Hello, and welcome to a sadly-truncated edition of my comics review column. It’s going to be shorted than it should be because the entire UK didn’t receive quite a large number of Marvel Comics this week. We’ll get ‘em next week, but I don’t think I’ll be reviewing them then.
But all is not lost, as there’s still plenty of DC and Image books, including Justice League, Zero, Wonder Woman and Umbral. Plus, the exciting first issue of Deadly Class.
There is some Marvel too, with new issues of Hawkeye and Mighty Avengers and another All-New Marvel Now title, All-New Invaders.
Click the links to head to the individual forum threads, and let’s go!
Hawkeye #16– Due to David Aja being a bit slow, Marvel have actually released Hawkeye #16 before #15, which is kind of confusing, but due to the current ‘1 Clint issue, 1 Kate issue’ schedule the book is one, doesn’t really matter too much, as we aren’t missing out on any important plot details at all, not that Hawkeye as a series really has plot details in general.
This issue continues Kate Bishop’s misadventures as a Private Eye in Los Angeles, and whilst it was an enjoyable read full of the usual funny moments, it didn’t come together as well as most issues of Hawkeye do, and it felt less like an actual story and more like Matt Fraction wanting to tell us all about how much he loves The Beach Boys and why we should love them too. Fraction has done similar stuff to this issue in Casanova, and it worked far better there, which means I’m not quite sure this particular music-reference heavy story didn’t come off as well. Perhaps it’s because, in Casanova, the Bowie references are surrounded by loads of time-travelly, science-fiction nonsense, where as here, the tone is very realistic, so it doesn’t seem quite so inventive. I dunno, either way, this issue did feel a little bit self-indulgent, but as I’ve said before, self-indulgence is not necessarily a bad thing.
The plot here is actually pretty simple, Kate is cycling along the highway in LA, where she comes across a rambling homeless person in the middle of the road. She takes him to her neighbour’s house, where it is revealed that this guy is actually Will Bryson, a thinly-veiled homage to Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys. Bryson had been driven slightly mad by drugs and mental illness, and also by trying to complete his magnum opus, ‘Wish’, that he’s been trying, and failing, to complete since the 1960s. All of this will be very familiar to music fans, as Wish is basically Brian Wilson’s near-mythical ‘Smile’. Bryson’s latest psychotic break came when someone stole some of his work-in-progress tracks and leaked them onto the Internet. Bryson believes that the leak was his brother’s doing, but before Kate can find out more, his Nurses come and take him back. I liked the fact that Bryson’s Nurses are meant to be somehow related to the Bellboys Kate has tangled with in the past, it looks like she has her very own Tracksuit Draculas.
Kate decides to try and help out Bryson, and she stumbles her way through somehow, much like last issue. She goes to the Library, gets in trouble for asking for help to illegally download music, receives a lecture from that Cop again, and takes a ride on a ‘Star Bus’ tour guide to find out where Bryson lives. As ever, Fraction’s inner monologue for Kate straddles the line between being awesome and incredibly annoying, especially with the variety of ‘Kate’ puns she uses. Kate certainly has a unique personality that shines through here, although once again, her old-fashionedness still rings a bit false. Inside Bryson’s house, she distracts the Nurses with a hilarious Champions reference, and finds Bryson again, who gives her a tour of his studio, but before long, the Nurses are back. After a surprisingly brutal beating, Kate is taken to see Bryson’s dying brother, and we find out that, yep, he leaked the songs, and that’s pretty much it.
This issue had a weird ending, as Kate didn’t really end up doing anything, she really is a terrible PI. After another appearance from the ghost of Philip Marlowe, we find out that Bryson’s brother died naturally, and because of that, Bryson seems to have found peace with himself, and is playing tracks from ‘Wish’ live. Kate goes to see him, and basically feels good about herself, despite the fact that again, she didn’t really do anything. Of course, that happiness is short-lived, as whilst she’s at the gig, Madame Masque (I assume) sneaks up behind her and intimidates her, which was a cool way of tying this rambling issue around to the main thrust of Kate’s stories.
I did somewhat enjoy this issue, especially Annie Wu’s art, which just gets better and better, I love the way she draws Kate’s facial expressions. I do like that I can pick up a Marvel superhero comic and have it be about something totally unexpected like The Beach Boys, but I did feel this issue was lacking. Perhaps the references were too much, perhaps it’s the fact that Kate is so terrible at her job, I don’t know, but after this, I am looking forward to returning to Clint’s story. I think this book thrives on trying new things, and here, it wasn’t really doing anything new, just referencing stuff in the same setting as #14.
Mighty Avengers #5– Another very enjoyable issue from Al Ewing and Greg Land, albeit one that sadly seems to spell the end of Superior Spider-Man’s presence in this book, I love the way Ewing writes SpOck, so whilst I’m sad to see him go, it’s what makes sense for the story he’s telling.
This issue is split between two different storylines, the first being Luke Cage and Spider-Man’s battle for control over this Avengers team. Spidey has marched right up to the doors of the Gem Theater, with Spider-Minions and Mechs backing him up, and demanding that he becomes the leader of the new ‘Superior Avengers’. Luke and Jessica obviously aren’t too happy about this, but, in a very funny moment, they have to wait for a cab to arrive to allow Dave Griffith to take Baby Danielle to safety. I love little touches like that, it showed a realistic side to being superhero parents. But once the baby is out of the way, it’s time to throw down for Mr and Mrs Cage. Spider-Man gains the upper hand thanks to a bunch of the new weapons he’s made, but the day is saved by the arrival of Luke’s lawyer, who is of course, She-Hulk.
I’m a big fan of She-Hulk, so it was great to see her finally appear in this title, and even better to see her use her legal skills to solve this fight, rather than just smash shit up. She basically says that, unless Spider-Man leaves right now, she can sue both him and the Mayor. SpOck backs down, and in a hilarious dick move, fires all of his Spiderlings. I just love Superior Spider-Man, and I will genuinely be sad when he’s gone, it’s just so entertaining, both in his own books, and in other titles like this one, where it’s played more for laughs. With the fight over, Jennifer and Jessica leave to discuss lawyer stuff (and presumably talk about Luke, who is an ex of She-Hulks), leaving Luke alone to finally, open the doors to the Mighty Avengers.
But what about the rest of the team? Well, they are busy investigating the goings on in Attilan, as Ronin explains to them just what the deal is with ‘The Deathwalkers’ and why they have to find some weird artefact. I like the character interactions here, with Spectrum clearly not trusting Ronin, which one again makes his true identity fascinating. It’s a real shame that it’s been spoiled, because if it hasn’t, I would be going mad right now. Inside Attilan, the team get caught up in the ongoing fight between Quickfire, the newly-Inhuman agent of a dodgy corporation, and a monster sent there by the Deathwalkers, a 3-headed wolf-man. This fight was very clever stuff, Ewing and Land show Quickfire’s time-stopping abilities very well, and the way the Avengers won made sense. Quickfire, before her terrigenesis, never had anything to do with the superheroic world, so she doesn’t know who she’s up against, which means she makes mistakes. She tries to freeze time around Spectrum, but you can’t slow down the speed of light, so she gets taken out. I also liked seeing White Tiger return the favour to Power Man after #3, and allow him to use her powers to defeat the Wolf-Man. In the midst of this, Ronin is able to grab the ‘Lost Talisman of Kamar-Anj’ and escape with it alone, living up toe Spectrum’s poor opinion of him.
After this issue, Ewing really has set up a lot of cool plotlines for the future, we’ve got the Deathwalkers, the Cortex corporation, and plenty of fun interpersonal interactions to look forward to. This is a very fun book, the dialogue is great, and now that the team is finally all set up, with their doors open, I can’t wait to see what’s next.
FF #16– Last week’s issue of Fantastic Four gave us some hints about what would happen in this issue, but now we finally get to see it all go down, and it’s very satisfying indeed.
Much of this issue is a one-on-one fight and conversation between Ant-Man and Doctor Doom, and it’s a very gripping read indeed. The history between these two characters may not be as long as the one between Mister Fantastic and Doom, but it’s much more personal and tragic, as Doom killed Ant-Man’s daughter, so the stakes are high. Scott has to stand in Doom’s way to stop him regaining his cosmic power, and he does so, demonstrating surprising super-strength. The reason he has these powers is explained by The Watcher, as it’s revealed that Pym Particles don’t just have the ability to increase or decrease size, they can also do the same with density. This ties in Pym’s powers with that of his ‘grandson’ The Visions, and basically provides a whole lot of interesting connections and continuity for loads of different Marvel characters, and could, in fact, lead to Stature coming back from the dead, if Bentley’s words in the epilogue ring true.
But really, it mostly allows for Scott Lang to kick Doom’s ass, and even remove his mask to reveal a surprisingly un-scarred face. This is because, just like in Secret Wars, the first thing Doom did with his cosmic power was fix himself. This causes Scott to move on to a more verbal beatdown, as he rips Doom a new one, telling him he’s not some kind of noble warrior, he’s just a sociopath, like the guys Scott new in prison. I’m sure a lot of Doom fans won’t like this scene, as it’s bringing him down to the level of a common crook, and it’s actually a bit reminiscent of what Grant Morrison did with Magneto, which was divisive, but I dug it. Doom may be a grandiose villain, but he’s still a villain, and he deserves taking down a peg.
After Scott takes the fight outside (to under a Linden tree, which is where Cassie died), it is interrupted by the motherfucking Living Tribunal, who has come to punish Doom for daring to beat up The Watcher last issue. His punishment is that, from now on, every time Doctor Doom does something malicious and evil, he will get a new scar on his face. Nothing else can scar him but his own evil, which is a pretty cool twist. As Ant-Man says, every time he fixes his face, it always ends up scarred again, and this provides a compelling reason for it.
During this big fight, Lee Allred periodically jumps to ‘between realities’ as Ravonna sort of explains what her plan has been all along to Franklin. I think these scenes were probably the weakest part of the issue, as I still don’t quite understand what she and Kid Immortus were up to, and whether or not she is Future-Valeria or not. But I suppose it’s meant to be confusing. After the Tribunal does his thing, Scott proceeds to finally, definitively, kick Doom’s ass, humiliating him into saying he gives up in front of the Latverian people. However, as soon as Scott turns his back, Doom fires a blast at him, but instead of hitting Ant-Man, he hits a vision of Valeria that Ravonna had created. Doom is distraught, thinking he has killed his ‘niece’, and so ends the downfall of Doom. It interesting that it was a team of replacement Fantastic Fours to give Doctor Doom such a decisive defeat, and it’s an idea that I really like, the real FF would never have used these same tactics.
After this, we have the epilogue, which features some of the same pages as Fantastic Four #16, but also some new stuff, including the Moloids continuing to worship ‘The Ben’, Scott and Darla finally kissing, and , as I said, the various Future Foundation kids realising that they might be able to bring back Stature. We also see the various Inhuman characters set up the events of Infinity and Inhumanity somewhat, and there’s one last mysterious scene with Ravonna.
I am looking forward to James Robinson’s run with the Fantastic Four, but I must say I am a bit disappointed that there will only be one FF book, Hickman, Fraction and Allred have developed some really great characters in the Future Foundation, and it will be a shame to see them lose the spotlight a bit.
Overall, this series, much like it’s companion, is still a bit of a missed opportunity due to the change in writer, but I thoroughly enjoyed all 16 issues, in particular Mike Allred’s art, which, along with Joe Quinones as a fill-in (we even get Allred inking Quinones here, which is cool) was always perfect for the comedic tone the series had, and perfectly Kirbyesque. I’m very glad to see he’s going to be tackling the Silver Surfer next.
All-New Invaders #1– For some reason, James Robinson’s best work always seems to come when he’s writing Golden Age, or Golden Age related characters. From Starman, to JSA, Earth-2 and of course, The Golden Age, he has shone when telling the tales of WW2 superheroes and their legacies, which is why it’s so exciting that he’s writing a team-book all about Marvel’s most famous Golden Age team, The Invaders.
I would make a joke about how this team isn’t really all-new at all, but then again, the All-New X-Men are just the original X-Men, so I don’t think Marvel really understand what new means in general.
This intriguing opening issue sets up the main storyline, as well as showing Robinson’s strength at characterisation, as he focuses on the least well-defined of The Invaders, the original Human Torch. After a prologue that shows a group of Kree soldiers on Earth, searching for pieces of something called ‘The God’s Whisper’ (If you didn’t pick up the All-New Marvel Now Point One one-shot, you should do so, it explains a lot about who these Kree are), we then move to small-town USA and see what Jim Hammond is up to. In the aftermath of what went on in Rick Remender’s Secret Avengers, he is living the quiet life as a car mechanic and basically trying to figure out who he is after betraying his fellow robots.
His peace and quiet is short-lived, as head of this band of Kree shows up, kills his boss, and starts laying waste to his town. This causes Jim to reveal his powers, and fight back, but in the midst of this, he is blasted with a mysterious beam that causes him to flashback to an event during WW2 he has no prior memory of. He sees himself, along with an unconventional line-up of The Invaders (Bucky and Namor are there, but Toro and Captain America are absent, but someone called Major Liberty is there) taking on some Nazis who seem to have the Norse Goddess Hela under their control. Major Liberty tries to attack Hela, but is zapped and turned into a skeleton like he was nothing at all. Interestingly, Human Torch can tell that both Namor and Bucky are having this same vision.
After seeing Major Liberty bite it, Torch wakes up, and it’s right back into battle, as he tries to save an innocent civilian. Unfortunately, it looks like the Kree is just too powerful for him, and to top it all off, she now knows where the final piece of the God’s Whisper is (it looks like this device is what allowed the Nazis to use Hela, and now the Kree want it for themselves). But before she can kill Torch, his old friends Captain America and Winter Soldier show up to save the day. Hooray! But where is Namor in all of this? Well, the last page of the issue reveals that he’s on Hala, being tortured by the Supreme Intelligence, and this is how the Kree have been able to plan this attack.
This was a solid opening issue, and I didn’t mind that most of the Invaders didn’t show up right until the end, we get enough of Captain America, Bucky and Namor elsewhere in the Marvel Universe, for now, Robinson’s most important job is developing the Original Torch, and so far, he’s done a good job. Robinson created one of the most well-rounded and human superheroes ever in Jack Knight, so let’s hope he can do the same with the Invaders here. The plot is also interesting, both in the present and the past, with plenty of mystery surrounding Torch’s flashback, why weren’t Cap and Toro there? What’s the deal with Major Liberty? As I said, Robinson is so good at writing Golden Age stuff, so I can’t wait to see that developed, and for some even more obscure characters to appear. I especially want to see Union Jack and Spitfire make an appearance, Robinson is British so he pretty much has to.
Steve Pugh’s art was very good too, he’s got a classic, clean line that’s perfect for such iconic characters, and his realistic style grounds the WW2 scenes. I don’t think you can depict even a superhero-filled WW2 in a cartoonish fashion, it would seem disrespectful somehow. I think this series is worth checking out, it’s Robinson in his niche, telling a fascinating story, and whilst this issue is mostly set-up, you can tell that there’s more to come.
X-Men #9– Another solid if unspectacular issue of X-Men from Brian Wood, as Lady Deathstrike continues to build her Sisterhood. I do like that Arkea is still playing a major part in this book, my complaints about how the initial story ended way too quickly get stupider and stupider by the day. It just goes to show that in a serialised medium, you probably shouldn’t rush to snap judgements. But then I do that every week, d’oh!
The issue begins with Storm and Psylocke meeting with Israel’s only superhero Sabra and some dude called Gabriel to get their help in stopping Arkea. I’m guessing this is because Areka is in the middle east, and they need help from Israel, or something like that. Back at the X-Mansion, the rest of the X-Ladies are trying to find out where the Sisterhood is, by interrogating Sublime and by tracking Lady Deathstrike’s credit-card use. They find out she’s in Dubai, and M flies off to take them out.
Wood then flashes back 30 minutes to show what Deathstrike et al have been doing. They take Arkea out of her packaging, and she takes over Deathstrike’s friend Reiko, and does what was promised last time, boost the powers of Deathstrike, Typhoid Mary and Enchantress. The fact that Arkea is powerful enough to reverse Norse Magic is pretty worrying indeed, and Wood makes sure to point that out in the story, this is some serious shit the X-Men are dealing with.
M crashes into the building, and starts to topple it, but she is intercepted by Enchantress who takes her out. Sublime reveals to Rachel Grey that Arkea’s primary objective now seems to have changed, she no longer wants to kill him, she wants to kill the X-Men. This begins with something bad happening to Karima, and the issue ends with a bunch of Sentinels rising from the sea under Arkea’s control, which is bad news.
I am enjoying the totally fucked-up situation the heroes are in here, but I do think that, in this issue and the last, Wood has focused a bit too much on the villains of the story, and the actual X-Men themselves have felt a bit underdeveloped. The likes of Storm and Psylocke are established enough to withstand this, but other characters aren’t.
The Dodsons’ art was great once again, they just draw women really well, and it’s not as cheese-cakey as people expect.
Batman #27– My word, this was a speech-filled issue of Batman, as both not-yet-Commissioner Gordon and Alfred deliver long-winded talks to Batman. I did enjoy the content of both of these monologues, but it did slow the issue down quite a lot in the middle. Thankfully, both the beginning and the end of the issue were action-packed, so it wasn’t a total snoozefest.
After another seemingly incongruous opening, with a woman singing a song to a group of soldiers in 1947 Tokyo (Snyder is making a habit of using these weird, out of place scenes that don’t make sense until later, I quite like it.), we are dumped right back into the action as Batman attempts to flee from the Gotham Police. I think one of the reasons people keep going back to telling Batman origin or early days stories is that they allow for a more fallible Batman, and we see that here, as Bats pretty much gets his ass kicked by the Cops. They shoot him up, have him surrounded and even manage to blow up the Bat-Boat, leaving him trapped. A fully-established modern day Batman would have used his notorious ‘prep-time’ and been able to avoid all this, but since this is a young Caped Crusader, there’s more scope for him to be outmanoeuvred, and not be the perfect, indestructible bad-ass. Of course, he is still able to escape, he’s not a total loser, but he only manages to do so with the help of Jim Gordon, who gives him a ride on his boat.
It’s here that the talking begins, as Gordon explains the real story behind what we learned about him last week, and his taking of his famous coat as a bribe. Gordon tells Batman that he wasn’t corrupt like the other Cops, and that in fact, he too had believed that the coat was a gift until he saw the young Bruce Wayne’s reaction. Because of this, he goes back to the store, where he finds a dog-fighting ring that the criminals and cops, including Commissioner Loeb are all in on. Gordon tries to shut this down, but the other Cops sic the dogs on him. He fights them off, but is unable to kill the other policeman here, so he goes off to walk his beat, which is where he comes across the murder of the Waynes, but is unable to face it. He says he wears the coat of shame. I did like the seed of doubt that Scott Snyder planted last issue about Gordon, but I also like that he’s proven to actually be the same one good cop we’ve always known. It’s just that there’s probably a little bit more nuance there, he’s neither totally good nor irreparably damaged, he’s a more human character.
After this, it’s back to the Batcave for another lecture from Alfred, where he posits that the reason Bruce has become Batman is to make everyone bear witness to what the horrors of Gotham have driven him to. Bruce doesn’t want Alfred’s help, he actually sort of wants to punish him, and that’s also why he’s not allowing Gordon to fully help him out. I’m not sure I buy this, but it’s a cool new way of looking at the character. In between his speechifying, Alfred and Bruce work out that Dr Death’s lab must be in the underground Gotham Catacombs, and indeed it is. Whilst there, Bruce finds an old helmet with ‘Tokyo Moon’ on it, which makes the opening page start to make sense. Was the soldier there Helfern?
But the more important discovery is that of a doomsday machine that Dr Death has built to destroy Gotham, and also that he’s been actually working for The Riddler all along, which makes sense. Riddler taunts Batman from a TV screen, and then floods the catacombs, leaving him for dead.
Greg Capullo’s artwork was excellent as usual, and there were two really outstanding moments. The first came when Batman was swimming away, and one of his cowl’s ears was poking out of the water like a shark, and the second came during Alfred’s speech, and was an iconic shot of a silhouetted Batman standing on a telephone pole in the rain, looking over Gordon and his daughter. I also continue to be impressed by FCO Plascencia’s colour choices, he’s making Capullo’s art look beter than ever.
This was another solid issue, but I’m still not really feeling Zero Year as a story in general, It just feels like a whole load of unnecessary embellishment.
Wonder Woman #27– Cliff Chiang returns to the pages of Wonder Woman, and at the same time, a lot of the plotlines pick up speed. It’s almost as if Azzarello is saving the big developments for the main artist. Quite a lot of stuff happens in this issue, as after a few issues that were disappointingly slow, everything explodes nicely and this book shows just how good it can be, so let’s get to it.
Throughout the issue we see more of Apollo’s torturing of The First Born, which, while thankfully not as creepy as in previous issues, was still pretty dark. Apollo is still trying to get First Born to join his side and swear fealty, but he refuses, and in the end, First Born finally breaks free of his shackles and attacks. I can’t wait to see how brutal that fight is going to be.
As for Wonder Woman, after an emotional return to Themyscira to talk to the statue of her mother, she’s back on the hunt for Zola and Zeke, and I do mean hunt. After another very well-written scene featuring Hera (I love how Azzarello has developed Hera throughout this series, just fantastic character work), Diana goes off to Russia to as Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, for her help to track down her missing friend. To do this, she has to fight Artemis again, and this time, Artemis is in the form of a giant fucking bear, which is kind of awesome. Wonder Woman fights the giant bear, and surprisingly, is forced to submit. Artemis agrees to help find Zola, but only if Wonder Woman agrees to do her a favour in the future. I was surprised that Wonder Woman lost this fight, but from the sneaky smile on her face, it looks like she has a deeper plan up her sleeve.
Also on the hunt for Zola is Cassandra, but where on Earth is she? Well, she’s in Provence with Dionysus, and for a while, she seems to be happy, and able to talk to someone. Then, some of Dio’s ‘friends’ show up, and they go on a Truffle hunt in the woods. Whilst wandering through the woods, Dionysus’ friends start suddenly getting horny and taking off their clothes. Freaked out by the prospect of being forced into an orgy, Zola tries to run away, but before she can, she sees that this isn’t an orgy, Dionysus is just turning these poor people into pigs to hunt for truffles.
This was a gloriously fucked-up scene, perfectly drawn by Chiang, who really is just fantastic, I can’t praise him enough, and even though the fill-ins are good, when he returns, it just lives everything up a notch. The fucked up pig transformations send Zola running off into the woods, where she runs straight into Cassandra’s ship, and we see that she’s got a Minotaur to help her. Oh yes.
It looks like quite a lot of characters are going to converge in these woods, with Wonder Woman and Artemis soon to arrive to face Cassandra and her Minotaur, and with Dio around, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Apollo/First Born fight ends up there too. This book is never less than good, but with this issue, it took another step above that. If you read only one DC book, it should probably be this one.
Animal Man #27– With only a few issues left of this series, every issue has an epic feeling of finality, and, along with Rafael Albuquerque’s excellent art, it really is bringing it as we reach the end.
Most of the action here takes place inside The Red, but there is some ‘real world’ stuff too, as Ellen responds to the hectoring of paparazzi and reporters by punching one of them right in the face. This was a very satisfying moment, as press intrusion on Buddy and his family has been a big part of the last year or so of Lemire’s story, and it was great to see one of the Bakers get some revenge. Unfortunately, it did lead to the reporter pressing charges and Ellen getting arrested. You win some you lose some.
Inside The Red, Buddy is taking the fight to the King Of Limbs, and he reveals that, thanks to The Bridgewalker (who is apparently female, who could tell?), Animal Man is now more powerful than ever, as he can expand his powers and take them from alien animals. Buddy transforms into a giant horned lion gorilla, which is kind of awesome, and takes the fight to the big bad.
At the same time, Shepherd and his warriors have been backed into a corner. With Brother Blood and the Splinterfolk coming their way, the only option left is for Maxine and Socks to hide in the tunnels and try and make their way to the very edge of The Red. Maxine doesn’t want to go there, because she might lose her chance to bring back Cliff, which leads to an emotional moment where Socks tells her that there never was a chance to bring her brother back. I liked that Lemire had Socks realise he was too harsh here, and how it reminded him, and the readers, that Maxine is a lot younger than she acts. Unfortunately, for some reason, following the tunnels has brought Maxine and Socks right back to where they entered, and they come across Brother Blood’s attack on Shepherd, which ends with Shepherd getting killed.
Things are looking bleak for the Baker family right now, Ellen is in prison, Buddy is trapped in a fight against the King Of Limbs, unable to get to his daughter, who is at the mercy of Brother Blood. It’s dark now, but I can’t wait to see how Lemire is going to write his way out of this and give everyone a happy ending. That’s if there’s going to be a happy ending, there has to be a reason for Animal Man to move to Canada, perhaps it’s because the rest of his family are killed? I somehow doubt that, but you never know (I actually do know, as at a recent Convention, I saw some of Albuquerque’s pages for future issues).
As I said up top, Albuquerque’s artwork was great, even though he’s not going to have a long run here, it’s certainly been an impactful one, and he’s been a great choice to illustrate these last few big issues.
Justice League #27– These Forever Evil tie-in issues continue to be very enjoyable and pretty much crucial to the ongoing story. This issue also continues a trend I’ve very much been enjoying from Johns recently, in that he really is bringing back some classic DC characters. We’ve already seen Plastic Man’s origin, as well as hints and teases about Helena Bertinelli Huntress and Ted Kord Blue Beetle, and this issue sees progress on the return of the Doom Patrol and the Metal Men to the DCU. I know for some this is too little too late, and that even when these characters do come back, they won’t be the same, but I’m personally loving it. I mean, how different can they really be? Um, don’t answer that.
This issue actually begins with the Doom Patrol, as we see two members of that team, Scorch and Karma get killed by Johnny Quick and Atomica. I’m guessing that these characters were Doom Patrol members before the New 52, but I’ve certainly never heard of them, and from the looks of the single page we get of Niles Caulder, this is going to lead to his formation of the most familiar Doom Patrol line-up, with Elasti-Girl, Negative Man and Robotman, which really, is the Doom Patrol that everyone wants to see, at least in a non-Vertigo setting. I suppose some people will be upset by this wanton character death, but I don’t mind, it’s a lot of fun seeing Johnny and Atomica be absolute dicks, and if there’s one thing the Doom Patrol is known for, it’s dying. If you get upset at characters from that team dying, I don’t think you understand the concept.
The bulk of the issue here is focused on Cyborg, as he tries to convince his dad and Professor Morrow to rebuild him. Dr Stone is initially reticent to do so, but he eventually comes around, and we do get to see them reconcile. I still have problems with the New 52 Cyborg’s origin, and how it seemed to glorify stupidity, but now that Cyborg has started to value intelligence himself, it works a lot better. To upgrade him, Cyborg needs to go into the ‘real’ Red Room and find the even more top-secret technology (lots of interesting stuff there, and I bet some of it comes into play in future JL stories, perhaps when Morrow finally becomes a villain like we know he will, hell, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened already). Johns goes into great (probably to much) detail about the new changes, but basically, the end result is a slimmed down, sleek Cyborg, who looks pretty bad-ass. I am intrigue by what this mysterious green button he has is, is it a suicide button?
Cyborg needs help to stop The Grid, so he goes looking for Platinum, and the man who created her, the man who knows the most about artificial intelligence in the DCU, Dr Will Magnus. However, what Cyborg finds isn’t very promising, as Magnus is sat alone in a dark room, moping because the Metal Man are a failure, as we saw previously in this book. I’m excited to see more of the New 52 Will Magnus and Metal Man. They are great characters, and, even though I think Grant Morrison wrote most of Magnus’ scenes in 52, Johns was surely a part of that somehow.
The art for this issue was good as usual, although because Reis was only doing layouts, it did look a little uneven, you could tell which one of Prado, Merino or Cifuentes was doing the finishes. But overall, it was still decent.
With these issues, Johns is moving the DCU forward into the future, whilst at the same time revisiting it’s past, as well as indulging in his usual villain-heavy focus. It’s pretty much the perfect encapsulation of who Geoff Johns is a writer. You decide if that’s good or bad, but for me, at the moment, it’s good.
Green Lantern: New Guardians #27– Another enjoyable issue of New Guardians, but considering how good and well-connected the other Lantern books have been lately, it was a little odd to read a standalone story that had nothing to do with the ongoing Durlan conflict. But it does make sense, Kyle is supposed to be dead after all. I can’t wait to see what happens when he sees DurlanHal’s broadcast.
The plot here picks up from before Lights Out, with Kyle helping out Exeter, the alien who was guarding the Anomaly at the edge of the universe that turned out to be Relic. Exeter has returned home to find his fellow Kalimawans at war with a peaceful race of anthropomorphic mushrooms that are physically incapable of violence. The other Kalimawans remember the Mushroom dudes attacking them, but it can’t have happened, so what’s the deal? Well, it turns out that the Kalimawans use an electronic device to enhance their intelligence and memories, and that it’s been hacked by someone into making them think they should be involved in a Mushroom War (Adventure Time reference, yes!).
Kyle, Carol and Exeter make their way to the planet to find out that the person behind this hack is the person selling weaponry to the Kalimawans. He engineered a fake war to make money, basically, which is pretty damn evil, and allows Justin Jordan to apply a little bit of social commentary, but wrap it up in crazy sci-fi concepts like exocortex memories. This Warmonger, who has taken over a body meant to be the next Exeter is pretty damn strong (I thought Jordan was going to reveal him as a Durlan here, but no, he’s actually some kind of artificial intelligence), and given that he’s an arms dealer, is pretty interested in taking Kyle’s ring away from him. In the end though, he’s defeated by a combination of Kyle and Exeter’s strength, as well as The Guardians’ fixing the rest of the Kalimawan’s memories, causing them to turn on him.
So it’s all wrapped up pretty cleanly, or is it? The Warmonger is connected to a larger organisation, he’s only a copy, and it looks like he, as well as Exeter will return in time.
In amongst all this, Jordan continues to do a good job at slowly developing the romance between Kyle Rayner and Carol Ferris. This relationship doesn’t really make a lot of sense, but love doesn’t in general, so it’s good to take a slow burn approach.
Andrei Bressan fills in for Brad Walker on pencils, and does a good job, he’s not as detailed as Walker, but they have similar styles, so everything looked good. As I’ve said before, the Lantern books are in a really good place at the moment, and whilst New Guardians isn’t quite as vital to the larger story, Justin Jordan is still doing a great job and exploring some cool new sci-fi concepts and introducing a lot of interesting alien races and characters, he really is putting the ‘New’ in New Guardians.
Batman ’66 #7– Yet more hilarity and fun from the glorious world of 1966. With the news that the TV show is finally coming out on DVD, we are experiencing a full on Batman ’66 renaissance, and this comic is probably the best part of it. There are two stories here, and both are excellent.
The first, from Jeff Parker and Christopher Jones, sees Batman and Robin going up against a villain I’m not familiar with in False-Face, who is a master of disguise. False-Face pretends to be Bruce Wayne to sell fake jewellery, and he then pretends to be the museum curator in order to steal that Gem Catwoman was after a few issues ago (This book’s approach to continuity is minimal and subtle, but it works so well). This all culminates in a battle between False-Face and the Dynamic Duo at perhaps the most famous faces in America, Mount Rushmore. I loved this idea, because you can tell it’s the kind of thing the TV show would have loved to do, but just didn’t have the budget. That’s the best thing about comics the only constraints are the creator’s imaginations.
The second story, from Tom Peyer and Derec Donovan does feature Batman and Robin, but is actually more about The Joker, as, after watching the business news, he decides to downsize his crew to only 1 henchman, which has predictable results. I loved the social commentary aspect of this, and having the Joker follow market trends is just such a funny idea.
I know I haven’t gone into much detail here, but I don’t think I need to, the plots here are fairly simple, the pleasure comes in the little jokes and moments of absurdity. If you’re not reading this title, you really should be, it’s just 30 pages of pure fun, and if the other Batman titles are way too grim for you, this is the perfect medicine.
Deadly Class #1– Another week, another exceptional debut issue from Image Comics. They really are taking the piss now aren’t they? Deadly Class is actually quite a hard comic to describe at this point, but with this first issue, Rick Remender and Wes Craig have already hooked me in with a unique tone of voice, fantastic art and a variety off characters who, even if they aren’t actually interesting just yet, at least look interesting and hold a lot of promise. This is a vibrant, angry first issue that demonstrates all that’s good about comics and about being young and screwed over.
The story here takes place in 1987, during the Reagan era and a famous Stock Market Crash. The parallels between that time and now are obvious really, and it allows Remender to comment on the current fucked-up state of the world, but from a safer distance that should hopefully help him avoid controversy (but then as we’ve seen in Uncanny Avengers, Remender seems to court controversy without even really doing anything). Plus, this time period allows Remender to reflect the music and different youth subcultures of the time, which do seem purer. In the 1980s, hardcore punks could actually be hardcore, now, they’re just on the internet and in Starbucks like everyone else. Rebellion has been commoditized now, but in the 80s, there was still some left.
The main character in this issue is Marcus, a homeless 14 year old with a mysterious secret in his past. His parents moved to the USA from Nicaragua after his dad helped out the CIA, and it looks like this has something to do with his being homeless, as his parents are dead. Marcus himself may have killed someone too, as he is on the run. Marcus’ inner voice from Remender is constant and very well-written, and you really feel like you’re inside his head. Remender used this same technique in #1 of Black Science, but I feel it works better here. The opening half of the issue sees Marcus struggle on the streets of San Francisco, with people not wanting to give him change, and the Reaganite philosophy basically fucking him over. In a cool twist, he actually shares a Birthday with big Ronald. Marcus flashes back to an unfortunate memory from his childhood, where we see how his parents died, when crazy woman (who had been let out of an Asylum due to Reagan’s budget cuts) jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, and land right on top of his parents crushing them, which is just fucked-up, but other than that, the rest of his past remains a tantalising mystery.
In what turns out to be a pivotal moment, Marcus shows mercy to an old homeless man who steals his shoes, and throughout all of this, Marcus has the strange feeling that he’s being watched. At his wit’s end, Marcus goes up to the Golden Gate himself, ready to commit suicide, but he is pulled back, both by the memory of his father, and also by the words of a mysterious girl.
The story really kicks into high gear when Marcus attends a Day Of The Dead celebration, where he spots the same mysterious girl and tries to chase after here. It’s here that the Police converge on Marcus, trying to bring him in for some crime, probably murder. The girl, and a bunch of other teenagers help Marcus escape, and we get a fantastic chase and action scene, with the girl helping Marcus to escape the Cops, who aren’t out to arrest, but to kill. Wes Craig’s art is amazing here, and throughout the issue in fact. I’ve been a fan of Craig’s since his work on Guardians Of The Galaxy, but here, he’s really cutting loose with some fantastic designs and layouts. This comic just looks cool, which is very important when the story is so youth-orientated. Colourist Lee Loughridge also plays a huge part in how good this comic looks, as he uses a variety of techniques. Some pages are coloured ‘normally’, but on others, he allows one colour to dominate, so everything is hued purple or red. It’s hard to describe in words, but it looks great.
The mysterious girl (her name is Saya) saves Marcus, and even kills a Cop to do so. Marcus is taken away, and it is revealed to him by the rest of his teenaged protectors (we don’t know much about any of them yet, other than names, but each has a distinctive look, and I’m excited to find out more about them) and by Master Lin, an old Asian man, that the reason they have been watching him is because they want to recruit him to join them, and be trained to become one of the world’s greatest assassins. Yep, assassins. Marcus is understandably wary of this, and he initially refuses, but thanks to Saya, he is turned around, and agrees to become a student at the ‘Kings Dominion School Of The Deadly Arts’.
This was a great opening issue, it was stylish, the characterisation of Marcus was solid, and now that the set-up is out of the way, I can’t wait for the real craziness to begin. If you’re looking for a comic that’s like nothing else out there, then look no further than Deadly Class.
Pretty Deadly #4 – Just like with last issue, things are getting much, much clearer now for Pretty Deadly. The first 2 issues we were all thrown in the deep end by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios, but now we’ve learnt to swim and have made our way to the surface, and it all mostly makes sense.
I still don’t get what the Bones Bunny and Butterfly sequences are about though.
Much like my strained metaphor just there, this issue begins with Sissy making her way out of the deep water, and to the surface, where she comes face to face with Johnny Coyote, the man who started all of this by allowing her to steal the mysterious binder. Johnny reassures Sissy that she isn’t a monster, and they head off together to ‘meet their destinies’. I did like how DeConnick made a point of having one of her characters complain about how nobody ever gives a straight answer, it might be basic ‘lamp-shading’, but it works.
The next scene provides some more answers, as Big Alice, in Butterfly form returns to her master, Death and is returned to her human form, to start a new plan, she wants to team-up with Ginny and kill Sissy. Why does she want to do this? Well, it turns out that the role of Death in this world is not a permanent one, and Sissy is supposed to take over from the current skull-faced guy. Death doesn’t want this to happen, as part of some evil plan to ‘break the cycle’ and stop anyone from dying ever again. After Big Alice leaves, Death talks to Ginny’s mother, who first asks him to let her go, and then to join her in permanent death. These were fascinating scenes, and Death is becoming a very creepy, very interesting villain.
Also rising up from the depths is Fox, and he runs right into Ginny and Sarah. Ginny wants to kill him for what he did to her mother, and they get into a fight. I think fight scenes are where this book, and Emma Rios in particular, really shine, they are just beautiful and fluid, but also very violent and hard-hitting. Fox tells Ginny about why Sissy needs protecting from Death, and that she is the new Death, and that stays her hand, and she, Fox and Sarah all go off to try and protect Sissy. I was surprised by how quickly Fox and Sissy were reunited here, I sort of expected them to be separated for a while, and for this book to become a bit of a travelogue, but nope, in the space of 2 pages, everyone is together and making their way to Death’s domain, where they once again run into Big Alice. I like that DeConnick isn’t drawing stuff out here, a lot has happened in only 4 issues, and probably more has happened that I haven’t understood yet.
After a rather rocky start, this book is now starting to live up to the reputation it had even before it began. The atmosphere and artwork have always been fantastic, but now the story and characters are much clearer. I’d still probably suggest waiting for the trade, but it’s still well worth a look.
Umbral #3– Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten’s dark horror fantasy keeps on getting more and more interesting, especially as, in this issue, we find out more about the titular Umbral (that’s the plural, they’re like sheep, well, they’re not like sheep, but you know what I mean) and what they are up to. But there’s still plenty of mystery around these villains, which is for the best really, it’s scarier that they remain mostly an unknown.
The issue begins with a flashback, where we start to see just how and why the Umbral destroyed the secret smuggler’s cove. They arrive there in the form of 2 men and a woman, asking for passage into Strakhelm, however, the Smugglers are rightly suspicious of these strangers, who claim to have religion, which is a big no-no in this world, and take them to see ‘The Mistwalker’. The Mistwalker is a giant stone statue of a man, that appears to be walking out of the cave wall, and, so legend has it, is actually trying to escape, and will eventually. It’s a great visual, and just adds more and more questions about this world. The smugglers perform some kind of ritual at the statue, cutting the woman’s hand and asking her to touch it in order to reveal the truth. She turns into an Umbral and she and the others start slaughtering everyone, which was fun.
Back in the present, Rascal and Dalone are exploring these same caves after the slaughter, and they too decide to head to The Mistwalker. Johnston’s dialogue between these two is very strong, and I like that, even though there’s loads of secrets surrounding Dalone, there’s just as many around Rascal. Rascal reveals to Dalone that she has the glowing Oculus orb, which surprises him, but before anything can happen, the last surviving Smuggler, and Rascal’s friend Shayim arrives. In a cool twist on shape-shifting convention, Rascal stabs her friend, thinking she’s an Umbral, but nope, it’s the real person.
The three of them head to the Mistwalker, where they see the Umbral trying to draw it out of the wall, and it looks like they are succeeding, but in fact, the Mistwalker is drawn by the Oculus. This attracts the attention of the Umbral, and in their attack, they kill Dalone, which is another big surprise, I was expecting him to be a major feature in this series, but nope, he’s dead within 2 issues. I do like how Johnston is keeping the readers on their toes, anyone can die, the heroic prince, the wise old wizard, anyone. Rascal tries to escape using the Oculus, but instead she and Shayim just teleport right into the middle of a circle of Umbral. Oh dear oh dear, things just get worse for Rascal.
The issue ends with two other Umbral, one of whom is Jinglefingers or whatever his name was, discussing what’s going on with Rascal, and on the last page, one of them transforms into her dead friend, The Prince. I was slightly confused by this, are we meant to think that the prince was an Umbral all along? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.
Christopher Mitten’s art is still excellent, and I am just about used to seeing it in colour. I really do recommend this title, fantasy is an underrepresented genre in comics, aside from Conan, and this book is doing modern fantasy right.
Zero #5 – This issue marks the end of Zero’s first ‘story arc’, although since each issue has been a standalone, it’s hard to really call it that. What I mean is that, the book is taking a break for a month, and then will be back for #6, so this is the end of the first trade. Because of this, Ales Kot is starting to tie in a lot of different plot threads from previous issues, and also showing us what’s coming in the future for this title, and it certainly is surprising.
The issue begins with our first visit to the year 2038 since #1, with an older Zero still sitting on the edge of the White Cliffs of Dover, with a young man pointing a gun at him as he tries to explain himself.
Back in the ‘present’ of 2019, Zero is recovering from the events of #4, where he lost an eye. He is talking to Zizek about his parents, and admits that he started thinking about them after Mina died in #3, and that he’s dreaming of them. In a very evocative 4-page wordless sequence, we see that Zero is having trouble sleeping, and when he looks out of his window at night, he sees Ginsberg Nova waving at him. Is Nova really there? Or is it just a hallucination? I especially loved the page where Zero is just lying in bed touching all of his various scars, a great way to show, not tell us, the impact of his profession.
We then transition over to Zizek and his boss/lover Sara Cooke, as she plans on going to interview Zero and find out if he’s ready to go back into action, or if he should be… dealt with. I’m finding the relationship and interaction between Zizek and Cooke to be very interesting indeed, I can’t tell who’s playing who, or who’s worse. Cooke’s interrogation of Zero is a gripping scene, especially when she calls back to #1, and Zero’s killing of the Israeli soldier. We thought each of these issues was standalone, but they really weren’t, they are all building to something, and all of the lies are going to come crashing down on everyone’s heads.
Will Tempest’s art was fantastic in this scene, and throughout, he has a simple style that is perfect for Zero’s blank, emotionless facial expressions used throughout the issue. Cooke can’t work out what’s going on inside his head, and neither can we. Jordie Bellaire’s colours, the artistic constant on this title, also play a large role, as they are washed out and grey, showing the sparseness of the Agency’s buildings, and also perhaps of Zero’s senses. Using a different penciler but the same colourist every issue has been a very smart choice.
The Cooke/Zizek relationship takes a turn after this, as she takes her to task for her questioning of Zero, she responds by brutally chopping Zizek in his neck and choking him. I thought Zizek was a bit dodgy before now, but at this point, it looks like Cooke is the real villain here, she’s certainly a fascinating character, she looks like an ordinary businesswoman, but she has a real edge. To stick it to Cooke, Zizek then decides to take Zero to see another thing the Agency is working on in a secret facility, which turns out to be some kind of horrific genetic tampering and cloning facility, which is creating all sorts of weird, bulbous humanoid monsters.
This book is taking a sharp-right into full-on sci-fi, and I’m loving it, and it gets even better with the last few pages, which once again take us to 2038. We find out that the boy pointing a gun at Zero is his son, and also that Zero’s real name is Edward Stoikovic, and best of all, we get to see what’s out at sea… a bunch of weird, bulbous plant monsters walking around. It looks like these are related to the experiments going on in 2019. This ending floored me, and much like in Scott Snyder’s The Wake, showed just how large the scale of this series is. Kot isn’t just exploring modern-day espionage and politics, he’s doing something much bigger.
I urge everyone to pick up the first Zero collection, this is one of the best, most vital and visually exciting comics of recent times, and everyone should be reading it.
So there you go, my favourite this week was probably Deadly Class, such a great first issue.
Next week should be back to full strength, with more Inhumanity, a Green Lantern Corps Annual, the return of Saga and Miracleman, along with the penultimate issue of Cataclysm, I’ve just seen the cover to that, and fuuuuuu—