Phil’s Reviews: Stuff I Bought #258

Yes, yes, we’ll get to all of those fancy DC villain books in a minute (even though, contrary to this column’s title, I didn’t buy all of them — but, hey, without credits on the cover, I figure you need some sort of quick description of each one, to see which will be worth your time) — but first, let’s look at the regular titles that stood out this week:

Astro City #4Astro City #4 — Writer: Kurt Busiek;  Art: Brent Eric Anderson

This was the best book of the week the last time it came out, too, and it’ll probably be very near the top for the next issue: it’s a confident, pretty-much perfect comic. This issue is a done-in-one story that looks at a career woman who works in special effects for movies, who’s also a telekinetic; she isn’t a hero or a villain, and just wants to life her life, but there’s always some idiot who thinks he can exploit her… and, in 24 pages, we get a tightly-plotted, wise script from Busiek, very human and nice-looking art from Anderson, a bad-guy bully who gets his butt kicked in satisfying fashion, and a great-looking cover by Alex Ross. It’s very hard to make effective comics storytelling look this effortless, but these guys do it every single issue, and you’ll be re-reading this book long after all those fancy 3-D covers and other gimmicks are long forgotten.Kick-Ass 3 #3

Kick-Ass 3 #3 (of 8) — Writer: Mark Millar;  Pencils: John Romita Jr.;  Inks: Tom Palmer

Millar has his detractors, and I’m sometimes among them, but the Romita Jr./Palmer art is wonderful to look at, and the Hit-Girl-in-prison scenes here are  deadpan hilarious; there are only a few issues left before this whole thing is over, and I’ll be sorry to see it go.

X-Men #5X-Men #5 — Writer: Brian Wood;  Pencils: David Lopez;  Inks: Cam Smith

Chapter Three of “Battle of the Atom,”  as past, present and future versions of the X-Men fuss, fight, bond and have lots of character-interaction moments that will be fun for long-time fans. So far, this has been a crossover event that’s given readers just what they want, and hasn’t insulted anyone’s intelligence; let’s hope they can keep it up for another seven issues, all the way to the conclusion.

Captain America #11 — Writer: Rick Remender;  Pencils: Carlos Pacheco;  Inks: Captain America #11Klaus Janson

Steve Rogers, having just spent 12 years fighting in Arnim Zola’s Dimension Z (even though only a few minutes went by in Marvel-earth time), tries to readjust to his regular life. Remender’s come up with a clever way to re-establish Cap as a “man out of time” here, something that was always a big part of the Silver-Age comics, and Pacheco’s art makes a very smooth transition from Romita Jr.’s in previous issues, especially with Janson continuing on the inks; this is another nice-looking, and nicely-written, comic.

Avengers #19Avengers #19 — Writer: Jonathan Hickman;  Art: Leinil Francis Yu

Another “Infinity” chapter — and, as expected, all those floating bits and pieces from Hickman’s last year of Avengers books are coming together very cleverly (he’s always including diagrams and timelines in his books; you just know his workroom wall has some massive chart with thousands of lines and arrows, trying to keep track of all of the characters and plot points here…).

Infinity: The Hunt #1 (of 4) — Writer: Matt Kindt;Infinity -- The Hunt #1  Art: Steven Sanders

Kindt, of the stellar indy book Mind Mgmt, is going mainstream with a vengeance; he’s the writer on two of the DC villain books this week, and is also helming this mini-series tie-in to Infinity. It starts out as a kind of super-kid Olympics, with the students at the Avengers Academy, Wolverine’s Jean Grey School, the FF’s Future Foundation, and a number of other super-kid training academies coming together for an enhanced-powers competition — but then the Earth gets invaded by Thanos and his minions, and we’re off. Sanders has an offbeat style that can be both cartoony and dramatic, and he meshes well with Kindt’s go-for-broke script; for fans of Marvel’s under-20s heroes, this is a book worth checking out.

Herobear and the Kid #2Herobear and the Kid: The Inheritance #2 (of 5) — Creator: Mike Kunkel

This continues the origin story of Kunkel’s appealing kids’ book, a story that borrows from Calvin and Hobbes, but adds its own twists and wrinkles, and isn’t a rip-off so much as a tribute that goes off in its own direction. Although he’s told it before, it’s so charming that it’s hard to resist, and as an all-ages book it will appeal to adults, but also be perfect for younger readers — or even younger kids who will enjoy the dynamic pictures while it’s read to them.

Mighty Avengers #1 — Writer: Al Ewing;  Pencils: Greg Land;  Inks: Jay LeistenMighty Avengers #1

Another tie-in to Infinity, as, with most of the Avengers off-planet and space-born bad guys attacking, Luke Cage puts his own team together. It’s nice to see the Monica Rambeau Captain Marvel — now called Spectrum — again, and the Superior Spider-Man, the White Tiger and the young chip-on-his-shoulder Power Man round out the group… so far, since there’s a mysterious figure waiting in the wings (and who’s revealed in the book’s ads for future issues). The script’s good at introducing everyone and setting up the various character interactions, and the Land art is appealing; there’s enough good parts here to bring readers back for a second issue.

Kings Watch #1Kings Watch #1 (of 5) — Writer: Jeff Parker;  Art: Marc Laming

Worth mentioning because it’s a teamup of The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician and Flash Gordon. No, I don’t know how, either; to tell you the truth, my eyes started to glaze over after four or five pages, and I just flipped through the rest; there’ve been far too many of these ancient-property team-up lately. Still, this has already sold out from its publisher, and if you’re a past fan of the characters you should probably give it a try.

Low Society #1 (of 1) — Creators: VariousLow Society #1

This is… interesting. You remember Cerebus, Dave Sim’s 300-issue epic about a barbarian aardvark in a Conan-like world? Well, ten Canadian writers and artists team up here to offer five stories about the character. They’re mostly humorous, and some aren’t quite ready for prime time, but if you’re the kind of committed fan who bought every issue of Following Cerebus, you’ll want to get this before it disappears faster than Elrod, I say, Elrod at a spinsters’ convention.

Locke and Key Alpha #1Locke and Key: Alpha #1 (of 2) — Writer: Joe Hill;  Art: Gabriel Rodriguez

After six years, this story of a family, a small town, demons and a bunch of very weird and powerful keys will be over in one more issue. Nothing more to say about it — and if you haven’t been reading it so far, this isn’t the place to start — but I thought you should know….

Now, let’s do quick capsules of those DC books….

Harley Quinn (Detective Comics #23.2) — Harley Quinn #1Writer: Matt Kindt;  Art: Neil Googe

This is probably the best of the bunch — Googe’s art, by turns cartoony and creepy, is a good match for Kindt’s script, which gets in the origin of our psychotic antiheroine (very “anti”; there’s a reasonably high body count here, at least by implication), includes an effective sequence where she gradually gets her costume, and ends with the Forever Evil events having happened and a lead-in to the next issue of Suicide Squad — which really should have been the parent book here, instead of ‘Tec.

Court of Owls #1Court of Owls (Batman and Robin #23.2) — Writer: James Tynion IV;  Art: Jorge Lucas

This, on the other hand…. first, you have to care about the Court of Owls. Then, you have to care that an attack on Gotham by the Forever Evil crew has driven a father/daughter team of them to their ancestral underground lair, deep under the city, while, on the way, they rehash bits and pieces of the shadowy cult’s long history. By the end, they’re about to release the Prehistoric Owl, or the Great Talon, or something, and that leads into that book’s next issue — for the 12 people still reading. Nice use of the 3-D effect on the cover portrait, though.

Trigon (Teen Titans #23.1) — Writer: Marv Wolfman;  Art: CafuTrigon #1

The selling point here is the script by Wolfman, who created the title villain some 30 years ago. On the other hand, since then this particular bad guy has seldom been the least bit interesting, and this issue doesn’t particularly change that — oh, and if you’re looking for any Forever Evil tie-ins or clues, look elsewhere; it’s a straight origin with no connection.

Zod #1Zod (Action Comics #23.2) — Writer: Greg Pak;  Art: Ken Lashley

Another straight-ahead origin, with no FE tie-in — and, although Pak’s a more-than-competent writer, and this moves along smoothly, it’s just another “kid grew up surrounded by monsters, and became one too” bit (the trouble with all these bad-guy origins in a row is that, with minor variations, they really do all start to seem the same…).

Lobo (Justice League #23.2) — Writer: Marguerite Bennett;  Art: Ben Oliver Lobo #1with Cliff Richards

This breaks that pattern, at least — DC’s gotten some online mileage (and fanboy controversy) out of releasing pictures of their “new” version of this character, more streamlined than the ’90s-bulked-up version. So, why is the old familiar bastich on the cover? Read it and see; it does a good job of pulling the reader in, twisting expectations, and setting up anticipation for the eventual next chapter of the story. No FE connection here, either, if you’re keeping score.

Killer Frost #1Killer Frost (Justice League of America #7.2) — Writer: Sterling Gates;  Art: Derlis Santacruz

This one has the standard setup — origin of the title super-villain, with a tie-in at the end to Forever Evil; the story’s better than average, though, probably because it benefits from less familiarity with the character, and because her motivations are less stereotypically-psychotic than many others (she wasn’t born bad, like Zod, Trigon, et al.). Despite the JLA parent title, it’s really just for Firestorm fans, but it’s OK — and my wife, who doesn’t read comics, thought the 3-D version had the best use of that effect out of all the comics this week, so there’s that.

Brainiac (Superman #23.2) — Writer: Tony Bedard;  Art: Pascal AlixeBrainiac #1

No FE tie-in, although this borrows quite a bit from the Grant Morrison version of the character (and Morrison’s planet-ravaging group, The Multitude) in Action Comics. Alixe’s art elevates it some, too; it has more heft than many of the other, more-generic artists, and overall it’s a story that shades in the character well, and adds a few surprises too.

Reverse Flash #1Reverse Flash (Flash #23.2) — Writers: Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato;  Art: Scott Hepburn

This is one of the few titles that reads like a regular issue of its parent comic, just with much more emphasis on the bad-guy origin; having Manapul co-write it helps considerably, and if you’re reading regular issues of The Flash, then you definitely want to get this — you don’t even have to know anything about Forever Evil, since no plots or concerns from that series even show up.

Mr Freeze (Batman: The Dark Knight #23.2) — Writers: Justin Gray and JimmyMr. Freeze #1 Palmiotti;  Art: Jason Masters

This looks and reads well — Palmiotti and Gray always know how to craft a smooth story, and Freeze’s icy-blue atmosphere lends itself to cool (sorry…)-looking art. Minor tie-in, as FE events let Freeze break out of Arkham, and there’s no hero to stop him from… well, being his usual psychotic self. There’s a lot of rehashing of the current New-52 origins of the character, but that probably can’t be helped, and at least this ends up feeling like a satisfying, if small-scale, stand-alone story.

Riddler #1Riddler (Batman #23.2) — Writer: Ray Fawkes with Scott Snyder;  Art: Jeremy Haun

Another book that benefits from having its regular writer involved, if only as co-story developer; the riddles, and the character’s psychology, actually make sense, and the tie-in to the current Year Zero stuff is tight — like Reverse Flash, this could almost be a regular issue of the main title, and, since the main title is the best-selling comic on the stands right now, that means this should be a popular book.

Black Manta (Aquaman #23.1) — Writer: Tony Bedard with Geoff Johns;  Art: Black Manta #1Claude St. Aubin

Another connection to the book’s regular writer (as with Riddler, he’s doing the co-plotting here, with Bedard on the actual script) makes this book worth reading, too. Even more so: since Johns writes both Aquaman and Forever Evil itself, this turns out to have the strongest connection to that title of any of the books this week, and even sets up a plot point or two for later issues of it

Solomon Grundy #1Solomon Grundy (Earth 2 #15.2) — Writer: Matt Kindt;  Pencils: Aaron Lopresti;  Inks: Art Thibert

Kindt’s presence here doesn’t do that much for the book, to be honest: the couple of pages of origin are OK, but it’s mostly just a rampage by the new, rot-connected version of the character (and, since it’s set on Earth-2, there’s no FE tie-in). By himself, with no heroes to fight, Grundy’s just not that interesting, and this book took about three minutes to read and left little impression.

Mongul (Green Lantern #23.2) — Writer: Jim Starlin;  Art: Howard PorterMongul #1

As with Trigon, one attraction here is that the creator of the bad guy is writing him (Starlin wrote his original story the same year Wolfman began the New Teen Titans comic), and Porter does solid work. On the other hand, let’s face it, Mongul is just Starlin’s DC version of Thanos, who was Marvel’s version of Darkseid (they’re all craggy-faced, implacably-mean and hugely-powerful galactic tyrants, with minor variations), so watching him show off his badness to the representative of a hapless planet (hey… “the Obliveron Federation” is kind of on the nose, considering…) doesn’t break any new ground. No FE connection, although it reads like a lead-in to a future issue of GL.


About Phil

With 40 years of experience in comic reading, collecting and reviewing, English Professor Phil Mateer has an encyclopedic mind for comics. Feel free to ask Phil about storylines, characters, artists or for that matter, any comic book trivia. He will post your questions and answers on the AABC blog. His knowledge is unparalleled! He is also our warehouse manager, so if you are looking for that hard to find comic book, ask Phil!
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