Comics Catch compiles short reviews of a bunch of new comics worth reading every Wednesday.
BOOK OF THE WEEK: Swamp Thing #10: Alec Holland has just embraced his destiny as Swamp Thing, the warrior-avatar of the Green, and after the events of last issue he thinks he's defeated the agents of the Rot and saved his beloved Abby. Dude, it's only issue #10... get real. As Swamp Thing and Abby return to the Louisiana Bayou to rest, our hero's greatest enemy makes his return... Anton Arcane is back and looking for revenge. This issue's pretty much perfect; as usual, writer Scott Snyder produces a script full of suspense, horror, and sharp character drama. But the real surprise comes from guest artist Francesco Francavilla, who somehow makes this comic look and feel exactly like an old horror movie, complete with lumbering monsters, muted colors, and moody, oppressive environments. This might be the best-looking issue of Swamp Thing yet, which is really saying something.
Action Comics #10: Nimrod, a world-famous hunter who "has killed EVERYTHING" (his words), is on the tail of the mysterious Superman, truly the the most dangerous game. Nimrod tracks Superman sightings from the Midwestern city of Smallville all the way to Metropolis, and he's convinced he knows who Superman really is and how to bring him down. Of course, our hero's got more than small-time game hunters with shotguns on his mind... he wants to make not just his home city but the rest of the world a better place! Too bad he can't convince his buddies in the newly-formed Justice League to go along with his plans to proactively police the world. This look at Superman's earliest days as a hero totally rocks; it's got a really interesting story with a couple different plot threads running at all times, and there's definitely a sense of something sinister building here. How does Clark learn to deal with his limitations? Or does he even have any? The end of the issue also leaves us with a crazy cliffhanger... what if Nimrod can't kill Superman, but he finds success offing Clark Kent??
Avengers vs. X-Men #5: The Avengers and X-Men square off on the moon over the future of the mutant race as the Phoenix Force (a cosmic entity that could spell either doom or good tidings for the entire planet, depending on how it feels) comes ever closer to reaching Earth. It's pretty much a given that everyone reading AvX is in it for the fights, right? There're some pretty serious ones here, though the centerpiece is definitely Cyclops vs. Captain America. What happens when two tactical geniuses convinced of their righteousness won't back down? Well, lots of violence. Unfortunately, it seems like even the Avengers' best and brightest minds can't keep the Phoenix Force at bay... and man, Tony Stark certainly does try... leaving us to wonder what this cosmic entity has in store for humankind, and whether anything can be done about it.
Animal Man #10: As agents of the Rot (the same bad guys from Swamp Thing!) grow ever stronger, Buddy Baker finds himself trapped in the metaphysical world of the Red and trying to get back to his body on Earth. Meanwhile, his family encounters the shady magician John Constantine, who's come to warn them all about the apocalyptic future that awaits if they don't stand by their husband and father. As usual, Animal Man is pretty frightening, suspenseful stuff, with some great art from Steve Pugh. The dramatic stakes are really high in this book, and every issue seems to build more and more on to the mythology of Buddy Baker and the Red. Can Buddy get back home to save his family in time? Will it even matter?
Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1: Well, the partially-controversial, very hyped Before Watchmen run of comics starts today with this look back at the superhero team of the Watchmen world as it existed in the 1940s and '50s, the Minutemen. Anyone who's familiar with Watchmen will recognize this as the team of heroes containing the original Nite Owl, the original Silk Spectre, and a bunch of other characters that have become old and sad by the time of the celebrated graphic novel. And if you have't read Watchmen, well, you're probably not that interested in this series in the first place. As it turns out, Minutemen #1 is pretty solid; mostly it's worth reading based on the strength of Darwyn Cooke's fantastic art. This guy was born to draw old-school comic action. The script, also by Cooke, is a little more difficult to praise; it certainly isn't bad, but it pretty much confirms suspicions that Before Watchmen isn't going to give these characters much more depth than they had in Alan Moore's graphic novel. The first issue (written from the perspective of Hollis Mason's Under the Hood autobiography, a key part of the original series) basically just introduces us to the characters who comprise the Minutemen team; there's very little plot development here, which could explain why at this point the words just feel a bit like filler. But man, that art.
Dark Avengers #175: Taking over the numbering of the Thunderbolts title, Dark Avengers #175 picks up where that book left off... superhero Luke Cage is looking to find members of his old team of villains-gone-good, who for some reason are lost in time. Because of that costly mistake, Luke's ready to quit the superhero game. However, a new team of government-sanctioned bad guys has him changing his mind. These new Dark Avengers—controlled by nanites to make sure they don't act too bad—don't look like a good idea to Luke, so he decides to keep his eye on them, even though the government doesn't seem to want him to. Why is that? What's the secret behind this new Dark Avengers team? This issue sets up a pretty cool ongoing plot that writer Jeff Parker should have fun exploring, though the kind of scratchy art by Declan Shalvey isn't too great. Also, though the cover promises that this is the "1st issue of a new era," people who aren't up on the whole Dark Avenger/Thunderbolts saga might not get too much out of this book.
Extermination #1: BOOM! Studios drops a surprising new indie superhero book today, and just for $1! Extermination tells the tale of Nox and the Red Reaper, former arch-enemies (one a hero, one a villain... think Batman and Lex Luthor) in the city of Duskberg. An alien invasion that ravages the planet, though, certainly changes priorities for these two. Now they have to learn to work together (uneasily) to combat this horrible new world order, though Nox refuses to let go of his old moral code. That's probably a mistake. Writer Simon Spurrier has a really interesting concept on his hands here, and it will be cool to see how it develops over the coming issues. Also, IT'S A DOLLAR!
iZombie #26: The world of iZombie is ending! The evil dimensional overlord Xitalu (basically an HP Lovecraft monster) has begun to infiltrate our reality, and the only thing that can stop him now is a massive sacrifice in his name... so, that's kinda lame. Chris Roberson and Mike Allred's awesome horror comedy/adventure series only has a few issues left to go, and things are really getting serious for our horrific heroes in Eugene, OR. Still, Mike Allred's art is fun and attractive as ever, and people who've been following this book since the beginning should really enjoy seeing the different plot threads come together at the end of the road.
Stormwatch #10: This black-ops team of superheroes is all about keeping track of the gaudy costumed characters who make their jobs harder, like the Supermans and the Batmans of the world... they prefer to work in secret. However, sometimes that's impossible, especially when artifacts from their past keep popping up to harm them. In this issue, the Stormwatch team has to (quietly) deal with a device called a "P-module" that turns people into the worst demons they can imagine. Spooky. As usual, Stormwatch does a solid job of presenting a classic superhero story with a bit of a twist, and the art from new regular penciler Ignacio Calero is pretty great, with a nice mix of grit and action. Welcome aboard, Ignacio!
Sweet Tooth #34: Man, all the best Vertigo books are ending! Besides iZombie, Sweet Tooth's also gearing up for its final issue, though it's got some great stuff left for us before it says goodbye. This issue (the last before the final six-part arc) looks back in time to tell the story of Doug Abbot, the series' main villain. It tracks his development from sadistic teen to sadistic soldier to sadistic militia leader, and it's pretty chilling. Writer Jeff Lemire and guest artist Nate Powell (who does awesome, and it's hard to step into Lemire's unique shoes) give us a nice idea of the villain we'll be dealing with as we enter the final half-year of this fantastic post-apocalyptic series.