TWIP is back to a semi-regular schedule! Boo-yah!
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This Week In Punchy is your one-stop shop for all of the comics opinion you need! I've got mini-reviews of every comic I read this week, from Amazing Spider-Man to Fatale to Defenders to iZombie.
As always, click the links to join the forum discussion, but times-a-wasting, so let's go!
Amazing Spider-Man #679 – This was a fun little two-parter which served as a nice reminder of some of the themes of Dan Slott's run so far, which is that Peter Parker is just as, if not more important than Spider-Man, and the return of his scientific prowess. The reason for the world ending was clever, unexpected and made sense, and that's really all you can ask for in a mystery. Add to that a fun fight with Spider-Man, Silver Sable and Flag-Smasher, a nice scene between Peter and MJ and continued development of supporting characters like Grady, this was a typically strong issue of ASM. Ramos' art seemed a little sketchier than usual, but still decent. But come on, are we supposed to believe a dork like Peter Parker doesn't know what Doctor Who is? Seriously!
Venom #13 – Not only is it great to have Tony Moore back drawing Venom, but he's also back in the world of the Ghost Rider! Moore drew 3 excellent issues of Jason Aaron's run and he's a perfect fit for a story like this which is all about Hell. This crossover looks like being a lot of fun, mainly because it's featuring characters who are at best B-Listers, so it has more freedom to change things up. I've personally been following 3 of the 4 characters in Venom, Rulk and Ghost Rider, so all of that was familiar to me. X-23 was the only one that I came to with very little knowledge, but her scenes were really strong too. These characters may not seem to be an obvious fit for a team-up but Remender does well to bring them all together in Las Vegas in a way that makes sense and draws some interesting connections between them all. So we get stuff like Venom and Rulk both following military rankings, and, most interestingly, the story focuses on souls, Ghost Rider of course has the ability to remove souls, and X-23 is worried about whether she, as a clone even has one. Blackheart is a villain I don't have much experience with, but he's certainly a threat that should challenge these characters. If you turned your nose up at this, think again, yes these characters may be some of modern comics' worst excesses, but they're a lot of fun.
Hulk #48 – Another strong issue of Hulk where Parker manages to balance monster-smashing with character moments. I continue to love the introduction of Machine Man to this book and he and Red Hulk make a surprisingly strong team as they take on Zero/One's monster-hybrids. Elena Casagrande's art is perfect for these action sequences and she uses some really interesting panel layouts. I was disappointed when Hardman left the book, but Casagrande is an able replacement. As I said, this issue was just as much about the characters as the fights, and it was really great to see things from the perspective of Jacob, who has become a fascinating, tragic character. Red She-Hulk is my only issue here, just like in #47, Parker seems to be writing her completely differently from the likes of Fraction or Loeb, odd, but he does well at the father/daughter stuff. Next issue seems to be a Rulk/Eternals fight, that should be epic.
Winter Soldier #1 – The highly anticipated new series from Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice is the pick for the New Review Group this week, so head over there to read what I think, and maybe contribute a review of your own?
The Punisher #8 – What really stands out in this series is how much Rucka leaves unsaid and how trusting he is of his artist to tell the story. I'm pretty sure that Frank Castle only says 2 sentences in this issue, yet still he's a major presence. Checchetto really is doing an excellent job. This issue continues Frank and Rachel Alves' war against the mysterious syndicate. I will say that the only detriment to Rucka's rather hands-off approach is that the villains of the book are still a little too underdeveloped, I have no idea what they are or what they want. It was interesting to get another little wrinkle in that they aren't all ex-members of evil societies, the guy with the natty goatee is ex-SHIELD. The final scene was a masterpiece in how Rucka leaves things unsaid, with both the reader and Mr. Goatee think that it's Frank being attacked, but it's Rachel and Frank is sneaking up on everyone unawares, silent but deadly.
Avengers Academy #25 – A solid issue of AA which wrapped up the time-travel story well and set-up what looks to be an exciting issue next time. The fight between our heroes and Hybrid was pretty perfunctory stuff, but the way it wrapped up with Adult Reptil sacrificing himself was really well-done. I wonder if the future we saw was one where they were good guys or bad guys? Gage cleverly left it unclear. The return of Jocasta and Veil came rather suddenly, but as I said, it does set up next issue nicely, I wonder what Jocasta is up to? Tom Grummet's art was good again, but I still miss McKone, where the heck has he gone?
The Defenders #3 – This book is crazy, I'm not sure what's going on but I'm enjoying it. Just like in Casanova, Fraction knows that the reader may not totally understand, but they'll still be willing to hang on for the ride. I wonder what the deal is with the silent Prester dude? And what does he have to do with Omega: The Unknown? The mysteries and plot threads of this book just keep building and building. One thing that's note-worthy here is the number of different narration techniques Fraction is using, we've got a 3rd-person omniscient narrator, and then we gave 1st person stuff from the Defenders, and then there's the weird narration of the Presters. I wonder why he's using so many, can he not just make up his mind? Or is he going for a sensory overload? Or is he trying to channel the 1970s era this book hearkens to and also have modern style too? Hmmm. Have your bronze-age cake and eat it.
Uncanny X-Men #6 – I'm really enjoying how this book is building on what was set up in X-Force, it's great to see writers really contribute and build on new stuff rather than just going back to the Claremont well. The X-Men continue to explore Tabula Rasa, and we get an explanation of what the Immortal Man is, and contrary to my predictions, it's a new character, but that's not a problem, in fact it was a bonus. I wonder if 'Savage' will join the team? That would be cool. Gillen as always manages to pack the issue with some really great character moments and lines of dialogue, or in the case of Jugger-Colossus, single words. Gillen's Namor really is fantastic, just such a magnificent cad. Greg Land's artwork was solid, I know he's hated across the internet, but I've always quite liked him.
Uncanny X-Force #21 – This is a weird storyline for me, there are parts I really like, such as the way Remender is writing AoA Nightcrawler and really demonstrating how different he is from 'our' Kurt, but all the stuff with Otherworld and the Goat Demon is not really appealing to me. I've always liked Captain Britain, but we've been dropped into the middle of a war that we've never seen anything of before so this isn't really the Captain Britain setting I know. I wonder how Remender's take on CB here, where he's kind of being used as a villain, will be compared to when he's using him as a Secret Avenger? Greg Tocchini's art once again veered wildly from looking really good and looking absolutely terrible, even within the same panel. I had no idea who the red guy revealed at the end was? Who was it supposed to be?
X-Factor #231 – I was kind of disappointed that issue was a Madrox-only affair because after the end of #230 I wanted to see the fall-out of Havok and Polaris joining the team, but this was still a decent issue. It may be a base pleasure but I'm always a sucker for an alternate reality and this issue delivered a good one. We see a world in which Wanda Maximoff said 'No More Humans' rather than 'No More Mutants' and it's a pretty dark place, with all the superheroes turned evil except for Iron Man, who has a load of giant Sentinel-esque robots smashing stuff. I really liked PAD's take on the alt-Tony Stark. But even though this issue is set in an alternate reality, it still has some little hints and bits for the 'real world', especially Mister Tryp's declaration that he 'knows stuff'. Interesting, interesting...
Avengers: X-Sanction #3(of 4) – This review will follow the same pattern as previous ones, yes the story was pretty stupid but it was a lot of fun and Ed McGuinness drew the hell out of it, the man could make any script look good. I wonder why it is that Cable thinks Rulk is Glenn Talbot? Could that be a hint to the future? Or has he not read all of Loeb's run on Hulk yet? It was cool to see Blaquesmith in a fight, he was hopping around like Yoda in Attack Of The Clones, pretty damn cool. I also liked seeing Cyclops and Hope show up and demonstrate just how messed up the Summers family tree is. Three generations of weird in that room. And then Wolverine and Spider-Man showed up! Awesome! Next issue should be a brawl and a half. Any ideas why Spidey is wearing his black costume on the cover of #4? Just because it looks cool?
Villains For Hire #3(of 4) – Hah! I didn't see that one comic, although I really should have. Misty Knight is once again under the control of Puppet Master, who's trying to get his own back on the Purple Man. It's really cool to see a series which shows how villains fare against each other and to get an insight into the world of the bad guys. I especially liked how Purple Man's side managed to win the fight by giving their opponents more money, very appropriate and nice and unorthodox. Also cool was how Crossfire refused to do so, showing some honour amongst thieves. This has been a fun mini-series, I wonder if we'll get any more 'For Hire' stories once this is over. Anti-Heroes For Hire? Supporting Casts For Hire? Love Interests For Hire?
Action Comics #6 – I really enjoyed this one, yes it was rather confusing, but in the end it all worked out (I think) and had some really great moments and crazy ideas the likes of which only Grant Morrison could come up with. The location of the villains' secret base being inside Superman's head was genius! The flashback sequences were the best parts once again, and the way that the colour of the barn changed was very, very clever. Andy Kubert's art was strong as usual, but you do have to question the wisdom of putting in this two-parter right now, because it interrupted the main story and the Superman that's been appearing in this book didn't appear at all! I wonder if the bullet in the 5-years in the future Superman's head is playing a part in why he's acting weird in Perez's title? He did mention how it would explain some of his actions. That would be a very cool connection between the two books. The back-up story was good too, I may have some problems with the new DCU killing off Ma and Pa, but stories like this one have wrung some good emotional stuff out of it.
Batwing #6 – This book is improving with every issue, and it really has become one of the sleeper hits of the New 52 for me. This issue continued it's exploration of Batwing's origins, showing his start in the Tinasha police force and his struggles with it's corruption. We also see his first attempt at crime-fighting, and his first meeting with Batman. But it wasn't all flashbacks, we also got a pretty extensive fight between Batwing and Massacre which included some pretty big hints as the the villain's identity. Batwing seems convinced it's General Keita, but I still reckon it's his brother Isaac. It was announced this week that Marcus To would be taking over the artistic reigns of this book, and while I'm sure he'll do a good job, I'll certainly miss Ben Oliver, his depiction of Batwing's armour is particularly good. It is pretty convenient that the remaining members of The Kingdom are in Gotham City, but hey.
Swamp Thing #6 – Most of the issues of this title have been quite slow-moving, but this one went by really fast. The forces of The Rot attack Alec and Abby, and it's revealed that it's not William who is the Rot Avatar, but Abby. Dun dun dun! Some of the scenes in this issue really were disturbing and Marco Rudy depicted that in filthily good fashion. I always miss Paquette but the fill-ins for this book have done well to maintain the tone he has set. The ending was pretty damn shocking too, but I'm guessing that Alec's death will be what forces the Green to turn him into Swamp Thing again. I really like how this title has boiled down an age-old struggle between two opposing forces into a man fighting his lover. It's epic, but also human.
Animal Man #6 – Lemire takes a break from Buddy's struggle against the Rot here and gives us a look at the movie that Buddy starred in. The movie is a pretty obvious homage to 'The Wrestler', the director is called 'Ryan Daranovsky' and it's about a washed-up ex-superhero with a drinking problem and issues connecting with his kid. All it's missing is a relationship with a stripper. But those similarities were a plus more than a minus for me, and it meant for a really unique issue. John Paul Leon's art was perfect for the bleak tone of the 'movie' and made it all seem very 'real' compared to the out-there style of Foreman. I also liked how Lemire didn't just do the issue for the sake of it, but it's appearance was part of the main story, with Cliff watching it on his smart-phone. In the end we only get half of the movie, and I'd certainly welcome another issue which shows us the rest of it sometime in the near future. Oh, and of course, it was cool how Buddy's character in 'Tights' was named after the creators who really re-defined him as 'Chas Grant'.
Justice League International #6 – A nice little epilogue for the first arc that did a good job at shining the spotlight on some of the characters who aren't Booster Gold. So we got some good character moments for the likes of Godiva, Guy Gardner and August General In Iron. Marco Castiello's art was not quite as polished as Lopresti's has been but it worked for the more low-key nature of this issue. And of course the issue ended with the whole team getting blown up. I reckon they're all dead for sure. I'm still waiting for it to be revealed that Booster is working with Rip Hunter in the new DCU, that has to be the reason why Batman trusts him.
Stormwatch #6 – These first 6 issues of this title really feel like they're only a prologue to the team and story that Cornell wanted to tell and I think that people's problems with Stormwatch have been that he took too long to get to this point, with the whole team together and the villains set up and the notion of the team as 'Explorers Of What Might Have Been'. All of that, and even stuff like the Daemonite AI controlling the ship and hating the team all feels like elements of the series that should have been present from the very beginning of the title, so it all feels like something of a missed opportunity. I look forward to seeing what Peter Milligan does with this new set-up and also how this issue impacts around the DCU in the likes of Superman #7.
iZombie #22 – Another good issue, which moved all of the various subplots further on and gave us a bit of a bigger glimpse at the major threat that is Xitalu. I do still feel that perhaps there are too may subplots, or maybe that Roberson would be better served by not trying to fit each one into every issue. The story would probably feel like it was moving quicker if we got a big chunk of say, Spot's story all in one go. And now this issue added more stuff! Spot's chimp Granddad is dating Dixie the coffee-shop owner, and there's certainly more to her than meets the eye. It was great to have Allred back on art, he really is the perfect fit for the tone of this book. It looks like next issue will feature some pretty major revelations, which is good, because as I said, sometimes this book seems to be moving very slowly.
Sweet Tooth #30 – Man alive this issue was dark. The character of Haggarty is just pure evil, the scenes with him threatening Lucy and Becky made my skin crawl. I really hope Bobby and Johnny aren't dead, but if they are... holy fuck, Lemire has balls of steel. And then you have the re-appearance of the creepy crow-hybrid kid, and the revelation that he's not some kind of profound one-off, but that he's working with some kind of creepy woodsman who's kidnapped both Gus and Jepperd. Things are happening really fast in this book at the moment, and at times it's hard to keep up, but if you do it's very rewarding indeed. There's nothing quite like this book out there at the moment and it just keeps getting better and better. What was up with the cover though? That was just strange.
Invincible #88 – Just like this week's issues of Sweet Tooth and The Boys, this was one of those comics that make your mouth hang open with the sheer impact of what's happening. This issue brought the conflict over the scourge virus to a head and brought everyone from Allen, Thragg to the Guardians Of The Globe together for a big confrontation. And it ended with Mark getting poisoned with the virus by his own brother! Holy fuck! Invincible has never shied away from doing crazy twists and shocker endings, but this one... woah. Will Mark die? It certainly looks that way, especially since the cover to #89 features that Black Invincible that was teased aaaages ago. I'm not sure where Kirkman is going with this, but I'm along for the ride fo'sho. Oh, and Oliver is a major dick in this issue, and I'm not just saying that because my own little brother is also called Oliver!
Fatale #2 – Brubaker and Phillips deliver their usual high-quality package here as the mystery continues to develop and the aura of the supernatural gets bigger and bigger. This issue expands the world of Fatale a little more and introduces us to the character who is (I assume) the major villain in Mister Bishop, who is delightfully creepy. I wasn't sure at first if a Noir/Horror mash-up would work as well as Brubaker's previous straight-up Noir, but he's proving me wrong here and I'm pleased as hell. I was surprised that this issue did not feature any scenes set in the present with Nicolas Lash and his missing leg, it was all flashback, I wonder when we'll get back to him, or was he just a framing device only to be revisited at the very end? Phillips' art was of course fantastic, he manages to make the horror elements seem of a whole with the realism of the world, which manages to make it all the scarier. His painting of Poe was also brilliant. It's hard to write about a Bru/Phillips joint without repeating yourself at times, they are just modern-day comics perfection, almost every time.
The Boys #63 – Holy flurking schnitt! We're in the end-game now for sure people. This issue of The Boys was one of the most eventful yet, and damn near blew my head off. People always talk about the big benefit of creator-owned comics is that creators can do what they want and kill people and this issue proved that, so much stuff you would never get in a mainstream comic happened here, and I'm not talking about the language or the gore. We start with Homelander's plan coming to fruition as he attacks the White House, then we have the Frenchman having one of his arms ripped off! Then, in a brilliant scene, Hughie straight up Rugby-kicks A-Train's head off! That's been coming since #1 and it was wonderfully cathartic to see it finally happen. And then... Queen Maeve confronts Homelander, who rips her head off! Oh yes! And then (I know I sound like a little kid reciting a story here, but this is what this issue reduced me to, a gibbering child) Butcher tells MM to release all of the dirt on the superheroes they have to the media. It's on, it's fucking on! How many issues are left? I don't know and I don't care, I just hope they are as packed with brilliant stuff as this one was. If you've lost faith in comics ever being able to reach a satisfying conclusion, Garth Ennis has the cure for you right here.
My favourite this week was definitely The Boys, so much is happening in that book at the moment it hurts my brain.
Join me next week where I'll shine my light on the final issue of PunisherMAX, new issues of Green Lantern, Demon Knights, Secret Avengers and Wolverine & The X-Men. Plus there's a new dawn for Conan The Barbarian, exciting times.
Review by: Niam Suggitt