Howdy! Welcome to a very special Independence Day edition of TWIP! Yes, even though it’s now July 6th and I’m not American, we can still celebrate! Or, I can celebrate being shot of you ugly Yankees!
I kid, I kid. Anyways, this is a pretty good week of comics, it’s thankfully a lot shorter than last week, but what we do have is aces. We’ve got the first issues of 3 exciting new ongoing series, Satellite Sam, Superior Foes Of Spider-Man and Avengers A.I.! There’s also the penultimate issue of Batman Incorporated, more of the new era for Green Lantern and another insane issue of Iron Man!
So, strap yourselves in, and remember, you can click the links to head to the Outhouse forum discussions!
Iron Man #12– After spending the last few issues of Iron Man twisting my brain around and turning everything we thought we knew about Iron Man upside down, Kieron Gillen switches things up with this one and goes for a much more simple, action-oriented issue as Howard Stark and 451 re-unite the Stark Seven to go after the Greys. As I said, this particular issue wasn’t as mind-bending as previous ones, but it was still very good.
The action here was very well-done, and I especially liked how Gillen managed to work in some very interesting character details in there. I am particularly intrigued by The Bear. In her previous appearances, that codename seemed very odd, she’s a glamorous blonde, what does that have to do with bears? But here, we find out why. When the Greys kill some of her Corgis, she reveals that she can turn into some kind of bear-monster. She’s an interesting character for sure. I also continue to find 451 to be a great villain, the twist he pulled at the end, where he tricks Howard into thinking he let the Greys go free, when instead he murders them was great stuff. He’s so manipulative and evil, so much fun to read, especially since Gillen also finds opportunities to use him for humour.
In the end, the Greys are defeated, and baby Tony Stark is born. Hooray! And man, he’s a pretty cute baby. Even amongst all of the explosions and people turning into bears, I think the two page sequence where we see baby Tony is Eaglesham’s best work on this issue. There’s a lot of attention to detail in those pages, I especially like how Maria Stark bites her lip.
So, it looks like it’s happily ever after for the Starks right? Noope, as in the framing device back in the present, we find out another added wrinkle to 451’s schemes, he needs Tony Stark to pilot a massive space robot called ‘The Godkiller’. So now the title of the Voldi 3-parter has a new meaning, not just because Tony ‘killed’ their God, the Phoenix, but also because he was pre-destined to pilot the Godkiller.
This story is crazy, I have absolutely no idea where it’s going to go next, even more standard issues like this were full of great ideas and interesting teases. Gillen may be getting a lot of praise for Young Avengers, but I think this is by far the best thing he is writing at the moment. It’s fun, it’s dark, it’s clever, it’s doing something new with the character… what more could you want?
Avengers #15– Things keep happening! The pace of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers has been pretty slow up until now, but in these last 2 issues, it may have become too fast! The Avengers are fighting a load of bugs, they are sending a signal to some robots, AIM have unleashed an even bigger robot, Captain Universe is saying some doom-laden stuff and warps her and Manifold to some unknown planet, and then a ship of bloody Skrulls crash-land on Earth! That’s not even mentioning that somehow all of this ties in to Thanos and Infinity.
There’s a lot going on here, and it could all get a bit too confusing, but thankfully, Hickman and Nick Spencer use this to good effect, as the Avengers themselves are confused and don’t know what’s going on. All they can do is fight the creepy, copulating bug-things, and all we can do is enjoy that fight and speculate.
Stefano Caselli’s artwork was brilliant again, I loved those pages with the concentric circles representing the mysterious signal, it’s a simple technique, but it looked damn cool and effective. I also really liked that one splash of all of the Avengers posing after they defeated the bugs. It’s the first time in a while we’ve seen that many Avengers all in one place, and it was bad-ass. Especially as they immediately undercut it by having even more problems land on their heads. There’s no rest for this team!
I have little to no idea what’s going on in this book at the moment, but it’s enjoyable. I really do think that Hickman is doing a better job at balancing his endgame with immediate enjoyment here than he did on Fantastic Four. Oh yeah, and can I just say that Hickman and Spencer write a damn good Superior Spider-Man, he’s such a dick!
Avengers A.I. #1– I was wavering on picking up this title, since there are already way too many Avengers titles, but last week’s Age Of Ultron epilogue made me a fan of Hank Pym again, so I went for it. And I’m glad I did, this was a great first issue and I’m very excited to see where Sam Humphries is going with this.
The basic plot of this issue is that the method Hank Pym used to defeat Ultron in Age Of Ultron #10 has inadvertently gone wrong, and evolved into a new A.I. called Dimitrios that seems to have catastrophic designs for the human race. So whilst Pym may have defeated his greatest enemy, he may have just birthed a new one. SHIELD haul Pym in for questioning and possible detainment, but Captain America frees him and tasks him with stopping Dimitrios with his new team of Robot Avengers.
I love this team, you’ve got The Vision, who, in the wake of his ‘father’ Ultron’s death seems to be evolving himself. You’ve got Victor from The Runaways, who is great fun under Humphries’ pen, acting like the goofy teenager we all know and love. And finally, best of all, there’s Doombot. Everyone knows that Doctor Doom is awesome and one of the greatest villains in comics, but it’s also true that he’s so over-the-top and ridiculous that he can be used to great effect comedically. Doombot’s rantings here are just hilarious, and the sequence where the new team stops Dimitrios’ attack on an Atlanta hospital was just a hell of a lot of fun. You’ve got Doombot’s OTT pomposity, Victor’s attempts to find a new codename, and even the Vision is trying to have fun. These guys may be robots, but they have a hell of a lot of personality. On the last page, we are introduced to another member of the team, but there’s not much to say about her yet. I’m also intrigued by SHIELD agent Monica Chang, is she a new character? Or does she have established history?
I said last week in my review of Age Of Ultron #10 A.I. that Andre Araujo impressed me a lot, and that’s still applies here, his artwork is just great, it’s detailed, but also cartoonish, and that’s a perfect fit for a book all about robots. Avengers A.I. is a winner, great art, fun dialogue, interesting characters, and under the surface it looks like Humphries has a lot to say about the nature of humanity. Pym is the only one who sees artificial intelligence as equal to humans, can they co-exist? Hmmm…
Superior Foes Of Spider-Man #1– Another great #1 issue from Marvel! They are on a bit of a roll. Being a fan of the Thunderbolts and Dark Avengers, I’m a sucker for a series about villains, and it looks like Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber have launched the next great thing in villainy. This was a top-notch comic book, and I think what made it so good was that it was barely a superhero comic at all. Boomerang and his team are low-level villains, they aren’t out to rule the world, just to rob banks. This is a street-level crime book basically, just one that takes place in a superhero universe. Think something along the lines of Fraction’s Hawkeye, just from the other side of the law.
This issue is narrated by Boomerang, and after only 1 issue, I’m more interested in this Z-List villain than I am any of the bad-guys set to star in DC’s Villains Month. We find out his origins, which were new to me at least, and we see just why it is he sticks at being a super-villain. The rest of his team are introduced here, Shocker, Speed Demon, Overdrive and The Beetle. These are lame characters for sure, but this means Spencer can really have fun with them, really develop them and do something new. I really liked how funny this book is, it plays up how these are sad-sack villains. Speed Demon and Shocker rob a pet-shop, Shocker complains about his costume being too hot, Beetle tries to rob a comic shop, they are basically loveable losers. Spencer’s dialogue is fantastic here, I knew he could be funny from his Jimmy Olsen stuff, but this may be even better, as it’s a dryer sense of humour.
But then there’s a twist, and man, it’s a good one. It’s not quite as good as Thunderbolts #1, but it shows that hey, maybe Boomerang at least isn’t a total loser idiot. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun following these fuck-ups around, getting into heists and scrapes. Steve Lieber provides the art, and it’s a very good fit. His style is realistic, which suits what is basically a crime series down to the ground. I also liked how this issue played around with censorship in a similar way to how Hawkeye did, it was great how Boomerang giving the finger was covered up by the Comics Code Authority logo. This looks like being a great new series, if you like Hawkeye, or works of Brubaker and Phillips, this should be right up your crime-alley.
Daredevil: Dark Nights #2(of 8) – Lee Weeks’ tale of Daredevil’s desperate search for a transplant-heart in a snowstorm continues to be a gripping read. The main star here is of course Weeks’ artwork, which is just beautiful throughout, with some wonderful layouts and techniques used. Weeks is cutting loose here, and he’s doing stuff that can only really be done when the writer and artist are in perfect sync, and since in this case the writer and the artist are the same person, that sync is definitely there.
The story here is also very strong. Yes, it’s fairly simple, as Daredevil makes his way through the storm, but Weeks adds a lot of very interesting details to it. I loved the idea that, because he’s so determined to get to that heart, he has to ignore other crimes that are going on and leave people to bad fates. Daredevil may be a great superhero, but he’s only one man, he can only do one thing at a time. In the end, it’s in attempting to do things that may end being Daredevil’s downfall here. On his way back with the heart, he saves a woman from being assaulted, but, exhausted, he collapses. This allows another wrinkle in Weeks’ story to rear its head. The father of the little girl who needs that heart is a businessman who is owed a favour by none other than the Kingpin, and his goons are sent after Daredevil. It’s actually been a long time since we’ve seen DD go up against his greatest enemy, and although they aren’t interacting directly here, it’s exciting. I also really liked how Weeks’ showed us how the Hospital Staff protected Daredevil’s secret identity, some writers may not have bothered, especially given the nominal nature of that secret, but I thought it was a cool detail.
This is a fun little story, I have no doubts that Daredevil will return the heart safely in the end, but it’s an enjoyable ride. And man, the artwork, Lee Weeks is amazing.
Action Comics #22– Whilst we wait for Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder’s run to begin, Action limps on with a fill-in story from Scott Lobdell. This issue was pretty good to be honest, I did feel I was missing out on some important context with regards to Hector Hammond because I haven’t been reading Lobdell’s run on Superman, but the only real problem here was that the villains (that’s if they are villains), Pax Galactica are boring and generic and I don’t give a crap about them. I literally could not give two shits.
The more interesting elements here were not Superman, but Clark Kent. Clark and Cat Grant are attending a movie premiere for their blog, and I thought these scenes were pretty cool. I thought it was clever how Clark used his powers to short out all of the mainstream newspapers technology so Cat could get a scoop. I know everyone seems to think Superman should be an unparalleled bastion of virtue at all times, especially post Man Of Steel, but that’s just boring. I like it when Clark is human and a little bit flawed. Nobody complains when Peter Parker takes photos of himself for the Daily Bugle, this is the same thing really.
I also found the plot element of the movie director being some kind of cyborg to interesting. I hope Lobdell follows up on that, he’s certainly a better villain than Pax Generica. Tyler Kirkham is the artist for this issue, and I’ve enjoyed his work on the Green Lantern books for the past few years, and he does a similar job here. Yes, it’s very 90s and Top Cow-ish, but he’s a good superhero artist, his Superman looks great. I did think his Clark Kent looked a little odd though, perhaps it’s the round glasses, he looked like Harry Potter!
The World Of Krypton back-up was once again pretty solid too, we got to see the first meeting between Superman’s parents, and the New 52 version of The Eradicator was teased, which is exciting I guess. This wasn’t a bad comic, just like the previous 3 issues, it was fine, it’s just totally inessential. Superman books should be awesome, not filler. Thankfully we’ve got Superman Unchained and Pak’s run to make that awesomeness a reality.
Batman Incorporated #12– I’m not really sure what to say about this instalment of Batman Inc. It was great to have Morrison back after the break, but really, this was just one big action sequence, which, whilst awesome to read, doesn’t give you much to talk about.
I will say that is was great to see Bruce really cut loose with the violence, and that the revelation about what The Heretic really looks like was a real shocker, I almost feel sorry for the poor kid. I also really liked Dick getting a degree of revenge for Damian (and Knight for, er, the old Knight too). I miss that era of Batman and Robin so bloody much. Oh yeah, and the stuff about how Spyral aren’t actually evil and how they want to shut down Batman Inc was very interesting too, that woman is obviously Kathy Kane Batwoman right? Right?
Burnham’s art was once again fantastic, he’s grown so much as an artist throughout his run, I can’t wait to see what he’ll do next. So yeah, not much to say, I’m very excited for the next issue, and for Morrison to wrap up his epic run. I may not have liked it at first, but ever since Bruce died, it’s been great, one of the all-time greats. Oh yeah, and Talia’s dialogue on the first few pages? ‘Why can’t he admit defeat? Why won’t he stop?’, well, that just sums up Batman doesn’t it? He will never stop.
Green Lantern #22– Robert Venditti’s run on GL continues to be a fun, fast-paced ride that’s doing just about enough to differentiate itself from Johns’ stuff whilst still keeping what worked. I know I’m a notorious Larfleeze hater, and I still fucking hate him, but I didn’t mind his role in this issue too much. He was a distraction, a stupid annoying pathetic distraction, but one that worked in order for Venditti to establish two interesting plot threads.
The first is that the mysterious force that caused all of the Green Lantern rings to malfunction in the last issue is also capable of affecting other Corps on the spectrum. This is a cool development, and shows that Relic is a damn powerful threat. The second plot set up by Larfleeze was that he kills a Star Sapphire, and in the hunt for a replacement, her ring finds it’s way onto a prisoner in the Sciencells who kills a GL and escapes. I thought the scenes between this new evil Star Sapphire and Cossite were very well done, you could tell something was up, but when a Love ring wants to choose someone… it’s pretty right to assume that she genuinely does love you. But nope, she only loves her people (or her ‘Clann’) and she kills him. I wonder if she is related to Relic in any way?
I also thought this issue did a good job of showing Hal Jordan having to think differently now that he’s in charge, he can’t just be a hot-head jerk anymore. His plan to distract Larfleeze worked really well. Not only was it good character development, but it made Larfleeze look like the execrable chump he is. Billy Tan’s art was once again solid, I especially like the weedy new GL recruits, they are a lot of fun. So yeah, GL seems to be surviving the post-Johns era pretty well, and now that Larfleeze is out of the picture, things are looking up even more!
Swamp Thing #22– Swamp Thing has tracked down the mysterious ‘Seeder’ to Scotland, and what happens when a vaguely Vertigoish character ends up in the UK? Well, a guest-appearance from John Constantine of course!
I’ve been enjoying Charles Soule’s run a lot, and this was probably the best issue so far. Soule rights a good Constantine, we got to see Swamp Thing use his powers in more interesting ways, the conflict between Man and Plant was front and centre, and the villain just gets more and more interesting. It’s looking like Seeder is not actually a bad guy, he wants to help people, he just doesn’t really know what he’s doing or think of the consequences. In this issue, he tries to save a small Scottish town that fell on hard times when their whisky distillery closed down, by creating a tree that grows whisky. At first this seems like a great thing, the townsfolk have their spirits (heh) lifted and are having a great time. But there’s something wrong with the whisky, it’s not even whisky, and it seems to drive people who drink it crazy. Including Constantine. I loved the ending to this issue, with an insane John declaring himself ‘The Whisky King’ and telling the people to kill Swamp Thing, it was just crazy.
Kano returns on art here, and he continues to do a good job. I do feel we were spoiled a little by having Jesus Saiz as a fill-in last time, he may be even better! This story is shaping up to be very interesting, not only is there the whisky tree stuff, but the larger conflict between Swamp Thing and Seeder. Soule is asking us to see a man trying to help people as a villain, and someone who takes things away from us as a hero. It’s complicated and very cool. And that’s not even mentioning Capucine! She’s not in this issue, but she’s going to be important I think.
Satellite Sam #1– The very first Matt Fraction comic I ever read was an Image Comic, yep, I was reading Casanova back when it first came out in singles, and yes, that does make me exceedingly cool. Since those early days, he’s made the leap to Marvel. Got really popular, became unpopular, and now, with Hawkeye, he’s back to being popular again. And now he’s back with a new Image series, alongside the legendary Howard Chaykin, and whilst it’s not quite as immediately gripping as Casanova #1 was, it’s still very interesting and I can’t wait to see where it goes.
The focus of Satellite Sam is Television, and the golden age of Television at that. Fraction throws us into a backstage world full of TV jargon and at first it’s a bit unsettling, this is one dialogue heavy comic, but it’s a great way to get across the frantic nature of recording live TV. There’s lots of characters introduced here, and as I said, it is disorientating, but once you get used to it, it’s fine. The main focus here seems to be Mike White, a producer on the crappy ‘Satellite Sam’ sci-fi show on which his father, Carlyle stars as the titular hero. The production of this week’s episode is thrown into turmoil because Carlyle doesn’t show up. People shrug this off as him being unreliable, but there’s something darker there. He’s been murdered!
Mike steps in to play Satellite Sam at the last minute, and then things take another turn. Hidden in his dad’s secret apartment, Mike discovers box after box of Polaroids showing various women stripping down to their sexy 1950s underwear. It looks like his dad had some kind of secret sordid life, and this is going to be the crux of the story going forward. Howard Chaykin is one of those artists who’s work looks perhaps even better in black and white than it does in colour, I know his style isn’t for everyone, but it works really well here. The black and white mirrors the colour of TV in that era, and the square jaws fit our idealised memories of 1950s American TV stars. Plus, he can bring the sleaze, which should be important.
It’s clear that this is somewhat of a love letter from Fraction and Chaykin to the medium of TV, and I can’t wait to see where it’s going. If you like Mad Men or the BBC’s The Hour, this is similar to that, only because it’s Fraction and Chaykin, it’s a good deal dirtier and a good deal denser. Image have knocked it out of the park once again, and I’m off to re-read this again!
Good stuff huh? My favourite comic this week was probably Superior Foes Of Spider-Man #1, but the other new series are very much worth picking up.
Join me next week, where the highlights include East Of West, Superman Unchained, Hawkeye, Superior Spider-Man, Suicide Squad and more!