It’s a busy week on the stands, with books from DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, Dynamite, IDW Publishing, Boom!, Valiant, and Archie in our review roundup.
First up, here’s a gorgeous piece of art from Afterlife With Archie that will be on the next Overstreet Guide:
Thanks to the Archie team for passing that on. And now, comics!
Avengers Undercover #1
Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker follow up Avengers Arena with the survivors. None of whom, as you may have guessed, are adapting terribly well to life after killing their friends. The ongoing theme here is the callousness of celebrity and the distance a TV screen puts between us and the people going through the actual events, and Hopeless pays it off well. Walker’s solid art helps. Overall, it’s a pretty interesting book and worthy of future attention.
Captain Marvel #1
Kelly Sue DeConnick and David Lopez pick up Carol Danvers, galactic explorer. This issue is mostly setting up the larger plot, namely Danvers going into space, but Lopez’ art is attractive, and DeConnick works in a lot of small character moments, whether it’s Carol chatting with Kit or working out how she feels with Rhodey. Worth a read, especially for Danvers fans.
Secret Avengers #1
S.H.I.E.L.D. putting MODOK on a team is pretty much the perfect jumping-off point for Ales Kot and Michael Walsh. Kot, bless him, is a master of the smart-ass caption, something he puts to full use here as he manages to ramp up the stakes in both absurdity and plot. Also, the ante is upped on the Hawkblock, which is always a good thing. It’s a frantic, funny book and definitely worth a read. Highly recommended.
Monster And Madman #1
Steve Niles and Damien Worm attempt to cross over Frankenstein and Jack The Ripper. Niles actually doesn’t do a bad job with Frankenstein, as a character, but Worm spends a little too much time trying to Ben Templesmith and not quite succeeding. The muddy, dark color palette doesn’t help matters and in fact can make the book difficult to read. Still, an interesting idea, and a restrained script from Niles; worth picking up if you’re a fan.
The Crow: Pestilence #1
Frank Bill and Drew Moss deliver a story about a pro boxer coming back from the dead that is, to be honest, not the finest moment in this franchise. The writing is clunky and florid in equal measure; it’s the kind of book where the villains are all named [Adjective] Dog, and the dialogue is written as if the characters have English as a second language. Which, to be fair, some of them do, but the effect doesn’t work: Why would Mexicans living in Mexico not speak Spanish with each other? Moss’s art also doesn’t seem suited to the book; his art can be loose, but also elaborate, but the book is too bright to really generate the proper mood. Especially after The Crow: Curare, which had the masterstroke of the Crow bringing back somebody other than an action hero, this is something of a disappointment.
The Returning #1
Jason Starr and Andrea Mutti begin a book about “changers”, people who return from near-death experiences… and begin committing crimes. So, zombies, but sort of not. But while Starr’s characters are a bit stock at first, with the shy teenage girl and the jerk-ass jock, the book begins to get a little more interesting right when it drops a pretty nasty cliffhanger. I’m on the fence about this one, but it’s worth a read if you want something a bit off the beaten path.
Magnus: Robot Fighter #1
Fred Van Lente is usually notable for his lighthearted take on superheroics. Yeah. Not here. His reboot of a series better known for its art than its writing launches turns the Magnus “mythos”, such as it is, into something genuinely unnerving. The Gold Key reboots have all been interesting, but this one especially stands out. Cory Smith’s art is solid, albeit the coloring gives the game away a little early. Either way, this book is an unexpectedly good relaunch of a goofy cult property. Highly recommended.
Stray Bullets: Killers #1
David Lapham’s noir series returns with a new spin-off, and the decade-overdue issue #41. #41 polishes off an arc, so for those who want to get on this series, Lapham launched this. If you’ve never read an issue, this is one worth picking up: Lapham’s tight, clean art and economical storytelling makes this coming-of-age noir simultaneously absorbing and heartbreaking. It’s mature in a sense that most noir comics often aren’t, in that they deal with their characters sensitively and smartly, even when they’re bastards. A great read, and highly recommended.
Revolutionary War: Motormouth
Marvel’s tour through its British heroes arrives on Motormouth… who’s a single mom with two kids, living in a crappy council flat. To say this direction is… unexpected of Glenn Dakin is an understatement, but why he made that choice is cleverly shown throughout the book. This is a smart, well-done one-shot and worth picking up even if you don’t care about Marvel’s stiff upper Brits.
Beasts Of Burden: Hunters And Gatherers
Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson are back with the dogs and cats of Burden Hill, investigating yet another crime. Yes, there’s a bit of a trend of dog books on the stands lately, but Dorkin and Thompson have been working on this series for a while, and they’re willing to be gory where it matters and cute when its funny. This is largely a breather issue, filling in some continuity gaps, but it’s still a great read. Pick up a collection and start from the beginning, and read this along the way; it’s a treat.
Steve Niles and Menton3 deliver, well, you can guess from the title. This book collects the strip from Dark Horse Presents and honestly, it’s a bit disjointed, with the strip taking a turn for the ridiculous towards the end and with not so much a cliffhanger but an annoying unresolved opening and ending. But Menton3’s art is pretty to look at, at least; a mix of sharp lines and watercolor that makes for a distinctive and detailed style. This is generally the prelude to a miniseries, and we hope that’s a bit more well thought-out.
The X-Files: Conspiracy: The Crow
Denton Tipton and Vic Malhotra cross over the bleak vengeance-obsessed comics and, uh, the goofy nerds from The X-Files. As you may have guessed, it’s not really the best fit, although Tipton tries his hardest and Malhotra’s art is surprisingly effective in places. The main problem is that it’s a fairly forced and rushed story that has to cram a lot in, and the creative team doesn’t have time to play with all the ideas in the story. OK for fans, but not really worth picking up for those not following this crossover.
The Royals: Masters Of War #2
Rob Williams and Simon Coleby continue their story of superpowered royals and WWII with the arrival of Japan to the party. It’s an interesting alternate take on history, but it has a problem in that the real people, like Churchill and FDR, are more compelling than its main characters. But it’s still something different, and more interesting than you might expect.
Si Spurrier and Rock He-Kim’s gritty and smart-assed team book continues to be far funnier than it needs to be. Spurrier focuses this issue on Cable, what he’s thinking, and how he acts, and furthermore gives him what might be the most bad-ass monologue the character’s ever gotten as he tells off all the various mutant factions. It’s fast-paced, it’s funny, and it’s got a lot of mysteries in the background. Highly recommended.
Kelly Sue DeConnick, Chris Sebela, Ryan Sook, and Drew Johnson have a lot going on in this issue, as Ghost crashes a demon party, the White City Ripper crashes a house, and, well, lots of plot threads are up in the air. It’s certainly not lacking for speed, but it does feel a bit overstuffed. Still, it’s a fun, gory read, and great for fans of horror and superheroes.
Matt Kindt and CAFU kick off a new arc in this team book that’s got more than a taste of James Bond to it. But it’s a welcome taste, and Kindt shows a taste for deadpan humor here that really elevates this book into something special. This is a new arc, so if you like action-packed team books, now’s the time to get on board.
The Fox #5
J.M. DeMatteis and Dean Haspiel wrap up this miniseries with a tale that’s something we don’t often see in comics these days: An earnest, hopeful story about getting past our differences and working together. Yeah, it sounds corny, but Haspiel’s frothy art and DeMatteis’ understatement pay off a story that’s been building for four issues damn near perfectly. It’s comics like they used to be, but better. Highly recommended.
The Star Wars #6
J.W. Rinzler and Mike Mayhew’s adaptation of Lucas’ first draft of Star Wars somehow gets even weirder, which is a hell of an achievement in of itself, but wait until you see what this book has coming. Leaving aside the fact that it’s Bizarro World Star Wars, this is a fast-paced and agreeable pulp action book well worth reading, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.
Red Team #7
Garth Ennis and Craig Cermak end their action-noir series with a bang. Overall, this has been highly impressed both in how restrained Ennis’s writing has been (well, for Ennis, at least), and how focused it’s been over seven issues. If you’re a fan of noir, this is well worth picking up.
Astro City #10
Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson wrap up Winged Victory’s solo arc in one of the more human and warm moments of an already big-hearted comic. Busiek’s carefully-thought-out story is as much a discussion of how we treat women in our society as it is a superhero brawl, something rare in comics, and even rarer in how nuanced it is. Highly recommended.
Abe Sapien #11
This book wraps up a sad arc, less about the zombies and more about the aftermath. As always, it’s a contemplative book, and worth reading.
Daniel Maia takes over for Eric Nguyen on Duane Swierczynski’s ongoing gritty action seris, and the art does a lot for the issue, which can be summed up as “X gets the ever-loving hell beaten out of him for about seventeen pages.” Seriously. There are conventional beatings, and then there are Duane Swierczynski beatings. I’m still not sold on this book as anything other than a remnant from the ’90s, but it’s fast-paced and action-packed, so it’s hard to complain beyond that. Worth a read for gritty action fans.
Justice League Of America #13
Matt Kindt, Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira continue their take on being trapped in the prison of your own mind. Tied into Forever Evil, what’s most compelling about this is Kindt’s sensitive take on Stargirl: Her self-doubt and courage make the book stand out. Sadly, this appears to be Kindt’s last issue, before the rebranding as Justice League United, but hopefully he’ll be back.
Star Wars #15
Brian Wood, Stéphane Créty, and Julien Hugonnard-Bert spend an issue talking about the political aspects of the Rebellion, and also reminding us that Luke is still in some ways a pouty teenager. And this is probably going to end badly, but hey, at least there are exciting spaceship flights.
Marvel’s best book takes a break from its plot to deliver what is, supposedly, a children’s cartoon, hilariously rendered by Chris Eliopoulos. Quickly, though, it becomes yet another clever issue of the series, with Matt Fraction using the grammar and style of bad holiday cartoons to explore Clint’s insecurities in the face of being just the guy with the bow, surrounded by gods, geniuses, and super-soldiers. It’s a smart, funny, offbeat issue and it shows yet more heart and intelligence from an already superb series. Highly recommended.
Bloodshot And The H.A.R.D. Corps #20
So, you think you can distract Armstrong just by getting him drunk? Silly H.A.R.D. Corps. The already amusingly silly Mission: Improbable crossover hilariously rockets into the ridiculous with this issue. And he’s not even the most dangerous person in this issue; that’s a surprise on the last panel we’ll save. Highly recommended.
Zero Year continues, although it feels a bit drawn out at this point; why it needs to go for another issue is an open question. Still worth reading, but we’re looking forward to this being wrapped up and the Batbooks moving on.