ALPHA: BIG TIME #1 (Marvel NOW!)
Hey, look, a mercenary spin-off from some mercenary Spider-Man comics, from the writer of those He-Man and Skeletor origin one-shots over at DC. Despite the promise of that setup, this comic isn’t really all that terrible: Joshua Hale Fialkov doesn’t write like he’s convinced he’s doing Serious Business, Capital-A-For-Art comics, and Nuno Plati’s artwork doesn’t look like Frank D’Armata has been coloring after a hangover. There’s even a couple good gags involving Spider-Ock exploiting the obnoxious self-absorbed teen that stars in this comic (a particular favorite being said teen strapped into manacles for four stat panels), almost as brilliant as Mark Waid’s “the die is cast” line from Daredevil #22.
Of course, people invested on either side of Marvel’s trumped-up Superior Spider-Man controversy are probably not going to like this: those who have always hated Dan Slott’s Spider-Man run will be angry because it’s more Spider-Ock and Andy Maguire, who was created by Dan Slott; those who are slavishly devoted to Slott’s run will hate it because it’s Andy Maguire (whom they wish Slott had viciously murdered in his first appearance for being annoying). What might be missed by all of them is that Fialkov and Plati, despite the latter’s style resembling Chris Samnee or Humberto Ramos, accidentally capture the misanthropic tone of Lee and Ditko’s early Spider-Man comics far better than any creative team since, just by focusing on horrible people acting horribly. Sure, Alpha gets bullied in high school, but he still acts like a mopey, entitled brat (even insisting, child-like, he’s not Alpha when people clearly recognize him as such). He’s also just a tool being used by an unscrupulous adult, which ends up being an important lesson: someone’s always going to exploit you, even if it’s to sell Spider-Man spin-offs. -Andrew Taylor
AVENGERS #6 (Marvel NOW!)
We continue the rotation of the (New) Avengers team. The big version. Although this issue is worlds better than the previous 4 but not much better than five but still better. I hope this is the continuation of how the series will make me feel. Each issue getting slightly better. It is sad because usually Avengers book are the best books I buy. Where have those days gone? It was nice to actually get to see some Avengers in this issue. Which was a really nice change-up. But as usual since the Marvel Now! Avengers it was only briefly and it wasn’t even during a battle. We learn the new sentients name and we get to meet Tamara who is the first really interesting character we have met since the Avengers got “bigger”. Plus a slight preview of the White Event? Yay…another Marvel Event…that will probably be disappointing. -Nick Furious
FEARLESS DEFENDERS #1 (Marvel NOW!)
A big old yawner, this one. The rare superhero comic that passes the Bechdel test, yet still reads like the same boring cheesecake. Same painful anatomy and same fanboy-pleasing nonsense like lesbian makeouts. What makes it awkward is that Will Sliney, like Greg Land or Gillem March, seems intent on pretending he’s not a boobs’n’butts artist, but rather an action guy who specializes in action scenes but whoops all the fights are disjointed and have no pacing (Misty Knight has a gun at her back! Wait, she’s turned around and kicked her assailant’s ankle as if she leapt at him from afar! Oh, nevermind.). At least Jim Balent isn’t trying to fool anyone with that Tarot thing that sometimes pops up on the stands, kept in the +5 Bag of Innocence Preservation so deviant children know exactly where to look: Balent’s proud he draws like that, which seems like an inspirational message for artists like Sliney who don’t want to own up to how they do things (admission is the first step, fellas).
Never read much Cullen Bunn, but if this is anything to go on (and apparently this is, since it’s a sequel to a Fear Itself tie-in he wrote), he is really pre-Hawkeye Matt Fraction going under a pseudonym. The glib character descriptions in captions, too-cool-for-you dialogue, and the aforementioned kiss between Valkyrie and Annabelle Riggs–sexist like Fraction’s tendency in FF to have women running around in towels and underwear for half an issue, but not as earnest enough to be hilarious–all of it reads like that, which is not so much exciting as it is shrug-inducing. -Andrew Taylor
G.I. JOE #1 (IDW)
With how much I have loved how IDW has been giving some life to the Dinobots and bringing back my childhood memories, I decided that I would give G.I. Joe a shot too. I was not disappointed. Can I say this was the best book ever? No. Can I say this was a fun book? Yes, absolutely. When I think G.I. Joe I think of my mainstays from the old Marvel comic and the cartoon – Snake Eyes, Scarlett – and neither of them were here. And that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the title. No, this is a more “public” Joe team due to their exposure in the previous series (which I did not read but was very nicely summed up here – if you’re going to do a relaunch, this is a way to do it). What I think I found the most fun was Shipwreck not wanting to be called Shipwreck but arguing over his name… it gave a somewhat realistic view to it. Yes, there is going to be lots of explosions and action here, but it’s also tempered with some of the humanity there. I also loved Quick Kick as a character when I was a kid (one of my first actual toys), so to see him used was nice. And what was different was the use of a media personality to follow the Joes around and report on them… a nice touch. (And codename: Hashtag – yeah, that’s not in keeping in touch with current times.) This Joe team is all about transparency, but that’s going to run into some issues when they are mid-mission and their journalist tweets our their location or logs in using Foursquare… You know that’s gonna be a plot at some point. Fred Van Lente and Steve Kurth have definitely delivered a fun book here, one I’ve added to my pull list. (Now I have to remove something from that list, though…) -Kelly Cassidy
HAPPY #4 (Image)
Dreary, nonsensical, all sorts of other mean things. That’s the gist of Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson’s Happy. There’s some message in there about imaginary friends–in this case the eponymous winged horse–being important to coping with how Santa Claus is probably a pedophile or something else about how life is really, truly awful. In other words, “Buy more superhero comics and don’t think about anything.” Of course, Morrison has been going far too deep into the escapism rabbit hole since All-Star Superman, which makes the continued PR of him as countercultural icon less ironic and more ridiculous. Hell, when a bunch of other imaginary friends show up, most of them look like corporate mascots, the ultimate endorsement of the comic industry’s self-cannibalizing nostalgia. Sure, Batman Incorporated comes from the same place, but there’s also enough playing with iconography that all those real-world issues Morrison is trying to suppress end up surfacing, often in surprising ways (Leviathan’s religious brainwashing of children and systematic undermining of the roles of government institutions, for example). Also, it’s not drawn by a phoned-in Darick Robertson, unwilling to do anything but tight close ups or teeny-tiny panels. -Andrew Taylor
HIT-GIRL #5 (Icon)
Hit-Girl #5 brings the kick ass action we have grown to love from our little pre-teen killer hero. Hit-Girl takes place in between Kick-Ass Volume 1 and Kick-Ass Volume 2. We really get to see Mindy aka Hit-Girl do what she does best- kill the bad guys. Issue #4 set us up for this glorious violent finally. Hit-Girl #5 opens up with Ralphie Genovese goons about to take out Mindy, Marcus and Mindy’s mom. It appears all is over for them all but this is when Hit-Girl goes all berserker on these goons. She doesn’t hold anything back as she takes out each gangster. Mark Millar definitely wants to show us that Hit-Girl is one bad ass kid that can take you out with just a kitchen knife. John Romita’s artwork once again is stunning in these vicious panels. Mindy doesn’t just want to kill these guys she wants to make a statement with a slam of a sledgehammer. Trust me you will know what I mean when you see it. Hit-Girl gets a glimpse of Big Daddy and he lets her know it is time to finish it. This book ties in very well to the first issue of Kick-Ass 2 #1. Near the end of the issue we see more of the Red Mist trying to become a bad ass super villain but he decides to bring in some dangerous reinforcements. Plus at the end of the issue Hit-Girl lets Kick-Ass know she is going to make him into something. This issue doesn’t hold back the violence factor but that is what Kick-Ass, Hit-Girl and all these characters are known for now. Mark Millar does a great job coming to a close in this issue and gives us more insight to the whole world around each of these characters. -Tony Calandra
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1 (DC)
As I have said time and time again I feel like Geoff Johns is a prodigy for the DC label. He has been fantastic with the New 52. Not that he was shit before that but he has really had time to shine in a new way especially with Justice League of America which was a much better #1 than say Justice League #1. I’m not saying the character introductions were brilliant but I learned who the team is, I learned why they formed, but best of all I got more Steve Trevor who has really been established as an entertaining character. If they do EVER make a Justice League movie Steve Trevor better be in. Same as Amanda Waller. I’m ranting. Overall JLA was a great first issue and as usual had incredible artwork, what else did I expect from David Finch? It is a nice change-up getting to read and examine the artwork on nearly every issue and be pleased. I forgot how much I missed that. I had forgotten how little Marvel actually cared. Glad to know DC still does. -Nick Furious
KATANA #1 (DC)
From the pages of a comic that hasn’t been released yet comes…this thing. Despite its straightforward structure (that being a “how did I get here?” flashback tale), Ann Nocenti and Alex Sanchez have made a comic that is a struggle to read. Sanchez’s hazily drawn panels, given a soft color palette by Matt Yackey, go between misty shots of village huts and Walter Hill’s urban frontier from The Warriors as if he was unaware of the actual setting (modern, touristy Japantown in San Francisco). Nocenti’s narration has Katana talking about how romantic the bruises her husband gave her were during a Goseki Kojima-style sex-scene-as-nightmare. A lot of the dialogue revolves around ninja clans and a sword which might contain souls (but maybe not!), and always comes across like I should have been reading a dozen other comics I haven’t read nor care to. Mostly, it’s all pointing to the main character being crazy (but maybe not! Have to have some mystery, right), which writer and artist are at least using as an opportunity to flex some creative muscles, even within the ever-tightening confines of a company that wants to choke out any semblance of mirth and merriment from their comics (Batman, Inc. notwithstanding), by depicting fights where the heroine cuts down enemies in a park using her formal wear. Like on Catwoman, Nocenti is playing second-fiddle to another comic set to Capital S for Serious by a less interesting writer. Luckily, both she’s paired on both with artists who share her commitment to taking the most banal setups and turning it into really bizarre junk. -Andrew Taylor
NOVA #1 (Marvel NOW!)
Our own Christof Bogacs wrote up a full review of this book which you can read here but I just had to add in my two-cents worth. First some personal history: I was never much of a fan of Nova until Annihilation. Before that story all Nova was to me was a dork with a bucket on his head. I’ve since gone out and picked up Essential Nova, Volume 1 and learned the first stories of the character were actually very entertaining. This basically tells me what screwed the character up was the 1990′s. But NOW! we have a new Nova. He’s another punk kid with smart remarks that will take nothing serious and has nothing interesting to say about himself. This book doesn’t work. At all. Up until now we had the Nova Corps and that was it. There were different levels of Novas but they basically looked the same. Now we’re supposed to buy into there always having been Black Novas. The Nova Corps is suddenly the Green Lantern Corps with all kinds of pretty colors.
While that makes no sense, we are also to believe once the father of this new Nova becomes a drunken loser that the Nova Corps would allow him to keep the helmet and the power of being a Nova. Yeah, you’re a drunk and we’re going to fire you but we’ll let you keep this massive power. Makes no sense. Honestly, I didn’t have much hope for this book but I tried it in hopes it would surprise me. In a way it did. It was worse than I expected. Originally I was going to stick with it because Rocket Raccoon and Gamora are in it but there is so much wrong here, from the sudden appearance of a group of Novas we never had before to the continuity ignoring appearance of the two Guardians of the Galaxy that reading more might make my nose bleed. This was almost as bad as the first issue of New Avengers. Maybe if it was a $2.99 book I’d stick with it but for $3.99 this will most likely be as far as I get with it. Sam Alexander is just not interesting. -Skott Jimenez
SAGA #10 (Image)
I’m so full of praise for Saga. It is in incredible book. Every issue seems to rocket the plot forward, never stopping for breath, and #10 is no exception. Brian K. Vaughan plays with our feelings like a cat with a ball of yarn, and this issue ends with an emotional gut punch for a character I don’t think anyone was expecting. Fiona Staples continues to provide incredible visuals that jump from character drama to space action, passing through all points in between on the way. Her style is beautifully flowing and organic, and her designs continue to be original and striking. I find it difficult to talk about Saga as I feel like I just constantly repeat the same mantras about how good I think it is, but it really is that good. An incredible book by an incredible team. You owe it to yourself to read it. It’s just the best. -Matthew Watson
SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #4 (Marvel NOW!)
One of the many things I like about this series is that it’s one of the few books Marvel puts out that I still enjoy. Overall, I’ve been disappointed in this Marvel NOW! thing. Nothing is exciting or interesting to me (most likely because I’ve never been interested in the movies and most of this NOW! stuff caters to the movies) but Superior has continued to be as fun and exciting as Amazing was since Brand New Day. This issue brings Giuseppe Camuncoli on board the Superior series for the first time as well as bringing the character Massacre back into the fold. Now Massacre, who was responsible for the death of JJJ’s wife, hasn’t been seen in a while but now he’s out and doing his thing: Killing. Spider-Man now has to face a decision of crossing the line or not, or more importantly: CAN he cross the line as Peter Parker is still forcing him to pull his punches but even he has to realize that some people can only be stopped if they are killed and Massacre is one of them. It’s going to be interesting to be sure.
We also see what happens when Doctor Octopus can no longer refer to himself as ‘Doctor’ because Peter Parker never earned the title. Otto is going to fix that situation but may end up making a bigger mess than expected. This situation is also giving other people a chance to really see that something is different with ‘Peter’ and I hope it leads to some investigating into him.
But the most interesting moment in this issue is on the last page. What is it? I’ll give you a hint: Green. Can’t wait for #5! -Skott Jimenez
THOR: GOD OF THUNDER #5 (Marvel NOW!)
Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic deliver yet another slice of hammer-led action with Thor: God of Thunder #5. I’m constantly impressed by how little this feels like a superhero book. It has a much more fantasy tone, helped in no small part by Ribic’s beautiful visuals. This may well be the best looking book at Marvel. Another shining example of how the creative change-ups of Marvel NOW have helped revitalise long-established characters. I’m a big fan of the three Thors, especially cranky Old King Thor, and I’m interested to see how long Aaron sticks with the format, and what he can do with it. Exciting action, art that conveys tons of character and emotion, and compelling drama. I don’t know about you, but that’s exactly what I want from Thor. Sheer brilliance. -Matthew Watson
VIBE #1 (DC)
OK. I was not thrilled about this title. I thought that Vibe was one of the worst characters ever to join the old League, but when they were stationed in Detroit he was a local from the streets with these strange vibratory powers. In the old universe, Vibe was killed and (unlike some of the other characters created for that era of the League) I was glad to see him go. This new Vibe is nothing like the old… in fact, it’s not even the same person who becomes Vibe. And so there is some potential there. How he received his powers as well… Interesting, as it ties back to when Apokolips and Darkseid came to Earth (which can be revisited in the original arc of Justice League). As a result of his powers, Vibe can never be photographed – he’s somewhat out of sync with the universe. The above said, what I thought was one of the lamest characters of the old League is not as lame anymore. I found this book fun, thanks in no part to Geoff Johns (who likes to revive characters and give them new life and some new focus). It seems that with the New 52 relaunch, Johns had some leeway – he was not bound by the old DCU for this character – and so he made him all new. Co-writing with Andrew Kreisberg, you could tell this was not just a Johns script, but that’s OK – this was a seriously fun read. And, apart from Jaime “Blue Beetle” Reyes, is one of the few Latino heroes within the DCU… and he’s on the JLA cool.
What I am liking, though, is that I think Johns is setting up for something big. We see Gypsy in this issue (another Leaguer from original Vibe’s era), but also something else in the background that leads me to believe of a new mega-crossover for DC… I’ll speculate on that elsewhere… This book was infinitely more fun than Katana. It took a dead character and brought him back in a new way… something Johns has NEVER done before. (End sarcasm.) Highly recommended. -Kelly Cassidy