It's a TWiP Valentine's Day Special!
OK, no it isn't, butI guarantee you that you'll still love it! There's reviews of tons of great comics, like Blue Beetle! Super Dinosaur! Ultimate X-Men! And more!
Credits & Solicit Info:
It's that time again, yes it's This Week In Punchy! Each week I give a little mini-review to every comic I read and collect them all right here for your reading pleasure!
This week I've got 3 titles from the Spider-Man family, both Bendis Avengers books and another fantastic instalment of Hellblazer, so what are you waiting for? Get stuck in!
But remember, click the links next to each paragraph to join the forum discussion.
Amazing Spider-Man #679.1 – An enjoyable issue that works both as a standalone story of 'Spider-Man Vs. Morbius' but also continues a running subplot and develops the new supporting cast that Slott has been developing for Peter Parker. We as readers knew that Morbius was the mysterious 'Number Six' but this fact was only revealed to Spidey in this issue and it worked really well, especially since Morbius has always been one of his most sympathetic villains. I liked how this issue gave us some more spotlight on Uatu Jackson, before he was just a weird bald kid who had the same name as The Watcher, but now we know some stuff about him as a character, I can't be the only one who'd like to see an 'Uatu Jackson: Monster Hunter' mini-series can I? The last arc developed Grady, and now this story has done the same for Uatu. I know Peter ultimately always returns to the Bugle and supporting characters like Jonah, Betty and Robby Robertson, but it's cool that the Horizon people are getting some degree of depth. Matt Clark's art was good, I've been a fan of his since 'Adventures Of Superman' so it's cool to see him on a big title like Amazing.
Avenging Spider-Man #4 – Whilst hardly being essential reading, AVSM continues to be a very enjoyable little series. This issue was a team-up between Spider-Man and the Avenger who is suddenly showing up everywhere these days, Hawkeye. I like Hawkeye, but his ubiquity is odd, I know he's going to be in the Avengers movie, but then so is Black Widow, and she isn't nearly as omnipresent. Maybe people just like his new costume? We all know that Zeb Wells writes a fantastic Spider-Man, but his Hawkeye was very good as well, I especially liked how he described his need to constantly train, because he's on a team with superheroes and gods, and he's just a dude with a bow and arrow. Hawkeye has always kind of been about feelings of inadequacy, it's why he became a villain in the first place (trying to impress a girl) and it's why he became Goliath for a while. This issue managed to expose those feelings, but crucially, without turning Hawkeye into a joke. The sequence where Spidey makes him think he beat Sidewinder was great stuff. Greg Land's art is of course controversial, but you have to give him some props for getting this issue out on the same day as Uncanny X-Men #7. He's fast, give him that!
Venom #13.2 – Woah, I was not expecting what happened at the end of this issue. Pretty much all of the characters are now dead. Hulk had his heart punched out, Venom had his neck broken, X-23 fell into a lake of fire and Ghost Rider had her chest ripped open. Dark stuff. Now of course none of these guys are actually dead, or if they are, they won't be for long, but it made for a very exciting issue and I can't wait to see just how they all survive. Now that Hell is spreading beyond Las Vegas, I'm excited to see Doctor Strange and Hellstorm play a larger role in the story, they've been off to the sides so far, but hopefully now they'll actually do something. And there's still the wild-card of Johnny Blaze, I wonder what he's up to? Sana Takeda's art was an odd one, at times it looked great, anime-inspired but not too much so, and on others it looked kind of childish, Red Hulk especially looked odd.
Invincible Iron Man #513 – I'm glad that the story within this comic was more nuanced that just 'Iron Man Vs. War Machine' for the umpteenth time as the cover suggested. Instead, War Machine does go against Tony, but in a far more subtle way than just punches and lasers. It was great seeing them work together to try and take down the Dread-noughts and I loved the Chinese superheroes 'The Dynasty', are they new creations or old ones that Fraction and Larroca have given a new lick of paint to? Either way, they were cool, and they didn't have stupid names like DC's The Great Ten, which is a plus. I really like how this arc is piling and piling more stuff on top of Tony Stark's head, now he knows that Mandarin and Stane are working together, but even he doesn't know the extent of the force that Mandarin has assembled. That last page was a who's-who of Iron Man villains and it's going to be great fun to see how they've been upgraded. I must say that the 2 pages that actually interested me the most in this one were the ones with Detroit Steel, who has become a street-level vigilante in Paris, I have no idea where Fraction is going with that plot, but that's just how I like it.
Winter Soldier #2 – After last issue ended on such an insane moment, this one just builds and builds on that. Not content with there being a talking gorilla with a gun, Brubaker then gives it a jet-pack. Awesome. But it's not just there for a cheap joke, it makes sense within the story because of the involvement of the Red Ghost. I think what I liked best about this title is how it juxtaposes more realistic espionage elements with classic Marvel Universe iconography, so what looks like something from James Bond turns into a talking gorilla or a Pym particle device. It's a cool approach, and it gives the book lot of leeway in what kind of stories it can tell. Butch Guice's art was very impressive once again, although I did find the fight-scene in the snow a little hard to follow. This feels like the series Brubaker was born to write really, and hopefully it will keep up that quality.
Daredevil #9 – This week the New Review Group's selection is the latest instalment of Daredevil! Visit that thread to see what we all think of DD's confrontation of Mole-Man, and probably see how many times the word 'swash-buckling' can be used. What exactly is a swash and how do you buckle it? Or do you swash a buckle? I dunno.
Wolverine #301 – After the explosive #300, this issue doesn't let up the pace for a minute. Everbody is Kung-Fu fighting. Literally. There's Ninjas, there's Yakuza, there's Sabretooth, there's Silver Samurai, and of course there's Wolverine. At times it's hard to keep track of all the different motivations, but it doesn't really matter, because Aaron makes sure to keep the story grounded in the human emotions, such as Wolverine's love for Amiko, and his hatred for Creed. This issue used multiple artists, and although Billy Tan and Steve Sanders have very different styles, they both contribute to the story and make it work, I actually think this issue was probably Tan's best work ever. I really loved the conceit of the Ninja going undercover as a coma patient, Aaron is really great at coming up with stuff like that, it's over the top, but not too over the top as to be ridiculous. And then they have a battle to the death... in the mind. Awesome. The last page was an odd one, are the Mind Ninjas new? They certainly look weird enough. You can just tell that Aaron is having the time of his life on this final story arc, and it translates to an exhilarating Wolverine comic.
Avengers #22 – I don't know about everyone else, but I'm really enjoying this Norman Osborn story, both in this title and in New Avengers, it's just a lot of fun seeing the Avengers so outclassed by a group of villains, both in terms of strength and in moral righteousness. As some of Obama's aides said, in many ways Osborn is right. But he's also very very wrong. Like last month's issue, this one was mainly made up of a series of vignettes, but whereas #21 showed the Avengers being defeated, this one showed us how Osborn and his gang lorded it over their captives. I particularly liked seeing Doctor Washington attempting to remove the Iron Man armour, it's an interesting dynamic to have a villain so respectful of our heroes. And of course there was a great 'Fantastic Voyage' inside of Rulk's body. I was disappointed that we didn't get to see a fight between Captain America and Gorgon like the cover promised though, that was a let-down.
New Avengers #21 – Whilst this week's issue of Avengers focussed on the aftermath of fights, this one was all about the action as the New Avengers took on Ragnarok, AKA Clor. This was a really enjoyable fight, and I found it to be quite unique in how it focussed on what Spider-Man was doing, which was rescuing the others, rather on the main action, it was a cool idea, and it reinforced how Ragnarok was a level above Spider-Man without spelling it out in an obvious way. That's not to say that Bendis and Deodato skimped on action, Wolverine's relentless stabbing of Ragnarok was great, as was the way it ended with Iron Fist punching his lights out. And then after all of the punching, it got back to the fact that all of this was a distraction from Norman Osborn's PR war, it really is a refreshing way for a villain to try and win. I just hope that the way the Avengers win this fight isn't just a punch-up.
Thunderbolts #170 – The Tbolts trip to Camelot ends in a satisfying way and the ending of this issue... wow, I knew from the covers that the current team would be coming face to face with the original team, but still, that was a great moment, and Citizen V really is one of the coolest looking superheroes of all time for me. I thought the twist that Boomerang was to blame for the Fall Of Camelot was a clever one, and the way that Parker wrote Merlin here was far more nuanced than it had appeared in the last issue. Kev Walker's artwork was brilliant as usual, he really drew the hell out of that dragon, it looked awesome. I think this 2-parter has been my favourite of the time periods the Thunderbolts have visited, mainly because of how much stuff from the actual Arthurian legends Parker has used and referenced, stuff like Lancelot and Guinevere in this issue for example.
Uncanny X-Men #7 – This was probably my least favourite issue of the new UXM so far, it wasn't bad really, but the attitudes of the 'Good Apex' and the 'Bad Apex' just got on my tits, I didn't care about their relationship and conflict and I felt that the actual X-Men got short shrift here so that Gillen could wax lyrical about poems made of butterflies or whatever. Most of the team didn't even show up in this issue for Professor X's sake! I did find it quite clever that the story isn't over even though the 'Bad Apex' has been defeated, that was good. I hope next issue is good to make up for this one. I think the real reason people seem to prefer W&XM over this one isn't because that book has the supposedly 'cooler' characters, but that Aaron has really kept the focus on his protagonists and their setting and motives, whereas Gillen has focussed on the villains, whether Sinister or that Phalanx or now the Apex, and it means the book feels detached.
Generation Hope #16 – It's a shame this series is coming to an end after the next issue, but it certainly is going out with a bang. In this issue pretty much everyone turns against Hope. From Kenji to Random to Emma Frost, they all betray our (Mutant) Messiah! It's interesting to see someone tackle the more religious aspects to the idea of a Mutant Messiah, will Hope actually die for our sins? Is this what leads to her being reborn as the Phoenix and therefore causes Avengers Vs. X-Men? Hmmm. But this issue isn't all betrayal, Asmus finds some room for some quieter character moments such as the really rather sweet kiss between Pixie and Gabriel, or the disagreements amongst the Stepford Cuckoos. And in amongst all that there's still the matter of Sebastian Shaw and whether or not he's evil! I think this issue had some subtle hints that he's not telling the whole truth, but what do I know? Takeshi Miyazawa handles the artwork for this one, and he does a good job, he's always been a great fit for teen superheroes, going back to Runaways, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane and more, his anime-ish style really fits younger characters.
X-Factor #232 – First up, the cover to this issue is straight-up brilliant, it's psychedelic genius of the highest order. The actual contents of this issue were decent, as Madrox continues his adventures across the multiverse and comes face to face with Dormammu. That was fun and all, but I'm very glad that he's back in the 'real' world and that PAD can get back to the new team he set up back in #230 with Havok and Polaris and all that stuff. I was excited to see what those guys were up to, but instead we got these 2 issues of Quantum Leaping. But of course it wasn't in vain, as some of the twisted alternate reality types that Madrox came across are now for some reason in the Marvel Universe proper, which is an interesting development indeed. I like alternate universe stories as much as the next guy, so while I'd have enjoyed these stories without this remnant, it's good that they will have some impact.
Ultimate Comics X-Men #7 – Oh come on, did none of the people who died in Ultimatum actually die? After last month's revelation that Charles Xavier wasn't dead, this one did the same for Magneto. I know these characters are pretty much integral to the core concept of the X-Men but I was having a lot of fun reading an X-Men that was missing a lot of the usual suspects like those two and others like Wolverine and Cyclops. The Ultimate X-Men really were in a very different place to the 616 X-Men and now that's gone. Hopefully Spencer has a good reason for bringing back everybody's favourite MLK and Malcolm X analogues, but for now I'm suspicious. I did like how this issue focussed on Quicksilver and how badly he fucked everything up, we had spent the first few issues of this title thinking he was a Machiavellian genius, but Spencer cleverly undercut that. I did like seeing Wanda again (and Barberi gave her a massive rack) but where was the creepy incest vibe that made the Ultimate versions of these characters so interesting? I'm not saying I want to read about incest (Although I do like me some Jaime Lannister), but it always gave these characters an edge.
Supergirl #6 – It was a little cheesy how Supergirl was rescued from certain death by ghostly apparitions of her parents, but other than that, this was another solid issue. Even that scene did work in a way because Green and Johnson managed to keep it ambiguous as to what the real nature of the vision was. Elsewhere, we get our first look at what I assume is the new Silver Banshee and Supergirl and Reign get into a proper fight. It is convenient that there's a force-field blocking any other heroes from helping her out, but it does make sense, I just want to see her team up with Superman! It was also cool to get a glimpse of Kara's life on Krypton. It's weird that this book is the one that's dealt the most with Krypton out of the Superman family of titles, but I've really liked how the writers have drip-fed us info about the doomed planet. Mahmud Asrar continues to deliver fantastic art, I think this is one of the best looking books of the New 52.
Batman #6 – After last issue's supreme mind-fuckery, this one was a bit of a step down, but it was still good stuff. The real star in this one was Greg Capullo's art and how he alternated from panel to panel realistic depictions of Batman and the Owls to extremely creepy and expressionistic versions. It really added to the disorientating nature of the story, just like Batman we're not sure whether the Owls are just people in masks or instead weird hybrids. It was very effective, and since Capullo has come in for some criticism for his work on this title, he really showed his worth here. This book continues to be a great Batman story, but am I the only one that's disappointed that it's turning into a crossover so quickly? I would have preferred to see Snyder tell this story by himself.
Wonder Woman #6 – Another good issue of Wonder Woman, and really, after only 6 issues, this is already the best Wonder Woman story I've ever read, if only because it's not cheesy as hell. Speaking of Hell, he shows up here, as a weird kid with candles on his head. This is probably the first Azzarello take on the Greek Gods that I haven't really liked, it just didn't seem very threatening at all. The best sequence in this issue was Wonder Woman's fight with the Centaurs and how we saw it from Zola's perspective as blood sprayed everywhere, it was just a level of bad-assery you don't expect from a Wonder Woman title, and it's probably the most graphic thing I've seen in a mainstream DC title for a while, the blood went up to her elbows! I'm not quite sure what Diana's plan actually accomplished here, she used Hermes' staff and one of Hades' candles to do what? Make it so Hera can't track her? I think that's what happened but it wasn't clear. Tony Akins' art was solid once again, he's a very good fill-in for Chiang, but even so, I can't wait for the Cliffster to come back.
Blue Beetle #6 – I'm really enjoying how this book has started to subvert expectations and stop just being a retelling of the old continuity's Blue Beetle, this is new ground, and it's exciting. The fight between Jaime and Paco was really good stuff, and it really surprised me by how far Bedard was willing to go, not in terms of physical violence, but emotionally. Jaime calling Paco a high-school dropout was a shocking moment. And then Jaime has to hit Brenda and threaten her to defeat 'Red Beetle'. I wonder if Jaime will ever be able to come back to El Paso? It seems he's burned a lot of bridges now. Ig Guara's art was very strong once again, it's really surprised me how good he's become, and really, this whole book is a surprise, I wasn't expecting it to be as dark as this, yet it's still very good.
Green Lantern Corps #6 – I've been a bit down on this title for how grim and serious it's been, but this issue was probably the most serious it's been so far and I really enjoyed it. The moment where John Stewart broke that GL who was about to betray him's neck was hardcore. I was sceptical by how this series has turned toe GL Corps from a police force into an army, but this issue made it work somewhat, seeing them come in all guns blazing was cool. It's all made to work by Fernando Pasarin's art, he really is great and I'd love to see him on a bigger title such as Superman, I think he'd do a great Supes. I also really liked the ending where the Keepers were forced to dig graves for an entire planet of their victims, that's like something out of an old EC Comic.
Hellblazer #288 – This arc of Hellblazer really is great stuff, possibly among the best stories the title has had, and that's saying something with the quality this book has had for years, nay, decades. John tries to trick Satan who also tries to trick him over the fate of his sister's soul. The scenes were John goes to visit his sister in Hell were brilliant, very dark, and very gripping. The page of the blood-soaked bed was a shocking visual, and although the revelation as to why Cheryl was in Hell was probably something we could all see coming, it made sense. Much like last issue, the real horror actually came in the 'real' world, rather than the underworld, with the relationship between Gemma and Terry continuing to reap very scary fruit. Is she dead? Who knows, but I can't wait to find out. If you're not reading Hellblazer, you're missing out on one of the most daring comics out there, one that's not afraid to go for it.
Super Dinosaur #8 – I liked that this issue had more going on than just the monster fights, the plotline of Derek having to tested in order to not have to go school was a good one, and the kind of thing these kinds of stories don't normally tackle. I also liked the return of General Casey and the fact that his son is also a wannabe Dinosaur fighter. I wonder if Battle Shock will end up being a friend to Derek or a rival? This book continues to be fun, but it's still nowhere near the level of Kirkman's other stuff for me. Maybe that's just my fault for not being the target audience (ie, a child) but it's not grabbing me. I'm not against all-ages stories, but I feel that this book could be a bit more mature, look at cartoons like Avatar or Wolverine And The X-Men, they could be dark, but still appeal to kids.
Another good week of comics, but I'm not really sure what my favourite was, because whenever I try and decide, I just think about how much I enjoyed the new Muppets movie and I forget. We had to wait a long time for the movie to come out here in the UK, and it was worth it, so I guess my favourite this week was... The Muppets! (I also liked Wolverine and Blue Beetle a heck of a lot, but I needed someplace to get across my Muppet-praise).
Join me next week for another smorgasbord of comics-ey goodness, from Ultimate Spider-Man to Wolverine & The X-Men to Aquaman and beyond!
No 2nd Opinions this week, it looks like nobody else reviewed any of these here books, which is a darn shame, I'll need to get back to whipping these writers into shape.
Review by: Niam Suggitt