Review Round-Up: Avengers World begins, Rotworld continues, Action Comics and Demon Knights race towards the end

Posted: December 7, 2012 in DC, Marvel, Reviews
Tags: , , ,

By Alex Headley

This was a pretty great week in comics for me. Avengers 1 may prove to be the best Marvel NOW! book in the bunch. Action Comics is always a treat and Rotworld kicks into high gear in Animal Man and Swamp Thing 15. I also picked up issue 14 of Demon Knights, I missed it last week somehow but I’ve liked the series since it launched. Read any of these books? Let me know what you thought in the comments.

A variant cover for Avengers #1. My favorite of the bunch to be honest. Property of Marvel Comics.

Avengers #1
Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opena’s opening issue waste no time at all jumping right into the thick of things. Their first arc, Avengers World, is huge in scope. But five words really sum it up nicely. “We have to get bigger.” That’s really what Marvel NOW! seems to be about and Avengers has just proven to be the flagship title to hammer that home. As the issue opens, we are reunited with Marvel’s six iconic Avengers; Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye and Black Widow. This is the big six from Marvel’a wildly successful film and it does indeed seem small compared to the threat we see in these pages and the things the Avengers have found themselves up against in the past. So, as Stark says in the opening pages, the solution is simple. Expansion. By the end of the issue 12 heroes have answered Cap’s summons and Hickman promises that the cast could expand up to 24 characters. This seems like a great way to introduce new readers to the Marvel U at large. You could almost pick this issue up having seen nothing but the movie and a basic understanding of the comics shared history and be ready to go. It does a great job of taking a group of iconic characters and throwing them off in the deep end. It’s a great way to approach a first issue, especially a team title filled with big time characters. Hickman doesn’t waste any time telling us who these guys are but seems confident that the iconic cast is part of pop culture and let’s them speak for themselves. And he nails it.
Such  a big cast seems like a lot to juggle but Hickman’s hallmark is big, grand storytelling and that is definitely what is being set up here. Hickman’s  is definitely a planner and I’m sure he has a timeline set up to best utilize such a big cast. There seems to always be a big thesis to hammer home in his work; a theme that everything works toward and I suspect the big theme here will deal with the big questions. Origins of the universe, the nature of humanity. These new godlike characters really reinforce that idea. I’m very much interested in learning more about Ex Nihilo and the other characters in this sort of pantheon of beings. If nothing else they are all visually striking and have interesting powers. This really hits home thanks to Opena’s beautiful work on the book. I first got a look at Opena during his Uncanny X-Force run and was absolutely blown away. His style has a gravity to it that really works on this book. Avengers 1 is the real flagship title of Marvel NOW! and it’s a classic in the making. My only complaint is the double shipping of the book. Twice monthly at 3.99 is a little painful. Still for such a quality title it’s not a problem. What really worries me is what Marvel has to do to keep it on time. Artist changes are coming as early as issue 5 and as we’ve seen with the New 52, quality can suffer when art duties are passed between too many hands. Still future concerns don’t detract from an awesome first issue of Hickman’s run.

The excellent Fiona Staples variant cover to Action #15. Property of DC Comics

Action Comics 15
Grant Morrison’s big imagination is on full display here as he explores the nature of the 5th dimension and classic Superman villain Mr. Mxylpyx ( I found lots of different spellings for that, odd considering the name’s importance). The structure of the issue can be quite jarring, especially coming right out of last month’s issue, but that happens with Morrison on occasion. Still, the conflict is interesting and looks like it will be the uniting concept for some of the ongoing plot points in the run so far. It’s nice to see an underused villain and concept make an appearance in the New 52, especially since its been teased from the beginning and sci-fi is typically the best way to go with Superman stories. It’s easier to challenge an all powerful character when you mess with his perception of reality and time. I still think this arc would be better served with a little more room to breathe. Big things happen here, reverberating all the way back to before Clark was Superman and even before the end of Krypton. The backup feature by Sholly Fisch  adds a great deal to the story here and is almost necessary to fully understand and appreciate the main story. It’s a charming tale with a bit of a Bill Willingham’s Fables feel to it. I love that series so any touch of it is great. The art in this issue isn’t the best for the series. Mostly because of the back and forth between the two artists on duty here. Rags Morales has been great throughout this run and the second artist, Mark Probst, does a great job on his pages but the transitions just don’t work for me here.

Morrison’s run end next month. I’ll be sad to see it go but Andy Diggle and Tony Daniel will be taking over, giving Supes a new suit and looking at Krypton a little more closely. I loved Andy Diggle’s run on Daredevil and his Thunderbolts series was pretty much universally liked.

Animal Man 15
I picked on Rotworld a bit last month,  stating that the two titles were a little too symmetrical. Well, the books definitely have differences this week. Swamp Thing feels dark, moody and desperate. But Animal Man 15 is a book in which Frankenstein stabs brains and shoots Gorillas. Also, Beast Boy wears a beret. It’s great.
DC’s Frankenstein is a great character and I am happy to see Lemire using him so much after his series was cancelled ( the character has seemingly joined the cast of Justice League Dark). Animal Man has become a kind of team up book and that really helps it stand apart from Swamp Thing. Constantine, Steel, Black Orchid and Beast Boy all get moments to shine. Rotworld is really filling out too. The notion that small bands of survivors are put there in a Mad Max kind of world is fun. New Gorilla City, New Gotham, The Patchwork Army. These are things that make it feel like a living, breathing place and not just an event or temporary change (this is something I thought Flashpoint did very well too and was the key to that event’s success). There is a lot to explore. As such, the flashbacks are a little jarring. They take the reader out of the world that most of the issue spends so much time building that it doesn’t quite work. The story itself is solid and emotional but maybe it could have been paced differently. Despite that minor complaint, Animal Man 15 does a lot of thing right.The series is still a must read and I don’t see that changing while Lemire is on the book.

The cover to Swamp Thing 15. My favorite cover of the week as well. Property of DC Comics

Swamp Thing 15
As I said in the entry above, Swamp Thing has a dark and depressing tone. This is appropriate since everyone in the DCU is an undead rotting nightmare. Swampy has met fewer friendliesn on his journey than Buddy Baker has in Animal Man and things don’t get much better when he arrive in Gotham. Snyder is the architect of the Batman Family right now and its nice to see his two worlds colliding a bit here. The twists and turn in this issue are great, both in the main story and in the flashbacks to Abby Arcane’s fight before the world got all rotty. The flashbacks are so strong in this issue because in a way, the Arcane family is the true star of this book. It’s been that way since #1.  The art continues to be great, it’s bathed in shadow and despair, even Swampy looks darker. He isn’t quite his usual green self. A nice choice by the colorist to depict his waning power. Yanick Paquette is a favorite of mine and while this issue isn’t his best, his two page splash in the middle of the issue is just fantastic.

 

Demon Knights 14
Demon Knights has been a great series that really gives the New 52 its flagship “alternative genre” title. It’s full of almost exclusively obscure characters, some of which are completely new like Horsewoman and Al Jabr. Paul Cornell has created an eclectic cast and story to accompany them. The latest arc puts the cast in Hell while searching for Avalon. Cornell has crafted a team book that focuses on filling out an oft unexplored portion of the DCU but one that is more important than ever. Demon Knights ties in with Stormwatch and Justice League Dark in a big way, and the title is seemingly the beginnings of the superhero concept and the birthplace of magic in a way. Magic, as I’ve said before, has become the driving force in the DCU much like super science is in the Marvel Universe. Demon Knights gives us a glimpse into that and defines some truly fun characters in over the top sword and sorcery situations. If you have ever liked the fantasy genre I highly suggest you pick up this series. At least give Cornell’s run a look as it has been non stop fun month in and month out.
A big change up in the story is coming soon when Cornell moves off the book and 14 really kicks the story into high gear in preparation of the change up. The three forces that are aligned for battle should lend the next issue some great action sequences.

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Comments
  1. raheadley says:

    Very excited about the new Avengers! As a long time fan of the title, I’m hoping for great things. Glad to see the first issue does not disappoint.

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