No more DC special animated covers, but we’re back to lots of first issues — significant debuts from Marvel, DC, Image and a few other companies too — so that should be more than enough to keep us busy:
Marvel gets the most buzz on its new books this week, especially with this distaff version of one of their oldest characters. This isn’t quite a brand-new relaunch of the title (in the way, say, the new Batgirl completely changes the character’s setting, circumstances, creative team, etc.), since Aaron’s still the writer, and it picks up right where the Original Sin mini-series left off: Nick Fury whispered something to Thor, which somehow rendered him unworthy of picking up the hammer, so it’s sitting there on the moon, and he’s sitting next to it sulking. Odin’s back, and there’s a bunch of bickering between him and his wife over who gets to run Asgard (or “Asgardia,” now), and then Odin tries to lift the hammer, and can’t either. Huh. Then Frost Giants show up on Earth, and a hammerless Thor goes to fight them and gets his butt kicked, and apparently dies (ho ho), and in the book’s last panel a female hand picks up the hammer (the creative team’s being coy for a while about just which female character that is), and we get the female Thor person on the cover. Tune in next issue to see what she does. So: all intro, with no real story yet, but a decent-enough changing of the guard. Aaron’s been writing readable stories about the Asgardians (no small feat, that) for long enough now to be trusted, and Dauterman does a nice, fantasy-tinged job on the art, showing his skills particularly well in the scenes on the moon, and in the double-page splash where the Frost Giants appear (he’s aided considerably by the good-looking color art by Matthew Wilson), and it looks like there’s more than enough here to bring curious readers attracted by the publicity back for at least another issue or two.
OK, not a first issue, but it’s leading directly into two of them next month — All-New Captain America #1 and Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #1 — so it should count. Here, too, it’s the character changing more than the creative team (ANCA #1 is by Remender and Immonen), so there’s continuity in the storytelling style — if you’ve been liking Remender’s work on this title, you should like the new direction too; if not, not (he’s been having a breakout year, between this, Uncanny Avengers, and especially Low and Deadly Class – with Black Science in there somewhere — although it’s hard to tell where he gets any time to, say, eat or sleep). The “surprise” new Cap touted by the cover is no surprise at all — even the characters in the book comment on how obvious and anticlimactic the “reveal” is — but both story and art offer a smooth, sometimes-funny, fast-moving story that closes off some old subplots, opens some new ones, and sets the stage for the next few years of Marvel continuity.
Cap’s old-time partner gets a new title, too, although this one offers a considerable change, also based on events in Original Sin: instead of being a super-spy assassin, Bucky’s now “The Man on the Wall,” taking over Fury’s old job of protecting the planet from all manner of cosmic threats — so, yeah, still an assassin, but of various interstellar/alien/interdimensional bad guys instead. This opens up the book’s possibilities considerably, putting it into Guardians of the Galaxy terrirtory, and it looks like Kot’s going to run with that idea and milk it for lots of pyrotechnic, snarky fun: he’s helped considerably by the Rudy art, which offers a number of imaginative layouts and cool coloring effects (Rudy’s doing that part, too). Gory, cynically-fun cosmic romps with great visuals? Sign me up!
Guardians of the Galaxy being a big moneymaker right now, it’s no wonder Marvel is launching a new book with the original, late-’60s/early ’70s Guardians: the ones from 3000 AD, who are helping Earth battle an invasion from the green-lizard-alien Badoon. Abnett as writer is a good move, since he and sometime-collaborator Andy Lanning were the ones who launched the Rocket Raccoon/Groot version of the characters back in 2008, and he turns in a twisty time-looping script, wherein the main characters — Captain America-inspired Earthman Vance Astro, Jovian strong guy Charlie-27, Venusian weapons master Yondu, Plutonian fire-and-ice manipulator Martinex and mysterious, gender-switching one-who-knows Starhawk — are trying to rescue a teenage girl… and everybody dies, only to have the action reboot 30 minutes earlier with the girl, like Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow, remembering what happened and trying to change the outcome this time. That’s a lot of action, presented well by Sandoval, and it’s enough to let this rise above the just-another-cynical-movie-tie-in comic that it could have been.
Unlike the superhero-friendly, Marvel Universe-set Thor, Aaron’s mining the vein of Southern cracker noir here that he’s also working over in Southern Bastards, with a tale of the Rath family (hence the title), a contract killer and his ne’er-do-well son. In the afterward, he calls this “the darkest, meanest thing I’ve ever written,” which if you’ve followed his work should be reason enough to buy it; add in the careful, appropriately-grim Ron Garney art (he’s collaborated with Aaron before, most notably on Thor and Wolverine), and this is a first issue that’s hard to resist.
This book has a touch of grimness, too — it’s set in Gotham City, after all, in an ancient private school with bell towers, crumbling stone and other Gothic touches, including bats (Bruce Wayne attended there as a child, appropriately) — but otherwise it’s as different from Men of Wrath as it could be: it’s aimed at the young-adult market, especially girls, with two plucky heroines and a manga-esque style that’s more cute than corrupt, and works surprisingly well against the shadowy background; there’s no wizardry involved, but Harry Potter fans should recognize the combination of realistic schoolkid interaction and imposing, exotic administrators and teachers. Cloonan’s involvement gives it some credibility and weight, and its easy way of introducing its main characters, establishing their personalities, stirring in a couple of mysteries and adding some action gives it a promising start; the same readers who’ve made the new Ms. Marvel a hit should like this book too.
This is pretty much the TV show tie-in you’d expect, although having Kreisberg (the executive producer on both that show and Arrow) provide the story gives it some added attraction. It offers a Barry Allen who’s had his powers a little while, but is still finding his way, and he ends up battling a crime circus (with a strong man, a ringmaster, and a snake-charmer woman who, with her pet wrapped around her, looks and acts so much like Marvel’s Princess Python that I’m surprised DC’s usually-cautious lawyers didn’t say something), in between introducing members of his supporting cast. Hester has a slightly-clunky-but-serviceable style, and the extreme-closeup photo cover should attract fans of the CW show — assuming it becomes the hit people say it should….
Green Lantern/New Gods: Godhead #1 (of 1) — Story: Van Jensen, Justin Jordan, Robert Venditti, Charles Soule and Cullen Bunn; Art: Ethan van Sciver, Martin Coccolo, Goran Sudzuka, Chriscross and Pete Woods
This begins the latest Green Lantern-verse crossover, as the New Gods, searching for an edge over their ancient foe Darkseid, decide that a combination of all seven Lantern color-rings will produce the Life Equation and defeat him, and set off to steal one from each type of Lantern (not a very New-God-y thing to do, although there are a couple of plot-driven attempts to rationalize it), and create an Infinity Gauntlet-type weapon. The story continues in this week’s Green Lantern #35, and presumably will ricochet through the other Lantern books over the next few months; as you can tell by the credits here, it’s very much a story-by-committee (and not one I’m that interested in following), but readers of any of the many Lantern titles will definitely want it, so they can figure out what’s going on..
This is the younger, more-Twilighty, less-biker-looking version of this character that DC launched with one of their 3D-villains issues last September (the original, main-man bastich Lobo apparently being deemed too ’80s/’90s), and he begins this book by killing his predecessor, then ending up in space jail, then getting sprung to take on a bushel of assassins who are looking to destroy… well, you’ll see, but it’s conveniently coincidental, doesn’t make a lot of sense, and, frankly, isn’t that interesting; this just doesn’t have the transgressive junior-high gross-out humor that gave the first series its scuzzy energy. I don’t think this comic is going to last very long; in a just world, the much-better Gotham Academy would outsell it about ten to one, but tune in in a few months to see which is still standing.
This is a horror book (October being the season for them), involving a group of now-adult high-school students who are being slowly killed off for one of those long-ago transgressions so common to this genre, apparently by a girl they wronged deeply who’s getting her revenge. The black-and-white art’s basic but well-staged, and pulls off one or two creepy effects (the best shots in the book are the cover and the next-issue promo), but the story’s so direct-to-video, by-the-numbers basic that it offers little suspense; unless there are some major twists up ahead, most horror fans will know exactly where it’s going after the first few pages.
As Blanch notes in her afterword, this has been a webcomic on thrillbent.com for the last year, so while this is the first print issue they have about six done in digital form. Its title character is a literature teacher at a local prison whose life is quietly unraveling under his son’s medical bills and other pressures, who gets pressured by an alpha-dog inmate to deliver a few small messages for him (the teacher, conveniently enough, has a photographic memory), which will apparently lead to his Breaking Bad-ish corruption — “apparently” because this first installment moves very slowly. The art helps — Chee has a fluid, Val Mayerick-like line, especially with faces, that keeps the cast distinct, and the black-and-white format emphasizes the noir atmosphere.
And now, some quick capsules, all of books that I liked enough to buy:
Another book from the no-doubt sleep-deprived Remender, this one involving the Red Skull, as the Avengers and Magneto battle him and his Professor X-stolen brain, and end up considerably worse off than when they started. This leads directly into Marvel’s fall event, the Avengers-and-X-Men vs. Red Skull Axis, starting next week, so no one who’s even a little bit of a Marvel zombie will want to miss it.
This postwar-Hollywood-set thriller is noir classic — not as B-movie bleak or mean as Aaron’s Southern-Gothic take on the genre, but so smoothly presented and dead-on in tone that it’s better — no shame in that, of course, since Brubaker and Phillips have been setting the standard on this stuff for over ten years now.
Sakai continues offering his 20-years-in-the-regular-book’s-future mashup of anthropomorphic-samurai comics and H.G. Wells, and watching his casually-precise drawings of Martian tripeds stomping through a misty Japanese forest fighting ninjas is just pure pleasure.
The Surfer and Dawn Greenwood, his semi-ditzy and semi-wise, Zooey Deschenel-like traveling companion, hang out in space. Allred’s art offers as much pure pleasure as Sakai — maybe more, because this ends the comic’s first arc on a hopeful and pitch-perfect note — and Slott knows exactly how to craft the story to his strengths. Let’s hope the trade collection gets the critical acclaim that, say, the first Fraction/Aja Hawkeye trade did, and gets this title enough readers to hang on for a good long run.