Uncanny Avengers #2 — Writer: Gerry Duggan; Art: Ryan Stegman; Colors: Richard Isanove
As Marvel continues its relaunch rollout, A-N A-D Avengers is definitely the star of the week: Mark Waid brings clever plotting, deft characterization and an ability to cut right to the heart of a book’s strengths, and teaming him with a Kubert adds a visual panache that makes it even better. Wisely, this first issue doesn’t try to introduce everyone; it focuses on Sam Wilson/Captain America and Tony Stark, with the Miles Morales Spider-Man thrown in too, and sets up the Big Bad Menace for the initial arc; then, there’s a backup tale involving the first meeting between the teen Nova and the teen Ms. Marvel, which, perhaps predictably, doesn’t go well, but does a lot to establish their characters; it’s all very smooth and entertaining. Uncanny Avengers #2, meanwhile, is a little rougher; its “unity” team of Avengers, Inhumans and mutants seems too thrown-together and awkward, although there are a couple of good individual scenes with the Human Torch and with Quicksilver. To be fair, though, the team’s inability to mesh is apparently supposed to be the point: they end up losing, and it’s up to a time-travelling guest star to set things right next issue; decent art and some nice coloring should make it attractive enough to bring readers back to see how the story continues.
All-New Hawkeye #1 — Writer: Jeff Lemire; Art: Ramon Perez; Colors: Ian Herring
Illuminati #1 — Writer: Joshua Williamson; Art: Shawn Crystal; Colors: John Rauch
The Ultimates #1 — Writer: Al Ewing; ARt: Kenneth Rocafort; Colors: Dan Brown
All-New Wolverine #1 — Writer: Tom Taylor; Art: David Lopez and David Navarrot; Colors: Nathan Fairbairn
More Marvel relaunches: Carnage has Cletus Kasady doing his typical psychotic-symbiote stuff, with a government team involving a woman with a past history with him, and Eddie Brock, trying to capture him; naturally, things go wrong (the problem with a bad-guy lead, of course, is that the good guys can’t ever actually win). Conway is a very old hand at stuff like this, and Perkins is good at the shadowy violence and creeping-dread tone, so if you like horror books this is worth checking out. All-New Hawkeye is pretty much same-old-Hawkeye-as-the-last-volume, with Lemire and Perez continuing the story involving Clint and Kate arguing about the fate of the weird, and sometimes deadly, mutant kids they’ve been trying to rescue. Lemire’s always good at experimental plots, and this one involves us looking twenty years into the future, with older versions of the characters, long estranged, getting back together and still arguing; that may sound boring, but there’s plenty of action, too, and a last-page super-villain reveal, and it’s all good-looking enough to keep me around for a few more issues, anyway. Illuminati involves, not heroes, but villains, with the female bruiser Titania trying to go straight but inadvertently getting involved with The Hood’s latest scheme, and hooking up with the Enchantress, the Mad Thinker, the Black Ant and Thunderball from the Wrecking Crew; with its reformed-criminal theme, this seems like it should have been called Thunderbolts, and The Hood’s always been kind of a jerk, but Williamson manages some good characterization, and the art has some mangafied energy to it (plus, the Riley Rossmo cover looks pretty cool). Ultimates is probably the best of this bunch; Al Ewing is good at mixing serious superhero plots with interesting characters and a light touch, and this is more serious than, say, his Secret Avengers, but it’s got a great team — Captain Marvel, Adam “Blue Marvel” Brashear (in the Reed Richards role), Black Panther, “Ms. America” Chavez, and Monica “Spectrum” Rambeau — and a lot of Grant Morrison-like speculation about the underpinnings of this newly-minted Marvel Universe, with cosmic-cube-like matter and Galactus thrown in for good measure; I thought it was the most interesting and fun of the new offerings. Webspinners is OK too; it’s got the various Spider-beings from the Spider-Verse and Secret Wars books doing a repair-the-multiverse thing: lots of dimensions lost their Spider-protectors when the Spider-Verse bad guys kind of ate them all, so this team tries to fix the damage and set things right. There’s a decent plot involving the gang running into a villain who’s doing the same thing they are, and the art’s flexible enough to use different styles to handle, say, the world from the ’60s Spider-Man cartoons as well as the “normal” settings. There’s also a backup story involving a steampunk Lady Spider, written by Spider-Gwen artist Robbie Thompson and with art by Denis Medri. That leaves All-New Wolverine #1, featuring Logan’s “daughter,” X-23; it’s got a standard script, but the art by David Lopez (whose work on the last volume of Captain Marvel earned him considerable attention) is enough to carry it across the finish line.
Secret Wars: The Infinity Gauntlet #5 (of 5) — Story/Art: Dustin Weaver; Script: Gerry Duggan; Colors: Rain Beredo
Thors #4 (of 4) — Writer: Jason Aaron; Pencils: Chris Sprouse; Inks: Karl Story; Colors: Israel Silva
The Secret Wars offerings (yeah, I thought all the tie-ins were done, too….) It’s all kind of late to the party, but the main story is still interesting and readable, even though it’s mostly setup, getting all the characters: Thors, zombies, Hulks, etc. — into place for a really big Doom-fight over the final two issues (the way these things usually work, issue #8 will see everything destroyed, and then the finale, #9, will explain the new setup, right?). Of the tie-ins, Infinity Gauntlet has a reasonably-clever conclusion, Squadron Sinister offers a Marvel version of a Superman/Batman fight, as Nighthawk and Hyperion slug it out (and then uses a Doom-ex-machina ending and whets our appetite for the regular-universe Squadron Supreme comic out next month), and Thors proves to be the book most closely-related to the main title; read it before Secret Wars #7, to see just why the various Thunder Beings are acting as they do there.
Justice League: The Darkseid War: Green Lantern #1 (of 1) — Writer: Tom King; Art: Doc Shaner; Colors: Chris Sotomayor
Justice League: The Darkseid War: Shazam #1 (of 1) — Writer: Steve Orlando; Art: Scott Kolins; Colors: Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Bombshells #4 — Writer: Marguerite Bennett; Art: Bilquis Evely, Mirka Andolfo and Laura Braga; Colors: Wendy Broome
A quintet of DC titles (we’ll leave the two Vertigo books to their own category): Superman: American Alien is one of those Smallville/Superboy/hero slowly figures out his powers deals, with a preteen Clark learning how to fly; Dragotta uses a mixed style, Archie-like in the school parts and more manga/dramatic in the powers stuff, and it’ll be interesting to see if it evolves as the character gets older. The two Darkseid Wars take different paths: Green Lantern has him righting himself (Hal was still Parallax in new-52 continuity, right? He knows all about this absolute-power stuff), while in Shazam it looks like they’ve taken the opportunity to “permanently” change Captain Marvel’s pantheon, because what the hell… of course, when one character anchors a franchise and the other is just kind of out there, you can guess which one faces the biggest remake. Batman‘s in the middle of one of those, too, with former commissioner Gordon clean-shaven and in the Batsuit (and, sometimes, a metal bat-robot) while an amnesiac Bruce Wayne gets a shot at relaxing. Snyder and Capullo, who’ve been navigating this ship from its beginning, know full well that everything will eventually revert to normal, but in the meantime seem to be having a lot of fun, with a murderous, crazy plant-themed villain making everyone’s life either miserable or over, and a chance to shake up all the old story patterns. Bombshells stretches things even further, with an alternate-history pre-WWII setting that features few male heroes but lots of women ones: in Russia, a Stargirl and a Supergirl, who quickly run afoul of Stalin’s war machine; in London, a woman doctor in an “Arkham Ward” named Harleen; in Greece, Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor. Each section has a different style and artist, and while the issue-by-issue story’s been a little slow-moving I’m guessing it’s going to read very well as a trade collection.
Slash and Burn #1 — Writer: Si Spencer; Pencils: Max Dunbar; Inks: Ande Parks; Colors: Nick Filardi
The promised two Vertigo titles. Twilight Children is Darwyn Cooke over a Gilbert Hernandez script, so get this and, if you haven’t read the first issue, that one too, and read them together, and that should be all the incentive you need to get the next two also (You can graduate to Gilbert’s Palomar stories after that, and we’ll talk about his brother Jaime later…). Slash and Burn is woman-firefighter-with-a-secret, one that’s forecast on the cover; the art there should let you know whether you’ll like this (and, as always, if you click on the cover thumbnails on this page, you can get a larger and more detailed version).
Limbo #1 — Writer: Dan Watters; Art/Colors: Caspar Wungaard
Last Sons of America #1 (of 4) — Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson; Art: Matthew Dow Smith; Colors: Doug Garbark
A couple of indy first issues: The Goddamned is Biblical times right before the flood (“1600 years after Eden,” it says), and it’s OK, with writer Jason Aaron providing kind of a Southern Bastards for religious scholars (or, at least, anyone with enough rudimentary knowledge of the Good Book to know who the blond guy who can’t be hurt is, and to predict who’s going to show up on the last page); Guera has kind of a Warren magazine Philipino-artist style that makes it look like a particularly good 2000 AD series. Limbo looks more European, like a Heavy Metal serial, and is about a private eye in a surreal city that has fishmen with teeth, a perpetual Day of the Dead celebration, guys in Mexican wrestler masks, etc., while Last Sons of America has a high-concept setup (the US has had a chemical-warfare attack that rendered everybody sterile, so “adoption” teams go down to Central America to find kids to sell to American couples desparate to raise a kid) a noir style, and a plot that depends on a huge B-movie coincidence to work.
War Stories #14 — Writer: Garth Ennis; Art: Tomas Aira; Color: Digikore Studios
Airboy #4 (of 4) — Writer: James Robinson; Art/Colors: Greg Hinkle
Rebels #8 — Writer: Brian Wood; Art: Ariela Kristantina and Andrea Mutti; Colors: Jordie Bellaire
The Wicked and the Divine #16 — Writer: Kieron Gillen; Art: Leila Del Duca; Colors: Mat Lopes
Everything else: Codename:Baboushka is stylish spy capers, with the title character a kick-ass Russian heiress; it’s OK, if not quite as fizzily sophisticated as it thinks it is. War Stories continues Garth Ennis’s combat-anthology series, with the middle of a three-chapter story about US air-raid pilots flying bombing missions to Tokyo during WWII. Airboy concludes Robinson’s reverie about himself as Hunter S. Thompson and artist Hinkle as his sidekick, as they encounter the Golden Age title character who may or may not be real. I wasn’t aware that we needed psychological/autobiographical confession comics crossed with superhero action, but it turns out that we did; the four issues of the series are $2.99 each, and that’s a $12 graphic novel that you’ll be glad to own. Autumnlands launches the second arc of Busiek and Dewey’s high-fantasy series about a world of anthropomorphic animal magicians where magic is slowly fading away, and they’ve brought a Great Champion from the past to help them who turns out to be both more and less than he seems; if it looks at all interesting, go get the trade that collects the first six-issue arc, because it was very very good. Rebels is Brian Wood’s Revolutionary War series; he’s in the middle of a group of stand-alone issues spotlighting women who fought for freedom, and this one’s about a printer who defied the Redcoats and was arrested during the 1760s. The Wicked and the Divine is also in the middle of a bunch of stand-alone stories with guest artists, as Jamie McKelvie’s busy over on Phonogram; it’s another book where first-time readers would be better off backing up and getting the first two trades to see what’s going on before trying to tackle a random floppy issue. Leaving the best for last, Thought Bubble is the annual anthology produced in conjunction with the British Leeds comic art festival; it’s a tabloid-sized book whose big newsprint pages give its group of bright, cutting-edge new creators (look just at who’s listed on the cover: Kate Beaton, Farel Dalrymple, Tula Lotay, Tim Sale, Babs Tarr — and there are other professionals, plus a bunch of talented UK amateurs who won a comic art competition sponsored by the festival) lots of space to strut their stuff, with all proceeds used to benefit a British children’s charity. Think of it as a $3.99 donation that yields a bunch of cool art too, and you almost have to get it….