“Black Widow” #1 And Other Comics Of Note, January 8th

What’s on the stands this week? We’ve got reviews of books from DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, Valiant, Titan, IDW, and Archie, and a whole bunch of previews for this week’s books as well.

<!–pagetitle:The Vampire Diaries #1–>

I don’t watch this show… but maybe I should start, if it’s this good. Having never seen an episode, you might think you couldn’t pick up Colleen Doran and Tony Shasteen’s self-contained first issue, but actually, Doran is pretty good about making the mythology of the series clear to new readers, and the book itself is a funny, nasty little piece of supernatural business reminiscent of EC Comics that’s worth a read even if the idea of watching a CW show makes you ill. Pick it up, fan of the show or not.

<!–pagetitle:All-New Marvel NOW! Point One #1–>

Essentially a big anthology book introducing you to Marvel’s next wave of books, you get original content for your six bucks as Loki hunts down five keys he really shouldn’t have. The stand-out here is the Silver Surfer story; Mike Allred and Dan Slott turn out to be pretty much the ideal creative team for Norrin Radd. But it’s all at the very least solid, and a fun introduction to the next round of books.

<!–pagetitle:Black Widow #1–>

Natasha Romanov gets a new going from Nathan Edmundson and Phil Noto, and it’s pretty much everything you want out of a Black Widow book: A lot of ass-kicking, a little bit of subterfuge, and proof that you really want Black Widow as your counter-sniper. It’s a fun story, and a nice touch that it’s a self-contained one to start off the book. Highly recommended and worth picking up, but if you’re unsure, Marvel’s got a brief preview for you.

<!–pagetitle:All New X-Factor #1–>

Gambit, Polaris, and Quicksilver on the same team? What could possibly go wrong?! The set-up for Peter David and Carmine Di Giandomenico’s new team book is somewhat conventional: We’ve seen corporate superteams before, and at least Gambit is savvy enough to be concerned. But it’s Peter David, and for a lot of people, that’s all you need to say. Well worth a read and a fun little book, so far.

<!–pagetitle:Avengers World #1–>

Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer, and Stefano Caselli ask what it takes to protect the world, when everything goes to hell all at once. And honestly, it’s a ridiculously fun read, albeit the characterizations might seem a bit off to some. Either way, though, it’s a highly entertaining start to a sprawling team book.

<!–pagetitle:Minimum Wage #1–>

Bob Fingerman’s slice of life continues, picking up from the original book ending in 1997. It’s three years later, our protagonist is divorced and still drawing porn, and his life is generally in the crapper. One doesn’t want to be too harsh on Fingerman, but the series frankly hasn’t aged well. Rob, the main character, has always been kind of an ass, and getting divorced and living with his mom hasn’t done much for his personality. It’s a “real” comic, true, and it captures the mundanity of life pretty well, but “slice of life” strips too often fall into the creator bitching about how life is unfair to them, and this is somewhat prone to that. Still, fans missed the series, and it’s good to know they’ve got their book back.

<!–pagetitle:B.A.R. Maid #1–>

The setting of this rather unfortunate book is Manchuria, and it’s all about the feelings of white people. It’s absolutely true it was not a good time to be a honky in China when the Japanese took over, but the Chinese were the ones who suffered the vast majority of the terrible war crimes, and there’s barely a Chinese person in this book. Hell, it isn’t even recognizably China in the art. You’d be forgiven for thinking this book took place in the Midwest or something. Pretty easily skippable.

<!–pagetitle:Lil’ Vampi #1–>

Dynamite’s string of one-shots satirizing the kiddie book fad continues, with this actually pretty adorable send up of both the fad and Dynamite’s own Vampirella books. It’s cute, if a bit one-note in the script, and worth a read, albeit not up to Roger Langridge’s hilarious Evil Ernie send-up from last week. Still, Agnes Garbowska draws one adorable little Vampirella.

<!–pagetitle:Adventure Time: The Flip Side #1–>

Honestly, Paul Tobin’s script is a little too random and goofy even for this show’s sensibility, but Wook Jin Park’s art is pretty much completely perfect and almost makes up for it. Worth reading for fans of the show, or if you’ve got a child you want to hook on comics.

<!–pagetitle:Halo: Escalation #2–>

The first Halo ongoing continues… and continues to be mostly for fans. Chris Schlerf’s script still leans a little too hard on the game’s backstory to be for anybody other than hardcore fans, and Sergio Arino and Juan Castro are a bit too limited by the design for the art to really pop. In short, it’s okay, but it doesn’t transcend its source.

<!–pagetitle:The Fox #3–>

Dean Haspiel and Mark Waid continue their snappy, lighthearted revival of Archie Comics’ Golden Age superheroes. What makes this book such a joy, beyond the talent involved, is that you don’t have to know your old heroes to get what’s going on, and Haspiel has a blast sending the Fox through a Ditko-esque dream world. You won’t find a book that’s more pure fun on shelves this week: Here’s a preview to see what I mean.

<!–pagetitle:Afterlife With Archie #3–>

One of the best books of 2013 continues, and if anything it’s getting better. Franco Francavilla’s artwork is always a pleasure, of course, but Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa also manages to make Archie characters more complex and intelligent while sticking to their basic personalities. It takes what could have been a cheap, cynical gag and makes it a rich and engaging story worth picking up. Here’s a look at the first few pages.

<!–pagetitle:Sex Criminals #4–>

You know, just when you think this book from Matt Fraction and Certified Friend of Applebee’s Chip Zdarksy can’t get any funnier or weirder, it ups the stakes. But there’s also a smart look at how a relationship can’t just be built on sex here amid the sex jokes, which makes this one of the best books on the stands this week. Highly recommended.

<!–pagetitle:Three #4–>

Kieron Gillen and Ryan Kelly’s historical thriller is coming to an end, and it’s a tight, tense book with a killer ending. It’s also a smart takedown of the celebration of the Spartan warrior, making it both engaging and an interesting history lesson: The interviews in the back in particular are an engrossing read. Highly recommended.

<!–pagetitle:Star Trek: Khan #4–>

After three issues of what amounts to backfill, this book suddenly takes off. Actually, it fills in a few plot holes from Star Trek Into Darkness, and Mike Johnson, a far better writer for this franchise than this series has let him demonstrate, suddenly gets a chance to unload. Here’s a preview to see what I mean, but suffice to say, the last two issues of this book are likely going to be much different from the first three… and that’s a very good thing.

<!–pagetitle:Shaolin Cowboy #4–>

Four issues of dialogue-free zombie punching, and it turns out Geoff Darrow was building up to a shaggy dog joke. Beautifully illustrated, of course, but hoo boy, is Dark Horse going to get some hate mail.

<!–pagetitle:Death Sentence #4–>

More and more this book feels like a waste of a good idea. Mike Dowling’s art is well-done, but Montynero’s script is more focused on debauchery than moving the plot, and the G+ virus, namely a disease that gives you superpowers, has been all but forgotten as a plot device. It doesn’t help that the central antagonist is a flat, uninteresting character, and we spend way too much time dealing with the guy. Honestly, this book would be better served if it stopped trying to be edgy and started trying to live up to the potential of its ideas. Here’s a preview from Titan to see if you agree.

<!–pagetitle:Quantum and Woody #7–>

Just how ridiculous James Asmus and Ming Doyle get with this book has to be seen to believed; suffice to say you won’t call the ending, because it’s too ridiculous to believe. It may be a bit over the top for some, but when a book is this funny, who cares? Valiant was kind enough to provide a preview, so you can judge for yourself.

<!–pagetitle:Avengers A.I. #8–>

Sam Humphries and Andre Lima Araujo explore some interesting philosophical questions in this book, about artificial intelligence and humanity. Don’t worry, they also blow the hell out of stuff, too, and Araujo’s art can be either grounded or gleefully bizarre depending on the context. A lot of fun, and recommended.

<!–pagetitle:Abe Sapien #9–>

Abe Sapien continues to wander the West and to try and do right. Needless to say, the latest town to see him visit has problems well beyond what the eye can see. This new arc is a good jumping-on point for anybody looking to get into this book, and as always it’s a smart book worth reading. Highly recommended.

<!–pagetitle:Star Wars #13–>

Ever wonder what happens when Darth Vader takes something personally? Let’s just say, according to Brian Wood, Facundo Percio, and Dan Parsons, that it isn’t exactly what you call a fun time. But it makes for some great comics, and a great jumping-on point for one of the best books on the stands.

<!–pagetitle:Savage Wolverine #14–>

Richard Isanove takes a look at Wolverine’s past, and it’s… interesting, certainly. Worth picking up if you’re a Wolverine fan, and a bit more compelling than the followup to Origin unfolding right now.

<!–pagetitle:Shadowman #14–>

Peter Milligan and Roberto De La Torre continue their gritty, harder-edged take on Valiant’s voodoo hero. It turns out that Jack Boniface and his loa are not exactly buddies, and that each have personal problems that run deeper than either imagined. It’s a very different direction, and it’s some superb work from this creative team. Highly recommended, and here’s a preview to show why.

<!–pagetitle:Bloodshot And The H.A.R.D. Corps #18–>

Project Rising Spirit has been around for a very, very long time. And when you’re an outfit as sleazy as PRS, that means you’ve got a lot of skeletons in your closet. Like, in Christos Gage and Joshua Dysart’s script, a bunch of psiots who are falling apart physically. This book continues to demonstrate the cleverness of the concept, lingering on the fallout of the Cold War, while still being a lot of fun. Highly recommended.

<!–pagetitle:Detective Comics #27–>

A new arc from John Layman and Jason Fabok is just one part of this huge anthology celebrating Batman seventy-fifth anniversary. Probably the standout, aside from the main part of the book, is Neal Adams taking us on a tour of Batman through a handful of pages, paying tribute to everyone from Bill Finger to Frank Miller artistically. I will say the issue is a bit obsessed with the past, possibly to the detriment of the book overall: There’s a Batman-flavored take on For The Man Who Has Everything via the Phantom Stranger, there’s a retelling of the first Batman story from Brad Meltzer, and even Peter Tomasi gets in on the act referencing The Dark Knight Returns wholesale in a panel. But, in the end, it’s a great mix of comics paying tribute to a beloved character, and it’s a steal at eight bucks.

100 Bullets Brother Lono #7 (Of 8), $2.99 
Action Comics #27 (Aaron Kuder Regular Cover), $3.99 
Action Comics #27 (Scribblenauts Unmasked Variant Cover), AR
Batman ’66 The TV Stories TP, $14.99 
Batman Black And White #5 (Of 6), $4.99 
Batman Superman #7 (Brett Booth & Norm Rapmund Combo Pack Cover), $4.99 
Batman Superman #7 (Brett Booth & Norm Rapmund Regular Cover), $3.99 
Batman Superman #7 (Scribblenauts Unmasked Variant Cover), AR
Batman The Dark Knight Volume 2 Cycle Of Violence TP, $14.99 
Batwing #27, $2.99 
Deadman Volume 4 TP, $14.99 
Demon From The Darkness TP, $14.99 
Demon Knights Volume 3 The Gathering Storm TP, $19.99 
Detective Comics #27 (Chris Burnham Variant Cover), AR
Detective Comics #27 (Cover A Greg Capullo), $7.99 
Detective Comics #27 (Cover B Frank Miller), $7.99 
Detective Comics #27 (Greg Capullo Combo Pack Cover), $8.99 
Detective Comics #27 (Jason Fabok Variant Cover), AR
Detective Comics #27 (Jim Lee Variant Cover), AR
Detective Comics #27 (Tony S. Daniel Variant Cover), AR
Earth 2 #19 (Ethan Van Sciver Regular Cover), $2.99 
Earth 2 #19 (Scribblenauts Unmasked Variant Cover), AR
Ex Machina Volume 1 TP (resolicited), $19.99 
Fairest #22, $2.99 
FBP Federal Bureau Of Physics #7, $2.99 
Forever Evil Arkham War #4 (Of 6)(Jason Fabok Black & White Variant Cover), AR
Forever Evil Arkham War #4 (Of 6)(Jason Fabok Regular Cover), $2.99 
Green Arrow #27, $2.99 
Green Lantern #27 (Billy Tan Combo Pack Cover), $3.99 
Green Lantern #27 (Billy Tan Regular Cover), $2.99 
Green Lantern #27 (Scribblenauts Unmasked Variant Cover), AR
Green Lantern Sector 2814 Volume 3 TP, $16.99 
Green Lantern The Animated Series Volume 2 TP, $12.99 
Hinterkind #4, $2.99 
Movement #8, $2.99 
Scooby-Doo Team-Up #2, $2.99 
Smallville Season 11 Alien #2 (Of 4), $3.99 
Stormwatch #27, $2.99 
Superman Volume 2 Secrets And Lies TP, $16.99 
Superman Volume 3 Fury At The Worlds’ End HC, $22.99 
Swamp Thing #27, $2.99 
Swamp Thing By Brian K Vaughan Volume 1 TP, $19.99 
Terra Obscura S.M.A.S.H. Of Two Worlds TP, $24.99 
Trinity Of Sin The Phantom Stranger #15, $2.99 
Vampire Diaries #1 (Photo Variant Cover), AR
Vampire Diaries #1 (Tony Shasteen Regular Cover), $3.99