It's another absolutely fantastic week in comics, and another brilliant column from Punchy!
The most modest comics column in the world ever.
Credits & Solicit Info:
Welcome to another instalment of TWiP, the column where I (Punchy) give you a tasty little mini-review of every comic I read in a week.
And what a week it is! There's a lot of big stuff, including AvX, Casanova, Batwing and an explosive issue of The Boys.
As always, click the links to go to the forums.
Amazing Spider-Man #683 – Spider-Man punched out Al Gore! How awesome was that? It was pretty awesome, albeit less so when it's revealed that it's not actually Gore, but the Chameleon. It was interesting how this issue used real-life figures like Gore and Stephen Hawking, I wonder if Slott will draw a parallel between Doctor Octopus' current state and Hawking? Or would that be in poor taste? The fight between the Avengers and the Sinister Six was great, especially when Rhino took down Thor with a magic horn and Captain America's attempts to talk round ex-Avenger Sandman, that was a good use of continuity. As was the appearance of the Iron Man 2020 armour, a nice little nugget. I'm surprised that the Avengers were taken out so easily, but then this is a Spider-Man story, not an Avengers one. Stefano Caselli's art was brilliant as usual, I'd love to see him on an Avengers book actually, he drew the whole team very well.
Venom #15 – Wow, this was another stellar issue, this book is so underrated it's unbelievable, I can't believe so few people discuss it online. After a month of hell-bound fun, we're back down to Earth as Flash deals with the impact of his going off the wagon and how it's basically ruined his life. I love how Remender contrasts the real-life drama of Flash's personal life with the crazy shenanigans of his joining the Secret Avengers. His conversations with his mother, Betty Brant and Peter Parker in this issue were all fantastic, and show how this title is kind of a dark reflection of Spider-Man. I can't wait to see how much more Flash can screw up his life, or maybe he'll turn it all around and bone Valkyrie! The scenes in the Secret Avengers HQ were very well done, Remender is brilliant at writing Beast, and I loved the contrast between what Flash says and what he's thinking. Those scenes also beg the question of what will happen if Peter ever finds out that Venom is an Avenger, sparks are going to fly. This title really is fantastic, and I can't recommend it enough, I haven't even gotten around the mentioning the subplot of Eddie Brock going around and killing other symbiotes like Hybrid yet, that has to be building to something big. Basically, if you like Spider-Man, buy this book, it's like that book, but if Aunt May died and MJ hated Peter and he was an alcoholic, Dark Spidey. With guns.
Hulk #50 – I can't really believe that Red Hulk has managed 50 issues. It's good to see a (kinda sorta not really) new character get that far. And this was a good way to celebrate the milestone, it wasn't a useless nostalgia fest in that it set up a new story, but it did showcase who Rulk is and the different facets of his character. We see him with his taskforce of Machine Man and Annie, we see him with the Avengers, we see him with his daughter, and we see him with Doctor Strange and see how the events of 'Circle Of Four' over in Venom have changed things. It's great that what was in the beginning a really one-dimensional character is now so well-developed, it really is a testament to how good Jeff Parker is. Carlo Pagulayan's art was very good, he can always be relied to deliver some good Hulk, whether green or red. The back-up story was also interesting, it's always good to see Dan Brereton artwork and it was interesting to see what Thunderbolt Ross was like before he got entangled up in Gamma-nonsense. Is the back-up connected to the main story? Are those vampires behind the ghosts? I reckon so.
Daredevil #10.1 – Hot on the heels of #10 last week, Mark Waid and Koi Pham deliver an issue that manages to serve two masters, it's a great introduction to Waid's take Daredevil for new readers, and also an essential set-up for next month's Omega Effect crossover. The actual plot of the issue is not too important, but it does a great job of demonstrating not only DD's abilities, but also his current predicament of being targeted by 'MegaCrime'. I loved the final scene where Daredevil gatecrashes the MegaCrime meeting and takes the fight to them, it was the perfect demonstration of how he really is the man with no fear. I can't wait for the crossover, it's going to be a good one. Koi Pham is an artist who runs hot and cold for me, but I really liked his art here, it seemed a bit more defined, less scratchy and more fitting with the tone that Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin have established, I suppose Javier Rodriguez on colours helps with that. This was another fantastic issue of Daredevil, and if you haven't been reading it, now's your chance to jump on. And seriously, take that chance, this is one of the best superhero titles around.
Avengers Academy #28 – This two-parter with the Runaways has been a lot of fun, and has really demonstrated how many cool new characters Marvel actually have, people often claim that both of the Big Two have nothing new, but this issue proves them wrong. I was glad that Gage didn't go the obvious route and that the fight between the team didn't last too long, it makes sense that the Academy kids would be willing to side with the Runaways over their teachers. The scene where they all saw each other's pasts was very powerful stuff, and much more interesting than just another punch-up. It's cool that Gage has left the door open for the Runaways to return, they are under orders to check in once a month, there's Karolina's budding relationship with Julie Power, and also Chase's plans to steal a time-machine. I bet his attempts to resurrect Gert will cause trouble. Karl Moline's art was once again the best I've seen from him, very good stuff. Next month brings more team-up action, as the kids get involved in AvX and take on some of the New X-Men. Should be fun. Oh yeah, and the stuff with Moon Boy and Reptil's future was interesting too, I wonder when that will pay off?
Thunderbolts #172 – This issue was just Thunderbolts fanboy delight, it's not rocket science, but seeing the original team take on the current Tbolts is just awesome. It's great to have this celebration of the Thunderbolts history, especially since the title is changing soon. The fight between the two teams was a lot of fun, and it was cool to see Jeff Parker playfully tease the current and past versions of Fixer and Moonstone meeting each other. I also loved the scene where Boomerang inadvertently caused his past self to get arrested. It was funny, but could it have worrying consequences? The butterfly effect and all that. Decland Shalvey's art was strong as usual, I love his takes on the original Thunderbolts, especially Atlas and Citizen V. There's only two issues left of Thunderbolts before it gets all Dark and Avengery, and they're going out with a bang!
Wolverine & The X-Men #8 – Another very fun issue of W&XM, but one that adds a hint of darkness to all of the humour. Which is only to be expected with the return of Sabretooth. Aaron subverts our expectations and doesn't have Sabretooth fight Wolverine for the umpteenth time, but instead has him go up against Beast, which was cool to see, especially as Sabretooth tried to unearth the darkness that is within good old Hank McCoy. Also interesting was the students' attack on the Casino in an attempt to get the device that could heal Wolverine's legs (cool imagery to have Logan in a wheelchair). Yes there was the usual hilarity from Quire, Kid Gladiator and Broo, but the friendship between Angel and Evan/Kid Apocalypse is worrying. Those two have a dark history that neither of them are aware of, so it can only be heading somewhere heart-breaking. Having Chris Bachalo back on art duties was jarring at first, I had gotten used to the clean lines of Bradshaw, but by the halfway point of the issue I was back into Bachalo's madcap groove. I thought his use of colour was very interesting in this issue, some panels are very red, some are very blue, what does it all mean?
Age Of Apocalypse #2 – This title is building slowly, but I'm enjoying it a lot. I'm still having a bit of trouble working out which members of the X-Terminated are which and what they can do, which is a problem, but the stuff with the characters I know like Jean Grey and Sabretooth is keeping me gripped. The scenes with those two trying to come to terms with life without their powers were very powerful. I think it's a good move on Lapham's part to have the villainous side bring back a lot of the dead X-Men, at the moment I need to see as many recognisable faces as possible, even if they are radically different (insert pithy comment about how Cyclops is a villain in the Marvel Universe too here). Roberto De La Torre's art was fantastic, he's really found another level here, it's perfect for the grimy world of the AoA, almost Alex Maleev levels of murk.
Avengers Vs X-Men #1(of 12) – It's finally here, and it doesn't disappoint. As always with early issues of big events, we've had so many previews and interviews and promotions that we already know what's going to happen, that the Avengers and the X-Men are going to come to blows over the Phoenix, but the way this issue told that story was enjoyable enough that I didn't mind that nothing happened here that we didn't know about 6 months ago. The issue introduces both sides very well, Bendis of course knows the Avengers like the back of his hand, and therefore the scenes with them were very strong, but I was also impressed with his X-Men scenes, the stuff with Cyclops training Hope was great. What I find interesting about this fight is that Wolverine and Beast are fighting on the side of the Avengers, and that the school is remaining neutral. How long can that last? Other good stuff in this issue was Namor predicting that things had already gotten out of hand, that cocky bastard knows Captain America too well! It's interesting that he's fighting with the X-Men actually, but it's probably only because of Emma Frost. Romita Jnr's art was as you'd expect from him, and really, there's nobody better suited to drawing an event which features almost every Marvel character, he's drawn all of them before! This issue was a strong set-up for what looks like being an excellent event, seeing all of this Hope stuff finally come to a head is fantastic, and I love how far Cyclops has come, he really is a fascinating shades of grey character now. Let's hope the other writers and artists can keep this going, that's the one worry for me here, that the relay-race experiment doesn't quite work.
Ultimate Spider-Man #9 – Another very strong issue of USM, I just love visiting Miles' world every month, and seeing the world of Spider-Man through new eyes. David Marquez comes in as artist for this issue, and he does a fantastic job, very reminiscent of Sara Pichelli, but perhaps a little bit less cartoonish. There were lots of great moments in this issue, Miles' back-and-forth with the Police Chief was classic Bendis, and the stuff with Prowler and Scorpion was very interesting, it's cool that we're getting new villains along with our new Spider-Man. I also like that Bendis is introducing problems in Miles' life at school, he can't get away with being out all night fighting crime like Peter Parker could, he's got to be in bed by nine! This book is a lot of fun, and just keeps on getting better and better, I miss Ultimate Peter for sure, but after 9 issues, Miles Morales is Spider-Man, and his book is kicking ass. I just hope that as well as the new villains, we'll get to see Miles taking on some of the more classic villains, we've had Electro, but I want more.
Brilliant #3 – This book is moving slowly, but it's wherever it's going, it's interesting. I liked that after 3 issues of mostly talking, we ended with Amadeus unleashing his powers and kick-starting the action. It's all well and good being a sci-fi social network, but you need some explosions occasionally. I thought the best stuff in this issue were the FBI scenes, it was interesting how none of them came out and said they were dealing with superpowers, perhaps if they said something like that they'd get fired? I also liked that Bendis is making the head FBI guy an actual character, with some hints about his back-story, rather than just a bland G-Man. Bagley's art was good, I like that he's using a different style here than he normally uses for stuff like Avengers Assemble (and it's cool that he's basically doing 2 titles at once), looser and more fitting for a book set in the 'real world'. I'm interested to see where this is going now that Amadeus has cut loose, I wasn't expecting it to escalate so quickly, and that's exciting.
Casanova: Avaritia #3(of 4) – Gah! I really should have re-read the first two parts of Avaritia before reading this one, because I was really kind of lost. I know Casanova doesn't really need to make sense, but it would have helped if I could recall what had happened before. As it was, I was over-whelmed by a heady mix of bi-sexuality, time-travel and giant robot explosions. In fact, I think I may need to do a re-read of the entire series, because a lot of the stuff here are plot points from Luxuria and Gula coming to a head or returning. But even then, some of this stuff is just fucking weird, and I suspect not meant to make sense yet. At least there's always the cool dialogue, humour, great artwork and interesting experimentation to make me smile through the confusion. That's the difference between the confusion this book causes and the confusion Jonathan Hickman's stuff gives me, that confusion is boring, this one is entertaining. Now then, I'm off to re-read the previous issue and have this all make sense. Or not.
Action Comics #8 – A strong ending to the opening arc, and one that closes the book on the controversial jeans and t-shirt Superman. Supes now has his proper costume, is taking a job at the Daily Planet and it's pretty much back to business as usual. I kind of think this has come too soon, I'd like for him to stick to the jeans for a bit longer, but then I suppose he has to be in the classic costume for the first arc of Justice League to make sense. It's interesting that while Superman and Lex Luthor are enemies, Morrison has made Lex an ally of Clark Kent in his attempts to stop corruption. Lex was basically the 'deep throat' who was giving Clark the information to bring down Glenmorgan. Was Lex doing this in order to take over himself? Or is he genuinely altruistic? It's interesting that we haven't seen Lex at all in the present DCU, what's he up to? The art was once again a bit of a mish-mash, but it's always good to see Bob McLeod on art, old-school goodness. Where does this book go from here? We've got a few issues of Multiverse nonsense, but after that? Is it just going to be Superman stories? Are we still going to be in the past? It looks like the weird midget bloke who was manipulating Glenmorgan is Morrison's big bad, he's Mxyzptlk right? Right? Has to be.
Batwing #8 – The final battle with Massacre, and hey, guess what, he's Batwing's brother! I reckon everyone had worked that out by like, #4, but the way Winick handled it made it effective despite it being a total non-surprise. The flashback at the end with David and Isaac as children talking about their parents was very moving. The action in this issue was great and it was fun to see Winick writing the other members of the Bat-family again. Next month we've got Batwing taking one some of those pesky owls, which should be fun, but I'm looking forward to what comes after that, with Batwing back in Africa, with all of the Kony stuff and DC's 'We Can Be Heroes' thing, this book could really tackle some issues and be important. Or it could not, who knows? Either way, this was a strong issue and one which wraps up a very good story.
Swamp Thing #8 – Is this week's Review Group book. Swamp Thing has wings now, that's pretty cool.
Animal Man #8 – Wow, this issue was all kinds of fucked up. Maxine tries to stop a bunch of evil Rot-Dogs, is killed, but survives through transferring her mind into a Fox and transforming the Fox-body into her body. Messed up, and no wonder Grandma got pissed. It's really interesting how powerful Maxine is now, and worrying, a little girl shouldn't really have that kind of power. Also cool in this issue was Buddy really cutting loose and ripping those dogs to bits, it was great to see what is usually a light-hearted character just snap and become a stone-cold bad-ass. Of course at the end he's defeated by the Rot-monsters and it looks like he's been turned himself. Uh-oh. I wonder when it is that the mooted crossover with Swamp Thing is going to happen, it feels like the events in both books are big enough to merit it, which makes me wonder how big the scale will be when the two books do finally meet? Huge!
Justice League International #8 – The fall-out from the Bombing continues, and it's interesting to see the whole team basically not know what to do. Apart from Batman, he always knows what to do. Batwing shows up and helps Booster, but did anyone else think he came across like kind of a dick in his inner monologue? The stuff Booster was saying was hardly worthy of causing an instant dislike! I mean, we all know Booster can be a jerk, but in this case... he wasn't being one really. The stuff with Chairwoman Bao was a bit lame, she's just a cardboard cut-out bureaucrat really. I did like the introduction of 'Breakdown', he's got a great visual and the way his powers worked was wonderfully creepy. Oh yeah, and then OMAC showed up out of the blue at the end, is that all he does? Show up and smash stuff? He did the same thing in Frankenstein. Of course, the appearance of OMAC does bring to mind a character very closely associated to the JLI, Maxwell Lord, is he still around in the New DCU? And if so, is he behind this attack? Hmm....
Stormwatch #8 – A big improvement over #7, mainly because the story didn't focus on the weird, not-adequately-explained, villains, but on the characters. The scenes here with Midnighter and Jenny Quantum were excellent, especially when Midnighter tries to kill her. It's interesting that the book would go so dark, and good to know that even if they can't swear and fuck anymore, some of that old Authority edge is still in these characters, they're not just another JLA. It'll be interesting to see where Milligan takes the idea of Midnighter trying to kill Jenny, it could be very interesting. The art was pretty poor again though, Midnighter's costume in particular looked very clunky. Jenkins' two-parted managed to redeem itself in part 2, can Milligan redeem the entire book when he takes over? Because while I liked this issue, this title has still been, on the whole, a rather large disappointment.
iZombie #24 – With this week's announcement that iZombie is coming to an end with #28, my worries about this book slowing down too much have been relieved. With only 5 issues left to finish off his story, Roberson has to make everything count, and although this one was a flashback, it did provide a lot of important information about Xitalu, how to stop it and why exactly Horatio turned all green last month. Agent Kennedy has been around the book for a while and in this issue we finally get to see her origin, which was cool, it's always good to see the wacky stuff that Roberson comes up with for the Dead Presidents. I love fictional bands, so the idea of 'Ghost Dance' really appealed to me, and the mythology that Roberson built around them was really cool. It was good to find out that Horatio hadn't been turned evil, but is actually possessed by the spirit that opposes Xitalu, Strider, it should be interesting to see how that plays out in the end-game. Jim Rugg's artwork was awesome too, an excellent fill-in for Allred. A good issue, and one that hopefully signifies that the ending of iZombie will make up for a meandering middle.
Sweet Tooth #32 – Another good issue of Sweet Tooth, this book consistently delivers month in, month out. It was really cathartic to see Walter/Haggarty get his, and for it to be at the hands of Gus and the other weaker people, rather than Jepperd, for once he doesn't have to save the day. But it's not for lack of trying, I loved the stuff with Jepperd and his new friend, I had guessed that he knew him from his Pro-Ice Hockey days, and the bit where they skated down the river together was brilliant. I like how Lemire has a theme of Ice Hockey in his comics, yes it's stereotypically Canadian, but it's cool. How about an Animal Man Hockey issue? It's interesting that Walter/Haggarty is still around somewhere, what are the odds he becomes a recurring villain? Or perhaps he just up and died in the snow? I wonder where the book is going to go now, Gus seemed to kind of break-off the epic vision quest thing when he ran away from Singh, but maybe they'll get back to it? It seemed like after the Taxidermist stuff which was really mythology heavy, Lemire took a bit of a step back from it with this arc, can he keep switching it up like this?
Invincible #90 – Once again, Invincible delivers some truly blood-thirsty violence. The fight between Dinosaurus and Thragg was hard-core, fingers getting broken off, entire mouthfuls of teeth getting crushed, a jaw getting split... it was gruesome. So, it looks like Mark is descended from the King Of The Viltrumites, I wonder where that's leading? I'm guessing that Thragg tries to get Oliver to become King, he has the blood, but he doesn't have the compassion. That scene with Oliver and Allen was really worrying, he's not turning into a villain, but his lack of empathy is disturbing, if understandable. I'm kind of annoyed that this issue didn't feature very much of Bulletproof AKA Zandale AKA Black-Vincible, the fact that Mark is back on his feet already and that Zandale's stint is likely to only last a very short of time kind of shows it up as a bit of a stunt, like Kirkman wanted to make fun of Miles Morales or something. Or maybe I'm wrong and Zandale will stick around. But really, it seems kind of lame.
Fatale #4 – The mystery deepens, and the horror elements of this title continue to move closer and closer to the forefront of this book. Everything with Bishop in this issue was incredibly creepy, and at the end, when the weird cultists showed up to save Hank... it spells trouble. I really like how everything is proving to be more and more connected. The murder that Booker is investigating... the victim was also an ex-boyfriend of Jo's. Bishop visits the Gangster that Hank proved was working with Booker, and now Nicolas Lash's father has appeared. Add to that the grisly descriptions of what happened to Hank's wife and unborn child, and this issue really did amp up the creep-factor. Sean Phillips' art was once again fantastic, and the back-matter article about the real-life inspiration for Philip Marlowe was awesome. This book is, just like every other Brubaker/Phillips collaboration, a must-buy, I'm running out of superlatives here!
The Boys #65 – Ho-Lee Shit. What a twist! This over-sized issue blew up my expectations and fucked with the entrails! It was amazing. First of all, there's the action stuff, with pretty much all of the superheroes getting wiped out by the Air Force, which was awesome, especially when Oh, Father got killed. But the real meat was the shocking revelation that it's not the Homelander who was the real enemy, but Black Noir! That whole explanation was amazing, the idea that he was bred to be the one to take down Homelander, a perfect double, the fact that he was the one who did most of the heinous things, that he raped Butcher's wife, that hell, without his impact, Homelander was probably not a bad person, it was a fantastic shock, and one I didn't see coming. I'm not sure if I do feel sorry for Homelander or not, he did do some bad things, but only because he'd been tricked into thinking he's already done worse. It's tricky. When I re-read this series it's going to cast everything in a different light. But either way, he's dead now, and so is Black Noir, and boy, was it cathartic to see Butcher kill him and get revenge, what a moment. My only question now is, there are 6 issues left, what else can possibly happen to top the events of this issue? I have no idea, none. But I'm excited. Once again, Holy Shit!
I think this week I saved the best for last, The Boys #65 was by far the best comic I read this time out, and it's not like the other books were bad! It was just that good.
Join me next week for more fun and games, including Saga, Fantastic Four and the final issue of Northlanders.
Review by: Niam Suggitt