Hello again, and welcome to another edition of my comics review column, where I… review comics! Crazy huh.
This week was another solid week, there’s more Villain’s Month stuff, and some of them are actually good! There’s also more instalments of both Infinity and Battle Of The Atom. But I’m not just a mainstream crossover obsessive, there’s also a new issue of The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys and the first issue of King’s Watch starring The Phantom and Flash Gordon.
As always, click the links to head to Outhouse forum discussions, where you can question my manhood to your heart’s content.
Indestructible Hulk #13– Hulk and Banner’s journey through time is once again a whole lot of fun. You can really tell that Mark Waid is having a ball with this story, and given that so much of the post-Age Of Ultron time-travel stuff has been rather serious, it’s great to see a title that isn’t afraid to just go with it and have the Hulk fight cowboys and dinosaurs and the Knights Of The Roundtable. Because really, when I think of time-travel, that’s what I want.
In this issue, Hulk and Banner first fight, then team up with King Arthur, The Black Knight, Merlin and the rest to fight another Chronarchist, Valdar Ahd, who has travelled to the past and conquered Camelot. This whole issue was just great fun, especially when you saw that Ahd had gone even further than the other Chronarchist, and not just brought dinosaurs to fight for him, but a whole army of time-displaced warriors, including a Samurai, a Spartan, a guy from Halo and a Gorilla. That’s using time-travel to it’s fullest!
Hulk’s final confrontation with the Chronarchist was very cool indeed, Ahd tried to rapidly age the Hulk, and we got a glimpse of the Maestro, but in the end, Hulk and Black Knight were able to use the Ebony Blade to win out, it’s crazy how that sword was able to cut through time energy. What’s the status of the sword and the Black Knight in the present-day Marvel Universe? Is Dane Whitman still alive? I don’t even know.
I also really enjoyed the opening scene, where you saw how the Hulk and Banner’s efforts were paying off in the present day, how the Airport from the first issue of this story that disappeared was now back. Waid may be having fun with time-travel here, but he’s not being dumb.
In the end, with this Chronarchist defeated, it’s on to the next one, and he may be the most dangerous of all, as he’s messing with the Hulk’s very own origins at the Gamma Bomb test sight. Waid has said that this meddling is why the Hulk’s personality is susceptible to change, and we see that here, as by the end of the issue, Hulk is now in ‘Smart Mode’. It’s going to be great to see how Waid revisits the famous origin story, the cover to #14 is certainly intriguing, with Hulk saving Bruce Banner from the bomb, seemingly erasing himself. Now, that probably won’t exactly happen, but I’m willing to bet some serious shit will go down. Man, this arc has been great.
The art here was also strong, Matteo Scalera has really impressed me on this title, and Kim Jacinto does a good job at keeping a similar style and tone on… I don’t know if Kim is a man or a woman, erm… on their pages.
Avengers #19– Infinity rumbles on, and this really is an event that feels different from any other. The scale of the threat the Avengers are facing, both at home and out in space is so big and out there, it kind of feels like the Avengers have stepped into an entire different world of story, like they accidentally walked into Star Wars or something. This half of the crossover is a sci-fi story that just happens to have superheroes in it as part of the good-guy army, and it’s working out fantastically.
This issue focuses on the Avengers out in space fighting the Builders, on the likes of Captain Marvel and Hawkeye who are imprisoned, and also Captain America and Thor who are left planning their next move in the big war. The captured Avengers stuff was OK, especially as we saw a chink of weakness in The Builders in that they are afraid of Captain Universe and don’t know why she, Starbrand and Nightmask are Avengers. The Builders have been, for me, pretty poorly defined as villains, so it was good to see some more about them. It was also great to see Captain Marvel take centre-stage here, and I also loved Hawkeye’s line about how he’s not just a ‘base-line human’.
But for me, the stuff with Cap’s team and the Galactic Council was the best part of the issue, because of two characters, Ex Nihilo and J-Son Of Spartax. Much like his creators, I have found Ex Nihilo to be a bit blank, but this issue gave him a lot of needed depth, and his reactions to what one of his fellow Exs did was really rather tragic. He’s a being who was created to give life, but now people who look exactly like him are going against that and destroying. It looks like the next issue of Avengers is going to see him in a fight against some other Ex-dudes, which should be great. His reaction also raises the question of just why the Builders have turned from building to destroying, at this point, it doesn’t make much sense.
As for J-Son, man, he is just a massive dick isn’t he? We’ve seen it regularly (well, semi-regularly) in the pages of Guardians Of The Galaxy, and now he’s taken his dickishness to a whole new level. Not only does he constantly badmouth our beloved Earth (even though he was saved and fell in love with a Earth-woman), he then goes behind the rest of the Council’s back and tries to make a deal with the Builders. Of course, this back-fires and the Builders trace his communication and another attack is on. Stupid J-Son, what a cunt, I can’t wait to see him get his comeuppance at the hands of Star-Lord.
I suppose this issue did continue my problem with this series in that the Avengers are not really a presence in this story, half of them are captured, and the rest of them are just standing around, but in this case, I didn’t mind it as much, perhaps because the stakes are so much bigger. The most proactive Avenger in this issue is Ex Nihilo, and all he does is talk (although we did get a flashback to Captain Marvel in action as Binary, so that may count), hopefully next issue will bring the action, because really, when you have Leinil Yu, you want some action. But still, Infinity has been great so far, I genuinely don’t know what’s coming next, apart from that J-Son will be a tool.
Mighty Avengers #1– Another day, another Avengers title, and yes, whilst there probably (definitely) are too many books with the big ‘A’ slapped across them, they are all good (I’m not reading Secret or Assemble, but I hear good things) and on the basis of this first issue, Mighty is going to make a fine addition to the ever-expanding ranks of Earth’s Mightiest Hero-based comics.
Perhaps the best thing about Brian Michael Bendis’ long run on the Avengers was the character work he did on Luke Cage, taking him from a single guy who was really only out for himself (and maybe Iron Fist) and was kind of shady, to a happily-married father who was leader of an Avengers team and very well-respected in the Marvel Universe. It was a great arc, and in this whole Batwoman brouhaha, it’s worth remembering that some superheroes do get married and do grow and change. When Hickman took over the Avengers, Luke went out of the book, and I did miss him, so it’s really great to have him back in the mix, and leading a new, exciting team.
Much has been made about how the majority of this team is non-white, and whilst that’s all well and good, I’m glad that the comic itself doesn’t make a big deal out of it, and that Al Ewing first and foremost makes this title about the characters, and not their skin colours, Cage is not recruiting basedon criteria, it’s just whoever happens to be around when Thanos attacks, whoever reflects the natural diversity of New York City.
Being British, I am fairly familiar with Ewing and his 2000 AD work, his Judge Dredd stuff is some of the best of recent years, and I particularly like the brilliant Zombo strip he created with Henry Flint, so it’s great to see another Brit make the leap to Big Two superheroes and do such a good job, this is a really fun book, with some great comedic moments and some excellent character interactions and dialogue. I particularly liked the funny captions used to introduce each cast-member, and also the way he wrote the lame villains that are The Plunderer and Bluestreak, that was hilarious. Also very funny was the way Ewing writes the Superior Spider-Man, who was just such a dick in this issue, it’s going to be a lot of fun seeing the clash of personalities between SpOck, Luke Cage and the combustible Power Man.
The most intriguing thing about this issue was the mysterious man who was talking to Monica Rambeau (now going by Spectrum, and it’s great to see her getting another starring role, she’s had nothing but guest-appearances since Nextwave, which got a nice nod to here with the trenchcoat gag) and becomes the ridiculous ‘Spider Hero’. I literally have no idea who this dude is, it could be anyone who Monica would know, and that’s most superheroes in the Marvel Universe. I’m just glad that Monica knowing him means that it’s not a universe-hopping Miles Morales, that guy needs to stick in the Ultimate Universe, those rumours are straight-up dumb.
So, after being introduced to most of the team, Luke Cage, Power Man, White Tiger, Spider-Man, Spectrum and Spider Hero/Ronin/Mystery Man, we get to the meat of things, as Infinity comes crashing down on NYC. With the Avengers obviously gone, Luke and his rag-tag group are the only line of defence left to face Proxima Midnight and her army, and I can’t wait to see how the fight next issue goes. This issue was mainly character set-up, but it was necessary, we got to see just how Luke Cage came to the conclusion that he wanted to rejoin the Avengers, it wasn’t just a spurt of the moment thing, and we also got reintroduced to characters like Spectrum and White Tiger who haven’t been around for a while. Now that we have our core team, things can really kick off. Ewing really is off to a great start, in fact, my only complaint about this whole book is that he’s got Luke Cage, and he’s got the new Power Man, so where the fuck is Iron Fist? Is he too busy to help his friends fight Thanos? I want my Danny Rand fix.
In terms of the art, it’s Greg Land, so given his divisive nature, it’s pretty pointless to try and talk about it, everyone’s already made up their minds about whether they hate him or not. I don’t mind Land, and I did feel in this issue his work was a lot more fluid and less static than he can be, that 3rd page with Luke, Power Man and White Tiger fighting Plunderer’s Goons was not what you’d expect from Land, and it was great.
So really, even if you’re a bit burned out on Avengers books, you should check this one out, it has great characters, a promising new writer, and if you’re one of those people who believes comics actually matter in the fight for equality (I’m not so sure myself, but they can’t hurt) it’s all kinds of diverse. But more important than diversity is quality, and Mighty Avengers has that too.
Avengers Arena #15– With only 3 issues left to go, Avengers Arena is really ramping things up for it’s big ending with this issue, as serious stuff goes down, and another character bites the dust in a tragic way that really has me wanting the next part right fucking now.
The focus of this issue is on Nara the Atlantean, who until this point has mainly been hanging around in the background, being a bit of a bitch and causing love triangles. This issue not only finally sheds some light on her origin, but allows her character to grow out of ‘love triangle bitch’ and do something heroic. And then she dies, oh dear.
Most of this issue is taken up with Cullen Bloodstone’s monstrous rampage after he removed his magic ring and allowed the ‘Glartrox’ that had possessed him to take over so he could fight X-23. The action here was pretty damn great, and it also brought back the likes of Reptil, Chase and Nico into the fold, as most of our remaining heroes are back in the same place, trying to stop Cullen/Glartrox.
But as I said, the main focus is Nara, who can’t bear to watch her boyfriend Anachronism go through watching his best friend become a monster, and perhaps even have to kill him. So she tries to forgo her inclination to not care, and try and find Cullen’s magic ring so he can go back to human form. Nara’s origin story is pretty simple, she’s an Atlantean, her parents were royal guards who plotted with Attuma to kill Namor, and then she was exiled, but not before Namor told her to never trust anyone but herself, like he does. Simple, but effective, especially as we see Nara try and move past Namor’s advice in this issue. In the end, she does manage to save Cullen, finding the Ring and turning him back to normal, but in the process… Monster-Cullen kills her.
The last page sees Anachronism let out a scream of anguish, so I can’t wait to see what happens next, I bet it’s going to be tragic, especially if Anachronism ends up killing his best friend in a berserker rage. This truly is an excellent book, and the ‘Battle Royale’ premise continues to be a winner, the stakes are life and death, so even best friends may turn on each other, and everything is so heightened and exciting.
It should also be said that Hopeless has done a really good job at creating new characters and making me the reader care about them. Nara, Cullen and Anachronism first appeared in #1 of this book, and after only 15 issues I’m as invested in them as I am characters like the Runaways or X-23 that have been around for years. It’s great writing, and it makes it all the sweeter when they die. I care when these characters die, and that’s the point, this is far from the mindless meat-grinder that the tumblr-critics would have you believe it, it’s far more character-focused than that. Throw in the best work of Kev Walker’s career (Monster Cullen looked amazing, great Kirby-esque monsters) and this is just a fantastic comic every issue. Roll on the next issue and the tragedy and feels, roll on more death and destruction, it’s glorious.
Fantastic Four #12– After being really rather confused by #11 of this series, this next issue righted the ship as Fraction and Sebela decided to do what Mark Waid has been doing on Hulk and forget about explaining the minutiae of time-travel and just have fun with it. This was a satisfying conclusion to a two-parter I was initially iffy on, and since it’s the end of Fraction’s run as proper writer, it ended on a very exciting note that I’m excited to see Karl Kesel pick up on.
The story here picks up with half of the FF family (Ben, Sue and Franklin) stuck in present-day Celeritas with the ‘Time-Terrorists’ and the other half (Reed, Val, Johnny and the other Johnny) stuck in the past. The two sides meet up, fight some dinosaurs, and are stranded by the Time Terrorists, until the Terrorists’ grandchildren come back in time to save them and give them a newly souped-up Fantasticar (is the ship the team are using called the Fantasticar? Does it even have a name?).
It was all fairly light and breezy, especially with the way Franklin used his powers, which is always great to see, and with the way Fraction and Sebela wrote Future-Johnny Storm, how he seemed to both know and not know what the future hold.
Of course, there is an undercurrent of darkness to Fraction’s run, and that was present here in the continuing breakdown of the team’s powers. We see Sue once again suffer an attack of the invisible body-parts, and Ben’s rocks seem to falling off even faster, and that last page… holy crap! All of Ben’s rocks have fallen off and he looks like a disgusting pink mess. Mark Bagley hit that just right, but then, he gets most everything right, he’s just a perfect old-school superhero artist.
This power-degradation thing is very interesting to me, especially since we haven’t seen it have any effects on Johnny Storm. Is he immune? Or is his breakdown mentally? Future Johnny certainly seems a little crazy over in the FF book.
Whilst I’m still a bit annoyed that Matt Fraction is leaving the Fantastic Four titles to go write characters that are essentially FF spin-offs, I’ve enjoyed his run, and even if he’s not writing it, I think both Kesel and Allred are capable enough writers that this story can be seen through to it’s proper conclusion, and hey, Inhumanity will probably be great.
X-Men #5– Part 3 of ‘Battle Of The Atom’ and even though Bendis has handed things off to Brian Wood, the story is keeping up the same quality level that the other Brian set up, and also maintaining just enough of this title’s own individual identity that it doesn’t feel totally subsumed by the crossover.
Picking up right where All-New left off, the main focus of this issue is Young Jean and Scott’s attempts to flee from the Present-Day and Future X-Men that want to send them back to past. We find out a little bit more about these mysterious future dudes, including that Future Jean has to keep the Xorn mask on to control her powers, and that Xavier can access Cerebro through a pill. But the most interesting thing here was the interaction between Scott and Jean, which was really quite sweet. When the OG X-Men came to the future, Jean was horrified by what Present-Day Scott had done, and they fell out, but now they are kind of back together, and it’s great to see these two star-crossed lovers reconnect. I’m not a ‘shipper’, but if I was, I’d ship Scott and Jean (Sean? Jott?), sorry Wolverine and Emma Frost, you miss out.
As I said, Wood makes sure to keep some of what he was doing in this title before the crossover began, so regular cast members like Jubilee, Shadowcat and Rachel Grey get a bit of spotlight, and he brings the tension between Rachel and Storm to prominence when Rachel and Kitty are the ones to rescue OG Scott and Jean from the others. It’s a small thing, but I also liked the scenes with OG Beast and Iceman sitting watching TV, that was funny, although I’m sure that they’ll get more important as the story continues.
In the end, the only place for Scott and Jean to run to is the last place Scott wants to go… to himself. Yep, the two runaways look to be joining up with Present-Day Cyclops and his Uncanny X-Men, which should be exciting. 3 of the books in this crossover are all about teams based out of the X-Mansion following Wolverine’s path and mission, but Uncanny is the wildcard, and I can’t wait to see what role Scott and his team plays in this story.
Battle Of The Atom has gotten off to a great start, and since it’s pretty much weekly, I’m excited for more, we haven’t even had a chapter written by Jason Aaron yet! This is the best the X-Books have been in ages, and this story really is bringing it.
David Lopez’s art was very strong also, perhaps not quite as great as Cho or Immonen, but then who is? I particularly like his facial expressions, like when Jean is perving on topless Scott.
Oh yeah, and did anyone else notice that Future Deadpool spoke in a normal word-balloon? A mistake? Or a clue…
Kick-Ass 3 #3(of 8) - Whilst I enjoyed the first 2 issues of Kick-Ass 3, there has been one crucial element missing from the story so far… mother-fucking Hit-Girl you bitches. Since she’s been in prison, it makes sense that she hasn’t really been involved, but this issue brings her back in big-time, and we see what she’s been up to inside. And what she’s been up to is… taking over the Prison Gangs and running things, which is bad-ass, and when you think of it, not really all that surprising. Hit-Girl is such a ridiculous, over-the-top character, so it’s a hell of a lot of fun to see her running a prison, drinking whisky and smoking cigarettes. Kick-Ass has long dropped any pretense of being realistic, so weird shit like this is appropriate, and just awesome. I can’t wait until she gets out and can wreak some havoc.
In terms of the other plotlines, Red Mist/Mother Fucker is out of Jail, and is being brought back into the Crime Family by his creepy Uncle Rocco, who looks like being a great villain, very ruthless and very different from his brothers and nephew, I found is notion that being gay was actually more masculine than being straight very interesting, that should make people think, as well as being pretty funny, especially with Red Mist’s reaction.
As for Kick-Ass himself, I thought it was great to see him on his date with Valerie the nurse, and to see Dave finally have some success with the ladies. Unlike the movie version, Dave is terrible with girls even after he becomes Kick-Ass, so it was interesting to see how being in costume made him more confident and comfortable, and the way the conversation turned to how he personally separates his real life with his superhero life, it’s an interesting take on the whole ‘Bruce Wayne is the real mask’ kind of thing.
This issue then sees Dave and his crew pull off his ‘Batman Year One’ plan, and whilst it doesn’t really work, it was surprisingly effective, as we see Kick-Ass really bust out some fighting moves, and then perform an effective escape, grabbing onto the bottom of a truck as it drives over him. It’s so weird seeing Kick-Ass actually be a bit, well, kick ass, the character really has grown.
I do feel like this story is moving a bit slowly when compared to other Millar books, but now we have most of the plots on the table, Kick-Ass’ team going up against Rocco Genovese, Hit-Girl in prison, Red Mist being out of jail, the romance, that guy The Juicer. Everything’s in place, we just need Millar to start blowing shit up.
John Romita Jnr’s artwork is of course the same level of quality you expect from him, the fight scene was great, you really saw from just the art how far Dave has come in becoming a bona-fide superhero.
Action Comics #23.2 – Zod – This was another pretty solid Villain’s Month book from Greg Pak, and on the basis of this and the Darkseid issue, I’m even more excited for his run on Action Comics than I was before. If Zod is set to be the villain of that run, then all the better.
I found this new origin for General Zod to be pretty interesting (it is new right?), as we find out that as a child, he and his parents crash-landed on a remote Kryptonian Island and since they died, he was forced to live alone in the jungle with a load of monsters. He’s basically Super-Tarzan, and that’s pretty awesome. Zod is eventually rescued by Jor-El and Zor-El, and brought back to Kryptonian society, where he chafes at the fact that life is so safe, and there’s no War or conflict to make people strong like the monsters did to him.
I think the thing that made this story not as good as it could be was that it had to all be told in the space of one issue, and the way it was revealed that Zod had created a fake reason to go to war to satisfy his bloodlust came about way too quickly, as did the revelation about just how his father died. I think this story would have worked a lot better if it had been told over multiple instalments in that ‘World Of Krypton’ back-up story that Action has had for the last few months. The most recent one of those showed us that Zod and Jor-El are friends, and this story explained why. I just feel it would have been better for us to see Zod pretend to be a good guy for a little while longer, before the inevitable and obvious reveal that he’s a dick. The ideas in this story are great, but it was just too quick.
But still, I’m excited to see Zod actually show up to fight Superman, and I would love it if the New 52 version channeled Michael Shannon, he was the best thing in Man Of Steel. Ken Lashley’s artwork was solid enough, all of the Kryptonian Armour that Zod and his crew wore was suitably ridiculous, and the monsters looked good too.
Batman #23.2 – Riddler – Given that the Riddler is playing a fairly large role in ‘Zero Year’, it’s good that Scott Snyder is actually co-writing this particular Batman Villains issue. Along with co-writer Ray Fawkes, Snyder does a good job at showing what makes Edward Nygma tick, and how even though he’s a bit silly, he can still be very dangerous.
After a short flashback showing Riddler in Arkham, Snyder and Fawkes then set up a very cool framing sequence, with the Riddler asking the reader 4 riddles. I must say that I’m pretty crap at riddles, so I didn’t get any of them at first, so it was a lot of fun to see them answered as Riddler made his way up through Wayne Tower on his mysterious mission. The best thing about this issue was how well it showed that the Riddler is a planner, all of his schemes are set up meticulously, and that makes him a very challenging villain for Batman. We also got to see how crazy Riddler can be if his plans are ruined.
Of course, Batman is supposedly dead at the moment thanks to the Crime Syndicate, so just why is the Riddler attacking Wayne Enterprises? Well, it’s to take down the Arkham Guard who took away his playing cards at the start of the issue, who is know working as a security guard for Wayne. Riddler takes him out, and then sits at the top of the tower, playing Solitaire and waiting for the Batman to return. It’s an interesting take on a villain, that he doesn’t really care about committing crimes or making money or killing people, he just likes the challenge of going up against the world’s greatest detective. In a DCU where every villain is a straight up sociopath, this is a bit more interesting, and a bit more in keeping with the classic Batman tradition. It was also good to have a Villain’s Month title that didn’t have a flashback to a tragic childhood, because man, after two weeks, that is getting old as shit.
Jeremy Haun’s artwork also impressed me, I’ve always enjoyed his work when it pops up here and there, and it was very good here. He’s got a realistic style, and that very much suits a villain who doesn’t wear spandex anymore, and he did a good job at telling the story just through his art, I loved the page where Riddler golf-clubs away that yoghurt pot with the plastic explosive in it. Man, it’s weird to type that.
So yeah, a good issue, and I’m excited to see what else Snyder has up his sleeves for Riddler in Zero Year.
Green Lantern #23.2 – Mongul - Mongul is one of those villains I’ve never really read much about. I have of course read Alan Moore’s ‘For The Man Who Has Everything’, but that story was less about Mongul and more about the Black Mercy and Superman’s inner-most desires. Since then, pretty much every Mongul story that I’ve read has been more about his plant collection than who he is as a character (and I think the Mongul that was running around before Flashpoint was actually the original’s son), so it was good to see his origins and find out why he’s not just a poor man’s Thanos, who is a poor man’s Darkseid anyway.
This was a strong issue, and I think it helped that DC didn’t just toss it off to just anyone, this issue was written by one of Mongul’s co-creators, Jim Starlin, who obviously knows the character pretty well. The story here is pretty simple, the commander of a space-fleet comes across Mongul’s War-World ship, and orders him to surrender. Mongul teleports the commander onto War-World and gives him a guided tour, and also a recap of Mongul’s origins.
As I said, I’m not particularly familiar with his old origins, so this could all be new or it could be a re-telling, but it was fairly cool. The best thing about Mongul is how over-the-top villainous he is, everything here is just evil on a cosmic scale, and it’s a lot of fun to see how far he goes in destroying people who oppose him. It’s going to be fun to see him go up against the Green Lanterns if and when it does happen.
Howard Porter’s artwork was also very good, I’ve liked his stuff since JLA in the 90s, and the new style he’s been using lately is very good, and very much suited for outer-space stories. I know there’s been controversy about the art situation on Justice League 3000, but Porter is a good artist in his own right, and it’s not his fault Maguire was replaced.
Basically, this was a good example of a Villain’s Month book, because it made me interested in a character I previously wasn’t really bothered about, DC has a great library of villains, and this event is actually doing a solid job at spotlighting them, in amongst all of the other bullshit.
Aquaman #23.1 – Black Manta– This was the best Villain’s Month book yet for me. It managed to perfect balance of continuing the ongoing book’s plotlines, reflecting the events of Forever Evil and also giving more depth to the headlining villain. It makes sense that it would be good, given that it’s co-written by the man behind both Aquaman and Forever Evil, Geoff Johns, and it’s clear that he and Tony Bedard actually care about Black Manta and how he fits as Aquaman’s arch-nemesis. Even though Johns is leaving the title soon, he’s done a great job at not only making his hero respectable, but also the villain.
The issue opens with Amanda Waller attempting to recruit an imprisoned Black Manta into the Suicide Squad, but he’s having none of it, all he wants to do in life is to kill Aquaman (because Aquaman accidentally killed Black Manta’s father), he’s not interested in whatever Waller has going on. Then, as we saw in Forever Evil, the CSA attack Belle Reve, and Black Manta is allowed to escape (I loved the silent moment between Manta and Ocean Master, the other candidate for Aquaman’s arch-enemy, I bet we’ll see that scene from the other POV in Ocean Master’s issue). We then see the CSA’s speech in Forever Evil #1 from Manta’s perspective, and how he reacts when he discovers that Aquaman is ‘dead’ at the hands of the CSA. What does a villain do when his only motivation is taken away from him?
Manta heads to his father’s grave, and tells him that ‘it’s over’, and I have to say, I did feel a little sorry for him right there. Johns gets a lot of shit for seemingly caring about the villains more than the heroes in his books, but when done well, a complicated villain is a great thing, and in Black Manta, we have that. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) for Manta, he doesn’t have to wait long for a new motivation, as Ultraman’s movement of the Moon to block out the sun causes a change in the tides (I loved Ultraman’s nonchalant reaction to this destruction, he’s such a dick) and since Manta’s dad is buried near the sea, his grave is washed away. So now Black Manta has a new mission… to kill the Crime Syndicate Of America, and he’s armed with Aquaman’s trident.
This was just a great issue, it brought Manta back to prominence for the Aquaman book, since it’s been in prison for a while, it really dove into his motivation and psychology, and gave us a really good reason for why he’s going to be a major player in Forever Evil and side with Lex Luthor. I wish all of the Villain’s Month books were like this, not meaningless fill-ins, but written (or at least co-written) by the ongoing writers and contributing to the big crossover and/or ongoing stories, this is what this month should have been, not a clusterfuck. Claude St. Aubin’s artwork was decent too, he managed to make Manta’s admittedly goody costume look really menacing, and the silent underwater scenes were very well-paced.
I can’t believe that Black Manta is one of the best villains DC has right now, but it’s true, and this is one of the best books they’ll do this month.
Justice League #23.2 – Lobo – This has been one of the most controversial Villain’s Month books, which came as a surprise to me, because I really didn’t think people cared about Lobo in 2013. I personally have never really care about Lobo, I liked him in 52, but other than that… he’s like Deadpool, a one-note joke that I wasn’t fussed about. So all of the furor about the new skinny Lobo meant zip no me, and it meant I could enjoy what was a pretty great comic that introduced a pretty bad-ass take on the character. This new Lobo is a no-nonsense killing machine, and he’s great.
I thought it was a little bit on the nose for Marguerite Bennett to repeat the refrain that we the audience don’t know Lobo at all, but I suppose it is true, we don’t know this new version of Lobo. This issue was fairly simple story-wise, and was mainly a way to introduce the character and show how ruthless he is in carrying out his Bounty Hunter job. I love how, when he discovered that the cargo he was carrying was actually a race of people who were being transported to be killed for the magical bones (or something like that), he didn’t show any mercy, and just locked them back up and delivered them anyways. Lobo does not give a single fuck.
The artwork in this issue was another highlight, I’ve always liked Ben Oliver, and this was one of the best looking Villain’s Month titles so far, this wasn’t rushed fill-in stuff, it looked really good, especially the action sequences, which were crisp and brutal. As for the redesigned Lobo, I like it too, it’s a visual that works a lot better for the modern day than the classic Lobo, which really does feel incredibly 90s-tastic, and it’s interesting to see such a bad-ass killing machine not be a roided-out freak. People are always crying out for more variety in female body types in comics, so why not men as well? The physiques of male superheroes are just as idealized as female ones when you think about it, it’s just that the male figure is not as inherently sexualized in our culture.
In the end, as reward for his human (well, alien) trafficking, Lobo is given information about where the fake Lobo (the one we are familiar with) has been hiding, and duh, it’s Earth. Marguerite Bennett has once again impressed me with her writing, the Batman Annual she co-wrote with Scott Snyder was good, and this solo outing may be even better, I’m certainly going to check out her first ongoing gig at DC, whatever it is (unless it’s Batgirl or something shit).
The only real problem with this issue is one that’s present in a lot of these villain’s month books, even though this is a Justice League issue, the next place this new Lobo is set to appear is in the pages of Supergirl, which is dumb, DC need to label these titles properly.
Justice League Of America #7.2 – Killer Frost– My store was shorted on this issue, but they should have it soon, expect a review then.
The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys #4(of 6)– As the second half of this mini begins, things are really coming together and this was the best issue so far. It’s still a weird mish-mash of ideas, but it’s coalescing now, and the emotions here were powerful enough to override any problems.
I’ve said before the best part of this comic (along with the amazing art from Cloonan) is the relationship between the Pornodroids Red and Blue, and that was in evidence in this issue, as Red and Blue attempt to flee Bat City and make it into the desert, where because there is no electricity, they will die together. They want to go out together, but unfortunately just as they are about to make it, Red is shot by some goons, and Blue is left alone. It was a tragic scene, and I’m very excited to see what role Blue will play in the remaining issues.
Also very powerful were the scenes with Korse, the bald guy who was the villain of the original Killjoys music videos. In a previous issue we found out that he had hidden depths, had a secret gay lover and was beginning to realize the evil of the BLI regime. In this issue, his secrets are discovered, and his lover is killed by The Mayor and her soldiers. That was a great scene, especially with the Mayor’s speech about how terrible love is over the top of it, she’s a really good villain. Are we meant to believe that the men she has tied up in her dungeon are the original Killjoys? Or is she just making them wear the masks that are on the floor as some kind of kink? Hmm…
Out in the desert, we see that the new Killjoys are about to begin their attack on the City, and it looks like Val Velocity may be just as big a villain as The Mayor is, as he’s seriously unhinged, he doesn’t care about being a hero, he just wants violence, as he says ‘killing is the new cool’. He even goes and kills Doctor Death-defying, which is pretty messed-up. It also seems like the little cat that has been following around The Girl is actually some kind of tracking device for the BLI, which is a shocker.
Things are heating up now, and I expect the final 2 issues of this mini to really go mental. This is a story and world that as I’ve said, doesn’t really make sense, but it works because of the emotion and ideas, those final few pages where snippets of lyrics from the My Chemical Romance songs come in were very powerful. Gerard Way has proved himself to be a great comics writer, and whilst I’d prefer more Umbrella Academy, he, Simon and Cloonan are doing great work here.
King’s Watch #1– One of my favourite Marvel books of the last few years was Jeff Parker’s Agents Of Atlas, where he took a bunch of Marvel’s forgotten, pulpy characters like Gorilla Man and 3D Man and really made them work in a series of crazy adventures. Even though Marvel gave it plenty of chances, it never got a big enough audience and it finally came to an end. Now it looks like Jeff Parker is going to get the chance to revisit the same kinds of characters and genres over at Dynamite, only this time he’s getting to use people we may have actually heard of in the shape of Flash Gordon, The Phantom and Mandrake The Magician. I remember watching this grouping as a kid in the cartoon ‘Defenders Of The Earth’, and this is a great modernization of that concept and a cool new, continuity-free take on these classic characters for new readers.
This first issue introduces our 3 main heroes, along with Lothar, Mandrake’s assistant, and a few of Flash Gordon’s famous supporting cast, like Dr Zarkov and Dale Arden, as well as the mysterious threat they will have to face, which is a weird light in the sky that is causing bad dreams throughout the world. Flash Gordon and Dr Zarkov are planning to head off into space to find out what the light’s deal is and Mandrake is receiving dire warnings from a demon. Oh yeah, and The Phantom fights an awesome dinosaur man. That was probably the best scene in the comic, the Phantom kicks some serious ass. These are great, classic characters, and it’s awesome to see them in such a modern series that pays great tribute to their past, and even though I’m a little surprised that the 3 main heroes are yet to meet, I’m glad Parker is taking things slowly, he needs to reintroduce these guys to an audience and show that they aren’t just Billy Zane or Brian Blessed camp.
I’m betting that the villain behind these lights is Ming The Merciless, but I’m willing to be to surprised, I’m also interested in what the nature of being ‘King’s Watch’ is, it’s obviously a name that means more than just these characters originally belonging to the King Features Syndicate right?
If you’re a long-term fan of these classic heroes, you should check out this new Ultimatized take, but even if you aren’t familiar, this is well worth reading, Parker is a great writer, he has a real affinity for this kind of story, and really, if you read superheroes, you need to be familiar with these characters, they are very influential, The Phantom, not Superman, is arguably the first ever superhero.
Marc Laming’s artwork was also very good, I’m not familiar with him, but he has a good style that’s very reminiscent of the artists Parker worked with on Agents Of Atlas, realistic, but also capable of getting a bit out there, like the fight between Phantom and the dinosaur-man, this is overall a great book, with stuff like this and Uncanny, Dynamite are on a real hot-streak.
So that’s that then.
As I said, this was a good week, I’d say my favourite comic this week was probably Mighty Avengers #1, but I also really enjoyed the Lobo and Black Manta one-shots, as well as Avengers Arena.
Join me next week for even more Villain’s Month craziness, as well as new issues of Superior Spider-Man, Daredevil, Thor and a brand-new Image book from Ales Kot… Zero.