Archive for the ‘Marvel’ Category

By Alex Headley

This week brings a lot of change-ups in status quo for several books on my pull list. The highlights include the first and last issue of Andy Diggle’s Action Comics run and an Age of Ultron twist that sets the stage for what’s to come. I also have a brief reviews for Animal Man and Green Lantern.

Pictured: Not at all what this book looks like. Property of Marvel Comics.

Age of Ultron #4

Age of Ultron 4 picks up directly where 3 left off. With Luke Cage and She-Hulk facing down a heavily damaged Vision in Ultron’s fortress. The Vision’s reveal was a big deal last week but nothing compared to what we learn here: that Ultron is controlling events and exacting revenge on the heroes from the future. This time-travel twist isn’t totally unexpected, thanks to solicits and teaser images but it’s interesting nonetheless and it looks there may be some continuity tweaks happening as a result of this time travel, mostly involving Hank Pym and Ultron of course. In addition to that little revelation, everyone manages to make it to the Savage Land and meet up and prepare to execute a plan created by Nick Fury. There is a lot going on in this issue and to get it all in, Bendis has really picked up the pace of the storytelling. A lot goes down in this issue and it all has impact and weight to it. The series still has an alternate reality feel to it, something that is really driven home by the violence and darkness seen in this issue. Whether that’s Red Hulk smashing Taskmaster to pieces or She-Hulk’s unceremonious death at the hands of Ultron bots or Luke Cage’s slow, painful demise from radiation poisoning, the book obviously has no qualms with killing characters in gruesome manners. While that lends a sense of danger and immediacy to this story in the heat of the moment it also takes away from any impact it might have in the long run. Bendis is still delivering some of his best work in years on this book and I think as far as event books go this is still a worthy read. And although, Brian Hitch will be leaving the book after issue 5, it’s worth noting that he is knocking it out of the park in this story as well, Luke Cage’s weird hair notwithstanding. The scenery is especially interesting as Hitch continues to make the Marvel U a depressing, bombed out hellhole. You know, in a good way.

We could have had months and months of beautiful Superman books. Sadly it just wasn’t meant to be. Property of DC Comics.

Action Comics 19

I have good news and I have bad news. The good news first: Andy Diggle and Tony Daniel deliver a great Superman story in issue 19! I loved it. The bad news: it’s pretty much already over. Whatever Diggle’s professional reasons were, they must have been damned good to make him walk away from this story. It’s exciting and new but pays homage to the character in a timeless way. This was poised to be the best Superman book on the market and now all of that is undone with a tweet and, from the sound of it, poor conditions and management at DC. This saddens me greatly. I guess we will see how Daniel does on his own for the rest of the arc but if his run on Detective Comics is any indication at all, the quality will fall dramatically starting with next issue. The worst part is that Diggle really has a great interpretation of one the best characters in the Superman mythos, Lex Luthor and the story looks to deliver that characters first big story in the New 52. The Lex scene in this book is absolutely perfect and Diggle influence will be sorely missed come next issue. One thing that shouldn’t change in the next chapter is Tony Daniel’s fantastic pencils. He really has come into his own lately and knocks it out of the park in this issue. The pages are crisp and clearly drawn, with clean lines and dynamic lighting. Daniel really puts the Action in Action Comics this issue and at the very least, we can expect him to do the same for the rest of his run.

Swamp Thing 19

Ol’ Swampy gets a new status quo this week too, as a new creative team comes onboard and replaces the excellent Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette. Despite the big shoes to fill, Charles Soule and Kano do a great job in this issue at making Swamp Thing more relevant to the greater DCU than he really has been, almost tying right in with Geoff Johns’ JLA and guest starring Superman. The duo also deliver a fun take on the Scarecrow, a villain I’ve always quite liked but that never gets enough to do. Alec still feels like Alec too and that’s a good thing. Having not read too many Swamp Thing stories before the New 52, I was worried that Soule’s Swampy would feel different from Snyder’s. That is not the case and I’m happy to say that this transition is pretty seamless. Alec has a new mystery to solve and a few new powers to explore and that lends some excitement to the issue. He’s keeping himself busy in the wake of Abby’s death and it feels like something the character would do and not at all like a new writer grasping at straws to pick up the pieces. Kano, whom I am utterly unfamiliar with, delivers some great visuals too. First with a dry and dusty setting, and Swamp Thing to match, and later with fuller colors with lush environments. His Scarecrow lurches and hunches in disturbing ways and has an aura of menace to him. Kano also delivers a very cool two-page spread of Holland traveling through the Green. I’m glad to see him working towards keeping the book visually distinctive, even if his palette and staging isn’t quite as good as Paquette’s. I was skeptical of the new team, but this issue won me over and it will officially stay on the pull list.

Green Lantern 19

Geoff Johns’ epic run on Green Lantern nears its final issue and although the First Lantern still doesn’t excite me very much, I very much enjoyed this issue. Largely because it focused on the greatest Green Lantern of them all, Sinestro! Johns lets the First Lantern dig into the life and mind of one of DC’s best characters and delivers a great tale in the process. We also see just how powerful this new villain really is and how Hal plans to escape the Dead Zone. Also, Korugar explodes. Lots of stuff going on in this issue and it all has to come to a head in issue 20 and end with a lead in to the new status quo. It’s a tall order to be sure but it should be exciting nonetheless. Ardian Syaf delivers some great visuals in this issue as well though I still miss Reis’s touch on the book.We’ll see how everything shakes out next month in #20.

Animal Man 19

Jeff Lemire has delivered a pretty big shakeup for Buddy Baker and his family and although it brings back that family drama I enjoyed so much in the book’s early days, it’s so dark and joyless that this is far from my favorite entry into the series. Everyone is angry and everything is bad. There’s a lot of yelling and crying and to be honest, a month of mourning for Damian over in the Batman books has left me tired of comic book grief. Cliff sure did choose an inconvenient time to go and die on us. But dark and gloomy feelings aside, Animal Man 19 is still a great book that sees Buddy Baker trying to make sense of the world after the death of his son and the events of Rotworld. Steve Pugh isn’t at his best with the dramatic emotional stuff apparently as many of the faces of grief and anger seen throughout the issue just look odd. Proportions are weird and although bathing the scenes in black and shadow makes sense for a funeral issue, it’s just too much. The scenes in the Red are far better though and in keeping with the book’s somewhat gory tradition. This is by no means a bad book, but  it’s not quite up to snuff compared to the rest of the series.

 

The cover to Guardians #1 gives us a glimpse of McNiven’s fantastic pencils. Property of Marvel Comics.

By Alex Headley

My favorite Marvel Comics team is back and their debut issue definitely delivers. Brian Bendis and Steve McNiven have crafted an adequate beginning to a new saga of Cosmic Marvel comics and while it’s not perfect, it delivers new concepts to pique my interest and pays just the tiniest bit of homage to what has come before. The book opens up with a focus on Peter Quill AKA the Star-Lord and his relationship with his father. It’s all very personal and dramatic and shows that this book is going to be a little more personal than the last volume, which focused almost entirely on cosmic zaniness. We also get a great little exchange showing off a very roguish Quill that reminds me of Captain Kirk or Malcolm Reynolds. Bendis has definitely done his sci-fi homework and put and effort towards making this feel both familiar to the genre and true to its Marvel roots. Made up profanities, weird aliens and and big laser guns all pepper the book and give it a lived in feeling that is appropriate. Though ‘Flark’ is a much better obscenity than the newly introduced ‘Krutack’, at least in my opinion.

This isn’t just Quill’s book though and Bendis does an apt job of getting each of the team members a bit of action. Rocket Racoon, Groot, Drax the Destroyer and Gamora are all here and joining the cast is none other than Iron Man. Stark still seems a bit of a cash grab addition to the cast but I’m willing to see where things go with it, especially if it ensures the book is a priority for Marvel. A Badoon invasion of Earth gives everyone a lizard-alien to shoot at and make a few one-liners in the midst of battle and gets the ball rolling on what seems to be book’s first major arc. Bendis doesn’t waste a lot of time on setup here, only giving us a brief conversation between Quill and his father, the King of Spartax on Earth’s importance in the Galaxy. I don’ know much about the Spartax as they aren’t nearly as popular as the Kree, Skrulls or Shi’Ar.

McNiven delivers some great stuff in this issue, the scenery is especially notable. It’s easy for space centric books to feel empty and bland (you know because it’s space) but McNiven fills the background with lots of pretty lights and distant planets. The battle sequence is good too with lots of dynamic lighting as weapons are fired and things explode all around our heroes. Most important, since he’s obviously the star of the series, of all McNiven’s  Rocket Raccoon is pretty great, the best I’ve seen outside the Rocket and Groot miniseries from few years back. Drax is exactly as he was in the last volume and Groot has gained some pretty lights but is otherwise unchanged. What doesn’t work for me at the moment though are Gamora and Star-Lord’s costumes. They lack any real sense of personality. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad a woman swinging a sword and dodging gunfire is actually wearing armor for a change but the lack of her signature cape or skull motif is disappointing. Star-Lord looks like he stepped out of Mass Effect, which isn’t really a bad thing but again it seems like very little of his classic look has made it back. The patterns are there but I miss the bigger helmet and the coat. Iron Man’s armor is fine but his red and gold stands out as super-gaudy around the rest of the team.

I’m sure everyone is aware by now but just in case, here’s your warning. Spoilers for Batman Inc. 8 are in this post.

By Alex Headley

The cover to Batman and Robin 18 is striking and the comic makes a great reference to it about halfway through. Property of DC Comics.

Batman and Robin 18

I won’t say much about the contents of this issue, as it’s better to just read it but its fair to say that this is one of the most emotionally powerful comics I’ve read. The issue is completely silent, no word balloons at all, as Bruce deals with Damian’s death over in Batman Inc. 8. The decision to make this a silent issue means that all of the responsibility falls on Patrick Gleason’s shoulders and he really pulls it off well. Bruce has lost people before, but never quite like this. His reaction is perfectly in character and very easy to relate to. Every page here works to drive home a terrible feeling of emptiness, guilt and anger. Damian’s dog Titus is particularly heartbreaking to see, as he waits for his master’s return at this bed and in the Batcave near his uniform. Damian’s drawings and list of recommended from “C.K.” give the absent dead a personality and something to remember him by, while the unfinished painting of Bruce and his sons in the library reminds us that Damian lived for only a short time. All these details and more make for a riveting read. It is utterly depressing but excellently crafted at the same time. This issue is a great example of what comics have to offer as an art form and anyone that is the least bit interested in the medium should take notice. Gleason’s use of shadow and quick-cut panels is especially provocative and the final pages will stay with you for quite some time.

Greg Capullo may be absent this issue but his cover is still great. Property of DC Comics.

Batman 18

Scott Snyder teams up with Andy Kubert and Alex Maleev to bring us another issue all about Harper Row, the mysterious girl first introduced all the way back in Batman #7 and she’s just as interesting as ever. This time around, she’s here to help Batman grieve for his dead son, and maybe hint that she should be the next Robin (or maybe a new Oracle?). This is a great issue and it goes hand in hand with Batman and Robin 18 out this week. While it’s not quite as heartfelt and emotional as Patrick Gleason’s offering, it still packs quite a punch and reminds us why Batman is such an endearing character. Harper’s speech late in the issue is a bit cheesy, but it feels appropriate and gives her a lot of personality.I like Harper, and I’m quite curious to see what role she ends up playing in the grand scheme of things. I hate to see Damian gone but his death really signals the passing of the torch from Grant Morrison to Scott Snyder and gives the new showrunner a lot more room to play with the story. Morrison’s Batman epic is drawing to a close and it makes sense that a new status quo should follow his absence. And although he’s a bit of a jerk for killing my favorite Robin and the best new DC character in years, Damian was his creation and it’s fitting that he gets the final say on his fate.

Andy Kubert delivers some fun visuals early in the book, managing to get in quite a bit of action in a short time in a way that still has emotional underpinnings. But the real story here is Alex Maleev on a Batman book. His pages are fantastic and really left me wanting more. I loved Maleev’s run with Brian Micheal Bendis on Daredevil all those years ago and to see him working on my favorite title is exciting. DC needs to find him a steady gig soon.

New York has seen better days. Property of Marvel Comics.

Age of Ultron 2

That’s right, this is a weekly series! Issue 2 doesn’t let up with the doom and gloom, immersing us further into a world that is very unlike the Marvel U we know and love. Heroes kill without question to get by and shiny golden robots gun down citizens in the streets while Avengers stand by and watch. It’s kind of rough to read but Bendis is delivering an incredibly intriguing story here. So far, this event feels very unique and is a breath of fresh air to me. Of course, being an event that promises “Everything Changes!” means that as the story goes on it may be a little less unconventional and a little more predictable. Bryan Hitch continues to deliver cinematic visuals and big, sweeping destruction. The flahsback pages with Spider-Man tell a tale of a battle won before anyone can react. The heroes are all dead or in hiding and nobody can stand up to Ultron, whom we have yet to hear much from at this point. There are still quite a few questions regarding what happened and how all this went down but it doesn’t seem like Bendis is too interested in exploring that, instead pushing the story further along with almost every page, the last page in particular pushes the story forward a great deal.

By Alex Headley

The cover to Age of Ultron #1 is pretty cool. The gold foil on the print edition is a little cheesy though, what is this? The 90s? Property of Marvel Comics.

Much has been said of Age of Ultron over the last couple of years. Originally teased in Bendis’ Heroic Age of Avengers and seemingly pushed back for the sake of AvX, issue 1 has finally arrived. And it’s a doozy. Brian Micheal Bendis and Bryan Hitch throw us right into the thick of things, Ultron has already won and the Earth has been enslaved by golden robots. Only a few heroes remain, including a grim and gritty Hawkeye that has no qualms about shooting fools dead with a crossbow. While I’m not a fan of heroes killing, I have to say that Age of Ultron #1 has won me over for what it is. A great big ‘What If?’ tale. At least that’s my takeaway as far issue one goes. I struggle to think how this book will mesh with the current continuity seen in Marvel NOW! and to be honest that’s just fine with me. World shattering events are a dime a dozen in comics, and especially so in Marvel, so the concept of a self contained epic story that puts these characters in a new light without damaging what creators are doing in their own stories is very appealing to me. Recasting Marvel’s cast of characters as the last holdouts of humanity in a bleak sci-fi adventure story is fun and exciting but there is no need for it to be canon. I’m fine with beginning the story in progress, it gets us right into the thick of things without the overdone all is lost but the heroes win at the last second ending we’ve all come to expect from a big event like this and instead delivers something new (at least for the moment, time will tell if that changes as the event rolls on). I like that the bad guy has already won, it gives the event a new twist and casts these characters into a tale that twists the genre a bit and in my book, that’s a good thing.

Now let’s get to the actual issue. Hitch is at the top of his game here, delivering bleak landscapes and jarring, bone-crunching violence with great ability and talent. His faces still aren’t great here (they never have been the best in the biz) but the emotion still comes through thanks to Bendis’ excellent dialogue. I’ve given Bendis a hard time in the past, but it really does seem like the guy has found a new rhythm and depth to his prose lately and I’m slowly coming around to it. His X-Men stuff has been great and this issue is more of that in a way. He works best when his characters are in the thick of it, with bit emotions and dire consequences at stake. In that regard, he’s perfect for this dystopian future. He seems to trust Hitch implicitly as well, there are fewer word balloons in this issue than in anything else Bendis has ever written I think and he lets Hitch do a lot of the heavy lifting, telling the story with quick, choppy action sequences and big bold panoramas of a devastated New York. It’s quite good. The story itself is quite interesting, if a little bleaker than I typically like my superhero comics but as I said above, I’m down with an out of canon ‘What If?’ romp through the Marvel U, and the lack of Marvel NOW! branding on this issue seems to suggest that’s what we will get. I am more than a little confused as to who Spider-Man is at the moment. He seems like good ol’ fashioned Pete but is that just Otto becoming more like Peter or has Peter regained control of his body somehow? I don’t care too much but it’s a question in the back of mind. Still, I’m very interested in seeing how this little even plays out. I may skip out on the tie-in issues for now but I think I’ll pick the main 10-issue book.

What did you guys think? Let me know in the comments.

Hey guys, sorry the lack of updates in the last couple of days, I’ve had a doozy of a week so far. Anyway, I didn’t want to leave you completely empty handed so here’s a little something.

RDJ seems set to deliver a more somber Tony Stark in May 3’s threequel.

The latest Iron Man 3 trailer is online now courtesy of Yahoo! Movies. You can check out the last few trailers here as well.
Go watch!

What did you think? Ben Kingsley looks to be a complete badass here and while I’m interested in the Iron Army(Hulkbuster!) and the tons of new suits, it’s the character development from Tony that I’m looking forward to the most. There are significantly fewer quips and one-liners(though there are still a few to be had near the end) in this trailer than in Iron Man or Iron Man 2 and I hope that signals a darker tone for the whole movie. Iron Man 2 tried to tread those waters but chickened out with the last half hour or so, turning a thriller into just another action flick. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but we got fun action flicks all the way through Marvel’s Phase One and Two, for the new stuff I want a little more substance. Luckily for me, this trailer seems to be sending that message. The movie looks very promising. Share your thoughts in the comments!

By Alex Headley

SPOILERS ARE ON FOR THE REVIEW OF BATMAN INC. #8

This exchange is great, it’s the highlight of my comics week for sure. Property of DC Comics.

Batman Incorporated #8

Well, this is it, the end of Damian Wayne, at least for now. Grant Morrison prepares to wrap up his years long epic run on Batman and the end of his arc begins with the end of his brightest star, Damian Wayne. Morrison introduced us to Batman’s bratty, psychotic killer of a son way back in Batman #655 before the New 52 hit. Damian was not well received at first, either amongst fans or in the book itself. Raised by the League of Assassins and dropped off for Batman to deal with as a distraction, Damian quickly took to making the Bat-Family’s life a living hell. There’s not denying that he was a little brat but over the next few years Morrison and Peter Tomasi would make everyone love the little guy. We first got a glimpse of his potential after Bruce died in Final Crisis (also written by Morrison) and Dick Grayson took over as Batman, making Damian his Robin. That first volume of Batman & Robin, by Morrison and Frank Quitely, was fantastic and quickly established Damian as one of the best characters in the DCU. The new dynamic duo slowly bonded over fighting crime and Damian grew a conscience and a heart , eventually winning over the family while still being a bit of a thorn in their side. Volume two of Batman and Robin by Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have made the character even better, building him up over the last 17 issues into a well rounded and well loved character. I dare say that Tomasi wrote him better than Morrison but it’s ol’ Grant that gets the last word, killing the character on the last page of Batman Inc. #8 as he fights to save his father and the rest of Gotham from his rampaging mother.

This issue is great, but that’s not surprising at all because the whole series has been consistently excellent. And though, the New York Post’s interview with Morrison spoiled what would have otherwise been quite a shocking ending, it’s still heartbreaking to see Damian go out fighting against his mother’s twisted vision for what he should have been. His last words are especially rough because we finally see his bravado crack. Damian has had emotional moments before, especially with his father and Alfred over in Batman & Robin but in battle he is usually quite literally a cocky son of a bitch (Talia is downright ruthless these days). But as death approaches, he cracks, and so does the reader. Up until that last page or two, you really think that he can pull it off (if it weren’t for the spoiler at least) as he takes on wave after wave of bad guys and gets the upper hand against his evil twin early in the fight. But he goes down under a hail of arrows and a sword to the chest. Batman escapes his death trap just in time to see his son dead at the hands of Talia’s monstrous clone and breaks down. I’m not sure where Morrison is taking the story next, but there will surely be hell to pay in the coming months.

But enough about the death, the early bits of this issue are where the real quality lies. Robin gloriously charges into battle, proving every bit the warrior and vigilante his father is before teaming up with Grayson one last time in a sequence that is both hilarious and appropriate for what comes next. It’s a great playback to the first volume of Batman and Robin and it made me want to open up those back issue instantly. The classic dynamic duo double punch even makes a return, although its far less effective than it was before. We also get a great opening scene with Red Robin that makes me like the character again for the first time in years. Jason Masters handles the art for these pages and though I’m unfamilar with him as an artist, I have to say I really enjoyed his style. Chris Burnham takes over the rest of the issue and is fantastic as usual. His unusual layout approach is great for the Damian vs. Damian fight and I love the smoke cloud sound effects earlier in the big battle. But it’s no surprise at this point that Burnham does a great job.

Morrison always has a big game plan for his stories, so we’ll see if Damian’s death sticks or if his Al’ Ghul bloodline gets him out of it somehow. Regardless, we are in for a few months of the Batman Family experiencing their biggest loss since Jason Todd died at the hands of the Joker. Of course this time, it’s not an adoptive son for Bruce. It’s his own flesh and blood. The first glimpse of this will be Batman and Robin 18, an all silent issue as Bruce begins the grieving process.

The cover to Guardians of the Galaxy #1. Property of Marvel Comics.

Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1

Brian Bendis kicks off his run on the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe with a look at the origin of Peter Quill, aka Starlord. This is an interesting tale that puts a much more human, earth-centric spin on the character than we saw in the last volume of GoG and despite my misgivings about Bendis handling my favorite Marvel franchise, I enjoyed it. Much like Nova last week, I was pleasantly surprised by this issue, despite the lack of Rocket Racoon and Groot. Peter has an origin that is both very in line with Marvel Comics and a few classic sci-fi tropes. This story focuses mostly on Quill’s mother and her love affair with Spartoi spaceman, J’son. We get a fun little romance montage that artist Steve McNiven really knocks out of the park. It’s completely silent (a rarity in Bendis comics) and works very well. We also see early evidence of Peter’s heroic nature as he defends kids on the playground from bullies. Iron Man makes an appearance at the end and it looks like he will be full fledged member of the team, something I’m not crazy about but at least his new armor is cool and it’s interesting to see the character branching out a bit. I don’t have too much more to say about this issue, as it is a fairly standard setup story for bigger things to come but one thing I didn’t like is the new costumes for the team, specifically on Gamora and Starlord. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Gamora finally has the sense to wear armor into combat but it lacks any personality. It’s the exact same thing that Peter is wearing and it’s just not memorable at all. It’s generic and feels like a bad sci-fi movie prop. I miss Starlord’s helmet and Gamora’s skull motif. Maybe the costumes will improve a bit down the road (Gamora is in her classic get-up in Nova) but for the moment I’m less than enthused. Drax, Groot and Rocket look fine, if still a bit lacking in classic comic style. The last couple of pages are a bit exposition heavy for my tastes as well but it serves its purpose well enough. Overall, I liked the book and I will definitely be back for more when the next issue hits.

This was a huge week in comics for me. My biggest pull  in quite some time. I’ll be splitting my reviews this week into two posts so check back later this week for my impression on Batwoman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Nightwing and Action Comics. Also, if you picked up any of the newly launched books this week (Nova, JLA) I would love to hear your opinion. Leave me a comment on the blog or on facebook or email us at comiccritiqueblog@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading.

By Alex Headley

The new JLA as drawn by David Finch.

Justice League of America #1
This issue is pretty much exactly what you think it is, an introduction to the team. And that’s just fine because Geoff Johns and David Finch( who is at the top of his game here) do an excellent job setting it up and making each character interesting. This is especially true for Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, Catwoman and Stargirl. The story is told through a conversation between Steve Trevor and Amanda Waller and I quite liked their back and forth banter, even if skinny Waller tends to be much less intimidating than her previous incarnation.  Johns makes peripheral characters like Hawkman interesting for the first time in the New 52. The same goes for Catwoman ( even if I hate the low-cut bodysuit thing). Stargirl is brand new to the New 52 and though her introduction is short, I’m intrigued by Johns’ take on the character. I’m still not sold on Vibe though, even if hey have retooled his powers to actually be interesting. His introduction here is funny but doesn’t grab my attention to much beyond a quick chuckle. The most interesting story beat at work here though is the introduction of a Secret Society of Super-Villains. All we see in this issue is Professor Ivo but this is something that’s been building in the background of Justice League for a while now and I’m excited to see comics’ best group of villains return to comics. Every incarnation of the Secret Society has been different and so far we can guess that this one will include Black Manta, Ivo, Cheetah, Metallo and Ocean Master. Maybe other villains have been hinted at in books I’m not reading? Either way, I’m happy to see the possibility of a good old fashioned heroes vs. villains brawl before we get to the upcoming Trinity War event that seems to be pitting hero against hero. If you are on the fence on whether to pick this title up, hopefully my recommendation will push you to get it. It seems like it will have a much better opening act than Justice League proper did when the New 52 launch and seems like it will be home to some fan favorites that we don’t get to see much anywhere else in comics. I know I’ll be picking it up just for Martian Manhunter. Plus, Geoff Johns is a pretty safe bet.

Rocket and Gamora make an early appearance in Marvel NOW! ahead of the teammates.

Nova #1
Ok, so I’ve been skeptical of Sam Alexander, the new Nova, from the start. Where the hell is Richard Rider? How did the Nova Corps start up again? These are questions I desperately need the answer to. And yet, I really enjoyed the first issue of this new series. It has a great sense of adventure about it and kind of reminds me of a Pixar movie in tone and style. It’s very cinematic and instead of jumping into the thick of a cliched( though there are plenty of cliches to go around here) origin story, writer Jeph Loeb takes his time with this first issue and establishes this as a story about family above all else. Loeb makes Sam Alexander likable, mature and a bit of a brat at the same time. It’s hard not to be rooting for him from the get-go.  Also, Rocket Racoon makes an appearance and that is great. Really, that alone makes it worth the cover price. Marvel has a great cast of cosmic character that deserve just as much attention as the big name teams and it feels like that’s what Marvel is going for here. It looks like we will be bouncing back and forth between Earth and space quite a bit but if the family drama can deliver at home like this first issue, I don’t really mind. I was skeptical of artist Ed McGuiness initially as well, he ha a reputation for just being all style and no substance but he really knocks it out here. He gives the book a big, bold tone that finds a great balance between big sci-fi action and smaller, more emotional moments.
I enjoyed the book, but its not without flaws. Some of the early action sequences are scattered and a bit hard to follow and some of the dialogue is a little too hokey for my taste. Still, ill be picking the next couple of issues at least and I’m more excited than ever to check out Guardians of the Galaxy next month.

Injustice #6
The digital first series tie in to the upcoming Mortal Kombat style video game has made its way to the regular reviews. Issues 5 and 6 really won me over as writer Tom Taylor continues to pen an incredibly interesting elseworlds tale that doesn’t lose sight of what comics great. Issue 5 takes a step back from the overall story to pair Harley Quinn and Green Arrow for a pseudo buddy cop story that is absolutely charming and full of pathos and character. In short, I loved it even if the art fails the story at times.
Issue 6 swings the other way and gives us a look at just how Superman will go about building his regime that we will see in the game. The opening sequence is great and really sets the stage or what’s coming. Likewise, man of steel’s trip to Bialya to overthrow a dictator is reminiscent of one of my favorite scenes in the first Iron Man but with far more emotion on display. This is Superman on the edge, but he’s still Superman at the end of the day. But even in the middle of such a dramatic moment we get a great little gag that Taylor does a great job of balancing that  got a chuckle out if me.
Superman’s new found edginess and the suspense that comes along with it with our established understanding of the character. And while he did kill the Joker in a fit of rage back in issue 4, we already see him toning it back down. This is not a murdering, rampaging Superman, but a man with immense power that sees that he has fault the world and is out to rectify it. This also gives a glimpse into an always interesting concept for the Man of Steel and that’s the question of ‘why doesn’t he fix the whole world?’ Why just America, why only Metropolis? I like the idea of a global Superman and while its been played with before, we’ve never seen it on quite this level. Wonder Woman is subtlety great here too, although she appears only very briefly. She is both a voice of reason for Superman while also pushing him forward.
Although I liked this issue, I am disappointed that we don’t get to see Batman’s initial reaction to Superman murdering Joker. That’s a conversation I want to see so hopefully they will return to it.

Justice League 17
The finale to Throne of Atlantis is predictable enough but still makes for good comics. The big battle with the Atlanteans and the Trench if illustrated well and seeing Aquaman lead the charge and claim his title of badass is nice but the twist from the last chapter isn’t very interesting. Vulko is just not very compelling as a villain and Orm’s threat has been played out already in the rest of the event. I’ve like how this event played out, crossing over with just Aquaman and Justice League. It didn’t get out of hand or too big for itself or flood the market with needless tie-ins. That’s a step in the right direction and something I think DC has done quite well in the New 52. Ivan Reis is a perfect fit for this book and delivers some great action and dramatic staging. This feels like a big budget Hollywood blockbuster battle, which is the perfect tone for a Justice League book involving invading Atlanteans and flesh eating fish. The expanded reserves team gets a few fun moments as well. Firestorm sucks in a fight apparently and Zatanna has time to pull double duty as a JL:Dark team member and reserves for the big league it seems. Likewise, Black Canary seems to be joining the team despite her involvement with the Birds of Prey. The best part though is the surprise appearance of a new Atom. Or at least someone wearing a familiar red and blue suit and shrinking down to microscopic level. Here’s the catch though: it seems to be a woman in the costume! Who could it be? I’m excited for the return of the Atom, as every team should have a shrinking dude (or in this case, a dudette).

*Spoiler Warning*

The story ends with Orm in prison on the surface (where it seems the Secret Society will be making contact with him), Vulko in custsody of the Atlanteans and sees Arthur restored to his throne. But in a somewhat expected twist, this separates him from Mera, who is referred to as a convict by Orm in the big battle. She begs Aquaman to stay and says that she cannot go with him despite his urging for her to do so. I hope Mera doesn’t stay out of the picture long, she is one of the best things in that book and the pair are one of the few classic couples left in modern comics.

Avengers #6
Make that two in a row for the Jonathan Hickman and Adam Kubert. Much like last issue’s focus on Smasher, this issue takes some time to delve into the current Captain Universe and I gotta say that I liked it quite a bit. Though part of that may be Shang-Chi’s involvement in the story( I’m a fan). Shang-Chi meditates with the Universe to finally give us some answers about the mysterious character. Captain Universe is a complicated character but Hickman handles her pseudo origin quite well. It has hints of tragedy and hope all at once and gives us our biggest hint at Hickman’s overall thesis for his Avengers so far. Rebirth seems to be a big theme for the story, both in characters like Captain Universe host Tamarra, and the Superior Spider-Man’s and the direction the larger plot is taking as well. Ex Nihilo’s creation finally speaks in this issue and reveals not only his name, Nightmask( confirming that this is Hickman’s take on New Universal ideas and characters)  but also the next big threat for the Avengers, the White Event. This issue is almost all talk and no action but Kubert really delivers, especially in the early pages and with Tamarra’a flashbacks. There’s a great scene with Spider-Man and Cannonball as well that brings some much appreciated humor to the story while also giving us a glimpse into the daily lives of this new team, something that was a heavy focus of the Bendis era of Avengers. This book has dramatically improved since moving on from its first three issues and I hope the new threat introduced here doesn’t slow it back down. Hickman is at his best with thoughtful dialogue and big ideas, not necessarily in big action and I hope he can find a balance for that in the upcoming chapters.

By Alex Headley

The great cover to Batman & Robin 17. Property of DC Comics.

Batman & Robin 17

By now its well documented that I love one-shot stories that focus on character. That’s exactly what Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason deliver in B&R 17. This tale of dreams within dreams is charming, horrifying and cuts to the core of what’s great about the current dynamic duo. Tomasi has regularly delivered heartfelt father/son tales in this series and I’ve enjoyed just about every week. Standout scenes this time include Damian’s fun race through the Wayne Mansion on the back of his dog Titus and three great dream sequences for the little bat-family at the mansion. Alfred’s Joker induced nightmare is both chilling and hilarious and appropriately gives us some closure on Alfred’s little journey with the Clown Prince of Crime in Death of the Family. Meanwhile, Batman’s nightmare sequence pays homage to Batman and Robin #1 with a return to the paper boat and the exorcising of the darkness. Bruce really has made great strides towards happiness in this series and Tomasi takes time to reflect on that in a fun way in this issue. Damian’s dreams reference Frank Miller’s classic Year One story in a great scene at the beginning of the book. Pat Gleason delivers some truly surreal visuals here and it’s great fun to see him play with camera angles and unconventional character designs (Joker whale!) Gleason is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, he has an instantly recognizable style but also offers a wide range of talents, showcasing action just as well as emotion and tension. He and Greg Capullo have really defined the look of the current Batman titles and probably for a few years to come too. Seriously, anyone looking for a great Batman title, look no further than Batman and Robin.

 

Batgirl 17

Gail Simone takes a two issue hiatus starting with issue 17. Most of you are probably aware that this hiatus is a result of Simon’s very temporary ‘firing’ from the book and the resulting fan outcry that got her reinstated. If you aren’t familiar with this incredibly amusing story, you can check it out here. Anyway, Ray Fawkes, the current co-writer on Justice League Dark with Jeff Lemire, takes over here with a tale about James Gordon Jr and does a more than adequate job. The narration is off-kilter a bit, it just doesn’t quite work at times, but the rest of the issue is quite enjoyable. The back and forth banter between Barbara and her brother and Comissioner Gordon’s absolutely hard assed approach to apprehending his son are good moments. James Gordon Jr. is a creepy, creepy dude and that doesn’t change here under Fawkes’ pen. It’s nice to see James finally playing his hand instead of skulking in the shadows, he’s been built up in the book for several months now. While I’m not sure his plot here will be better than, or even rival, his excellent story found in Scott Snyder’s Detective Comics run before the New 52 I do think it will be a worthwhile read. Slightly less interesting is the new villain in the story, Firebug. He seems to be just like the old bat-villain Firefly but without the jetpack. Maybe we can get a better read on him next issue but as it stands I just feel like he is cluttering up a story that already has a villain and plenty of goons to punch. Those aforementioned goons are Joker’s henchman from his plot in Death of the Family and there presence in this story is the only indication that those events took place. Unfortunately, this feeds my disappointment with that event’s lack of consequences . It just doesn’t seem like there will be much fallout at all. This issue also features a new artist, Daniel Sampere, who I quite like. The lighting of the flames in particular is good, but best of all, his characters show some real emotion and the action scenes have a good sense of motion to them. It’s not the best art in the world by any means but it serves the story well.

The cover to Fantastic Four #4 features more aliens than the interior. More of the Thing too. Property of Marvel Comics.

Fantastic Four 4

This was not my favorite issue of this series so far, not by a long-shot. That distinction lies firmly with issue 1. In fact, issue 4 is probably my least favorite stand alone so far as it struggles with its narrative a bit, bouncing back and forth between lighthearted memories and present troubles a little too quickly. I feel like The Thing is really getting the shaft here too, he’s played almost exclusively for laughs and catchphrases and its getting a bit old. It was charming and funny early in this series (Susie, how do ya take somethin off tha internet?) but here it feels like a rehash of every story about Ben Grimm that’s ever been told. He and Johnny both fall into their stereotypical roles and just haven’t done much so far, which is a shame. This issue is all about Reed and Sue and Reed’s love for his wife. It’s touching for the most part, but at the same time, Reed comes off as more than a little on the creepy side, what with altering an alien races’ culture and all. Said aliens are then brushed to the side for the remainder of the issue to focus on family drama and some flashbacks. The flashback scenes are nice and the family drama is appropriate, especially the callback to Franklin’s nightmares in issue 1 and Sue’s motherhood skills. Mark Bagley is doing a fine job in the art department ant although he doesn’t get to draw any action this time around, he still does a great job with the ‘acting’ on the page. Sue and the kids stand out once again. I’m still really enjoying this title, but I hope things get to moving a little faster with the next issue. FF is delivering more story for this book than anything else and still managing to be more fun too. Matt Fraction clearly has a favorite of the two.

By Alex Headley

The cover to issue 5 is my favorite so far. It just has a lot of personality. Property of Marvel Comics.

Avengers 5
This issue marks a tremendous improvement for this book. Everything the last two issues was lacking, this one has in spades. Intimate character moments, interesting new characters, big space battles and entertaining dialogue between Avengers. Finally, this feels like the book it’s supposed to be. Smasher is an instantly likable character and an excellent addition the Avengers roster. Her origin story, told in this issue, is born moving and original. This is a complete 180 degree turn from Hyperion’s mediocre origin tale last issue. Lets hope Hickman can keep this up because this was a hell of a ride. Of course any comic featuring Gladiator is sure to be a hit with me. I would to see more cosmic stuff take a central role in this title, the cast calls for it really and it looks like we might get that soon thanks to some interesting images found in New Avengers this week.

This is the kind of cosmic scale conflict that Avengers promised and even though this new plot interrupts the A.I.M./Garden sites story, its okay because it’s so intriguing and frankly last issue’s exploration of the Garden sites was kind of dull. Adam Kubert performs a great deal better this time around too, rendering the small moments on the farm just as well as the big battle in Shi’Ar space. This story feels a bit like new ground for Hickman, who is always focused on big casts and big moments. Slowing down his epic story to focus on Isabel for so long gives her a higher level of importance than some of the other new additions. And that’s okay. More than anything I feel like this epic story needs a point of view character to keep it grounded. Isabel can serve that function perfectly. This is a character I definitely want to see more of in the future and who feels like a proper addition to the Avengers cast.

New Avengers 3
Wow. This issue is intense. Just one punch is thrown here and only two pages break up the talking heads but Hickman not only makes it work but also makes it tense, touching and epic in scope. The introduction of Beast to the team is great, even if Epting seams to be sticking with the previous Beast appearance and ignoring his new mutation. Do you think that was intentional or just a continuity blunder? That little detail and Cap still wearing his old costume really begs the question as to when this story takes place. Writers should never be a slave to continuity but a little consistency is appreciated too. At least with his own books.

Beast’s introduction gives us a great window into the state of the Marvel U and how Xavier’s death has changed the world. The Illuminati is pretty shaken up by the end of this issue.  Beast is probably my favorite mutant so his addition and Hickman’s obviously deep understanding of the characters make for some great moments. Cap’s absolute refusal to budge on morality is exactly in character. Likewise the pragmatism of the rest of the cast is appropriate, even Black Panther was a bit of a dick about it.
Steve Epting continues to impress me more than ever on this book. He does a great job with body language and facial expressions and I think he is largely the reason this issue works so well. I’m not sure anyone else could pull it off but the lighting and layout really make this comic easy to read and understand. Reed, T’Challa and Cap all have great moments in his issue. I particularly enjoyed the conversation with Black Swan  and the call back to it later in the issue, Hickman did it last issue too to great effect. But it’s the return of the infinity gauntlet that’s the biggest news here and it’s telling that Marvel just released a teaser for a Hickman penned free comic book day special titles Infinity. Looks like more than Age of Ultron is brewing on the horizon.

The covers to Animal Man 17 and Swamp Thing 17 form a cohesive image. Property of DC Comics.

Rotworld Finale 1&2
*this review contains mild spoilers*
The end is nigh and Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire have teamed up to send the event off in style. Here at the end, things are just as fun, gross and over the top as the rest of the event has been. There are some really cool moments here, especially in Animal Man 17(Green Lantern Frankenstein!) and the battle at Arcane’s castle is big, bad and ugly. It seems like all might be lost on several occasions but the heroes manage to always find another option, just before a new threat beats them down again. The battle has an excellent ebb and flow, takin time to highlight all the combatants and give us more rotling cameos to spot in the carnage. Beast Boy, Batgirl, Frankenstein and of course Animal Man and Swamp Thing all get their moment in the spotlight before the plot moves on to Anton. And that’s where things suffer a bit. We all knew from the beginning that this little ‘What If?’ Tale would be reversed somehow and that is a blessing and a curse. It lets Snynder and Lemire have plenty of fun with the established characters but also doesn’t allow for much of a lasting impact. And so the fates of Buddy and Alec’s loved ones just doesn’t have the proper impact. Especially once the time travel solution is revealed. Although I do like that the Rot is instrumental in saving the day after all the damage done by Arcane.
Animal Man is definitely the better of the two this time around. And that’s almost entirely due to the art in Swamp Thing. It’s not bad, heck I might even like the style in a different comic, but it is not the right style for this dark tale. It’s far too cartoony and bright and lacks the depth and moody atmosphere needed for this story. And it comes at absolutely the worst moment. Swamp Thing is by far the more emotional of the two stories here, Animal Man mostly featured bad-ass fights,  and the art completely fails to convey that. This is especially tragic in the handling of Buddy’s breakdown after his fight with Maxine. It’s weightless, it no impact whatsoever for me and I’m a pretty invested reader at this point. This is an example of how art can hurt a comic book, especially a change in artist. Yanick Paquette is very sorely missed here.

Just like last week, I’m putting up a few review today along with short teasers for my next batch that will go live this weekend. I had a pretty good week in comics this week but a few books on my pull were disappointing. How long do you guys keep a book that isn’t up to par? Do you drop it immediately or hold on to it? It’s a tough decision for me. Help me make it. Avengers has had back to back duds; drop it or keep waiting for the magic to hit? Flash has been light on story for several months now but the art is still beautiful; hold onto it or let it go?

Let me know what you think in the comments.

The cover to Avengers 4 is much more exciting than the interior. Property of Marvel Comics.

Avengers 4
Things have slowed down considerably from the breakneck pacing of the first three issues but just like last issue, this tale feels a bit bland. It’s not bad, it’s just a little too familiar and little too bland. It’s hard to pin down exactly why except to say that it’s kind of boring. I don’t want to read comics that are nothing but punches and explosion but I do want to see a little more effort on the heroes part to succeed. Thor is far more concerned with his manly vodka, and Hyperion with his distaste in alcohol than the potential genocide in the Savage Land, or A.I.M. and the fact that they totally killed that poor intern. The problem is that A.I.M stands no chance at all against this new Avengers squad. The team is simply too powerful and it takes away from the suspense and demands a new threat that is worthy of the group. So far that doesn’t seem to be happening.

This issue, we get to know Hyperion a little. He’s an interesting take on a Superman style hero whose origin is very strongly tied into the ongoing plot of Hickman’s Avengers.  Speaking of which, the plot finally moves forward in a meaningful way this issue as the Avengers explore the ground zero sites of the Garden’s attacks. A.I.M gets in on the action too, both in the main plot and in Hyperion’s origin, which is interesting but glossed over a bit.  Adam Kubert isn’t on the top of his game in this issue either, with weird faces and a lack of detail really hurting the story. On paper, this book should be a 10 but right now its barely better than a 5. I hope issue 5 kicks it up a bit.

Batman Inc 7
It’s all about the Robins as Batman goes missing.  Talia is proving to be a ruthless and powerful villain that everyone has underestimated and I really hope that becomes a lasting change as a result of this arc. R’as had his chance to shine, let his daughter take over the reigns now with Leviathan. There are plenty of emotional moments and shocking twists to be had and it makes for a fast paced and thrilling issue. I loved the exchange between Alfred and Damian in the cave. Damian has really become the heart of the Bat-Family lately and that’s on full display here. On a sadder note, the passing of my favorite Batman Inc hero is quick and painful.
We are nearing the end of Grant Morrison’s Bat-Epic and I’m still enjoying it a great deal.  Chris Burnham has seen better days though, issue 7 is far from his best work, with Damian suffering the most from the uneven art. It feels rushed and I gotta say, this is one book I don’t mind getting delayed if it means a higher quality. It doesn’t really seem to fit into continuity very well anyway and we know it has to be ending soon with Morrison’s fast approaching departure from mainstream comics.

Don’t let the mediocre cover fool you, this is a great comic! Property of DC Comics.

Batman and Robin Annual 1
Light hearted and heartwarming all at once. This is fun comics at their best, with just enough heart and charm to make it worth the $4.99 price tag. This was easily my favorite book of the week. Damian makes a remarkable gesture his dad bit true to his personality also take the opportunity to make himself happy. The whole cast gets a chance to shine here, with Alfred delivering some truly laugh out loud lines and some funny gags about Damian’s age and height. Ardian Syaf returns to the bat-books with this issue and delivers some great stuff. I’ve missed him since he left Batgirl. The letterer deserves some credit here too as Damian’s bat-voice is subtlety hilarious largely thanks to the unconventional lettering. This is a completely stand alone tale that you can hand off to anyone interested in comics/Batman and they could get into it. All they need to know is that Batman has a kid and he is Robin. Fun comics like this one get overlooked in favor of big events and grim storylines like Death of the Family, but for those big moments to matter there has to be little moments like this to give it weight. This issue made me care about these characters more than I did before I read it and now their fate in their main series means more to me. That’s good storytelling and its something that the big two lose sight of all too often.

Aquaman 16
Throne of Atlantis continues here and takes some time to mend the relationship between Aquaman and the League. We get some more great stuff with Cyborg too and a few scenes with the reserve league called in at the end of Justice League 15. It’s a solid, entertaining book.

Justice League Dark 16
Full of new ideas and concepts. Honest Constantine is funny stuff. The stuff with Tim Hunter and Zatanna is a little exposition heavy but the fight with the anti-magic cop keeps things fun.

Flash 16
Flash is still a beautiful book and 16 finally moves the story forward in a big way. But im still ready for this monkey business to be done with.

Injustice:Gods Among Us 1-3

I think I will have a seperate post to discuss this one later. I’m not overly fond of super-dark stories in superhero comics but there are some interesting ideas here and the game looks super fun.