BATMAN #8—So, it turns out that the really quite excellent first arc of this new volume was nothing more than set-up for this first mini-crossover event. And the result is madcap! An army of Talons decide to grab a few dozen of Gotham’s most influential folk and storm into Wayne Manor with no idea what they’re getting into. As soon as the first Talon “Hoo Hoo”s his way down into the cave, I was all, “Alfred, you’re going to need to make a break for that giant penny, suh,” and could not have been happier a few pages later when that’s exactly how it went down. And what a last page, these guys are really bringing the fun. Also, cool way to do the backup, not filler at all, but actually expanding upon and advancing the plot of the main feature. Out of the gate, this looks like a hit, a logical progression from groundwork that’s been intentionally set up since September, but thrilling in its own right. Lots of viable contenders breathing down its neck, but this one’s still the best of Batch 52.
WONDER WOMAN #8—Man, that is one hell of a cover by Chiang. More Greek Amazon shenanigans, here. I love how London is the template for Hell. Obviously. I wish Hades didn’t just remind me of Skinless Warren from BUFFY, that’s no good. Can’t stand that guy. Distressingly obvious confrontation at the end. Really trust Azzarello, but the luster is fading on this gem. Though I’m sure the next three issues will now make me eat my words.
JUSTICE LEAGUE #8—Johns continues to turn in a much much better script now that we’re through the inaugural arc (and that pesky Jim Lee is out of the way, what a shame it would have been if he and Williams had also provided the interiors for the past two issues, it drives me insane_) I love the dynamic that they’ve appropriated Apokolips tech and boom around all over the place but are rolling the dice with every port, at any point they might materialize at Darkseid’s doorstep. And then Cyborg all of a sudden bumping up against Talons? After not much of the reboot really lining up, this is quite the sudden interlock. And just a hell of a double-page Reis splash with the team throwing down with J’onn. So is/was he um bad guy? Or is this yet another of classic misunderstanding? And about the Shazam reboot, I really think I would have gone with more of an emphasis on the wish-fulfillment aspect of things, every kid can be a superhero, as opposed to reintroducing the Marvel Family as an update on Fagan’s gang. Though Frank of course continues to bring it.
FABLES #116—Well, Bad Sam is on the first page, so we’re going to go ahead and mark this one down in the W column out the gate. Incredible layout on pages 4 and 5, boy and tiger making the journey. I’m kind of worried about Therese’s nutritional requirements. Will somebody get these guys an Eisner, already?
AVENGERS VS X-MEN #2—All right. On the one hand, Aaron does a really really great job of nailing the classic Claremont tone in those narrative captions, while updating it for this day and age by only bombarding us with say about one-third of the word-count. It is a bit cheesy, but a perfect fit for people who have been reading these characters since the eighties. So straight-faced. That “The first of the day’s concussions” lining up with Cyclops getting the shit knocked out of him by Cap’s shield was total lolz, you guys. I did think JR,Jr’s art took a bit of a dip on the following pages, when the two teams face off. Wonky anatomy. On the other hand, that three-panel gag with Wanda was laugh-out-loud TURRble. Just an abomination. Wanda turns off the TV, walks away, and then we get a big reveal in the last panel. She’s been keeping a dream journal! We know because on the page that the dream journal happens to be opened up to, it says Wanda’s Dream Journal right there across the top. Then, we have the most recent entry, which consists entirely of, “This is how the world ends,” followed by a sketch of the Phoenix on the opposite page. Wanda has serious penciling chops! Maybe she can do one of the later issues if Coipel or inevitably Kubert has trouble making deadline? It’s just . . . I am having a really hard time reconciling the mind that created SCALPED out of empty white space, at this point in his career, dropping the Scarlet Witch’s dream journal on us to belabor the point that The Phoenix Is Bad. I’d probably better move on, it’s never going to make sense.
AVENGERS #25—Still not sure how to feel about this. In principle, I love it, bring in Simonson to help Bendis anchor the Big Event in one of the two flagship titles. No problem. I don’t know if I like needed the pages to be newsprint or something, but the combination of old-school Simonson art with the glossy stock and digital coloring, but it definitely disturbed me for the first few pages. Simonson Thor does totally show up, though, not as much right when he first drops in on Steve, but that Avengers Assemble! splash. I do have to strenuously object to Bendis making Noh-Varr a mole, that pretty much runs diametrically opposite to the character as established in his initial mini and, unless he turns out to be a Skrull again, then they might as well not even be using that particular character. When is a Marvel Boy not a marvel or a boy? (unless he’s a triple- or quadruple-agent, naturally)
DEFENDERS #5—Another fine slice of adventure comic, this. Fraction welcomes the Breitweisers to lend a hand in providing an opening page that is about as pulpy a thing as I can recall seeing from the House of Ideas in quite some time. Undersea adventure! And the footer fun continues with a journey into I guess Atlantean? In twenty pages, Fraction sends our intrepid band on a deep-sea mission that unearths the Nautilus, triggering a flashback strongly suggesting that Captain Nemo is actually Namor’s father, then Iron Fist excavates the ship before busting out some Tuvan throat-singers and Al Green on Misty Knight before some dead-looking dude busts down the door. Big American fun time!
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #515—I swear, “Dammit” is just all over the place in the books this week. It was just in the Next Month teaser for DEFENDERS and Tony utters it right out (over) the gate, here. Pretty dire finale to the latest arc. I’m definitely still on the hook to see what happens next. As evah.
X-FACTOR #234—Mm, got to say my man PAD phones it in a bit with the recap page, we expect something greater. Havok is really rocking a TRON look these days, almost to the point of distraction. Kirk and Milla turn in seriously gorgeous pages.
THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #2—Another gripping installment from the men who brought us THE RED WING. I am really and truly in love with this one. It is a delight to see Feynman make an appearance, as well as learning that the radioactive monster scientist is one Harry K. Daghlian, in no way deceased but just secret origined up a couple of decades before Stan the Man started coming up with increasingly improbable reasons that his uncle’s company’s characters could have powers with which to astound the masses. Pitarra and Rosenburg continue to turn in beautiful work, this is a grade-A production right here, top to bottom. A delight.
BEST OF WEEK: PROPHET #24—Graham and Dalyrymple reduced me to a gibbering mess, not unlike one of the several dozen memorable creatures who have been granted brief walk-on roles in this gorgeous science adventure slice of perfection, part four. I really and truly hope that this isn’t the same one from the last three issues, we’re getting the adventures of a brand new John Prophet, a trend that will continue for the next little bit here. Or maybe this was a one-off and we’ll be right back with our Prime guy when Roy returns next month. It really doesn’t matter, because every one of these is everything a comic book should be, a wild exhilarating blast of future shock that looks like it was sent back from the future via tachyon solar storms by the seventieth regeneration of Moebius clones. We are so so lucky to have it.