Here’s a quick, extra comics round-up for four issues I managed to catch up on recently. As you can gather from the title, it focuses on two on-going story “events”, one from DC and one from Marvel. I have very different feelings for the two of them.
Reviewed: Avengers vs. X-Men #3, Batgirl #9, Batman #9, Batman & Robin #9
Avengers vs. X-Men #3 (Marvel)
Writer: Ed Brubaker | Artist: John Romita Jr. | Inks: Scott Hanna | Colours: Laura Martin
The Avengers and the X-Men scour the Earth searching for the host of the Phoenix! Hope takes matters into her own hands! And Captain America and Wolverine come to bitter blows!
Apparently, after Hope’s explosive exit in the last issue, Cyclops and the X-Men surrendered to Captain America and the Avengers...? That seems unlikely and rather suspect (as it turns out, it is). Meanwhile, Wolverine wakes up, having re-grown his skin – he was caught in Hope’s blast.
I don’t really follow all that’s going on, here. I think it’s mostly possible to follow, but if you’re not reading all the connected issues, then you might miss some key things (like I did). This is very frustrating, as I’ve read a couple of the AvX tie-in issues, and they don’t really add to the story on their own. Certainly, they don’t provide enough extra to justify the expense of buying them all. Very disappointing.
The story builds up to a show-down between Captain America and Wolverine, which has a rather surprising end, and one I thought was a little extreme. Everyone’s acting rather psychotic and not particularly noble or sensible. I’m not altogether sure what I think of this fact... Considering that these are all pretty long issues as well, and I really don’t know why each feels incomplete and insufficient.
There are five people behind the overall Avengers vs. X-Men story (Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction & Jonathan Hickman), and given how muddled it seems to be, I think we’re seeing the results of “too many cooks”…
Batgirl #9 (DC)
Night of the Owls: Batgirl faces off against the Court of Owls to protect the life of her father, Commissioner Gordon!
The issues starts off with a flashback to 1944 Japan (which was unexpected), before returning to Gotham City – again, in the past, this time 1946. We’re at Haly’s Circus, where a representative of the Court of Owls has come to collect their latest ‘pick’. Mary, a damaged girl, is selected. It’s an almost touching moment, actually, as the representative’s empathy nearly overwhelms him.
When we return to the ‘present’, Batgirl is duking it out with a female Talon in Little Jakarta (one of Gotham’s immigrant neighbourhood), but then the Talon unexpectedly leaves her, at a point when Barbara could easily have been dispatched. At the same time, a mysterious man confronts Commissioner Gordon, voices some dire threats, and then also disappears without a trace.
I really like the way Simone’s connected this story to some Japanese World War II tactics. It wasn’t entirely clear how all the flashbacks were connected, though. Nevertheless, on the strength of this issue and every other Batgirl issue I’ve read, I think Simone is definitely one of the best writers working for DC today. I really like the way she’s written the characters.
There are some interesting parallels between super-hero origin tropes and that of the Talons – they’re often lost teens, or orphans, looking for a place in the world, a home, a purpose. In the case of the Talons, however, they are twisted into relentless killers.
This is set just before Batman #9, but it doesn’t really matter in what order you read it (I read it last...). An interesting and engaging addition to the cross-series Batman event.
Night of the Owls: Batman must stop the Talons that have breeched the Batcave in order to save an innocent life… and Gotham City!
In the backup story, learn more about the Pennyworth family and the secrets they’ve kept from the Wayne family!
As the issue kicks off, Batman is under siege in his own home, but also in a super-bat-suit (which is pretty bad-ass), as Alfred attempts to find ways to tip the balance of the fight in his boss’s favour. After dealing with the Talons, he heads out (mid-way through the issue is also where they put the break for the Detective Comics #9 Night of the Owls events).
This is a great, moody and atmospheric issue, and the artwork enhances and complements the story perfectly.
“Fall of the House of Wayne” back-up story introduces a decades-old story of Jarvis, Alfred’s father and predecessor as the Waynes’ butler, and his brush with the Owl Court. This is only the first chapter (of three), and sets the scene in a very tantalising manner – we don’t get too much in the way of concrete information and story, but it bodes very well for the next instalment. The artwork (by Snyder’s American Vampire compadre, Albuquerque) is even moodier and gothic than the main story. It’s really excellent.
Batman & Robin #9
Night of the Owls: Robin faces a Talon alone with the skies of Gotham City at stake!
Ok, that synopsis isn’t very accurate or illuminating. In this issue, Robin’s on his own, seeking out Major General Benjamin Burrows, a name on the Talons’ hit-list. Burrows is currently on a training mission, which Robin crashes, with perfect timing, as the Talon (who, randomly and entirely unnecessarily, also decapitates two campers). It’s an intense, brutal issue with quite a high collateral body count. It doesn’t add as much to the overall Night of the Owls story as the other issues in the event I’ve read, but it’s still fun. And it has an amusing subtitle:
An extra observation: there are a lot more ads popping up in DC comics – true, they’re all for DC products, but still. It’s a little irritating.