This week in 3-2-1 Comics! Snyder’s first Bat-fall! Zero zombies in The Walking Dead! And Robert DeNiro guest stars in a very unlikely place!
3 – DC Comics
And so the great Scott Snyder makes his first minor pitfall. Batman has been consistently amazing for the majority of Snyder’s run, and while this is by no means a bad issue, it is a step down in terms of storytelling. Snyder gives Batman a solid inner monologue of self-reassurance as Greg Capullo’s demon-like Joker peers into our souls from the shadows. He gives Batman the scientific reasoning that we expect as he rationalizes that the Joker is nothing more than a man. The tet-a-tet with Joker is great, no complaints there. The main problem of this issue is a past secret that Batman shares with the rest of the Bat-family in the cave. He reveals a mistake that flies in the face of everything we know of the ever-meticulous Bruce Wayne. Capullo falters a little bit himself as well. He’s received some criticism before when it comes to distinguishing who’s who without their masks, as is the case this month with guest stars Robin, Red Robin, Batgirl and Red Hood. There’s an inconsistency with their looks and heights that’s a little irritating. The backup by James Tynion IV and Jock did help to improve the issue however. The Joker visits The Riddler and reveals his mysterious plan, which even the master puzzler didn’t see coming; whatever that may mean. Snyder knows what he’s doing, I have no doubt of this. But the pace and story of this issue could definitely benefit from a more cohesive direction and more “believability.” (Yes I am arguing believability in fiction. Whatev.)
Final Grade: ★★★½ 3.5/5
Last month Gail Simone’s first “Death of the Family” Batgirl issue took me by surprise, and this month it’s Pete Tomasi’s Batman and Robin. Issue 15 focuses in on the “Robin” part of the title, with Damian beginning a search for Alfred that leads him right to the Joker himself. Greg Capullo fashioned a very scary-looking Joker over in Batman, but Patrick Gleason has taken it to a whole other level with his gruesome depiction. He takes the concept of Joker’s “face mask” and goes further with the clown constantly switching it’s position and playing with it like a toy; its awesomely disturbing. Tomasi has always shown a great deal of respect for Grant Morrison’s Batman work, and a good deal of that is referenced in this issue between Damian and the Joker. Tomasi and Gleason kill it in this issue, seriously. They have never been better as a team than this issue, nailing the personalities of Damian and the Joker in a unique way. The ending may be a little silly and easily explained away next month, but besides that this was a perfect book. Better than Batman #15 for sure. Yep. I said it.
Final Grade: ★★★★★ 5/5
Before Watchmen: Rorschach has kind of been a disappointment. It is not bad and doesn’t disrespect the character in any particular way, it’s just sort of…there. In the second-to-last issue of this very mediocre mini-series, Rorschach is still fighting off local gang leader Rawhead and his goons blah blah blah blah. Alongside this is Rorschach’s hunt for the serial killer “The Bard,” a subplot in a book that is too short to be able to afford subplots. In his daytime identity of Walter Kovacs, he scores a date with the girl at the coffee shop, meaning that the waitress has lost her sense of smell entirely. Azzarello has a long history of gritty street crime comics, but this one doesn’t provide a very compelling story nor any reason why it is a Rorschach story in particular. Lee Bermejo is no slouch when it comes to pencils, fully covering this version of New York City in the grime and violence that it deserves. One panel completely took me out of the story however, when Rorschach gets into a cab that is unquestionably being driven by Travis Bickle, Robert DeNiro’s character from Taxi Driver. I don’t care what anyone else says, it’s DeNiro, down to the freakin mole on the side of his face. In the film Bickle became somewhat of a vigilante himself coincidentally; why Azzarello and Bermejo threw him in this issue is perplexing and absurd. Disappointing.
Final Grade: ★★ 2/5
2 – Marvel Comics
If you are opening The Amazing Spider-Man #699.1 expecting some insight for the impending 700th issue, then you are out of luck my friend. While the first few pages deal with Dr. Octopus/Peter’s escape from The Raft (drawn by Punisher favorite Marco Checchetto) the rest of the book is merely an origin story for Michael Morbius. I’m not really sure when the last time Spider-Man’s resident vampire was given an origin touch-up, so it’s not an unwelcome story, just a strange left turn amidst the many goings-on of The Amazing Spider-Man. The story is interesting enough, but the real treat of this issue are Valeintne Delandro’s pencils. Delandro provides a timelessness here that mixes well with a tale of yesteryear, similar to David Mazzucchelli’s work on Batman Year One. The issue is really just a refresher course on Michael Morbius, prepping readers for the new series Morbius, which apparently is a thing that someone thinks would be interesting? I am not one of those people.
Final Grade: ★★★½ 3.5/5
Welcome True Believers, to another sub-par issue of Iron Man by Keiron Gillen! Iron Man #4 is the penultimate issue of Gillen and Land’s first arc “Believe,” where Tony Stark is hunting down stolen Extremis tech. This time Tony’s quest takes him to Paris, to find that the technology has been used to make some weird hieroglyph-activated albino vampire ladies. Yes, it makes just as much sense as it sounds. Despite this strange story twist, Greg Land does make the book easy on the eyes. He certainly knows how to draw the curves and sensuality of the women that Stark surrounds himself with (for better or worse) along with some decent action scenes. Gillen’s scripting does allow for some funny banter that you expect between Pepper and Tony, but otherwise the issue is underwhelming. Hopefully all of these one-shot stories will be building to something bigger coming sooner rather than later.
Final Grade: ★★½ 2.5/5
1 – Image Comics
After a failed assassination attempt, Poor Carl is at the mercy of Negan, the scary badass that bashed in Glenn’s skull in #100. Kirkman takes an interesting route with these two characters, with Negan having a fascination and admiration for the little one-eyed scrapper. A lot of fans hate on Carl, but #105 proves that he is one of the more complex characters of the book, maturing as a young man in this zombie-infested world. This issue is another great look into the lawless nature of The Walking Dead world, referencing a point system that Negan enforces on his community, except on his multiple wives. Though his character is nowhere near redeemed or likeable, this is the first issue that Kirkman allows us to see a little more of Negan beyond his vulgar and violent exterior. Charlie Adlard has been pencilling and inking The Walking Dead for almost 100 issues. And like a couple who has been married for a long time, it is easy to overlook Adlard’s commitment to excellence for the series. In #105 he zeroes in on Carl, expressing the boy’s fear and sadness which we haven’t seen for quite some time. Adlard’s splash page reveal in the middle of the book is the defining page of this book. Overall a great story of Carl and Negan that never loses its focus.
Final Grade: ★★★★½ 4.5