BOOK OF THE WEEK: Star Trek The Next Generation/Doctor Who #1: IDW—the comic company that found a way to make Transformers fight HP Lovecraft monsters—has done it again with this wonderful crossover that bridges two of science fiction's most-beloved properties, the classic Star Trek (Next Gen crew) and the seemingly ubiquitous (for geek culture, anyway) Doctor Who (current Doctor, BTW). This comic does two things really, really well. 1) It captures the humor, charm and adventure so crucial to Doctor Who's popularity; credit for this goes to writers Scott Tipton, David Tipton and Tony Lee. 2) It nails the sense of dread that the best Star Trek Borg stories possess. Yep, Borg. Those robotic conquerors have decided to assimilate the galaxy again, and this time they've got help from Doctor Who nemesis the Cybermen. These elements combine to make the first issue of this series totally engaging and wildly fun, and it features beautiful painted art from JK Woodward on top of it all. Highly recommended for fans of either property, though fans of both will probably get the most out of it (and FYI, there's a bit more Who in this first issue than Trek).
Animal Man Annual #1: A few weeks ago we told you about the impending Animal Man/Swamp Thing crossover, wherein the forces of the Red (Animal Man) and the Green (Swamp Thing) will team up to defeat the Rot (the bad guy). That kicks off next week, but before it does regular Animal Man writer Jeff Lemire has taken an opportunity to show us what it was like the last time these three elemental titans clashed. Set mostly at the turn of the twentieth century (with a little bit of the modern-day Animal Man story used to frame it), this extra-sized book details how previous versions of the Animal Man and Swamp Thing avatars faired against their longtime enemy… not too well, it turns out. This book sets the stage for the Rotworld epic that's to come, and folks following these two series won't want to miss this look back at the past… which also, right in the middle of it, has a pretty chilling glimpse of the future (no spoilers, but man, it gets kinda ugly).
Batman Annual #1: Regular Batman writer Scott Snyder teams up with James Tynion IV and Jason Fabok to tell an extra-long story that accomplishes two things: 1) it ties into the current Night of the Owls crossover (with an explanation of how the Owls got the cryogenic technology that revived their warriors) and 2) it updates longtime Bat-villain Mr. Freeze's origin for the New 52. To do the latter, Snyder and Tynion put a spin on the classic Animated Series episode "Heart of Ice," pretty much the definitive Freeze story to date, that made a sympathetic and scary guy out of a weird enemy. Somehow, they manage to make their story even creepier and more horrifying than the original… Mr. Freeze is one messed-up dude. Also, what's nice about this comic is that even though it's kind of a Night of the Owls tie-in, it also stands on its own pretty well, making it an easy in for people who might have heard really great things about the new Batman comic but so far haven't checked it out.
Batman Beyond Unlimited #4: Fans of the old Batman Beyond cartoon will love this 48-page comic that's divided into four stories, each featuring a different hero (or team of heroes) that live in the future DCU: Batman (Terry McGinnis), Superman, the Justice League Beyond. One of the four stories even goes back in time a little bit to explore the gaps between the Justice League Unlimited and Batman Beyond cartoons, showing how John Stewart (the Green Lantern, not the cable TV personality) and Hawkgirl eventually got together and made a baby, who grows up to be the Justice League Beyond's Warhawk. People who enjoyed the cartoons this comic is based on will like being able to revisit these characters and situations again; a particular stand-out in this issue involves Terry having to help his enemy, Mad Stan, rescue his puppy. (Trust me, it's great.)
The New Deadwardians #3: There are a lot of zombie stories out there right now. This probably sounds blasphemous, but New Deadwardians is one of the best. It puts a zombie outbreak in early twentieth-century England where, to keep themselves safe, the upper classes have actually manufactured a cure that basically turns them into vampires… essentially immortal but unfeeling creatures. However, the poorer of England's residents can't afford the cure, so they toil on in their mortal misery fearing zombie attack every day. In this story, London's chief inspector George Suttle has to investigate an actual murder… those don't happen very often… and it brings him into conflict with some of the city's more vocal lower-class dissenters. The New Deadwardians, like the best horror fiction combines the fantastically unbelievable (in this case, zombies) with the scarily real (in this case, class conflict), and it is excellent.
The Ravagers #1: The last book in DC's "Second Wave" of their New 52 titles drops today with The Ravagers, a Superboy/Teen Titans spinoff about a group of teens who've basically been engineered to kill people for their masters. As teens do, they've rebelled, and now they find themselves out on their own in a world that they're pretty much designed to hate. It's a cool premise, but unfortunately the book ends up feeling very '90s, full of weird characters defined by their powers and lots of shouting and explosions. That's probably in large part due to writer Howard Mackie (who was one of Marvel's main guys in that decade) and the kind of cheesecakey art of Ian Churchill. (It's not bad, just… cheesecakey.) On the plus side, it's got a cool female hero at the lead in Caitlin Fairchild (who longtime comic readers may remember as the star of Image Comics' Gen13 back in the day). This book could definitely develop into something interesting, but right now it's not quite there.
Transformers: Robots in Disguise #5: After four million years of endless civil war, the citizens of the planet Cybertron—Autobots, Decepticons and non-aligned alike—are attempting to rebuild their civilization. They just have different opinions of how to do that. In this issue, a former Decepticon war criminal-turned-poet returns home to find an open welcome from some and a lot of distrust from others. In particular, Autobot security chief Prowl wants to make sure any ex-Decepticon stays in line… by any means necessary. As always, Robots in Disguise is a surprisingly smart look at a society trying to recover after war, and although this issue has its share of giant robots battling, it also excels in quieter moments of development (spoiler: in this issue, one character opens a bar... he's the true hero).