This week in 3-2-1 Comics!: Snyder redeems himself with Batman! Another crazy-great chapter of Saga! And more Captain America flashbacks, because we can’t have too many of those!
3 – Marvel Comics
I will admit that I am not a classic Captain America aficionado; I was bred on Ed Brubaker’s more grounded espionage adventures. So while Rick Remender’s Kirby-esque tale of Cap in another dimension ruled by Arnim Zola goes a bit above my head, I am not unaccustomed to Remender throwing a whole pile of weird at a Marvel hero (see Punisher: Franken-Castle.) Along with the sci-fi main story, Remender and John Romita Jr. present us another set of pre-WWII flashbacks with little tyke Steve Rogers in New York and Zola in Germany. Remender’s intention is understandable, but there is only so much material to mined out of Steve Rogers before he was Captain America, and we’ve seen it all before. I very much enjoy Romita Jr.’s haggard-looking Cap, but he’s trying a little too hard to imitate Jack Kirby with his aliens. Despite an intriguing surprise twist at the end, this was a rather unexciting issue.
Final Grade: ★★★ 3/5
The big green rage monster has had a rough go of it onscreen and on the page; what new things can you do with The Hulk? Mark Waid has presented us the answer in Indestructible Hulk, an answer that seems so obvious in hindsight. The third issue of Waid’s new series has Maria Hill interviewing potential assistants for Bruce Banner, while Banner himself assists SHIELD in infiltrating an AIM stronghold. Lenil Yu covers the pages with grizzly and visceral characters that suit the aforementioned big green rage monster appropriately. This isn’t the most exciting chapter of Indestructible Hulk, but it reiterates the series mission statement. What new things can you do with The Hulk? You treat him like a weapon and aim him at everyone besides yourself.
Final Grade: ★★★★ 4/5
Savage Wolverine is pretty much exactly what you expect it to be: Wolverine fighting a bunch of dinosaurs and cavemen. A SHIELD research team crash lands in The Savage Land. Eight months later Wolverine drops from the sky into The Savage Land as well. He is not looking for the missing team and we don’t even get an explanation for how or why he fell from who knows where. But we don’t care, right? Written and penciled by Frank Cho, this book is just plain silly. Cho puts forth some great artwork here, and uses a minimalist layout approach, but the story hurts him. I was waiting for a deeper mystery to unravel here, but no, it’s just Wolverine slicing up dinos. Great.
Final Grade: ★★ 2/5
2 -DC Comics
The first issue of Gail Simone’s “Death of the Family” had such a wonderful premise and ending, with The Joker proposing to Batgirl. The Joker and Barbara Gordon have a history that is almost more intimate than Batman’s, and as Batgirl fans we want to see Babs take some kind of vengeance on the man that crippled her. But since Death of the Family is Scott Snyder’s show, we don’t end up with that. All roads must eventually lead back to Batman, so we can’t get that cathartic resolution just yet. With that in mind, Batgirl #16 is a little jumbled in its delivery, with a little too much pointless exposition by Mr. J in the first half, and a quick resolution at the end. Ed Benes and Daniel Sampere split the art in half once again, each style suffering a little because of it. Vincent Cifuentes hard inks don’t mesh with Benes’ less defined ones on his own pencils. Batgirl probably won’t get the Joker resolution we want in the future, but expect a final showdown with her crazy brother James Jr.
Final Grade: ★★★½ 3.5/5
Scott Snyder brings us the best “Death of the Family” chapter yet in Batman #16. Taking place in the Asylum, the whole story feels very similar to both Arkham video games, leaving the reader unsure of what horror will pop up around the next corner. The Joker stays true to his vision of Batman’s “Kingdom,” with twists and perversions of Arthurian legend that are wickedly awesome. There is plenty of dialogue on Snyder’s part but Greg Capullo is given ample room to stage some great artwork. His action sequences feel like they’re lifted right out of the Arkham Asylum game and he gives us a wonderful double-page spread of Batman’s “Inner Circle.” Snyder has really found and added to the core of the Joker, in a representation that is equally full of malice and love for The Dark Knight. The backup feature picks up where the main story left off and gives Joker a great battle of wits with another Bat villain that is reminiscent of Jeph Loeb’s Dark Victory. I’ve said it before, but I kind of enjoy Jock’s Joker more than Capullo’s, but maybe that’s because his face is rotting at a slower rate. Batman #16 is a big improvement from #15. I am betting/hoping that next month is going to be a big game-changer for our good friend Bruce Wayne.
Final Grade: ★★★★★ 5/5
1 – Image Comics
It’s nice to see Saga back on the shelves on a regular basis. This month we take a break from our refugee family and instead follow their pursuers: The Will and Gwendolyn (who happens to be Marko’s ex.) Without spoiling much I will say that fans who got excited by this month’s cover of The Will & The Stalk are in for a tease (shocking, I know.) Brian K Vaughan provides another excellent script full of action, humor and a healthy dose of profanity; he could probably make a comedy book out of The Will and Lying Cat alone. Fiona Staples remains consistent with over-the-top aliens and endearing humanoids. The end of Saga #9 introduces us to a new family of sorts to root for against Marko and Alana. When it’s hard to say whether you’re rooting for the heroes or the villains, you know it’s a good book.
Final Grade: ★★★★½ 4.5/5