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 (24 October 2012), it’s baby versus baby in A-Babies Vs. X-Babies #1. Marvel MAX returns in Wolverine MAX #1, and the Punisher gets all blowy-uppy in Punisher War Zone #1. The epic saga Debris comes to a close, and DC’s Newish 52 – Wave 3 continues with Talon #1 and National Comics: Madame X #1. It’s almost Halloween, and IDW gives us a Ghostbusters 100 Page Spooktacular, and Dark Horse Presents #17 is another fine anthology installment.
Don’t forget to listen to Behind the Panels, our comic book podcast, as well.
After the biggest event of Marvel’s year, what else to do but go smaller? In the quiet suburb of Marvellous Meadows, somewhere along Xavier Way, Baby Steve Rogers has lost his favourite Bucky Bear. In fact, it has been stolen by a Baby Scott Summers just across the road. So it’s on for young and very young as virtually every character gets shrunk down to chibi size for this mash-up parody of a series that was in dire need of some fun-making. Skottie Young has been known for his art on the Wizard of Oz series with Eric Shanower, or the plethora of variant covers seen lately. Stepping up to provide some “big boy words”, this is a darling little book that is of little consequence, but wonderfully charming nonetheless. Baby Hulk deserves his own series, if for no other reason than the line “Hulk like bear. Him keep bear forever”. We also never realised how much we needed to see Baby Galactus suckling on the moon. Japanese team Gurihiru provides the perfect art of this outing, guaranteed to spawn a line of bobble heads. Collect them all.
Bits Rating: ★★★★
Bizarre, confusing, and at times brilliant. All those things could equally apply to the majority of Grant Morrison’s work, but perfectly describe the fourth issue of this renumbered continuation of Morrison’s free-range approach to the Bat-world. Batman Incorporated puts on a united assault on Talia’s League of Assassins, and does a pretty tidy job of it. At least as far as we can tell, with some of the more trippy inclinations of the writer unable to be restrained. While Bat-Cow fails to make an appearance, everything else including the Bat-Sink* is thrown into the mix. It’s not that a change from thousands of pages of cowling and scowling isn’t welcome, and this is the preferred approach for those of us who dream of small blue pieces of cloth attacking us with pens. However, as strange as it may sound, some restraint might be in order to make a cohesive story rather than simply a series of “things”. To his credit, Burnham does a great job in keeping up with Morrison’s distinctive pace, and provides the single reason you need to keep picking up this title. We are glad this book exists, but sometimes its a tough love. The twist at the end of the book is sudden, hence being a “twist”, and gives us the hook for issue 5. Who knows if it will be linear, but we mostly hope not. Squirrel.
Bits Rating: ★★★½
Dark Horse Presents #17 – Dark Horse, Various (writers), Various (artists)
The award-winning anthology series, as the introduction by editor Mike Richardson points out, bucks the conventional wisdom that it’s all going digital. The beautiful 80-page volume is what comics were made for, exploring unseen worlds, introducing us to stories outside the mainstream and acting as a showcase for some of the best writers and artists in the business. This month’s curation has a few standouts, including the concluding chapters to John Layman’s Aliens: Inhuman Condition with stunning art by Sam Keith, and Tony Puryear’s Concrete Park. Phil Stanford’s Crime Does Not Pay Presents City of Roses is shaping up to be an intriguing noir, with Patric Reynolds gritty art oozing with urban menace. The standalone stories are quite good this month as well, including an adaptation (by Richard Corben) of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Sleeper. Gothic to its core, the only downside is its brevity. There’s also a nice little story from Michael Avon Oeming (The Sacrifice), and some stunning art on Colin Lorimer’s second chapter of UXB. We might be witnessing the future of comics, both in format and content, right here.
Bits Rating: ★★★★
Debris has been, without a doubt, one of the most impressive limited series to debut in 2012. So it is a shame that it comes to an end so abruptly in this concluding chapter. Having found the promised land of her search, Maya must convince the tribe she has discovered that they are not a threat so that her people and the other survivors can coexist in peace. Rossmo’s art has been building up to the epic finale, in which Maya fights something a little bigger than usual, and a refrain about the last bullet comes full circle. However, an unfortunate by-product of this short series is that it all wraps up too quickly. The last stand could have really taken up most of this issue, with an additional chapter to flesh out the aftermath of the event and the fascinating narrative that would follow. Perhaps Weibe has that planned for another book, and regardless, Debris comes to a mostly satisfying conclusion here. From the beginning, we have long maintained that this the 21st century equivalent of the classic Hayao Miyazaki manga/film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and this final issue definitely delivers on that promise. Taking the four issues together, Debris is still one of the strongest and most original mini-series we’ve seen in a while. What will be especially good will be the inevitable trade collection, where all of this saga can be read in its cinematic whole. The lack of a prolonged ending should be a minor quibble, and perhaps it is simply that we didn’t want this series to end so soon. The only thing to do now is go back to the beginning and soak it all up again.
Bits Rating: ★★★½
Ghostbusters 100 Page Spooktacular #1 – IDW, Various (writers), Various (artists)
A great anthology to get people like us into this ongoing Ghostbusters series, even if the collection leaves a little bit to be desired. Having never read any of the previous Ghostbusters books, despite being a huge fan of the original films, what is surprising is the range and high quality of the stories and artwork. The opening shots (Ghostbusters: The Other Side #1 and Ghostbusters: Displaced Aggression #1) showcase more traditional art from Tom Nguyen and Ilias Kyriazis, while the work from Kyle Hotz on Ghostbusters: Infestation #1 has a horrifying and creepy nature that wouldn’t look out of place in Animal Man or Swamp Thing. The only real problem is that these are all sample-sized pieces, issue #1s of longer pieces that were once sold separately. They are all quite good, covering everything from gangster hits, to time travel and zombie attack. However, just as they get going, the story abruptly ends, leaving us hungry for more. Thankfully, there is an advertisement (only one of three, and all contained to the back pages) for an omnibus containing the lot. The most satisfying stories are the two shorts “What in Samhain Just Happened?!” (by Peter and Kathleen David) and “Guess What’s Coming to Dinner” (by James Eatock). Both are drawn by Dan Schoening, and feature a more cartoony look that suits the flippant nature of the stories (one of them features a possessed turkey). At $7.99, there’s a lot of value here for a 100 ad-free pages in a nice cover, but only if you don’t have the first three issues. For newbies like us, we know who we’re gonna call for future Ghostbusters issues.
Bits Rating: ★★★
National Comics: Madame X #1 – DC Comics, Rob Williams (writer), Trevor Hairsine (artist)
Having recently divorced from Professor X…scratch that. Madame Xanadu has appeared in the pages of Justice League Dark and Demon Knights, two books we confess that it’s just been too easy to overlook. With this one-shot, the last of its kind in the Newish 52′s Third Wave, Rob Williams rebrands her as Madame X in a scenario that is pretty much TV’s Medium by way of DC/Vertigo’s Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child. It’s been a bit of a theme for DC over the last year or so, with “The Dark” section of the Newish 52 doing reasonably well for itself, even without any real headline grabbers (Animal Man/Swamp Thing sagas notwithstanding). Here former celebrity psychic Nima (aka Madame X) can read the future with her tarot cards, and is occasionally hired by a law firm to assist on cases. Brought in to solve the seemingly voodoo related murder of one of the prominent citizens of New Orleans, her powers are put to the test when she reveals there is more than meets the eye. Trevor Hairsine’s art gives the book an appropriate look, and while his vision of New Orleans doesn’t seem radically different to previous ones, it also feels authentic. Williams gives us enough to set up this world in this introductory chapter, and we’d love to see more. We don’t know if any of these National Comics one-shots will spawn series, but this is one character than seems fleshed out enough to justify it.
Bits Rating: ★★★★
Let’s do the time warp again! Having Deadpool kill the Marvel Universe took us back to when the Punisher did it years ago, and this feels like it is taking Garth Ennis’s splatterfest and flipping it on its dark head. Here The Avengers, and specifically Spider-man, decide that Frank Castle is really a problem that needs to be stopped. One of the most intriguing aspects of this story is the initial reluctance of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to get involved with a petty thug, mirroring some of the great arguments back in 1968′s Justice League of America Vol. 1 #66′s rift between the super powered people and those just wearing spandex. In fact, a few of the Avengers just come off as dicks at the mid-point of this introductory issue, making the cover’s promise of their imminent demise all the sweeter. Tony Stark, for example, is a bit of a douche. However, if you are yet to read Rucka’s The Punisher, you are a fool, but this is also the perfect finale to his world. A brief intro contextualises this event within that run, and then we’re off and racing. Di Giandomenico’s art doesn’t always suit the darker edge to the story, but Hollingsworth’s colours give this a consistency throughout. Even though this is another superhero smack-down, coming so soon after another major event, we’re in for the long haul. We expect to see some bloodshed, and there will be tears before bedtime.
Bits Rating: ★★★★
Last month’s Talon #0 stood out as “easily one of the best new titles from the whole New 52 and a great example of how to spin-off a series from a hugely popular title”. Tynion and Snyder literally plunge back into Gotham, a place that former Talon Calvin Rose has every reason to avoid. Yet in the aftermath of the Court of Owls, he believed that it was safe to go back: he was wrong. Now with the help of Sebastian Clark, someone who effectively have an Owl Cave somewhere under Gotham, they are out to take down what’s left of a very angry Court. As with the “pilot issue”, the art and pacing are all impeccable, with Calvin one of the most interesting characters to spin out of the pages of Batman in a long time. There is some danger that this could be simply replicating what has come before, replacing Batman with Talon as a convenient proxy, but for the moment this is one of the most intriguing new titles since DC’s reboot.
Bits Rating: ★★★★½
Wolverine MAX #1 – Marvel MAX, Jason Starr (writer), Roland Boschi and Connor Willumsen (artist)
Once the playground of Punisher and outstanding original series like Alias, rumours of the death of Marvel’s mature MAX line were apparently greatly exaggerated. The overexposed Wolverine is actually a great way to revive this line, fans needing to satiate their bloodlust on something more than outings with Doop and various members of The Avengers. Set somewhere outside the mainstream Marvel 616 universe, Logan is journeying West to find himself but crash lands in Japan. Unaware of who he is, all he knows is that he has claws for hands and his severed legs grew back. Boschi and Willumsen’s art is at times beautiful, especially during the flashback sequences that use a rougher look than the other pages. Jason Starr wastes no time in throwing in a few mandatory “fucks” in Logan’s thought bubbles, the MAX equivalent of a HBO sex scene, but his direction seems to have more substance than that. While it is difficult to find a new direction for Wolverine these days, perhaps this new series will allow Marvel the flexibility to tell some new stories without outraging continuity police.
Bits Rating: ★★★½