For the 75th time(!) it’s Tuesday and that means it’s time for Bullet Reviews! This week we look at: Batman And Robin #0, Captain Marvel #3, Conan The Barbarian #8, Creep #1, Dark Shadows #7, Hawkeye #2, It Girl! And The Atomics #2, Journey Into Mystery #643, and Smallville: Season 11 #5!
BATMAN AND ROBIN #0 (DC)
Batman & Robin is without a doubt one of the best Bat books of the New 52, as well as one of the best comics currently hitting shelves. Between Peter J. Tomasi’s superb writing, dialogue, characterization and Patrick Gleason’s incredible art, Batman & Robin is one series everyone should be reading.
This month’s issue – Batman & Robin #0 – is a great addition to an already stellar series, and provides readers a glimpse into what makes Damian, well, Damian. While those who have been following Tomasi’s run on the title already know that Damian is the son of Bruce Wayne and Talia Al Ghul, and that he was raised to be the perfect assassin, up until this issue we have only heard mention of the young boy’s training and life until Batman took him under his Bat-wings. In this issue, we finally get to see what Damian’s life was really like pre-Batman & Robin.
The scientifically engineered progeny of Talia and Bruce, Damian grows up under the violent tutelage of his assassin mother, taught in the ways of the League of Shadows, groomed to be a perfect, master killer. Damian is aware that he is fatherless, and when he asks Talia who his father is, she makes him a deal: if he can beat her on his birthday at their insanely violent assassin games, she will reveal his father’s identity. As his birthdays go by, Damian comes up short and is beat time and again by his mother. Finally, Damian bests his mother and she reveals that she has arranged for them to meet the boy’s father in London. Once there, Talia’s Man-Bats – yes, the Man-Bat finally made an appearance! – capture Batman, and bring him to Talia and Damian. The issue ends with a great moment between father and son, that sums up so much of their relationship as it is portrayed in this series: “Father,” Damian seethes as he thrusts a sword to Batman’s throat, “I imagined you taller.” -Austin Shirey
CAPTAIN MARVEL #3 (Marvel)
Yeah, this is dead in the water. The whole ‘Carol Danvers lost in time” filler plot came too early (“at all,” actually) and has lasted too long (getting at least a third part next issue) without any coherent theme in sight, just more plot gears grinding as Danvers and the Banshee Squad face off against Kree superweapons operated by WWII Japanese pilots. Captain Marvel inexplicably challenges them to bring their best alien weapons against her and the completely human soldiers with her to, essentially, a schoolyard fight for the purpose of… bragging rights? Women’s equality? So Dexter Soy can draw splash pages of stuff going boom? For a comic that has only 16 story pages to have so many devoted to those (one splash, one two-page spread) — the remainder taken up by an interlude promising another directionless aviation-history plot and a 50s newspaper-style strip about Danvers making the original Captain Marvel pick up the check for a lunch he wasn’t at, because depicting your female superhero as every “politically incorrect” guy’s stereotype of women is feminist, right? Right!? — where was I going? Oh! This comic’s a waste. It’s baffling that after a pretty good first issue the series went downhill so quickly. It’s like DeConnick and Soy had pitched a respectable one-shot where Danvers takes up the mantle, but then got roped into doing an ongoing series they didn’t actually have any ideas for. “Well, too bad, you’re doing it anyway,” some editor ordered before cracking a whip, shouting “¡Epa! ¡Epa! ¡Arriba!”
When the first issue arrived, Dan Slott challenged readers to “put [their] money where [their] mouth is” if they wanted titles from female creators with female leads. I’m going to take him up on that and purchase the upcoming hardcover of Alabaster: Wolves. -Andrew Taylor
CONAN THE BARBARIAN #8 (Dark Horse)
The current Conan reboot started off with a fun, but somewhat lacking story arc. While the first few issues featured heroes you couldn’t feel for, we now see some endearingly flawed human beings in the Barbarian Conan and his bride Belit. Issue 8 is the second part of the Border Fury story line that finds the duo in Conan’s homeland, Cimmeria, where he is not quite as revered as he feels he deserves. Even the formidable Belit is out of her element, surrounded with people who do not know or fear her. Someone claiming to be Conan has been wreaking havoc throughout the land and he plans to find vengeance.
When larger than life heroes are knocked down a peg you’re able to see what they’re truly made of. Brian Wood continues to deliver the most intriguing story since the reboot. The honeymoon phase of Conan and Belit’s relationship is over as they discover strain from unfamiliar territory both physical and emotional. Wood is joined by artist Vasilis Lolos for this issue. I’m not a fan of mid-arc artist swaps, and this one was particularly jarring in its style change. The character’s eyes in particular were notably uneven and disproportionate. It was distracting, but the story is still solid. Wood’s insightful narration gave light to the tension between the protagonists and to the severity of the situation Conan finds himself in as he feels somewhat responsible for what another man is doing in his name. I’d recommend picking up the previous issues, or at least last month’s. But if not, at least consider adding Conan the Barbarian to your pull list this month. Border Fury, Part 2 has character development, action, and left me anxious for next month. -Zach Story
CREEP #1 (Dark Horse)
A while back, Dark Horse put out Creep #0, a collection of a few Dark Horse Presents shorts that told the story of a physically deformed Detective named Oxel who was called by an old girlfriend to investigate the apparent suicide of her son, Curtis. It served as a prelude to a new series that started earlier this month. If you didn’t check out the zero issue, it’s worth a read if you can find it. It will certainly provide a little background to the events of Creep #1, but it’s not necessary to understand what’s going on here. In fact, not a lot happens in this issue besides reintroducing the characters and establishing the loneliness of the protagonist.
John Arcudi and Jonathan Case continue to helm the story they began. This is much more of a psychological drama than an action-oriented tale, so if that’s not your thing, you’ll want to avoid Creep, especially the slower first issue. This is much more of a noir story, where the villains and mystery are arguably secondary to the hero’s own inner-torture. After reading this, I was hoping the start of the mini-series would reveal more, but still, all we know is that Curtis allegedly committed suicide shortly after his friend did the same. Oxel struggles to find a motive for a previously happy kid ending his own life, but continues to chase after the truth regardless. It was an enjoyable story, but I’m hoping that next month the reader gets more information about what’s really going on. -Zach Story
DARK SHADOWS #7 (Dynamite Entertainment)
Dynamite presents a beautifully rendered continuation of the classic gothic soap opera! There has been a series of disappearances in the town of Spafford, and it seems those problems have found their way to the nearby town of Collinsport! Children are disappearing and it’s a vampire who’s doing it… but who? Barnabas, wanting to keep his young cousin David safe, promises to investigate and upon realizing it’s another vampire begins to be concerned about Deputy Granger from Spafford, who has the smell of death on him and has been near a vampire recently! But while Barnabas is trying to figure this out, he doesn’t realize he has big problems heading his way. Not only is Deputy Granger on the hunt for the person responsible for the disappearances, he thinks Barnabas is responsible and Willie Loomis ends up making an enemy of another vampire in England!
The show was mainly restricted to Collinsport, whether it was in the past or present, and one of the things that makes this series so entertaining is the chance to see the full world of Dark Shadows. Mike Raicht and Guiu Vilanova have done a spectacular job maintaining the tone and atmosphere of the show, respecting the source material and not turning it into some sort of Tim Burton, day-glow nightmare. And I’d be doing a huge disservice if I didn’t mention yet another wonderfully dark cover by Francesco Francavilla! Dark Shadows is still one of the best vampire comics on the racks today. I’ve said it before: if you’re sick of lame, emo vampires that glitter in the sun and want to follow a man’s vampire then this is the book you need to read! -Skott Jimenez
HAWKEYE #2 (Marvel)
David Aja brings it this issue in a way that surprised me even more than issue one did. Symmetrical, Quitely-esque layouts, minimalist backgrounds that are (for once) used to highlight the dynamism of the characters rather than avoid drawing the setting, the stripped-down nature of the props — a Daily Bugle headline hilariously cuts to the sensationalist subtext of every newspaper ever — essentially turn this into a stage play version of a superhero comic, one whose impeccable designs (a wig holding arrows), and great use of body language and facial expressions allow for storytelling without hand-holding the reader into going “This is what this character is feeling!” I mean, sure, the whole “riffing on Mazzucchelli” thing from #1 was cool, but Aja’s craft gets way sharper now that this series’ M.O. of being a wiseass superhero/crime/kung-fu comic has been established.
Speaking of wiseass, Matt Fraction is here doing the same thing he’s always done, only now it’s one of those times that clicks because those constant quips, the horrific offspring of Whedon and Bendis, are here to cover up the characters’ insecurities: there’s Clint Barton nervously mumbling “keep it casual” during a social gala like a skipping record or that increeedibly awkward moment when he tells sidekick/fellow-Hawkeye Kate Bishop he doesn’t want to sleep with her, and she laughs it off because… ya know… awkward. Again, Aja’s expressions sell it, particularly the puzzled brow-furrowing Clint does when he makes the comment, as if he knows this sounds bad; Kate’s joking, followed by ambiguous contemplation, hints he really did say the wrong thing. There’s a fight with the Circus of Crime, but that’s window dressing for a story about a nouveau riche, ex-carny crimefighter and the adrenaline-junkie media heiress that takes after him. We could use more comics like this. -Andrew Taylor
IT GIRL! AND THE ATOMICS #2 (Image)
Someone is out to get It Girl! But who? And why? She’s such a nice girl.
In this issue It Girl has a rather interesting, and almost deadly, out-of-body experience and crosses paths with some more of Snap City’s finest villains.
I think a tag line style review is good enough because I just want to talk about how much fun this series is already. This is a classic comic book. If you’re sick of new universes, if you have no interest in seeing all your favorites characters change for the NOW, if you want to just sit back and read a good, old-fashioned comic book without all the drama and the ‘grit,’ then this is the book for you. This series is a wonderful mix of the tone of the 60’s era Marvel Comics and the action of the 90’s. And for good measure, a little bit of the willingness to expand of the 80’s. It’s the perfect superhero comic. It’s got the best of all the recent eras in comics history.
Jamie Rich is having a lot of fun writing this and it shows. You can tell, because it flows so well. Despite being only the second issue, it already feels like this series has been going on for a few years (something I hope happens, how cool would it be to have It Girl! And The Atomics #100?). Everyone feels established and the books flows perfectly. Then there is the art of Mike Norton. Crisp, solid and just plain good. There is nothing that can be said about this combination other than it’s probably one of the best looking and best written superhero comics being published today. I was worried that I may be reading fewer superhero comics with Marvel changing so many things, but as long as I have this series I’m going to be very happy!
Also, the Michael Allred cover made me laugh out loud in my comic shop. It’s been a long time since that’s happened! -Skott Jimenez
JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #643 (Marvel)
We’re at the halfway point of this out-of-control story and things are changing hard and fast… and not for the best. Is Loki really reverting to type? Has he been like this all along and I wasn’t willing to see it? Or is this all another of Loki’s attempts to redeem himself?With Part 2’s revelation that Leah, or a version of her, is still around, Loki begins to plot and plan to save his neck and, maybe, Asgardia. It’s another of his ideas that has many layers and places him in a bad light to those around him. The big question is whether or not Loki will let everything burn, including his step brother, Thor? It all comes down to what Loki’s standing in the Marvel Universe is going to be once the dust settles here.
Yeah, I know this is kind of vague but I don’t want to say too much and give away some of the finer points of this issue. Needless to say, this is the second crossover this series has had with another and it’s just as entertaining. While I’m not sure how this book will fare after Gillen and Loki leave the title, right now it’s still highly entertaining and the intrigue has reached new levels with this issue.
All this, and Surtur is still waging his war and destroying everything he can. When they called his story Everything Burns, they weren’t kidding!
This issue also features another stand out cover. Loki in Surtur’s realm hiding from flaming demons. It’s another fantastic issue from a series that has done nothing but entertain me for the past 20 months. Again, I’m nervous about the changes coming, but until then, this books is still highly entertaining! -Skott Jimenez
SMALLVILLE: SEASON 11 #15 (DC)
Fans of the big blue boy scout are going to love how the Smallville television show has translated into a young Superman story. He’s out there making the bad guys publicly apologize, correcting people’s grammar, taking time to thank the police, and basically doing everything that embodies Superman as the ultimate good guy! Issue 15 of Smallville shows off a lot of the intricate blending that the writer uses to give readers the best of all worlds. He has to boil characters down to their essentials to keep with the earlier timeline of the book, and introduce them to people who transitioned to comics from the show. He also has to write something unique so people who already know these characters won’t be bored. The TV series serves as the back story for the book, and is referenced often, but the book is still written so comic fans who weren’t into the show can keep up. The current arc details a long-awaited crossover with Batman, who appears in both his Batman and Bruce Wayne personas. A lesser writer would take the easy way out in just throwing the two together, but issue 15 shows that Bryan Q. Miller has an intricate plan with more than one overlapping layer in the cases that draw them together. “Multiple motivations” has become a trademark of his style, and just like Batman himself you can say he always has a trick up his sleeve! Luckily he’s paired with art teams who can capture a wide variety of moods, which is also showcased in this issue. The comic book action is always clear and creative. Speaking of being a boy scout I have to add-on an anti-piracy message to the end of all my Smallville reviews. We all know pirating copies online is illegal, and in the case of Smallville especially, it’s a young project and not quite mainstream enough that it will survive without good sales, and no one’s hard work should go to waste. -Scorpio Moon
And that wraps up another week! Let us know what you think about these books. Do you agree with our Bullets? Disagree? Now’s your chance to speak up! We have that comment section below just for that reason, you know.
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