Quite a busy week for comics – partly because of the free ones I got on Free Comic Book Day, but also a good selection of others that I had a chance to catch up on. Unfortunately, I read and reviewed these over a pretty stressful couple of days, so some of the reviews are rather short. If you’d like to know more, leave a comment and I’ll expand on the issue in question.
This was my first year able to attend FCBD, and it was… Eye-opening. For one, it’s a superb idea, and one that I hope continues for a very long time, if not forever. It’s a great way to check out some new and upcoming titles and, as in my case, some older titles – as long as you get to your local comic store(s) early. It was manic at Jim Hanley’s Universe, and I went late in the day! Midtown’s Grand Central location was empty (and way too hot), but that’s because they’d run out of free comic books (I did pick up the Ultimate Spider-Man issue there for free, though). So, anyway. Without further ado, here are some comics from this and last week…
Reviewed: Action Comics #9, Avenging Spider-Man #6, Batman: Detective Comics #766 (FCBD), Fanboys vs. Zombies #2, G.I.Joe #13, Higher Earth #1, Memorial #5, The New 52 #1 (FCBD), Night of 1,000 Wolves #1, The Punisher #10, Superboy #8, Supurbia #3, Teen Titans Annual #1, Trio #1, Ultimate Spider-Man #160 (FCBD)
“FCBD” = an issue I got on Free Comic Book Day
Action Comics #9 (DC)
Writer: Grant Morrison & Sholly Fisch | Artist: Gene Ha & Cully Hamner | Colours: Art Lyon & Dave McCaig
Featuring characters from parallel Earths, including President Superman! Introducing new villain Superdoom! And in the backup story, President Superman must stop a nuclear attack – but he can’t leave the White House!
This issue is typical Morrison, for me – it’s a great idea and premise, executed to mediocre results. There really is a lot of great stuff in here, but the text and dialogue are just a bit simplistic, or… well, “blah”. I really liked the idea of President Superman, and how Morrison and Fisch addressed the “Wait, if he’s president, how can he slip away to be Superman at the same time?” issue – in this reality, Brainiac is on his side, working for him as an AI aide, effectively, who can control one of the numerous robot doubles he has stored just off the Oval Office.
Another great thing was the fact that the cast is much less lily-white than we’re used to (the Justice League, for example, is all black). I can’t help but wonder if there’s an internet minority bitching about this, just as there have been over casting choices in The Hunger Games and as there was in the wake of the announcement that Miles Morales (a half-hispanic, half-African American teen) was going to be the new Spider-Man.
The back-up story is also about President Superman (this time written by Fisch, with art from Hamner and McCaig). This should have been the main feature of the issue – I thought the idea of a President on a call with the head of a rogue nation who is secretly developing nuclear weapons, while simultaneously destroying said nuclear program was superb! Much better written. This was just much better written in almost every way. (Although the initial altercation between Superman and Lex Luthor in the main story did make me chuckle. Then the writing, but not the premise, went a bit down hill).
So, to sum up: I really like the premise of this Superman and Earth. I would just prefer it if it was written by someone other than Grant Morrison. Maybe the creative team of Fisch, Hamner and McCaig could be commissioned to write a mini-series or something, using this issue as a jumping-off point? I would definitely be interested in reading that. Fans of Morrison and Superman will no doubt adore this, though.
Avenging Spider-Man #6 (Marvel)
Writer: Greg Rucka & Mark Waid | Artist: Marco Checchetto | Colours: Matt Hollingsworth
“The Omega Effect” begins here, bringing together Marvel’s three biggest heroes from the most acclaimed new books of the year: Spider-Man, Daredevil and Punisher in an epic chase across Manhattan for a mysterious treasure that will change the course of all their lives.
I took a chance on this, because of the creative team behind it – Mark Waid and Greg Rucka are two of my favourite comic writers, and Checchetto’s artwork is stunning (he works with Rucka on The Punisher). I’m glad I did read this, too, because it’s great.
Mr. Fantastic asks Spider-Man for a favour, after Daredevil drops off the Omega Drive for testing and data-extraction (Daredevil found the drive at the end of Daredevil Volume 1, also by Mark Waid). Apparently, Mr. F can’t leave his lab “without destroying a neighboring universe”... Ok. Spider-Man can leave, though, so off he goes. And almost immediately runs into some ninjas!
While Spidey deals with these ninjas around Matt Murdock’s offices, Daredevil is inside meeting with the Punisher. It’s not a friendly, social call. Things almost go terribly wrong, before Spider-Man comes crashing through the window (below), concussed red-pyjama’d antagonist in tow. It’s quite fun to read Spidey's internal monologue while everything else is going on around him, and it’s a very good, well-written issue overall. We get some hints of where The Punisher series is headed, too (I haven’t been following the individual issues, only collections), given who Castle’s companion is.
The trio of heroes come up with a plan to take on the mega-criminals of New York. But, as is so often the case with many Marvel comics, the plan is fundamentally flawed – one that insists on zero fatalities. Given how these organisations are portrayed, and what our heroes have said they’re going to do, it seems unrealistically restrictive to insist on not killing any of the “megacrime” super-terrorists... Just a niggle, but it stood out from an otherwise superb story.
The artwork is stunning, of course, and Checchetto does a great job with all three characters, the plentiful action, and everything else. Excellent, and probably one of the best artists working today.
The story continues in The Punisher #10 and Daredevil #11.
Out of all the Spider-Man titles, I think Avenging Spider-Man will be the only one I pick up – yes, because it’s just been connected to Rucka’s Punisher and Waid’s Daredevil - call me shallow if you want – but also because it’s a relatively new series, which means it shouldn’t be too difficult to catch up on. It also seems a little more mature, and more in synch with the tone I prefer. I’ll try to pick up the first collection, when it comes out (June 27th 2012, collecting #1-6).
Batman: Detective Comics #766 (DC)
Detectives Crispus Allen and Renee Montoya arrive at Wayne Manor to begin their high profile investigation into the murder of Vesper Fairchild. The victim was shot several times in the back and all the evidence seems to point to Bruce Wayne, making this case one that is fast becoming a media frenzy. After looking over the scene, both detectives head back to the GCPD and begin their independent interrogations of Wayne and his bodyguard Sasha Bordeaux. When the 911 police tape is played for Wayne, Allen states it could be the proof needed to get Bruce the death penalty if he doesn’t admit where he was when Fairchild was shot. At the Brentwood Academy, where Alfred Pennyworth has been staying with Tim Drake, Wayne’s butler packs his belongings and heads back to Wayne Manor to offer his help in any way he can.
This is the first issue in the “Bruce Wayne: Murderer?” story-arc. This would lead on to the Batman: Fugitive storyline (collected in three volumes), which I’m very keen to read. It was, therefore, fortuitous that they were giving this away at Jim Hanley’s Universe on FCBD.
It’s a great story, and I can see how this probably inspired DC to get Rucka to write the Gotham Central series, which focuses on the cops of the GCPD and how they deal with working in a city of crazy villains and psychopaths, not to mention Batman. The story of this issue is, effectively, a police procedural set in Gotham, and Bruce Wayne has been accused of murder. We see the cops’ prejudice against Bruce because of his rich playboy reputation. His “bodyguard” (who I’m pretty sure is actually Batgirl or some-such sidekick), is aggravating the cops by sticking up for Bruce’s story. I was left with many questions at the end of the issue, not knowing anything about what has come before or after, but my appetite has certainly been whet for more of this arc.
I’ll definitely be hunting down the collected story, and Gotham Central’s now gone up on my wishlist. This is an excellent start, with superb writing and great artwork, too. Recommended.
Fanboys vs. Zombies #2 (Boom)
Writer: Sam Humphries | Artist: Jerry Gaylord | Inks & Colours: Penelope Gaylord & Nolan Woodward
Have you heard the one about the time zombies took over Comic-Con? No one noticed until Sunday! The good news is you’re at Comic-Con. The bad news is you’re hungover, you can’t get over your ex-girlfriend, your best friend is a d-bag, and there’re roughly 165,000 slathering, slouching members of the undead family in between you and freedom. There is no more good news.
This is great fun: plenty of geek- and comic-con humour and insider jokes and, of course, lots of zombies. Our fanboy and -girl heroes, trapped in the upstairs booth, must make a decision: will they go down into the horde to save others, or will they wait things out in the booth? They decide to go for it, of course… And, at one point, must face off against zombie publicists!
If you’re looking for a fun comic series, that pokes fun at genre and geek tropes, while simultaneously embracing the shit out of them, then Fanboys vs. Zombies is for you. Go, read, enjoy.
G.I.Joe #13 (IDW)
Writer: Chuck Dixon | Artist: Will Rosado | Colours: Romulo Fajardo
‘Deep Terror’ begins here! COBRA is digging a miles-deep shaft in the Patagonian wilderness and what they’re digging for could change the world forever and NOT in a good way. The Joes are looking for payback after recent events but will the cuts to their operating budget allow for a mission to the bottom of the world? Also: A new JOE arrives at Fort Baxter.
Scarlett has decided to go off the reservation, and creates her own operation, without the go-ahead from command. Mainframe, the Joe’s technology and intelligence expert decides to stow-away on the transport plane, deploying himself on the same mission without permission of anyone. This does not bode well.
Cobra’s mine – which produces substantial quantities of Rare Earth Metals – is run with an expected tyrannical fist. Workers are slaves, and they are treated as one might expect Cobra to treat slaves – zero tolerance, and capital punishment.
In the meantime, G.I.Joe’s existence is breaking on the news (specifically, on the “Oh Really Factor” on “Box News”…). This, I’m afraid to say, I had a bit of a problem with. The information the news media are getting about G.I.Joe is attributed as from Cobra, the organisation that just violently took over a South Asian country, destroyed its heritage, killed a considerable proportion of its population, nuked its cities, and was utterly unrepentant about all of those actions… How on earth are the press dealing with them as credible sources? Granted, they’re revealing information that happens to be true, but… They’re a paramilitary international terrorist group! Also, the transition from the Cobra Command storyline to this is almost seamless, and Cobra’s actions appear to just be accepted – move on, change the story. I think this could have been done better.
The artist is pretty decent, although he seems to be having trouble with proportions – Scarlett’s appearance, for example, fluctuates throughout the issue – one minute, she is stocky, the next svelte, the next pear-shaped… Very inconsistent.
Of all the G.I.Joe comics and spin-offs that I’ve read, this was not the best, and perhaps is one of the weakest in terms of writing – the pacing didn’t feel as fluid, and the dialogue didn’t read as natural as in the past. A good premise, though, so it’ll be interesting to see how it develops in the next issue.
Higher Earth #1 (Boom)
Writer: Sam Humphries | Artist: Francesco Biagini | Colours: Andrew Crossley
YOU ARE ILLEGAL ON THIS EARTH
Space is dead. Why conquer other planets when there's a perfectly good Earth in the universe next door?
Heidi, a girl born in garbage. Rex, a soldier gone rogue. The only thing between them and their destiny is an empire of a hundred different Earths, across a hundred alternate timelines. One majestic planet dominates them all: HIGHER EARTH.
This is a pretty interesting debut issue – it throws us directly into the action on a trash-covered world – there appears to be some kind of scrap war going on, as various “locals” fight for possession of some new bit of choice garbage. There’s a cyborg bear involved (below). Then, the fellow on the cover, Rex, finds Heidi and tells her he’s from a different earth, and that she needs to come with him. Before they can leave, they are attacked by some super-assassin.
It’s a little difficult to talk about this issue any more than this – it’s a great teaser, giving us some intense action and plenty of breadcrumbs that will have us following along into the next issue.
Dimension hopping with plenty of sword-play and a fair amount of mystery? Yeah, I’m in. This was pretty cool, and I look forward to reading more of it and learning more of this universe.
Memorial #5 (IDW)
Lost in the otherworldly Everlands, Em has finally begun to realize how much she has forgotten. But she also discovers that the only way to regain all that she has lost is not to return to the world she knows, but instead to venture into the very heart of Everlands itself. Between Em and her goal, however, is a crazed patchwork landscape across which walking shadows, living statues, blind kung fu librarians, and forgotten heroes fight to survive in a struggle that could mean the end of time as we know it.
This is a pretty good penultimate issue in this mini-series. The story as a whole is a wonderful melange of myth, legend, fairy tales and fiction, and Roberson and Ellis have created a very enjoyable series. With the end in sight, I think this will work very well read as a single whole. There are some nice reveals, and it’s great to be getting more answers about what’s going on, who Em is, and how she’s connected to this world. Definitely recommended.
The New 52 #1 FCBD (DC)
Get an exclusive look at what’s happening at DC in 2012 – Featuring art by legendary illustrator Jim Lee and other top talents, DC Comics – The New 52 FCBD Edition will include a new story by New York Times bestselling writer Geoff Johns.
This is kind of interesting, half-length teaser issue. It takes a look at Pandora (the character I really liked from the end of #6 of Justice League, who also apparently featured in Flashpoint in a way I completely missed). We learn of her origin, in part, before some jumping around and a few very vague hints for next year’s big event, “The Trinity War”. Whatever that is...
The issue is put together very nicely, with great artwork from the various teams. There’s also a very cool gatefold, four-page final spread. And then some samples and information about the second wave New 52 titles.
Night of 1,000 Wolves #1 (IDW)
Writer: Bobby Curnow | Artist: Dave Wachter
In the Dark Ages, the tranquil life of Harrick Benjyon and his family is shattered by unthinkable tragedy. Before they can react, the family find themselves under siege by hordes of wolves with one aim. Death. A race for survival becomes all the more impossible by the arrival of the supernatural... and the dark secrets that lie at the heart of the Benjyon family.
This is a pretty cool, atmospheric first issue. Lots of wolves. The only problem is, I don’t really know how to write about it. A family of farmers, living in the middle of nowhere, are attacked by a horde of wolves. That’s pretty much the long and short of it.
The artwork’s quite nice, reminiscent of the artwork found in older boy-and-girl-annuals – it has a ‘painted’ feel to it that I think works really well for the type of story it is.
I couldn’t tell you where it’s going in the future, as things look extremely bleak at the end of this first issue. It’s possible this is going to be a very limited series.
The Punisher #10 (Marvel)
Writer: Greg Rucka | Artist: Marco Checchetto | Colours: Matt Hollingsworth
“The Omega Effect” Part Two. Guest Starring Spidey And Daredevil! Forced to work with two garishly dressed Avengers, the Punisher makes one promise: “Trust no one…Hurt everyone.”
The first couple of pages of this issue include a handy catch-up for new readers and take a look at the preparations for the plan our three heroes have come up with. Daredevil and Spider-Man are on their way to meet up with the Punisher to get started. They stop to deliver a baby on the way... [Seriously – see below.]
Spider-Man’s a little more quippy than I thought necessary. It’s not excessive or bad per se, but it felt a little like a nervous tick, which of course is might very well be – I’m not as familiar with the character as I thought.
The plan to take down the mega-criminal organisations is underway – they lure representatives from all the bad-guy organisations together in Grand Central Station, and then... Well, I don’t really know what happened at the end, there...
This is a good, if not great, addition to the series – it’s the middle volume, so there was never going to be closure, and it doesn’t benefit from the opening expectance. Nevertheless, I am eager to see how it all ends. The artwork is gorgeous once again, too.
The story is concluded in Daredevil #11 – if you really can’t wait, then there’s a good preview over on Comic Book Resources.
Superboy #8 (DC)
Well, that rescue mission didn’t go exactly as planned…and things have only gotten worse for Superboy, as N.O.W.H.E.R.E.’s plans for him and the Teen Titans take a deadly turn! If he wants to keep his head, he’s gonna have to take down another dangerous young metahuman for them: the bruiser once known as Grunge!
The story picks up as Grunge is pummelling Superboy into paste (I assume our antagonist was introduced in the final pages of issue #7). During their brawl, Grunge makes a comment about Superboy wanting to become one of Harvest’s “Ravagers”. Superboy, like me, has no clue who Harvest is, what the Culling is, or what a Ravager is. Well, this is a good start...
The dialogue is not great, which was disappointing – Grunge, for example, does a caricature-of-a-jock “Hoo-ra!” yell at one point. The artwork’s a little more cartoon-y than I like and than the previews I’ve seen of earlier issues, but it works fine.
Really, this issue is just one big fight between Superboy and Grunge. It doesn’t require much background knowledge – as you can see from the sample page below, we’re caught up pretty quickly. It is a pretty gruesome way to win, though. how Superboy brings the brawl to an end... We are then dropped right into the setting for “The Culling” story arc, which kicks off properly in the Teen Titans Annual #1 (see below).
Supurbia #3 (Boom)
It’s just another day on the job for the Meta Legion as a robotic alien invasion threatens to sink the island of Manhattan — but the real battle is raging back at home, as tensions rise between the Legion families and the shape-shifter’s devious plans finally come to fruition… Trust us, this is a take on the “fight issue” you’ve NEVER seen before! Find out what goes down when the capes come off.
The Meta-Legion in action! The super-heroes are battling a group of robots outside the U.N. – and the families are watching on T.V., gathered at one of their homes. Night Fox’s wife, Alexis, works in the U.N. building, and offers some help against the robots. What makes things slightly more awkward is that Agent Twilight, who Night Fox has been having an affair with, is also on the comm-link… Awkward! As the battle rages, we see the different reactions and coping mechanisms of the families – for example, when one member is in trouble, the kids are called into the kitchen away from the TV, and distracted by hot chocolate and conversation.
All of the characters are pretty great, so I’m very glad this has been picked up as an on-going series starting in the summer, rather than just the short-run mini-series. Each family has a lot of potential, they’re all varied and quite realistic (save the super-powers, of course…).
Really enjoy this series, and it’s one that just keeps getting better. Highly recommended.
Teen Titans Annual #1 (DC)
“THE CULLING” begins here! It’s the TEEN TITANS vs. THE LEGION LOST one mile beneath the Antarctic in the chamber of horrors known as the Crucible!
The idea for The Culling sounds pretty interesting:
“When Harvest feels the time is right, he puts us all against each other in a Battle Royal. The winners become his faithful Ravagers. The losers become dead.”
This issue is not only the beginning of a cross-title tie-in story, but it is also clearly a set-up for another of the second-wave New 52 titles, The Ravagers. That’s no bad thing, really, but I don’t think it makes this particularly necessary.
Nevertheless, this is a pretty cool book, with an intriguing premise and creepy villains. I have no idea how they all ended up in this place, having only read Teen Titans #1-4, issue #8 of Superboy and none of Legion Lost (I’ve been waiting for the collections). I assume, though, from the notes sprinkled throughout that it was all set up in the eighth issues of these series.
We alternate between the perspectives of members of the Teen Titans and the Legion Lost characters, and also a couple of scenes from the perspective of Harvest and his team. The bad-guys are delightfully dark and twisted (especially Omen, with her sown-shut, bleeding eyes...), and I would be interested in reading more about them. The story’s good, but it’s a bit slow – it’s a longer issue, as an annual, but I don’t think it needed to be as long as it was.
If you’ve been reading the three series this ties in to, then this is definitely worth the $5 cover-price. For me, it was still enjoyable, but I did feel a little like I’d come late to a party. The artwork throughout is vivid and dynamic, bordering on garish (in a good way, though, if that makes sense?). I just wish I knew more about what else has happened in the connected series.
The story of “The Culling” continues in Superboy #9 (out this week), Legion Lost #9 (out this week), Teen Titans #9 (May 23rd), and concludes in The Ravagers #1 (May 30th).
Trio #1 (IDW)
Writer & Artist: John Byrne | Colours: Ronda Pattison
“ZAP! POW! BAM!” are sound effects you may actually see in this series, as John Byrne returns to his roots with a brand-new superhero series. Their code names are simple ONE, TWO and THREE, but the world calls them ROCK, PAPER and SCISSORS. Together, they are Trio.
This comic has an interesting premise. I particularly like the idea of the Rock, Paper, Scissors-inspired heroes, which I think are done very well. We’re introduced to them in a bank robbery, before moving on to the start of what’s really going on. As it turns out, it’s a sea-beastie that is somewhat similar to those in the first story-arc of DC’s New 52 Aquaman series…
The artwork is of the classic, older style, and it works pretty well. The colours are strong and sometimes garish, but it’s not an unattractive comic. The writing is pretty good, and it’ll be interesting to see where this goes in future issues.
Ultimate Spider-Man #160 (Marvel)
The final part in the Death of Spider-Man story arc.
I picked this up as part of Midtown Comics’ FCBD selection, and I’m not really sure why they were giving away the final issue of this story-arc... Wouldn’t it have been better to give away the first issue, to whet our appetites? I imagine it’s more likely a case of major over-stock.
Having said that, this is pretty good. Peter’s basically on his last legs from the beginning, having left hospital pre-emptively to save his friends and family. He proceeds to get in a very intense battle with the Green Goblin who, in this version of the story/Spider-Man story, is genuinely horrifying – he’s more like a Green Flaming Ogre! The other characters all seem to be younger, which was also an interesting choice.
It’s a pretty moving story, and I think they handled the ending rather well. It’s got to be better if you’ve read the whole Death of Spider-Man story, though. I’ll have to give it a try. It’s been collected already into (I think) four books, so it should be relatively easy to get hold of. I’ll check the Strand first (they have ridiculously good prices on a lot of Marvel and other titles).
Given that there are now so many Spider-Man titles, and that it’s Peter Parker as Spidery in the Avengers series, it’s not like he’s really gone at all.