Review Round-Up: Fantastic Four relaunches, Death of the Family continues

Posted: November 16, 2012 in DC, Marvel, Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

The Review Round-Up will be a regular installment here at Comic Critique. Phil and I will be taking a look at our pull lists each week and reviewing the new issues of our favorite books. If you enjoy our thoughts, leave suggestions on future books for us to review.
By Alex Headley
It is a FANTASTIC week in comics for me. Only three books on my pull list (all bat-titles!) this week so I decided to take a chance and pick up Fantastic Four #1. I am very glad that I did. The start of Marvel NOW! and the next chapter in the Bat-Event Death of the Family made for some great comic book stories.

Batman #14.
Property of DC Comics

Batman #14
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo continue to blow me away each week. Their work on Batman is just brilliant. Their reintroduction of the Joker is chilling and brutal. This is a frightening Joker and everything about the comic hammers that home. While nothing in this issue tops the creepiness of Batman #13’s first couple of pages, the atmosphere is still dripping with tension. The lettering does a fantastic job. You can practically hear Heath Ledger’s performance as he speaks. The way his voice rises and falls, first full of laughter and what could almost be described as glee and then immediately switching to a more menacing, threatening tone that gives you chills. It’s rare for a comic to give such a visceral voice to a character but Snyder delivers on every page. I particularly enjoyed Bruce and Dick’s discussion on the roof of the hospital. Things do not look good for the Bat-Family as Joker targets each of them one by one. Alfred was the target last week in the event’s opener and this week Jim Gordon is in danger. But it’s the final pages of the book that really make this stand out as a soon to be classic Joker tale. His monologue on the bridge is pitch-perfect and really does a great job of setting up what’s coming.

Batgirl 14
Property of DC Comics

Batgirl #14
Batgirl immediately delivers on the promises of Death of the Family. The book has been strong since it’s start thanks to Gail Simone’s excellent understanding of Barbara Gordon. Death of the Family is especially poignant for Babs because Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke is still in continuity. The Joker shot and paralyzed her in that 1988 story, forcing her to retire as Batgirl and take up the mantle of Oracle for the next decade or two. The New 52 cured her paralysis (though we still aren’t sure how that happened) and put her back on the streets fighting crime. Babs is typically an optimistic, upbeat character but events change that in issue 14. Batgirl is teetering on an edge that many heroes find themselves in at one point or another, especially those in the Batman Family. Can she lead any kind of normal life, where is the line between heroism and vigilantism? Should heroes kill dangerous villains? These are questions she hasn’t had to wrestle with very much before (In the New 52, she only operated as Batgirl for a year before being shot and hasn’t been back in the picture for long) and it will be interesting to see how she resolves these big questions. Especially since her family is so heavily involved in goings-on around Gotham City. The recent return of her estranged mother and the danger she finds herself in now-not to mention her sort of villainous brother James-really cuts to heart of an event that is all about family in the first place.

Batman & Robin #14
While this issue barely ties into Death of the Family and involves a plot that falls flat it’s the relationship between Bruce and Damian that saves it. Tomasi has put a lot of work into developing Damian Wayne over the last year and it’s finally starting to pay off. The little brat has grown a sense of compassion and it’s on display here more than ever, even if he still is a bit of a know-it-all. The story here, part two in a two-part arc, feels like background noise. Robin fights a cult of cannibals, Batman does some detective work, there’s some fun fight scenes. But all that just serves as a vehicle to bring father and son a little closer together. That’s been the typical MO for the book so far and while it worked best in the Nobody story arc, it still has some meat left to it. The book looks to tie in a little more with Death of the Family in it’s next issue, hopefully Robin’s interactions with the Joker will be just as interesting as everyone else’s despite having much less history. Batman & Robin was not the best book on my pull list this week but it was still a fun read.

Marvel NOW! Fantastic Four #1
Property of Marvel Comics.

Fantastic Four #1
I picked this up on a bit of a whim this week. I’ve been more interested in Fantastic Four’s sister book, FF, since the beginning largely due to the quirky characters involved and Mike Allred’s art. But I have to say, Fraction really knocked it out of the park with Fantastic Four #1. No easy feat considering Jonathan Hickman’s run on the series is already the stuff of legend. I heaped a lot of praise on Matt Fraction last week, and he doesn’t disappoint me here. I’m not the biggest Fantastic Four fan but the characters are the very definition of iconic and Fraction proves that he is more than capable of writing and understanding these characters. While, the Thing is a little too catchphrase dependent for my taste, his interactions are still fun and full of humor. Fraction’s Reed Richards is a little more likable than recent incarnations, even if he does still love to keep secrets. Johnny Storm’s date in the Negative Zone gave him just enough character development to make me like the guy again. The Human Torch is often played for laughs or portrayed as a reckless loser. While he is indeed reckless and narcissistic, Fraction manages to give him just a hint of underlying sweetness and legitimate charisma to keep him from being a caricature. Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman is the perfect mother figure in the Marvel Universe and that comes through here as she checks on each member of the team and the kids of the Future Foundation before going to bed herself. The Fantastic Four is about family first and foremost and Fraction does well to establish that in his debut. Also, the concept going forward for the book is exciting and true to the team. A year’s trip through the space-time continuum is exactly the kind of thing the Fantastic Four should be doing in their book. I’m sure the title will deliver big action, high science fiction concepts and a family dynamic that can’t beat in comics. It’s definitely earned a spot on my pull list.

That’s it for me this week. Check back later to read Phil’s thoughts on his pull list for the week, including All New X-Men and Thor: God of Thunder.

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Comments
  1. […] Review Round-Up: Fantastic Four relaunches, Death of the Family continues […]

  2. wwayne says:

    2 weeks ago I went to a comics convention. While I was doing the line at the DC stand, I saw Before Watchmen: The Minutemen # 1 on the shelf near to the cash desk, so I picked it up and gave it a look. I was so lucky to bump into it: it had an old fashioned style that immediately talked to my heart.
    At that stand I also bought the TP of Snyder’s Swamp Thing, because I had read only good things about it. Last week I read it: it’s so wonderful, I can’t believe I hadn’t tried it before. Yes, I had read a lot of enthusiastic reviews, but they never persuaded me to buy it before, because I was thinking “It’s a fantasy comic book, it’s set in a marshland, how could I enjoy something like this? That’s not my cup of tea, it would be a waste of money.” How stupid I was. It’s true, I don’t usually read things like this, but Swamp Thing is a real gem.
    Also, I was lucky to read it as a TP. Each issue is so strictly linked to each other that you have to read them in a single session, to understand the plot properly.

    • I have loved Snyder’s Swamp Thing. Probably my favorite book on the New 52.
      Paquette’s pencils and layout are a big part of it for me. He won me over in the original Batman Inc. run and has quickly become one of my favorites.

      Minutemen 1 was a blast of a book. It and Silk Spectre were my favorites in Before Watchman. Sadly, that line was the first thing I dropped when I had to cull my pull list. I plan to pick them up in trades later though.

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