Greetings! In this week’s 3-2-1 Comics! I give Marvel a little more love by giving them one more review than last week. (Mostly because it was a slow week for DC.) So enjoy true believers!
3 – Marvel Comics
Uncanny Avengers #1– Writer: Rick Remender Artist: John Cassaday
Uncanny Avengers is the flagship title of Marvel NOW!, the publisher’s attempt to gain new readers and re-familiarize the old readers. With current Marvel golden boy Rick Remender behind the wheel and Astonishing X-Men‘s John Cassaday, this is the book that most Marvel fans have been talking about. It certainly is a good start, but it is far from perfect. The majority of the book deals with the fallout from Avengers vs. X-Men and spares short of three pages for setup for the initial story arc. In spite of this however, the last page reveal certainly captures my interest for what’s to come. John Cassady’s facial work is always good, but at times he depicts his characters’ a little too stocky. The dialogue comes across stiff and expository at times too. Though the team line-up may seem curious and sparse, Uncanny Avengers has potential.
Final Grade ★★★½ 3.5/5 Stars
The Invincible Iron Man #526– Writer: Matt Fraction Artist: Salvador Larroca
Matt Fraction’s The Invincible Iron Man was a fantastic read for the first half of the series, but by the time we reached last summer’s Fear Itself crossover (which Fraction also wrote), the title significantly lost steam. The series still has its surprises, but it doesn’t necessarily feel like a cohesive story from when Fraction began up until this point. #526 is pretty much a tedious technological light show battle between Iron Man, his former enemies and current allies and The Mandarin. The fight ends in a deus ex machina appearance of the “hey remember these guys from four years ago? They’re back!” variety that feels a little cheap. Series artist Salvador Larroca details good action scenes, but his true strengths have always been in character interactions. Only one issue to go, for better or worse.
Final Grade: ★★½ 2.5/5 Stars
Wolverine and the X-Men #17– Writer: Jason Aaron Artist: Jorge Molina
Comic book events can be a pesky thing when it comes to the current stories in ongoing books. Wolverine and the X-Men has been a victim of dealing with crossover from Avengers vs. X-Men for the past ten issues or so and has seen storytelling highs and lows because of it. Issue 17 tries to put the events of the AvX finale in the context of the Jean Grey school, readjusting the school’s and the series’ compass back in the proper direction. Jason Aaron has really tapped into the emotions of Wolverine’s students, especially Quentin Quire, Idie and his own creation Broo. This issue rides the fine line between humor and drama that the series does so well, especially with Jorge Molina’s animated characters. Next month “year 2” of the Jean Grey school begins, and I’m ready to move past AvX with the rest of the mutant world.
Finale Grade: ★★★★ 4/5 Stars
2 – DC Comics
Batman #13– Writer: Scott Snyder Artist: Greg Capullo
This is the story Batman fans have been waiting for. The Joker is probably the most popular and most frightening villain in comic books. Period. In the past, lesser scribes have done a disservice by handling the Clown Prince of Crime, but don’t you dare count Scott Snyder among them. Snyder is trained in the art of horror stories, as evidenced in Swamp Thing and his Image Comics series Severed. Here we see a perfect depiction of the Joker as the horror myth personified, the evil that isn’t immediately seen but whose presence is always felt. And we’ve only just begun. Greg Capullo has a handle on the Dark Knight after a year, and as a veteran of the grotesque on books like Spawn, his Joker will continue to be pretty wild to look at. (Just check out that cover!) The back-up story features the reunion of Snyder and his Detective Comics collaborator Jock, and is definitely worth the extra buck. The Joker is back ladies and gents. God help Gotham City.
Final Grade: ★★★★★ 5/5 Stars
Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #2– Writer: J. Michael Straczynski Artist: Adam Hughes
Along with Darwyn Cooke’s Minutemen series, J. Michale Straczynski’s Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan is an example of how to get a Before Watchmen story right. We already know Dr. Manhattan’s origin, a whole issue of the original Watchmen series was devoted to it. What Straczynski does here instead is teach us a lesson in quantum physics with Dr. Manhattan as our guide to different possibilities. And it works. This is more than the typical tale of “what if I didn’t become a superhero?” It is an excellent piece that stays so true to the character of Jon Ostermann it’s unreal. Artist Adam Hughes depicts a convincing 1960s while simultaneously conveying the cosmic nature of Straczynski’s time travel/multiple reality-based tale. Before Watchmen is halfway through the majority of their titles, and if Straczynski’s streak continues for two more issues, I might just have to declare Dr. Manhattan the winner.
Final Grade: ★★★★½ 4.5/5 Stars
1 – Vertigo
Punk Rock Jesus #4 – Writer and Artist: Sean Murphy
Vertigo is an imprint of DC Comics, but it puts out creator-owned material on par with Dark Horse and Image Comics. One of the recent gems of Vertigo is Sean Murphy’s Punk Rock Jesus. It’s in its fourth issue of six, but here’s the gist of it: An American corporation clones Jesus Christ, keeps him and his mother on a deserted island and airs their lives as a hugely-popular reality show. The scary thing? I wouldn’t be surprised if something like this happened someday. By issue #4, Chris (the clone of Jesus) is getting tired of being isolated on J2 island and begins his teenage rebellion, which finally leads the series to the Punk Rock part of Punk Rock Jesus. This mini-series is a great read with massively detailed pencil work by Murphy, and it’s black and white with that rough comic book texture that hasn’t been around much for the past decade. Punk Rock Jesus #4 isn’t the best chapter yet, but it pushes an excellent series in a new direction for its final two issues.
Final Grade: ★★★★ 4/5 Stars
That wraps up this week. Next week we’ve got Batwoman, Justice League and Wonder Woman. See you then. Cheers!