It's the final TWiP of the month, and although it's shorter than usual, it still packs a punch.
Credits & Solicit Info:
Guten tag! Yes, once again it's time for TWiP, the column where I review each and every comic I read this week. It's a simple formula, but it works.
This week is one of those pesky 5th week deals, but it's OK, there's still some good comics out there, including The Ultimates, America's Got Powers and annuals from 2 of DC's best titles, Batman and Animal Man.
So let's get to it! And remember, you can click the links to head to a forum discussion for that particular comic.
Incredible Hulk #8 – This issue has been getting a bit of a kicking on the net, mainly because of Steve Dillon's art and how his Hulk is hardly hulking at all, and yes, Dillon's not really the best fit for this character and it was weird seeing a skinny bald Hulk, but once you look past that, this was actually really rather good, and a very fun twist on the Hulk concept. The twist is basically now that it's not Bruce Banner getting angry that triggers a transformation, it's the Hulk calming down which unleashes Banner. Jason Aaron has a lot of fun with the duel narration from both sides in this issue, and it's interesting to see that their thought processes are very similar up to a point. It's also a cool conceit that we never actually see what Banner is up to, the Hulk wakes up and comes face to face with a crazy situation he has to deal with. In this issue's case it was a team-up with the Punisher (and hey, Steve Dillon can draw him) against some kind of weird Dog-Man or Man-Dog. Aaron excels at coming up with weird semi-comedic villains and Pit Bull was one of them, a mad idea that worked better than you could have expected. This arc looks like being very enjoyable, especially since the out-of-place Dillon is only doing one issue, next time out we've got the Hulk waking up in Atlantis, what the heck is going on?
Wolverine #307 – More sick and twisted fun with Doctor Rot and his family. This guy is really becoming a great villain, he has the potential to be the Joker to Wolverine's Batman, a creepy nutcase who has parallels with our hero, and boy, is he creepy. It was pretty obvious that Wolverine's escape attempt was a fake-out, that it was all in his head, but the reveal worked well and Pelletier really kicked ass with all of the slicin' and dicin', I didn't think he'd be a good fit for such a dark storyline, but he's proved me wrong. I also liked how the reason Rot could control Wolverine was because of Weapon X's tampering, even though he has his memories now, the spectre of what they did to him looms large. Cullen Bunn has really impressed me with this arc, I'll be on the look-out for his future work (and maybe I'll finally check out that Western series of his that everyone raves about) and look forward to what should be an exciting finale to this story next month.
FF #18 – This was an issue of two halves for me, I liked one plot and didn't like the other. Let's start positively (ironic because this issue is about the Negative Zone) and talk about what I did like, which was the field trip Johnny Storm took the kids on, a story that was just a lot of fun. From the opening with Johnny trying to be a teacher and failing, to the fake-out of their not being a massive cosmic space battle but instead free and democratic elections, and then finally, the revelation of who won those elections... it was just great, it was funny, it found a way to comment on what's been going on in the real world, and it set us up for some exciting new stories with Annihilus back at the helm. Now for the bad news, I really didn't like the stuff with the Franklins and the Kree, it picked up on a story that had kind of been dropped for months and I imagine most people had forgotten about, and it was also full of cryptic rubbish about future developments for Black Bolt, I just didn't care. Good art from Nick Dragotta throughout though, and I suppose I did once say that it's always awesome when Black Bolt speaks, so there's that.
Wolverine & The X-Men #11 – This book continues to have a lot of fun with AvX, and this issue featured one of my favourite moments of the event so far, namely the awesome fight between Iceman and Red Hulk, it's just great to seem a writer finally use Iceman and his powers to his potential. I also liked the extra stuff this issued added around the edges of the Avengers and X-Men kicking each other, the involvement of Gladiator and the Shi'Ar Commandoes is very cool and the fight between them and Wolverine and a be-clawed Hope was a great deleted scene for the main story, and provided a good reason for why Wolverine decides to reveal Hope's location to Captain America. Nick Bradshaw was back on art with this issue, and he did his usual excellent job, his cartoonish style really is a great fit for the tone of this series, and it was cool to see him draw some Avengers. I'm still torn on who's better, him or Bachalo, they're very different, but both very good.
The Ultimates #11 – It says a lot about how good this issue was that I enjoyed it despite their being 4 artists involved, normally whenever a single issue has more than 2 pencilers doing their thing, I find it distracting and it really pulls me out of the story, but not so here, I was hooked, regardless of whether it was Luke Ross, Butch Guice, Leonard Kirk or Patrick Zircher. Big props to all the artists for managing to keep a consistent tone, and also to Hickman and Humphries for telling a story that was good enough to negate the distraction. This issue had some really great moments, in particular the fight between Black Widow, Hawkeye, Falcon and the Giant-Man squadron, it was crazy to see 3 of the least powerful Ultimates take down people of a much bigger stature. I wonder who the 'West Coast Ultimates' will be, familiar faces, or something new? I also continue to like the way the book is showing Tony Stark's mental state, with the hallucination of himself as a child, but the real bonus here is that the threat of Reed and The City is much more real, before it was a threat of ideology and talk, now he's got nukes and is right there, up in your face, much better.
Supercrooks #3(of 4) – This mini continues to be a lot of dumb fun. I was a little disappointed by how simple the supposedly genius heist was, but then when you've got superpowers, you probably don't need to plan as much. Of course, it all goes wrong and the Bastard is on to them, but it was a whole lot of fun seeing them do it. I must say I really like the Bastard as a villain, he seems pretty unique, and the flashback to him taking out the guy who crossed him's entire family and social circle was brutal and over the top in the best Millar tradition. I'm looking forward to part 4 being an explosive finale full of crazy shit happening, because I feel that this story has been a bit rushed, 4 issues isn't really enough, most of the characters have barely been explained, 6 issues would have been better. But then I suppose the movie will have more time to flesh things out. Hey, shouldn't there have been some announcements about casting for the film by now? Get on it Millar! You're slacking in your old age.
Batman Annual #1 – When I looked at the cover of this issue, my reaction was 'What the hell? Why does a Mister Freeze origin story have a Night Of The Owls banner slapped on it? It makes no sense!'. But thankfully, I was wrong, Scott Snyder and co-writer James Tynion IV managed to write a story that did both, and they did it in style. First off, the connection between Mister Freeze and the Owls is explained well, and makes sense, he is the one who gave them the means with which to resurrect the Talons. I really like that Snyder has given his new villains a connection with a more traditional Bat-baddy, it connects them a lot more to the world of Batman and makes the retconning less egregious. Speaking of retcons, this issue marks a pretty big change in the origin of Mister Freeze, but on that I think really works. Much of Freeze's story is the same, but Snyder and Tynion make one important change, Nora is not Victor Fries' wife, he's just crazy and thinks she is. Yes, this does make him less sympathetic, but I've never been one for sympathizing with villains, and the crazier a Bat-villain is, the better. Jason Fabok's art impressed me here, reminding me of a cross between David Finch and Shane Davis, good stuff, and he got to draw a lot of iconic Bat-characters, not just the main guy and Freeze, but also Nightwing, Robin and the Penguin, which was cool. Hah, get it, cool, I'm so funny.
Animal Man Annual #1 – Another Annual, and while this story didn't reveal anything especially new with regards to the upcoming war against the rot, it was a lot of fun and really showed what Animal Man and Swamp Thing are up against. After a brief and funny framing sequence with Maxine and Socks, we flashback to 1890s Canada, and see what happened the first time the Avatars of the Red and the Green teamed up to fight the Rot. As always, it's fun to see Jeff Lemire use a bit of Canadian history, as it's not a topic most comics bother with, but as Lemire is Canadian, it makes sense, and it gives the flashback something different than the usual Old American West setting. Plus it's always cool to see Mounties. The artwork here from Timothy Green II was spectacular, especially in the double-page spreads and when he got to draw some sickening rot-monsters. I had previously thought that only Travel Foreman could do those monsters, but Green can do it too. This story has made me very excited for when the 'real' Swamp Thing and Animal Man finally cross over. Bring it on!
American Vampire #27 – The second and final part of 'The Nocturnes' story, and it delivers some exciting moments. The action was strong, and I particularly liked how Snyder explained that the 'Werewolves' were merely another strain of Vampire. Or more precisely, the actual species is 'abominus' and under that umbrella are all sorts of monsters, mainly Vampires, but also these Werewolves and even Zombies. It's great how this title takes such a scientific approach to a subject that is normally much more mystical and magical. It looks like this story will be running straight on to the next one, as we revisit Pearl right at the end, which is a good thing, AV stories are always better when either Pearl or Skinner are involved. Riccardo Burchielli on art was a bonus too, I was a huge fan of DMZ so it's good to see him working on another high-quality Vertigo series.
America's Got Powers #2(of 6) – The plot thickens as we find out more and more about the world that Jonathan Ross has created, which is actually pretty original and not as derivative as a lot of people thought. Yes there are elements of X-Men here, but this title is, in my opinion at least, looking at superheroes from a new angle. The idea of superheroes being both a media entity and struggling not to become part of the military industrial complex is a strong one, and it's going to be fascinating to see the David Tennant lookalike try and resist militarisation. Of course, alongside the big picture stuff is the more immediate story of Tommy and his newfound powers, which nobody seems to have any idea about. The mystery surrounding him continues to fascinate. I also liked that we got a bit of romance, and the AAesque meeting was pretty funny. There's even more subplots with the grumblings from Quarterback, and I haven't even mentioned the shocking revelation about Tommy's dead brother! This book is dense, and it's well worth a read. Bryan Hitch's art continues to be just as good as his old stuff too, I think working on a creator-owned property has re-energised him somewhat.
Rocketeer Adventures 2 #3(of 4) – As with all anthologies, there's a risk of there being a few bum stories, and unfortunately, this instalment of Rocketeer Adventures has 2 of 'em. The first story had good art from Chris Sprouse, but I didn't really get what it was trying to say, it was trying to be both romantic, but also show that Cliff and Betty were being selfish? I dunno, it didn't really work. The second story, written and drawn by Kyle Baker, looked nice too, but the concept of us jumping into the middle of a story with unseen previous instalments didn't work, it's a clever idea, but it ended up being confusing, but that said, a dog on a jetpack is always funny. The final story, by Matt Wagner and Eric Canete was the best one, the splash pages were excellent, and the look at the future really worked, showing how inspirational characters like the Rocketeer can be. So yes, this issue was a bit of a letdown, but it's an anthology, they'll always be uneven, that's part of the charm.
And that's that.
My favourite comic this week was either the Batman Annual or America's Got Powers, and I just love that one of those is an all-new concept, and the other is about a character who's been around for 70 years!
Make sure you're here next week, where I'll be reviewing everything except Before Watchmen, and I recommend you skip it too, it's an embarrassment.
Review by: Niam Suggitt