The holidays got busy so I punked out for a few weeks, but I’m back baby! It’s the first week of 2013, but most of the new comic book storylines are still spilling over from 2012. The end of Punk Rock Jesus, a turn for All New X-Men and a kind of underwhelming Batman Incorporated. 3-2-1 Comics!
3 – Marvel Comics
In interviews for All New X-Men, Brian Michael Bendis has made it clear that despite the many things he’s done to Marvel’s mutants, he’s never actually written an X-Men title before. True that may be, issue five of the series proves that Bendis knows his stuff when it comes to Xavier’s gifted youngsters. While a page or two features Cyclops in recruitment mode, the majority of this issue is dedicated to Jean Grey and Beast(s). By exploring Beast’s psyche, Jean uncovers everything that her future has to offer, which is a lot for her to stomach. Stuart Immonen beautifully renders this info dump in a double-page spread of all of the key points in the character’s history, it’s pretty magnificent. He also introduces a new/old look for Beast, which I’m not sold on just yet. Bendis ends what seems to be All New X-Men‘s first arc with young Jean taking her future knowledge and making a potentially life-altering decision. Great stuff.
Final Grade: ★★★★★ 5/5
I’ve recently devoured Brian Michael Bendis’ collected run on Daredevil, so Daredevil: End of Days comes at a great time for me. Like a lot of Bendis’ Daredevil stories, the book follows reporter Ben Urich as he attempts to uncover the mystery behind Matt Murdock’s last days and cryptic final word. As the cover shows, most of this issue focuses on Bullseye, the expert assassin and Daredevil’s killer. Bendis and co-writer David Mack expertly zero in on the hero/villain yin/yang with Bullseye’s manic in Daredevil’s absence. The issue ends with Urich interviewing another old Marvel favorite that had me smiling. I would prefer it if Klaus Janson’s pencils were a little cleaner, but I suppose it matches the grim and gritty vibe of End of Days. That guest page with artist Alex Maleev was a damn tease though. As good as this book is, I’m waiting for Daredevil to take center stage again, as it appears that the horny devil is still alive and well after all.
Final Grade: ★★★★½ 4.5/5 ______________________________________________________________________________________
Yawn. Yawn, yawn, yawn and yawn. There is nothing interesting going on in Iron Man. There are some semi-intriguing concepts, but it isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. This whole “Believe” story arc could probably have wrapped in 2-3 issues. Another problem is that none of these “Bag and tag Extremis tech” issues feel related or leading to something larger. This week Iron Man confronts a former friend on his secret satellite and takes the tech back. Big surprise, huh? Greg Land’s artwork does an adequate job of holding my attention, despite his anime-like character faces. The issue ends with Tony flying off into space, which is how Matt Fraction ended his run on The Invincible Iron Man. This implies that this initial arc could possibly have been mandated to bring in new readers, perhaps Gillen has had some fun space stories from the get go? It can only get better, I think.
Final Grade: ★★ 2/5
2 – Indie Comics:
Robert Kirkman has been teasing about big things happening in Invincible #100. And given the planet-wide catastrophe that Dinosaurus has put Invincible in, it should come to no surprise that this is a filler issue. I mean, a literal filler issue. Every single page is one single panel. After Dinosaurus revealed his plan, we knew that he and Mark would duke it out for the final battle, so Kirkman merely stalls for time in this issue by having both characters spew paragraphs on one another. Though the single panel pages annoy me, it does give Ryan Ottley some elbow room to show off his action pencils. This was one long fight scene merely so #100 could be something special. Shame on you Mr. Kirkman, poor showmanship.
Final Grade: ★★ 2/5
Sean Murphy’s science vs. religion epic Punk Rock Jesus comes to a close this week with its sixth and final issue. We open with one last flashback to Thomas McKael’s past in the IRA, a satisfying twist that makes us rethink everything we have known about the character up to this point. From there things move at warp speed as the climax crashes into the epilogue. While the story has been ever entertaining, there has always been an uneven pace, even in the final issue. Regardless, it is pretty impressive at how quickly and deftly Sean Murphy has written and drawn this entire series, whose first issue debuted back in July. Murphy’s pencils always present characters who seemingly have their souls written on their faces. Repentant Thomas and corporate villain Slate both have heavily shaded faces, while Chris, Rebekah and Dr. Epstein have clean pale ones. Along with the character work, Murphy has demonstrated a skill of action scenes as well, which is harder to convey in a book that is entirely black and white. While I would hope that the ending would have a bit more poignancy, it is satisfying enough as single issue, and will read well as a six-part collected hardback. Punk Rock Jesus was born out of Murphy’s fear that a person like Sarah Palin could so easily sway national interest. Because of that he brought us a frightening vision of our future. So I guess I’m trying to say…thank you Sarah Palin?
Final Grade: ★★★★ 4/5
1 – DC Comics
The latest chapter in Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated picks up from the shoehorned ending of last month, where Batman’s allies fell victim to an explosion. Batman heads into the damaged building accompanied by his underutilized Bat-bots, to spring the trap that Talia has set. Though she isn’t every visibly seen, it is clear from the dangers left for Bruce and her disembodied voice that Talia is out for blood. The more fun part of the book includes a Batcave exchange among the former Robins and Alfred, including plenty of Morrison Easter eggs from the past. Chris Burnham’s art is the shakiest it has been in a while, not to mention the fill-in pages by Andres Guinaldo. Burnham is typically skilled at conveying action-in-motion, but due to his vague and sloppy work this week I didn’t even realize that a particular character met their fate until I read about it online after. The emotion is in the script, that is plain to see, but I wish that this issue had accomplished more. Morrison’s last issue of Batman Incorporated will be #12, putting every issue leading up that under the microscope. Will it feel too rushed? Is that enough time to reach a satisfying conclusion? Stay tuned next month, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.
Final Grade: ★★★½ 3.5/5