(Wait… you didn’t think I was talking about the end of this column completely, did you? Silly…)
Well, here’s your final round of Bullets for this year. Check some of these out when you hit your LCS this week since we all know it’s going to be a very small week dominated by the final issue of Amazing Spider-Man #700.
A+X #3 (Marvel)
I have criticized this book in the past, but I enjoyed this issue in full. The Black Panther/Storm story was great, and served as a strong epilogue to what happened with their marriage in AvX. It showed they both care for one another still, but T’Challa puts the needs of his recovering nation over the needs of himself. The second story was all about Hawkeye and Gambit saving a woman and both trying to impress the hell out of her… so much so that when they start arguing over who is the better one to do so they forget about her. This was definitely not a full-length story here, but this was a fun story with 2 characters who recently got their own title in the same month, so it’s nice to see them together. This issue impressed me much more than the previous one. -Kelly Cassidy
AVENGERS #2 (Marvel NOW!)
Yeah, I tried the second issue hoping it would get better because I really like the idea of having an Avengers title on my pull list, even though it has low numbering and doesn’t feel like it has history, but I’ll have to look elsewhere for an Avengers book. I’m sorry but I prefer my comics to be their own thing and not reflecting a movie that, honestly, I didn’t much care for. The whole point for this new book is to force feed the movie version of the team to the 616 fans. Why do we need Black Widow and Hawkeye on the team? Because they’re in the movie. That’s why Cap, Iron Man, and Thor look more like the movie versions. Now, while that was a total turn off for me, the other thing that annoyed me was the recruiting sequences. They recruit Spider-Man. Spider-Man was already part of the team, he always talks about it in his own book. There is also the problem with Captain America talking about season heroes as if this was their first time at the dance. He isn’t working with the New Mutants or the freshman class from Avengers Academy, these folks have been around, and also members of the Avengers, for years but suddenly Captain America thinks they can’t handle a big threat. I was annoyed with that until I remembered: These characters have never been in the Avengers in the movie so we have to forget all the years of continuity because of that.
Sorry, but all these things, and the art, were enough to make me drop this book with the second issue. I hope more people like this one that I did but I was so unimpressed with this that I’m not even going to talk about the uninteresting story. Let’s move on… -Skott Jimenez
BLUE BEETLE #15 (DC)
This is the title’s penultimate issue! When it launched, I was hoping that Blue Beetle would be Ted Kord so we could see a Kord/Booster teamup again. Although it wasn’t, the title hasn’t been bad but it also hasn’t been stellar. By bringing the scarabs into the story was something we didn’t see too much of before, and this helped move the story along. Taking it to its interstellar roots made this Blue Beetle different from the previous iteration of this title, and I am glad for that. It will be interesting to see how this wraps up and then moves into Threshold… -Kelly Cassidy
CABLE AND X-FORCE #2 (Marvel NOW!)
So let’s see.. Hope and Domino up against what appears to be the Phalanx, Cable getting open brain surgery from Dr Nemesis and Forge, and we see Colossus in the aftermath of AvX. Dennis Hopeless is spinning a tale that, from the solicits, I was uninterested in but from the first couple of issues is getting me drawn in. From the altercation with the Uncanny Avengers in #1 to the in-fighting here… This is not a well-balanced team and that’s what will make it work. I am unsure of Dr. Nemesis, though, as I never liked the character and he was treated as a joke in the X-Club miniseries. This will be Marvel’s chance to restore him. Salvador Larocca’s art, though, is what guarantees I will buy this book. It’s the best I’ve seen from him, and add in the fantastic coloring… This is a definite pick-up. -Kelly Cassidy
CATWOMAN #15 (DC)
Ann Nocenti’s run has this bizarre mix of her leftist politics, DC’s corporate edict, and a legitimate attempt at consistency with what’s loosely called Judd Winick’s “characterization” of Selina Kyle. On top of that, Rafa Sandoval’s art keeps teetering on the edge between surrealism and just downright incomprehensible with his use of collage splash pages and gothic horror touches. Doesn’t help this run has been shackled with a gimmick and a Scott Snyder-led crossover for the first three issues, but this team has handled it in a way that could be called “unique.” Take the Death of the Family tie-in issues; the Joker hatching a scheme to get Catwoman involved in the crossover, only for her to say “No thanks” and walk away. That’s the kind of hard-bitten, genuine cynicism one gets from decades in the industry, and it’s always fun to see play out in a crossover.
Unfortunately, the creative team is still hobbled going into their first actual issue, which is kind of a dud. Half of it is Selina and friend doing B&E during a rich kid’s wild party, while the other half involves Selina sneaking into one of the New 52’s super-secret government installations and stealing the Black Diamond. The first half is fluff, written so much like Winick’s Skinemax take–complete with party guys demanding Catwoman gives them her “sweet stuff” in exchange for not calling the cops–I double-checked the cover to make sure Nocenti wrote this. Also, Sandoval can’t seem to decide if Catwoman’s top is zipped up or not from panel to panel. The previous two issues had tacky moments, sure, but not as much tonal whiplash. If this isn’t a cautionary tale of DC’s editorial mucking, I don’t know what is. -Andrew Taylor
DARK SHADOWS #11 (Dynamite Entertainment)
Have I mentioned how much I love this series? I think this will make the eleventh time I’ve mentioned this. Behind the absolutely gorgeous cover by the highly talented Francesco Francavill, which also serves as a tribute to the late, great Jonathan Frid (but it’s also another in a long line of great covers Francesco had done for this series) but the story inside if becoming a true treat. Barnabas is still trying to find David’s young girl friend, who is now a vampire, but before he can really begin his search he’s taken to The Blue Whale by Willie who claimed to have seen something horrific involving some of the Collins clan. What they find there really is horrific and something Barnabas might not be able to handle now that he’s no longer really a vampire. But all he needs to do it take off that necklace and all his powers come rushing back. The problem is his thirst will also return and he hasn’t taken in blood in some time now!
But with the lives of his family threatened by demons, will he sacrifice his new found humanity to save them? If I know him the way I think I do, I think he will but the cost will certainly be high. Plus it will be interesting to see Barnabas fight demons, I’ve never seen that before.
In another storyline we have David, trying to protect and save his girl friend and is beginning to learn more about his cousin Barnabas and, more shockingly, see Quintin Collins become a werewolf! This is something he’s seen before but Barnabas has always been able to remove the memory from his mind. But now that he no longer has his vampiric powers… Things are going to be very interesting in Collinwood! -Skott Jimenez
EMPOWERED SPECIAL #3 (Dark Horse)
There’s a certain level of hypocrisy in decrying comic book sexism when your lead character is covered in teeny-tiny strips of spandex (if that). Most writers and artists lack the self-awareness to realize such–hence why Brian Bendis has an issue of The Avengers devoted to Spider-Woman being stripped and bound by the Wizard, or why Tigra, Wasp, Mockingbird, and Scarlet Witch get the punching bag treatment throughout his tenure–but Adam Warren is nothing if not self-conscious.
He and guest artist Ryan Kinnaird (Warren draws black & white flashbacks, Kinnaird draws colored present day) revel in drawing curvy women in threadbare costumes. Empowered of course gets the requisite costume shredding the graphic novels are known for, and she battles robot angel/demon things dressed like they were somebody’s sex fantasy (which they are); her costume looks similar to Witchblade’s by the time she gets around to lecturing another hero about objectification. Not the most brilliant gag, but Warren uses it to laugh at the industry and fandom who produce/consume this every week; the comic’s manga style even makes it an all-inclusive take that. When the lecherous, robotic hero Mechanismo is reading a magazine featuring two heroines on the cover, we discover the text about them reads “Fornicate/Nuptialate/Killerate?” which hits the accepted roles of women in comics rather bluntly. This disturbing theme leads to many jokes, such as the response to Empowered figuring out what’s going in: “It sounds all creepy when you put it like that.” Yes it is. If there has to be the kind of comics Catwoman has turned into, they should at least be as funny and honest as this. -Andrew Taylor
JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #647 (Marvel NOW!)
Finally… A Marvel NOW! book I can get behind. This is the second issue in the new era for Journey Into Mystery under the guiding hand of Kathryn Immonen and Valerio Schiti and they are really making this book their own. I loved the first issue of this run and was concerned that maybe the story would begin to lose steam with the second issue and, boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong! While some of the humor that has become hallmark of this series is gone, it’s replaced with some very strong character development and story.
This issue begins to show what changes are happening in the mind of Lady Sif after learning the ancient spell that makes her the best warrior of all time. She begins to attack anyone and everyone who she sees as weak, mostly because she’s tired of seeing Asgard, and Asgardia, always being destroyed and rebuilt. She decided at the beginning of her journey that it’s better to prevent the shining cities from being destroyed and the best way to do this is to make everyone fear Asgard again. The shocker of this issue is her confrontation with her brother, Heimdall, the outcome is certainly going to lead to a very nasty confrontation between these two! Overall, this series isn’t getting the attention it deserves but of the Marvel books I’ve been sampling recently, this one has the action and adventure on a wide scale down pat. If you’re looking for action and adventure outside of the regular Marvel fare then this is the book you simply must pick up! -Skott Jimenez
SUPREME #67 (Image)
Take away the blood on Supreme’s face, and this is as old-fashioned as comics get. Two superheroes spend the bulk of the comic beating the crap out of each other, repeating their perspectives on said tussle like two scratched records played side by side. Oddly complementary scratched records, but still looping the same phrases until you realize the problem and turn it off. Even in its bland pulpiness, it’s kind of amusing that Supreme, or rather “Mean Supreme” (the new, edgy version that took over while the previous guy went about being Not-Clark Kent), is depicted as a total Nazi with contempt for the alien Omni-Man and having completed missions of genocide against other races of aliens, including talking ducks. A surviving duck ends up orchestrating a revenge scheme involving two Supremes, a lion-headed dude, a Mickey Mouse on steroids, and an African-American woman.
This doesn’t stop Erik Larsen and Cory Hamscher from being regressive, of course. Everyone not white has some bizarre speech pattern, animal face, or stereotypical hairdo; New Supreme (the Not-Clark) gets chastised for drinking Diet Soda and skim milk (because real men don’t) and stands around being shocked at everything. Really, the only progressive idea in this comic is that Nazis are bad, mmkay? Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful someone’s finally come out and said that; it’s been a long time coming, but don’t be shy about taking a step forward!
Then again, what are we expecting here? It’s a superhero comic from Larsen, based on a character created by Rob Liefeld. Them records have been scratched plenty. -Andrew Taylor
THUNDERBOLTS #2 (Marvel NOW!)
I quite enjoyed the concept of the book with issue #1 and that continues on into #2 as well. We see the team come together here (minus the purple-haired character from the first issue) and actually begin to do something. We time and location jump several times, from Madripoor to New York City to Kata, Jaya. We see a Flash Thompson/Venom at his most cruel, and the Punisher is… well, the Punisher. Everyone’s costume – even Venom – has that tint of red to it to go along with the Red Hulk, and we see the merging of the team. This issue starts what issue #1 set up – the actual workings of the team. Although I felt that some of the art was rather 2-dimensional, Steve Dillon always satisfies me in the long run. We’ll see how Daniel Way takes this team, as that is my uncertainty factor right now. -Kelly Cassidy
Well, that’s all for this week. We’ll see you next week with the final titles of 2012 and look forward to an All-New, All-Exciting 2013 which I’m sure will bring us some of the most exciting and groundbreaking comics we’ve ever seen!
Have a safe and Merry Christmas and an equally safe and Happy New Year!