And as the cold weather breezes into Houston about a month later than it should have, we get the first new books of November. It’s an interesting haul of titles filled with debuts and final touches. This is all very poetic and whatnot, but the truth is I’m hopped up on leftover Halloween candy and could make a bowel movement seem melodic.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #647 4.99
AVENGERS ACADEMY #6 2.99
BATMAN AND ROBIN #16 3.99
BOYS #48 (MR) 3.99
BUFFY VAMPIRE SLAYER #38 2.99
BULLSEYE PERFECT GAME #1 (OF 2) 3.99
CAPTAIN AMERICA MAN OUT OF TIME #1 (OF 5) 3.99
GENERATION HOPE #1 3.99
JONAH HEX #61 2.99
PUNISHER IN BLOOD #1 (OF 5) 3.99
SCARLET #3 (MR) 3.95
SECRET SIX #27 2.99
SUPERBOY #1 2.99
WOLVERINE #3 3.99
WOMEN OF MARVEL #1 3.99
YOUNG ALLIES #6 2.99
I’ve bolded the issues I will review. Which is redundant, as the reviews will now begin and you will be able to see what I have reviewed.
Here it is. The conclusion of Grant Morrison’s run on Batman & Robin before he jumps onto the new “Batman Inc.” title which should be one hell of a ride given the setup he provides for us in this issue. Morrison has been the architect of the Batman universe now for about as long as I’ve been working in comic book retail. Close to five years or so. He’s not showing any signs of slowing down anytime soon. It seems like he’s moving into the third act of his overall story with Batman Inc. The fact that his overarching story has an act-structure ties into the melodrama he’s crafted. His Batman reads like a sci-fi/action opera and it’s evident that he’s put a great deal of effort in making sure the parts all come together.
The biggest achievement that he can lay claim to in regards to his Batman ouvre is his ability to shake things up in ways that other writers have teased for the short term but never committed to in any real way. Plot twists that Morrison uses as the long-term theme of his story seem like ideas that other writers would love to pursue but only for six issues or less. Morrison seems to think that shaking things up and doing so in a way that shifts the paradigm of how Batman operates on a level that is not easily reversible is the key to telling a good story. I won’t argue that it’s made for some of the most compelling reading for quite some time.
What I really appreciate about Morrison on the Bat books is that in a few years time we’ll be able to view him as one of the better Batman showrunners in the history of the character. There aren’t many creators who leave such a lasting mark on the character that fans can easily identify. Most of the time you get the requisite Denny O’Neil or Frank Miller. Morrison is going to be the next name on the immediate go-to list when all is said and done.
Bullseye is a character who can be used to absolute perfection or to an end that simply does not work. There’s not a whole lot of middle ground when it comes to the character. He’s been front and center for so many great and memorable moments and then again he’s been wasted or misused by writers who simply want to use him in a way that doesn’t really make sense.
Here we get a story where there’s very little actual Bullseye. The story is all second-hand, but it gives us an insight into how the character operates that we don’t really see. That part that deals with how and why he picks his targets. The montage showing some of his more unique and violent kills is a perfect example of why Bullseye sometimes doesn’t work out in the hands of an unskilled writer. He’s the perfect killer. He knows he’s the perfect killer. He’s got the same problem Superman does in the sense that he’s so above and beyond the range of his peers that he can come off as boring in his superiority.
The biggest downfall of this book is that lack of Bullseye. The second hand narrative structure is interesting but ultimately unless they give us something a little more substantial it’s basically not even like reading a comic at all but reading a comic about someone who read a comic about what Bullseye did for a year. That sounds stupid, but it gives off a little of that vibe.
It’s a Captain America miniseries written by Mark Waid. I’m not going to pass that up. Seriously, I don’t care that it’s essentially a retread and that no matter how they take the story it’s essentially inconsequential because it’s one of a hundred takes on the same story because it’s such a great part of the Captain America mythos that’s being retold.
The stuff set in World War Two is pretty good. We get some fun banter between Bucky and Cap amongst some soldiers who don’t know who they are and we get some fun, if cliched, introspective moments where the two discuss what they would like to do when the war is over and the fighting is done. Of course all of this happens mere moments before Bucky gets caught in the explosion that “kills” him and Cap winds up frozen in the ice.
What really works in this issue is the dichotomy between that old world and the new one that Cap wakes up to. You really can feel how directionless and confused Steve is when confronted with a world that has grown leaps in bounds in technology and regressed equally in its brutality. The dangers of being a hero in such a world become readily apparent and the ending of the book packs quite a punch.
I think this one could be one that people regret not picking up if they let it slip under their radar because it is an excellent read. However, Marvel needs to learn that these arbitrary books aren’t going to get the same readership they would at a lower price point. $3.99 is a warning siren to a lot of consumers nowadays, even if the book is worth the cash, as this one seems to be.
They’ve been building to this one for a while. I need to begin by saying that I would have been just as happy had this been the central running plot of Uncanny X-Men or Legacy. Or hell, run it through both titles as a crossover. It would have worked just as well. This has the smell of a cash grab by throwing it out as an independant mini-series. It’s like if Marvel had done the Inferno followup they’re doing in New Mutants as a mini-series and let the ongoing title move along as if nothing happened. I think the logistics of this miniseries are flawed, and I needed to get that out of the way up front.
As to the book itself, it’s hard to tell what direction it will take. Whether the fifth “light” will be the villain for the whole of the series or if there is something more is not readily apparent. The book seems to indicate as much, but to what end they are going with the character in question is unknown.
If you haven’t been reading X-Men, this book is not very new-user friendly. All the characters have been introduced over in Uncanny, which backs up my assertion that it should have been continued there. So if you need the background, pick up the last few months of Uncanny after the end of Second Coming. That should fill in some gaps for you.
I’m hoping there’s a bigger endgame here than I’m seeing at the moment. To justify its existence, the miniseries better have one hell of a closer.
All you whiney fanboys can quit your bitching, Frank Castle is back in non-monster form to do what he’s done for the last thirty or so years. It’s still got the same gritty flair that Remender brought to the title under the Franken-Castle banner but in an easily digestible, familiar package so that frightened fans don’t feel offended by change.
The first issue feels like a classic Punisher riff, it builds upon years and years of 616 Punisher lore, with Microchip and the long feud with Jigsaw coming back into play. It feels a bit more natural than the early parts of the last volume did, as Punisher shouldn’t be anywhere near storylines that have anything to do with alien invasions. He’s at his best when the capes don’t make an appearance.
This could be the beginning of a great new chapter for the character, if Remender’s past work is any indication of what he can do with Frank now. He certainly kicked the show off with an impressive debut, so it’s his ballgame to lose. Let’s just hope he doesn’t get too inventive, or people will get frightened and claim that he’s “ruined the character again” and run to the hills like stampeding fear-cattle.
Jeff Lemire is in a position to be a hot item. Sweet Tooth is an amazing book and he’s got that good buzz to his credit as well as being hailed by just about everyone as the next big thing. With Superboy he has the chance to really let loose and show the world what he can do with the mainstream DCU characters. Superboy isn’t a sacred cow. He has a following but he has room to be molded into something more concrete. The building blocks are there, Lemire just needs to move them around.
He certainly doesn’t waste any time with this issue, utilizing a familiar old Superman villain to write some great action scenes that are drawn out spectacularly by artist Pier Gallo whose work has a very classic feel to it, which fits the Smallville setting wonderfully.
Where Lemire also garners some good will is the manner in which he sets up the supporting cast. This is the first issue, and for many new readers this is their first exposure to the character, but the interactions with the Smallville community are written in the same manner that they would be had the title been running for five years. The familiarity works. Lemire doesn’t get overly expository with everyone in the first issue. He knows that the time will come to fill people in when the moment is appropriate. He gives just enough to let the story work itself out organically and the book is better for it.
I think this one could end up being a long-running fan favorite. Let’s just hope Lemire stays on the title for a long enough time to truly leave his mark on the character, because judging from the first issue it could be quite an interesting and fun take on a character who until this point has basically been defined by his association with the Titans, his relationship to Wonder Girl or his overly violent death.
And them’s the reviews. Hope you enjoyed my ramblings. Now I’m going to finish this bowl of leftover candy and watch old episodes of the Simpsons while I work on a poetry paper for my creative writing class.
Man, this week has been hectic. I had to write a 2,000 word short-story for my creative writing class in addition to a two page essay on the importance of studying history as it relates to current events all on the first week of the semester. And then new comic book day rolls around and bombards me with a friggin’ huge stack of books, all of which are the ones that I eagerly anticipate every month. (Secret Six and Jonah Hex, yo.) So I’m not sure what kind of creative mojo I have left for the reviews but an attempt will be made anyhow.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN PRESENTS BLACK CAT #3 (OF 4) 3.99
BOYS #46 (MR) 3.99
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER #36 LAST GLEAMING PT 1 (OF 5) 2.99
CHOKER #4 (OF 6) (MR) 3.99
FRANKEN-CASTLE #20 2.99
INCREDIBLE HULKS #612 3.99
IZOMBIE #5 (MR) 2.99
JONAH HEX #59 2.99
JSA ALL STARS #10 3.99
LAST DAYS OF AMERICAN CRIME #3 (OF 3) A CVR MALEEV 4.99
SCARLET #2 3.95
SECRET SIX #25 2.99
SHADOWLAND #3 (OF 5) SL 3.99
SHADOWLAND ELEKTRA #1 SL 3.99
STUMPTOWN #4 (OF 4) (RES) (MR) 3.99
VERONICA #202 2.99
WOLVERINE #1 3.99
X-MEN CURSE OF MUTANTS SMOKE AND BLOOD #1 3.99
YOUNG ALLIES #4 2.99
So, yeah, lots of good stuff. Let’s get started, shall we?
It’s been months since the last issue of BTVS hit shelves. So long in fact that I cannot remember for the life of me what the hell was going on in the series at the time. I remember Spike came back and Angel was boffing Buffy again. But that’s really about it. I understand why they went on hiatus, but it really caused me to lose interest in the series while it was away. With its return this issue, we get a sort of hazy explaination for Angel’s motives as Twilight and Spike makes with the witty banter for a few panels, but not much else happens. It’s probably the quickest issue of any comic book I’ve read in quite some time, which is saying something considering I still read Archie books on occaision and that sort of light-hearted fluff still takes longer to digest than this particular issue.
I will say that the book’s final page did surprise me, although it probably shouldn’t have. It’s sort of a “pandering to the fans” move that comics like this one pull on a regular basis, that having been said, I’m interested to see where Joss goes with it. I’m still a Buffy fan at heart and no matter how blah the book has been over the last few months it’s still got the nostalgia bump going for it that forces me to see past the major flaws and enjoy it for all its worth. I don’t know how much mileage anyone else would get out of the book, but I doubt there are many people out there who aren’t already die-hard fans picking up the book on a casual basis. This book is for the people who stuck with the show to the end and then some.
We get a title change this issue, and a major tone shift from the events of World War Hulks. In the first of two stories, a gamma-family barbeque goes haywire when Betty and Bruce get into a little disagreement over their relationship as it relates to the whole “Betty Was Dead” thing and it escalates, as it always does, into a super-powered fight between Hulk and Red Shulkie.
I think what sets this book apart from Loeb’s Hulk book is that if the same scenes were tackled in the other book, the character development which is handled so masterfully here would have been lost in the manic insanity of the action. Hulk reads like a cartoon show while Pak’s reads more like a melodramatic stage play. I’m not going to call this issue high-art, as it doesn’t come close to matching issue #609, which I think might have been one of the best issues of Hulk I’ve ever read. But it still works on multiple levels because of the way the interactions feel so genuine. I really look forward to seeing how the multiple Hulks come to terms with each other.
In the second story, we catch up with the other Son of Hulk, who I admittedly have not been following and thus didn’t really understand where everything was coming from. They did their best to catch me up but I still felt a bit lost and I think that more people will enjoy the second story if they followed that character from the beginning, which I admittedly did not. I really didn’t care. I might have to find some Son of Hulk trades and get myself up to speed, because the mythology seemed interesting, I just wish I could have grasped it a little better.
Even if this weren’t a pretty good issue, it would be essential reading just so people could understand where the hell Elektra comes from when she shows up out of the blue in Shadowland # 3. I get the feeling that Shadowland might have a bit of Infinite Crisis syndrome when collected in trade unless they do it omnibus style and present all the side-stories in the collection in chronological order.
This one fills in some important gaps in the timeline while at the same time giving a damn interesting glimpse into Elektra’s mind and her feelings about Matt’s turn to the dark side, especially as it pertains to the death of Bullseye. As you can imagine, Elektra has some pretty raging emotions when it comes to that particular psycho, and the scene where she witnesses his death on a big screen in the heart of the city with the rest of the natives is particularly well written.
I am really enjoying Shadowland, but I think that in order to fully enjoy it you have to immerse yourselves in the tie-ins, and that’s something not a lot of people can do. It’s part of my complaint about Marvel’s business strategy. I know it makes them money, but in the long run they are going to burn folks out if this continues in such a fashion.
People have been talking about this one for a while now and I think it’s kind of funny. There’s nothing here that could possible offend anybody and yet neo-con right wingers are using it as an example of how the liberals are infecting children’s entertainment and trying to brainwash children to homosexuality and blah blah blah.
The fact that in this book the new gay character who Veronica lusts after is a well-adjusted healthy young man is admirable. His parents don’t in any way give him the side-eye, nobody bats an eye when he admits his sexual orientation, and there is not a hint of judgment. It’s a subtle message that tolerance should be the immediate reaction, and in that I have to applaud Archie comics for what it’s done here. Nevermind the fact that the issue is actually pretty freaking hilarious, with Jughead trying to keep Veronica from finding out the truth and thus driving her insane. There are some great gags here and I think it’s admirable that Archie can still be worth reading after all these years.
I wasn’t going to buy this one. I was going to pass it by and not look back. I read Wolverine in like eighteen other books and quite frankly I don’t really have much interest in him anymore. But then I started thinking about how much I enjoyed Weapon X and how Jason Aaron has never really written anything I didn’t like, and so I threw it on the stack anyway.
I’m glad I did because he once again manages to knock it out of the park. I think that for the longest time most people didn’t know what made a decent solo Wolverine story. They simply tried to ape the parts of stories that they themselves liked when the first became enamored with the character and it never quite worked. Aaron is able to create something that builds off of Wolverine’s over-arching history while at the same time feeling fresh and modern. The amazingly beautiful art by Renato Guedes only serves to better bring the action to life. I’ve loved Guedes since I discovered his art on Supergirl and think he’s one of the most talented artists working right now. The level of detail he gives is astounding and here he sort of reminds me of Steve McNiven, but that might just be my mind playing tricks on me.
Either way this looks like it’ll be a series to keep on the pull list. I don’t see this one taking a downward turn anytime soon. If it’s anything like Weapon X was, it’ll only get better with each subsequent arc.
And that’s it for this week. If you take away anything from these reviews its that you should probably be buying more Archie comics. Seriously. That stuff is a gold mine.
I had a horrible night last night. Like, soul crushingly horrible. I was crestfallen and engulfed by rage. I ripped the towel rack out of the wall in the bathroom and punched a wall. Luckily, all of this happened after I read this week’s comics because I’m sure my feelings would have tainted my reading experience. Maybe they’ll hamper my reviewing experience but I can’t say for sure. You’ll have to judge that.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #636 GRIM 3.99
BATMAN AND ROBIN #13 2.99
BATMAN ODYSSEY #1 (OF 6) 3.99
BOYS #44 (MR) 3.99
IRON MAN LEGACY #4 2.99
JONAH HEX #57 2.99
JSA ALL STARS #8 3.99
SCARLET #1 (MR) 3.95
SECRET SIX #23 2.99
SHADOWLAND #1 (OF 5) SL 3.99
STEVE ROGERS SUPER-SOLDIER #1 (OF 4) 3.99
X-FORCE #28 XSC 2.99
X-MEN #1 3.99
YOUNG ALLIES #2 2.99
Now let’s get to it…
BATMAN AND ROBIN # 13
Yeah, Grant Morrison may have written his best issue of Batman yet. Everything that he has laid the groundwork for comes to a head in this issue. Morrison is not a fool, nor has he done anything that didn’t have a point. All the attention to detail that has gone into creating a tapestry of different plot threads that all reveal themselves in this issue.
I explained to people when it was finished that Batman RIP was not a self contained story. Everyone looked at it like a graphic novel in and of itself, this simply isn’t the best way to view the story. It’s a chapter in the overall story the same way that The Black Glove or Batman and Son were. It all is a piece of the puzzle that Morrison has presented. The events of this issue would not have worked without the events of RIP.
Morrison is doing some of the best Batman work of all time, and it’s not a gimmick. It’s not like Dark Knight Returns where it has no real bearing on the character aside from what writers choose to take from the message. This is a book that takes major risk on a monthly basis, in continuity. It’s not easy to do stuff like that and get away with it. Fanboys do not like change. And while we know that the status quo will eventually return, it will be changed by the events of this book in a manner that will almost be undetectable. After a run like Morrison’s, it will be hard to accept anything less than what he has delivered. It’s why what came after Hush was so rejected. Not that Hush is anywhere in the league of what Morrison is doing, but it hooked readers in and it had people looking for things that weren’t there in an attempt to keep up with the writer’s pace.
Seriously, I would rank Morrison as one of the best Bat writers of the last twenty years thanks solely to what he has done since launching Batman and Robin as a title. This is just another direct example I can point to when people ask me why.
BATMAN ODYSSEY # 1
This was probably my most anticipated book this week. I adore Neal Adams. I think he is the definitive Batman artist, alongside Jim Aparo of course. That having been said, I have never been exposed to anything that he has done as a writer. He may be one of the greatest artists ever to work in the comic business but as a writer, he’s largely a blank slate as far as I can tell. With the first issue of Odyssey, we can see that his writing style is clearly influenced by the writers he worked with back in the glory days of the dark knight. There is a little Denny O’Neil in his wordsmithery. I’ll admit that alot of the dialog seemed forced, and the flow of certain word balloons was distracting, but then again, that can be said of alot of comic books nowadays. I think it was just more noticeable because I was aware of the fact that Adams was writing for his own pen. I saw the same stuff on Tony Daniel’s work on the main Bat title.
Is the book good, though? That’s the main question that needs answering I suppose, and it is a decent little Batman yarn. The art is great, as if it needed to be said. I think the thing that strikes me is that it’s clearly a tale set in Batman’s past, though I can’t place where. I would have loved to see Adams write a contemporary Batman. I’m sure that would have sold better than a mini-series, as I can see a bunch of people trade waiting on this one. I won’t, because I want to support Adams in whatever he does, but I think from a marketing standpoint they may have stumbled a bit.
Still, no matter how you read it, you shouldn’t be disappointed.
THE BOYS # 44
So we finally get the moment we’ve known was going to happen since early on in the series. The only problem is that Garth Ennis gives it to us in the last panel so we have to wait a month to see the aftermath. Fuck you, Garth. Your mastery of toying with your audience is unparalleled.
Seriously, Ennis knows exactly when to drop the necessary bomb on the readers. He’s been escalating things for months now and everything is coming to a boil. I think the fact that Ennis stated when he began that the series would be finite with a pre-established ending helps to inform the reader that the pacing is deliberate. There are moments where the book comes close to seeming dull and then the veil is removed to show us something we didn’t expect.
This is definitely some of Ennis’ best work. I say that with conviction. I find it on par with his Hitman run and a shade close to matching some of the stuff he did on Preacher. The reason people don’t latch on to this book the way they did with Preacher is that The Boys isn’t as broad as Preacher was. Ennis knew that he could stir up controversy with the tiniest flair on Preacher. With the Boys he’s not really seeking to offend, but to play with heroes in a way that makes a statement on how he feels about the world in general. I don’t believe that Ennis believed everything he did in Preacher but I’m almost sure he does when it comes to The Boys.
SCARLET # 1
I think the easiest way to describe Scarlet is that Bendis has written what Millar wishes he could have with Nemesis. We get a violent subversive anti-hero protagonist who is introduced in the middle of murdering a cop and who is clearly willing to upset the system in any way she can. But unlike Millar who goes broad stroke in every manner imaginable, Bendis prefers to focus on the character first rather than the spectacle of the character’s actions. I think that the narrating directly to reader helps to facilitate this. Nemesis blows up a train to make a point and I felt nothing except dirty because the book wants me to view his actions as extreme with a measure of awesome, whereas when Scarlet chokes out a cop the gut reaction I had was one of knowing there was probably a reason for it beyond “here’s a villain.”
Bendis knows his storytelling. If he didn’t he wouldn’t be teaching classes about it at the collegiate level. It all comes down to whether you like his style. If you enjoy his work on Goldfish, Jinx, or the Powers books, you’ll probably enjoy this one. But there will be a number of people who hate it without reading it just because it has Bendis’ name on it.
SHADOWLAND # 1
This is gonna be a good one folks. Daredevil has been on a tear for years and finally he’s getting the spotlight he deserves. Each successive writer on the title has been outdoing the last since Bendis took over the book and we’ve finally reached a place where the boiling point has been hit.
Writer Andy Diggle has taken Matt Murdock to a place that we never really could have expected. It’s a shocking turn to see him in charge of the Hand, but at the same time the events that led to where Matt has ended up in no way work against what has developed. Normally, you would think there would be no way Matt Murdock would become the leader of the Hand. It just goes against everything that Daredevil has fought for, but the way that it’s been set up makes you feel like if it didn’t work out this way, it would be a cop out.
As for the issue itself, let’s just say that you know how it’s going to end a few pages in but you don’t care because you want to see it happen and you know that the ensuing shitstorm will be an amazing story. Simply put, it does not disappoint in any department. It’s an event book done right and I cannot wait for the second issue.
X-MEN # 1
I don’t know Vic Gischler personally. He bought a Lady Deadpool poster from my store on the one day that week I wasn’t at work. We banter about really dumb shit on twitter from time to time and that’s about it. So don’t think there’s some conspiracy when I praise his work on a regular basis. He just happens to write stuff that I think is really good. If I can ever find a damned copy, I’d like to review his book The Deputy but none of the local bookstores carry it and I don’t feel like ordering anything else off of the internet until I pay off my latest Amazon bill.
Anyway, yeah, X-Men # 1 is pretty good. It’s got Jubilee, so you know I’m going to like it. But it also isn’t the unending doom and gloom that’s taking place in every other title, and while Second Coming has been awesome thus far, it’s also starting to wear me down with it’s unending bleakness. It’s almost too much to take sometimes. So it’s a welcome change just to get Wolverine slashing apart a bunch of vampires. It’s just the sort of thing I want in an X-Men title right now. Problems solved with claws and laser eyes.
And Jubilee. I freaking love Jubilee.
And we’re done. I’ll be back tomorrow with a review of Predators.