Every week Comics Catch compiles short reviews of new comics worth reading.
BOOK OF THE WEEK: Secret Avengers #29: After a three-issue detour that crossed over with Marvel's Avengers vs. X-Men event, Rick Remender's Secret Avengers gets itself back on track nicely with this intense issue that brings together plotlines stretching back to this series' debut a few years ago. After months of silence, the mysterious Shadow Council—led by an evil clone of Nick Fury—has decided to make their big push. They've collected some of the most powerful magical artifacts from around the globe, and they're going to use them to bring about the Abyss… whatever that means. Now only Hawkeye and his team of black ops Avengers can stop them. Remender packs a lot of action into these 22 pages, and finally he gets to play with one of the newest additions to the Secret Avengers team, the Flash Thompson-powered Venom, who is a really fun character. Longtime fans of this series will enjoy the book going back to its first few story arcs and embracing some of its weirder characters.
All-Star Western #11: Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham are caught in a 19th century Gotham City gang war between the Court of Owls and the devotees of the Crime Bible. Both shadowy groups have their own plans for Gotham City, and neither's going to stomach the interference of the other very much longer. Unfortunately, both groups also see the bounty hunter Hex as a threat to their plans, so he's on their hit list, as is one Alan Wayne, ancestor to Bruce. As usual, All-Star Western delivers with a smart script and great art, and it's tons of fun seeing a Gotham City over 100 years in the past that's so similar to the one we know today. (Catch cameos from ancestors of the Penguin and Catwoman in this issue.)
Before Watchmen: The Comedian #2: In keeping with his character, the Comedian's Before Watchmen series is so far the most overtly political of these prequels. This issue details the beginnings of Edward Blake's involvement in the Vietnam War, something readers of the original Watchmen book will remember well. It's a dark, uncompromising look at one of the more divisive points in American history, and it's beautifully drawn by JG Jones. Unfortunately a lot of the plot here is still just playing connect-the-dots with the original Watchmen—this isn't one of the best prequels we've seen—but fans of the character will likely enjoy its deeper look at his shady past.
Green Lantern #11: Last issue Hal Jordan freed Sinestro from the control of the cult-like Indigo Lantern tribe, but at a price—all the other Indigo Lanterns were also set free temporarily, and one escaped for good. That one is Black Hand, the villain behind DC's Blackest Night event from a few years ago. This guy's bad news, especially since he has an obsession with bringing dead people back to life to act as his army. Now that Hand's free on Earth again, even Sinestro's a little worried. What's Hand going to do? This issue only hints at it, but it does a great job of creating a creepy mood thanks to Geoff Johns' out-there script and Doug Mahnke's gritty artwork. Blackest Night was a great story, and it'll be fun to see what Johns—its original author—has in store for what's basically its sequel.
Justice League Dark #11: Evil sorcerer Felix Faust has broken into the US government's storehouse of mystical artifacts, and now tools of unimaginable power are at his disposal. John Constantine's team of magical heroes is going to attempt to stop him, but Faust is playing a game far deeper than even notorious schemer Constantine would've guessed. Jeff Lemire continues his engaging mix of DC superheroics and classic Vertigo tales here, even bringing a Neil Gaiman-created character into the DCU proper for the first time—Books of Magic's Tim Hunter. This issue's basically just one big fight, which is not necessarily what Lemire does best, but the character interaction and long-term plotting here should be enough to keep readers interested.
National Comics: Eternity #1: This strange one-shot from DC updates the old concept of Kid Eternity, a superhero who could bring other dead heroes back to life briefly to help him out. That's a pretty cool power, but maybe it stretches the boundaries of believability a little too much. This update from Jeff Lemire finds a new use for the character: in this story, Christopher Freeman's a morgue employee who can interact with the spirits of his departed victims for one full day, helping them figure out how and why they died. This comic, which actually feature no superheroes at all, seems like a TV show treatment in disguise, but that's cool… it would totally be a great show.
The New Deadwardians #5: This issue continues the series' sharp and weird premise: what would a homicide investigation look like in a society where no one should be able to die? In early 20th century London, all the upper class have become undead "Young" (basically vampires) to ward off a zombie invasion—vampires are immune to zombies, after all. Now one of those Young has been killed, which shouldn't be possible. This whole series has seen writer Dan Abnett address a number of social concerns, and this issue it's time for gender equality—the rich men of London, it turns out, don't usually let their female companions take the vampire cure, at least until they're too old to bear children any more. Why is that? Or, as some already-"cured" men wonder, why do women even want to become undead? What is the price of eternal life? The New Deadwardians is a really sharp, multi-faceted take on a zombie story; in fact, it's probably the most inventive zombie comic you can pick up on the stands right now.
Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye #7: The millennia-long war between the Autobots and the Decepticons is over, but not everyone knows it. Among that category are the Decepticon Justice Division, a renegade group of killers tasked with bringing deserting Decepticon soldiers to "justice." Although the fighting's done, the DJD sees no reason to stop their mission. That's going to bring them into direct conflict with survivors on both sides of the war who just want to enjoy peace as best they can. This is a tense, action-packed, and wonderfully drawn issue from James Roberts and Alex Milne, full of interesting looks at aspects of the Transformers universe that no other writer has thought to examine before. Fans of the property should definitely be reading this series!