Every once in a while a week comes along that seems poised to break the bank. Such was this week which, between my regular pull items and a few miniseries, saw me walking out of Laughing Ogre with eight new issues.
All-New X-Men #18
Battle of the Atom surely generated mixed reactions, but I’m not sure any of that mix has been what I’d qualify as “good;” more like disappointed to mildly annoyed to furious. Wherever you find yourself on that continuum, this issue will likely extend however you felt. In my case, that’s ambivalence. A few highlight moments (Kitty & Illyana have a great moment; the Cuckoos are quickly becoming my favorite part of Cyclops’ group) are littered throughout a largely forgettable issue, the primary importance of which is that here is where those new costumes for the O5 are introduced.
I’ll be honest: after Battle of the Atom, my enthusiasm for Bendis’ X-Men has been largely exhausted. As I look to the future and a variety of new and exciting titles launching, and note that my pull list is half X-books, I begin to question which will stay and which will go. ANXM will survive by virtue of X-23 joining up in a couple issues, but if it weren’t for that I’m not sure how much longer I’d be committed to this ride. 3/5 [Indifferent]
Marvel Knights X-Men #1 (of 5)
Marvel’s “Knights” imprint remained dormant for a pretty long time, from what I can tell, and their resurrection thereof seems to have been met with a warm, if not enthusiastic, reception. Once you get past the “oh, another chance to showcase Wolverine” part, the idea of Logan, Kitty, and Anna Marie diving into a backwoodsy, pulp horror/mystery story is pretty neat. I’m not sure, however, the book necessarily will deliver on the potential of the premise, and I’d be lying if I said I found either the art or the story particularly praiseworthy. Halfway through the issue the thought crossed my mind that I’d be removing the mini from my pull next time I dropped by my shop. But the second half hooked me, it seems, because by the last page I realized I legitimately was looking forward to seeing what was going to happen next. So, good job, I guess. You got me for at least one more issue. 3/5 [Indifferent]
X-Men Gold (#1)
With the exception of its six dollar price tag, everything about X-Men Gold, the 50th Anniversary celebratory one-shot, feels really good. If you’re familiar with X-Men history at all, the only thing you need to know about this book is that it features new stories from Chris Claremont and Stan Lee. For the unfamiliar, consider this book a (brief) crash course in franchise history, as it features work from some of the biggest names (in writing, editing, pencils, and colors) in X-Men history, and reads like a scrapbook of a half-century’s productivity. Considering all the faux pas that the comic industry has been making as of late, it’s refreshing to be able to say that Marvel did something very much right. They called this an anniversary celebration and that’s precisely what it feels like. 5/5 [Loved It]
Cataclysm: Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 (of 3)
It seems I’m a sucker for punishment. Despite very good reasons to avoid giving any thought to the Ultimate Universe until after Cataclysm, I went ahead and let myself care about Miles and his motley crew. As with Cataclysm 0.1, the main effect of reading this issue for me was a stronger wish that Cataclysm weren’t happening, because even with the minor exposure to these characters I have had I already like them quite a bit. And now there’s a chance they’re all going to die.
But of course, that’s the point. Cataclysm is that rare moment in comics where you believe the company saying “this changes everything.” This issue ensures that you’ll care, even if you’ve not (as I’d not) been reading UCSM. Miles, Cloak & Dagger, Bombshell, and Spider-Woman all get their moment in the spotlight, though the moment is brighter for some than for others (I wasn’t sure they could match the 616 for Tandy & Ty’s depressing home lives, but yeah, apparently they can). All I can say is, I’m rooting for these guys. The odds are dreadful, but I’m now officially in their corner. 4/5 [Liked It]
They say the universe seeks balance. I accidentally got a current Batgirl story out of Nightwing, so it seems only fitting that I’d lose one in the Batgirl book itself. Enter Marguerite Bennett and a Zero Year interlude (once again postponing the conclusion of “Wanted,” which seems to have achieved a remarkable fragmentation for a simple three-issue arc). I’m on the fence with this one. Overall I found the story had some good ideas executed less than perfectly — kind of like an earlier draft of something you know will be really good after two or three more tries. As such, while I was generally disappointed with the issue, I’m optimistic for Bennett’s future, especially in light of the enthusiasm she has demonstrated in the interviews with her I’ve read. This isn’t by any means a bad issue, and it has one or two pretty good moments (Barbara donning her father’s gear; the flood scene), but it was mostly forgettable. 3/5 [Indifferent]
Forever Evil: Arkham War #2 (of 6)
This is one of those cases where my lack of familiarity with DC’s history is probably making it easier for me to enjoy New 52 stories than it might otherwise be. For a miniseries with “war” in the title, this issue featured precious little in the way of combat (a reasonably fun introduction and a busy spread notwithstanding), instead consisting primarily of conversation and exposition. This means that the issue hinged entirely on character development, and while I generally enjoyed it I’ve seen complaints from others whose seemingly justifiable objections stem largely from questions of character consistency. An extended discussion between Bane and Penguin, for example, appealed well enough to me, but might seem preposterous to more seasoned readers. Scarecrow, meanwhile, remains largely inconsequential despite being touted as the leader of one of the two warring factions.
The one thing that must be said in favor of this miniseries is that it is doing a good job of capitalizing on the Forever Evil premise. Gotham looks absolutely horrific, and you definitely fear for any members of law enforcement unlucky enough to be identified. Here is a Gotham-on-lockdown-with-Bane-pulling-the-strings story that makes The Dark Knight Rises look like child’s play, and to the extent that that’s what you’re expecting from a series called Arkham War I imagine you’ll still enjoy reading this issue. 4/5 [Liked It]
Astro City #6
Kurt Busiek and crew provide something rare in comics: true unpredictability. Sometimes that means a seemingly straightforward story that goes somewhere you never expected. Other times it’s the straightforwardness that’s truly surprising. Regardless, you’re happy to have gone along for the ride.
Another cool thing about Astro City is that it’s one of few books (if not the only one) I can recommend picking up any issue of because it reads more like a series of one-shots that all happen to occupy a shared universe than a cohesive puzzle requiring its readers have all the preceding pieces to assemble. I think that’s part of why I don’t typically bother with more detailed or thorough descriptions of plot or character here — because the characters don’t necessarily persist from issue to issue, and their self-contained stories tend to be less about them and more about us.
This issue technically marks the end of the first arc, but I honestly think you could start here without feeling lost. Not that you’d want to miss out on how great the previous six issues were, of course. 5/5 [Loved It]
Noir #1 (of 4)
Dynamite is a publisher I seem to have ignored accidentally over the past year, which is considerably less reasonable for me than for most because of how many of their characters are pulp/noir icons and because of my (frequently mentioned) love of the genre. So when I saw that the company was releasing a four-part miniseries showcasing its biggest pulp characters, that seemed the perfect way to introduce myself to them. And I was not disappointed.
One thing that makes Noir so good is that it, like all noir, strikes a healthy balance between tropes and nuance. In many respects all noir is a variation on a few very blatant themes, and the test of quality lies simply in how well you play with the clichés. You expect the dialogue to be unreasonably witty. You expect the man to follow the woman down some terrible road. You expect the woman to double-cross him. Or die. Or both. In any case, this issue earns its name. It’s a classic setup, and the characters are immediately recognizable even though I’ve never seen them before. The mystery (with a due hint of mythology to spice things up) is engaging enough to qualify as a mystery, but of course the draw of the book is not going to be the solution; it’s the way the solution is found.
This week I began two noir-esque miniseries, one featuring characters I know and love and one featuring characters I know nothing about. Surprisingly, this was by far the one I enjoyed more. 4/5 [Liked It]