BOOK OF THE WEEK: Batwoman #12: The last six issues of Batwoman saw two different pencilers attempt to make this comic pop as much as the artist who launched it, JH Williams III. Finally Williams has returned to this book's pages, and he's brought his unmatched artistic talent with him—bar none, nobody composes comic book panels like he does; you could spend ten minutes trying to take in every detail of just one page. Those are skills aren't the only thing this issue has to offer, though; it also heralds the beginning of a team-up between Batwoman and Wonder Woman, both of whom are investigating a criminal cult that's been bringing mythological monsters to life. It was only a matter of time before Wonder Woman got involved with Batwoman's ongoing struggle with the evil Medusa, really, but we're incredibly lucky that Wiliams is here to draw it. This book has never looked better or been more exciting.
Avengers vs. X-Men #10: Scott Summers and Emma Frost—the only two remaining X-Men possessed by the Phoenix Force—have just about been completely corrupted by its power. Now they're taking their fanatic war to the Avengers' once-secret hideout of K'un Lun, where Tony Stark and Iron Fist are hiding Hope Summers, the mega-powerful mutant girl Cyclops believes can revive their race. It seems inevitable that at some point AvX would've switched from being about the competing philosophies of the X-Men (who want their species to survive) and the Avengers (who want the world to be safe) to being a giant brawl between these two camps. At least the fights are pretty darn cool. Fans of Hope Summers will especially be interested to see the twists this issue takes. There are only two chapters left in this epic struggle, and it looks like the tide might be turning.
Before Watchmen: Rorschach #1: If there was one Before Watchmen prequel comic people were waiting for, it was probably this one. Rorschach is definitely Alan Moore's breakout character from the original Watchmen series, a psychotic killer with a frighteningly stark worldview masquerading as a costumed crimefighter. Obviously the content of this book wasn't going to be pretty, though unsurprisingly artist Lee Bermejo does amazing work here, making Rorschach's ugly world come alive vividly. A little less impressive is the script by Brian Azzarello; it seems he doesn't quite have a grasp on Rorschach's voice. In particular, the charater is a little too verbose, though maybe that's just because this story takes place earlier in his career than we're used to seeing him. At any rate, like so many other Before Watchmen titles, this story of Rorschach trying to bring down a New York City drug dealer by any means he can feels pretty unnecessary. It's pretty, but it doesn't tell us anything new about the character.
Captain Marvel #2: Carol Danvers may be a cosmic-powered superhero, but she's also a daredevil jet pilot at heart. How, then, can she resist the chance to try to tie—or top—an altitude record set by legendary pilot Helen Cobb years ago? Well, she can't. But something goes wrong during her trial run, and somehow Danvers ends up back in time, caught between battling American and Japanese soldiers during World War II. Um, what? This plot development kind of comes out of nowhere, and it's a weird territory for this book to explore in only its second issue, but still, the emphasis on Carol's non-superhero life is strong, and her character continues to feel very fleshed-out and compelling. Getting her back to the present quickly would be just fine, though.
Daredevil #17: Last issue, you may remember, Matt Murdoch's legal partner Foggy Nelson basically told him to take a hike—that Matt's too mentally unstable to support a law practice. Now Matt, in his guise as the superhero Daredevil, has to determine whether and how he's been set up by his enemies, or if he really is just crazy. First, though, he's going to spend an issue reminiscing about times in the past when he and Foggy have been at each others' throats. Normally a dip in a book's momentum like that might be frustrating, but this issue bucks that trend and is instead straight-up fantastic. Why? Mostly because of guest artist Mike Allred; it is a serious treat to see Allred bring his expressive, brilliant work to bear on this Marvel superhero and one of the more odd members of his rogues' gallery, Stilt-Man. As far as plot development goes, this is more or less an inconsequential issue, but it's also one of the most fun the series has done yet. Also, it stands alone nicely, which means if you really like Daredevil but don't want to keep up with his adventures, you can pick up this one, enjoy the art, and be totally satisfied.
Green Lantern #12: The villainous Black Hand has regained his evil powers and has again begun to raise an army of the dead to combat his enemies in the Green Lantern Corps. Hal Jordan and Sinestro are going to have to stop him a second time, though it's not going to be so easy without the help of the other Lantern corps. This is a really exciting, action-packed issue of Green Lantern that picks up nicely on the plot of DC's Blackest Night crossover, one of the better universe-encompassing events they've done. Additionally, though usual series artist Doug Mahnke takes a break this month, this issue still looks great; fill-in artists Renato Guedes and Jim Calafiore certainly rise to the considerable bar Mahnke has set, providing creepy, necrotic bad guys and chiseled, exciting heroes. Finally, the last page of this comic is a doozy—what the heck is gonna happen next?
Saucer Country #6: This X-Files-meets-West Wing sci-fi thriller lets the West Wing stuff take a break this month; here, the comic takes a breather to catch us up on Earth's history of alien encounters via a lecture delivered by its paranormal expert character, Professor Joshua Kidd. This is crucial background material for this series, in which a U.S. presidential candidate believes that aliens abducted her and told her they're coming to take over the country. It's also a really interesting read on its own; it merges historical and fictional tales to sculpt a pretty thorough account of why we think there are aliens, why we believe they look and act a certain way, etc. It's all filtered through the lens of skepticism, so people in the real world can take this as a cool history of the paranormal without having to buy in to the actual existence of aliens, while people in the comic book should know to be afraid… be very afraid.
Wonder Woman #12: For the past year Wonder Woman has been trying to protect the unborn offspring of a mortal girl and Zeus who, it's said, will grow up to kill the king of Olympus. This has raised some eyebrows among Wonder Woman's Olympian family, and now it seems tensions have finally come to a head—Zeus has left his throne, but Hera's convinced he's coming back for it. Apollo, meanwhile, wants it for himself. Wonder Woman just wants her friend Zola and her baby to be safe. This exciting conclusion to the past year of stories is all about seeing how any of our main characters are going to get what they want. Although there's definitely a resolution to the last 12 issues here, there are also some frustratingly vague hints for the future as well. It seems one of Wonder Woman's immortal allies, for instance, may not have been as helpful as he appeared. Also, I will give anybody a serious e-high-five to explain the last page to me.