3 – DC Comics
We are rapidly approaching the end of Grant Morrison’s Superman saga in Action Comics. #14 sees the return of several characters and elements from issues past, including the Metaleks, The Multitude and the mysterious little man from the 5th Dimension. Superman travels to Mars and solves a crisis with a combination of muscle and scientific intellect, the Silver Age touch that Morrison enjoys so much about the character. For the first issue in many months Rags Morales pencils the entirety of the main feature. Though his style is well suited for channeling characters emotions in their facial features, his action is a bit off. He initially impressed readers with his t-shirt Superman, but now that Clark is wearing the Kryptonian armor he seems somewhat stunted, like a child playing dress-up. Sholly Fisch writes the best backup story yet, if only because it is a cruel tale drawn with the subtle stylings of Chris Sprouse. Mixed art hinders the brilliant mind and humble sincerity of The Man of Steel.
Final Grade: ★★★★ 4/5
“Rotworld” rages on in the pages of Swamp Thing and Animal Man. The crossover event separates the two heroes in an unfamiliar Earth devoid of life and dominated by an evil force that controls the dead. Now where have I heard that one before? Regardless of any similarities, the horror/adventure romp of bromance Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder seems to be a hit with fans. This month’s issue continues establishing the status quo of Rotworld for Buddy Baker while simultaneously telling Maxine Baker’s story in the past. Timothy Green II’s less detailed pencil work is assigned to the slower-paced Mazine scenes, while Steve Pugh clearly has fun designing all of the garish creatures of Rotworld. Overall it wasn’t an amazing issue, but that last page reveal certainly gave me a smirk in anticipation of next month.
Final Grade: ★★★½ 3.5/5
It’s the Justice League facing off against new Green Lantern Simon Baz, and despite it being your typical hero vs. hero misunderstanding, the issue is still a lot of fun. Geoff Johns writes the League as a well oiled machine – something that has been missing from the pages of Johns’ Justice League. He gives Baz the common sense to choose flight over fight; I mean the guy just got the ring, he knows there’s no way he could take on one Leaguer. I say this every time, but Doug Mahnke gets better and better every time he draws superheroes, his art is stupendous. The “Oh sh*t” reaction Mahnke draws for Baz when he sees the Justice League is priceless. This issue had great action, well-timed humor and plenty of hints for future stories. What more could you want from a comic book?
Final Grade: ★★★★★5/5
2– Marvel Comics
It is the beginning of a new era, as Kieron Gillen takes the reigns from Matt Fraction in Iron Man #1. While the latter parts of Fraction’s The Invincible Iron Man weren’t perfect, he did tap into Tony Stark’s head and heart in a way that is a tough act to follow. Unfortunately if this issue is any indication, Gillen is not up to that task. Like we have seen time and again, both on film and on paper, Tony Stark’s technology is being perverted and used for not so nice things and he must stop it. While that plot point is routine to a fault, the consistency in Tony’s personality and dialogue is a comfort. Greg Land gives us a newer, darker Iron Man suit that is a great visual, but I don’t know if I’m in love with it. The rest of his art is excellent except for one thing: Tony Stark looks extremely Asian. Since I made as similar comment a few weeks ago about Chris Burnham, you might think I’m hardcore racist – but I’m totally not! Seriously, I’m half convinced that that’s not Tony Stark in the armor at all but a very poorly disguised Mandarin. A mediocre start for this particular Marvel NOW! number 1.
Final Grade: ★★★ 3/5
There’s not a lot that surprises me in comic books these day. That’s not a criticism, it is just due to the nature and age of the genre. In spite of this fact, I was pleasantly/horribly astounded by some of the events of this month’s Uncanny X-Force. Situations and characters are explored in a ways that are obvious but curiously have never been done before. Rick Remender is spot on in his scripting as usual. He frames the familiar debate of the differences in heroes and villains with the example of Wolverine, a “good guy” who by essentially is a mass murderer. Phil Noto excels at depicting Logan’s regret as well as a death scene that is gruesome and wicked fun. The success of this issue lies not in revolutionary ideas, but in their execution. As one character says “It’s frighteningly simple.”
Final Grade: ★★★★★5/5
1 – Dark Horse Comics
For those of you keeping score at home, this book came out last week, not this week. Whatever. Angel & Faith has definitely been the more compelling book under the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9” banner, but issue #15 takes a pit stop into the mundane. The issue deals with the origins of villains Pearl and Nash as well as Whistler, a character who had a big hand in Angel’s mission initially, then all but disappeared back in Buffy’s second season. Angel meets with his frenemy to try to prevent any further bloodshed in their personal war and ends up getting a Whistler history lesson and a bloody stomach. Pearl and Nash are two characters that don’t really interest me at all, but I will say that Whistler’s origin was Whedon-y in its own way. The lovechild of Lee Garbett and David Lapham’s pencils provides a strange end result, with horse-faced humans and scenery devoid of detail. Whisper shares a future vision of Hell on Earth, and the end result is visually no more horrific than a really bad part of downtown Detroit – frightening, but certainly not fire and brimstone. A dull interlude with decent artwork when Garbett takes charge.
Final Grade: ★★½ 2.5/5