’tis the week of new debuts!
Some of these have been highly anticipated for a while, ever since DC announced the second wave of New 52 titles, and ever since Dynamite announced the return of The Spider. Some issues I thought were meant to be out this week actually weren’t, so I think I’ll probably get them next week – Mind the Gap and Fury Max are the two titles in mind. I decided against buying G.I.Combat, the other second-wave New 52 title released this week. I just didn’t think it looked very good. Perhaps I’ll try it at a later date (same goes for Action Comics #9). But probably not.
Reviewed: Batman: Dark Knight #8, Batman: Detective Comics #9, Dial H #1, Earth Two #1, Epic Kill #1, Grimm Fairy Tales: Myths & Legends #16, New Avengers #24, The Spider #1, Superman #8, World’s Finest #1
[Titles in Bold are my Picks of the Week.]
Batman: Dark Knight #8 (DC)
A series of disturbing events captivates Gotham City as citizens turn on each other all across town.
But when toxicology reports turn up negative, it’s left to Batman to determine the source of the problem, bringing him into an encounter with Tweedledum and Tweedledee at an entrance to the mysterious Wonderland.
With Jim Gordon occupied on a tragic, high-profile case, and madness beginning to take root across the city, can Batman find the source of it all before it’s too late?
There’s a massacre on a Gotham subway train, but it looks like the passengers turned on each other, rather than the work of a member of Gotham’s ever-expanding rogue’s gallery of villains. What’s more, the victims do not appear to be the only ones going crazy – lots of people seem to be effects by the same madness (or whatever it is), including a senator, who blows his own brains out while announcing his candidacy for President...!
Commissioner Gordon hands off the case to Batman, but at the same time, he’s still butting heads with glory-hound Lieutenant Forbes, who orders him to get therapy – much to his chagrin.
While Gordon grudgingly talks about his feelings and work with the Gotham PD shrink, we follow Batman around the city, as he tracks down and fights his way through a veritable Wonderland of psychos.
I enjoyed this issue a lot. It was zany, dark and brooding, which is portrayed well through both the writing and the artwork. The issue has an interesting end, though – it appears as if Batman kills the villain, only it’s not commented on by anyone involved. Usually, Batman’s very careful about not killing villains, and instead having them locked up in Arkham. The ending is also rather sudden, but this may just be because I’m not used to self-contained, episodic issues.
The next issue in this series is part of the Night of the Owls Bat-family event, which I’m really looking forward to. Speaking of Night of the Owls…
Batman: Detective Comics #9 (DC)
Writer & Artist: Tony S. Daniel | Inks & Colours: Sandra Florea & Tomeu Morey
Batman finds himself in the unlikeliest of situations—saving Arkham Asylum administrator Jeremiah Arkham from a mysterious Talon assailant. What is the secret connection between the Court of Owls and Gotham City’s oldest institution for the criminally insane?
The ninth issue of this series was originally meant to be just a continuation of the Detective Comics episodic series, however due to the popularity and fervour over the Night of the Owls Bat-family event, this story has been shoe-horned in at the last minute – so last minute, in fact, that DC’s (rather bad) new website still provides details for the original ninth issue, and not this one.
Dial H #1 (DC)
A brand new series by bestselling and Hugo award winning novelist CHINA MIEVILLE!
What would happen if you discovered the H Dial, an unbelievably powerful artifact that turned you into a super hero?
And what if you found out that the world is threatened by this very device that’s become your uncontrollable obsession?
These are just the first questions asked in this thrilling and inventive storyline that introduces the strangest super heroes and super villains in the DCU while exploring the boundaries of reality!
I was rather anxious before reading this. I had high hopes, but didn’t want to be disappointed again by something from Mieville (I go back-and-forth on his fiction). Thankfully, this is just weird and twisted enough to make up for the couple of niggles I had with the comic (there are just a couple of early dialogue-related quibbles).
It has some Mieville-hallmark weirdness, mixed with a good non-hero-who-can-become-a-hero, and with a good metaphorical heart, if not physical (we first meet him after he gets back from the hospital and a heart attack). He’s really not hero-material – and a bit of douche, actually:
We see two incarnations of heroes step from the phone-booth, and both of them are original and kind of frightening in their own ways. For example:
This has huge potential, and I’m very eager to see what Mieville comes up with. I also wonder how long he’s going to be working on the series. The artwork is a mixture of good, dark DC art and awesome twisted art. Very cool.
Highly recommended for all fans of the Dark DC titles, and also all fans of China Mieville’s more out-there fiction.
Earth Two #1 (DC)
Writer: James Robinson | Artist: Nicola Scott | Inks & Colours: Trevor Scott & Alex Sinclair
Who are the heroes of EARTH 2 – and what befell them? Starring ALAN SCOTT, JAY GARRICK and many others! You may think you know Earth 2… but this is DC Comics – The New 52, where anything can happen!
I must admit, that synopsis really doesn’t grab my attention… Nevertheless, I decided to give this a go (despite someone in the store flicking through it and rather loudly, melodramatically, stating “What a load of crap,” and shaking their head sagely). And? Well, I’m not sure where I fall on this title…
It’s a nice, long issue – and one with very nice artwork, I must say. But... Well, it starts off promising some pretty great, explosive action, and then the final few pages seem to wipe what’s come before clean. I’d been expecting something akin to Flashpoint (another alternate-reality story, one that actually brought be around to the idea). It is, however, rather different. For a start, this issue is almost solely background – the main features of the series, I think, are only going to be revealed in the next issue.
I’m not sure if discussing the plot any more would be too much of a spoiler, but I can’t help feeling there was a better way to introduce this series. All the heroes we recognise – Batman, Superman, Wonderwoman, Supergirl and a female Robin – are busy trying to save Earth from “Apokolips ParaDemons” and their leader, Steppenwolf. All is not going well, and our heroes are trying a last, desperate gamble to end the war.
There’s a link near the end to World’s Finest, too (see below), although it’s not necessary to read this to follow that other series. The final handful of pages suggest something interesting is coming up. Will I read the next issue…? Well, maybe. I’m having yet another re-think about how much I enjoy reading single issues of comics (the more graphic novels and collections I read, the less satisfying I find these single issues…).
Epic Kill #1 (Image)
Hitmen and mercenaries from around the globe are ordered by the President to bring down an eighteen-year-old super assassin named Song – but she’s going to turn the tables on them – and every kill is going to be epic!
Song has trained for years into adulthood to take revenge on the man responsible for her parents’ deaths – the man who has just been elected President!
This comic has a pretty interesting premise, and the first few pages of promise some good stuff to come. Having finished the issue, though, I am left slightly cold towards it. I just can’t really figure out why. The dialogue’s not particularly great, with some canned wise-guy phrases bandied about by men sent to take out the impossibly-gifted young amnesiac. There’s a lot of action, and few explosions, some Matrix-esque improbable reactions and abilities, and… well, that’s all for the most of it. The beginning of the issue does frame the story with some interesting tidbits, but they aren’t given any space to flourish.
The artwork isn’t bad, but there are some occasional, weird artwork mistakes. This may seem nit-picking, but seriously – bullets drawn coming out of guns with the shell-casings still on, for example, followed on the next page by a frame where the casings are being ejected from the guns (sadly, I couldn’t find a sample of the page to share here). It’s just a noticeable, strange oversight.
Overall, I would say that this issue was just ok. It’s intriguing, sure, and there’s plenty of over-the-top, Matrix-esque kung-fu and dodging of bullets, and the President of the United States is involved. But... Well, it didn’t really grab my attention, despite the interesting premise and decent artwork. I’d say this shouldn’t be high-priority, but if you have $3 to spare and want a quick action comic fix, then this would do the trick. As part one-of-five, though, I think you could just wait for the collected edition in a few months’ time.
Grimm Fairy Tales: Myths & Legends #16 (Zenescope)
Writer: Raven Gregory | Artist: Joyce Mauriera & Ilias Kyriazis | Colours: Jeff Balke, Sean Forney & Ramon Ignacio Bunge
Samantha, Baba Yaga, the Dark One and The Sea Witch... What do these four powerful beings have in common? Each are searching for falsebloods who dwell on earth in preparation of a war that looms on the horizon. And what part will the rogue Beast play in the final end game? The seeds are planted and secrets are revealed in this not to be missed issue! From the creative minds behind the Wonderland trilogy and Dream Eater saga comes the story that sets the stage for the next evolution of the Grimm universe.
An armoured car transporting a dragon statue is attacked by Baba Yaga (below), and a mysterious shard is taken from it. A detective called onto the scene is confronted by some weird goings-on, and finds herself caught in the middle of a mystical war she never knew existed.
Our heroine is taken aside and told the story of Helios – which I thought was pretty cool. The detective is spirited away, on the hunt for more of these undefined “shards”, her spirit guide unable to meddle directly.
This is a pretty interesting story, and one that kicks of a new arc within the Myths & Legends series. It appears to be a more original one, rather than a take on a classic tale. Near the end, though, the Beast appears again – we witnessed his transformation in the previous story-arc, which I really enjoyed.
Another great addition to this series. Looking forward to seeing how the story develops and how the mystery unfolds. Recommended.
New Avengers #24 (Marvel)
The New Avengers have received the call to duty by Captain America to go to war against the X-Men. Wolverine will be forced to choose a side.
I don’t really know why I picked up this issue. I guess after reading the “Story So Far” bit, and seeing the cover art with that oh-so-garish AvX banner-head, I thought it could add a nice little extra detail for the Avengers vs. X-Men storyline. A storyline that has thus-far been completely underwhelming.
The issue kicks off aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, stationed above Utopia, while Captain America and Cyclops face-off (which is how Avengers vs. X-Men #1 starts) – and it was quite nice to see that conflict from an alternative perspective, however fleeting it was. Then it quickly switches to what I assume is the main New Avengers story, with the team at the Avengers’ mansion, discussing... Something I didn’t follow and didn’t much care about. Then, at the end, we get taken back to the Avengers’ pow-wow over the Phoenix Force. This is certainly not a necessary part of the AvX story, then. Oh well. There was, at least, nice artwork throughout...
The story within really has very little to do with what’s on the cover. Wolverine played little-to-no-part in it, too, so I have no idea what the synopsis is going on about. Very poor advertising, this completely failed to live up to my expectations. One of these days, I’ll get around to reading the rest of New Avengers, and tell you if it was any good in that context.
For those of you looking for Avengers vs. X-Men information and action… forget about it. Even the three pages of preview I was able to find weren’t about the contents of actual story of this issue. Really disappointed with how this issue has been marketed.
The Spider #1 (Dynamite)
Writer: David Liss | Artist: Colton Worley
One of the greatest pulp characters of all time is now re-launched into the 21st century! The world knows Richard Wentworth as a decorated war hero and the son of a wealthy industrialist - but only a few confidants know the truth. As New York City slides into violence and despair, Wentworth has transformed himself into a force of justice as The Spider! With only his wits, his technology, and his pistols to aid him, he fights a one-man war against crime, but when a mysterious new villain threatens the city with an unspeakable horror, it may be more than even The Spider can handle. How far will a sane man go to restore order to an insane world?
Ok, this issue is really cool, and has some fantastic, interesting artwork. The art is something that jumps out at you right away – it’s both subtle and stark, depending on the focus, and enhances the atmosphere of the story – whether we following the Spider or his rich-kid police-informant “real” life. I liked the whole atmosphere and brooding darkness of the story and art, but for some reason I really liked the rain effects (sadly, I couldn’t find an example to share in this review).
If you want a simple equation, to make the Spider: take Bruce Wayne, transplant him into today’s New York, with today’s social issues and problems, make the criminals more ingenious and numerous (than our real-life ones), and take away his aversion to killing. And you’re starting to get there – the Spider is a tough-as-nails veteran who has decided to take matters into his own hands.
This was a superb issue, brilliantly written and composed. It’s a great introduction to the eponymous protagonist and supporting cast. Damn fine ending, too. This is definitely a keeper.
You know, there are eight different variant covers for this…
Superman #8 (DC)
Superman, an agent of the Daemonites?! How has Helspont bent the Man of Steel to his will?
As this issue opens, a highly-equipped and highly-armed mercenaries are hunting Superman around Metropolis. Then he wakes up, as if it were a dream. The world has turned against Superman. Then he wakes up again.
Superman learns of Helspont’s history, regaled by the blue-flame-headed former Daemonite warlord of their betrayal and his exile from the empire he helped build (not the most convincing sob-story, given its source). Helspont proposes a deal, one that fails to understand Superman’s ethics, ideology, and affection for and experiences on Earth. It’s a tactic destined to fail, but Helspont does bring up a good, interesting point – “had you been less like them in appearance, gelatinous or carapace-coated, would they have so willingly taken you in?”
Giffen and Jurgens get in a name-drop for the upcoming G.I.Combat series (issue one actually in stores now – I was late getting to this issue). There’s a rather sudden and underwhelming ending: following an over-the-top, brash and Bruckheimer-esque battle... Helspont just vanishes. WTF? A rather flat ending to this mini-story-arc.
World’s Finest #1 (DC)
Writer: Paul Levitz | Artist: George Perez & Kevin Maguire | Inks & Colours: Scott Koblish, Hi-Fi, Rosemary Cheetham
New on-going series featuring POWER GIRL and HUNTRESS of Earth 2!
Discover why these two heroes are stranded on our Earth – and what it means for the heroes of the DC Universe.
This series is set five years after Robin and Supergirl disappear from Earth 2, and wind up in DCU’s Earth 1. Supergirl has gone on to become a multi-millionnaire businesswoman (also Power Girl) and Robin has now become... something else (and also the Huntress). Power Girl’s been buying up technology left-and-right, attempting to find a way home, while Huntress has been taking it to the streets and fighting the good fight. I have no idea if or how this series ties in to the Huntress mini-series from the end of last year.
There’s strong, vivid artwork throughout – presented in two styles, one for ‘now’ and one for the flashbacks. Both are good, and I like how both of the characters have been realised.
The tone of the story is actually pretty fun, and I like that we’re going to slowly get their backstory, filling in the details of the five years that have passed since they appeared on Earth. Another good thing? They appear to be living in Japan, which is a nice change. It’s a good way to avoid too many confrontations with Batman et al, and has the potential to add a few interesting touches.
I think I’ll probably check back in for the second issue, and make a decision on the eventual collected edition after that.
Also Released this Week:
Age of Apocalypse #3 (Marvel), American Vampire Vol.2 TPB (Vertigo), Animal Man #9 (DC), Animal Man Vol.1 TPB (DC – on order from Barnes & Noble, who get things a week or so later than comic stores, so review in a week or two), Amazing Spider-Man #685 (Marvel), Avengers: Black Widow Strikes #1 (Marvel), Avengers X-Sanction HC (Marvel)*, Avengers vs. X-Men #3 (Marvel), Batwing #9 (DC), Daredevil #12 (Marvel), Defenders #6 (Marvel), Exiled #1 (Marvel), Garfield #1, G.I. Combat #1 (DC), Green Arrow #9 (DC), Grimm Fairy Tales Vol.11 TPB (Zenescope), Incorruptible Vol.6 (Boom), Justice League Vol.1 HC (DC)*, Locke & Key Vol.4 TPB (IDW), Marksmen TPB (Image)*, Pigs #7 (Image), Smallville Season 11 #1 (DC), Stan Lee: Starborn Vol.3 TPB (Boom), Stormwatch #9 (DC), Swamp Thing #9 (DC), Teen Titans Annual #1 (DC), Wolverine & the X-Men: Alpha & Omega #5 (Marvel), X-O Manowar #1 (Image)
I’m seriously considering putting an end to these single-issue round ups… Well, to be more precise: ending reviews of single issue that I buy. It’s just too expensive to keep on top of the good series, and novels (graphic and otherwise) are much more satisfying and rewarding anyway. The single issues also take up so much room and are a bit of a bitch to store without damaging them.
Therefore, expect to see single-issue reviews pared back, and more collections in their stead. I’ve already started increasing the number of collections I’m reviewing every week, and I hope to keep these reviews coming. I have a lot of good first-book reviews coming in the future, too: Captain America (Ed Brubaker’s run on the series), The Unwritten (by Mike Carey), Y The Last Man (Brian K. Vaughan), Ex Machina (also Brian K. Vaughan), Loveless (Brian Azzarello), 100 Bullets (also Azzarello), American Vampire (Scott Snyder), Ultimate X-Men (first Mark Millar, then Brian Michael Bendis, then Brian K. Vaughan), New Mutants (Zeb Wells, then Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning), and hopefully more.
The other possibility is a “Reading on $20” series, in which I look at the comics and books I think are worth buying on a given week, as long as they all total no more than $20 (or £20 when I’m in the UK, or CAD$20 when I’m in Canada).
Thinking along those lines, this week I would recommend The Spider #1 and Dial H #1, and also a paperback – possibly George R.R. Martin’s Fevre Dream, which has just been re-released. The only problem with that plan is that it would seriously restrict options to mass-market paperbacks. Another option would be Scourge, the new Star Wars novel by Jeff Grubb (which I hope to get reviewed relatively soon – I bought it as Kindling).