Batman Incorporated # 12
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Burnham
Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
20 or 22 pages, $2.99
First, an apology about the “iffy” page count. I honestly can’t tell you where the story in this issue ends. Part of me thinks it’s on the page that says “Next time…” and gives a teaser… But honestly, that entire page has no relevance to the rest of this issue, so I turned to page investigating, and found two more pages that may (or may not) have anything to do with the story I was reading. It was a wholly separate piece with different characters, but unlike the rest of this issue– it wasn’t an obvious ad for another book.
This was the first comic I have ever read where I had to flip back to the previous page to try to follow the story after each ad interruption. If this comic were a television show, the actors wouldn’t even get through a sentence before a commercial for a much better show would air. You’d sit through that commercial and then the current show would go on for another sentence– then you’d get another commercial. Really, I paid $2.99 for a pamphlet of commercials here. And don’t get me wrong, the artwork for those other comics is beautiful! It’s very dynamic and the stories all look great! That’s not what I paid for, though. I wanted to spend some time with the Dark Knight (or whoever plays him now.)
Okay, so what did I pay for here? 20 or 22 pages of broken up story-telling. A cover that has no relation to the story inside. Some effective superhero artwork.
Coming in at the end of this storyline, I gather there’s a female villain turning men into batslaves, and using babies as robot fighters. Okay. Sounds bad. Sounds super misogynist, too… But I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. Just because she destroys men and uses their children as weapons against them doesn’t mean the writer fears women, does it? (Maybe that’s just a coincidence.)
Bruce Wayne’s building gets blown up and whoever Batman is now (I’m not making any assumptions) has some sort of difficult relationship with his professional peer group. If you’ve ever daydreamed about blowing up your office Fight Club-style, showing up with a bunch of freaky chicks at the office Happy Hour, or ripping the face off the bitchy ex who didn’t tell you she was pregnant until months after your break-up– this could be the book for you.
Your issues are showing, but whatever. It’s only $2.99. In between the many, many commercials, imagine yourself as Batman– punching a baby in the face. Go for it.
This issue is not parsable on its own and I’m not interested in reading the prior eleven advertising pamphlets to try to put it in perspective. (I would consider reading the graphic novel once it’s all collected and properly assembled, sans bullshit.)
If you’re a devotee of this series, please accept my condolences. I don’t know how you put up with those ridiculous ads and all that gender-based reproductive political garbage. Contrary to what this story may have you believe, women generally don’t try to turn every man they meet into bad copies of their exes. Your bros before hos routine might feel liberating on the surface, but something tells me this story is doomed to repeat itself, regardless.
I am told Grant Morrison is a great writer. There were editors listed in the credits of this book. Maybe they should try working together. – Red Tash
Invincible Universe #4
Writer: Phil Hester
Artist: Todd Nauck
Colorist: Gabe Eltaeb
Letterer: Rus Wooton
20 pages, $2.99
This is the best Phil Hester Invincible comic I have read. That said, Invincible Universe #4 is not nearly close to the awesomeness of the core title, simply called Invincible. I read the other Invincible off-shoot– Guarding the Globe– and it was, for the most part, not good. I kept reading it because I adore many of the characters– most notably Brit… But writer Phil Hester, simply couldn’t find the correct voice for the cast of that team book. My biggest problem with Guarding the Globe? Hester seemed like he was trying too hard to be Invincible creator Robert Kirkman.
There’s a notable difference in Invincible Universe #4 and the rest of Hester’s Invincible work. He’s stopped trying to ape Kirkman and, in the process, a new voice has appeared. Hester’s new rhythm brings characters who act and sound more like themselves, which represents a vast improvement. Hester’s also smartly showcasing individual characters in this comic (something he never did with Guarding the Globe)– and finally giving readers real reasons to start emotionally investing in his Invincible stories.
Invincible Universe #4 is a fun done-in-one story focusing on Best Tiger… A character I didn’t really “get” until this issue. (It never helped his case that he’s kind of a rip-off of Deathstroke.) The story is well constructed. Best Tiger is attacking surviving members of the Guardians group– and Hester’s writing shows a detailed thought process. Best Tiger has a plan for everyone and it’s entertaining to watch. Densely plotted comics definitely have advantages over the phoned-in work we’re used to seeing from many creators these days. (cough *Geoff Johns* cough)
The only real issue I had with Hester’s story? It didn’t really change much or have any lasting effect on the Invincible Universe. But that’s perfectly okay. If Inveterate Media Junkies has taught me anything, it’s that every comic doesn’t have to be earth-shattering.
It is really hard not to compare Todd Nauck’s art to the work of Invincible’s long-time artist Ryan Ottley. I really tried hard not to, but I do notice a difference. In direct comparison, Nauck’s art is weaker. His main problems: Faces seem a little off (at times) and his art suffers from a couple of anatomy issues… One of the more difficult aspects of comic art Ottley usually seems to capture perfectly.
All in all, Invincible Universe #4 finally felt like it was part of the “Invincible Universe.” I had major reservations about giving this title another chance, as I thought it would suck. But I’m glad the creators proved me wrong. (I actually love it when that happens!) If Hester and Company can build on their momentum here, we might just have two great Invincible comics out there… Which would be excellent news. – Nick Furi
Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Steve Lieber
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
20 pages, $3.99
“Is this some kind of sex thing?”
I can’t remember why I picked this comic to review… But it definitely was not a sex thing. Well that’s not entirely true. I think I do remember picking Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1 specifically so I wouldn’t have to experience that overwhelming sense of dread I always feel whenever I look at DC Comics’ weekly release list. I’ve come to dislike most of their books so much, I think I’m just excited whenever I can pick anything that isn’t New 52 related.
This comic follows the misadventures of the 5 current members of the Sinister Six (and yes, the fact the team is missing a member becomes a running joke)… As Boomerang, The Shocker, Overdrive, Beetle and Speed Demon are put through their paces by writer Nick Spencer and artist Steve Lieber. Thankfully, this series has nothing to do with the awfulness that is Dan Slott’s Superior Spider-Man. It also pretty much ignores current continuity– and is all the better for it too.
Superior Foes shows writer Nick Spencer’s strengths and weaknesses in much the same way his comic Bedlam does. (I recently reviewed Issue #4 of that Image series.) Although the tone and subject matter between these 2 comics couldn’t be more different, each book shows Spencer is capable of writing a couple of very good scenes per story– but suffers from weak, off-note transition bits that fail to admirably link the scenes together. Spencer often lacks consistency and sureness of touch– and forces unnecessary over-arching plots when they just aren’t needed.
For example: Spencer writes Foes Issue #1 mostly from Boomerang’s point of view– giving him an amusing intro and entertaining narration… But then follows it up with a boring prison conversation. The schizophrenic nature of the narrative continues, as Spencer scripts a very funny scene where Speed Demon and Shocker hold up a pet shop (yes, really) but then bores me with a stupidly long confrontation with Hammerhead… Followed by a very weak final page.
The art from Steve Lieber suffers from similarly patchy quality– the layouts were generally very good, but the inking was a bit light for my tastes. The likenesses and character presentations while in costume where fine, but when the villains peeled off their outfits– I had some trouble telling who was who. Similarly, Lieber can convey humour in a scene quite well (when the characters are in costume) but things fall apart again when the characters revert to their everyday guises. The coloring from Rachelle Rosenberg was also a bit inconsistent throughout– varying from flat to bright. Of course, this might be due (in part) to the relatively sparse backgrounds provided by Lieber.
If Spencer would just play this book for “yuks”– and leave out the “noir crime” bits he kept trying to force into it– the Superior Foes of Spider-Man would have been so much better. There were times when Foes had a fun vibe, like the classic Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis Justice League International… And Spencer showed he can do “funny” really well. If he’d concentrate on the humour, then I could be more definite in my recommendation for this series. As it is, Superior Foes gets a “you probably won’t hate it” rating from me. – Locusmortis
Detective Comics #22
Targeting the Shield
Writer: John Layman
Artist: Jason Fabok
Colorist: Emilio Lopez
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
28 pages, $3.99
The more I think about this comic, the more baffled I become. Yes, I had fun… And yes, I really enjoyed it– but plotwise, I still don’t feel like anything happened. This is a fully action-packed issue, with lots of cool fighting sequences and magnificent eye candy art… But it is nothing else than a “pilot” for a starting story arc– begging you to wait one more month for things to really pick up.
The story is divided in two threads: A masked cop-killer called The Wrath wreaks havoc in town, and a powerful company boss named E.D. Caldwell wants to buy the Wayne Corporation. That’s it. We’re left witnessing cops being killed, Batman running all over the city trying to stop the slaughter– and Bruce and Caldwell having a business meeting. The narrative doesn’t show much more, nor does it delve deeper into any intricacies.
However, I can say this: What little we’re shown is a good omen for things to come. Sure, we get very little of the Wrath– But Caldwell is entertaining enough, for the very reason it’s difficult to guess if he is a baddie or a good guy. Such complexity for an all-new character is testament to writer John Layman’s craftmanship, and is sadly way too rare in comics. More often than not, we know from first glance if a stranger is going to reveal himself/herself as a villain or a hero.
But the uncertainty surrounding Caldwell isn’t his only appeal. Hints about his intentions are thrown around all over. There are proofs of him helping the police, or giving money to charities. But elsewhere some of his company’s products are used against Batman or the GCPD. His ambivalence is used to trigger an interesting psychological set-up for Bruce– who decides not to trust Caldwell from the get-go without any valid reasoning. Layman depicts a Batman in conflict with his own ego, failing because he refuses to adopt any sort of rational thinking. Bruce loves being the only zillionaire intent on saving his city. He may talk about how rotten or selfish other rich tycoons are, but in the end, he is glad nobody else wants to help… As it makes that much more space for him to shine as Gotham’s only hope. Caldwell exposing Bruce’s hypocrisy is highly refreshing.
Adding to that, Layman seems to be crafting an arc where both the vigilante night life of Batman and the daily corporate duties of Bruce Wayne will challenge the opinion our hero has of himself. Both the Wrath and Caldwell are mirror images of his double life, and bring with them many questions. Is Batman willing to let others help? Or is he secretly happy that everything’s going awry, so that he can give himself a reason to live? If the world were to live in peace tomorrow, would Batman take a rest and live a normal life– or would he go insane?
All these reflexions are subtly fleshed out, and they are the most thought-provoking and interesting parts of this comic. All the more reason to regret that most of it is composed of movie-like action scenes. Sure, they are exciting to look at, but they fail to convey enough of Layman’s plot to satisfy this reader.
If Greg Capullo’s current art is deeply inspired by Bruce Timm’s Batman: The Animated Series, then Jason Fabok’s Detective drawings tilt much more toward Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Batman’s black-on-black costume could be confused with the overwhelming shadows. Gotham looks gorgeous, and comes straight out of a movie with its edgy aesthetic. (It’s always dusky, even by day.) Everything’s a bit too dim and gloomy, but I’m nitpicking at this stage… Because truth be told, I love Fabok’s craft. It’s splendid, and as a penciler who had issues correctly drawing faces, he really got better on that matter. Also, there’s not a panel without an extremely detailed background, which gives the sensation of a truly inhabited world. I cannot give enough praise for Fabok’s beautiful level of dedication.
My only real complaint is with the backup story. It’s bland and uninteresting at best. I’ve already stated I felt the main story suffered from too little development, as if Layman didn’t have the authorization to begin his story right away and had to stall for a month. Would it not have been better to forget about the silly backup narrative, especially when it’s about Man-Bat? The Wrath storyline is only 20 pages long, because the remaining 8 pages in this comic are allocated to Kirk Langstrom. It would have been far more enjoyable to get 28 pages of a full fleshed narrative– getting the story on its feet right away– instead of turning it into a lazy cliffhanger followed by a rehashed Man-Bat tale. DC’s policy to force-feed us backup stories is crippling and prevents writers from doing their job correctly.
Detective Comics #22 is a good installment– more for what it forecasts than what it has actually shown me so far. – Simon J. O’Connor
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: Carlos Magno
Colorist: Michael Garland
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
22 pages, $3.99
If you ever dreamed of writing a comic book about a tournament system where fantastic beings fight to the death, it would be best to just give up now– as Deathmatch is thoroughly entertaining. If this series always displays the level of awesome that Issue #7 does, there’s no point in trying to create a “better version” of this concept.
To be completely honest, I never gave Deathmatch a moment’s notice on the comic racks… Until I read about writer Paul Jenkins travails with DC Comics– and the supposed bullying that goes on between the company and its creators. Jenkins’ interview did a good job of reinforcing my suspicions about DC’s editorial practices and gave Deathmatch some much-needed publicity too. Well done, sir!
Jenkins does wonders with the space provided… Using all 22 pages to their full potential. I was shocked to discover a cool, mysterious backstory stealthily intertwined amongst all the fighting too. Even the battle scenes are more than just characters fighting and objects being blown to bits. Each match serves to heighten reader investment. Deathmatch #7 is a compelling read.
You know what’s crazy about this comic? There are three brawls to the death inside. You read that correctly– THREE. And these matches were just in the middle of the book. The longest single fight clocked in at 6 pages. Jenkins fills this comic to the brim– making Deathmatch worth every penny of the $4 cover price. There definitely isn’t any watered down story or decompressed plots in this magazine.
The story has a natural progression and everything happens organically. There’s no random plot elements thrown around and never explained. There are twists and turns, but they all feel like logical events…. And there is clearly a bigger story going on here than characters being captured and forced to fight to the death. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Jenkins goes the extra mile by giving each character a distinct and evocative voice.
Alas, I did have problems with the art. It wasn’t bad (by any means) and there was plenty of detail and few proportion issues. I just felt artist Carlos Magno relied too much on shading and cross hatching. I don’t enjoy the technique– since I think it takes away from the art and is distracting. I remember reading this interview where Ryan Ottley discusses how cross hatching is a cheap way to get around not being able to properly draw anatomy. Since I am not an artist, I don’t know how true this statement actually is– but it does make sense. If you are an artist and want to learn how to be a better one, follow Ottley on Twitter. He is constantly giving free advice on how to be better. (I just wish more professionals would listen to him too.)
Deathmatch #7 was lots and lots of fun… And I’m truly interested to see where this story goes. Chalk up another great book I’ve discovered while writing IMJ Comic Book Reviews! At this rate, I will be completely broke by September.
– Nick Furi
Trinity of Sin: Pandora #1
Three Million Days
Writer: Ray Fawkes
Artists: Zander Cannon,
Daniel Sampere, Vicente Cifuentes,
Letterer: Dezi Sienty
20 pages, $2.99
I don’t know what type of drugs I was on after reading Trinity of Sin: Pandora #1– because I initially thought was okay. But then I thought about it again, came to my senses and realized this comic sucks old wrinkly monkey nuts. I didn’t want to hate it, but I do. A few of the ideas were okay… But when considering everything together, this comic is a piece of shit.
Think of it this way: If you dropped a delicious steak onto a pile of crap, you wouldn’t continue eating it– right? It’s ruined and now you’ll have to find something else to eat. This sad analogy describes Trinity of Sin pefectly– the comic is one deliciously good moment smothered by a pile of crap. Writer Ray Fawkes attempts to weave a compelling story around Pandora– and I give him credit for trying to make her past feel tragic. Fawkes’ work allows for some sympathy… But this is where the good stalls out.
The next bit is where I act like a jerk by spoiling the shit out of this book. I am trying to save you both time and money by doing what I am about to do… So, you know, SPOILER WARNING…
You know what? I changed my mind. And this is after I just wrote FIVE LONG PARAGRAPHS detailing several stupid plot points and story continuity problems with this book. Any of these would give you sufficient reason to run from this comic… But screw it. I don’t want to bore you– so I will simply make this simple request instead:
Please don’t buy this comic book.
If Trinity of Sin: Pandora #1 is this horrible, I can only imagine how terrible Justice League #22 will turn out. My guess? It’ll be yet another poorly imagined DC New 52 comic to throw on the publisher’s rapidly growing pile of shitty disasters.
– Nick Furi
What If? AvX #1
Writer: Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: Jorge Molina, Norman Lee
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
20 pages, $3.99
So why would someone who hated the original Avengers vs X-Men maxi-series volunteer to review a What If? spin-off? Two words: Jimmy Palmiotti. I’ve liked pretty much everything he’s been involved with over the last 15 years, and I figured if anyone could get something worthwhile out of the steaming hackfest called AvX, it would be Jimmy. What I had forgotten, however, is that every What If? story is reliant on the strength of the original source material— and even if you polish it, a turd is still a turd.
What If? AvX #1 rehashes the first couple issues of AvX and deals with “The Architects” rather shoddy central conceit– that the Phoenix Force now chooses to come back to Earth. (But it’s also never explained why the Force didn’t choose Earth the last 27 times Jean Grey was resurrected.) In order to fit everything in, Palmiotti is forced to cram an (almost) unbelievable amount of exposition into every page… So much so, I half expected Tony Stark to jump up and exclaim, “Holy plot point, Captain America!”
This torrent of exposition does have one bright side: At least it cuts down on the insufferable “character dialogue” the Bendis “school of writing” forces into all these characters’ mouths– making them all sound like under-employed fringe theatre actors. At least Palmiotti manages to have his heroes talk like you think they should– without making them sound like Shakespeare on steroids.
Unfortunately, no writer could possibly obscure the fact that the 2013 Avengers vs X-Men series was a soulless, derivative, boring shitfest– just an excuse to rape the wallets of Marvel Fanboys. By distilling this overblown story down to its essential elements, all Palmiotti manages to do is accentuate the crap plot points– exposing just how revolting and smelly the entire undertaking truly was when first published.
The main difference between What If? AvX #1 and the source material? Wolverine accidentally kills Storm and Magneto destroys the Shield helicarrier. I can only hope Palmiotti manages to radically go off the reservation with Issues 2-4… Or else this could shape up to be the one series in his career everyone hopefully quickly forgets about.
The art by penciler Jorge Molina and inker Norman Lee is serviceable (why does it always sound like an insult when I say that word?), without being remarkable. The layouts tell the story well enough. The only artistic problems occur during the Magneto and Hope argument– which just looks silly the way Molina presents it. The likenesses are decent as well, but the final page (where several characters are meant to look shocked and horrified– but look exaggerated and goofy instead) comes off as so comedic that it almost ruins the intent of the cliffhanger ending. Letterer Clayton Cowles is forced to work double-time with all the dialogue and exposition– but manages to fit everything in without hindering the art and the flow of the story.
If you are a Palmiotti completist, then by all means get this issue. But I can’t honestly recommend What If? AvX #1. It isn’t Palmiotti’s finest hour by any stretch. But then again– if this mainstream gig helps pay the bills while he gets on with his rather amazing independent work– then What If? AvX #1 is almost excusable. The next time he works for Marvel, hopefully they will offer him a project that’s not guaranteed to suck in advance. – Locusmortis
Writer: Max Bemis
Artist: Jorge Coelho
Colorist: Felipe Sobreiro
Letterer: Steve Wands
22 pages, $3.99
This is the conclusion of the Polarity story written by the openly bi-polar musician Max Bemis. I gave an earlier issue 3.5 stars, so I figured why not check out the conclusion?
I’m glad I did. A lot of the awkward dialogue and phrasing problems I found in Issue #1 are gone… And with no need to cram a lot of social angst into the pages, this comic is filled with evil doctor shenanigans and madman “superhero on crack” throwdowns. The art was wonderful, the social commentary on the hipster pathos was thoughtful and cogent, and the romantic subplot was tied up with a satisfactory bow.
Yes, there’s still a little bit of the pedantic revenge fantasy stuff going on here, but in contrast to the poorly orchestrated Batman Incorporated I also reviewed this week, it is well-handled. Unlike Batman, when Tim does his version of beating an armored simpleton in a robot suit, you can actually enjoy it. Similarly, possessing a vagina fails to turn any of Polarity’s characters into psychotic villains. Tim’s girlfriend Lily is a strong character– a fact often hard to play successfully through the limited dialogue comics provide. The characterization comes together very sweetly.
There’s another Q&A Column in the back with the humble but seemingly genuine Bemis, and another free music download code on the page too. For my money, I think this is one of the best comic series I’ve seen lately. I wasn’t sure it was going to turn out that way, but there is nothing to snub here at all. Well done. – Red Tash