A generally slow (but good!) week, which frankly could probably stand to happen more often. This time around we have Injustice #21, All-New X-Men #12, The Movement #2, and the return of Astro City with a #1 on the cover.
Injustice: Gods Among Us (2013) #21
Tom Taylor & Neil Googe
If you haven’t yet read my review of the previous issue, I’d recommend it. Last week the momentum of this series took a noticeably new direction, steering Injustice away from canon and into uncharted waters. This week, those waters mingle with blood.
Batman and his rudimentary insurgence take center stage this week, sabotaging an operation involving Hawkgirl and introducing a rather important argument to the conflict in this book: if you’re going to try to police the world, you’re going to be spread pretty thin. Batman may not be able to go toe-to-toe with Superman, but intellectually he has the upper hand, and here we see an exemplary case of his strategic thinking in action.
Of course, there are two main moments this issue will be remembered for. The first (which happens last) is the confirmation of the mystery character’s identity (it’s just what most of us assumed). The second is another shocking deviation of characterization which is guaranteed to upset fans. We’ve known for a while that something was different about this Diana, but this week we see just how different she really is.
There are some good art moments and some very awkward ones in this issue. Googe’s style is a big more cartoony than usual, which makes for some weird faces at times. Action sequences, however, are brilliant, particularly the opening Hawkgirl scene.
At this point, the dead horse is beaten enough. If you still haven’t given this book a try, you don’t have any excuses ^_^
The Movement (2013) #2
With No Hint of Malice
Gail Simone & Freddie Williams II
Love or hate Gail Simone, it’s hard to deny that the first issue of The Movement was decent. Coral City’s very first appearance was striking enough to feel established, and we got a true sense of the corruption a noir P.I. might say is eating away at the city’s core like so many filthy worms. But as with noir, Coral City is painted not in black and white but grey. The Movement may think itself heroic, but not all of its actions are.
The cops from the now infamous “give us a peek” video are given a perfunctory tour of the Movement’s base of operations by de facto team leader Virtue before being tossed in a makeshift jail cell while the “war council” discusses what to do with them. The team may have pulled off a somewhat successful showing in the previous issue but it is far from unified, and the clashing personalities (particularly between Katharsis and Virtue) make for a fun and engaging dialogue.
The first half of the issue focuses on fleshing out the characters (Mouse is creepily adorable, Tremor seems to be the voice of reason, Burden has mommy issues, etc.). The second half plunges us into two sides of the cornea killer mystery, with Katharsis cutting to the chase while the rest of the team investigates a potentially dangerous lead. Both result in fights which remind us that The Movement aims to be a bit more brutal than typical hero stories; in one panel, Katharsis evokes thoughts of Millar’s Hitgirl, face covered in blood.
You may still not be sold on the premise of this book, but I think it’s fair to say that The Movement #2 is a step up from its predecessor. If you’re still on the fence, use this issue to get a handle on who these characters are; with a team-driven book like this, they are likely going to be the deciding factor for readers. Personally, I may be hooked.
All-New X-Men (2012) #12
Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen
One rather valid complaint I’ve heard about Bendis’ All-New X-Men is that it is slow. The art is consistently great and the dialogue tends towards delightful, but the truth is not much has actually been happening in this book, which is all the more striking in comparison to Bendis’ Uncanny, which seems to have done far more in far less time.
In keeping with that trend, then the latest issue is predominately one big series of conversations, with a telekinetic explosion to mix things up before people go back to talking. If you’re the sort of reader who would rather see a lot of action, then you might be better off with a different X-book. If, however, the idea of the original five (minus one) continuing to learn about their future and being outright shocked by the changes is something that appeals to you, then this issue more than delivers on the promise.
In a way, there are three main “scenes” here: Young Scott and his brother, Young Jean and Wanda, and another glimpse at the (still extremely vague in their motivations) crime spree that Mystique is spearheading. Though it’s interesting to see some dissent among their ranks, this villain group still doesn’t seem to have a real point, which is frustrating because their movements give a sense that something big is coming but that weight never really connects with readers. The aside comes across as just that — a couple pages spent doing something less interesting than the rest — and it feels like a letdown.
That said, the other conversations are definitely a pleasure to eavesdrop on. Disillusioned by what he has become in this timeline, Scott has been having a pretty hard time, and reuniting with his brother is a welcome bit of fresh air for him — a moment which, despite Cap’s (inexplicable?) attempt to mitigate, really was needed for both characters. It’s interesting to see Alex’s frustration at Scott’s actions in the beginning of the issue juxtaposed against the way he speaks to Scotts’ younger self, reminding us that just because circumstances have put him against his brother, he still cares for him.
After the initial shock of seeing a Brotherhood of Evil Mutants member standing aside Captain America and Thor as an Avenger has subsided, Jean accidentally (or so she claims) stumbles upon Scarlet Witch’s memories and relives M-Day through Wanda’s eyes, which (understandably) leads to a major meltdown. This sets us up for perhaps the biggest disappointment of the issue, because no one points out that the same excuse being used to forgive Wanda of her sins is not being offered to Scott for his (neither, arguably, was truly in their right mind when committing an atrocity). Yet despite the set up, no one brings it up, and we’re left again with a sense that valid defense of Cyclops’ behavior are largely being ignored to make the divide between the Uncanny X-Men and the rest of the world too clear. It’s not bad writing per se, but it’s something less than good.
Overall, this was a solid issue but predominately an interlude, as nothing really happened except the obligatory check-in of the Avengers to make sure that the O5 weren’t actually the ones on an international crime spree. If you’re really just following for the plot, this is skippable, but you’ll definitely be missing some great moments for these characters.
Astro City (2013) #1
Through Open Doors (Part One)
Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, Alex Sinclair, & Alex Ross
It may say #1 on the cover, but Astro City is evidently a pretty old franchise; in fact, according to the letters page in the back (and how refreshing to see a letters page, these days), this is actually the sixtieth issue. But at the same time, it is a first — a first for this Vertigo incarnation, and a first, they assume, for many readers. That letters page actually addressed old-timers and newcomers separately, and one snippet in particular stands out:
Don’t get me wrong, we want you to buy all the earlier stuff, but we’d rather get you to buy it by making you want to read it, not by making you feel you need to read it. We’re crafty that way.
And that mentality screams through these pages, because Astro City feels immediately familiar and effortlessly engaging, and the Neil Gaiman quote on the cover rings true, that this is “a place, perhaps, or a medium, or just a tone of voice…in which good stories are told.”
That place, or medium, is populated with some of the most vibrant and memorable characters I’ve ever seen, from the purple “Broken Man” whose hilariously candid voiceover encapsulates the issue, to the (I still can’t believe this character even exists) delightfully improbable “American Chibi,” to that which lies beyond the mysterious door…but that would be telling.
I know this doesn’t make for much of a review, but the truth is I bought this issue on a complete whim, knowing nothing, and found myself enamored of it almost from the first page. I can’t say for sure if others will replicate my experience, but I’ll let you be the judge. Consider this, then, simply a signal boost, and a heartfelt endorsement. I look forward to visiting Astro City in the coming months, and I imagine many of you will too.
And, yeah, I’ll probably have to go back and read that other stuff. Crafty indeed.