The latest DC New 52 & Marvel releases
This is a great week for the DC New 52 comics. Four of my favourite series enter their third issues: Demon Knights, Grifter, Resurrection Man and Suicide Squad. The latter, if you read my previous round-up of these series, was actually on probation after a bit of a weird second issue, while the other three were very eagerly awaited. Another series I decided to catch up on was Deathstroke, which I didn’t pick up last month because… well, I’m not entirely sure why, now.
(An aside: Considering how much I’ve been enjoying an ever-growing number of these titles, it’s becoming difficult to say which are actually my ‘favourites’, as often issues wax and wane depending on their overall story’s progression…).
Finally, as promised in last week’s round-up, I tracked down the two new X-Men titles: Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine & The X-Men, which each track a different half of the now-split X-Men team. I also got hold of the Regenesis one-shot, which is meant to fill in the gaps for newcomers to the series and events therein.
Demon Knights #3
Under siege and under fire – quite literally – the hastily assembled Demon Knights find that the villagers they’re trying to protect are ready to turn on them… and that they’re locked behind embattled walls with a demon whose very touch can kill! And if the only human Etrigan gives half a damn about dies of her wounds, then Hell help anyone around him…
Another great issue, packing in a ton of story into the slim volume, as the forces of the Horde amass outside the village. Etrigan’s rage over the sacrifice of his lover has unintended consequences for the rest of the group trying to protect the village people. He didn’t feature in the second half of the issue, as the perspective shifts to the other warriors and they attempts to help strengthen the protections. As we read more of this story, issue-by-issue, we are getting a little more history of our main heroes, but not too much – it’s still a mystery why most of them are there, and what their motivations are. While this could (and indeed has) become frustrating in other titles, in Demon Knights Cornell has managed to keep things moving and interesting throughout. It’s a very well written series, and I’m really loving following along. It also keeps things fresh, seeing as it’s set in a totally different time period. Can’t wait for the next issue.
Cole and Gretchen escape in opposite directions, but the hornets’ nest has been disturbed. With aliens and the authorities both pursuing Cole, an easy escape is not an option! And when Cole is forced to confront his brother, the recipe is clear: On this morning, there will be bloodshed.
This issue was, as has become the norm for Grifter, pretty brutal. But, unlike some other titles, it’s not brutal for the sake of being violent or shocking. There’s a point, albeit twisted, to Cole’s battle – he’s the only one out ‘in the field’ who seems to realise that there are aliens among us, working towards some nefarious endgame. The tension between the two Cash brothers is very well portrayed on the pages, and Edmondson has a gift for writing realistic and solid dialogue. Cash’s love interest, Gretchen, is also brought back into the equation, but from a distance. The stakes are raised once again, as we get a glimpse of more conspiracies, unclear about who is on which side. This series is getting better and more interest with each issue. Wonderfully put together, too: the art is very strong and striking.
Resurrection Man #3
The femmes fatale known as the Body Doubles have finally tracked down the Resurrection Man – and they seem to know more about him than he does! As they set out to test his abilities to withstand death – literally – Mitch discovers a far darker truth: More than one unearthly power has taken a strong interest in his immortal soul.
This series is delightfully weird and twisted, and only getting more so with each new issue. Mitch finds himself in a purgatory-esque environment after his latest death (in the previous issue), and learns just a little more of the fight that is raging in Heaven and Hell over the fate of his soul. He still remembers nothing, which seems to surprise a lot of the people he comes into contact with, and certainly those who are chasing after him. The two immortal bounty hunters, the Body Doubles, have caught up with him and are struggling to adapt to his ever-changing powers and what this means for subduing and apprehending him. The final page left me with a complete WTF moment, so I really want to read the next issue to figure out who the new player is.
The artwork fits the tone perfectly: a bit rough-around-the-edges, grim atmospherics, and some particularly nice work on the denizens of the purgatory domain; and the art for Mitch’s first resurrection in this issue is stunning (if graphic). Resurrection Man has a great premise and concept, and thus far has been very well executed. It is certainly recommended.
Suicide Squad #3
“Abort evac. Suicide Squad…you’re on your own!”
After last issue’s harrowing mission, the covert Squad must “disappear” until Task Force X can safely (and secretly) extract them from the field. Can a team of super villain soldiers maintain a low profile in a small town? Plus, another Squad member bites the dust – and King Shark eats a guy.
Suicide Squad is a strange, but fun, title. It switches between a serious and light-hearted tone easily and seamlessly, as we spend more time with this motley band of killers and criminals. Harley Quin continues to be utterly nutty-bananas, and is the source of a number of good one-liners, as she and Deadshot form a shaky connection. The Squad, still dysfunctional, has some bonds of comradeship forming between certain members, which is making it more interesting to read about them. They’re not necessarily healthy friendships, but it offers a nice counter-point to our assumption that they’re all irredeemable sociopaths.
The light humorous touch that runs throughout is nicely done, and the overall construction and plotting of this issue (and the series as a whole up to this point) is very assured and, in my opinion, works very well. It will be interesting to see how this title progresses. Something to keep an eye on, certainly. Off probation, I’m definitely going to keep following this title.
#2 – Deathstroke’s tactical prowess is put to the test when the man who hired him attempts to renege on the contract. Pitted against a salvo of new assassins, including the vicious Road Rage, Slade must take his giant sword to the 405 freeway and proclaim himself the most vicious killer in the city of Angels!
#3 – Still reeling from the Harmory job, Deathstroke seeks answers from a super villain arms manufacturer. But when Slade storms the weapon maker’s fortress, he finds himself face to face with a new threat known only as “Legacy” and a plot to manipulate Slade that runs far deeper than he could ever have imagined!
The first of these two issues showcases the protagonist’s unique capacity for insane levels of violence (with not a care for collateral damage). It’s a very striking issue – lots of action, fighting, and destruction. It has an almost Michael Bay feel to it (complete with massive explosions and slightly canned battle-cries of “Banzai” and so forth from the soon-to-be-decapitated villainous cannon fodder). Fun, but not particularly deep.
Issue three offers up yet more violence, and slightly more information to help us understand Deathstroke’s hubris and arrogance. I worry it’s not going to develop much beyond this. In a nutshell, he’s defending a reputation of just being the most violent and effective assassin. It would be more interesting if he had a more sneaky of insidious style. Instead, he’s basically a “meta-human” thug – his approach is very forward and lacks subtlety. Which isn’t so interesting, really. He’s the pro-wrestling version of a super “hero” – all flash and not so much with the substance. The final few pages suggest where this might start going, but I’m not sure it promises too much story advancement. Which is a pity. I don’t think I’ll keep following this title – the other New 52 titles just offer so much more.
After SCHISM, who will the mutants follow — Cyclops or Wolverine?
If I’m perfectly honest, this issue was a little bit of a waste of time. True, you get to see which X-Men sided with Cyclops and which with Wolverine, and for some of them you get a little bit of a reason. But other than that, there’s not a whole lot of valuable story. This is a pity, as it could have filled in the gaps for people who, like me, have been away from the on-going X-Men story.
The artwork is ok, but I did like the juxtaposition of what was happening in the ‘real’ world and the characterisation of it as some caveman-esque pit fight between Wolverine and Cyclops – whenever an X-Men sides with one of the new leaders, they gain the upper hand in the fight. Interesting and original. True, it also seems to have been a way to get the female characters into skimpy fur-bikini-outfits, but at least that wasn’t the point of the gimmick.
Wolverine & the X-Men #1
Wolverine has taken one half of the X-Men back to Westchester to start over again. SCHISM tore them apart, but can Wolverine lead the new Children of the Atom into the future?
Wolverine is, alongside Gambit, my favourite X-Man, so I was interested to see how he fared as the principal of a new mutant school. And, I am happy to say, I rather enjoyed this issue. Wolverine and Kitty (the headmistress) are showing the school inspectors around the newly completed campus. Things are not going well at all, and only get worse as the issue progresses…
Aaron not only does a great job of introducing us to the key players-to-be, but he does it with a cheeky sense of humour that runs throughout the issue – sometimes overtly, at other times in the details and background touches and dialogue. For example, Wolverine is described as having a “predilection for fisticuffs”. Which is one way of putting it. And Professor Xavier drops by to give Logan some advice – specifically to keep a rubble-clearing contractor on speed dial, because “No matter what you do, this place is bound to get blown up with alarming frequency.”
Speaking of Xavier, there is no explanation of where he is or what he’s up to these days – he didn’t feature in the Regenesis one-shot, either.
The artwork isn’t so stylised, a little rough-around-the-edges, but remains very eye-catching, and I liked the simpler style for the title. It’s slightly manga-esque at times, but retains the X-Men flair as well. Very nicely put together issue.
I’ll definitely be following this title.
Uncanny X-Men #1
What is to become of the mutants who side with Cyclops after the big split? And what does it have to do with the resurrected Mister Sinister?
This has a slightly more serious tone than Wolverine & The X-Men, although there are still some moments of levity, provided through the banter of the core X-Men that feature (mainly when they make fun of Cyclops). It’s odd to see Cyclops as the more warlike leader – just as it is strange to see Wolverine playing the more contemplative and pacifist leader. The mysterious, apparently immortal Sinister is the bad guy of the piece, and he’s messing about with the Celestial, a slumbering giant that is located near San Francisco. It’s a bit of a weird plot, but one that could be interesting in the long run.
The art is much cleaner than Wolverine & The X-Men, more in keeping with what I remember from when I first read the comics (in the late 1990s). I didn’t take to this one as quickly as I did Wolverine’s; they have different tones, and I think the other title is a little better written (more fun, anyway). This one could go either way. The team seems less sure of themselves and not as comfortable in their new situation. The world hates mutants again, and when you throw Sinister into the mix, this could end up being pretty weird and interesting.
I’ll read the next issue, and make a judgement after that.
After reading these three X-Men comics, I have come to the conclusion that I need to read the Schism comics to catch up. There is plenty of allusion to what’s come before and, while they’re not essential to enjoying or following these titles, it would be nice to have some more idea of what happened, and maybe why some characters are missing. Prelude to Schism is already available, and Schism follows next month.
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That’s it for this week’s new releases. More comic reviews coming next week, of course, but I’ll also be reviewing four more of DC’s New 52 that I haven’t read before, sometime next week: Superman, Swamp Thing, Batman & Robin, and Batwoman (this last title will get its own review, complete with the collected Elegy, which precedes it chronologically – also because the lady at Forbidden Planet NY said it would be better to do so. Thankfully, the Strand had a cheap copy of the paperback, so I’m all set).
[It is, by the way, completely clear to me that I have become somewhat addicted to DC’s New 52 titles… Acceptance is step one…]