Comics Catch compiles short reviews of a bunch of comics worth reading each week.
All-Star Western #5: Despite its title, it's not totally fair to call this book a western… not exactly. ASW's more of a steampunk-style action movie-slash-detective yarn, like Shanghai Noon crossed with Maltese Falcon or something. But the kicker is, this book's set in Gotham City—Batman's hometown—just about 100 years before the Dark Knight starts operating. The keen reader, though, can find a lot of references to familiar elements of Batman's world. Take this issue, where our twin lead characters of Jonah Hex (a down-and-dirty bounty hunter) and Dr. Amadeus Arkham (a cowardly psychiatrist who helps the Gotham police) get trapped underneath Gotham while trying to break up a child abduction ring. They're found out and tossed into a deep, dark hole full of bats—sound familiar? Yes, here Hex and Arkham have to claw their way out of what will become the Batcave… but first they've got to tussle with its current tenants, a group of lost Native Americans who actually worship a Bat-spirit (long story). All-Star Western is always a ton of fun, and this issue is no exception. The art's provided by a fella called Moritat, and though occasionally some of his panels could do with a little more detail (especially long shots or crowded scenes) they typically have a very dirty, even scratchy look that makes this book feel like the Old West. Because so much of this particular issue involves two guys trying to climb out of a hole, it feels just a bit lighter on content than usual, but it's still one of your best bets on the comic racks this week and a satisfying story issue after issue. B
Green Lantern: New Guardians #5: We all know (probably) that there's a guy called Green Lantern who uses his magic-ish ring to be a superhero. In the last few years of his comic, though, he's had to share the spotlight with all the other colors of the spectrum. The set-up of New Guardians asks us to follow a team of seven Lantern—one for each letter in ROYGBIV—as they fight off threats no one Lantern could alone. It's a cool premise, but one that sometimes lacks in execution. In this issue, the different members of our team investigate a giant solar system-shaped spaceship that's invaded their territory and wants to steal their powerful rings for themselves. Not a lot actually happens, though the mystery behind the ring thieves deepens a little. New Guardians is an okay sci-fi/action comic, but it just seems like there's a lot more these guys could be doing. C+
Infestation 2 #1: Depending on how you want to come at this book, there are two ways to pitch Infestation 2 (which, BTW, is the sequel to Infestation 1). Pitch the first: if you're an HP Lovecraft nut, this book is for you. It's all about the dark gods made so famous by that writer invading our dimension after centuries locked away in their unholy prison. Heck, HP Lovecraft is even a character in the book! Pitch the second: Have you ever wanted to see the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles team up with the Transformers and GI Joe? You have?! Well, son, then get ready for this. For the second time, comic publisher IDW has found a pretty clever, fun way to bring together all their most popular series, because it's not every day Donatello and Optimus Prime get to stand side-by-side. It's not that those characters will actually meet through the course of this series—probably—but over the next few months we're going to see how an invasion of evil monsters would challenge all those different worlds. It's a pretty thin excuse to tell a crazy story, but that doesn't really matter as long as it's fun to tell. This issue's a lot of set-up, with the gods' invasion just starting and a government team called the Covert Vampire Operatives trying (unsuccessfully) to put a lid on it. Believe you me, with this story the best is yet to come. B
Justice League Dark #5: "In Portland, there's a tsunami of obsolete computers, each monitor with the ghost-face of a dead relative. In New Mexico, a bloody, one-sided war breaks out between fans of reality TV and readers of serious fiction. In Egypt, the Sphinx forgets the answer to its own riddle and attacks a line of tourists." Most of the fun of Justice League Dark is in seeing what totally weird stuff writer Peter Milligan will come up with. This is a strange book that lives on the edge between traditional superhero comics and darker, twisted horror/suspense books… and also, if you couldn't tell, it's got a sweet sense of humor. In the current storyline (which kind of but not really wraps up in this issue), a team of magic-users and misfits from across the DC Universe have been brought together to stop the evil witch Enchantress from, you know, destroying the world. The way they do that is pretty strange and a little freaky, but it's fun to look at thanks to Mikel Janin's art. This book is maybe not that new-reader friendly given its generally unfamiliar characters and strange events, but if that bit of narration at the top of this review captured your interest, you can probably find copies of the first issue still lying around your local comic shop and give it a try. B+
Secret Avengers #21.1: Why #21.1? Well, because Marvel Comics wants this issue to be an easy jumping-on point for you, the potential new reader! So why should you care about Secret Avengers? Well, it's a book about a superhero team led by Captain America that does covert ops, James Bond-style stuff. Cool concept, right? Every writer on this series handles it differently, but so far newcomer Rick Remender (this is his first issue) seems to have the right idea. In this book (which is a whole story unto itself—no need to worry about missing anything!), Captain America and sharpshooter Hawkeye infiltrate Balgalia, a "red light country" where "anything goes." They're there to protect an American congressman involved in some shady dealings, but as usual with these spy missions, things aren't quite what they seem. This issue's action sequences, drawn by Patrick Zircher, are a lot of fun, although once or twice the script does lean towards the soap opera-y side when its two main characters bicker like the kids on Glee. Still, it seems like Remender and Zircher have a pretty good plan for what they want to do with Secret Avengers, which means it's worth us sticking around for the ride. B
Transformers: Robots in Disguise #1: You guys, we know this sounds dorky, and you haven't even heard the best part yet—Transformers RiD is about robots governing themselves. In this series, the ancient Autobot/Decepticon war has just ended, and now it's up to characters like Bumblebee, Prowl and Wheeljack to keep peace between not only both warring factions but also a bunch of civilians who're flocking back to their homeworld now that they think it's safe. It's like someone watched the movies and thought, "You know how this would be better? If these giant robots kicked and punched each other less and passed resolutions and elected representatives more." Here's the thing, though: this book is awesome. Granted, there is a certain type of reader it will appeal to, but there are people out there—like a certain MindHut writer—who think that beyond the silliness of the Transformers concept exist some actually serious sci-fi stories you can tell. This new comic, in tandem with its sister book More Than Meets the Eye that came out two weeks ago, represents a major step in that direction. Why can't you tell stories with transforming robots as serious as Battlestar Galactica or the best of Star Trek? Robots in Disguise is out to prove you can, and it's guaranteed to be more exciting than C-SPAN 2 watching them try. A-
Book of the Week: Justice League #5: Justice League takes the biggest heroes of the DC Universe and slams them together into one sweet comic. It's been criticized for being "the Michael Bay movie of comic books," but in the right context that's not so bad. Yeah, it's a big, silly action comic, but when you put guys like Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash and Wonder Woman together, well, what do you want? This issue's probably the best yet in this relatively new series; the evil Darkseid has begun an invasion on Earth for reasons unknown, and it's up to this just-assembled team of heroes to take him out. In between all the panels of stellar, big-screen style Jim Lee art are a couple awesome and unexpected character moments, especially from Green Lantern and Batman, who it turns out does have a heart after all. How sweet. Stuff explode, guys in tights punch either other and Superman gets carried off by winged demons. This is Justice League, and it's grand. A
Will you be reading any of these this week?