Comics Catch for February 8, 2012
Comics Catch compiles short reviews of a bunch of comics worth reading each week.
Adventure Time (with Finn & Jake) #1: You guys have probably seen this cartoon on TV, and now you can enjoy it in comic book form! If you're a fan of the show, it stands to reason you will love this book. If you aren't, the book is still super enjoyable. Adventure Time #1 is, in fact, probably the funniest, weirdest comic on the stands right now. In this book, a boy and his magical shape-changing dog fight against an evil, gross Lich thing that wants to suck up all of existence into his Bag of Holding. The plot's only important to get the jokes rolling, though, and roll they do; be prepared for a ton of LOL moments. Best joke goes to Finn's attempt at a sick burn: "HEY LICH! Your hands are so skeleton-y and gross that I bet nobody ever wants to hold your hand! I bet that makes you feel bad when you really think about it!" Harsh, bro. A-
Batwoman #6: At the start of its second story, DC Comics' Batwoman swaps out usual artist (and still co-writer) JH Williams III for Amy Reeder (Madame Xanadu). While Reeder's incredibly talented, she's not the artistic innovator Williams is—heck, no one could be—so people looking for his crazy panel layouts and painting-style pages may be a little disappointed with this issue. But fear not, for Batwoman #6 is still a great read that keeps this book in the top tier of DC's comic output. Through a series of flashbacks (and a couple present-tense pages), this comic gets us up-to-date on all the different cast members and plotlines that populate this book, focusing mostly on a rash of unexplained child abductions in Gotham City. Batwoman also gets to try out some new toys courtesy of her government employers, while in her civilian life Kate Kane gets it on with Gotham City detective Maggie Sawyer. This book is better than maybe any other superhero title at juggling multiple ongoing plotlines, and it also features a kick-ass heroine and great art. Highly recommended. A-
Conan the Barbarian #1: Though Robert E. Howard's Conan is no stranger to comics, publisher Dark Horse has decided to give this classic character a fresh start in a new monthly series. But wait, there's more: the book's stacked with some serious indie talent in the form of writer Brian Wood (DMZ, Northlanders) and artist Becky Cloonan (Demo). Good call, Dark Horse; your plan definitely works. Even readers totally unfamiliar with Conan (all you need to know about him's in the title) will probably enjoy this comic, and that's due mostly to Cloonan's fluid, beautiful artwork. The story's a pretty standard example of "Adventure on the High Seas"; Conan's a mercenary who travels around the world offering his services to the highest bidder. In this story, he finds himself in the thrall of a deadly ship captain called the "Queen of the Black Coast," a deadly Siren who enslaves men and then murders them. Bad times. This issue does a great job setting up what's sure to be an epic story to come, but again, art is where the book really shines. Man, that art. A-
Deathstroke #6: One of the biggest surprises of DC's current line of superhero comics is Deathstroke, a book whose hero is a merciless contract killer who's really, really good at his job. But really, movies sometimes ask us to follow bad people just because it's fun to watch them do their stuff, so yeah, Deathstroke is a lot of fun. It's also a gorgeous-looking book with art from Joe Bennett, and in this issue Eduardo Pansica, though the style change is so slight you probably won't notice (that's a good thing!). Though mostly Deathstroke has contained standalone stories to this point, issue #6 is actually the second part of a story about his (presumed dead) son coming back to get revenge on his dad who, go figure, didn't show him a lot of love as a wee one. Read this book for great action, or tips on how not to be a father. A-
Demon Knights #6: Demon Knights is Dungeons & Dragons by way of the DC Universe. It's a cool book starring a bunch of medieval heroes you may or may not be familiar with, characters like the Demon, Madame Xanadu and Merlin (okay, you probably know Merlin). This is the kind of book where it seems like anything goes; this issue, for instance, features our heroes defending a small village from an invading army that counts among its members: 1) dinosaurs, 2) dragons, 3) robot dinosaurs, and 4) you guessed it, robot dragons, so that's pretty cool. That said, it's kind of hard to know when to take this book seriously and when it's all fun and games (small children being killed and robot dinosaurs do not mix so well), but people looking for a wild adventure tale in the style of Lord of the Rings will probably find a lot to enjoy here. If you're coming at the book more as a fan of other DC Comics, though, this comic may not exactly be your bag. B
Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE #6: This comic, by superstar writer Jeff Lemire (Animal Man), stars a team of monster-soldiers—you've got Frankenstein, a werewolf, a mummy, a vampire bat, a mer-woman, etc.—who engage in covert ops for the U.S. government. It sounds pretty crazy, and it is; Lemire uses this book's weird cast to tell fun stories that blend sci-fi, adventure and horror really well. In this issue, Frankenstein and his buddies trek into Vietnam to tie up a loose end from an old mission, a storyline which holds a surprisingly potent emotional punch. The only thing kind of off about this book is its art, from Alberto Ponticelli, which is really scratchy and kind of hard to interpret at times -- it takes the horror look maybe a little too far. Still, Frankenstein is a fun series from a great writer. B
Green Lantern #6: Since relaunching last September, Geoff John's Green Lantern has surprised readers by having as its star not Hal Jordan (or Ryan Reynolds, if you guys please) but Sinestro, Hal's former arch-nemesis who's now trying to clean up the galaxy in a quasi-heroic fashion, sometimes with Jordan as his sidekick. This new dynamic has been a whole lot of fun to explore, and it continues in this issue, which sees these two reluctant partners separate to take care of their own business. So while Hal works on his relationships back on Earth, Sinestro takes to the stars to track down another old enemy of his. What he finds there freaks him out, and it actually sends him back to Jordan asking for help—but why? Johns, who's been working with these characters for years, clearly has some serious plans here. And while usual series artist Doug Mahkne takes a breather this month, fill-in penciller Mike Choi (X-Force) does a really great job in his place, crafting slick action sequences and really detailed characters. Even if you've never read Green Lantern before, this issue will introduce you to all the characters and situations you need to get on board this really fun comic. A-
Kevin Keller #1: For the first time in decades, Archie comics have popped back into headlines thanks in no small part to Kevin Keller, Riverdale High's first openly gay character. Today he gets his own comic series, and it's pretty fascinating. Give the guys at Archie Comics credit—they've smartly decided to not make this book about Kevin's homosexuality. Instead, Kevin's a teen like any other at Riverdale—he worries about homework, extracurriculars, dates and all those things Archie and Jughead deal with on a monthly basis. Because it's an Archie book, nothing here gets too super serious, which can be good or bad depending on how you look at it. It's super corny and retro, sure, but it's kind of nice to read a book where everyone gets along just because. A-
Resurrection Man #6: A couple weeks ago we told you about the '90s Resurrection Man series. This issue's part of a rebirth for the character (pardon the pun)—he's still Mitch Shelley, vagrant with the ability to manifest new superpowers every time he comes back to life, but that's all we know about him. We're currently six chapters in to his new story, and this issue's the best one yet. Here, Shelley's trapped in Arkham Asylum (where all the crazies who fight Batman are locked up), and he's desperate to prove to his jailers that he's actually a hero with powers. Unfortunately, they won't let him kill himself to prove it… go figure. So Shelley spends these 20 pages trying to figure out how to come back to life with powers that will help him break out of the insane asylum… not easy to do when you're under constant surveillance. This book's written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, the same guys from the original series, and they're just as sharp 15 years later. The art, however, has improved significantly since 1997; here Fernando Dagnino does some creepy and crazy things with his pages; it must have been a lot of fun to get to cut loose on all the lunatics locked up in Arkham. A
Thief of Thieves #1: From the mind Robert Kirkman, the dude behind the mega-awesome Walking Dead comic and TV show, comes this book about a master criminal who wants to get out of the game... probably. Thief of Thieves is a sharp, slick and thoroughly entertaining heist comic (think Ocean's Eleven) with top-notch writing by Nick Spencer (THUNDER Agents) and beautiful art from Shawn Martinbrough (Detective Comics).The script moves along at a deliberate pace like the best TV shows, and the characters we meet here are that great mix of slimy but compelling (sure they steal stuff for a living, but let's hang out with them). The only real thing giving pause here is that the first issue doesn't necessarily tell us what the series is going to be about. We learn that our main character, Redmond, can steal anything, and on the last page of the book (SPOILER ALERT) he tells us he wants out of that life—but that's about it. Still, a solid first issue and the talent working on this book makes Thief of Thieves a series to watch. B+
Unwritten #34: A few weeks ago we told you why Mike Carey and Peter Gross' Unwritten was a comic you should be reading. We hope you listened, because this book is crazy good. In this issue, part four of "War of the Words," Tom Taylor finally starts to get a grasp of why he has magical powers that seemingly come from fiction—but it may be too late to do anything about it, as he's made powerless and held at gunpoint in the lair of his enemies, the shadowy Cabal. This issue's edge-of-your-seat great not only for its exposition (finally we start to figure out what's going on) but for its unpredictable plot twists. There's one page turn in particular that will have you cheering out loud, and it involves a particularly clever use of a magic wand. A
BOOK OF THE WEEK: Secret Avengers #22: Every time a new writer takes over a book you love, there's always a bit of hesitance. After a killer run from superstar Warren Ellis and a not-totally-awesome introductory issue a few weeks ago, one could be forgiven for having doubts about Rick Remender's take on this team of secret agent superheroes. Secret Avengers #22 totally dispels those doubts. This book is awesome. Being Remender's first proper issue, it serves two functions. The first is to introduce us to the cast of characters he'll be using, which includes both old favorites like Captain America and Beast as well as new additions like Hawkeye and Captain Britain (basically the London version of Superman). The second is to bring in a new set of bad guys, who we only see a little bit of here, but they seem to be made up of some of the Avengers' worst foes. The most surprising thing about this issue, though, is the art team of Gabriel Hardman and Bettie Breitweiser (Agents of Atlas). The rough, pencil-y look they use makes the book feel kind of gritty and old-fashioned, which is perfect for the covert stuff our team of heroes will be up to. If this is what we can expect from Remender's run on the title going forward, it'll be a real winner. A
Are you reading any of these?