Don’t have time for full reviews of comics? Then check out Graphic Bits: bite sized chunks of comic book goodness designed to get behind the panels and into your hearts.
This week (4 July 2012), we look at the still ongoing Avengers Vs. X-Men #7, revisit Batman’s origin in the original graphic novel Batman: Earth One, more Before Watchmen, see if Green Arrow #11 has improved at all and pop into the Ultimate Marvel Universe with Ultimate Comics: Spider-man #12.
Don’t forget to listen to Behind the Panels, our weekly comic book podcast, as well.
Avengers Vs X-Men #7 [Marvel, Matt Fraction (writer), Olivier Coipel (pencils) - Bits Rating: ★★]: Enough already. Seven issues and countless asides and tie-ins later, we’re just over the halfway point in Marvel’s most overblown event of the year. At this point, half of the remaining X-Men have been possessed by the Phoenix force and are remaking the world in their own image, facing off against the “fascist” Avengers. Things get a little more interesting with the re-introduction of Wanda Maximoff (aka Scarlet Witch), who neither side have any reason to trust. Yet at this point, the series is just treading water, milking the novelty for all it is worth. There is nothing major gained or lost in this issue, with the possible exception of the actions of Namor in the final pages. Fraction directly acknowledges this when Captain America remarks “So we’re going back out into the field and playing rope-a-dope with these guys a while longer”. The art is a mixed page as well, Coipel soaring on the big splash pages, but drawing Tony Stark as an emaciated Wolverine in other panels. The toughest thing about this issue is the knowledge that there are another five to go, and with Marvel NOW! coming in October, this is all simply a prelude to another event.
The Avengers stall for time in Avengers Vs. X-Men #7
Batman: Earth One [DC Comics, Geoff Johns (writer), Gary Frank (art) - Bits Rating: ★★★]: Prior to DC’s line-wide reboot, J. Michael Straczynski’s Superman: Earth One provided the perfect sandbox to re-imagine the world’s finest without fear of breaking precious continuity. The DC went and did it for real with almost all of its characters, making this Batman something of a curiosity. While the “real” Batman is off fighting the Court of Owls, his timeline seemingly unchanged after Flashpoint, this is a Bruce Wayne at the start of his career, less assured and more prone to seeking revenge. Alfred is recast as a much younger confidant, ex-military, with a close-cropped haircut and little goatee to prove it. Frank’s artwork is iconic, beautifully realised and showing Batman’s eyes through the cowl is actually revelatory. However, John’s script seems rushed in this first volume, cramming the origins of Wayne, Lucius Fox, Jim Gordon and hints of Batgirl and a major villain in with a storyline about a child-killer called The Birthday Boy. Ultimately, this first volume doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself from the 12 other Bat books on the market right now, making this less than essential reading.
Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1 [DC Comics, Len Wein (writer), Jae Lee (art) - Bits Rating: ★★½]: Undoubtedly one of the most beautifully illustrated books of the event to date, Len Wein effectively retells and expands upon Alan Moore’s Watchmen #11, which succinctly told the background of the character in a few pages. Here it is the first chapter in a planned six-issue expansion of the origin of the character, once again highlighting the problem that this series presents from the outset. Crammed in sideways is a love affair with a particularly frisky redhead, seemingly an excuse for frequent nudity on both of their parts. Adrian Veidt is quite fit, and he knows it, but the incongruous narrative asks us to believe that Ozymandias suffered an early setback when he didn’t know what he had lost until it was gone. This is Batman by way of psychosis, and serves as an interesting parallel with Batman: Earth One (above). Neither Wein nor Johns achieve anything beyond the superficial in their first volume of an origin rehash, and the only questions left are ones that were barely worth asking in the first place. The artwork is the reason to pick this one up, and is the only point at which Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1 can truly be called daring in any way.
Lessons this week: Ozymandias is a dick
Green Arrow #11 [DC Comics, Ann Nocenti (writer), Harvey Tolibao (art) - Bits Rating: ★★★½]: Prior to Flashpoint, Green Arrow was one of the essential reads of the DCU, yet J.T. Krul’s storytelling ability failed to translate into the new and younger vision of Oliver Queen. Nocenti’s arrival barely helped matters, failing to recognise that going full throttle around the world is no substitute for character development, something Arrow’s writers (especially Krul, Mike Grell and Judd Winick) had always been in tune with. Suddenly Queen has to face the consequences of his globe-trotting with the arrival of two other “Robin Hoods” in his city, and is faced with a kid asking him “What the hell are you doing for the people of this city?”. It’s a panel that won’t be lost on Green Arrow fans, who will remember an older Arrow and some citizens asking Green Lantern the same thing back at the start of the famous Hard Travelling Heroes arc of the 1970s. Yet after Jax and Naomi, the Birds of Prey like support crew who have been absent since the first arc, pop up to remind us they exist, Queen is off on another intercontinental adventure. The seeds have now been sewn for the man Arrow will become, and hopefully the comic that this is destined to be as well. We’re personally looking forward to Winick’s take on this Arrow’s origins in September’s Issue #0.
Ultimate Spider-man #12 [Marvel, Brian Michael Bendis (writer), David Marquez (art) - Bits Rating: ★★★★]: Like many folk, we had long abandoned the Ultimate line of comics in favour of mainstream Marvel. When the sandbox line becomes tied to as many events as the main line (if that’s ever possible), perhaps it is time to run away. Yet it is in the Ultimate line that Bendis has been really shaking it up, killing off Peter Parker and finally tackling an all-new Spider-man in Miles Morales. The excellence of Spider-Men has sent us scurrying over to check out the Ultimate Marvel Universe once again. Bendis has crafted something wholly original from a familiar origin, with the very young Miles having to balance the same issues that the original Peter Parker was faced with. Marquez’s art, following on from Sarah Picelli’s, makes Miles look every bit the baby-faced boy he is, forced to step into a “big boy” world this week against his Uncle Aaron, the super-criminal Prowler. The action-packed issue shows that Miles is every bit as conscientious as Parker, and as the crowd of onlookers comment that they are glad he isn’t dead, so are we.
Also Reading This Week…
Action Comics #11 (★★★★) – Grant Morrison gives Superman a whole new cover story, having seemingly killed off “Clark Kent”. Kal-El is already asking the big questions about identity and whether he needs an alter-ego. The Batman cameo is priceless. Backup story by Snolly Fisch is cute.
The Amazing Spider-man #689 (★★½): Dan Slott’s book this week is purely a cash-grab for the Lizard-Spidey smack down happening in The Amazing Spider-man, now in cinemas. This story seems to be straight out of the 1970s, with both Morbius and The Lizard once again battling Spider-man in a sewer. Indeed, an editorial note references ASM #101. Pass.
Animal Man #11 (★★★½) - Jeff Lemire’s bigger rot-red-green storyline continues to intrigue, birthing an “all-new” Animal Man. However, this arc has been going for almost a year now, and we don’t seem to be getting any closer to anybody realising their full potential. See also: Swamp Thing.