Welcome along to yet another This Week In Punchy column, where I spray my thoughts about this week’s comics all over your face. In a good way.
This week is a pretty big one (but nothing on next week, for Rao’s sake, Marvel are trying to bankrupt me), there’s the big finale to Age Of Ultron, both of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers titles are in here, there’s a new creative team for Green Lantern: New Guardians, more of the Enemy Within crossover and new issues of Superior Spider-Man, Indestructible Hulk, Wonder Woman and more!
As usual, you can click the link next to each review to head to the Outhouse forum discussions.
Superior Spider-Man #12– Another excellent issue of Superior Spidey, this series is just so consistently good. Although, there was nothing truly momentous or shocking that happened in this issue, so maybe it wasn’t quite as good as usual. But then I suppose this is the mark of how good this storyline has been, that Slott and Gage aren’t having to resort to using shocks and twists all the time to keep us interested in Doc Ock as Spider-Man. This is actually a fairly standard Spider-Man story, just with a different Spider-Man in the middle of it. THIS IS THE STATUS QUO NOW PEOPLE, DEAL WITH IT. Ahem, anyways, this issue picks up where #11 left off, with SpOck attempting to stop the Spider-Slayer from escaping from prison. There were lots of cool moments here, but I think the best was the decision to focus on J. Jonah Jameson. He gets the opening narration, which is rare I think, there can’t be too many times we’ve seen inside his crazy head. Spider-Slayer of course killed his wife Marla so the stakes here for Jonah are very high. The scene where tells Spider-Man that he has his permission to kill Smythe was very powerful stuff. I continue to really enjoy the different methods Otto Octavious is utilising to combat crime in comparison to Peter Parker, such as using a force-field to protect innocent bystanders and to stop them from being used as hostages or bait. It’s rare to see a superhero think ‘big picture’ like this and it’s cool to see. Of course, there are down sides to being an ex-super-villain. I loved how SpOck’s slipping into casual villain expositing led to Smythe discovering how he was stopping him, but I loved even more that it was a deliberate tactic on Spider-Man’s part. The guy’s a genius! Camuncoli’s artwork looked a little odd this issue for some reason, maybe it was the dual inkers? I dunno, but this wasn’t his best stuff. I do love the new Smythe-inspired looks for Scorpion, Vulture and Boomerang though. Given that this issue was tightly focused on the goings-on at The Raft, most of Slott’s other subplots were absent in this issue, apart from one, The Lizard. During the power-outage, he was set free, which sets things up nicely for part 3 of this story. The cover to #13 has him fighting side-by-side with Spider-Man, but I’m sure there’s going to be a fake-out somewhere in there. Will SpOck actually kill Smythe? I can’t wait to find out.
Indestructible Hulk #9– So far I’ve been enjoying Indestructible Hulk, but I haven’t felt it reach the heights I know Mark Waid can get to. With this issue, I think it did, and it’s surely no coincidence that this issue is a team-up between Hulk and Daredevil, a character that Waid is currently surpassing those heights with. This issue was a whole lot of fun, as we discover that, as part of Bruce Banner’s deal with SHIELD, he has Matt Murdock on retainer as his lawyer to make sure that he’s not abused by the Military Industrial Complex. This of course leads to their alter-egos joining forces to take down a shipment of super-weapons by Agence Byzantine. It was just great seeing these two characters work together, and it was even better how Waid used it to play with the conventions of Daredevil stories, like busting into a criminal underworld bar. Daredevil is a lot more intimidating when he’s got the fucking Hulk backing him up. This issue also featured some great stuff with the relationship between Maria Hill and Bruce Banner, how they antagonise eachother, but how that’s actually effective. This issue was the clearest demonstration so far of how Hulk: Agent Of SHIELD is going to work, and it was great. Oh yeah, and the last page only went and brought back Baron Zemo, which is awesome. The artwork for this issue was by Matteo Scalera, whose work I really enjoyed on Remender’s Secret Avengers, and he does similar good stuff here, he draws a good Daredevil, and more importantly he draws a big-ass hulking Hulk. Val Staples’ colours also deserve props, it’s odd to have a Hulk story set at night in New York City, but he made it work. This was my favourite issue of this series so far, I think Waid has found his groove.
Captain Marvel #13– The Enemy Within continues to be a very fun little crossover. Continuing on from Avengers Assemble #16, Carol is still struggling to work out just who the hell it is terrorising her life. DeConnick helpfully recaps it for us, and it’s a lot of fun seeing Carol go back and forth with her various supporting cast members. I said it last week about Avengers Assemble, but DeConnick is really good at making her dialogue sparkle with humour. What could have just been a shit-load of exposition was actually very entertaining. I also really enjoyed her use of Bruce Banner here. But this issue wasn’t just Captain Marvel sitting around talking, there’s also the small matter of a load of Kree Sentinels popping up across the world and causing trouble. It was a bit odd how one minute Captain Marvel was in her corridor about to find out who the mystery man is, and the next flying a Quinjet in Brazil, we could have used a page that showed her being told to leave, but whatever, the fight was good. In the end, Carol finds out what we the readers have known, that the big bad here is Yonn-Rogg, and what’s most interesting to me is that it looks like his Sentries are forming a version of Captain Marvel’s star by their positions. That’s a ballsy way too call someone out, make no mistake. So now that Carol knows, we’re onto the next stage of this story, I’m expecting a good conclusion! Scott Hepburn’s art was once again really good, and I liked how Jordie Bellaire coloured it here to, it was different from his last issue, but better. Just a shame the fill-in pages by Gerardo Sandoval were so incongruous.
Avengers #14– The prelude to Infinity begins, and so far there’s no sign of Thanos, nope, what we have here is the culmination of what Hickman has been doing ever since #1. Yes, the Origin Bomb sites are activating and all hell has broken loose. There’s some awesome-looking square-headed dudes and they are doing something weird that’s causing chaos across the globe as electricity just stops working. I think the coolest thing about this issue was not just that it was this particular subplot starting to pay off, but that it featured all of this huge Avengers team in the same issue and they try and stop the results of the global grid failing. This is a huge-scale threat and it needs all of the Avengers. I think the strongest of these scenes was Captain Universe singlehandedly stopping a Nuclear explosion, but it was cool to see everyone get their moment. It’s been an effective technique to tell smaller stories with smaller squadrons, it means that when every single Avenger is in bold type on the recap page that big deal shit is going down. I’m not really sure what all of this has to do with Thanos, but it was cool. It was also very cool to see Jonathan Hickman reunited with his Secret Warriors co-conspirator Stefano Caselli, they go very well together. This issue looks like being a turning point for this series, we’ve spent a lot of time building up these events, but what’s next? And can Hickman maintain the momentum?
New Avengers #7– It’s a double-dose of the Hickman-Vengers this week, and it’s really welcome at this point. This was another very good issue of New Avengers, mainly because it focused on the characters and their reactions to the moral lines they are crossing, not on ridiculous mumbo-jumbo words and huge concepts that are hard to explain. This issue jumps forward a month in time, and catches us up with what the Illuminati are doing. I think it’s very impressive how Hickman is managing to make his story fit in with what other writers are doing. He’s not just ignoring the fact that Iron Man is off in space or that Reed Richards is in the Multiverse, he’s addressing it and making it work. We even get to see new-look Beast in this issue, which is cool. The main story in this issue is the still-simmering tensions between not only Namor and Black Panther, but their countries, Wakanda and Atlantis. Atlanteans destroyed Wakanda in Avengers Vs X-Men, and it has not been forgotten. The conversation between those two characters in this issue was just fantastic stuff, you can tell they want to kill each other, but they can’t afford to. I think it’s also very clever of Hickman to have Shuri ignore her brother and declare war. This is the price the Illuminati have to pay for keeping secrets. If the rest of the Wakandans and Atlanteans knew about the incursions, they may have decided to call a truce, but since they are unaware of the cosmic backdrop, they will fight. It’s tragic and brilliant. I also found the dinner conversation between Reed, Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom to be fascinating, especially in how Reed and Strange came off as the bad guys, not Doom. I’m sure there are some fans who hate how our supposed ‘heroes’ are acting, but to me, it works, the stakes here are so huge that what they are doing is necessary. It doesn’t make it any less odd though. I was on the side of Doom! That is not supposed to happen. Oh yeah, and Black Bolt is up to something with Maximus, and once again, the character who is normally the villain, Maximus is shown in the more positive light, this book is flipping everything upside down. After spending the last few months drawing the hell out of Avengers, Mike Deodato jumps over to the New side and he does his usual excellent job, I think the change to having no inker and being coloured by Frank Martin has given his work a new freshness, it looks awesome.
Uncanny Avengers #9– This was a strange issue of Uncanny Avengers. There were parts of it I really loved, like the truth of X-Force coming out, Daniel Acuna’s art, the insane cosmic scale of the Apocalypse Twins, Wonder Man being a pacifist bad-ass, the split of the team and the reveal of just who the new Horsemen are, but there was one scene here I really didn’t like. Most of this issue is taken up with a big conversation between most of the team in the Danger Room about Havok’s big speech in #5. About how Havok was wrong, about how he shouldn’t have told mutants to assimilate. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s exactly what many fans and comics bloggers said. This whole comic felt like a big rebuttal to Comics Alliance and it really took me out of the story. Now, maybe I’m wrong and Remender always planned to address this stuff even without Tumblr outrage, but I dunno. I just feel like doing something like this within a comic is only going to fuel the constantly outraged contingent amongst comics fans and cause them to piss and moan even more than before because they’ve seen it can be effective. I just want Remender to tell his story and not care about what the critics think. Mutantdom is a metaphor, he should not be pilloried for interpreting it differently from someone else. But whatever, let’s talk about the good stuff. I mentioned Wonder Man already, but let’s do it again, he was great in this issue, first in the return of his friendship with Beast, and then in his pacifist way of defeating Hydra, that was a truly great moment. Perhaps my only real problem with Bendis’ Avenegrs was how he treated Wonder Man, so I’m very pleased to see Remender bring him back to being a great hero. The exposition-dump that Captain America got from Immortus was also very interesting, seven timelines? What? And finally, the new Horsemen, who are Grim Reaper, Banshee, Daken and The Sentry. The fucking Sentry! He’s been gone since Siege and now he’s back as a Horseman! This is the coolest. Bringing back Grim Reaper and Daken is also excellent and means the Horsemen have a real connection to the team. Daken is Wolverine’s son and was killed by him, Grim Reaper is Wonder Man’s brother and was killed by Rogue. Banshee is the only one I’m unsure of, is Remender going to bring Siryn into the book? Or is it because Havok’s brother Vulcan killed him? Now that I think about it, Thor was the one who struck the fatal blow on Sentry wasn’t he? Each of these Horsemen have a vendetta, it’s going to be awesome to see it play out.
Fantastic Four #9– I think this was my favourite issue of Fraction’s run so far, and since his run has been pretty good (just not spectacular), that’s high praise. This issue picks up with the revelation in the Age Of Ultron tie-in issue that Ben Grimm blames himself for the accident that caused Victor Von Doom to become Doctor Doom. To try and find out if this was the case, Reed and Ben travel back in time to their college days, only to discover that they are not the only ones observing this momentous occasion. Nope, a whole crap load of Dooms are also there. This is a great character moment, Doom is so megalomaniacal that he not only does he go back to see his ‘birth’ once, he does it 100s of times, so we get to see a variety of Dooms from all sorts of possible futures, including a Doctor Fate lookalike and even Ultimate Doom! One thing I really liked was that this collection of Dooms was a surprising source of comedy, their pomposity was just so ridiculous, asking someone who is basically them how dare they touch Doom! Of course, a fight ensues between Reed and Ben and the various Dooms, which is also surprisingly funny. But in the end, this story is not funny, it’s about Doom, the greatest villain in comics, and how it wasn’t Ben Grimm’s fault, or Reed Richards’ fault. No, according to Fraction… Doom is inevitable. What a great line that is, that last page sent a shiver down my spine. I do wonder what we are supposed to make of the sequence where all of the other Dooms place the mask on ‘our’ Doom’s face. Was it always that way? Were those monks actually Doom all along? Time travel hurts my head yet again. This was a very good issue of Fantastic Four, it got right to the heart of 3 of the series most important characters, and the art from Bagley was spot on. I may not like this title as much as FF, but it’s getting better.
Cable And X-Force #10– Every issue of this title (or thereabouts) has been teasing a confrontation between X-Force and the Uncanny Avengers, and now, in #10 it’s finally happened! Yay! This was a good fight especially since Dennis Hopeless not only has a good handle on his regular characters, but on the Avengers as well. The work he’s been doing with Havok in his sporadic appearances here is just as good was what Remender has been doing really. So yeah, the fight here was very good indeed, and Hopeless wisely left us wanting more, as all of the team except Cable split in order to stop some more of those pesky future disasters. This is interesting for two reasons, one is that Cable is now a captive of the Avengers and his uncle, which can’t be good for him, and two, because Cable is now allowing the rest of X-Force to stop the future-catastrophes, he’s delegating, which is not like him. Oh yeah, and Cable now has an eye that’s a gun. It’s like the ultimate expression of Liefeldianism. I can’t believe he never did it before. Larrocca’s art was great as always, but I still think he’s drawing Rogue’s hair weirdly. Hope’s subplot also continues to be very interesting, as she makes her way to Blaquesmith. I liked how Hopeless suckered the reader in here, you’re laughing at wacky old Blaquesmith, pretending to be a fat woman and running a 7/11, and then blam! He zaps Hope with a laser beam and is revealed to be behind Cable’s brain problems. That’s a shocker and a half. This continues to be a very enjoyable action book with some great characters in it, I mean, Hopeless has managed to make Forge interesting, Forge!
Age Of Ultron #10(of 10)– Being that I’m one of the few people on the Internet that likes Age Of Ultron, I was actually pretty let down by this final issue. Maybe it’s because I read the leaked spoilers so I knew what was coming, which puts my dissatisfaction on me, but I didn’t like this much at all. It just felt disjointed, there were too many artists here, and you could really see how this event is basically 2 stories bolted together. Before this issue the Hitch issues and the Pacheco/Peterson issues worked well as two separate halves, but together? It’s just odd. I suppose Bendis should be applauded for managing to make this work, but it did not make for a satisfying read. And when you already know the big surprises, that only makes it even more unsatisfying. That being said, the stuff spinning out of this event does have me intrigued. The idea of time being all fucked-up is very interesting, especially when you take into account the time-travel that is already going on in a lot of Marvel’s other books. That two-page spread of all the heroes seeing possible futures and alternate realities was pretty cool, lots of nice nods there, even Heroes Reborn! Galactus being in the Ultimate Universe is also a pretty cool idea, and even though I don’t know shit about Angela, I’m intrigued by her. So yeah, whilst this issue promises exciting stuff in the future, the process of getting there was not so good. It’s like a horrible messy birth that leads to an awesome baby, or some other less offensive metaphor. I have enjoyed this event, but it’s been a weird one, I wonder how it would have turned out if Hitch could have stayed on? Would we even have had all of this mad Time-Travel stuff?
Wonder Woman #21– There’s been a lot of Internet ink spilled this week over the announcement of the upcoming Superman/Wonder Woman series that will focus on the romantic relationship between the two characters. I don’t want to talk about it too much, but for me, that series is a good thing because it means that Brian Azzarello will not be forced to bring Superman into his series and will hopefully be left alone and allowed to just tell his own story like he has been doing for the last 2 years. This run is the only Wonder Woman story I’ve ever really liked and I would hate to see it meddled with by the wider DC Universe. This was another great issue of Azz’s run, and not only because Cliff Chiang was back and drawing the whole issue, which means this is once again one of the best-looking comics out there. The main focus on this issue was the much-anticipated fight between Wonder Woman and the First Born, which was very well-done indeed. Diana’s dialogue in this scene was just unbelievably bad-ass. Not only do we get to see the First Born go up against Wonder Woman, he also fights Orion! Yep, everyone’s favourite New God is back and just as much of a dick as always. I think it’s been a stroke of genius from Azzarello to have the New Gods involved in a series about the Old Gods, and it’s a lot of fun to see them clash. The idea that the First Born is powerful enough to hold back a Boomtube is just mind-blowing, he is one tough SOB (and with Hera, that’s accurate). It was also great to see Lennox sacrifice himself to save everyone else, I’ve found him to be an interesting character and it was good to get final confirmation that he was a hero before died. And he must be the first comics character to go out singing a Millwall football chant, surely? This series is just uniformly excellent, each issue adds something new to this epic story and new world for Wonder Woman and it’s exciting to see. I think the most interesting thing here was the mysterious powers of Baby Zeke, who perhaps is an evil baby? I dunno, but come on, High Father is in this, you gotta love it.
Animal Man #21– After taking a break from the ‘real world’ story last month for a check-up on ‘Red Thunder’, Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man returns to the depressing life of Buddy Baker, and while it is dark, it’s still very good, and really, when the main character’s son has just died, I think a bit of darkness is acceptable. Buddy has been drowning his sorrows in booze, but he decides to try and get back in the superhero game by investigating a series of mysterious pet-nappings. The climax of these investigations was interesting for two reasons, the first was for what Animal Man actually found, a bunch of animal cadavers and a terrifying looking hybrid monster dude. Seriously, this new villain looks absolutely disgusting and disturbing. The second thing that made this interesting was that Animal Man’s attempts to chase down this freak were interrupted by the Media. This series has always dealt with Animal Man’s role as a hero with a media profile in the background, but this storyline seems to be bringing it right to the forefront. This whole issue was full of whatever the DC Universe equivalent of Tweets are, commenting on the action. I’ve found aping social media to be an effective technique in other titles such as The Unwritten and Lemire proves to be good at it here too, there were some very accurate and very funny takes on particular websites and types of web-user here. The other plotline here involves Maxine, who has embraced her identity as ‘Animal Girl’ and is inside The Red to try and bring Cliff back to life. This is an intriguing storyline, but I’m glad it’s taking a back-seat to Buddy’s story, he’s been reacting to massive worldwide threats throughout this whole series and it’s good to see him being proactive and acting on his own, without cosmic guidance. It was effective also how different artists were used for the Buddy and Maxine scenes, Portela’s cartoony style fits with a 5 year-old character, who would see The Red as a candyland, and Steve Pugh’s darker stuff is perfect for what Animal Man is going through.
Green Lantern: New Guardians #21– I think this was the best of the 3 new creative teams for the Green Lantern titles I read, and since both GL and GLC were good, that means that I thought this was better than good! Kyle has always been my favourite Lantern, so I’m automatically biased towards his series, but I think this is a cool new direction for the character and I like how this book now has a name that actually makes sense. You see, Kyle Rayner is now in charge of looking after the new Guardians Of The Universe and they try and learn about the Universe and to avoid the mistakes their evil predecessors made. It’s a cool hook that spins out of past events, and since Kyle has history with befriending little blue smurfs, it fits. And of course, Kyle is now the White Lantern, which I feel is not being discussed enough, it’s awesome and it makes Kyle into something really special, not just another GL. In this issue Kyle initially refuses Hal’s suggestion of this job, but eventually accepts. I think it was interesting to see Hal Jordan attempt to reason and not be a hot-head, this is the best evidence I’ve seen so far that he’s maturing now that he’s the head of the Corps. Plus, Space-Sharks! I recently read Justin Jordan’s first arc of Shadowman for Valiant and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I’m glad to see his DC stuff is just as good, the dialogue is strong and Kyle Rayner felt like Kyle Rayner should. I think the strongest scene in terms of the writing was the conversation between Kyle and Carol Ferris. I liked the alliance that they struck up during Bedard’s run, so it was cool to see that return. I wonder if DC would ever have them get together? That would cause some friction between Kyle and Hal! But then again, everyone who dates Kyle has to die, and I don’t think DC would kill off Carol at this point. The closing scene with Kyle and the Guardians at the Anomaly was pretty good also, although it was odd to have a Kirbyesque space-villain called Exeter, that’s a historic English city! Brad Walker’s artwork was very strong throughout this issue, I’ve been a fan of his since his work with Busiek on Superman a few years ago, he just delivers solid superhero artwork with a great kinetic feel and can handle any type of story a writer throws at him. Here he gets to draw space-sharks and cosmic cysts and other epic stuff. I hope he gets a nice long run on this book. I found it interesting that it’s this book that features the first appearance of Relic, the big new Green Lantern villain, that shows that these books are still going to be connected, and maybe that GLC and New Guardians will be more than just ancillary titles. But even if this stays as a side-book, it’s still worth reading, great art, a new take on a fun character and a promising new writer.
So that’s that then isn’t it? My favourite book this week was either Wonder Woman or Indestructible Hulk. I’m not sure. Both!
Next week is, as I said, a big week, so this column may be a bit late, but it’s big for a reason, as there are a crap-load of awesome comics coming out. Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s Lazarus begins! Batman/Superman kicks off! The second instalments of Jupiter’s Legacy and The Wake! Daredevil! All-New X-Men! Both Justice League titles! An issue of Hawkeye focused on Pizza Dog! Next week has everything you could possibly want and more, and what better way to spend it than with me?
Follow me on Twitter @NiamSuggitt, visit my blog niamsuggitt.tumblr.com, I started a new monthly feature on there where I review everything I consumed in terms of movies, TV, music and books that month. It’s just like this except about things the general public cares about.