Yes, it's that time again, time for TWiP! This week your humble host brings you his scintillating opinions on a wide range of comics, from Amazing Spider-Man to Fatale, from Batman Incorporated to The Ultimates, it's all good.
Credits & Solicit Info:
Yes, it's another instalment of This Week In Punchy, one man's purgatorial quest to document every comic he reads for the rest of his miserable life.
Thankfully, this sisyphean task is eased this week with the amount of awesome comics up for review, it's just a damn good week, so let's not waste anytime...
Amazing Spider-Man #688 – Wow, what a coincidence! The new Spider-Man movie featuring the Lizard is out next week, and the new storyline in the comic also features the Lizard! How serendipitous! I kid, but this story does manage to both be a cynical cash-in with the movie, and work well on it's own, as part of the grand ongoing tapestry of Spider-Man's life. Picking up after the end of 'Ends Of The Earth', Spider-Man is all upset about the death of Silver Sable, so he takes it especially hard when Billy Connors' corpse is stolen. It was shocking to see Spider-Man fight so violently against first Morbius and then Lizard, he's reaching a dark new place. I really like how Slott has used the 'Nobody Dies' theme, he's questioning it here, and showing the mental toll it's having on Peter. The other nice development in this issue was the way Slott used both MJ and Carlie, proving how just because Spider-Man is single, his ex-girlfriends can still play a big part in his life. Camuncoli and Janson once again combined nicely on art, I really liked how their take on Mary Jane was very reminiscent of Romita Snr's. As for the Lizard himself, I'm very interested in where this character is going, will he be stuck in Curt Connors' body but with the Lizard's mind? So yeah, ignore the fact that this arc is blatantly screaming 'hey casual fans of movies! Buy the comic too!' and you'll have a damn good time, Amazing Spider-Man is still on a roll.
Mighty Thor #16 – Seriously, how awesome is The Deconsecrator? He's fucking awesome. I loved the scenes with him just screaming 'HAIL SATAN' and Jeff just muttering about how metal it is. It was seriously metal. The next video-game that involves Thor needs to have Deconsecrator as an alternate skin, and there has to be an action figure. So cool. The rest of this issue was a little disjointed, it was hard to work out what was happening inside the 'dream world' of the Mares and what was happening in the real world. Larraz's art was good and I loved the whining commentary we got from Don Blake's severed head, very funny. It was also cool to get a closer look at The Keep, I'm expecting the fight between him and Thor to be epic. But for me, this issue was all about The Deconsecrator, the great new character find of 2012.
Incredible Hulk #10 – I'm really enjoying this arc, it's great seeing Jason Aaron come up with loads of different and strange locations for the Hulk to wake up in and try and puzzle/smash his way out of. This time we go straight from the bottom of the ocean up into space, as Hulk fights some Russian Robot Space Bears and helps some innocent children escape from their crazy father. It's just great to get a tour of all the different corners of the Marvel Universe from the ultra-skewed perspective of Jason Aaron, you really see what a great universe it is, anything can happen, and not enough writers take the opportunity to let that anything loose. My one quibble with this arc would be that at the moment I have no idea what Banner's plan is here, it seems to make no sense, I hope that by the end of it all, these trips to the desert, to the ocean and to space will be connected in a way that isn't lame, because that's what this story hinges on. It's all well and good having fun with crazy space bears, but if it's just done for the sake of it... it's hollow. Luckily Aaron is a writer who always imbues his work with a lot of substance, so I'm sure it won't happen... but I'm still anxious at this point. Tom Raney's art was very strong, I loved the Hulk's facial expressions, very funny. Next up is Kraven The Hunter, and I'm hoping the jungle Hulk wakes up in is the Savage Land, because come on, Hulk Vs Dinosaurs!
FF #19 – The Fantastic Four's trip to Wakanda continues over in the sister title, with a very enjoyable story focussing on the kids of the Future Foundation. It really seems like ever since Hickman finished up his epic mega-arc, he's been able to relax, and all of the subsequent stories have been a lot more fun. This issue was mainly about seeing the kids have fun in the jungle, but the way they defeated the evil Hyena Tribe was pretty cool, especially when Bentley kicked their chief right in the balls. I love Bentley, he's like Stewie Griffin before that character jumped the shark. I also liked the introduction of Onome, a Wakandan kid who's going to join the team, at last Val won't be the only girl! Gabriel Hernandez Walta's artwork was very good, and especially fitting for a book about children, it had the look of a storybook. Let's hope the next issue of Fantastic Four is as good as this, and then the Wakanda arc will have been a success.
Wolverine & The X-Men #12 – This issue of W&XM kind of pushes Wolverine to the background, and focuses instead on Rachel Grey, which makes a hell of a lot of sense, AvX is all about the Phoenix and she was the Phoenix for a hell of a long time. I really appreciated getting a look inside her head, and how she's struggling with becoming a Hunter again, with looking for Hope. Rachel has never been one of the X-Men I've been interested, but that may have changed now. This issue also found time for a nice big fight between the As and the Xs, which was both funny (Kid Gladiator trying to pick up Thor's hammer, I just love the way Aaron writes that character, he's such a dick) and tragic (Iceman and Beast). Chris Bachalo was back(alo) on art and he did his usual awesome, idiosyncratic job, I especially liked how massive Thor's hammer was. My one worry here is what the hell is this book going to look like once AvX is over? Two of the Jean Grey School's main faculty members in Wolverine and Beast have turned against the rest of their species and friends! How do we go back to having fun at the school? I hope Aaron finds a way, because I really like this book and don't want it to become unrecognisable.
Spider-Men #2(of 5) – More inter-dimensional fun with Peter and Miles. This story is still only just getting started really, but I'm having a hell of a good time, it's tickling the fanboy part of my brain seeing these two universe interact. The fight between Peter and Miles was great, not only for the dialogue, with both characters seriously going WTF and Peter hilariously admitting that Miles' costume was cooler than his own, but also for how Bendis and Pichelli (who is just amazing, or spectacular, or sensational, or... Web Of?) contrasted the two characters. Both of these guys may be Spider-Man, but they fight in different ways because of their different abilities, and this fight showcased those. So we got to see Peter use the web-shooters that Miles doesn't have, and in contrast to that, Miles managed to use his invisibility and electro-shock powers to win in the end. The stuff with Peter and Ultimate Nick Fury was good too, and it was fantastic to see Nick express some emotions, he may be a total bastard, but Bendis established that he did care for Ultimate Peter, now he has a second chance. The villain of the piece is also very interesting, 'Mysterio' doesn't cross the dimensional barrier himself, but sends a robot. Is he even Mysterio? Who the heck is he? This mini-series continues to, against all the odds, show that a Marvel Universe/Ultimate Universe crossover can work, and it's the perfect celebration for Spider-Man's 50th.
The Ultimates #12 – The conclusion to the 'Two Cities, Two Worlds' was a bit of a rushed mess in some ways, but I still enjoyed the heck out of it, if only for the bat-shit awesomeness that is the all-time classic line 'He dosed the Hulk with Giant-Man serum!' That shit had me laughing like hell, and then when Giant-Hulk proceeded to start fighting a Giant Iron Man... well, how can you not enjoy that? It was Godzilla but with Marvel Superheroes, and it was great. I did like that the character who finally defeated evil Reed was Sue Storm, that was fitting. I'd like to see Sue and Ben join the Ultimates team regularly. I also really liked how Tony Stark's brain tumour hallucinations were handled, there was that great scene where, out of nowhere, The City could see him, and then the explanation that it was a psychic tumour, that was just so out there it worked. I'm guessing Humphries and Hickman are picking up the dropped thread from Orson Scott Card that Tony Stark's body has brain instead of muscle. The variety of different artists once again worked OK, Luke Ross especially, and of course Butch Guice on those last few pages which brought back Captain America. We've been waiting for aaages for Cap to come back, and I personally expected it to happen in like #5, so for it to only happen now... it's good writing. I can't wait to see him back in action and hopefully 'Divided We Fall' will be good. I just want more Giant-Man Serum Hulk really, I can't stop thinking about the sheer goofiness of that bit, is it lame, or is it so lame it's good?
Hit-Girl #1 – Everyone's favourite pre-teen psychopath (well, it's between her and Damian Wayne) gets her own mini-series, and I'll be doing a long-form review for the Review Group! Oh yes, back in the RG saddle.
Superman #10 – Another solid if unremarkable issue of Superman. This really is reminding me of Dan Jurgens' original run in the 90s, which, even though I liked those comics, isn't really what you want from a modernising reboot. That said, it was good in that Jurgens-y way, with a nice dovetail of the two storylines that #9. Superman fights 'Anguish', pisses her off, so she goes off to try and kill his 'family'. Only of course it's not his family, it's a poor old civilian who the media has claimed to be Superman. It's interesting to look at this story (and the previous one in fact) as a comment on state of modern news media. Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Perry White (and I suppose Jimmy as well) represent the old-school, fighting for the truth, whereas Morgan Edge is the new, only out for ratings, sensationalising things. Hopefully Superman can reclaim the lost honour of journalists in a way that's not douchey like Aaron Sorkin. Jurgens' art was very good, Jesus Merino's finishes really make it pop a lot better than say, Norm Rapmund's. I especially liked the splash-page of Superman bursting out of the ground, iconic. Yeah, so whilst this old-fashioned approach isn't quite what I want in the New 52, it's still not bad in and of itself, and that's all that matters really, is the comic good? Yes.
Batman Incorporated #2 – Grant Morrison is a ballsy fecker isn't he? After finishing #1 with the 'shocking death' of Damian, the second issue drops all of that and is instead a Talia origin story. He always zigs when you expect him to zag. Despite my initial annoyance that we weren't addressing the cliff-hanger straight away, this issue was excellent. I've never been a big fan of Ra's Al Ghul and Talia as villains, but this issue may change that, it was just brilliantly told, and re-contextualises a lot of what I though I knew about those characters and where all of this was going. Morrison has a lot of fun telling the story non-linearly and it was very interesting to see the Batman/Talia history retold in this way. I really liked how it made Talia sympathetic, even as she becomes a full-on villain. It helps that Chris Burnham is on art, he's just so freaking good, and whilst this one wasn't as experimental in it's panel layouts as #1, it was still very well-drawn. This relaunch has been excellent so far, two very different issues, but Morrison seems in full control of his story, I can't wait to see the epic final battle for Damian's soul.
Aquaman #10 – I still can't believe just how bad-ass Aquaman is now, at times it's seemed like Johns has been trying a bit too hard to make the character 'cool', but reading this issue, you could see that he's succeeded. That fight between Aquaman and Black Manta was just awesome, and you really got the sense that Aquaman was almost as dangerous as Manta, that the hate is so strong he could end up killing him. Aquaman isn't just cool, he's a scary motherfucker. I also like that Johns is continuing to develop 'The Others' and add new characters to the DCU. The Operative gets the spotlight in this one, and he's a very interesting character, not just the opening scene where he's doing his Splinter Cell thing, but also the cool twist where he's not a young guy being mentored by an old man, but instead he's the old man. It's just a shame that reveal was on the opposite page to the panel with the photograph, it would have been cooler for there to be an ad there or something, so the twist wasn't immediately given away. But even so, he's a senior citizen who kicks ass, and he has a plane with a book-shelf, not half bad.
I, Vampire #10 – Wow, this issue really ramped things up, the Van Helsings do not mess around. I'm of two minds about this issue, I really liked what happened in the plot, with Andrew fighting Mary and then the Van Helsings showing up to straight-up Napalm the shit out the Vampire Camp leading to massive slaughter and war. That was hardcore, and oh yeah, the Van Helsings are also Zombies. What I didn't like was the rather rambling game of philosophical one-upmanship that was going on between Professor Troughton and the head Van Helsing, it was just kind of pretentious, and a bit like #1, I had trouble following which muddy-coloured caption box was which character. But those misgivings were gone when the bombs dropped, Fialkov and Sorrentino did those pages brilliantly, the scale of it... wow. I can't wait to see where this book goes from here, it's way more epic than I expected it to be at this point, and that's great.
Justice League #10 – Another OK issue of Justice League, although I'm getting a bit tired of the JL bickering amongst each other like children. At least when Bendis' Avengers argue it's funny. I did like the fact that Superman and Batman rose above it, the World's Finest stayin' cool. I also liked that Steve Trevor giving up his access codes wasn't actually that big of a betrayal, he and Cyborg had already planned for this contingency. This is probably the first moment where I've bought Cyborg as a member of the Justice League. Graves is a decent villain I guess, although him having the faces of his dead family members on his body was just weird. I did like how Johns referenced the events of Wonder Woman's solo title here, at times it's seemed like the Wonder Woman of that book and the Wonder Woman of this one are completely different characters. Jim Lee's art looked rushed again this month, I don't think he's suited for a book with this many characters coming out so regularly, it's still recognisable as his work, but it lacks the crispness of 'Hush' and instead looks like 90s Wildstorm. In contrast, the Shazam back-up looks amazing, Gary Frank is kicking ass. I still really like this story, it's a real modernisation for a character that's never really had one, all of the attempts to do Captain Marvel in modern era have played up the nostalgic childishness, so it's cool to see a slightly different take. We even got to see Talky Tawny! And now that Black Adam is involved, shit is going down.
Green Lantern: New Guardians #10 – The battle between the Blue Lanterns and the Blue Beetles comes to it's conclusion... and the Blue Lanterns lost! I wasn't expecting that at all, I thought that Kyle would show up, power up all the BLs, and things would be wrapped up, and while that first thing did happen... it didn't work out, the Blues had to retreat, to give up hope. It will be interesting to see what happens with that order now, and it's very cool to see the normally very zen Saint Walker get angry. His vengeance against Larfleeze will be something. I hope he kills the annoying orange shit. It was good to have the rest of the 'team' involved too, especially Arkillo who was almost as metal as the Deconsecrator here. It looks like he's going to have problems with his ring, which should a cool subplot. Overall, this was a cool arc, not only did it shake things up for the Blue Lantern Corps, but the use of the Reach really amped up my anticipation for what's going to happen when they finally show up in Blue Beetle. It was clever of Bedard to link his two titles like that.
All-Star Western #10 – Even though the Court Of Owls all got killed in the most recent issue of Batman, they can still appear in the past, and All-Star Western is using them really well. Graymiotti are setting up a crime-war between the Owls and the worshippers of the Crime Bible, which is just such a cool idea, especially when you throw a wildcard like Jonah Hex into the mix. The Owls are trying to manipulate Jonah, but I'm sure that will blow back into their faces, especially since Tallulah Black is involved. I don't know much about Tallulah, the only previous issue I've read with her in it was the excellent Jonah Hex #50 with Darwyn Cooke art, and whilst this issue doesn't reach the tragic heights of that one (seriously, read that comic, it's so sad), she's still a fun character, and her interactions with Arkham were great. It was also good to see more of Alan Wayne, is he the Wayne who we saw went crazy in Batman? Could this story show that happening? I like spotting all of the little hints and nods to Batman in this book, it's fanservice really, but it works. For example, I'm now wondering about whether the Officer Bard who got killed in this issue is an ancestor of Jason Bard. The back-up story here was about Bat-Lash, and it was a lot of fun, showcasing the character's roguish nature, he's the antithesis of Jonah Hex really, and I look forward to the two of them teaming up again soon. The art from Garcia-Lopez was fantastic too, but then he's a legend he always delivers.
American Vampire #28 – One of the main reasons the American Vampire is such a good comic is that it takes cool parts of American history, and throws in some vampires. This new arc looks at a particularly dark time for Hollywood, the McCarthy era, with the Communist blacklists and all of that. Only instead of people hiding Reds under their beds... it's Undeads. It's a cool idea, and it's made even better by the fact that it spins out of already established storylines. It's not just Snyder going to this era for the sake of it, all of this is happening because of what happened to Henry in #25. It's going to be great fun to see Skinner and Pearl make their way through 1950s Hollywood. Rafael Albuquerque returns to the book with this issue, and it's fantastic to have him back, I've liked most of the fill-ins, but he's the co-creator and he just brings something special. I also have to give a shout-out to yet another awesome secret base for the Vassals Of The Morning Star, whether it's in New York, London or Los Angeles, their subterranean hide-outs are just so cool. So let the Red Scare begin, but it's the red of blood we should be scared of...
Spaceman #7(of 9) – The twin narratives of past and present really collide in this issue, as Orson and Carter finally come to blows. The fight between them was really well done, you could feel the resentment there. Eduardo Risso is doing some absolutely fantastic work here, he's normally an artist who works within the 'real world' so it's cool to seem him do something so sci-fi and still make it feel real. I was very interested in the flashback sequences of this issue, with Carter manipulating Orson into thinking that they have to kill Ottershaw, I'm dreading seeing how that ends up happening. It was interesting to see that it looks like the Brangelina parody actually did have something to do with Tara's kidnapping, but it looks like the full details on that will have to wait for next issue. There's quite a bit to wrap up in the next 2 instalments, I'm excited.
Fatale #6 – The second arc of Fatale begins, and it's getting weirder and weirder. Brubaker continues to show us two storylines, the first is the continuation of Nicolas Lash's increasingly fucked-up life. He's obsessed with Josephine, and it looks like the mysterious Cult is still after him. I'm guessing that the contents of that safety deposit box were Bishop's eyeballs. The second story takes us back to 1978 and introduces a new character, Miles a B-Movie actor who's looking to make it big. I loved these sequences, some of the best Criminal stories took place in the 70s, and it's great to see Bru and Phillips back in that most sleazy of decades. It looks like the evil Cult is now involved in running some kind of church which supplies drugs and hookers to Hollywood parties, which should be fun, the underbelly of show biz but with monsters. Brubaker has said that a lot of the events of this arc actually happened, but of course without the supernatural, and this issue featured some cameos of real life stars, I spotted Woody Allen and Paul Simon (unless that wasn't meant to be them and was instead a reference to an LA party in Annie Hall). Miles ends up running into Jo, who's now living a sad, reclusive life. It's very interesting how this book is exploring her immortality, it's not a gift, it's a curse. I'm very interested in what was on that film-reel, I bet it's seriously fucked up. This book is just excellent, but then that's what you expect from a Brubaker/Phillips collaboration. I just hope that the answers to the myriad mysteries swirling around don't disappoint.
Cool, cool cool cool.
That was a good one, my fave this week was either Batman Inc, for being damn good, or Ultimates, just for being fucking hilarious.
Join me next week for an grudging Independence Day special, you filthy colonials!
Review by: Niam Suggitt