removing some of my problems with this Foggy story. Plus, Samnee draws one hell of an Iron Man! But he draws one hell of everything, even cute little cancer-dinosaurs.
Avengers #12– This is the first issue of Avengers that is co-written by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer, and I personally didn’t notice any change in the quality level of the book. I perhaps would put down some of the humour here down to Spencer, but then the last issue that was all-Hickman had parts like that too. Hickman has a very heavy-workload at the moment both at Marvel and with his creator-owned stuff, that if working with Spencer can help him keep up, then I don’t mind it at all. This issue picks up a plotline from #4, which is the weird zebra-skinned kids that appeared in the Savage Land after the Origin Bomb. Iron Man (I liked how Hickman revealed that Iron Man wasn’t actually there, it’s a good way to avoid confusion between his presence here and being off in space in his own title and Guardians Of The Galaxy) is concerned that these kids seem to have to no need to sleep, no need to eat, no need to breathe. If you don’t need anything, what kind of person will you become? Evil? So the Avengers go to the Savage Land to try and teach these kids lessons to stop them from being amoral dickbags. I really liked how Hickman and Spencer kept the focus on two members of the team who are similar to these kids, the immortal Thor and Hyperion. The discussion between these two characters was very interesting indeed. The large cast of this title means that it can be 3 or 4 issues before a character even appears, let alone gets some development, but Hickman and Spencer make their time count. The aforementioned moments of humour from Superior Spider-Man and Hawkeye and Spider-Woman were also excellent, you can see why Clint and Jessica are about the break up in the pages of Hawkeye. The artwork from Mike Deodato was probably the best we’ve seen so far in his three and a half issues. I like that Frank Martin is doing something different with the colouring of his work, it makes it look fantastic. The ending of this issue brings the High Evolutionary into the mix, he’s always a villain I have a hard time caring about, but I do think that Hickman could make him work, he’s just the kind of big picture, philosophical villain that suits his style. This title just builds and builds with each new issue, after only 12 issues, Hickman has built a whole new world for the Avengers, which is awesome but at times frustrating. I hope that the Infinity crossover brings some more focus, but since each individual chapter has been good lately, I’m not too bothered.
Uncanny Avengers #8AU– Not even kidding, but this may be one of the best event tie-ins I’ve ever read. Rick Remender (and co-writer Gerry Duggan) uses this issue not only to explore the world of Age Of Ultron in greater depth, but also to continue his own storylines. It works really well, and has me very excited to see what the ultimate endgame is here. This issue is a flashback to the childhoods of Uriel and Eimin, the Apocalypse Twins, and how they were trained and manipulated by Kang. Given that he is a time-traveller, Kang is used to all sorts of messed-up time-streams, and so he sends the Twins into the new Age Of Ultron timeline to kill Captain, sorry, Colonel America and prove their mettle. I thought it was very cool that Remender kept the focus of this issue on his regular characters, we see not only Colonel America, but also the AU versions of Havok and Rogue. They are married and the leaders of the Morlocks, which is a very cool idea, we also find out that Colonel America was married to Scarlet Witch before she died, which could play into the future of this title, their romance has been subtly hinted. It’s interesting to see that a lot of the philosophical debates that are a part of this book in the ‘real’ time-line are still there. AU-Havok is still at odds with his brother in this universe, but here, Havok is the one who is separated from the Human race, he’s living underground. There’s no ‘call me Alex’ here, he has cast aside that name and is only known as Havok. This alternate reality is a dark mirror the to the actual Uncanny Avengers and even though it’s a side-step, it’s very illuminating about the characters. Of course, even more illuminating is what we see of the Apocalypse Twins in their attack on the Morlocks. I find it interesting that Remender has flipped things somewhat and made the male twin the weaker one, the one who’s more reticent about killing. But they do kill Havok and Rogue, and it’s pretty shocking, alternate reality or not. The artwork for this issue comes from the legendary Adam Kubert, and he’s just as good as ever, I really like how his style lately has started to reflect his even-more-legendary father. Overall, this was a very good issue, I’m a sucker for alternate-universes as I’ve repeatedly said in my reviews of the main Age Of Ultron series, so I was glad to get a more in-depth look into this world, and it was also great how Remender made this tie-in really work for his own on-going story. If you’ve been reading this book but didn’t pick up this because you hate Age Of Ultron, you really need to go back and get this one.
Young Avengers #5– The first arc of this title comes to an end, and as usual, I have mixed feelings. Parts of this book I love, but others I just roll my eyes at. I really do feel that Gillen is trying way too hard to appeal to Tumblr, and using things like ‘for the lulz’ is just cringe-worthy. The pop-culture references also seem forced to me (although I did like the Scott Pilgrim shout-out, but then that was a little more subtle than ‘I’m Tyrion!’ or ‘Sauron crossed with Voldemort’ or whatever). Gillen, you are a good writer, stop pandering! But I don’t want to complain, I’ve been a big fan of Gillen and McKelvie since Phonogram Volume 1, I want to like this, but it just rubs me the wrong way. Maybe I am too old. That said, there were good bits here. I did like the explanation of what’s up with Loki. I never read Journey Into Mystery so it was good to have it all spelled out. I also like that Evil Loki has a ghost Good Loki hanging around like Superior Spider-Man, that should be interesting going forward. I also like that Gillen has finally made Wiccan interesting, I used to hate his whiny ass with a passion, but now I sort of don’t mind him. And of course, the artwork from Jamie McKelvie was absolutely brilliant, some of his panel layouts in this arc have been mind-blowing, and this issue had another brilliant one. I feel like this book is almost there, almost good, the idea of the heroes having to fight their parents was a very good one, but it wasn’t very well explained, and that combined with the cringe-worthy pandering means that I remain slightly disappointed. I hope the next issue focusing on Speed will be good, he doesn’t seem to very beloved by Tumblr, so Gillen should be able to write him properly without worrying about shippers and feels and other fucking bullshit.
Fantastic Four #8– This was another odd issue of Fantastic Four made up of cool moments that I’m not sure add up to a strong whole. Ben Grimm, using his one week in human form a year, travels back in time to the past to defend a Pharmacist from Jewish Gangsters on Yancy Street. It’s like Once Upon A Thing In America or something. There’s a lot of things here that confused me, it’s implied that he’s back in time to stop Alicia Masters from being blinded, but Ben never gets around to it. He also mentions that he’s done this before… has Ben travelled to the same day 7 times already and been distracted by Ira Rosenbaum each time? I don’t know. There’s also the fact that Ira’s wife is called Petunia, is she actually Aunt Petunia? But, confusion aside, this was an interesting look at New York City in the past, and also serves as somewhat of an origin story for the Yancy Street Gang. It’s interesting to see them here in the nebulous 50s, and in the present as hooded nerds in FF. Back on board the ship, Fraction reveals that the Age Of Ultron tie-in issue was not all for nothing, as Franklin and Val have been having dreams about what happened, and most crucially, about when The Thing said. Did Ben Grimm inadvertently create Doctor Doom? It looks like we’ll find out next issue! This issue, like most of Fraction’s run so far, feels disjointed, I can see what he’s going for, but it doesn’t quite work. The art is good, and he has the character’s voices down really well, it’s just that the plots don’t make much sense… yet.
Uncanny X-Men #6– Another excellent issue of X-Men from Bendis, I’ve said if before and I’ll say it again, switching to this franchise has revitalised him. This issue focuses on 3 different plotlines. The first introduces us to a new mutant, David from Atlanta, who seems to be able to psychically control cars, or maybe all machinery. It’s been a long time since we’ve had new mutants, so the more the merrier really! We also of course follow up on the X-Men, who have been sucked into Limbo by Magik and are caught in the crossfire of her battle with Dormammu. I always love it when Cyclops takes off his visor and goes full-bore on someone with his lasers, it’s almost as good as when Black Bolt speaks, and Bendis delivered a great example of that here. I also really liked the panic in the new students, how they didn’t know what was happening at all, and how scared they were. This makes it even better when the Stepford Cuckoos over-step their bounds and psychically make every X-Man fearless, in a great scene. I really loved how Frazer Irving drew the Cuckoos, they are very creepy, that one panel where they are stood right behind each other and you see their eyes poking out of the gaps in the hair was very effective in getting across their hive-mind. Irving is just a great fit for this story, especially the Limbo parts, his style is the perfect amount of kooky and atmospheric. The third element of this story is SHIELD. Maria Hill is tired of chasing after the various Mutant factions that she doesn’t truly understand, to do this she wants a Mutant on her side. Who does she turn to? Dazzler! Oh yes, it’s Dazzler: Agent Of SHIELD. It sounds ridiculous, but to me it’s awesome, Bendis is taking one of the lamest-powered (yet also most popular, go figure) X-Men, and making them into something all-new. I am loving this development, and I want a Dazzler: Agent Of SHIELD mini-series right now!
Batman Incorporated #11– I caught up with this title a few weeks ago, reading issues 4 to 10 in one go, and really enjoyed it, every issue feels epic and you can tell that Morrison is going to bow out with something big. So I was pretty disappointed when, after getting back into monthly ways… the first instalment I read is a fill-in! The book is on a rollercoaster of momentum, Batman just injected the Man-Bat serum and is heading off to fight Talia once and for all and what we get is… Batman Japan. But once I got over my initial disappointment, I found myself thoroughly enjoying this comic. Written by regular series artist Chris Burnham and drawn by Jorge Lucas, this issue sees Batman Japan and his girlfriend Canary fighting some typically insane villains. The fairly light-hearted tone of this issue is a bit of a departure from the dark turn recent issues have taken since Damian died, but hey, it was still fun. I can’t believe that DC let Burnham get away with some of the innuendos used about Canary, she’s like a TARDIS is she? Bloody hell! I was surprised by how well Burnham did as a writer, I know he co-wrote this title’s zero issue, but he could have a future as a writer as well as an artist. He’s a true double-threat! I actually think more issues like this could be a good thing, this issue showed how successful the concept of Batman Inc has been, I hope the one-shot that’s coming out in the summer will be as good as this. One of the best things about Grant Morrison’s take on Batman has been that he’s not afraid to get a little silly, and with this issue, Burnham and Lucas kept that going, I mean, the main villain had Tiger Heads for fists, it was nuts. This was a nice little diversion, but I want #12 now, I want the ending now!
Green Lantern #20– Wow, where to start with this mammoth beast? First off, congratulations to Geoff Johns! Spending this long on a superhero title in this day and age is very rare, and it’s a great achievement. I really liked how this issue eschewed the usual advertisements and featured little messages for Johns from the great and the good of DC Comics, that was a nice touch indeed. As for the actual comic itself… I really enjoyed it. I’ve been kind of lukewarm on the last few issues of this title and the whole ‘Wrath Of The First Lantern’ story as a whole, but this final chapter tied everything in together and made it work. So much crazy stuff happened in this comic that it’s hard to really talk about it. What I will say is that this is a great ending to Johns’ epic run and it did feel like a greatest hits for him. The opening few pages basically recapped what came before, and then the story itself featured almost every story idea that Johns introduced to the GL mythos. All of the human Lanterns showed up, all of the various Corps, fucking Parallax! Goddamn Nekron! Even G’Nort showed up! (I loved that scene, is that really the first time he has appeared in Johns’ run?) Holy Crap this was crazy. I think this is the best issue of Green Lantern in the long time and I love that Johns went all-out in this final instalment. But I think the best thing about this issue is how, in amongst the crazy cosmic lightshow, Johns once again returned the focus to Hal Jordan as a character, and the moment when his father died. I’m pretty sure the very first issue of, if not Rebirth, then at least the ongoing, was a flashback of that scene, and it was very powerful to see that revisited. I used to hate Hal Jordan as a character, but over the years, Johns has worn me down, and with this issue I can admit I sort of like him, or at least I can empathise with him. The focus on Sinestro has perhaps been the most controversial aspect of this issue, and Johns’ man-crush on a character who is supposed to be Hitler is kind of ridiculous, but I think he does work as a complex anti-hero now. He’s basically DC’s Magneto, in some stories he’s a villain, in other’s he’s a hero. I loved that he killed the Guardians (even though DC spoiled it), those blue bastards deserved it, but I think I love it even more that he spared Ganthet and then reunited him with Sayd. Sinestro is a complex dude. It must also be said that Doug Mahnke drew the fuck out of this comic, he drew 55 pages and each of them is not only jam-packed, but also beautiful. I’ve always been a Mahnke fan, but he reached a new level here. I’m a little conflicted on the framing sequences which showed the future of the various characters, because whilst they make sense and were interesting (particularly Kyle as Space-Jesus and Simon training a female Earth GL, Guy’s was also very funny), given the nature of superhero comics, they won’t ever come to pass. Even though Johns is gone, there will be an issue of Green Lantern next month, Hal Jordan will never actually retire and marry Carol Ferris. But it was a good glimpse into the future I suppose, and if anyone can have the final say on these characters, it should be Johns. The various artists who drew these segments were great too, it was fantastic to see Van Sciver, Reis and Gleason back drawing Lanterns, and it’s always good to see Cully Hamner and Jerry Ordway art, and man, Aaron Kuder is going to be a star. So, well done Geoff Johns, I may have had some issues with your run, but I still bought every issue, so you did something right! Just like Hal, you were the spark that made Green Lantern into something important, now it’s up to Robert Venditti to carry the torch. It’s going to be weird without a Johns Green Lantern each month, but I’m excited.
Aquaman #20– Given that there’s a 60-page issue of Green Lantern and also a Justice League out on the same day as this Aquaman, I can forgive Geoff Johns for wanting a little time off from Atlantis and giving us a fill-in. This issue is written by the legendary John Ostrander and drawn by Manuel Garcia, and features the return of ‘The Others’, Aquaman’s, well, his other superhero team. I found these characters very interesting when Johns introduced them last year, and it was cool to get a solo story for them and to find out a little bit more about them. I was especially intrigued by The Operative and the woman he was speaking to. Is his Grandson not actually his Grandson? If so, he is one shady dude (especially if it was him breaking into the Batcave in Justice League #19). The main plot here involves the introduction of a new member to the team, and the successor to Kahina, who was killed by Black Manta. Sky Alchesay is a Native American who can speak to the spirits, which is kind of clichéd I suppose, but Ostrander writes her well. It was interesting to find out that Ya’Wara was in love with Kahina. It was implied before that she and Aquaman had a thing going, but hey, I guess she’s a bi-sexual character. Is this a first for DC? I thought the way Ostrander established Sky in the space of one issue at the same time as showcasing The Others and fitting in some action was well done, these old-school guys know about economy of storytelling! This was a solid issue, one which expands the world of Aquaman in a few interesting ways. I’m certainly interested in The Others more now. I just hope DC don’t shoot their wad and give them an ongoing too soon, they work better as supporting players for Aquaman.
Justice League #20– Justice League has never really been a good comic since it launched, but this issue was probably the best so far. It’s mainly taken up with a fight between Despero and a few of the League’s newest recruits, Atom, Firestorm and Element Girl. This fight did a good job of establishing a lot of things, we got much clearer ideas of the personalities of these three, especially Atom, who narrates the issue (and more on her later), and Johns also manages to make Despero a credible threat, he kicks the crap out these guys. And then, when Martian Manhunter shows up to make the save, Johns really gets across how scary J’Onn J’Onzz can be. Pre-Flashpoint, J’Onn was a kind, loveable guy who loved Oreos, now… he’s scary. The idea that he’s always listening and that when you say his name he will show up is very effective, and very scary. Then he deals with Despero singlehandedly with some very powerful psychic attacks. I really buy Martian Manhunter as a credible threat to Superman now, which is awesome. Speaking of Superman, the stuff with the actual League is also pretty interesting, as we find out that Superman gave Batman the Kryptonite as a fail-safe, so this isn’t really a Tower Of Babel rip-off. We also find out that there is nothing inside the Wonder Woman box, she has no Kryptonite, she has no weakness, which is a clever observation on Johns’ part. Just like with J’Onn, you now have to take Wonder Woman seriously. The final twist on this story is that the Atom is secretly working for Amanda Waller and the Justice League Of America team as a spy! This is a great twist and it once again builds my anticipation for the inevitable confrontation between the teams. It’s dragging on, but I think it will be worth it. The art for this issue was a bit of a mish-mash, but it’s always good to see some Gena Ha artwork. The Shazam! back-up was once again good, I know I’m in the minority, but I like this take, and I liked what Johns did here with Black Adam’s origin, and of course Gary Frank is the man.
Green Lantern: New Guardians #20– Another Green Lantern writer bids farewell, and this time it’s Tony Bedard leaving Kyle Rayner behind. He and Tomasi have been overlooked in the monumental event of Johns leaving, but I’ve enjoyed his work on both New Guardians and Green Lantern Corps before this, and I thought this issue worked as a great capper to his run. It opens with Kyle painting a picture of each of the characters that have been featured in this title, and then we see him and Saint Walker have a long conversation as they travel around the Earth. I think this scene mostly worked as a way to demonstrate how Kyle’s new White Lantern powers work, as it hasn’t really been explained yet. He can summon the energy of each different colour, which is very cool indeed. It’s great to see how far Kyle has grown as a character, and since he’s my favourite GL (although, he’s a White Lantern now, so not part of the discussion, oh no, I have to choose a new favourite, this changes everything) I liked seeing him get some closure by reuniting with his father. Kyle’s daddy issues have never been as prominent as Hal Jordan’s but they are there, and it was an appropriate ending. We also see that Kyle’s other father figure, Ganthet is back to his old self. It’s a shame that Kyle may never find out that he’s alive and sane, but still. Andres Guinaldo’s artwork here was very strong, I especially like his Saint Walker. So, farewell Tony Bedard, and let’s see what Justin Jordan and Brad Walker can bring to the table! I’m a big fan of Walker’s artwork from his Superman days and also Heroes For Hire, but I’m not familiar with Jordan, guess I need to check out Shadowman and Luther Strode.
Wunderbar! Oh no, there’s that German again. This was a good one I think, but it was certainly a lot of work. My favourite comic this week was Daredevil #26, but you do have to give special props to Green Lantern, well done Geoff, it’s certainly going to be strange having no more of your GL issues in this column (and I’m sure that was your primary worry when leaving, this column), but onwards and upwards!
Next week is a mercifully shorter one, but there’s still good stuff there, Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy launch their new Vertigo (wait, that’s still going?) series, The Wake, and there’s also a brand new X-Men title from Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel that is all-ladies, all-the-time. In terms of regular books, there’s more Hulk, some New Avengers and also that pesky Justice League Of America.
Do join me.