Hi there, and welcome along to another exciting comics reviews column from me, Punchy! AKA Niam Suggitt, I’m also thinking about changing my name to some kind of weird symbol.
This is another strong week of comics, with more of our now regular crossover books in Infinity, Battle Of The Atom and Villain’s Month. There’s also new issues of Superior Spider-Man, Batman ’66, a new arc of Thor: God Of Thunder that is perfect for new readers, a very topical issue of Daredevil and an exciting new Image series from Ales Kot… Zero.
As ever, you can click the links next to each review to head to the Outhouse forums, which are always a good time.
Superior Spider-Man #18– This Spider-Man 2099 crossover story continues to be a hell of a lot of fun, even for someone like me, who, as I said last time, is not at all familiar with Spidey 2099.
The issue begins with the two Spider-Men face to face, and Dan Slott has a lot of fun with the fact that, whilst Miguel O’Hara knows who the present day Spider-Man is (or was), SpOck has literally no idea, this dude could be a blue symbiote for all he knows. This was a good way to demonstrate a fact that a few fans have found a little confusing, that the only memories of Peter Parker’s that Doc Ock can access are the ones he had already looked at prior to #9 of this series, and also ramped up the danger for our ‘hero’, as the mysterious stranger from the future knows his secret identity, and could very well figure out what’s going on.
The fight between the Spideys was very cool, and the way Dan Slott has Tiberius Stone in the background, mucking things up for SpOck without him knowing was very clever. Just the basic idea for this story is very clever, Spider-Man 2099 knows that doing the right thing here and stopping the bad guy will lead to his own erasure from history, what should he do? Of course, Superior Spider-Man has no such qualms, he’s just out to stop Stone to keep Horizon going and fuel his ego.
Unfortunately, in the process of trying to smuggle his latest experiments out, he may very well have lost his job. After months and months of everything going way too swimmingly for SpOck, it looks like his life is getting a dose of that Parker luck after all. That ending certainly seems to hint that SpOck has majorly fucked up, just as 2099 was about to save the day, and Grady Scraps was about to prove that Tiberius Stone was behind all of Horizon’s troubles, SpOck swings in and decks 2099. Uh-oh…
Ryan Stegman’s artwork was once again very good, he’s a great fit for Spider-Man, and here, not only does he get to draw to of them, but he really manages to make Superior Spidey’s new costume look fantastic. This was another excellent issue of Superior Spider-Man, this book has never once let me down, even though I was kind of confused by the Goblin scene in this issue, why is the Green Goblin dressing up as the Hobgoblin? It’s odd, and I do have to say that I think there are too many Goblins these days, hopefully this big story that Slott has up his sleeves will whittle them down a bit.
But in the meantime, we’ve got a Time-Crisis to sort out, wouldn’t it be crazy if this story ended with Superior Spider-Man erasing Spider-Man 2099 from history? I would love that, it would piss people off so much.
Thor: God Of Thunder #13– Jason Aaron begins his next big Thor storyline, and not only is it awesome, but it’s a great new jumping on point for new readers, especially people who check out Thor: The Dark World in the Cinema and want more of Thor going up against Malekith, as the leader of the Dark Elves is the villain in both the new movie, and this new arc.
In fact, the whole first half of this comic is devoted to Malekith, and a mission to rescue him from his imprisonment in Niffleheim. A squad of Dark Elves try and bust him out of a pit of snakes, and have to fight some giant spiders, which is pretty awesome, Aaron always brings the Heavy Metal fantasy to this book. In the end, Malekith is free, but of his rescuers, only the brilliantly-named Scumtongue has survived, and even then, he has had to cut off his own tongue and become ‘Scumtongue the tongueless’ which is even cooler. Malekith then proceeds to eat the hearts of the giant spiders. Even though I’m not that familiar with this particular villain, it’s still obvious he’s a bad dude.
We then cut to a far lighter scene, but still great stuff, as Thor enjoys a feast with The Warriors Three and Lady Sif. The dialogue between these characters is fantastic, and once again, it’s clever on Aaron’s part to use these characters, as they are fairly significant parts of the Thor movies, as well as being just plain awesome in their own rights. The feast, and relentless mockery of Volstagg (The Voluminous) is interrupted by a Dark Elf having a freak out, and sensing that his home, Svartalfheim, is burning.
The Warriors Of Asgard immediately head out to see what’s what, and what’s what is of course, Malekith, who upon discovering that the Dark Elf race has gone a bit soft in his absence, has slaughtered entire villages of women and children. As I said, a bad dude. Thor and the gang confront him, and whilst there is a bit of clunky exposition about who Malekith is (I didn’t mind it too much, as I personally needed it, but I imagine some Thor aficionados will have really disliked it), Malekith once again shows how dangerous he is, by dismembering an Elf right in front of our heroes. Thor manages to save her, by using Mjolnir to cauterize her stump, but Malekith has escaped, off to kill the rest of the Dark Elf people (on an awesome looking winged white tiger, as I said, Aaron can bring the metal, this whole book is like a 1970s album cover), and the chase is on.
This was a great first issue of what looks to be an exciting story, the villain is awesome, and as I said, it’s perfect for new readers coming in from the movies, the villain is the same, the supporting cast and sense of humour is there, and as an added bonus, this issue contains a map of the Nine Worlds, which is certainly useful.
The artwork for this arc comes from Ron Garney, who did some really good work with Aaron on Wolverine, and they continue that chemistry here. Garney’s style is not as painterly and epic as Ribic’s was, but it definitely suits this more traditional, superhero story. All in all, this was another great issue of Thor, and that rarest of beasts… a perfect opportunity for newbies. Get on it!
Captain Marvel #16– Look you guys, you know I’m a big fan of Captain Marvel and this whole series, but seriously, this issue was really kind of bad. Hell, I’d go as far to say it wasn’t just bad, it was entirely unnecessary and a real waste of money.
Unlike the previous ‘Infinity’ tie-in issue, where Kelly-Sue DeConnick and co-writer Jen Van Meter did a decent enough job of ‘dancing through the crossover raindrops’ and telling their own story, here, pretty much the entire issue was just a retelling of stuff we’ve already read, whether in last week’s issue of Avengers, or this week’s issue of Infinity. There was almost nothing new here, apart from maybe a little bit more detail on the nature of Carol’s Binary powers and some moderately entertaining banter between Cap and Spider-Woman, but apart from that… nada. Seriously, more of this comic was written by Jonathan Hickman than the two credited writers. I’ve been enjoying Infinity a lot, but it seems like the fact that it’s been so tightly-plotted by just one writer has not left the tie-ins very much room. It’s a shame, because normally, this book is very good.
Patrick Oliffe’s art was solid, but when you’ve seen the same scenes already when drawn by the likes of Leinil Yu, Dustin Weaver and Jerome Opena, it kind of pales in comparison and looks very old-fashioned. Let’s hope #17 can bring things back on track with Carol’s own ongoing storylines, because this was just lame.
I wonder if there are any people out there who are reading this book, but not Infinity, perhaps they enjoyed it more? I dunno, but this was just a re-tread of stuff we’ve already seen, a real missed-opportunity and a bummer.
Daredevil #31– Hoo boy, I can sense this issue might cause a little bit of controversy. Or maybe not, I’ve been off-base in predicting that sort of thing lately. In this issue, Mark Waid and Chris Samnee do a ‘Law & Order’ and do a story that’s ‘ripped from the headlines’, and boy, what a headline this is. The case in this issue, where a white person is found innocent of the shooting of a young black kid they suspected of being a criminal is clearly, CLEARLY, based on the still controversial Trayvon Martin case, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s all a bit too soon for comics to be tackling this kind of issue.
Of course, this isn’t just Mark Waid getting on his soapbox (he has Twitter for that), as things quickly spiral out of control. As the prosecutor, a black man, is giving a statement on the Courthouse steps, he appears to reveal the names and addresses of the 12 members of the jury that let the killer off, calling them racist and basically inciting a riot. Of course, he didn’t actually do this, and only Matt Murdock can tell, and he suspects that this is down to the Sons Of The Serpent, and one of their hired guns, The Jester. It’s been great to see Waid turn a lot of these Z-List lame villains into credible threats, and if he can do what he did to The Spot to The Jester, then that would be fantastic, he doesn’t even really appear in this issue and he’s a credible threat.
Daredevil manages to save the prosecutor and the jury, as well as quell the riot (thanks to some help from Hank Pym, I’m still really loving the way Waid is using that character in this book), and he’s on The Jester’s trail, about to enter his apartment, where he’ll find… Foggy Nelson hanging from a noose? What the! That was a shocking ending to an issue that was already very surprising, now, there’s no way Foggy has committed suicide (he spent he opening few pages of the issue talking about how Matt’s fearlessness has rubbed off on him, and he’s probably not dead yet anyway), but for The Jester to set that up really does make him a formidable threat. And what the hell do the Legion Of Monsters have to do with this story? They are on the cover to #32 for some reason.
This book is still so consistently good, Samnee’s art perfectly complements Waid’s writing, I just hope the topical nature of the story here doesn’t put people off, what do you think? Are recent real-life cases fair game to insert superheroes into? Or is it too close to a still very raw bone?
New Avengers #10– I don’t know about everyone else, but of the two sides of the Infinity story, I’m enjoying the Earth-based Illuminati vs Thanos side a lot more than the Avengers out in Space fighting Builders stuff. It’s got a much more interesting villain, and the actual New Avengers themselves are centre-stage, as opposed to just hangers-on in a cosmic war. This issue was perhaps my favourite part of this event so far, it was just great.
Hickman begins right where Infinity #2 left off, with Black Bolt telling the rest of the Illuminati the real reason why Thanos is on Earth… to find and kill his son. Black Bolt sends the rest of the Illuminati off around the planet to find Thanos Jr, but he and Maximus The Mad have a bigger plan. I can’t wait to find out what it is! Oh wait, Infinity #3 is out this week too, happy days.
We then check in on Thanos, as his lieutenants report back to him about what they found, and man, he is not happy with Black Dwarf, who was defeated by Black Panther. I was surprised that Thanos didn’t kill Black Dwarf, but I suppose there’s still a long way to go in this story. I think the best scene in this issue was the very dialogue-heavy one where the Illuminati sit down and discuss what happened in each attack they face, especially Namor’s revelation that Atlantis was completely destroyed, and the very awkward pause that followed. I can’t wait until Black Panther find out that Namor sent the entire army of Thanos at him, that is going to be amazing.
So, the team go looking for Thanos Jr across the world, and eventually, Doctor Strange finds him in Greenland, only… Doctor Strange is under the control of Ebony Maw, who so far, is by far the best of Thanos’ Black Order, and so it’s not the good guys who are going to find the kid, but Thanos himself, oh dear. The ending of this issue was also fantastic, as Hickman showed that even though this booked is tied-up in a crossover, he hasn’t forgotten the central conceit, and yet another Incursion begins. It’s so great that not only do the New Avengers have to deal with Thanos they also have this too, it never rains but it pours.
The artwork from Mike Deodato was once again fantastic, I think he’s done a fantastic job in replacing Steve Epting, and his depiction of Thanos is brilliant.
This was a great example of a tie-in, not only does it greatly contribute to the huge ongoing epic crossover, but it also continues on New Avengers’ own stories, not just the Incursions, but also the rivalry between Black Panther and Namor. I often give Hickman crap for forgetting about characterisation in amongst his grand clockwork schemes, but here, the conflict between the characters still shines strongest.
Uncanny X-Men #12– Part 4 of ‘Battle Of The Atom’, and whilst this issue was mostly just talking, it was Bendis-talk, which I love, and hey, when you think about it, it’s actually a refreshing change of pace for characters in a superhero crossover to just stop and talk about what’s going on. I imagine both Civil War and AvX could all have been sorted if Iron Man, Captain America and later Cyclops had just stopped to chat!
This issue opens with a very funny scene where Maria Hill is once again exasperated by the actions of the X-Men, and Beast in particular. I loved seeing Hill get all pissed off, and how both Dazzler and Agent Coulson reacted to her. Now imagine if the X-Men somehow do blow up the Moon in this story, how great would that be?
We then get back into the meat of things, with OG Cyclops and Jean Grey looking for asylum with Present-Day Cyclops and his team. This was all a bit recap-tacular, but it was necessary, and since it’s Bendis, all of the dialogue shone. I especially liked the reactions of the newer characters in the margins, those characters are obviously not major parts of this story, but they are still cool. I also liked the increasingly disturbing Magik’s role here, she is one messed-up lady.
We then go back to the other X-Men and the Future dudes, as Kitty and Rachel Grey are taken to task for allowing Scott and Jean to escape. Its looking increasingly likely that the Future X-Men are up to some seriously shady mental manipulation here, and the writers of this story are being subtle about it, but it’s there, notice that both Storm and Magneto tell someone that they are ‘still greaving the loss of Xavier’, pretty much the exact same words, that, in my mind, were definitely planted there by either Xavier Jr or Jean-Xorn. Present-Day Cyclops decides to help his younger self, and whilst there most definitely are some creepy undertones to that decision, I think he’s right to, the Future X-Men are up to no good. Of course, at the end, they show up, and it looks like next issue will feature a showdown between Emma Frost and Jean-Xorn. Emma said the message boards will love this, and guess what… she’s right!
This story has continued to be very enjoyable, even with more slower-paced issues like this one, as I’ve said before, so much of what has made the X-Titles good for the past year is that the conflicts are not just physical, but philosophical, about who says what, and this issue continued that, only on a larger scale.
Chris Bachalo’s art was great as usual, the only problem with it was the plethora of inkers, which did give the book a bit of a mish-mashed feel, but his pencils are strong enough and distinctive enough to avoid that problem. We’ve now seen what Bendis and Wood are bringing to this story, next week sees Jason Aaron’s turn, I can’t wait to see what he and his glorious beard do.
Cable And X-Force #14– With Cable and Havok reaching an agreement at the end of this issue, as well as Hope seemingly curing Cable of the psychic premonitions that were killing him, it looks like this is the end of the first part of the story Dennis Hopeless is telling, and Cable and X-Force can move on from fighting the Uncanny Avengers issue, which is good news. As much as I like seeing Doctor Nemesis quote Dune and annoy the fuck out of Sunfire, it was getting a bit repetitive.
This issue opens with Hope being sent back to the present-day to save Cable by her future self and Blaquesmith, and in the process getting a slightly teaked look. Future Hope ripped off that natty old cloak and gave her a pretty awesome new Jetpack, which is cool. I really like Dennis Hopeless’ sense of humour, and stuff like Future Hope trying to fix her fashion faux pas is brilliant.
We then go back to Avengers Mansion, for the big fight, featuring the aforementioned Doctor Nemesis/Sunfire battle, but also Forge Vs Thor, Domino Vs Captain America and Boom Vs Scarlet Witch. Perhaps the best part of this issue was Wolverine, who, not wanting to fight his fellow X-Dudes for no reason, spent all of this issue eating crisps (chips to you Americans) and being more bad-ass than he’s been in a while without doing anything. Man, he gets a lot of shit, but Wolverine is great.
Cable is still freaking out, and he’s about to kill Havok, until Hope comes in and saves the day, using a ‘Psimitar’ to stab Cable in the head and saves him. It’s wonky comics science, but it works, let’s not try and pretend Cable hasn’t always been full of stupid shit like this. So, Cable is saved, and now that Havok knows he isn’t actually a terrorist, he agrees to let his nephew go free. The slate seems to be clean for X-Force, so what next? I’m excited to see it, especially now that Cable and Hope are on the same page. Larroca’s artwork was as solid as always, especially on the pages where Hope was flying around on her new Jetpack, she looked bad-ass.
Infinity #3(of 6) – I’ve said before that my favourite side of the Infinity coin is the Earth-set Thanos storyline, so I was a little bit annoyed that the entire first two thirds of this issue were focused on the space stuff instead, but I nevertheless enjoyed this issue.
The artwork from Weaver and Opena continues to be fantastic, and their two styles mesh together incredibly well, every page looks beautiful, I particularly liked the sequence by Opena where Starbrand unleashed his power, that was some iconic shit right there.
So, with the space-stuff, everything is looking pretty bleak for the Avengers and the rest of the Galactic Alliance, after J’Son Of Spartax’s dick-move in last week’s Avengers, the Builders have attacked again, and seem to have taken the upper hand, with many alien races surrendering. Including the Centaurians (think Yondu from Guardians Of The Galaxy), the Kymellians (Power Pack!) and perhaps most importantly, the fucking Kree! J’Son also takes the Spartax home, but screw those guys. So, basically, the Galactic Alliance is now only the Avengers, the Shi’Ar, the Skrulls and Annihilus’ Negative Zone crew, which may sound like bad news, but for this story, it’s actually very good news. Up until now, the Avengers have been a minor part in this conflict really, just following orders, but given the Alliance’s depleted state, they can now take centre-stage and actually do something. Captain America makes a plan… and it works.
They lure the Builders in, and thanks to Manifold, teleport inside one of their Worldkiller ships, and take control of it, giving them a weapon that can actually defeat the Builders, since it’s one of their own. They rescue the captured Avengers, and when Starbrand does his thing, it looks like for the first time, the Builders are on the ropes, exciting stuff.
Hickman then takes us back down to Earth, and as well as reflecting what’s been going on in some of the Infinity tie-in books (we see Red Hulk, which is I assume a reference to what’s been happening in Thunderbolts, and also Luke Cage’s new Mighty Avengers), in particular New Avengers, picking up with the Illuminati about to deal with the latest Incursion. Well, the Illuminati apart from Black Bolt, because when we last saw him, he was about to be attacked by Thanos. When Thanos arrives in Attilan, it’s deserted apart from Black Bolt, Maximus The Mad and Lockjaw, Black Bolt and his brother have sent the Inhumans away, teleporting them across the Earth, each of them to a different place. Thanos confronts good ol’ Blackagar, asking him to hand over Thanos’ son, but Black Bolt refuses, and he does that thing he rarely does, but when he does it, it’ss always awesome, he speaks. Just one word, ‘No’, but it’s enough to destroy Attilan, and also activate whatever device it is he had Maximus create.
It looks like this is the inciting event for Matt Fraction’s upcoming Inhumanity series, Black Bolt has not only unleashed the Terrigen Mists upon the world, but he’s also sent those who were already Inhuman across the planet as well. Truly, this is the age of the Inhuman, which is pretty cool. I wonder if this is the end of Black Bolt? I doubt Thanos is dead here, but Black Bolt, Maximus and Lockjaw very well could be.
This was another excellent issue of Infinity, the Earth-scenes were as excellent as always, and with the shift in momentum for the Avengers out in space, I enjoyed those scenes a lot as well, this really is a very well put together event, and with stuff happening in it like what just happened to Attilan, it really does feel like a capital ‘e’ Event.
Action Comics #23.3 – Lex Luthor– Wow, was this a busy week for Charles Soule or what? He has 3 Villain’s Month books out, and luckily, all of them were pretty damn good. Whilst his upcoming Superman/Wonder Woman series has been getting a lot of advanced criticism for being sexist (or something), I’m actually quietly excited for it, firstly because Soule wrote an excellent Superman guest-appearance in the pages of Swamp Thing, and now because of this really good one-shot focusing on Supes’ arch-nemesis. Now, whilst we haven’t seen him tackle anything Wonder Woman yet, I’m confident that Soule has at least one half of the book’s dynamic down.
This issue does a very good job at filling in the gaps between Trinity War and Forever Evil, which, despite having the same writer, went from having Lex in Prison to being free with no explanation. We see Lex be released from prison, and from then on, he’s generally just a glorious dickhead to everyone, and Soule does an excellent job at getting inside his head. I loved the scenes where Lex wonders about where Superman is on his release (unaware that Big Blue has been ‘killed’ by the Crime Syndicate), and how Lex believes that Superman is obsessed with him, and it’s definitely not the other way around, oh no.
Because Superman is nowhere to be seen, Lex orchestrates a space-ship crash to try and get him to reveal himself, but when he doesn’t, he makes sure the ship crash-lands into a business rival’s house, which was some pretty great plotting on Soule’s part, and shows just how vindictive Lex Luthor is. It was also fun to see Lex push his assistant off of a building, even though he looks like being the de facto hero of Forever Evil, it’s worth remembering how much of a dick he is.
The issue ends with Lex getting on the Helicopter for the meeting with Kord he had in Forever Evil #1, and overall, that’s what this issue was, a great set-up for Lex’s role in this crossover. He has been surprisingly absent for a lot of the New 52 Superman stories, so it’s great to have him back in a large role, and to have his obsessions detailed by a good writer like Soule, I certainly hope that Lex plays a large role in Superman/Wonder Woman.
The art here comes from Raymund Bermudez, and he’s an artist I’m not familiar with at all, but his work here was very good, solid superhero work, reminding me of Mahmud Asrar or Ron Garney in some ways, I reckon he has a future at DC.
Batman #23.3 – Penguin – Frank Tieri is one of those writers who can pretty much always be relied on to step in and write a solid story, especially when it’s set in either the world of Batman or Wolverine. In this Villain’s Month issue, he takes on one of Batman’s most famous, but probably most misused villains and manages to make The Penguin a bad-ass, whilst at the same time, not taking away the stuff that makes him different and interesting. Yes, the 1960s Penguin with his prop umbrellas was a bit ridiculous and silly, but just turning him into a Kingpin rip-off is equally stupid in my eyes.
Here, Tieri has Oswald Cobblepot act very much in the Crime-Boss vein, running a Casino, manipulating Politicians, etc. But he also has him kill some people with prop umbrellas, but these aren’t ridiculous umbrellas, oh no, these umbrellas are dangerous weapons, and he brutally dispatches 3 con-men in a brutal scene. Tieri also made good use of The Penguin’s freakish appearance, and how being bullied as a child made him the monster he is today. Basically, this story tied in all of the things there is to like about this villain and made him interesting to me again, and I’m excited to see what happens when he makes his next appearance in Snyder’s book.
In many ways, the story here was about Penguin trying to rebuild his rep, and Tieri does that meta-textually here, the Penguin is no joke, even if you’re his friend, he’ll dose you with Venom and have you eat your secretary. He’s hardcore.
Christian Duce is another artist who’s new to me (Villain’s Month is full of new discoveries) but he does a good job here, managing to make the Penguin look scary and not silly, which was the main point of the story.
Wonder Woman #23.1 – Cheetah - With Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s title being so disconnected from the rest of the DCU, it’s weird to have an issue of ‘Wonder Woman’ that is related to the wider universe, but this was by John Ostrander, so it was pretty damn good. Even though Cheetah is currently a member of the team Ostrander is most famous for, the Suicide Squad, he avoids most of that team, and instead delves deeper into Cheetah’s origin, which was hinted at by Geoff Johns in the pages of Justice League.
In that arc, it was revealed that it wasn’t the magic knife that made Cheetah evil, but that Barbara Minerva was already a bad person before she got all catted up. Ostrander shows us Barbara’s origins, being raised in some weird cult that worshipped the Amazons and the Goddess Of The Hunt, and how Cheetah’s freaky Aunt made her hunt and kill her brother, which is all kinds of fucked up. A lot of these ‘terrible flashbacks’ in Villain’s Month have been boring and repetitive, but this one was nice and different.
In the present, Cheetah is hunting down her surviving family so she can move on from her past life, and with all of the superheroes ‘dead’, it’s left to another familiar character to hunt Cheetah down, Mark Shaw, who is one of the many Manhunters. In the New 52, Shaw is a US Marshal, and, so, despite not being a superhero yet, he’s already a manhunter. It was cool to see this character show up, and I’m interested to see where he’ll appear next, and how DC will streamline the complicated history of the Manhunter name.
This was a solid comic, but it doesn’t really fit with the way Wonder Woman is now, Azzarello and Chiang’s take is not a superhero book at all, and stuff like this and her role in Justice League seem odd to me now. But the art from Victor Ibanez was good, and it’s always good to see John Ostrander writing some DC villains, so it was worth it in that respect.
Green Lantern #23.3 – Black Hand – Charles Soule’s second Villain’s Month book of this week, and even though it’s about a villain I would have been more than happy to see dead, this was still a very well-told story, and it does set up Black Hand in an interesting new way, that most definitely makes things more personal between him and Hal Jordan.
Black Hand is reborn for some unknown reason, right in the middle of the chaos that’s raging across the DCU in the wake of Forever Evil. Confused about who he is, he is taken out, not by a superhero, but by some Cops. The best thing about this issue was how it demonstrated some new, creepy ways that Black Hand can use his death powers. To escape from Prison he kills a cockroach, reanimates it, and sends it out to bring him a dead rat, which he can bring back, and send to get something bigger, and so on, until a zombie can come and rescue him. Then, to make his way past the Police in the midst of a riot, he brings back to life a dead virus inside one of the cops who had just been vaccinated. Soule has come up with some very cool ideas here, and it’s made Black Hand more than just a guy who can create zombies.
Although he can do that too, as at the end of this issue he resurrects none other than Martin Jordan, none other than Green Lantern’s dad, and the star of a zillion flashbacks in Johns’ run. Black Hand takes Martin’s hand for his own, which means that the next time Hal Jordan takes on this villain, he’ll also be facing his own father, which should make for a great story if done right.
Alberto Ponticelli’s artwork contributed a lot to this story, he’s a dark, gritty artist, and that really worked for what is essentially a zombie book. This was good stuff, I thought that I had had more than enough of Black Lanterns, but I guess I was wrong, the next time Black Hand shows up, I expect something good.
Swamp Thing #23.1 – Arcane – This is Charles Soule’s third comic this week, and given that this is for the book he’s already doing great work on, it makes sense that it’s the best. Arcane hasn’t appeared in Soule’s run yet, with Scott Snyder taking him off the board after Rotworld, but this was a welcome return for both Anton and Abby, and it shows that whilst Soule is mostly introducing new threats in his Swamp Thing run, he’s more than capable of writing the classics.
This issue begins with Arcane in his own idea of hell, a perfect world where nothing rots at all. He tries to kill a rabbit, but can’t, it just stays the same, nothing rots. He is then visited by Abby Arcane, the new Avatar of the Rot, who is looking for answers about her past, and in particular, what Anton did to her mother.
The answer to these questions are delightfully creepy, as Anton takes us through his origins, including a disgusting scene where he eats a rotting rabbit carcass, and how Anton experimented on Abby’s mother, making her skin rot, and then replacing it over time, until she was some kind of patch-work Frankenstein’s monster. And then, the final kicker (which we already knew from Snyder’s run, I think), that the woman Abby remembered as her mother, wasn’t her mother at all, just ‘some whore’, and that Abby’s real mother was killed by Abby when she was a baby.
This whole comic just had a brilliant air of creepiness to it, which makes a lot of sense, since Swamp Thing is really a horror comic, and Anton Arcane certainly brings the horror. In the end, Abby is furious about the truth she has uncovered, vowing that her Uncle will never escape, but unfortunately, she let him get too much power back, and he seems to have found an opening. That final page with the innocent family and the rotten apple was a great teaser for the future, and I’m excited for what Soule has up his sleeve for the next Arcane/Swamp Thing confrontation.
The artwork from Jesus Saiz here was excellent, he’s already done really good work on previous issues of Soule’s Swamp Thing, so it’s great to see a Villain’s Month book handled by what is basically the regular creative team for once. Too many of these comics have been fill-ins, but this one felt like an integral part of the ongoing story.
Justice League Of America #7.3 – Shadow Thief– This was an odd one for me, mostly because I’ve never liked Hawkman at all, so I’m not familiar with this, or any previous incarnations of the Shadow Thief, so I went into it not caring at all, but in the end, Tom DeFalco actually managed to tell an interesting origin story for this character, and give her a fairly unique motivation for why she’s a villain.
The basic gist here is that Shadow Thief was an Israeli Mossad Agent who defected to the US and ARGUS, but was then betrayed by the fact that ARGUS had been infiltrated by Daemonites. Some weird alien gas kills her mother and brother, and she accidentally puts on what she thinks is a containment suit, but is actually the Shadow Thief outfit. Now, Shadow Thief hates all aliens, and she goes around killing any extra-terrestrials who are on Earth. Which in many ways, could actually be the origin of a superhero, rather than a villain, but DeFalco does make her extra brutal about killing the Thanagarians she fights in this issue, so it’s clear she’s taking it too far. A lot of our heroes in the various Justice Leagues are Aliens, Hawkman, Martian Manhunter, Superman, etc, so it should be fairly interesting to see what happens if and when this Shadow Thief returns to fight them.
So, really, this issue did it’s job, it took a villain I didn’t care about, and made me want to see her show up again, there wasn’t much more than that about from some very nice artwork from Chad Hardin (I may actually check out Harley Quinn now), but this was decent.
Batman ’66 #3– Another very enjoyable issue of Batman ’66, Jeff Parker and his various artistic collaborators are really knocking this stuff out of the park. Much like last issue, this book features 2 stories, and both were a lot of fun.
The first comes from Parker and Joe Quinones, from his Wednesday Comics Green Lantern stuff through to his FF fill-ins, has become one of my favourite artists, and his cartoonish style is perfect for the tone of Batman ’66. This story focuses on the most famous of Batman’s villains, The Joker, as he is targeted by the mysterious Red Hood. It was great fun seeing a much lighter take on the Clown Prince of Crime, there’s only so much of a guy ripping his own face off that you can really take, and this goofy version made for a good alternative. Plus, how great was it that Joe Quinones actually drew in Cesar Romero’s moustache? Amazing.
It was also fun to see a 60s-style take on Harley Quinn. I noticed last time that Parker used Kathy Kane, and now Harley, he really is bringing in the whole of the Batman Universe into this madcap reality! As I’ve said before, crucial to this concept working is that it’s not all a joke, and the plot here, with the Joker planning an escape in his own subconscious was very clever and well-done, and even though Romero-Joker is not as psycho as the modern DCU take, he’s still shown as being a very dangerous foe.
The second story, with Parker being joined by Sandy Jarrell, is much more comedic, but that makes sense, given that the villain here is Egg-Head, so there are plenty of gloriously terrible egg-based puns. I loved how Parker got a little meta here, and had Egghead worry more about his puns than his plan to kill Batman and Robin. Unlike Joker ’66, Egg-Head is not a dangerous villain, he’s a joke, but crucially, he’s a funny one.
I’m really loving this book, and I would probably go as far to say it’s the best Batman comic out there right now, I like Snyder’s series a lot, but Zero Year is a bit of a drag, and this one has amazing art, , well crafted stories, a good sense of humour and most of all… puns! It’s egg-zemplary!
Zero #1– Ever since I was blown away by his truncated run on Suicide Squad, I’ve been very excited for this new Image series from Ales Kot, a writer who I believe has a big future, and indeed, DC’s loss is not only Image’s gain, but now also Marvel’s, as he’s got a gig there co-writing Secret Avengers.
This first issue of Zero felt like only a toe-dip in the water, but already, I’m excited to see where this is all going. Zero is about a bad-ass secret agent named Edward Zero, who seems to have been part of some kind of weird experimentation from the British Government. We don’t know exactly what it is yet, but I am certainly intrigued by the little snippets we get here. The mission for Zero here is certainly dangerous and complicated, because it involves the Gaza Strip, which even in the year 2018 has not been sorted out (let’s face it, it’s never going to get sorted out). Hamas has stolen some kind of super-power technology from British Intelligence, and now a super-powered Hamas Soldier is in fist-fight with a super-powered Israeli in the middle of Gaza. Zero’s job is to get in, and retrieve the technology so Israel doesn’t know that Britain lost it. It’s complicated stuff, but it all seems very real, and setting the book 5 years in the future gives Kot that bit of leeway when he’s drawing from the real world as this kind of technology could very well actually be around come 2018, I wouldn’t be surprised.
So, Zero is trapped in the middle of this massive fight, and boy, is it bloody, it’s the Israel/Palestine conflict boiled down to just 2 men, and our hero is definitely outmatched. I loved the scene where the two super-soldiers are bounding across the rooftops like the Hulk, and Zero tries to do the same, and, whilst hejust about makes it, he does end up face-first in the dirt. In the end, it takes a Tank to stop these guys, and Zero manages to retrieve the stolen tech, but he also decides to kill the Israeli soldier too, because of an innocent child crushed in their battle. The last page ends with Zero revealing he lies to his superiors about what happens, and that he’s going to be lying a lot more, which is exciting.
Speaking of last pages, this book is unique, as it utilises every available space to tell it’s story, and even the inside covers are story pages. This was weird at first, but I really like it, makes the book seem unique, and also very much value for money, this is 30 pages of comic, with no ads, for $2.99, to be honest, a much better deal than Marvel and DC.
This was an intriguing introduction to an exciting new series, with Kot showing us who Zero is not through dialogue, but through action. We don’t know a lot about what this book is going to be yet, there are a few pages with Zero’s handlers, who look to be interesting characters, at first they seem to be adversarial towards each other, but then we see them having sex, so there’s a lot of complexity there. I can’t wait for future issues to peel back the layers on not just Zero, but on these other characters, and what the world will be like in 2018.
In terms of art, Zero is doing something different, as every issue will have a different penciler, which certainly brings to mind another great spy series, Warren Ellis’ Global Frequency. If this book can reach those heights, then we are in for a treat. First up here is Michael Walsh, who I’m not too familiar with, but he does a bang-up job here with a gritty, violent and realistic style, if you like John Paul Leon or Michael Lark, then Walsh is similar to that. It’s also worth praising the colours of Jordie Bellaire, who if I remember correctly, will be colouring every issue, even with the different artists, to provide some sense of continuity. This is a great idea, especially because Bellaire has, in a short space of time, become one of the best colourists in comics. I know I’m a bit lax at mentioning artists beyond the penciler in my reviews, but it’s not often the colourist really stands out to me, but on Zero, it looks like Bellaire is going to be very important, and it’s going to be interesting to see how she colours a wide variety of artists.
Image have done it once again, another #1, and another fascinating comic, that for me, can only get better from this baseline of awesome.
Yep, a baseline of awesome, which is what this column always has! That was a good week of comics for sure, and it’s hard to pick a favourite, I’ll probably go for New Avengers #10, I’ve been loving Infinity, and that was probably the best chapter yet, but you should also definitely check out Zero, and as I’ve repeatedly said, if the upcoming Thor Sequel has you hankering for hammer-based comics, then pick up this new arc of Thor: God Of Thunder, you will not be disappointed.
Next week is an absolutely massive week, yes, there’s the last lot of Villain’s Month, and some top-level Marvel books, but most excitingly, Image are opening up a can of whoop-ass, with not only the latest issues of Fatale, Saga, Jupiter’s Legacy and East Of West, but there’s also the first issue of Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s intriguing new series, Sex Criminals. I can’t wait, Make Mine Image!