Howdy, and welcome to my Comics Review column! It’s late as I write this, so I can’t really be bothered to do a long preamble, but basically, this is a good week of comics. There’s new instalments of all the big crossovers, as well as new Superior Spider-Man, Animal Man and Guardians Of The Galaxy. There’s second issues from exciting new series like Zero and King’s Watch, and oh yeah, a little book called Hawkeye returns!
As usual, click the links to go to the Outhouse forum discussion for each issue.
Superior Spider-Man #19– Dan Slott and Ryan Stegman wrap up the very enjoyable Spider-Man 2099 story in excellent fashion here, and also set up some very interesting stuff for the future.
There isn’t too much action in this issue, because Spider-Man 2099 is out cold for most of it, but the character elements for Otto Octavious are very interesting indeed. With 2099 unconscious, it’s up to our ‘hero’ to save the day, and for once, it looks like SpOck is actually inferior to Peter Parker. If Peter was there, he would have been able to remember the equation which would stop the Reverbium from destroying the fabrics of space and time. But of course, Otto never accessed those memories, so he doesn’t know the equation. We see him delve into the memories he does have, and it was very cool to see Stegman redraw many classic Spider-Man moments, in close approximations of the original artists (it may even be the originals) but with Doc Ock’s head replacing Peter’s. During this sequence, we also see a strange silhouette of someone rising from some rubble. It’s pretty obvious that this is Peter Parker in memory form, coming back from the defeat he suffered back in #9, Doc Ock has not completely erased him after all.
In the end, in a rather surprising moment of failure, Spider-Man is unable to remember the equation, and there’s a massive ‘time-quake’ which disappears both Horizon Labs and Spidey. It’s been a lot of fun seeing Doc Ock actually be good at being a hero, but it’s also interesting to see him screw up, for their to be a bit of balance, because at times, you are left wondering why you thought Peter Parker was any good in the first place. This issue showed that Otto, as entertaining as he is, is still no hero. So basically, things are back as they were for Spider-Man 2099, he managed to stop Tiberius Stone from being killed, and his timeline is saved, hooray. But, in the future, Tyler Stone breaks the time machine on their end, stranding Miguel O’Hara in the present. Miguel decides to keep an eye on Tiberius Stone, and becomes his personal assistant, as ‘Michael O’Mara’. This all feels like set-up for a new Spider-Man 2099 series, and whilst I welcome that, it does feel kind of stupid to me to take that character out of his setting and time period entirely. Part of the reason people like the character is because of the world of 2099, do we really care about his exploits in the now?
But then again, with SpOck lost in the time-stream, he’s the only Spidey we have! Except no, Max Modell and Grady Scraps use a nifty machine (and a Doctor Who reference) to rescue Spider-Man and bring him back. We don’t see where he went during the time he was missing, but he returns to a much more unkind world. J.Jonah Jameson has exiled Horizon Labs from New York, Max has fired Peter Parker, Mary-Jane no longer wants to talk to him, and oh yeah, Carlie Cooper has discovered the big secret. That’s a big one, as the issue is book-ended by Carlie and Wraith investigating Spider-Man’s taxes, in one of those tax haven islands, and at the end, Carlie finds a document showing that the money going to Spider-Island comes from… Doctor Octopus. Now, Carlie hasn’t pieced together everything, but it’s coming. I’ve been loving this storyline, and how surprisingly successful Ock has been, but I can’t wait to see all of the bricks come tumbling down. Spider-Man’s lost his job, he’s lost most of his friends, Carlie is close in on the truth, and even though they aren’t in this issue, the Goblins are circling. Oh man, I am excited, this book always delivers and the endgame should be even better.
The art here from Stegman was solid once again, but I did find the constant yellow colouring on most of the pages a bit distracting and annoying, I suppose it did get across the severity of the crisis, but it was a bit much from Edgar Delgado.
Hawkeye #13– After what seems like fucking years, Hawkguy finally returns! And it was… only OK. This book is always entertaining and different, but I really do feel that it’s spinning its wheels.
Grills was killed in #9, and only know does Clint find that out and things start moving forward. This issue basically covers the exact same time period as issues #10, #11 and the first few pages of the Annual. Whilst it is pretty innovative and cool to see all of these events from so many different perspectives, especially seeing more and more of what was actually said in the Pizza Dog issue, it still feels very slow, and after waiting ages for this issue, the lack of momentum was a bit annoying. Hopefully, now that we’ve seen this story from all sides, we can move on.
I know this sounds like I’m being very down on this issue, but I did enjoy it. Matt Fraction’s writing of Clint Barton continues to be fantastic, and there were some truly beautiful moments in this issue. Clint going to see Grills’ dad, Clint’s bizarre dream sequence, Kate’s conversation with Clint in the funeral car, the funeral itself,and then, the final few pages when he reunites with his brother and brings him into the family. All, very good, very human moments and all the kind of things that sets this title apart from other superhero comics. The funeral scene holds the most promise for the future, as the Tracksuit Draculas watch on, with Kaziu being especially menacing.
David Aja’s artwork was, of course, excellent, and whilst this issue didn’t feature anything wildly experimental (unless a 9-panel grid is considered wildly experimental these days, I guess it is), it was just well-told and beautiful to look at.
So yeah, whilst it’s great to have this title back, I was mildly peeved by the still glacial pace. But I suppose the slow pace is the point, this is not your typical superhero title at all, and this is just another way of expressing that. I’m conflicted, but that’s a good thing. This is not a plot-based series really, so to stress about lack of movement with the plot is me slightly missing the point. As long as Fraction keeps hitting the right beats with the characters, and Aja brings the style, everything’s great. But of course, they could do all that and still not tell the same thing 5 times in a row.
Avengers #21– Jonathan Hickman drops 2 Infinity issues on us this week, and for the first time, I think I’m more interested in the Avengers, outer-space half of the story than the New Avengers elements. This issue picked up from the awesomeness that was Infinity #4 and showed the Galactic Alliance fighting back against the builders, and somehow managed to make this even more of an epic space opera than it was before. And it was pretty bloody epic already.
The issue opens with the Ex Nihilos all gathered around Captain Universe, but I’ll get to that later, the best stuff in this issue was the resumption of hostilities. We discover that even after Thor killed The Builder and got Ronan The Accuser onside, the Supreme Intelligence did not want to get back in the fight. So Ronan smashes him and the leads the Accusers and the Kree Army on his own, without the Intelligence’s permission, which is pretty bad-ass. Hickman then quickly shows us the scale of the war, with the Kymellians, the Space-Knights (who aren’t all dead, yay) and the Skrulls all coming back and taking it to The Builders. We also see that the Avengers are fighting alongside the Shi’Ar Imperial Guard, and that they still aren’t winning. So Gladiator and Captain America go for their last resort option… unleashing The Annihilation Wave.
I loved this scene, Annihilation is one of the best Marvel stories of the last decade, and Hickman did a fantastic job of reflecting that, and making this seem like a huge deal. I hope anyone reading Infinity who hasn’t read Annihilation goes out and does so now, you won’t be disappointed. It’s brilliant to see how far the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe has come, back then, it was a separate event, read by a few, now, those same characters and concepts are central parts of an Avengers story, it’s so cool, and the best kind of continuity.
Surprisingly, even the Annihilation Wave is not able to stop The Builders, as they are easily able to manipulate the Bugs and have them turn on eachother, and Annihilus. So what now? Just as everything seemed to be going so well for the Avengers, it’s all gone to shit again? Nope, because Ex Nihilo is able to wake Captain Universe up from her coma, and she confronts her creations. There’s some Hickmanian techno-babble about the Universal Super-Structure and all that jazz, but the end result is, she blasts most of ‘em to death, and the only survivor flees to an alternate universe. So, have our heroes won? Has the tide of this war swung 3 times in the space of one issue? Well, not really, as the last act of The Builders is to command all of the Alephs to ‘Destroy everything’, which certainly is exciting set up for the last part of this event.
I say this every week, but I am just loving this event, and how big it all feels, and this issue felt like the biggest one yet. Hickman finally has a story big enough for all of his ideas, and Leinil Yu is the perfect artist for this stuff, giving everything the right, epic feel. I want more! Oh look, an issue of New Avengers…
New Avengers #11– Whilst I did prefer this week’s issue of Avengers, this was still a very strong book, and it did a bang-up job of not only combining the central ‘Incursions’ storyline of this series with Thanos’ attack on Earth, but it also brought in the other half of Infinity, The Builders.
The Illuminati (sans Black Bolt) are in the Incursion Zone, about to decide what to do, when out of the other Earth drops… an Aleph. This alternate universe Aleph takes the Illuminati on board a Worldkiller Ship from that universe, where we meet some Builders from that reality. Although it seems like The Builders don’t really have home universes, they are (or were) able to travel in between them, these builders just happen to have been stranded in this universe when the Super-Structure collapsed. I did like the touch that this universe’s Ex Nihilos were Red, compared to the Marvel Universe’s yellow. The Builders discover Corvus Glaive’s influence over Doctor Strange, and pull it out of him, and we then learn that the nearly dead Builder who escaped Captain Universe in this week’s Avengers turned up here, which means that, because The Builders of ‘our’ universe are dead, and the Worldkiller cannot travel through the Incursion, the alternate Builders have to destroy their Earth.
So for now, the real Earth is saved, but the Illuminati have another important question to face, should they kill their own planet to save the whole of reality? It’s a big one, and it just adds more to the already dark and twisted central point of this series. They have the weapons to do so, will it come to that?
Speaking of those weapons, Thanos comes into contact with them in this issue, so perhaps they won’t have them for much longer. Back on Earth, there’s a lot of big stuff going on too, we see that Lockjaw and Maximus The Mad have survived, and we also see that Thanos’ attack on Wakanda is not going well for Shuri, as Proxima Midnight forces them to retreat. Man, Proxima is a bad-ass, although was anyone else surprised to find out that she and Corvus Glaive were married? That’s an interesting detail. Thanos discovers the Illuminati’s secret base in Necropolis, and as well as discovering the weapons, he also comes face to face with the Illuminati’s prisoners, Terrax and Black Swan. I loved the little moment between Thanos and Black Swan, that character has kind of been forgotten about during the crossover, but the fact that she seems to intimidate Thanos is very exciting indeed.
I did enjoy this issue, as I do with all things Infinity, but I think perhaps the scenes between the Illuminati and The Builders were a bit too much of a return to the bad old days of infuriating Hickman dialogue. But the stuff on Earth saved it, as did the always excellent Mike Deodato, who draws the best Thanos ever for me. We won’t get another New Avengers issue until after Infinity is over, so I expect that to be pretty damn big.
Fantastic Four #13– The Karl Kesel era of Fantastic Four begins with an issue that, even though it’s mostly set in an alternate reality, refocuses the story and sets us up very nicely for the ending of what Fraction had planned.
We open with the team’s initial departure from Earth, leaving Ant-Man and the rest of the FF gang in charge. Only this time, as soon as the team leaves… Doom, Kang and Annihilus attack. Flash-forward a year, and those bad guys have taken over the world, leaving a rag-tag bunch to try and take them out. In this universe, the Fantastic Four are slightly different. Reed is bald and actually called Stevenson Storm, meaning he and Johnny are brothers. He is still married to Sue, but in this reality, she’s black. Ben Grimm is black as well, both as The Thing and as a human. Apart from this though, everyone else, Namor, Ant-Man, Bentley-23 (who gets the awesome codename ‘Wiz-Kid’ here, although he hates it), Dragon Man and time-transplanted Jean Grey, is the same. I thought it was pretty clever for Kesel to bring in OG Jean Grey here, and have her time-travel status be the reason Doom and the rest can’t track the FF.
The team mount an attack on Doom, but it fails, and we discover that this reality is the one that ‘Old John Storm’ comes from, and he wakes up from dreaming about it. Back in ‘the real world’, we see that Thing’s physical deterioration has continued, he’s now a hideous melting blob, and to top it all off, the other team-members powers are also fucking up even more. Old John tells them all that he knows how to save them, but even if they survive, they will still be… DOOMED! Which does sound pretty ominous doesn’t it?
As I said, this was a good issue, I’m a sucker for alternate realities, and even though the one here wasn’t a big departure, it was cool, and I’m guessing a lot of what we saw here will play into what happens to the real Fantastic Four before this story ends. Kesel has a great affinity for these characters, and he writes them well here, and thow in the usual consistent Bagley art, and I think this book is now moving in the right direction.
In retrospect, this book never reached the heights I thought it should have under Fraction, but now that the central ideas are well, becoming more central, I think we’re going to get a good ending, to set us up nicely for James Robinson’s run. It was also great to see this book and FF link up a bit closer once again, with Scott Lang playing a large role in this issue. Good stuff.
Guardians Of The Galaxy #7– This was a very dialogue-heavy book, but since I’m one of those deviants who loves Brian Michael Bendis’ dialogue, I still enjoyed it a lot, especially since I know next to nothing about Angela, and the back-story provided here was very much needed.
Basically, the Guardians have Angela locked up, and are trying to decide what to do with her. Drax wants to throw her into the nearest sun (who does he think he is? The Sentry?), but the rest want to talk to her. When Angela does decide to finally start chatting, we find out that she is from a place called ‘Heven’ and that she is an Angel, specifically, a Hunter Angel. On Heven, they are told myths and stories about a place called ‘Earth’, much like how we on Earth (those of us brought up in the Judeo-Christian traditions at least) are told about Heaven. Whilst out on a hunt, fighting some rock-monsters, Angela saw a strange light, the time-quake from Age Of Ultron, and then she was in our universe.
Because Star-Lord also saw this light, he knows she is telling the truth, and he sets her free, so she can visit Earth for herself. I thought the short scene between Star-Lord and Iron Man was very good here, Iron Man of course knows what it was that caused the breakdown in time and space, and whilst he doesn’t open up to Quill just yet, you know it’s coming. The Guardians give Angela a comm-device, and let her go and explore Earth, in what feels like definite set-up for a solo series, and then, as Iron Man and Star-Lord discuss what’s next, we see exactly what that is… Infinity!
So yes, whilst this was a basic issue with not much plot, it was still very enjoyable, the dialogue between the characters was a lot of fun, especially Iron Man and Star-Lord’s competing 1980s references, and now, after 2 issues of basically being a silent nothing, Angela has some back-story and characterisation, which is good.
The artwork from Sara Pichelli was fantastic as always, I love the way she draws facial expressions in a way that really imbues pages of just talking with a lot of energy and life. I also really liked Valerio Schiti’s pages depicting the world of Heven, it’s always an effective technique to use a different artist for a different world, and he has a great style, certainly not shitty. This was a quiet issue, but really, it’s the calm before the storm that is Infinity, I expect those issues to be crazy.
Uncanny X-Men #13– ‘Battle Of The Atom’ continues to kick a whole lot of ass, and whilst I don’t think Chris Bachalo’s style is particularly suited to a story with so many characters to follow in big action scenes (I do like Bachalo, but at times this issue was confusing), the story from Bendis here was very well-written, and big, big stuff happened here.
We open with Cyclops’ team (the newbies were left behind) and the good future X-Men about to attack the Jean Grey school, only for the bad future X-Men to attack them, and for Raze, the Wolverine/Mystique hybrid to take off with OG Iceman and Beast. I do like how subtle the writers have been in this story about naming who the future X-Men are, we only find out their names when it’s necessary, like when we find out that the Sorcerer Supreme of the future is Wiccan from the Young Avengers. I fucking hate Wiccan as a character, but the fact that these details come up organically means that every issue of this crossover has a nice surprising moment of discovery at least, in amongst the other madness.
The battle begins in earnest, with Phoenix-Quire taking on the Ice Giant, and Magik and Colossus teaming up to fight Deadpool and Molly Hayes. I wonder what it was that caused Molly to go evil? Her role in this dystopian future is fascinating to me, perhaps it’s caused by Avengers Arena? Anywas, the Rasputins win, with Magik gutting Molly with her sword and teleporting Deadpool to a great height. Cyclops’ team come face to face with Evil Xavier, and he mind-controls Krakoa to eat them, whilst Jean-Xorn mind-controls Magik to try and make her kill herself. Colossus kills Xavier, freeing the Uncanny team, but then, the issue takes a very surprising turn.
The evil future X-Men have all of the original team together, and are about to send them back… but it doesn’t work. Raze goes back in disguise, and it works for him, but for some reason the Original Five can’t. The time-stream has been changed too much for them to safely return. It’s a great ending, and whilst the rules of time-travel make my brain hurt, it seems to make sense, as well as giving a good explanation for why these characters are sticking around after the crossover. The issue ends with the good X-Men confronting the bad X-Men, and oh man, it is on for the last 2 issues.
Bendis and Wood have done good work on this story, but now it’s time for Jason Aaron to wrap things up, I can’t wait. This was a decent issue, mainly because of how much happened in the fight and the deaths of some of the villains, but also in how it continued to drop little hints about the future. This is just a great story, and even Bachalo’s art being an awkward fit can’t derail that.
Cable And X-Force #15– Now that the big story of the first year of this book is over, Dennis Hopeless can move forward, and deliver some lighter, more self-contained stories. This issue features X-Force split into two groups on two missions that are a lot of fun, and it’s all tied together by an interesting story involving the team-member who’s probably had the least to do so far, Forge.
Cable and Hope are in the Australian Outback, to take down a bunch of Reavers before they can arm a bomb, and these aren’t the Reavers you remember, they are drunken losers. At the same time, Colossus and Domino are in snowy Colorado, to stop a break-in at a Trask facility that would unleash a Sentinel. These two gigs are seemingly very easy. Hope can just walk straight past the idiotic Reavers, and Domino and Colossus have time to fuck each other before they dot he mission. I must admit, I am enjoying the relationship between these two characters, so much of Colossus’ romantic history in comics has been so fraught and emo, so it’s fun to see him just hook up with someone and have fun.
Of course, things don’t turn out simply for our heroes, as something’s wrong with Forge, and it’s not just the constant arguments with Doctor Nemesis. He’s got a splitting headache, and, as Nemesis and Boom-Boom explore his brain, it turns out there’s some kind of weird Native American spirit inside his head, and it bursts out, leaving him a twitching mess on the floor. This means that he’s not able to use his ‘hacking skillz’ to deactivate the bomb and the Sentinel, and everything goes to shit for the team. I thought this was a clever ending, throughout this run, both the characters and readers have kind of taken it for granted that Forge was in the back, helping out, so what happens when he’s out of it? And what’s the deal with the Ghost Chief? It’s the Adversary right? How are Nemesis and Boom-Boom supposed to fight that?
Gerardo Sandoval once again steps in to provide the art for this issue, and whilst I do still think his style is a bit too cartoonish for this book, this issue was lighter than his previous ones, so it fit better, and there was one page where he delivered something that always steals my heart… a cut-out of a secret superhero base. I love that shit.
Batman/Superman #4– The first arc of this title comes to an end, and whilst I did enjoy this issue, there are quite a few problems with it.
The first one is all of my own doing, and it’s one that applies to this whole arc really, I haven’t read Earth-2, so I have no connection to that universe and these alternate versions of Superman and Batman. I understand that they are killed by Darkseid in #1 of that book, and this issue sort of explains why, but this is retconning and explaining something I have no knowledge of, so I don’t really care about it. Again, this is my fault, but also, this book was not really advertised as involving Earth-2, so Greg Pak does have some responsibility to make me care.
The other problem is the reason given for why the Earth-2 characters were targeted by Darkseid in the first place. This whole plot from Kaiyo was a test, to see which version of Earth’s heroes was the best. It turns out that the New 52 Superman and Batman are the best, because they went after the weird crystal, and because they are ‘ruthless, raw and dangerous’. This is something that Pak mentioned in his Darkseid one-shot as well, that the New 52 Superman was dangerous, and it’s also shown in this issue by our Batman being a heck of a lot more paranoid than the Earth-2 Batman. I just find it odd that DC are being so up-front about how these new versions of the characters are, for the lack of a better word, extreme. It feels very 90s to just outright say that a character is dangerous, and it has me wondering just why I’m supposed to like these people as heroes. I’m not one of those people who thinks the New 52 made every character into a dick, but it does look like that’s what DC is trying to do here. Maybe I’m being old-fashioned in not wanting my Superman and Batman to be ‘ruthless’, but hey.
I also rolled my eyes pretty darn heavily at the ending, where Kaiyo erases everyone’s memories of what just happened. I suppose it needed to be done so as not to ruin stories that have already happened, but it’s so clichéd.
That said, there was good stuff in this issue, Pak continues to do a great job at contrasting not only Superman and Batman with each other, but also the Earth-2 versions with the New 52 versions. They are recognisably the same character, but the small differences are expressed very well. I also liked the small scene with Earth-2 Lois Lane and Catwoman, and man, the bit where Clark accidentally creates Zombie Ma and Pa Kent was really creepy, especially with Jae Lee’s artwork. He really has done fantastic stuff on this book, his Batman is of course great, but I’ve been really surprised by how much I like his Superman. You wouldn’t think they’d go together, but they do. I also appreciated how well Ben Oliver did on his few pages at keeping a lot of what Lee has done, and how they mirrored the opening few pages of #1.
So yeah, whilst I have problems with the way Pak is putting the tiresome edginess and grittiness of the New 52 right on the page, this book is still solid, and I look forward to future arcs that don’t involve all of this Earth-2 nonsense. Or I could just read Earth-2 and look at this story with new eyes. I dunno.
Wonder Woman #24– First off, how awesome is the cover to this issue? Cliff Chiang’s covers are pretty much always great, but this one may be the best yet, it’s just so fucking metal (well duh, it’s a Frazetta homage), and nicely reflective of Wonder Woman’s new status as the God Of War.
And that’s what this issue is mostly about, reflecting that massive change in Wonder Woman’s life. With the First Born defeated, Apollo is finally starting to take charge of Olympus, and so he calls a meeting of the whole Pantheon, but there’s one seat empty… War’s. Wonder Woman is back in London, buying a new house for herself, Zola and Hera. I was amused by the implication that Diana and Orion may share a bed, I know this book isn’t going to reflect the Superman romance, but I expected it to just ignore it, not outright refute it. It’s great to see Azzarello just do his own thing and not give a fuck about the rest of the DCU.
I also really liked Hera’s role in this issue, she wants to display Lennox’s severed head on the mantelpiece, and her breakdown at really, truly realising she was mortal was actually rather touching. Azzarello really has done a great job at turning her from a villain into someone sympathetic, without being obvious about it, and he looks to be doing the same thing with Hermes. who shows up to take Wonder Woman to Olympus, and the conversation she has with Apollo is fascinating, with Diana not yet fully accepting her role as God Of War, and even asking for Apollo to restore Hera, which he refuses.
This book has become really quite complex, with so many different villains up against Wonder Woman. There’s Apollo of course, and the other Gods around him who are not to be trusted, and tied up in the middle is the First Born, who you just know is going to escape. Throw into that Cassandra, who it turns out is the woman with the robotic neck who freed the First Born, and who in this issue attacks Milan for some unknown reason, perhaps to steal his powers of prophecy?
This issue was mainly set-up for the next stage of Azzarello’s story, but it was necessary, intriguing set-up, and I can’t wait to see what the various villains arrayed against Diana have planned.
The artwork here is from Goran Sudzuka, and whilst it’s always a shame when Chiang can’t draw an issue, they have similar styles, and he gets the tone just as well. And hey, at least we got that cover.
Animal Man #24– Whilst I’ve been digging Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man for it’s entire run, I really think it just took a step up with this issue, and the addition of Rafael Albuqurque as artist. Albuquerque is fantastic, and whilst I’m still a bit annoyed that American Vampire is on hiatus, having him on Animal Man is almost as good!
It also makes sense to have a new artist take over now, as the previous issues of this arc have had two artists, tackling two worlds. Steve Pugh has drawn the scenes in the ‘real’ world with Animal Man, and Francis Portela the stuff that’s been happening in The Red with Maxine. Here, those 2 storylines come together brilliantly, and Albuquerque kicks some serious ass with it.
Brother Blood has found his way into The Red, and he and the villainous Totem (who renames himself ‘The King Of Limbs’, an awesome Radiohead reference) start to take over. They kill the other Totems, but because Maxine is still alive, they don’t have full control. I found this twist Lemire has done with one of the Totems turning on the others to be really cool, you don’t really expect these massive gods to act in such a petty, human way, so it’s surprising to see that, and I do like the justification for the King Of Limbs’ villainy too, both The Rot and The Green have tried to take over, but never The Red, so why not try?
But what’s going on with Animal Man during all of this? Well, he’s under attack by one of the Splinterfolk, and is then saved by the cops, and the Splinterdude getting sucked into The Red to fight for Brother Blood. We then get a long awaited reconciliation between Buddy and Ellen, as, in the wake of Maxine’s disappearance, she realises that what’s happened to them, to Cliff, is not Buddy’s fault, that he was chosen. I probably don’t praise it enough, but Lemire has done a fantastic job at writing the marriage between Buddy and Ellen. I’m not a big fan of superhero marriages in general, but for some characters, smaller ones like Animal Man, it really works, and it sets them apart. Especially because Lemire is allowed to drive them apart, and have them be briefly separated, which the writers of a married Superman, Flash or Batwoman probably wouldn’t be able to do.
Unfortunately, Buddy cannot venture into The Red to save Maxine, because he was banned by the Totems, and anyway, he has more immediate problems at the DC Universe movies awards that are definitely not the Oscars, oh no, please don’t sue. After some more fun pokes at the film industry, such as the ridiculous-sounding movie ‘Sea Of Echoes’ and another mention of the fact that, in the DCU, American Vampire is a movie, the wwards show is attacked by Brother Blood’s cult, and unless Animal Man appears and sacrifices himself, they will kill everyone in the theatre! Uh-oh.
This was another fantastic issue, it ramped up both stories by smashing them together, the emotions of he characters were still front and centre, the digs at Hollywood were provided some relief, and the great art from Albuquerque tied it all together. Lemire’s Animal Man has been one of the New 52’s best titles, and it may have just gotten even better.
Justice League Of America #8– Matt Kindt and the Martian Manhunter step up from their regular back-up feature and headline this issue of JLoA, and hey, what a surprise, the Justice Leagues aren’t really dead.
It turns out that the Crime Syndicate hasn’t actually brutally murdered all of the heroes, but instead, they are all trapped in some kind of mental prison. And who better to take a trip through the mind than the Martian Manhunter? He wakes up in a strange, green field, with only Stargirl for company, and they have no idea where they are. But then, Jason Rusch appears in an orange prison jumpsuit, acting all crazy (I’m guessing he’s had his mind mushed together with Ronnie Raymond’s) and begins to lead Martian Manhunter through the prison, where we see just what kind of punishment each Justice Leaguer is being put through.
Wonder Woman is forced to fight to save the lives of both Amazons and Humans to save the lives of both Steve Trevor and Superman, with Kindt really putting the central question of Wonder Woman’s allegiances to the fore. We see that Shazam is trapped inside a world with no consequences, where stuff he smashes and people who die come straight back, allowing for the literal inner child that is Billy Batson to be unleashed and get out of control. It felt like this was Kindt commenting on video games like GTA, where you are free to just do what you want, because the people don’t actually die. Superman’s prison is that of his guilt over killing Doctor Light, Green Lantern finds himself actually becoming a terrorist because of how distrusting the people were of him, and most disturbing of all, is the Flash’s prison. Flash’s pages here were really disturbing to me, as Barry tries to do everything in a day, to go faster and faster, but he’s not actually doing it, he’s just sitting there, going crazy. It was really freaky, and Doug Mahnke’s art really made it work, that page with Flash running everywhere had so many panels, it was dense and manic and did a great job at getting across Flash’s mental state.
Throughout the issue, there are teases of who or what is creating this prison, my guess is either a Martian Manhunter of Earth-3 (who is probably a White Martian) or Deathstorm, because Jason really was acting sketchy in this issue. In the end, with J’Onn deep in the bowels of the prison with Simon Baz, Stargirl discovers a way out, finding herself in the midst of Forever Evil. The moon is blacked out, Washington DC is trashed, etc.
This was a pretty decent tie-in, and it bodes well for the future of this event, big stuff, like the fate of the Justice League is being revealed here, so it’s not just pointless. I liked seeing the likes of Martian Manhunter and Stargirl play a larger role than usual, and Kindt did very well in coming up with creepy prisons for our heroes, and was ably assisted by Doug Mahnke’s fantastic art. If you’re enjoying the main Forever Evil book, pick up this tie in, but then you probably were anyway. I did feel like at times the dialogue was a bit stilted, but other than that, this was good.
Green Lantern: New Guardians #24– ‘Lights Out’ continues to be a very enjoyable ride, as crazy shit continues to happen.
Justin Jordan picks up right after the destruction of Oa, as Kyle, Hal and the rest try to work out what to do next. Hal wants to go right back after Relic, but he is dissuaded from doing so by Paalko, the lead new Guardian. Hal then decides that the best plan of action would be to head over to Ysmault and get the Red Lanterns on side, which makes sense I guess, they haven’t been weakened by Relic, and apparently their powers don’t only spring from the Rings, but magic too. Plus Guy Gardner is undercover there. I don’t read Red Lanterns, so don’t ask me what’s going on there.
But before that can happen, the Rainbow Pokemon that are the Entities (well, all of them except Red and Yellow) arrive, and zap themselves into Kyle for some reason. Kyle gets a snazzy new look (which I’m sure will be a new action figure in 5, 4, 3, 2…) and starts to fly off to parts unknown. Hal tries to attack Entity-Kyle with the Corps, but they just zap everyone to Ysmault, which is both convenient and inconvenient at the same time. Luckily for Kyle, the Guardians weren’t zapped, and they are able to help free him, and we discover that my Pokemon analogy for the Entities is not just me being a snarky dick, as each Entity is able to defeat another one, like Rock/Paper/Scissors, or like Pokemone, and whilst there’s normally balance, because Red and Yellow aren’t there (I loved the ominous mention of Sinestro in this issue, it’s going to be so great when he returns), Kyle can make them defeat one another and escape. But when he escapes, he knows what they knew, and it’s a shocker… Relic is right, and they don’t need to stop him, they need to help him! That’s a great moment right there, and whilst I’m sure we will eventually find out that Relic isn’t actually right, it’s still great to have that seed of doubt.
In the other subplot, John Stewart’s team make their way to the Indigo Tribe, and whilst that scene was mainly just moving stuff into place, I did like the ‘Nok Nok’ joke, very fun, in a story that is very dark. Brad Walker’s artwork was once again very impressive, he’s very underrated, and here he manages to make things that are ridiculous, actually look good, as well as make everything look suitably space-operatic.
This is a good book, and a strong crossover, but I do still feel that we haven’t been given a chance to see what Justin Jordan can really do with Kyle Rayner, ever since his run started, we’ve had nothing but set-up for Lights Out, and now the actual story. I can’t wait to see what this team can do when telling their own, separate story.
Batman ’66 #4– Another very entertaining issue of this book, and this one was even better for me personally, as Jeff Parker sends Batman and Robin to London in the swingin’ sixties, baby!
Once again, Parker and artists Jonathan Case and Sandy Jarrell walk the line of parody very well here, and whilst these stories are a lot of fun, they don’t devolve into Austin Powers-level nonsense. The first story sees the Dynamic Duo heading to London to thwart the Mad Hatter in his plot to steal the Crown Jewels, and it’s just so much fun. Parker throws in some fun jokes about Britain, like how we drive on the other side of the road, and even stuff like how Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara have cousins in London works because of the crazy tone of the book. But as I’ve said before, this book isn’t stupid, and it treats the chase of Mad Hatter just as seriously as normal superhero books would.
It also surprised me by how clever it was in linking the two stories. In the first story, as Batman is chasing the Hatter, you see Big Ben ring it’s bells (yes, Big Ben is the bell, I know), and I didn’t make nothing of it, until the second story, where Batman reveals that it went off as a warning, and that Mad Hatter was working with another villain… The Clock King! I love how one little moment in the first story lead straight on the next, stuff in this book is not just random goofiness like it could be under a lesser writer. Batman and Robin defeat Clock King and his hilarious henchman, and it turns out that Clock King and Mad Hatter are brothers, which was a cool little twist.
This book is just so good, it puts a smile on my face, the art is fantastic, and the plotting is so strong, when, as I said, a lot of writers would phone it in and just go for camp. Jeff Parker is putting his all into this, and it shows.
Invincible #106– Another typically strong issue of Invincible, and whilst the various plot threads are moving slowly, there are a lot of them, so you don’t feel short-changed, and as a bonus, this issue features the return of some familiar faces.
Doc Seismic is back, and I can’t remember the last time we saw him, but I am intrigued as to where he’s going, as he’s attacked by some mysterious lava-wielder, and seemingly given some new powers. Who knows when this will pay off, it could be next month, or it could be in 2 years, that’s the greatness of Invincible, there are so many subplots out there, just waiting to explode.
Also returning is BATTLE BEAST, who opens the issue by slaughtering some aliens, and then picking up a hot alien babe. The character of Battle Beast is so hilariously over the top, you have to love it, and it’s clear that Kirkman loves him too, because we are going to see Battle Beast hunt down Thragg, which should be amazing.
Closer to home, Mark and Eve have dinner with Mark’s parents, and Eve’s pregnancy is revealed, and it causes a whole lot of drama, particularly because Eve still doesn’t really trust Nolan. I love how this title can go from intergalactic Lion-dudes covered in blood and guts, to awkward dinner parties, from the completely out there, to the totally relatable. Even if that dinner party does take place on the Moon. In the course of conversation, Mark brings up that he now thinks he’s stronger than his dad, so they have an arm-wrestling contest, which is just… brilliant. It’s classic playground ‘who would win in a fight’ stuff, but because this is Kirkman’s own universe, he can actually do it, and whilst it’s a lot of fun, the question Mark raises about whether strength determines the Viltrumite ruler gives it an undercurrent of seriousness and meaning.
What else? Oh yeah, Robot has a secret room he’s hiding from Monster Girl, from the cover to next issue, it looks like it’s going to be a prison for her kid, but you never know.
This book is just consistently good, Ottley’s art is great, and even on quieter issues like this, Kirkman will surprise you, whether it’s by bringing back the likes of Battle Beast and Doc Seismic, or not being afraid to have a silly arm-wrestle, it’s a pleasure to read every month, even though you know a blood-bath is just around the corner.
Zero #2– Oh wow, this book is seriously good. I was impressed by the first issue, but man, this one was even better, and has me ready to buy anything with Ales Kot’s name on it, even a book about Iron bloody Patriot.
After the first issue dropped us right in the middle of one of Edward Zero’s missions, #2 takes us back, and gives us a nice big chunk of back-story. We see that Edward was raised in a school for spies, and was taught all kinds of fucked up things about the nature of life and war in order to make him into the perfect soldier. I really liked the scene showing him locked in ‘The Box’ and having to escape deep underwater, the best example of just how fucked up this guy’s life is.
We also find out a bit more about this book’s supporting cast, seeing Roman Zizek as a kinder, mentor figure for Zero (although the story he tells about his paranoid dog is all kinds of messed-up), and also being introduced to Mina Thorpe, Edward’s childhood love interest, even though the kids at this Spy-School aren’t allowed relationships. It’s going to be interesting when we see what she’s like in the present day.
The second half of this issue is Zero’s first mission, to assassinate Keiran Connelly, a man who used to be in the IRA, but is supposedly out of it now, but the Agency still wants dead. Zero hides in Connelly’s house for 4 days, and watches him, his wife, and his two kids. It’s really creepy, and Kot spends enough time with Connelly that you’re not sure who to root for. Zero shoots Connelly, but doesn’t kill him, the kill-shot is left to a sniper. That scene was just so dark, Zero is a little kid, and he’s being sent to kill people! The last 2 pages are very interesting indeed, as Zizek tries to console Zero, who is traumatised by what’s happened, not least because he thinks he’s failed by not getting the kill-shot. Zero has been trained to view the people he’s sent to kill not as people, but as targets (by playing FPS video games, ‘natch), but here, Zizek almost corrects him. The technique on the last 3 panels was also interesting, with both Zero and Zizek’s faces being scribbled out. Is that representative of how Zero sees people now? He doesn’t see faces? Just nothing? Man, this book is bleak, but still very entertaining.
The artwork here comes from Tradd Moore, and whilst it’s very different from Michael Walsh’s stuff in #1, it’s still great, and exceptionally suited to this story. His exaggerated style really gets across the difference in size between the child Zero, and the grown man Connelly, and it makes the emotions that much starker. A tiny kid, being made to do these things, it’s messed up. And when it comes time to do the action scenes, Moore delivers. Colourist Jordie Bellaire provides a stylistic link to #1, using a similar, dark palette. I can’t wait to see who’s up to draw #3, and to see where Kot takes us next.
If you’re looking for a comic that’s hard-hitting, both in terms of action and dark drama, you need to pick up Zero.
King’s Watch #2– Because I’m not very familiar with these characters, beyond seeing the Phantom and Flash Gordon movies as a kid, I enjoyed this issue a lot more than the first because I was becoming more and more familiar. Jeff Parker is doing a good job here at explaining to new readers like me who these heroes are, whilst not laying it on too thick, which would piss off aficionados. Here, the central mystery of the story is developed, and we find out more about the main characters.
Let’s start with the item that gives this book it’s name, the King’s Watch. It’s not a watch, but a mystical gateway in Africa that is powered by that weird crystal around the villainous Cobra’s neck. Lothar and The Phantom try to seek it out, and it’s here that we find out some crucial information about the least famous member of this group, Mandrake The Magician. Mandrake has tangled with The Cobra before, and in their last battle, Cobra killed the love of his life, and he became depressed, in fact, he hasn’t left his house since. It looks like this adventure will see him get out of his funk.
Back in America, Flash Gordon and Dr Zarkov’s mission into space is a success, as they fly right into the mysterious light, and see the strange visions a lot clearer, and it looks like they are some kind of portal to Mongo, as we see not only Ming The Merciless, but also the Hawkmen and whoever it was that Timothy Dalton played in the movie. Prince something. After their successful mission, Flash and Zarkov are celebrities, and Dale Arden investigates them, and Flash reveals to her that the ship wasn’t powered by a rocket, but by a strange crystal… a quantum crystal much like the one The Cobra sports! Of course, the bad guy soon shows up and a fight is on. Flash holds his own, and even Zarkov gets in on it, smashing a bottle of whisky over the head of a henchman (I love Zarkov in this book, he’s hilarious and different). But in the end, Cobra unleashes his superpowers, and as an ordinary human, Flash is outmatched.
This is a very enjoyable book, the art by Marc Laming is excellent, and as I said, Parker is making me care about these characters I only have cursory knowledge of. I do find that perhaps the book is focused too much on Flash Gordon, but then, he is the most famous character in it. I want more of Phantom and Mandrake! That one panel where we see the imprint of Phantom’s ring on the tribesman’s face was bad-ass, more of that. But really, I’m nitpicking, if the focus of this opening story is a portal to Mongo, then I’m fine with Flash Gordon being centre-stage. I know the comics market is flooded with nostalgia-porn, but this is one book dusting off old intellectual properties that’s actually worth it.
I’m not too sure what my favourite comic this week was, I think it’s either Zero or Avengers. Both are vastly different, and that’s what makes comics so bloomin’ good.
Make sure you’re here next week, I’ll be reviewing the latest issues of Nova, Daredevil, Aquaman, Uncanny, Young Avengers and Justice League, and it’s another one of those weeks when Image drop the bomb, with more Sex Criminals and Satellite Sam, and debuts for Velvet and Pretty Deadly, both of which look brilliant.