The first week of March is surprisingly busy. And full of tragedy, too. Under the cut you’ll find reviews of books from DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, Valiant, IDW Publishing, Boom!, Dynamite, Oni Press and Avatar.
Batman/Superman Annual #1
Greg Pak, Jae Lee, Kenneth Rocafort, and Philip Tan deliver a look at family and Warworld. This is a fun story not least because Pak knows how to write both Superman and Batman as complex characters, and they don’t really have all the answers. A smart one-off story worth reading for fans of the book, or either character.
Cullen Bunn and Gabriel Hernandez Walta turn the Master of Magnetism into the mutant version of the Punisher… and it works, not least because it’s kinda fun to hang out with Bunn’s version of Magneto. There’s a slight undercurrent of wit and black humor that keeps this fairly dark book from being completely dour, and Walta’s sketchy line combined with Jordie Bellaire’s stark color palette makes for some vivid and unique artwork. Highly recommended.
Moon Knight #1
Moon Knight is back! And he’s completely nuts! Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey deliver a gory, clever first issue that raises the question of whether Marc Spector is completely bonkers or “just” dealing with a god hanging around in his head, compelling him to do nutty things. Oh, and he kicks some ass and solves a crime while doing it. A hoot and highly recommended.
Wolverine And The X-Men #1
Jason LaTour and Mahmud Asrar go back to the Jean Grey Academy to show us what’s going on with the mutants of tomorrow. It’s solid enough stuff, one supposes, and Latour does a good job of balancing teenage angst and world-ending drama. But it’s hard not to feel like we’ve read this book before. Still a fun read for X-Men fans, however.
Mark Millar and Goran Parlov launch a surprisingly low-key and affecting story of a man who was a space hero… and gave it all up to go home, have an uneventful life, and deal with the small frustrations and joys of being a regular guy. But Duke McQueen has lost his wife, thirty-eight years later. His kids are self-involved jerks. And he’s got nothing to do. Or, at least, he had nothing to do.
This issue is mostly setup, and normally that’s a problem, but it shows some real growth on Millar’s part; there’s no absurd gore, no attempt to be shocking; essentially Millar drops all his usual hallmarks and shows that, yeah, underneath the shtick there’s a pretty damn good writer there. Parlov’s clean, careful art helps substantially, making this an unexpectedly great book. Highly recommended.
Greg Rucka and Toni Fejzula deliver a mysterious and compelling comic. Veil, our protagonist, wakes up in an abandoned subway station and seemingly doesn’t understand what’s going on. But she’s a lot more dangerous than she looks, and Rucka does a superb job of dropping a few hints while at the same time making the book disturbing. Fejzula’s art adds quite a bit as well; the inking here evokes woodcuts, and the washed-out palette oddly accentuates the bizarre nature of the goings-on. In short, it’s intriguing, and we can’t wait for the second issue. Highly recommended.
Rogue Trooper #1
Brian Ruckley and Albert Ponticelli deliver a SF/war book that’s actually a lot of fun, building off a character from 2000AD. There’s nothing particularly original here, although Ruckley gets around a need of multiple characters in a dead wasteland in some clever ways. But it’s a fun, action-packed, and engaging book that has just enough grit to make what could be a goofy book work.
Evil Empire #1
Max Bemis and Ransom Getty start a comic about how America might collapse into a fascist dictatorship. When art gets political, to really work it needs a scalpel, not a cudgel. Unfortunately, though, it looks like Bemis is going in blunt objects swinging, although to be fair this is just the first issue of a longer arc. It doesn’t help that most of the book is tied up in the budding romance between an idealized punk singer and the Democratic nominee for President, or for that matter that writing lyrics is not really Bemis’ gift. The art, meanwhile, is solid, but Getty doesn’t really have much to do just yet. In short, it’s very much a wait-and-see kind of book.
The Auteur #1
Rick Spears and James Callahan try to deliver a story of cheese, tackiness, and Hollywood excess… and one lets the other down. Callahan’s imaginative, gory, and hilariously absurd art basically has to shoulder yet another story of an egomaniacal Hollywood producer trying to get a flick made. It aims for audacious and honestly largely misses, not least because it’s not really breaking new ground to say that Hollywood is about money and a major producer might be a drug-addled scumbag. Callahan’s a treat, but Spears needs to up his game for this book to be anything worth reading as opposed to looking at.
Quantum And Woody: Goat #0
James Asmus and Tom Fowler team up to tell the story of one goat and his journey to superherodom. Or not. As expected, the backstory of Goat is fairly amusing and ridiculous, and surprisingly tied to Quantum and Woody’s past. It’s a fun read, especially for fans of the ongoing, and worth picking up.
Charles Soule and Javier Pulido continue a great first issue with an even funnier second. What does Jen do when life gets her down? Go out drinking with Hellcat. It’s Soule’s dialogue, paried with Pulido’s Kirbyesque style, that really makes this book. Highly recommended.
Lobster Johnson: Get The Lobster! #2
The pulp noir hero that inspired Hellboy is in deep, and needless to say, he’s not getting into any shallower hot water. Mike Mignola and John Arcudi strike a good balance between grounded crime fiction and pulp theatrics, but it’s Tonci Zonjic’s clean, precise art that makes this book. Perhaps not essential, but quite a lot of fun.
Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #2
Greg Pak and Mirko Colak follow up a solid first issue in this reboot with a corker of a second. Pak’s book is a lot more complex than you might at first think from the title: It touches on themes of colonalism and tribalism to a surprising degree. And yes, there are also plenty of dinosaurs. Highly recommended.
The Saviors #3
James Robinson and J. Bone continue their story of aliens among us, and it’s a blast. Bone and Robinson work quite well together, and Bone’s jazzy style really puts this book over the top. Highly recommended.
Burn The Orphanage: Born To Lose #3
Sina Grace and Daniel Freeman wrap up their miniseries, a tribute to video games from the ’80s and ’90s, as part of a plan to turn it into an ongoing. As a result, it’s simultaneously trippy and oddly paced, as it establishes one of our heroes running around in a fight on an alien world while the other two argue about their love lives, and it’s a bit of a letdown from the last two issues, even if the payoff to Bear’s bitching is a hoot. Still, this book is undeniably a hoot, and its gaming roots shine through, so it’s worth picking up, no matter how ridiculous it gets.
Bad Blood #3
After a somewhat lackluster second issue, the third issue of this series from Jonathan Maberry and Tyler Crook comes back strong. Our heroes both have polluted blood… and it turns out vampires don’t understand the modern world nearly as well as you might think. This issue continues the clever, well-thought-out nature of this mini, and marks it as something special in a market that’s got plenty of horror books. Highly recommended.
Juice Squeezers #3
David Lapham’s book of kids fighting giant insects is becoming the best all-ages book on the stands. Lighthearted and fast-paced, it’s bizarre to think this came from the creator of Stray Bullets, but it stands out. If you’ve got a kid you’re buying comics for, this is a must-buy.
Day Men #3
Matt Gagnon, Michael Alan Nelson, and Brian Stelfreeze continue their elaborate story of vampire politics. In truth, it’s a bit slowly paced despite several pretty sharp action scenes, but it’s still a fairly interesting book. Worth picking up if you’re looking for something a little different in your sub list.
Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting continue their top-notch spy thriller. Epting once again gets to show off his skills with action, while Brubaker cleverly advances the plot. No spoilers; there’s plenty to absorb here. Highly recommended.
Terminator: Salvation: The Final Battle #4
This series finally gets to the meat of its plot: Putting all the Terminators under the control of a serial killer. That said, it is somewhat pretentious and prone to lecturing, and it does still feel padded; this doesn’t need a twelve-issue miniseries, and Dan Jolley’s smart, sharp Terminator book from last week is a good reminder that the series does better in a smaller scale.
Afterlife With Archie #4
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla continue to deliver a genuinely creepy take on the Archie universe. The opening alone, featuring Archie’s dog Vegas, hits like a gut punch, and is cleverly paralleled later in the issue. If you’ve been dismissing this book based on its concept, you’re missing out on one of the best books on the stands. Highly recommended.
Rover Red Charlie #4
It is not a good week to be a dog in comic books. Garth Ennis and Michael Dipascale hit hard with this one, and if you’ve got a dog, you’re probably going to want to spend a little more time after this. Highly recommended, but definitely a tough read.
Forever Evil #6
Who doesn’t love a good villain fight? Hopefully fans of this book, as Geoff Johns pretty much stalls the plot in favor of fisticuffs. Not that I’m entirely complaining, mind you, but we don’t see enough of the Secret Society of Super-Villains in action in this crossover, and the ultimate reveal here is oddly both clever and predictable. Solid stuff, but it feels like we should have wrapped this up.
Grindhouse: Doors Open At Midnight #6
Alex De Campi and Federica Manfredi wrap up their rape/revenge in medieval times two-parter the Bride of Blood. This is pretty much all just gory violence, which Manfredi is talented at depicting, but it again highlights this book’s problem: The stories are held back a bit by the need to be over the top. Still, it’s some solid comics, and the ending is a nice, nasty little O. Henry twist.
Catalyst Comix #9
While Joe Casey’s stories continue to be fun, to be honest, this book feels like it needs to wrap up. Hopefully there’s an endgame in sight, even if this superhero anthology is still solid.
The Victories #10
You know, for the ending of a major arc, this doesn’t have a lot of closure. Hopefully Michael Avon Oeming has a bit more in mind; while crossing over superheroes and bizarre ancient conspiracies is a lot of fun, it’s also pretty dense and only getting more complicated.
Suicide Risk #11
Mike Carey and Elena Casagrande kick off a new arc with their book of superheroes, and Leo, our hero, has been Superior Spider-Manned and has an entity from another world living in his skull and controlling his body. Needless to say, that’s not going to go well for anybody… including Leo. If you’ve been waiting to get on board with this book, now would be a good time; this arc has a lot of promise.
Archer And Armstrong #18
Fred Van Lente and Pere Perez kick off what promises to be an entertainingly ridiculous crossover. Archer is now technically a terrorist leader, and Project Rising Spirit would like him removed. One problem, of course: Archer is basically a ninja. Hence, the entire book is essentially a long, ridiculous parody of kung-fu movies and heroic bloodshot, right down to the doves. If you’re looking to start picking up these books, this crossover is a great way to do it.
Detective Comics #29
John Layman and Aaron Lopresti wrap up a great run on Detective by finishing off the Gothtopia storyline in a good, old-fashioned Batman manner. It’s a fun little way to end a Batman story, and hopefully whoever follows Layman can keep up the energy he’s had on this book.