New Avengers #22 (Marvel): This Civil War tie-in is simply amazing! Perhaps the best of the tie-in books that I've encountered to date. The focus is on Luke Cage and wife Jessica Jones as Iron Man and Ms. Marvel/Warbird/Carol Danvers (what is she going by these days, anyway?) try to recruit them to side with the government and register. Jess brings up a wonderful counter-argument that is essentially, if I have powers, but I don't plan on using them, being a hero, or ever wearing a costume, what incentive is there to register? Why would I do it? Just so the government can then order me to do something? Clearly not a black or white issue. Luke also provides some solid, if a little more militant, ideas against registration. While his analogies are steeped in slavery, he is essentially begging the question, where do personal liberties stop in the name of national security? A very relevant question for this day and age. Some really interesting interpersonal dynamics, several wedges being formed, between Luke/Jess and Iron Man/Warbird, between best friends Jessica and Carol, also between Luke and Jessica as they're forced to split up while Jessica protects their baby and Luke defends his position. Freakin' amazing action sequence as SHIELD Agents promptly come to arrest Luke at the stroke of midnight when the bill becomes law. Luke stays in character without sounding "ghetto" or preachy when discussing his stance with some neighborhood kids. I literally got chills when Captain America, The Falcon, and Daredevil come to Luke's aid. Wonderful balance of thoughtful ideas and pure adrenaline rush. I can still hear those SHIELD Agents screaming for back up from the Helicarrier. Leinil Yu's art is on point with some great facial details and sketchy rendering. Check out the portrayal of Carol Danvers. Even when she's just standing in Luke and Jessica's apartment, she has a kinetic energy to her that's ready to explode. Grade A+.
52: Week Twelve (DC): Surprisingly, I find myself starting to enjoy the Rene Montoya/The Question sequences. The scripting seems a bit more interesting now, though I was distracted by a duplicated word balloon in the Khandaq sequence. Interesting idea to revive Isis. Nice to see that the DCU backups are over! Anything beats this, even a simple attempt to cover Wonder Woman's origin in just two pages. This title is looking up, but I guess my apprehension is best summed up by some retailer comments I read online. Essentially, the point was made that if a new customer came into his store looking to purchase comics, in a heads up battle of Civil War vs. 52 right now, the choice is easy. Civil War can be summed up and pitched in two sentences. 1) A tragic event occurs, innocent lives are lost, and the government decides to pass a law requiring superheroes to register. 2) Everyone in the Marvel Universe is taking sides and it's pitting friend against friend, teammate against teammate, even spouse against spouse in some cases. Try doing the same with 52... 1) Ok, so Elongated Man, right? His wife gets killed see... and umm, there's this thing called Infinite Crisis... well, there was a multiverse, ok? No wait, umm, One Year Later happens after this... and then the Charlton characters... uhh... lesbians... just watch the cricket chirps ensue. In theory, anyone can appreciate Civil War, whether comic fan or not, while the 52 event is aimed squarely at fans with a working knowledge of the DCU. Big dichotomy in approach from the Big 2. Grade B-.
Powers #19 (Marvel/ICON): I don't really recall what's going on here, been a while since the last ish. Perhaps it's time to proffer the dreaded "I'll wait for the trade!" remark with this title. It does read better collected, this felt like "all middle." The sex, fun, creative panel layouts, and lettercol keep me hanging around for the quick fix, but I don't feel like I'm getting much out of the story in these intermittent installments. Grade B.
Batman #655 (DC): Ok, Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert's first issue. Initially a little underwhelming, maybe this needs some time to get rolling. Kubert's art is... pleasant. Morrison's script is... interesting. *If* the ideas stick. You can sort of feel him trying to push the book in a new direction, I just wonder how long that's going to stay the case and isn't just the standard industry tool with long running titles - the "illusion of change," ala: The Joker getting shot. How does one survive a gunshot to the face, anyway? But, I digress. If Batman really did go an a spree and eradicate fair Gotham of evildoers, that's interesting. If Batman really does trust Tim Drake now, that could be interesting. If Alfred really is trying to push Batman to intentionally be Bruce Wayne, to learn to be himself, that has some mileage in it. I was always fascinated by the idea that the night Bruce's parents were murdered, he became Batman. He literally *is* Batman, the disguise, the fake persona, is actually Bruce Wayne. I'm assuming that's Talia on the last page by the way she casually refers to Bats as "Detective(?)" A cautiously optimistic Grade B.
Jack of Fables #1 (DC/Vertigo): He is Jack Horner. Jack of "& the Beanstalk" fame. Jack & Jill. He is Jack of Fables. This spin-off title provides a nice quick summary of the Fables corner of the Vertigo Universe and quicly brings the audience up to speed. The first person narrative was interesting to see, I was very intermittent with my reading of Fables, so perhaps I'm missing something, but this issue felt a little flat and uninteresting to me. It was a little, I don't know... smarmy? I am however, a sucker for the naked Goldilocks twist, so I'll probably give this another issue or two to try and hook me. Grade B.
Godland #12 (Image): Ha! Very ha! I should have talked to Joe Casey at the San Diego Con about this. I still don't know what the point of the ha! is. Is it ha! just for the sake of ha! or does the ha! have a purpose? Grade B-.
Fear Agent #6 (Image): Woo-hoo! Jerome Opena on art! Love it! His angular, fine style fits perfectly with this futuristic landscape that Remender has created. We find Heath and crew in the middle of a war, as he's time jumping repeatedly in an effort to target the desired outcome of the war and him personally. And he just can't get it right, it just gets more and more fucked up. Cool to see the back up stories now under the "Tales of Fear Agent" banner. If you ever wondered, what if Indiana Jones was an astronaut bug-killer... this is for you! Grade B+.
The Black Plague #1 (Boom! Studios): Ok, I'm officially tired of Fraction and Casey and everyone else making up hokey SHIELD knock-off acronyms like SLASH. Julia Bax's art is stiff and flat, just sort of lies on the page. Readers of this column will know that I'm a huge Joe Casey fan, but this is a miss, it misses by a country mile. Feels like he scribbled a drunk one-line idea onto a napkin at the Hilton bar after a con and is just cashing the check now. I almost was into the framing device of having the two old timers reminisce, but past that? Huh? Why is his costume black and yellow on the cover and then gray and red on the interior? Who's is who? What are they doing? Why are they doing it? And why am I supposed to care? No idea. I thought this was solicited as a one-shot? I thought I saw in a print ad that it was a one-shot? I thought I heard at the Image panel that it was a one-shot? Why does the last page say wait for the mini-series? Wha...?! If ever a book needed an intro or end note from the writer letting us know WTF-Mate, this was it. Oh, and a $3.99 price tag for this mess? I... don't... think... so. Grade D.
Battle Pope #9 (Image): I've kinda' been trying to warm up to Kirkman's writing. I'm almost enjoying The Walking Dead despite my aversion to zombie stuff and I kinda' enjoyed him at the Image panel at the San Diego Con. So, I decided to give him the 13 Minutes "Random Issue Test!" (patent pending). It worked for me on Strange Girl, Fear Agent, Manhunter, Kabuki, and many other fine titles that I was able to discover and I'm now loyal to. Results? Well, I laughed out loud twice. I smiled a lot. I thought it was really good art by Tony Moore, much different than the style he uses on other books, more exaggerated, almost to the point of caricature. Brilliant coloring from Val Staples. Perhaps time to pick up a trade or some other random issues. Grade B.