A Hellboy story by the Mignola/Corben team is always cause for celebration, and this one-shot is no exception: it doesn’t have the over-the-top backwoods craziness of their The Crooked Man, from a few years ago, but there’s enough Southern gothic atmosphere, with crumbling mansions and various decayed corpses (as an old woman, scorned and unjustly institutionalized, enacts occult revenge against long-dead adversaries) to remind everyone of why Corben’s always had such a fine reputation for horror work — and to show that, even in his seventies, he can still create spooky, attractive art that makes this book the pick of the week.
Flashpoint #1 (of 5) — Writer: Geoff Johns; Pencils: Andy Kubert; Inks: Sandra Hope
So, yeah, I kind of feel like a sucker for buying a much-hyped summer crossover event like this (mindless zombie consumerism and all that), but hey: Johns has a proven ability to provide at least a couple of shocks and fanboy gasps per issue, and he knows how to take a sprawling plot and scores of characters and move them around effectively, and Kubert draws the hell out of everything, and what’s not to like? The “Elseworlds” setup (the Reverse-Flash has changed the past, most obviously so that Barry Allen never became the Flash, but, as it turns out, in a number of other ways too) gives it all a feeling of impermanence (we know it’ll mostly get rebooted; the only questions are how, and which elements will stay changed), but it’s the journey, not the pre-ordained destination, that’s important, and seeing the ways that everyone has altered is part of the fun. As with last year’s Blackest Night, it’s going to be a pain picking through the dozens of connected crossover books to separate the few diamonds from the mounds of filler, but this main event should be worth any DC fan’s time.
Batman Incorporated #6 — Writer: Grant Morrison; Art: Chris Burnham
Still motoring along, as Bruce Wayne continues to build an army of Batmen to counter the worldwide criminal organization Leviathan, and there’s much plotting and counterplotting. Also: Bruce spends time in online chatrooms, Alfred shows skill at chess, the Outsiders return, and Joe Average from Pennsylvania learns why you shouldn’t set up criminal organizations in Gotham City.
New Avengers #12 — Writer: Brian Michael Bendis; Artists: Mike Deodato and Howard Chaykin
The present-day storyline only gets seven pages, but that’s good, because it means the rest is devoted to the Chaykin-drawn late-’50s subplot, involving Nick Fury and his Howling Avengers (including Sabertooth, Namora, Kraven, Dominic Fortune and Ulysses Bloodstone), hunting Nazis, specifically the Red Skull. Chaykin’s art has been getting better and better lately, especially in his careful attention to costuming and architecture, and his Skull, especially, is a hoot to watch, and worth the price of admission even if you don’t care about modern-day Victoria Hand or Superia, or whether Mockingbird’s going to die yet again.
PunisherMax #13 — Writer: Jason Aaron; Art: Steve Dillon
Frank in jail, intercut (and very skillfully; Aaron’s having fun with his transitions here) with Frank right after he got back from the ‘Nam, and just before his family got slaughtered. Not that much happens, but what’s here is just what you want from a Punisher book: reflections on bad guys, and what it takes to fight them; mayhem; Dillon art.
Astonishing X-Men #37 — Writer: Daniel Way; Pencils: Jason Pearson and Sara Pichelli; Inks: Karl Story and Sara Pichelli
The X-Men battle a giant monster in Tokyo (of course); it’s worth mentioning because, well, first of all, it wasn’t that big a week for comics, but also because the Pearson/Pichelli team offers some attractive art, while Way delivers a serviceable script centering on Armor, with a last-page splash that sets up a promising Johnny Sockoesque conclusion battle next issue.
Amazing Spider-Man #660 — Writer: Fred Van Lente and Dan Slott; Art: Mike McKone with Stefano Caselli
Spidey and his new FF teammates battle the Sinister Six, although not everything is as it seems. In addition to the 20-page main story, there’s two pages setting up the eventual next arc, “Infested,” plus a nine-page conclusion to a Spider-Man/Ghost Rider team-up (which looks a lot like an inventory story, but maybe not: it’s never-before-seen material, and GR’s got a new book coming out soon). The main story is typical of the last few months: lots of action, and as much an FF tale as a Spider-Man one, making it feel like a team-up story itself (although both the villains and the subplots are spider-centric); it’s hard to see how they’ll be able to sustain this more than another six months or so, but it’s intriguing enough for now.
X-Men: Legacy #248 — Writer: Mike Carey; Pencils: Jorge Molina; Inks: Craig Yeung with Pat Davidson
New Mutants #25 — Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Art: Leandro Fernandez
Both of these books are aftermath issues to “Age of X”; X-Men: Legacy is the better, since it’s by Carey, who wrote the original event, and involves everyone’s attempts to detox from the alternate-earth whiplash they went through. New Mutants does some team rearranging (with a new leader) and repurposing, as the NMs get tasked with cleaning up dangling X-Men subplots (a job that could keep the comic coming out for the next hundred years), beginning with a quest for Nate Grey, X-Man; the new writers, Abnett and Lanning, are mostly known for their cosmic books, but their knowledge of Marvel continuity should make them well-suited for the book’s new direction.