BOOK OF THE WEEK: Animal Man #11: While titular hero Buddy Baker's stuck in the limbo-like realm of the Red, the rest of his family's back on Earth and under a serious threat from the Rot, the Red's natural enemy. Buddy's got to get back to the physical plane somehow… looks like it's time for Animal Man to be born again. This issue is full of fascinating sequences of rebirth (drawn AMAZINGLY by fill-in artist Alberto Ponticelli) that result in a new body and a new set of powers for our hero. But that may not be enough for Buddy to save his wife, son, and daughter from some of the nastiest bad guys around. As usual, Jeff Lemire's Animal Man is a great mix of family dynamics and giant, ominous sci-fi/horror plots that, thanks to Ponticelli's pencils, might actually make your skin crawl a bit. It's so good.
Action Comics #11: Last issue, a freak accident meant the death of Clark Kent. Wait, what? It turns out Superman's tired of having to act like a milquetoast reporter; his super-duties have him occupied elsewhere, anyway. So it is that this month Superman assumes another civilian identity—that of a loner firefighter named Johnny Clark—so he never has to stop helping people. Is this a good idea? Well, maybe not, especially when reporter Clark can do things that maybe even Superman can't. Writer Grant Morrison continues his exploration of the beginning of Superman's career with his usual mix of far-out ideas, super-smart stories, and "what-the-heck?" action. This book may not be for every Superman fan, but it's a great read for people who like a little twist on a classic character.
Avengers vs. X-Men #7: A few weeks ago Avengers vs. X-Men spent its pages talking about philosophy; who's on the right side of this war, and why? Now it's time to get back to the fighting! A Phoenix Force-possessed Cyclops has made a simple decree: "No more Avengers." In other words, mutant-kind is going to do to the superhero population of Earth what was done to them a few years ago back in House of M. But as Cyclops and his fellow X-Men argue about how best to treat their un-evolved enemies, Tony Stark and Captain America are cooking up a surprise for the mutants, one that could even end the war... at a huge cost. This issue of AvX is full of twists and turns that come fast and don't have a lot of time to resonate, but the battle scenes are top-notch, and, of course, for Marvel Comics fans the stakes here are super-high. What's going to happen to your favorite characters next? This is where you can find out.
Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1: DC's Before Watchmen series continues with this look at the so-called "Smartest Man on Earth," Ozymandias, who's convinced that he knows how to save the world from everything that's wrong with it. Anyone who's read Alan Moore's Watchmen already knows what Ozymandias is planning to do; the guys behind this book are banking on that knowledge, in fact. Script-wise, Ozymandias isn't as interesting as some of the other Before Watchmen projects; a lot of it is just a diary-style recounting of the events in main character Adrian Veidt's life, which gets a little tedious after awhile. However, the art by Jae Lee here is… wow. EVERY Before Watchmen book has looked great, but this is probably the best one of the bunch. This comic is absolutely worth a look, if not a full-on read.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #1: Do you guys remember He-Man? It was a cartoon kids would watch in the 1980s (and again briefly in the early 2000s). For its 30th anniversary, DC Comics has brought it back for a six-issue limited series… except, of course, this time out things are different. The comic opens on a familiar-looking Adam, a "simple woodsman" who often dreams that he's a magical hero who routinely saves his planet from evil. But that can't be right, can it? Somehow, main He-Man bad guy Skeletor has changed the whole world, so much so that its champion doesn't even remember who he is. There aren't a lot of details to go on in this first issue, though writer James Robinson takes a high fantasy narration and plotting style ala Lord of the Rings here, which should please people who've always wanted to see a slightly more mature He-Man. Sadly, this book could've stood a little more copy-editing; the multiple grammar errors kind of mute its effect.
iZombie #27: Who knew Eugene, Oregon was such a messed-up place? Portland, sure, but Eugene? Actually, though, Eugene's the site of the end of the world in this monster mash-up that's taken a serious turn in the last few months. A giant Lovecraftian monster called Xitalu has come to eat all the world's souls, and only our friendly cast of zombies, ghosts, vampires, ape-men, and more can stop it… maybe. iZombie's only got one issue left after this one, and writer Chris Roberson's pulling all the story threads of the book's last few years together here for a giant finale. iZombie has consistently been one of Vertigo's top monthly comics, and it'll be sad to see it go.
Stormwatch #11: So imagine that Neanderthals didn't actually die out… they just decided to go into hiding nursing a massive grudge against evolution's favorite children (us regular humans). That's the idea behind this issue of Stormwatch, DC Comics' black-ops/black comedy superhero adventure. Here a surviving pocket of Neanderthals finds a weapon that can devolve the rest of the human race, and it's up to the mentally unbalanced members of the Stormwatch team to stop them. It seems as though this book's taking a "done-in-one" approach to storytelling, where every issue's a single-part tale that still progresses a longer ongoing arc in tiny ways. This is welcome, because it's always nice to not feel like you're missing anything by only reading one issue of a given comic. On the downside, this isn't the strongest effort to come from either writer Peter Milligan or artist Ignacio Calero on this series, though there are still a few nice character moments here to latch on to, many of them involving the Engineer, Stormwatch's emotionally disconnected leader.
Sweet Tooth #35: Speaking of Vertigo titles ending, Jeff Lemire's excellent post-apocalyptic jaunt enters its final arc here as scientist Dr. Singh seems to have finally found the explanation for the plague that wiped out most of humanity back before the series started. In particular, he's uncovered the origin of Gus, the young animal/human hybrid star of this comic. Of course, as these things go, he isn't going to like what he finds. The final arc of Sweet Tooth begins with an issue that's creepy as all get-out, full of foreboding twists and Lemire's usual excellently horrific art. Enjoy this book while you can!
Transformers: Robots in Disguise #7: Keeping peace on a world that's been at war for four million years is no easy task… especially when one of the worst war criminals in existence comes back to your home planet possessing dangerous technology that he just wants to "trade." Here, writer John Barber looks at the lengths that this book's three main leaders—ex-Autobot Bumblebee, ex-Decepticon Starscream, and neutral spokesrobot Metalhawk—will go to to ensure an orderly, peaceful planet. When your usual pacifist wants to kill someone dead in their tracks, you know you've got a problem. Barber's script is half politics and half espionage, as Autobot Wheeljack covertly investigates this criminal's technology. Why does he have it, what can it do, and can he be trusted? The answer to the last one is probably not, but it sure is great watching Wheeljack come to that conclusion.