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 (11 July 2012), we look at the second wave of Marvel’s Season One as an Ant-Man OGN launches, the conclusion to Night of Owls in Batman #11, and some more Before Watchmen: Minuteman. Plus, brand new titles with Revival #1, Punk Rock Jesus #1 and the limited series…Space Punisher!
Don’t forget to listen to Behind the Panels, our weekly comic book podcast, as well.
Ant-Man: Season One HC [DC Comics, Tom De Falco (writer), Horacio Domingues (artist) - Bits Rating: ★★★½]: - It should come as no surprise in a week when the Marvel Ant-Man film is officially announced that a new origin story hits the stands as well. The first in the Second Wave of Marvel’s ‘Season One’ graphic novels, it immediately marks itself as an improvement over the previous efforts. Hank Pym’s origin story isn’t as worn-out as Spider-man, Fantastic Four and Daredevil, so this will undoubtedly serve as an entry point for many readers who have overlooked this much smaller hero. Here Pym is pulled back into the scientific world following the death of his wife following terrorist activities, reluctantly working for Egghead Industries at the behest of his overbearing father. The 100 pages of story fly by in an instant, covering the origin of his powers, the choice to don the costume, his equivalent transformation into Giant Man and the wrapping up of a first case. There’s maybe too much going on here, but the name of the game is fun and De Falco provides this in spades, with Domingues’s art keeping it fresh and vibrant. One to dip into before the movie!
Batman #11 [DC Comics, Scott Snyder (writer), Greg Capullo (artist) - Bits Rating: ★★★]: Following the giant (albeit easily deniable) deus ex machina reveal at the end of Snyder’s Batman #10, which we won’t spoil for you here but it is a bit of a head-scratcher, the epic Court of Owls storyline comes to an end with a fist fight. This has been one of the best crossovers of the year, and certainly the best use of the entire slate of a dozen Bat-books in the New 52. However, the ending leaves followers of the whole saga a little bit cold, literally taking this fight into the air, clinging to the wings of a jumbo jet. If this fight has been about Gotham all along, then surely there would have been some poetic justice to seeing a foe vanquished on the very streets each lay claim to? Plus, taking a step even further backwards, Batman doing anything while clinging to a passenger jet’s wing seems incredulous. Capullo’s artwork is, as always, fantastic and there is a terrific back-up story featuring Jarvis Pennyworth, Alfred’s dad, that wraps up the last of the Owls story pieces. Lincoln March makes a pretty bold claim in this issue, which means this book may be significant down the line if he pops up again. However, there is a certain sense of familiarity to this ending, a story that promised to be one of the most original in decades, yet failed to live up to its otherwise impeccable development. Buy this just to see the story through to the conclusion, some nice stuff between Bruce and Dick and perhaps for the future significance of this March character.
Before Watchmen: Minutemen #2 [DC Comics, Darwyn Cooke (writer/artist) - Bits Rating: ★★★½]: Before Watchmen continues to be the problematic series of books it was always destined to be, its end-point determined by a classic written almost thirty years ago. Yet Minutemen has Darwyn Cooke on its side, and while the series may simply be visualisations of the nuggets Alan Moore fed us via his interstitials, it’s also filled with a great deal of entertainment. If you accept that the book is the comic book equivalent of popcorn fodder, and not anywhere close to an intellectual exercise, it’s quite a treat. Indeed, if this was anything other than a Watchmen book, Cooke is slowly weaving an epic on par with anything Mark Millar did with The Ultimates. Perhaps that is how one should take this: as an Elseworlds universe, and perhaps DC should have too. Filled with humour, knowing references and a very self-aware style, Cooke is not the problem here, but rather the rules that come with writing in someone else’s world.
Punk Rock Jesus #1 [DC/Vertigo, Sean Murphy (writer/artist) - Bits Rating: ★★★★★]: If Jesus came back, he probably wouldn’t be listening to Nickelback. Here we were, starting to worry that Vertigo was all zombies, aliens and vampires these days. Enter Sean Murphy. Set in the not-too-distant future of 2019, a group prepares to clone Jesus as part of a televised reality show, artificially inseminating a carefully selected virgin with DNA from the Shroud of Turin. Murphy sets up just enough cool ideas here to keep us intrigued until the end of this extended first issue, and leaves readers wanting to know more. Murphy hasn’t simply created an issue here, but a whole world, something this shares in common with this week’s similarly themed Revival (below). The seemingly incongruous ex-IRA bodyguard is a terrific addition to this cold scientific and corporate world. It dips a little bit into Preacher territory every now and then, but that’s hardly a criticism. The stark black-and-white art is rough and ready, and allows Murphy to add his own punk rock slant to this wonderfully thought-provoking new series from DC/Vertigo. A solid start to what might become a must read for the year.
Revival #1 [Image, Tim Seeley (Writer), Mike Norton (artist) - Bits Rating: ★★★★ - ]: One of the most intriguing new releases of the month comes as Image’s The Walking Dead reaches 100 issues. Not content to have one series about the undead, Seeley’s Revival is a new twist on the genre in what they describe as a “farm noir”. In rural Wisconsin, Officer Dana Cypress must deal with media, disease control and local issues as the dead mysterious come back to life. Called “revivers”, the clever part of Seeley’s opening chapter is that all of these factors are already a reality from page one, with neither an explanation or any lengthy exposition slowing down the pace. The accepted way of life is still dealt with unease, and several mysterious occurrences begin the mystery elements of the book, making this a more grounded version of True Blood. Mike Norton’s art is frosty cool and magnificent, often understating the weird and making the more shocking moments truly jump-worthy. Definitely one to add to the buy pile and to follow closely in the coming months.
Space Punisher #1 [Marvel, Frank Tieri (Writer), Mark Texeira (artist) - Bits Rating: ★★★] - Possibly the strangest title of the week, Tieri shoots Punisher into space in this alternate universe story. Texeira’s art, possibly worth the cover price alone, has a muted watercolour look that very much places this in B-grade retro territory. It’s actually gorgeous to look at, and perfectly captures the poster art of the 1950s and 1960s, whether it is depicting a shoot-out or the aftermath of an alien orgy. Recasting various villains from the Marvel 616 universe in “a galaxy different than our own”, this is comic book reading at its over-the-top best and worst. It might be a parody, but as Quentin Tarantino has taught us in cinema, there is a fine line between tribute and just plain bad (we’re talking to you, Death Proof). While there are a few geek thrills to be found in the alternate versions of our favourite characters, this one-joke concept may have been best served by a one-shot rather than a four issue limited series.
Also Reading This Week…
Arrow (★★★½) - Mike Grell is back on Arrow! Kinda. Available at San Diego Comic-Con, and as a free download from the DC Comics app, the tie in issue to CW’s Arrow is set somewhere between the pilot and second episode. Given how poor the current run on the main Green Arrow book has been, this is a rare return to form. Credited as being written by Andrew Kreisberg, Marc Guggenheim, Greg Berlanti and Geoff Johns, with art by Omar Francia (Mass Effect: Evolution), it is the kind of urban hunter motif that Grell excelled at in the 1980s. Indeed, he has done the cover for this issue and it feels like the Longbow Hunter is back – just without a beard. Definitely worth a look for old school Arrow fans.
Avenging Spider-man #9 (★★★★) – This title is almost a year old and has lost none of the freshness it had when it launched with the newly Avenged Spidey this time last year. A stark contrast to the slog of Amazing Spider-man at the moment, this introduces the newly suited Carol Danvers as Ms. Marvel, with Terry Dodson’s magnificent art giving the whole thing a retro flavour. We’re definitely looking forward to Captain Marvel #1 next week!
Spider-Men #3 (★★★) - Having perfected inter-dimensional crossovers in the first two issues, the third chapter feels a little bit like treading water. Despite a pretty cool smack-down with Mysterio, we learn very little about the cause of or the potential solution to this wibbly wobbly event. Major props to Bendis and Pichelli for the final few panels, which feature a reunion of sorts between Peter Parker and someone from his past. Issue 4 promises to be a real emotional roller-coaster.