BEST OF WEEK: BATMAN INCORPORATED #12 — Exo-suit Man-Batman has it out with the clone of his son who killed his son and it is a brutal and glorious thing. Burnham imbues every punch and fall with weight and impact to the point that the reader directly experiences not only the physical violence of the confrontation but the partial catharsis of Bruce facing the creature that murdered his son. God, I’m still so fucked up about that little body lying there so still. Just the worst thing. Get it together. Get it together. There’s also a nice little homage to the double-punch shots coined during the initial BATMAN AND ROBIN run with Dick and Damian as Beryl subs in for the departed to get her own pound of flesh. And the Leviathan reveal was shocking and terrible in all the right ways. As was his final fate, just perfect. But what’s better than that final page? The only last cliffhanger that ever could have been, flawless resonance all the way back to seventies O’Neil/Adams thunder. It is so hard to believe that this is coming to an end. I am going to be some kind of damn mess here at the end of the month.
SATELLITE SAM #1 — I was expecting pretty serious greatness from Fraction and his idol Chaykin but these guys really and truly knock it out of the park, here. Fraction channels his inner Sorkin, providing rapid-fire in-studio dialogue that sings with total authenticity even before you become acclimated to how tech-jargon-heavy it is. The easiest way I can sum up this premise is it’s like that QUANTUM LEAP episode when Sam jumped into the body of Future Boy, the sidekick on a live science fiction adventure serial but then the whole thing’s run through that Sorkin filter. Excellent writing, throughout. And I haven’t enjoyed Chaykin interiors this much in a long time. Lately over at Marvel, he’s run into the same problem that I had when Simonson was doing those issues of Bendis’s Avengers, the young guys coloring the work are completely over-rendering it and going way overboard when a flatter style more akin to what Hollingsworth has got going on in HAWKEYE would be much more the call. Here, Chaykin sidesteps the problem altogether by keeping it in black-and-white, an aesthetic decision that both fits in with the story conceptually and showcases just how much of a badass Chaykin is to this day. The shots of Libby walking through the East Village are particularly strong. But Fraction more than shows up, as well. Kara asking her co-star if can still see her cross in only her second appearance on-panel is a just ridiculously deft piece of characterization, dialing us in to her with surgical precision and efficiency. The only aspect of this issue that didn’t seem completely perfect to me was letterer Ken Bruzenak’s decision to exclude black lines from the word balloons. There are places where it works and is even necessary, but any time they’re over white space and not bounded by shadow, that doesn’t work for me, it looks like the dialogue’s just drifting out in space. But that’s a small quibble, these guys have something really special brewing here, top creators firing at the top of their game.
AVENGERS #15 — The Hickman juggernaut keeps right on rolling. It’s occurring to me with this arc that, among other things, he’s bringing the same sense of epic scope and grandeur with which Morrison imbued the JLA in 1997, that A-list all-hands-on-deck approach. A natural escalation from Bendis’s set-up but a little surprising in hindsight that it took this long for the franchise to follow suit. Pretty fine timing, in terms of other media. This was a big fighty issue, not too much on the nuance. I did find Frank Martin’s choices a bit off-putting in places, particularly coloring everyone in Banner’s action science room with purple skin even though every single light source was some shade of blue-green. Caselli tore it up, regardless. That two-page spread of the alien creature sending the signal across the cosmos was the real business. I do hope I don’t have to wait four weeks before the next issue comes out!
AVENGERS A.I. #1 — Well, I wasn’t going to check this one out but my shop pulled it for me and Marvel improbably launched a new series with AVENGERS in the title at the $2.99 price-point, plus I keep seeing this fellow Sam Humphries’s name about town, so I figured why not give it a try? Was pretty much disappointed on every level, the art verged on not even being pro-quality, really flat and static layouts throughout the interior pages of a book suffering from the terrible and unfortunate comparison of having a Weaver/Gracia cover. The dialogue was stilted and simply not engaging. The ensemble did not play well off each another one bit, there was no chemistry crackling whatsoever. I got the vibe that the writer phoned this in because he’s working on four titles this month and this happened to be the one where the quality slipped. Which is not the vibe one wants to cultivate at any time but certainly not on an #1 launch. If this iteration of Hank Pym is the third smartest man in the 616, then I’m the ruler of Latveria. And you will all bow before my superior intellectual might! Richards!
DAREDEVIL: DARK KNIGHTS #2—I made it home and realized that I should have looked at this cover a little bit closer. I was planning to check out this series later on in trade and passed on the first issue, took if off my pull and everything. But they put it back in muh stack and I didn’t look too close, it certainly wasn’t odd to see another DD book there so soon after the last one came out. This is not a very terrible problem with which to be saddled, I have fond memories of picking up Nocenti/Lee Weeks issues off the spinner rack at my friendly neighborhood 7-11 back when new comics were within walking distance from my parents’ house, so it was cool to check in with an old master and see what he has to say lately. Drum-tight business, certainly not lighting the world on fire but a very solid Daredevil story on every level, the script is tonally right where it needs to be and the art looks terrific. Lee Loughridge hits the target on the colors too in a way that those guys I was talking about up top who colored Simonson and Chaykin for Marvel lately haven’t, not such a garish palette but subdued and understated. Recommended to one and all.
DETECTIVE COMICS #22 — The stunning Layman/Fabok run continues with the introduction of an Anti-Batman. Which is a terrific idea but I dearly dearly hope that he’s not going to turn out to be the anti-Bruce Wayne who was introduced in the second scene in this issue. Not a terribly elegant way to do your business, there. I’m thinking it’s got to be misdirection, the Mighty Layman’s too smart to go for something so obvious. If it does turn out to be him, it would have been cool to introduce the civilian foil a few issues ago as a subplot that just seemed designed to mess with Bruce’s business and then have him turn out to have this other identity here later on. Either way, he looks to be quite the opponent. Jason Fabok and Emilio Lopez are absolutely murdering these pages, really top quality material.