Comics Catch for March 14, 2012
Comics Catch compiles short reviews of a bunch of comics worth reading each week.
BOOK OF THE WEEK: Avengers Assemble #1: At this point everyone knows the Avengers movie is coming soon and it's going to be awesome. Get psyched up with this new series, set in the Marvel comics (not movie) universe that stars the very same heroes you can see on the big screen in two months! Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow—aka the best Avengers—are back together again, and it's nice to see them all fight side-by-side (it's been awhile, especially for poor Hulk). They're going to need each other, too, when a group of 12 villains called the Zodiac shows up claiming to have access to a mystical power source that could give them domain of the Earth. Longtime Avengers writer Brian Michael Bendis turns in a whip-smart, intense script, and Ultimate Spider-Man superstar artist Mark Bagley works his usual magic with solid character designs and smooth action. Highly recommended.
Batwoman #7: Kate Kane, aka our titular hero, tracks down the criminal responsible for hospitalizing her niece in this issue, the second part of "Drown the World." What she finds is the base of operations for the organization Medusa, which plans to infiltrate Gotham City by making urban legends and other fairy tales come to life. This is a really cool idea for bad guys, especially for those that live in the could-almost-be-real-but-not-quite world of Gotham. Writers JH Williams III and W Haden Blackman also pack a lot of character and plot development into this issue, which juggles the main story of Batwoman vs. Medusa with supporting plots about her romantic relationship with police captain Maggie Sawyer, her estranged father, her new government employers and more. Additionally, artist Amy Reeder (now on her second issue) seems to be settling nicely into the visual demands of this unique-looking book.
Deathstroke #7: Seven issues in, this fantastic anti-hero series from Kyle Higgins and Joe Bennett finally answers the question of what it means that our star character is a merciless contract killer and all-around bad dude. This issue finds him caught in a trap set by his own son, and there seems to be no way out for Slade Wilson this time. Unfortunately, his son's financial backers have their own plans for revenge that involves striking at everyone in the Wilson bloodline. Will Slade finally show some emotions and embrace his family ties to save his boy, or will his killer instincts win out no matter the cost? This is terrific, gritty drama, beautifully drawn by Bennett. You might be surprised to find an actual heart behind this comic's cold exterior. Higgins has only one issue left on this book after this one, and no doubt many readers will be sad to see him go.
Demon Knights #7: The DC Universe meets Dungeons & Dragons in this medieval fantasy epic. Here, the final issue of the first story arc, our seven magical heroes must defend a town from an invading army seeking an ancient treasure -- but that army's going to have its hands full up against the likes of the Demon, Shining Knight and Madame Xanadu. This book's action-packed and chaotic, like an intense World of Warcraft siege, though some of its twists and turns may seem a little forced. Demon Knights has been a good read, especially for readers who like Lord of the Rings-style action, but its cluttered plotting and sometimes-inconsistent art may not be for everyone. Still, if your favorite way to spend a Friday night is rolling up new characters, check this series out.
Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE #7: Upon returning from an away mission, Frankenstein and his team of Monster Commandos (which includes a wolfman, a winged vampire and a mummy) find that their headquarters, SHADE City, has come under attack from within. Now Frankenstein and his squad have to liberate their friends and employers from a threat they themselves created. What's most interesting about Frankenstein #7 is that it shows how much of a difference an inker makes with comic art. While the first six issues of this book have been inked by series artist Alberto Ponticelli himself (and Ponticelli's very scratchy style may have been a turn-off to some readers), here he gets outside inking help from Walden Wong. The result is fantastic, producing the best-looking issue of Frankenstein yet, which, given the consistently high caliber of Jeff Lemire's writing, consequently makes this the best issue of the series.
Green Lantern #7: After the revelations he discovered last issue, Green Lantern Sinestro has returned to Earth to get Hal Jordan's help in fighting the corrupt Guardians, who mean to replace the Green Lantern Corps with a new, dangerous group. "Secret of the Indigo Tribe" (of which this is part one) promises to finally expose the secrets of the heretofore unexplained Indigo Lanterns, a group of non-speaking powerhouses who possess a whole lot of power. Hal Jordan and Sinestro are going to have to team up to ensure that they won't be replaced, which is going to end up being a lot of fun for us, especially with Doug Mahnke's terrific pencils providing the visuals.
Resurrection Man #7: The amnesiac Mitch Shelley, on the run after last issue's break-out from Arkham Asylum, finds himself holed up in a Metropolis safehouse that happens to be the site of a meth lab. He'll have to use his powers to help police defeat the drug lord Mr. Untouchable… but will the cops accept his help? Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's Resurrection Man has found a nice rhythm for itself, telling done-in-one stories that show off Shelley's new powers (he gets a new one every time he dies, remember) while adding more and more to the mysteries surrounding our main character. How did he get the way he is? Where does he come from? These episodes make us want to know more, and with Fernando Dagnino providing the art we've got something really nice to look at as well.
Saga #1: Probably the biggest comic release of the week is this book from writer Brian K Vaughn (Y the Last Man, Ex Machina, Runaways, Lost) and artist Fiona Staples, which marks a return to the medium that made Vaughn a hit after several years' absence. Saga #1, as its name implies, is the beginning of an epic science-fiction story that crosses elements of Star Wars, Dune and a ton of other tales, with a bit of Romeo and Juliet thrown in for good measure. It follows Marko and Alana, two deserting soldiers from opposite sides of a war who've fallen in love and even had a child together. Both sides want the lovers back to make an example of them (it would be terrible for PR to see an ex-soldier fraternizing with the enemy), but our two lovers have different plans. Of all the great sci-fi epics, this one seems most similar to Joss Whedon's Firefly, with a real frontier/adventure feel that comes with following two outlaws trying to survive in a real ugly world. It should also be noted that, while this first issue only costs the traditional $2.99, it's double the size of a regular comic, which means you definitely get your money's worth from this book.
Saucer Country #1: Writer Paul Cornell (Demon Knights, see above) brings a new series to Vertigo Comics that combines the political maneuvering of a show like West Wing with X-Files-style sci-fi mystery. New Mexico Governor Arcadia Alvarado, an incredibly popular woman-of-the-people politician (despite being a divorced Hispanic lady) is ready to announce her run for the Presidency. On the eve of this announcement, though, she's abducted by aliens. She returns to Earth with foggy memories of the event but one certainty: aliens are primed to invade the planet. Unfortunately, her political advisors aren't really going to want to hear much about that if she's to have any shot at getting into the White House. Saucer Country blends a pretty sharp look at modern politics with a (so far subtle) "the truth is out there" plot that will certainly have readers wanting to look beyond this first issue for answers. A great debut from Cornell and artist Ryan Kelly.
Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye #3: A group of Transformers that are lost in space have to fight a supposedly mythical monster called a Spark-Eater who's trapped with them in this issue that combines awesome giant robot action with a touch of horror ala Alien or, I don't know, Jason X (more the former). The best part about this book is writer James Roberts' diverse cast, who bring a ton of unique and interesting voices to the book—you've got your hotshot leader looking to prove himself but also have fun (Rodimus), your grizzled medical veteran (Ratchet), your new-age philosopher who annoys everybody (Drift), your supposedly adventure-loving robot who really just wants to sit around and tell stories (Outback) and more. Most surprisingly, this issue shows us what the heretofore untapped Chromedome can do -- as a mnemosurgeon, he can actually read and manipulate memories. Cool! So far, Roberts and his artists have found a way to surprise readers with every new issue of MTMTE, and those surprises all come very organically from the characters themselves. Basically, this is awesome sci-fi with robots that can turn into stuff. Nice.
Unwritten #35: "Tommy Taylor and the War of the Words" concludes with an issue that finally lays out almost all of this series' secrets. Here we'll learn why it is Tom can use the magical powers of his fictional namesake Tommy, and we'll learn how his dad was able to father such a child to begin with. We'll also find out the startling secret behind this series' major villain, Pullman, who seemingly has been around since the beginning of time (turns out he basically has). But if you think laying everything out on the table makes The Unwritten less interesting, well, that's definitely not the case -- the end of this issue leaves you with a cliffhanger that basically demands you read the next one. Let's just say that, with all the backstory out of the way, now things are going to get personal. Basically, Unwritten #35 is an amazing issue that fans of this series have been waiting for since the beginning.