BOOK OF THE WEEK: Hawkeye #1: Of the two big comic companies, Marvel seems to do better when it comes to having realistic heroes—guys you might actually meet on the street who, for whatever reason, have decided to put on a costume and make the world a better place. Their new series Hawkeye is based squarely on this premise. What does the world's best sharp-shooter do when he's not hanging out with the Avengers? It turns out the answer combines bits of James Bond, Spider-Man, and Mr. Rogers. In this first issue, Clint Barton's determined to save the low-rent apartment building where he and a number of his New York friends live. Its corrupt owner wants to drive them out so he can sell the building and make a great profit, and Hakweye's not about to let that happen. Though Matt Fraction's script is smart and engaging throughout, the real star of this book is the stunning, expressive, and action-packed art from David Aja. Cover to cover, this is one beautiful book, and an auspicious launch for a great new series.
Action Comics #12: The ghosts of Superman's past have come back to haunt him—literally—as a super-powered spirit from Smallville comes to Metropolis, the Man of Steel's home turf. He's not interested in Superman, though, as much as in Lois Lane's niece, who seems to be developing some powers herself. This issue manages to juggle a whole lot of plotlines, some focused on the past (Clark Kent's growing up in Smallville), some on the present (how can Kal-El find time to live a human life when he's the most powerful superhero on Earth?), and some on the future (why has this spirit come to take away Lois' niece, whom he refers to as a neo-sapien?). It may take a couple read-throughs to understand everything going on in this issue, but it's still a great look at the early days of one the world's premiere superhero.
Animal Man #12/Swamp Thing #12: After being teased for months, the "Rotworld" crossover between Animal Man and Swamp Thing finally begins in these interconnected prologue issues. Buddy Baker has finally found Alec Holland, and together the two have decided to delve into the Rot and put an end to its power play for dominance of the Earth. Regular series writers Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder have teamed up to script these books, and this arc looks like it will be an epic payoff for people who've been following these series from the beginning. These issues in particular also feature some great mind-bending art from Steve Pugh and Marco Rudy. By the end of the second part of the prologue, things look pretty dire—it definitely seems like "Rotworld" plans on putting our two heroes through the ringer before it's done.
Avengers vs. X-Men #9: The longer that certain members of the X-Men are possessed by the Phoenix Force, the more corrupt they seem to become. While before they were content to use their godlike powers merely for guiding the world into becoming a better place, now those powers are being employed to drop anyone who doesn't agree with them—like the Avengers—into prison volcanoes filled with demons from Limbo. Even though the philosophical battle between these two sides is started to get obscured, the stakes of the actual battle have never been higher—the Avengers have almost been depleted of fighters, while the X-Men seem more fortified than ever. What will the Earth look like by the time the Phoenix Force is done with it? Keep reading; the end's in sight, and it doesn't seem pretty!
Beasts of Burden: Neighborhood Watch one-shot: Beasts of Burden is a delightful comic from Dark Horse about a group of stray animals (mostly dogs, but one cat) who protect the town of Burden Hill from strange, occult incursions, kind of like X-Files meets Hellboy meets something else that's awesome. After a few months off comic shop racks, the series returns in this one-shot to air out the characters with three short story segments featuring what these dogs do best: solve weird mysteries before humans get hip to them. Though the script by Evan Dorkan is entertaining as always, this book's real pleasure is its art from Jill Thompson, whose animals look both bad-ass and super cute. If you're looking for something a little different on the stands this week, give this book a whirl.
Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #2: Nite Owl seems to be the most traditional of the Before Watchmen books; it's a pretty straightforward superhero story in which a few of the stars of Alan Moore's Watchmen take on criminals and reveal themselves to be really messed up people. Perhaps coincidentally—but perhaps not—it's also one of the most successful Before Watchmen series yet, treading the line between staying true to the source material as we know it but finding things to reveal about its characters that complement Moore's original work. Since Rorschach hasn't come out yet, this is also the only Before Watchmen book in which that breakout character plays a major part. Writer J Michael Straczynski seems to have a real handle on the characters he's working with and the story he wants to tell, and any excuse to explore Dan Dreiberg's weird sexual hang-ups is a welcome one. Behind Silk Spectre, this so far is the only Before Watchmen title to be really required reading.
Daredevil #16: This issue of Mark Waid's Daredevil is split into two halves. In the first, Tony Stark, Dr. Strange, and Hank Pym use science, magic, and microscopic technology to go into Matt Murdoch's body and get rid of all the nanobots placed there by Dr. Doom in the last couple issues. This part is pretty cool, and sheds some light on Daredevil's advanced body chemistry, but it's not quite as interesting as what follows. Once Matt Murdoch returns to the law firm he runs after nine days away, the real action of this issue starts. Murdoch's partner Foggy just doesn't trust him to practice law anymore, and he has some startling evidence that Matt has in fact gone out of his mind. Has Murdoch been set up, or has he really gone off the deep end? This issue's light on answers but high on suspense, and the way this plot plays out over the next few months is sure to be incredibly interesting.
First X-Men #1: Before Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Beast, and Angel—before even Professor X—there was another team of mutant heroes that banded together to protect the world from enemies of their kind. That's the premise behind Marvel's new First X-Men series, co-written and drawn by legendary comic artist Neal Adams. If you can get past the kind of clunky set-up here—the fact that notorious loner and killer Wolverine would have, many decades ago, decided to form a group to protect the burgeoning mutant population—the book you'll get is actually really engrossing. A series like this runs the risk of contradicting existing continuity and just becoming confusing, but so far Adams and co-writer Christos Gage seem to be keenly aware of the X-Men's history and are working it to their advantage. And while Adams' art doesn't quite pop as much as it used to, the script offers a lot of promise. Done well, this book will give readers a chance to dig into an exciting lost chapter of X-Men history. Judging by this first issue, it looks like the book's going to be done just fine.
iZombie #28: After a run of over two years, Chris Roberson and Mike Allred's monster mash-up epic for Vertigo Comics comes to a close this month. The town of Eugene, Oregon's about to be devoured by a Lovecraftian monster named Lord Xitalu, and it's up to our heroin Gwen, who happens to be a brain-eating zombie, to save the day. Though ends tend to be bittersweet, Roberson provides a nice send-off to his series here, and fans who've been following the book since the beginning should be plenty happy. They may even get emotional over the last few pages. If you haven't checked out iZombie before, now's a good time—you don't have to wait for next month to see what's going to happen anymore!
Stormwatch #12: Since this book starring DC's black-ops superhero team began a year ago, readers have wondered what on Earth J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, was doing here. J'onn's always been more of a Justice League kind of guy, much too high-profile for an outlet like this. This issue finally begins to take a look at that question, albeit cryptically, as J'onn makes plans to leave his current team behind. What's his endgame? Why doesn't he trust the Justice League OR Stormwatch? There aren't any real answers offered up for those questions yet, but it's great that writer Peter Milligan—who came on this book just a few issues ago—is interested in continuing the long-term plots set up by Paul Cornell, who wrote the first six issues of the series. Like Cornell, it seems Milligan has something serious up his sleeve, and it'll be a lot of fun to see what that is.
Sweet Tooth #36: Not content to break our hearts with just iZombie ending, Vertigo post-apocalyptic jewel Sweet Tooth enters its last story arc with this issue. Gus, Jepperd, and the rest of their party of survivors have finally made it to Alaska to investigate the cause of a plague that wiped out almost every human being on the planet Earth. What they find brings them into a mysterious world where science and superstition have intersected to create something terrible. At the center of it all is our confused teenage hero Gus, who just wants to find a little peace. It's probably not going to be that easy. Only four issues to go means we've only got four issues left to enjoy Jeff Lemire's edge-of-your-seat story and beautiful art. Soak it up while you can.
Transformers Regeneration One #82: Last month, writer Simon Furman and artist Andrew Wildman picked up a story they'd left behind 21 years ago, when Marvel cancelled its Transformers comic at issue #80. IDW's restarted the story, thrown it into the future, and let these two considerable talents continue the epic they'd always intended to tell. The results so far have been fantastic; Furman's work on Regeneration One is the best stuff he's written in years, probably because it's a project he has a really strong connection to. On the art front, it's great to see Andrew Wildman and inker Stephen Baskerville back on the book; while the pencils are nowhere near as polished as in other contemporary Transformers reads, these two undoubtedly bring an unmatched energy and vivaciousness to the characters that fans will welcome. Throw in a really intense story in which Decepticon leader Megatron has literally made a wasteland out of planet Earth, while Autobot leader Optimus Prime prefers to sit on Cybertron and do nothing but contemplate philosophy, and you've got a winner.