This week in Punchy there's all sorts of top quality comics! Including the first round of DC #2s and new issues of Hulk, Moon Knight, iZombie and The Boys. Plus there's the final issue of House Of Mystery and the explosive ending to Schism! It doesn't get much better than this.
Credits & Solicit Info:
Welcome along to another instalment of my weekly micro-reviews column. If you thought things would have calmed down a bit with the last of the DC #1s you were wrong! Because now we've got #2s to deal with from the likes of Action Comics, Stormwatch and Swamp Thing. Plus a load of other goodies from Marvel, Image and Dynamite. Oh yeah, and Casanova and Superior are back, showing that Icon is probably the most consistently great imprint in comics.
As usual, you can click the links by each review to get to a forum thread, and join the discussion (or lack thereof).
What are you waiting for? Get stuck in!
Hulk #42 – Another very good issue of Hulk and it's great to have Patrick Zircher on board, he's one of the most underrated pencillers in comics in my opinion and he draws a kick-ass Red Hulk. This story continues Jeff Parker's fleshing out of Thunderbolt Ross' back-story, and introduces a former friend who left the USAF to become a mercenary, his death sends Rulk into Arabia where he carves a swathe through some rebels or something, the politics don't matter to Red Hulk, he just smashes shit up. And then the Secret Avengers show up and kick his ass. This looks like being an interesting storyline, and one that thankfully has a little less going on than the last one, which while excellent, had like 5 different villains in it. Although General Fortean is still involved here, and it looks like there's a new villain too. If you'd told me 2 years ago when Loeb was writing this book that one day it would be too complicated at times, I'd never believe you, but it is a complex book, and all the better for it.
Moon Knight #6 – Okay, first off, what the hell is Moon Knight doing on the cover? Is he voguing? He looks ridiculous! This was very enjoyable as usual, it's just a pleasure to read Bendis and Maleev groove together. There were several really strong scenes here, Moon Knight and Echo deciding to team-up again, the new Kingpin of LA (who is definitely Count Nefaria I reckon) killing that bunch of morts, and then the actual Avengers showing up to find out what the hell Moon Knight is up to. This was a brilliant scene, and just adds another layer to Moon Knight's craziness, he knows that the Cap, Spidey and Wolverine in his head aren't real, but he's still listening to them, and that last page was very clever. Can't wait for the next issue.
Thunderbolts #164 – This book is really having fun at the moment, and you can tell. I loved all the costume changes for the 'American Thunderbolts' and Jeff Parker has a great handle on the Invaders, especially Namor. I also liked how Parker fully explores all the different metaphysical time-travel possibilities like whether or not they can change the future or if they'll create a parallel dimension and what would happen if Zemo was killed. A lot of time-travel stories just ignore all that and go crazy, so it's refreshing to see someone look at it a little closer. Kev Walker's art was brilliant once again, especially his depictions of Mister Hyde and Red Skull. And man alive, is what's going on with the Man-Thing creepy, yeesh.
Spider-Island: Heroes For Hire – This was basically Heroes For Hire #13, but it was good anyway. This issue did what any tie-in should and showed it's heroes taking part in the big crossover, and in this case it's fighting spider-people and then becoming spider-people. DnA got in cameos for most of the previous castmembers (plus Luke Cage and J. Jonah Jameson!), but the main meat of this story was the relationship between Misty Knight and Paladin. I was surprised by how touching this was, and I think this issue did the best job of all the Spider-Island tie-ins I've read so far in getting across the horror that someone would feel if they turned into a spider-monster. This was helped a lot by the art of Kyle Hotz, who is great at drawing weird angular grotesques and makes the spider-monsters look amazing. There were no hints to Villans For Hire like I expected, but this was no bad thing, DnA chose to focus on their characters rather than the over-arching plotline, and it worked.
X-Men: Schism #5(of 5) – With this ending, I think we can safely say this is one of the best X-Men event stories ever, it was just so, so good. Just like last issue, the fight between Wolverine and Cyclops was just brutal, you could feel every hit, and you could tell that every punch mattered, that things would never be the same even if the Sentinel is defeated. Which it was, in a 5 page wordless sequence which really worked and showed Adam Kubert's skills as an expert storyteller. I did feel that Kubert's work got a little rushed and sketchy towards the end, but it didn't effect the story. The conversation between Scott and Logan at the end was very interesting, I was surprised by how civil they were towards each other, I expected the Schism to be more violent than it was. Overall this was a fantastic story, which really made the reader think and hopefully consider both sides of what is a complex issue. Unfortunately I think some people have just sided with Wolverine because they like him more, but it doesn't matter. I'll certainly be buying both Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine & The X-Men, and can't wait to see how Jason Aaron (and Kieron Gillen) are taking the X-Men forward, I haven't been this excited for X-comics since Grant Morrison.
Casanova: Avaritia #2(of 4) – More insane genius from Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba. This issue was just amazing, so much happened and I can't even get my head around it. First you had Casanova's new mission of killing a different version of Luther Desmond Diamond (the man who will become Newman Xeno) in every universe, and then an insane scene between Cass and Sasa Lisi. Then samurais and pandas and then some weird kind of meta-commentary scene where Luther Desmond Diamond is actually Matt Fraction himself, and then homosexual undertones and then Casanova deciding to not kill LDD after all, and an explanation behind the back-up story in Gula #4. I think my favourite scene was when Casanova assaulted LDD's boat, Fraction didn't use dialogue and instead made fun of the kinds of dialogue he would use, such as '(Cheap and easy juvenile bullshit)' and '(Pandering)'. It's just great to see a book that tries new things, not everything comes off and it is confusing, but at least Casanova is trying. The art from Ba was fantastic as usual, this book just wouldn't work with a lesser artist. I need to read this about 10 more times before I fully understand it, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
Superior #5(of 7) – It's great to have Superior back, it's definitely my favourite of Mark Millar's recent work, and that's because it doesn't have any of the over-the-top cynicism his other stuff does, this is instead an earnest love-letter to Superman and every issue is a joy to read. This issue continued showing what a person with Superman-esque powers would be like 'in the real world' and it was really fun to see Superior take down Al Quaida just like that. And then when Simon gets to live out his dreams, such as playing for the Mets against the Yankees, playing bass with his favourite band and smashing LeBron James whilst playing for the Knicks, I just had the biggest smile on my face. The stuff with the Satanic Monkey I'm not so keen in because that cynicism creeps back in, but overall this was another top-notch issue, and it was worth the wait I feel as Leinil Yu's art has never looked better. Here's hoping that #6 and #7 come out quickly, and that the movie continues to gather pace.
Action Comics #2 – Just brilliant, this is going to be a classic Superman run, I can just feel it. In this issue I felt that Morrison got the balance between living up to the title of 'Action' comics and telling a complete story much better than #1. The action here was exciting and propulsive, but we also got more details into Superman's history and background, and also more insight into the characters of Lois Lane and Lex Luthor. I continue to love Superman's new, cocky attitude, and the whole thing is just a lot more fun and fresh. I liked the old Superman, but I like this a whole lot more. It's also interesting to see other elements of Superman lore show up, we've got Metallo and Steel introduced here, as well as perhaps Krypto? The artwork from Rags Morales is career-best stuff, and Brent Anderson did a great job at maintaining a similar style on his pages. At the end of this issue I immediately wanted more, and that's pretty much the highest praise you can give a comic-book.
Batwing #2 – This is still pretty good, but I think it needs to make a leap, there's so much potential in the concept of 'African Batman' but Judd Winick is just telling a pretty standard superhero story. But it's still a damn good superhero story, and the art is excellent. I also started to like the character of David Zavimbe a lot more in this issue, in #1 I found him dull, but he showed real spirit and strength here, especially in the scene where he was literally skewered on Massacre's sword. Massacre's back-story is becoming pretty clear too, he was either a member of The Kingdom or suffered at their hands and is taking his revenge. I do like how Winick is creating lots of new characters like Thunder Fall and defining the DCU Africa more than it was before, when it was basically just B'Wana Beast and Congorilla. Ben Oliver's art is as I said really strong, and the violence is surprisingly brutal. I'm enjoying this title, but I do feel it could be doing more.
Swamp Thing #2 – Wow, that was one dense comic, a lot of information was doled out here, and I'm still processing it. Being a relative Swamp Thing neophyte, a lot of it went over my head, but it seems like there's this big threat coming, and Alec Holland needs to become Swamp Thing in order to defeat it, and the last time he was Swamp Thing was a failure because he actually died. Right? Right. Snyder is walking a difficult tightrope here because the stuff Alan Moore revealed in 'The Anatomy Lesson' is basically sacrosanct, but I feel he's done a good job in keeping what Moore did and also adding to it. I'm certainly intrigued by what kind of Swamp Thing Holland will eventually become, or if he will at all! Even if some readers were a bit flummoxed by this one, it still had fantastic artwork from Yanick Paquette, who really cuts loose here with some exciting and unusual panel layouts. And the ending is an exciting and scary action scene that makes up for the wordiness. A great ending too, Alec was warned to stay away from Abby Arcane, so what's her agenda?
Animal Man #2 – Is this week's Review Group book, so head over to that thread to see what I made of this one. I wrote a lengthy review of #1 last month, so that should be some indication that I liked it.
Justice League International #2 – A lot of fun. This is a very traditional superhero team-book, with all the bickering and banter you'd expect, but it's very well done and features characters I really like so it's no bad thing. I love that comics has room for something as experimental as Casanova in the same week an old-school book like JLI. It was great seeing the team out of their element and bickering, the back and forth between Rocket Red and August General in Iron being a particular highlight. I also liked Godiva's flirting with Booster, which was very funny. The threat of the Signal Men is interesting, and is that Mongul on the last page? I loved seeing Andre Briggs stand up to Batman and the reactions that caused too. I must also say that Aaron Lopresti's art has never looked better, there were panels that reminded me of Terry Dodson. Oh yeah, and the first mention of Skeets in the new DCU, now that I know he's not been erased from history I can put down my pitchfork.
Stormwatch #2 – An improvement over #1 in a lot of ways, chiefly in that Cornell did a better job of explaining who some of these new characters are and what Stormwatch's status quo is. I get that writers want to avoid exposition dumps, but with #1 I felt like I'd been dropped in the deep-end, it was confusing. But now we know a bit more about Adam, and about the struggle for leadership in Stormwatch. Miguel Sepulveda's art was better too, and Al Barrioneuvo did a good job of filling in too. I was a bit confused by the scenes between Harry the Swordsman and that giant eye, is he betraying the team or not? I also liked Cornell's take on Midnighter, he seems like a scary dude. And the way Stormwatch misdirected the superheroes by manipulating the media and blaming the Fox was hilarious! A proper Cornell touch that.
House Of Mystery #42 – A fitting send-off to what has been a really enjoyable series. All 3 stories were great in their own ways. The Willingham one was funny and clever, ideas like 'The Igloo Of Mystery' and 'The Hastily-Built Shack Of Mystery' are just hilarious. The Steven Seagle was weird, but it had the meta-stuff about the nature of story that really made this series work. And the Sturges story had plenty of humour like the Willingham story, but added several fun nods to the main storylines of the series and hints to the futures of the characters that we won't see. It's a shame this series has ended, because it really did give you something different every month, but I think Sturges chose to end it at the right point, before it got tired.
iZombie #18 – A really fun interlude that also sheds some light onto the main storyline. Jay Stephens' art was great, and because it was inked and coloured by the Allreds, it maintained the tone and look of the series perfectly. It was fun to get a look at a young Diogenes, but he did look kind of stupid with hair. I thought we were going to find out how he got his scar, but we didn't, so that's a tale for another day I suppose. Horatio's mother was bad-ass, I wonder how she died? Roberson also drops lots of little hints about the bigger arcs, so we get more detail on what Xitalu is, and also about VEIL and the Dead Presidents. Plus, there were Were-Jaguars! Awesome.
Sweet Tooth #26 – Lemire takes a break from art duties and the main storyline here, and it's a really pleasant surprise. Matt Kindt is an artist I'm not really familiar with, I know he did a section in an earlier issue of Sweet Tooth, and I think he did a Black Widow story for Strange Tales, but he really impressed me here, his work really suits the Victorian era, and it's similar enough to Lemire's style that it didn't make the book feel too different. The story of James Thacker is very interesting, but I'm not too sure how it all connects up with what Gus and Jepperd and everyone are up to in the present day. Gus saw a vision of an igloo in a recent issue, and that plague could be the same one that wipes everyone out, but those are just guesses. I bet we see an antler baby next issue.
Invincible #83 – Another relatively quiet issue, but I think I can see where this is leading, Mark is beginning to feel that Invincible isn't needed anymore. Cecil as the Rean-Invincibles, the Guardians Of The Globe managed to stop Tether Tyrant without him. Mark feels irrelevant and is going to quit. Speaking of Tether Tyrant, the developments with him were interesting, and I love how we never say his rampage. It seems like there's a venom-type deal with his harness. It's cool that Kirkman is taking such a lame villain and amping him up. But did he have to kill Magmaniac? That dude was awesome. The Monster Girl/Robot stuff I'm 'meh' on, just get it over with and reveal what happened Kirkman!
The Boys #59 – Holy shit that was brutal. I'm not one of those morons who gets more upset when an animal dies in a movie than when a human dies (waaah, I'm boycotting I Am Legend because they killed a dog, even though the WHOLE OF HUMANITY was killed at the start, no a dog is more important), but Terror's death shocked me, especially when he looked so adorable on the cover. Ennis you bastard! Butcher's blank expression and the way he killed Jack From Jupiter was just terrifying. The Seven will not be safe now. There was more to this issue though, the stuff with Hughie venting his frustrations was gripping, and showed how this book is more complex than it seems in it's character interactions. But really, this all came down to 'why'd you kill me dog, Jack?', that line is going to be with me for a while.
Good stuff eh? I think my favourite of this week's cornucopia of comic book delights was Action Comics #2, I'm just loving this new take on Superman. But Casanova, X-Men: Schism, Superior and The Boys were all fantastic too.
Next week has a lot of promise, including #2s from the likes of Green Lantern, Demon Knights, Frankenstein and Grifter. There's also the start of James Robinson's new Shade maxi-series, which I'm praying will be the return of the good Robinson, you know, from Starman. As well as that #SpiderIsland is back, as are FF, Uncanny X-Force and Morning Glories. I'm quivering with nervous excitement.
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SPECIAL BONUS REVIEW! BLAST FROM THE PAST (IF BY PAST YOU MEAN LAST WEEK)!
I, Vampire #1 – I had initially dismissed this book as being a bit too Twilighty for me based on the cover, but since everyone and their dog were raving about it last week, I went back and picked it up. And... it was pretty good. I didn't think it was among the best of the New 52 like some people, but it was interesting, and certainly a lot better than the cover suggested. The concept of an epic Vampire War between two former lovers is certainly very interesting, and Fialkov introduces a lot of subtleties to it, like the fact that Andrew is the one who made Mary a Vampire in the first place, so this whole thing is basically his fault. I did find the way the book was structured timeline-wise to be a bit confusing at first, but on a second read-through it all became clearer. The art was very reminiscent of Jae Lee, but that style really worked for this type of story, and the way Sorrentino drew the Vampires' wolf-form was fantastic. I'll probably pick up #2 now, I've been banging the drum about how people should support the DC #1s that step outside of the superhero genre, and this, along with All-Star Western and Men Of War and Demon Knights is experimentation that should be rewarded.
Review by: Niam Suggitt