It's a clash of the titans as Avengers faces off with Batman. Which book will emerge victorious?
For those of you who didn't read my last entry, this column does a weekly comparison between a Marvel release (the "Red Book") and a DC release (the "Blue Book"). I weigh the pros and cons of each book's writing and art, and crown a "winner" of the week. Of course, this is all in good fun so don't take my opinions too seriously. This week, the matchup is between a team that has had more lineup changes than a heavy metal band and a hero that has had more people graduate from his teaching than a community college. It's The Avengers #18 vs. Batman #2!
The Avengers #18 (Brian Michael Bendis, Daniel Acuña)
This book takes place in the immediate aftermath of the Fear Itself event. The superhero community is once again in a shambles. Steve Rogers and Tony Stark are left in the rubble to determine the future of the Avengers. This is getting to be a yearly thing, isn't it? The "Annual Avengers Arrangement" Event? Anyway, on with the review!
Pros: This book gives a very nice summation of the last several major events in Marvel's timeline. High marks to Bendis for continuity here. Not to spoil things, but apparently "Civil War" through "Fear Itself" all took place within several months of each other. I never knew that, but it's a nice explanation. Also, I personally really enjoy these "team-building" books. It's always interesting to see the thought process behind choosing members. A new character is introduced and will likely have very interesting consequences in the coming issues.
Cons: Two words: Velma Dinkley. (For those who've read it already, think about it.) Aside from getting Earth's Mightiest Heroes all in one place for the fifteenth time that afternoon (but who's counting?), not much really happens in this book. It is the beginning of a new chapter so I understand that this issue is largely setup. I still would have liked to see something happen though. The new character I mentioned earlier is a bit of an issue for me as well. Her motivations aren't really stated until the final pages, which I can appreciate, but prior to that point she's written in a fairly emotionless tone that makes her pretty unlikeable.
Pros: I'd like to say that this is one of my favorite covers I've seen in a while. Daredevil #1 still wins for Marvel covers, but this one's definitely up there. As for the interior art, Acuña's style makes me think of a cross between John Romita Jr. and Gabriele Dell'Otto's work in Secret War (Six Degrees of Brian Michael Bendis?). It's a different look for the book and the color choices are very nice. In some of the panels, characters are colored outside the lines, which I think is an interesting choice that gives the book a unique vibe.
Cons: Despite looking very good, something about this book's art just doesn't connect with me as a reader. It just doesn't make me feel invested in the book. It's a subjective opinion that's kind of hard to explain. Simply put, the art in this book isn't my personal cup of tea. But all props to Daniel Acuña and crew.
Batman #2 (Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion)
Gotham's greatest hero starts on the trail of a mysterious killer who seems to have it out for Bruce Wayne. After investigating a murder with Commissioner Gordon (and the use of some fancy gadgetry), Bruce tries to find out what he can about the killer's identity and what connection he might have with him.
Pros: Scott Snyder's run with the Big Bat before the relaunch was critically acclaimed and for good reason. Snyder sets up a genuinely interesting mystery in this story. Similar to Brad Meltzer's Identity Crisis story, I expect this arc to build very dramatically. On top of that, this issue explains the events of the last issue clearly and accessibly for those who were under a rock when #1 came out (Seriously, how could you not have read/bought it?) and characters and concepts are introduced very well.
Cons: Even though it may not necessarily be so, this issue seems wordier than #1. Perhaps it's because the pacing feels a little off. There's a chase scene in the opening that has nothing to do with the rest of the story. #1 used a similar tactic but it felt more appropriate somehow. Here it seems a bit shoehorned. Additionally, Bruce Wayne doesn't "sound" like Bruce Wayne. It feels as though Snyder is trying to write him as more of a "Heh, they don't know I'm Batman" kind of Bruce Wayne who says things we as readers know refer to his double life but others don't. Personally, I'm not a fan of this kind of thing, at least not in writing. In the movies it works better for some reason.
Pros: Greg Capullo and Co. do strong work this issue, this time giving more of the spotlight to Gotham City itself. Even in the daylight, Gotham City is drawn as a gothic, looming place that feels like it could eat you alive. The new villain is drawn in a way that looks genuinely evil, which is a great touch.
Cons: Apart from Commissioner Gordon, it's a bit hard to tell the characters apart in this new series. Bruce Wayne and new character Lincoln March (really, what kind of name is that?) look almost exactly alike aside from a few inches' difference in height. This makes things a little confusing to look at sometimes. The chase scene I mentioned earlier is very cluttered and confusing. I honestly couldn't tell what was happening while I was reading it. Plus, throughout his appearance in this issue, Dick Grayson has an annoying grin on his face that gets old fast. I'm not sure I like the new Dick, but I may get used to him in time.
Winner of the week- The Avengers #18! (Bet you thought I was gonna say Batman.)
In spite of my criticism of the book I think Avengers wins this week based on one thing. Batman may have his loyal fan base, but the Avengers' ever-changing lineup will always be able to draw readers faithful to their favorite heroes. There have been good and bad runs with both books, but a bad Batbook is likely to have readers calling for blood (or at least thanking God it wasn't made worse by Rob Liefeld). Even mixed reviews on an Avengers book will still have readers who are praising the use of their preferred heroes or arguing about the lack of the same. Batman's a great read but Avengers seems like more of a "water cooler" book that will generate more discussion and debate, which is one of the great parts of reading comic books in the first place!
Written or Contributed by: Veggieleezy, Outhouse Contributor
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About the Author - Christian Hoffer
Christian Hoffer is the exasperated Abbott to the Outhouse's Costello. When he's not yelling at the Newsroom for upsetting readers or complaining to his wife about why the Internet is stupid, he sits in his dingy business office trying to find new ways to make the site earn money. Hoffer is also the only person in history stupid enough to moderate two comic book forums at once.
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