Review Round-Up: Black Panther assembles the Illuminati and Batman falls to Leviathan

Posted: January 3, 2013 in DC, Marvel, Reviews
Tags: ,

 

By Alex Headley

 

Jock’s cover to New Avengers 1 is beautiful. Property of Marvel Comics.

New Avengers 1

Black Panther takes the spotlight here in a big way. I’ve always liked T’Challa and I’m happy to see that he will be the focal point for this series. Wakanda is a fascinating corner of the Marvel U and one that is underutilized by pretty much everyone. Jonathan Hickman also takes us back to one of Brian Bendis’ best additions to the Avengers mythos, the Illuminati. It’s no secret that I loved Hickman’s first two issues of Avengers proper but I honestly think New Avengers might be the better series in the long run for its more intimate cast and the terrific potential for drama, what with Panther’s strong feeling about the Illuminati from way back and the ongoing war between Wakanda and Atlantis after AvX. And more Hickman style Reed Richards can only be a good thing. I hope we get a couple of issues in each characters voice because I would love to see this focus on character continue, if only because Avengers is all about the action and spectacle (not that it doesn’t have substance). Hickman has a knack for creating compelling villains as well. The mysterious woman and her group of soldiers are quite interesting in this issue and I’m especially curious to see if she has any connection with the Garden from Avengers proper. This is an excellently paced first issue and Hickman’s approach to the recap page is great, he used it in Avengers 2 and I really loved it. Why not use pages from previous stories? It really helps to make the universe feel connected and for a new issue to feel like it follows directly from something. Hickman has got a great eye for graphic design as well and while his work here isn’t quite as stunning as his logo work in Avengers I really like the title page in the middle of the story. It’s cinematic in a way that is still true to comics print in a great way.  Steve Epting is always great and this issue is no exception. His run on Captain America with Ed Brubaker was one of the things that got me back into comics a few years ago. The most striking page, for me, were the few shots of Reed. The man looks so tired and resigned that the art says much more than the dialogue itself. He delivers some great action here as well and does an excellent job showcasing just how cool Black Panther can be. The colorist, Frank D’Armata deserves some recognition as well for the subtle shades of an alternate dimension and lush jungles of Wakanda. I expect great things out of this series and am looking forward to issue 2.

 

Mother and Father fight over the fate of Damian Wayne. Property of DC Comics.

Batman Inc. 6

Grant Morrison continues his Batman epic with a slower paced issue than last month’s as Batman tries to negotiate a deal with Talia. It doesn’t work and things are beginning to leak pretty bleak for out heroes. This book also features the presumed death of a fan-favorite that really breaks my heart.

The drama and tension drips off the page here as Alfred and the Robins listen in on Talia’s taunts and threats towards Batman, and it’s truly terrifying just how far she is willing to go to ruin him. The moment when she stops calling him ‘dear’ or ‘lover’ and calls him ‘detective’ like her father really cements her role as villain, maybe one of the Dark Knight’s best. She surpasses R’as by a great deal here-the scope of Leviathan is just massive. Morrison lightens the mood a bit with some scenes in the Batcave. Batcow makes another appearance (yay!) and the origin of Damian’s cat, Alfred, is revealed. Damian’s love of animals is a great character quirk that keeps the kid grounded. Jason and Dick’s back and forth in this issue is also a delight and something we don’t get nearly enough of in the New 52. It also establishes that Battle for The Cowl is still continuity. Of course at this point im not sure where in the timeline this story falls and how it fits into everything else. I’m not much of a stickler for continuity, I think it can be a great thing but treating it as dogma is a misstep I think, better to use it when it helps further the story already in motion. Luckily, Morrison is a master at mining the past for new ideas and using it as a stepping stone to awesome things. Chris Burnham is still knocking it out of the park in the art department here, but the fill in artist attempting to mimic his style does the book no favors, making it the worst looking issue to date. Fill ins happen, I get that this stuff takes time, but damn does it hurt when one artist can’t make an issue a cohesive whole. Still, Batman Incorporated 6 moves the story along in a big way and I’m still very excited to see where this story takes us in the future.

 

 

Justice League Dark 15

Justice League Dark 15 mixes things up a bit as the team is propelled into a wild world where magic is stronger, illegal and policed by glowing sci-fi battlesuits. It’s good fun. Jeff Lemire is full of big ideas and you can just see them bursting out of his head and onto the page with this issue. I especially like Dr. Peril’s attempts to blend magic and science. Magic really is the cornerstone of the DCU these days and Peril could be a big factor in the future, not to mention his banter with Constantine is quite entertaining, but then so is everything involving Constantine. I’m glad to see Frankenstein sticking around the JLD even if Amethyst is oddly absent from this issue. Zatanna and Tim Hunter get some screen time as well as they face off with the aforementioned robot cop. The battle lends itself to some fun visual representations of magic. Nikel Janin does some solid work here with lighting, fairies, magic, trolls, robots and some gross out moments. There is a lot going on in this book but Janin keeps it approachable and easy to follow. Ray Fawkes has joined Lemire on writing the book.
You really can’t tell the book has two writers though and seems more than consistent with earlier issues. Everyone has the same witty dialogue and banter. I’m unsure as to how long he will be on the book or if he will eventually replace Lemire (who has quite the busy schedule) but the book doesn’t miss a beat with his addition. JLD is still a solid book and one that is headed in an exciting new direction. I’m eagerly awaiting the next issue.

 

The cover to The Flash 15 Property of DC Comics.

Flash 15

Gorilla Grodd’s invasion of Central City continues this week but much of the focus in this issue is placed on Patty Spivot, Barry’s love interest in the new series. It’s this focus on Patty, and her sudden and somewhat silly change in heart about Barry, The Flash and everything else that makes this, for me, the worst issue of the series yet. Nothing really happens. As we know from last issue, Barry has been severely injured by Grodd in battle, of course he survives it but falls into a coma. This is fine, exempt the group only escapes because Grodd suddenly weakens and runs off. The Rouges are still fighting on the same spot they were three issues ago and Solovar seems to be dead, killing the character remarkably fast considering he was a big reveal a couple of issues ago.  Things just kind of happen without much explanation or drama coming from it.  A big factor in my disappointment was the art. This book has three artists throughout the issue and the transitions are jarring and distracting. This is a shame because so far, the Flash has been one of the best looking books on the stands. That said, Francis Manapul does knock it out of the park with a sequence depicting Flash’s mind racing forward and mapping several possible futures. The sequence is 9 pages long and just breathtaking. Flash tracks three separate outcomes-all of which end in failure-until they combine into one possible outcome that could save the city and it spells out  “DC Presents: The Flash” in a wonderful collage of images. This is the kind of stuff that has made Flash a standout title and its just a disappointment that the rest of the issue doesn’t hold up. Hopefully this story arc will wrap up soon and give us a great finish because as it is each passing chapter is only getting worse. And that’s a shame.

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