Saturday, March 31, 2012

Comics Round-Up (Mar.28) the Second


A great collection this week, as more of the DC New 52 move into their seventh month – Batman throws down with Bane, more 19th Century Gotham adventures, the rise of the Vampires, and Superman squares off against a new villain and troubles in his ‘day job’. A handful of Zenescope titles continue in fine form. Zombies in London. And Marvel’s series-spanning mega-event finally kicks off.

I’m going to be adding more images from the previews available for many of these issues, in order to give people a better idea of what the artwork is like – I’m starting to wonder if the limited vocabulary I have to accurately and appropriately describe some of the artists’ styles isn’t broad enough. So, a bit more of a work-in-progress, but I’m still trying to figure out the best way to do these round-ups.


Reviewed Herein: All-Star Western #7, Avengers vs. X-Men #0, Batman: Dark Knight #7, Grimm Fairy Tales #70, Grimm Fairy Tales: Myths & Legends #14, I Vampire #7, Jurassic Strike Force 5 #3, Justice League Dark #7, New Deadwardians #1, Superman #7

All-Star Western #7 (DC)

DCNew52-All-StarWestern-07Writer: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti | Artist: Moritat & Patrick Scherberger | Inks & Colours: Moritat, Terry Austin, Dan Green, Michael Atiyeh & Gabriel Bautista, Jr.

Jonah Hex tracks the kidnapper Thurston Moody to New Orleans in pursuit of his bounty. But he and Amadeus Arkham find New Orleans under attack by the August 7, a group of anti-immigrant, steampunk terrorists. Only the renowned Nighthawk and Cinnamon stand between the terrorists and the immigrant workforce of this city. Hex consents to put the bounty aside (for the moment) to help his friends and finds himself in a battle to the death!

Plus: Some of the best love stories are tempered with revenge, especially in the case of Nighthawk and Cinnamon.

Hex and Dr Arkham have relocated to New Orleans, still hunting the orchestrator of the kidnapping ring in Gotham. We’re introduced to two new characters – Nighthawk and Cinnamon, a crime-fighting duo who apparently have a past connected to Jonah Hex.

Hex is also introduced to the gladiatorial fights that pass for high- and low-class entertainment in New Orleans. While there, he makes a new contact with a nativist local worthy. Being Hex – gruff, in need of an income, and prone to violence – the issue ends with our hero entering the fight ring, setting things up nicely for the next issue.

The back-up story focuses on Nighthawk and Cinnamon, offering a more full introduction to Nighthawk by way of explaining his past and upbringing – in the form of flashbacks while he and his partner are in another fight. Things don’t go well…

The back-up story is in an art style more to my usual taste, but as I’ve stated before, Moritat’s rougher style has really grown on me and he’s able to evoke the grit and grime of the time very well. The way he’s rendered New Orleans, too, is fantastic and evocative.


I really want a home designed like Nighthawk & Cinnamon’s place...


Avengers vs. X-Men #0/12 (Marvel)

Marvel-AvengersVsXMen-00Writer: Brian Michael Bendis & Jason Aaron | Artist: Frank Cho | Colours: Jason Keith

The Return Of The Scarlet Witch! What Does This Mean For The Mutant Messiah Hope?

I’m not really sure what to make of this issue. It’s split into two – the first half focusing on the Scarlet Witch (who has, apparently, been AWOL for a while after being the cause of mutants the world over losing their powers), and the second half focusing on Hope (mutant messiah, daughter of Cable, granddaughter of Cyclops and Jean Gray, and all-round bad-ass). Of the two, Hope’s story was more interesting for me: she’s clearly battling her own demons, not to mention the weight of expectations both good and bad. Given that she was raised in a post-apocalyptic future, too, she’s not squeamish about meting out punishment when she thinks it’s called for. The Scarlet Witch’s story was a little less engaging, but did paint our heroin as a sympathetic figure dealing with her own past actions and their impact on personal and more professional relations (with the Avengers).

I guess my main issue is that I don’t know where the “vs.” element comes into this. The stories are entirely separate from each other. There are confrontations within the Avengers and within the X-Men, but not between them. So, I guess I’m a tad underwhelmed. After hunting around the internets for a little while, I discovered that this is meant only as a prologue with a little extra information for established fans, rather than a proper entry point. Fair enough.

Also, M.O.D.O.K.? A cross between Krang and Dr Robotnik. In other words, a frikkin’ ridiculous bad-guy.

The artwork is very strong in both stories, with the style, like the writing, better in Hope’s half of the issue. There’s not much in it, on both counts, I should stress. It’s probably also a result of being far more familiar with the X-Men than the Avengers. (The Brian Michael Bendis-penned The Heroic Age hardcover is looking ever-more attractive as an introduction to the three main Avengers series – the main one, New Avengers and Secret Avengers).

With the 12 issues to come of this particular series, I’ll be interested to see how it all shapes up. There’s also going to be an additional AvX:VS mini-series, which apparently focuses just on the fights that wouldn’t fit in the other titles.


Batman: Dark Knight #7 (DC)

DCNew52-BatmanDarkKnight-07Writer: Paul Jenkins | Artist: David Finch | Colours: Richard Friend & Jeromy N. Cox

You’ve never seen Bane versus Batman like this before!

Since the start of this best-selling series, Bane has been dragging The Dark Knight through a twisted terrain of horror and fear – but two can play that game! Don’t miss this shocking issue as Batman pushes himself further than ever to fight against his deepest demons. And what happens to The Flash and Poison Ivy?

This is the final issue looking at Batman’s fight with Bane. It’s another visually strong and even arresting issue, but the story still doesn’t feel meaty enough compared to other Batman titles. The role of Flash and Poison Ivy feels peripheral and not at all important

I don’t think I’ll be reading any more single issues of this series (I know, I’ve said that before), despite the intriguing reveal at the end regarding the identity of the White Rabbit, who’s been plaguing Batman for the whole series.



Grimm Fairy Tales #70 (Zenescope)


Writer: Raven Gregory | Artist: Sheldon Goh | Colours: Sean Forney & Keith Garletts

Having learned the truth about her daughter’s fate, Sela must face an incredibly difficult task before trying to save her: She must escape limbo. And the realm’s evil mistress has her own plans for our hero. And if she has her way Sela, Prince Erik and Mother Nature will all be spending the rest of eternity as her personal slaves in Limbo.

Things don’t look good for our heroes in this issue, as they start off captives of the Mistress of Limbo. Mistress Limbo’s evil plan regarding Erik is starting to take effect, as she has imbued her with a considerably less controlled character. Unleashed, he is a formidable opponent, but how long until he loses his own control, and Sela and Mother Nature become his targets?

The issue finishes on an intriguing note, and I think we’ll start seeing more of the Mistress of Limbo’s ultimate agenda being revealed. Overall, another solid instalment of the series, and Goh’s artwork is very nice and dynamic, quite sharp – Forney and Garletts provide some great colouring, too. Looking forward to the next issue (which will be reviewed in Tuesday’s round-up).


Grimm Fairy Tales: Myths & Legends #14 (Zenescope)


Writer: Raven Gregory | Artist: Juanan Ramirez | Colours: Roland Pilcz

Jeff finds himself transformed into the horrible beast and begins his path to make Jenna suffer for the death of his brother by attacking those closest to her.

Meanwhile Samantha must come to a hard pressed choice of whether Jeff can be saved or if the beast must be put down before it’s too late. The darkest Grimm story yet continues here in part three of the Beauty and the Beast story arc.

This is the penultimate part of the Beauty & the Beast story arc, and it’s a pretty great one. Jeff’s psychosis has escalated, and he is becoming more brutal, taking more risks to mete out his twisted justice against Jenna’s friends and relatives. He has given himself over entirely to his darkest, most violent urges, and is getting off more on torturing and killing people. [It’s like Criminal Minds got mashed together with Grimm’s Fairy Tales.]

Zenescope-GFT-Myths&Legends-14-InternalArtI’ve mentioned in my reviews of the previous two issues that I really liked the way Jeff’s “beastly” nature was conveyed not only through his vicious actions, but also by showing it in his shadow – which often takes the form not of Jeff by of a huge beast. The same happens in this issue (see left), only as the story unfolds, Jeff takes on the beast’s aspect as well. It’s a really cool, ‘gradual devolution’ approach to the fairy tale, rather than the reversal story popularised by Disney and many other versions. It’s very dark, and Jeff embraces the dark side pretty much wholeheartedly and also willingly.

I’ve been reading quite a few Zenescope titles of late, and this really is “the darkest Grimm story yet” – it’s more brutal and twisted, and has a really sick, psychotic protagonist. It’s very well done, and this is a very good series. (I’ll be reading and reviewing the first two volumes in the very near future, as soon as I can grab the right amount of time.)

This is one of the best adaptations of myths, legends and fairy tales out there. It’s definitely not for kids, but it’s done in a way that is intelligent and imaginative, and is not just gratuitous. Recommended.


Justice League Dark #7 (DC)

DCNew52-JusticeLeagueDark-07Writer: Peter Milligan | Artist: Daniel G. Sampere | Colours: Ulises Arreola Palomera

Straight off the shocking events of last month’s I, VAMPIRE #6, vampires across the world have gone berserk, attacking anyone and everyone with a pulse.

Fearing her apocalyptic vision of the future has come to pass, Madame Xanadu mobilizes the team to intervene. But everything the JL Dark members know about how to slay a vampire is useless, for the world has changed.

The first part of ‘Rise of the Vampires’, a four-issue cross-title story shared with I, Vampire. After the shocking events of I, Vampire #6, things on the DC Universe’s Dark Side are getting messed up, and good. Vampires are running amok in Gotham, and Xanadu and her team of broken misfits are dragooned into helping stop the tide of bloodshed. They travel to Gotham to help Batman and Andrew Bennett’s former teammates, while John Constantine and Deadman head to the Land of the Dead to retrieve Andrew.

The writing for this comic is fantastic, and it keeps getting better (and darker) with every new issue. I’m really glad I took a chance with this series. What makes this issue even more awesome is the artwork. I’m not sure why, but the artistic duties for this issue were split between Admira Wijaya (pp.1-8 – who also handles colouring duties throughout), and also Daniel Sampere (pp.9-20). Wijaya’s art is very similar to Sampere’s, only a little sharper. It’s a great, strong and eye-catching style, which really helps bring out the dark and gothic horror atmosphere of the story. The title pages (2-3) are particularly beautiful [below]. Stunning actually: it’s a wonderful image of Gotham at dusk. The more I read, the more I came to think this is one of the best-looking single issues I own.



I Vampire #7 (DC)

DCNew52-IVampire-07Writer: Josh Fialkov | Artist: Andrea Sorrentino | Colours: Marcelo Maiolo

Straight off the shocking events of last issue and continuing the story from this month’s JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #7, Andrew Bennett finds himself in a place he never thought he’d reach during his countless decades walking the Earth. But his absence on Earth signals a deadly loss of order in the vampire hierarchy, as the savage attack on humanity he’s long feared looks like its coming to pass.

This is an awesome continuation of the ‘Rise of the Vampires’ story! The artwork and writing remain excellent (Fialkov is a fantastic talent, and I highly recommend anything he writes – Last of the Greats Volume 1 review coming very soon), and Sorrentino’s art and Maiolo’s colours offer up some of the most gothic and atmospheric – the preview below is of the title page, but the best comes later in the issue which a) wasn’t available, and b) would have offered huge spoilers. This issue really just continues the story straight off from where Justice League Dark #7 finished off, so that’s all I’m going to say about the story.

I really can’t wait for the next issues of these two series! It’s absolutely superb. Mixing dark comic themes with vampires: of course I was going to love this! And I think you will, too.



Jurassic Strike Force 5 #3 (Zenescope)


Writer: Neo Edmund | Artist: JL Giles-Rivera | Colours: Jeff Balke

How did five mutated dino-soldiers come to be frozen in the Antarctic and released in the present day? The origin of the Jurassic Strike Force is revealed here for the first time! Don’t miss this issue as Dinosaurs battle Aliens in the earths distant past.

Jurassic Strike Force 5 has one of the weirdest premises of a comic I’ve read. It’s quite delightfully silly, too. Two groups of anthropomorphised dinosaur warriors (one bad, one good), had been frozen in cryogenic suspension in the Antarctic, and awoken by some human archaeologists and anthropologists (some of whom had an entirely calm reaction to their discovery, I might add, especially when they started walking and talking…). In this issue, we get a quick look at how they came to be mutated into the more-evolved dinosaurs they are now. It’s like a more sci-fi version of Jurassic Park, mixed with alien super-villains and more advanced technology. It’s quite fun. The story doesn’t move along quite as much as in other Zenescope titles, but there are clues for what is to come in both the flash-back sequence and also the “present” day parts of the story.

Quite fun. A bit silly. A decent distraction, though.


New Deadwardians #1/8 (Vertigo)

DCVertigo-NewDeadwardians-01Writer: Dan Abnett | Artist: Ian Culbard | Colours: Patricia Mulvihill

Another vampire/zombie comic? Really, Vertigo? Trust us. This is different.

In post-Victorian England, nearly everyone of the upper classes has voluntarily become a vampire to escape the lower classes who are all zombies. Into this simmering cauldron is thrust Chief Inspector George Suttle, a lonely detective who’s got the slowest beat in London: investigating murders in a world where everyone is already dead!But when the body of a young aristocrat washes up on the banks of the Thames, Suttle’s quest for the truth will take him from the darkest sewers to the gleaming halls of power, and reveal the rotten heart at the center of this strange world.

I rather enjoyed this. I wasn’t sure what to expect – long-time readers of the blog will know I’m a big fan of Abnett’s work (especially his fiction, but the more I read of his comics work, the more I like that, too). New Deadwardians has a different feel and flavour to every other vampire or zombie fiction or comic I’ve read. It is, for all intents and purposes, a Victorian murder mystery featuring the undead. Chief Inspector George Suttle, our protagonist, is in charge of the murder beat – not exactly a high priority or busy division in an England where almost everyone’s either a zombie or a vampire. We’re introduced to a number of characters who will be important in this limited series (only eight issues) – including Suttle’s colleagues and also his butler and mother(?!). There is a gentle pace, as nobody’s in a hurry to tell the story, and it’s only towards the very end that Suttle is called out to the murder that has everyone so confused.

I think this series will be a big hit – it’s very well written and conceived, and Culbard has a distinctive style that suits the story very well: It’s stripped down, not to stylised, and has a slight vintage-feel to it. I like it a lot. Abnett’s on top form, too, and if you read this and compare it to everything else he writes, it’s really incredible how diverse and broad his imagination is.

Definitely a series to pay close attention to, as Abnett proves once again that he really knows what he’s doing when it comes to imagining interesting new concepts, and taking popular ideas (in this case, vampires and zombies) and turning them into something new and entirely his own.


Superman #7 (DC)

DCNew52-Superman-07Writer: Keith Giffen & Dan Jurgens | Artist: Dan Jurgens & Jesús Merino | Colours: Brian Buccellato

New love interests, new roommates, and a new foe: the wicked Helspont! What does this monster want with Superman, and how does it all connect to the Daemonites?

This is an interesting issue, which has a few links back to other series (Grifter and Stormwatch, specifically). It’s a good variation on the Superman story, and I like how Jurgens and Giffen – like George Perez before them – has made sure this series is up-to-date – in terms of journalism, societal issues of today.

There’s a lot of focus not only on Superman versus the big-bad-du-jour, but also plenty of attention is paid to Clark’s life at the Daily Planet and, given what happens in this issue, maybe beyond his work life, too. (The synopsis provided jumps the gun a bit, I think.)

DCNew52-Superman-07-InternalArtThe new creative team does a good job of maintaining both story and style continuity with the first team, and keeps the strong, dynamic style in this issue (see left for page one). The colouring is very bright and eye-catching, and it makes for a very good-looking comic.

This is a solid issue, but nevertheless this is probably the point where I stop buying individual Superman issues and wait for the collections. It’s not that I don’t like the series – as I obviously do – I just need to cut back on how many individual series I’m reading on a monthly basis. I do still want frequent Superman fixes, though, so I’m going to look into getting hold of some of the older collections – like Mark Waid’s Birthright, maybe Geoff Johns’s Secret Origin, a couple of Paul Cornell’s Superman stories, and also Red Son. Watch this space!

No comments:

Post a Comment