A fairly paltry pull list this week, it has to be said, which has made the decision-making process for this column even tougher. Several titles which I previously loved put out below-par issues (Batman, Batman & Robin), but after digesting my weekly purchases, there was one comic that was clearly ahead of the rest.
So, with that said, let’s get this show on the road with…
Justice League of America #3 (DC Comics)
Review: I initially had some trepidation about Geoff Johns’ new JLA title, simply because the members of the team seemed so… random. A scattered assortment of characters without any real common purpose, I really couldn’t see them having the same dynamic than the “other” Justice League provides on a monthly basis. Well, as it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The characters, while still having no real common thread (Katana? Hawkman? Catwoman??) are slowly forming into an extremely compelling unit, and that’s something which most definitely continues in this issue.
What’s impressive with Johns’ writing is that – for the most part – each member of the JLA is being given their own storyline thread. Stargirl is perhaps the most intriguing addition, being reduced – against her will – to simply being a ‘pretty face’ spokesperson, even to the point of her removal from missions in case she gets injured. Vibe is being developed extremely well as the inexperienced rookie, Steve Trevor is finally being made interesting and not some lovesick puppy pining after Wonder Woman, and while Hawkman and Katana haven’t really been touched on much yet, Catwoman is most definitely being written a hell of a lot better than in her ongoing series.
The growing pains associated with so many conflicting personalities being shoehorned together has actually been the highlight of the comic thus far, and that continues here as all manner of disagreements and mistrust arises as the team faces their first real ‘mission’. David Finch bring his usual incredible talent to the artwork, and his shadow-heavy style – while perhaps not suitable for a lot of the conversational scenes – definitely shines in a major way when it comes to the action set-pieces.
As entertaining as the main story is though, the real highlight of this issue is the backup story from Matt Kindt, featuring Catwoman and Martian Manhunter. Beautifully illustrated by Manuel Garcia, this interesting stand-alone tale simultaneously gives us more insight into both characters, and gives us a tremendously visual recollection of J’onn’s formative years. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the book is worth the cover price for this backup alone, and let’s hope we get more ‘fleshing out’ of the individual team members and their motivations as this series progresses.
An extremely solid and entertaining title, and one that only seems to be improving as it moves forwards. Well worth a look.
Honourable Mentions: Keiron Gillen’s Uber #1 (Avatar Press) provided an extremely interesting premise and some high-level storytelling, even if it was let down in a few places by some spotty artwork. Definitely one to watch.
Batwing #20 (DC Comics)
Review: (I should qualify this review by pointing out that while there was nothing ‘bad’ this week, I’ve only just got round to reading this title from a couple of weeks ago and it annoyed me so much I felt the need to include it here.)
Already a “bad” from a previous column, I – somewhat foolishly – decided to stick with this title to see just now new ‘Batwing’ Luke Fox fared in his first mission. And, to be honest, I actually found myself enjoying the comic during its opening moments. Having Luke effectively being ‘coached’ through his headset by Batman as he tackled wave after wave of ant-style soldiers in Africa was a pretty interesting dynamic, and I particularly enjoyed Batman’s post-fight dialogue with Alfred regarding Luke’s ‘recruitment’.
Sadly though, the comic rapidly deteriorated with an extremely clichéd exchange between Luke and his father, Lucious Fox, which took away a lot of the uniqueness of the character and made him seem more like the generic stereotype of the ‘son determined to do his own thing due to his distant father’. Which is a shame, as I was really interested in the character to that point, and found the fact that he was actively auditioning for the Batman Incorporated program to be a unique twist on the usual ‘recruitment’ shtick.
And then – just as my enthusiasm for the title was hanging by a thread – the Lion Centaur showed up.
There’s nothing like a completely ludicrous villain to completely turn me off a comic, and “Lord Lion Mane” effectively did that in one single panel.
So once again, Batwing finds itself cut from my pull list. A decent premise, but one that has been tragically mishandled through a reliance on pointless cameos (JLI, seemingly every Bat-character), some frankly ridiculous villains (with the exception of Massacre in the initial arc), and some ludicrous storyline choices (basically everything that happened in issue #19). So that’s another couple of quid a month that I’ll have to spend on a less irritating title.
(Dis)Honourable Mentions: Nothing else was actively ‘bad’ this week. Some titles, like Batman #20 (DC Comics) and Batman & Red Hood #20 (DC Comics) took a noticeable step back, but were still enjoyable enough reads.
Once again, before we get to the cover of the week, I’ll share with you a few of the runners-up who really impressed me this week;
Astonishing X-Men #62 (Marvel Comics)
Cover by Phil Noto
Something about Noto’s cover just appeals to me, with the juxtaposition as Iceman is slowly corrupted by the death seed after his multi-dimensional ordeal. It’s great to see the character being given a bit of an ‘edge’, and this cover sums up that change pretty much perfectly. Great stuff.
Thor: God of Thunder #8 (Marvel Comics)
Cover by Esad Ribic
One of my major regrets about the whole Marvel Now thing is the fact that I didn’t start picking this title up from the beginning. I fully intend to remedy that once the first trade becomes available, because I’ve heard nothing but good things and – as you can see – the artwork is absolutely sublime. A powerful image, and an extremely intriguing one for someone who hasn’t been following the title.
Batman & The Red Hood #20 (DC Comics)
Cover by Patrick Gleason
Another extremely powerful image, and a great implementation of a brilliantly creative idea to show the conflict between Bats and the Hood. The comic itself, unfortunately, was fairly lackluster but there’s no denying the impact of the cover art.
The Walking Dead #110 (Image Comics)
Cover by Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn
While the cover might not actually bear much resemblance to what happens inside the comic, there’s no getting away from the innate coolness of the teased conflict between Michonne and Ezekiel. A simple image, true, but still an extremely mouth-watering prospect.
And now, without any further ago… this week’s winner…
Superboy #20 (DC Comics)
Cover by Ken Lashey
Superboy lasted about 3 issues in the New 52 before I had enough of it and dropped the title. Something about it just failed to grab my attention. So while I’ll freely admit to having no idea what’s been going on with the character since then, or just what the image on the cover is referring to, there’s no denying how absolutely stunning Superboy looks here. Absolutely bad-ass, with a (not so) subtle callback to the old ‘Death of Superman’ cover. Great stuff.
And that, as they say, is that. Let me know what you guys thought, and what you enjoyed (and didn’t enjoy) from this week’s comic crop.
And don’t forget to tune in again next Saturday. Same Ceej time, same Ceej channel!