All-New All-Different Avengers #13 — Writer: Mark Waid; Art: Adam Kubert; Colors: Sonia Oback
All-New All-Different Avengers Annual #1 — Creators: Various
Scarlet Witch #9 — Writer: James Robinson; Art: Joelle Jones; Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Amazing Spider-Man #16 — Writer: Dan Slott; Pencils: Giuseppe Camuncoli; Inks: Cam Smith; Colors: Marte Gracia
The Vision #10 (of 12) — Writer: Tom King; Art: Gabriel Harnandez Walta; Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Seven Marvel books of note (at least to me…) this week, so let’s take them all at once: Civil War II: The Accused is the trial of Clint “Hawkeye” Barton for his “killing” of Bruce Banner (quotes because no one will be surprised when, in a year or two, that character shows up again), with Matt Murdock as, not the defending attorney, but the prosecutor. Although it’s short on superhero action, and the art is serviceable but not spectacular (having a David Mack cover generally means that a comic’s interior will be a step down), it’s OK as courtroom drama, with all the sides in the debate — one of the central ones to the CWII series — given a hearing, so in that sense it’s an important piece of the overall puzzle. Avengers #13, whose cover has “Civil War II” in bigger letters than the book’s actual title, actually barely touches on that conflict; instead, it’s about The Vision, who’s trying to keep the villain Kang from hacking into his system (like he did a couple of issues ago) and ends up time-traveling himself, and getting into one of those “would you kill Hitler as a baby?” college-sophomore arguments. Well-constructed, and the Kubert art is always welcome, although solo-spotlight stories like this may disappoint readers buying the comic because they want to read about the rest of the team, too. Avengers Annual, on the other hand, is a fun anthology issue, as the teen Ms. Marvel looks up online fan fiction about herself and the other Avengers, giving a bunch of different mainstream and indy creators a chance to show their talents. Besides the wraparound pages by regular Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Mahmud Asrar, there’s: a Captain Marvel story by Mark Waid, drawn by Chip Zdarsky; an adorably-cartoony She-Hulk tale by Natasha Allegri; a Ms. Marvel/Miles Morales Spider-Man team-up done in anthropomorphic style, scripted by Zac Gorman and with art by Jay Fosgitt; a Ms. Marvel/Squirrel Girl fight written and drawn by Faith Erin Hicks; and a Ms. Marvel solo story by PvP creator Scott Kurtz. Funny, colorful and invariably charming, these offer a lot of light entertainment for your $4.99, and a cheerful antitdote to all that depressing Civil War II conflict. Over in Scarlet Witch, also a CWII tie-in, James Robinson continues his quest to work with every great female comics artist on the planet by collaborating with Joelle Jones on a story about Wanda’s brother, Quicksilver, showing up to urge her to get involved in the fight, and Wanda telling him to piss off; it’s another book that’s mostly conversation, but so gorgeously drawn (and touching on so much of the two siblings’ co-dependent history) that readers shouldn’t complain. Black Panther, five issues in, sees accomplished writer — but rookie comics scripter — Ta-Nehisi Coates getting increasingly comfortable with the graphic story medium, with more concentration on plot and theme and less on world- and character-building; new artist Chris Sprouse, who’s handling the art for a couple of issues to give regular designer Brian Stelfreeze a break, makes a fairly seamless transition, and, while this is yet another comic that’s mostly people talking, it’s got enough smart insights into politics, and what it means to be a king, to keep us interested. Amazing Spider-Man has most of the regular super-heroic and soap-opera elements that its creative team has been using to keep the title entertaining for years now, with this current story re-introducing a notorious bad guy, using the word “clone” a lot, and starting a run-up to the next big status-shattering arc in a couple of issues; it’s about as smooth and well-done as corporate superhero books get. Not so with The Vision, which has taken a more apocalyptic, creepy approach to its title character; as this twelve-issue series starts to gear up for its climax, there’s a lot of subtle emotion and themes about family, even (or maybe especially) for synthezoids, that gives it some heft, with a couple of great places for both King’s words and Walta’s art to shine; this is going to be a book whose twisty elements and startling quality we’ll all be talking about for a while after it’s gone.
Deathstroke: Rebirth #1 (of 1) — Writer: Christopher Priest; Pencils: Carlo Pagulayan; Inks: Jason Paz; Colors: Jeromy Cox
Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 — Writer: Scott Lobdell; Art: Dexter Soy; Colors: Veronica Gandini
Suicide Squad: Most Wanted #1 (of 6) — (El Diablo story): Writer: Jai Mitz; Art: Cliff Richards; Colors: Hi-Fi; (Boomerang story): Writer: Michael Moreci; Pencils: Oscar Bazaldua; Inks: Scott Hanna; Colors: Beth Sotelo
A quintet of new first issues from DC: All-Star Batman is the most-anticipated; Scott Snyder was the driving force behind making the regular Batman title the best-selling of all the New-52 comics, and giving him this new forum for Caped Crusader stories that (a) doesn’t anchor him to current crossovers or other DC continuity, and (b) lets him play with artists like John Romita Jr. and Declan Shalvey should attract a lot of readers. He’s a lot like Geoff Johns, in that he knows exactly which fan buttons to push to create interest, and is good at reimagining various characters, both bad and good; here, he’s focusing on Two-Face, as Batman has to get him out of Gotham to try to cure him, but Dent’s manipulated most of the residents of Gotham — and the whole state — to try to stop it. Buy this first issue and strap in tight, because it promises to be a fun ride. Speaking of bad guys, Deathstroke: Rebirth is a relaunch of that fan-favored mercenary, notable because it marks the return of writer Christopher Priest (known for his run on Black Panther and his creation of Quantum and Woody, among numerous achievements) to monthly comics; he’s known for breaking his stories into cinematic, titled scenes, for stubbornly-human characterization, and for trusting his readers to be able to follow his brainy, subtle plots, heavy on both action and theme. Pagulayan’s just the kind of steady artist, good at clear panel composition and at using facial features to convey emotions, who’s a decent match for Priest (like Mark Bright on Quantum and Woody, or Sal Valluto on Black Panther), and this semi-origin story offers readers a good opportunity to appreciate everyone’s talents, right from the very first issue. Red Hood and the Outlaws, having already published its “Rebirth” intro, now begins the regular series; it’s pretty much the same as previous Red Hood titles (with author Scott Lobdell still on board), and a reasonably-entertaining bat-centric book, as Jason tries to infiltrate Gotham’s criminal underground while Batman worries about his homicidal tendencies. It’s also writing for the trade: the “Outlaws” are apparently Bizarro and the Amazon Artemis, but after two full issues (with both of those characters featured on the covers) all we’ve actually seen is a last-panel appearance of one of them here. Previous fans will probably have some patience in watching the story develop, but new ones are going to need some sign of this book’s new status quo and team dynamics quickly, or they’re going to lose interest and wander away. Suicide Squad: Most Wanted is a duplicate of the previous mini-series with the same title, this time offering separate serials involving El Diablo and Boomerang in each of its six issues; the Boomerang offering looks to be competent-but-standard stuff for the Australian anti-hero, while the El Diablo story has the benefit of one of the movie’s more popular characters, one with little previous backstory to get in the waty, and it’s well-served by Cliff Richards’s moody, shadow-tinged art. That leaves Superwoman #1, in which we find that both Lois Lane and Lana Lang received powers when their earth’s version of the Man of Steel kind of energy-exploded in front of them, and they team up here to use those powers for truth, justice and etc. You’d think that would mean the book’s title should be a plural Superwomen, but without too much spoiling let’s just say that problem gets resolved by the end of this first issue (as does the related dilemma of having two Lois Lanes, the older, married-to-Clark one in Action Comics and the younger one here, running around the DC earth…).
New Super-Man #2 — Writer: Gene Luen Yang; Pencils: Viktor Bogdanovic; Inks: Richard Friend; Colors: Hi-Fi
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #2 — Writer: Robert Venditti; Pencils: Rafa Sandoval; Inks: Jordi Tarragona; Colors: Tomeu Morey
Speaking of Action Comics…. this episode, four issues into its relaunch, features a running battle with a mysteriously-revived Doomsday, with Superman trying to both hammer the formidable monster and protect his wife and young super-son, plus a super-costumed Lex Luthor and guest-star Wonder Woman helping to protect Metropolis, along with shadowy manipulators, an apparently-mortal Clark Kent, and a couple of other elements, too; so far, it’s been a fast-moving and fun relaunch — although some of its puzzles will need to be wrapped up soon, or risk frustrating readers. Seeing the “new” old Superman try to establish relationships with understandably-suspicious Justice League members, while adjusting to his having come out to the world as the new Man of Steel, is a good indication of how old-pro writer Jurgens has kept the comic interesting. New Super-Man has the advantage of a completely blank slate for its character, as a young man in China gets state-sponsored super-powers and tries to learn how to use them; the introduction of similarly China-home-grown versions of Batman and Wonder Woman keep things moving swiftly here, and scripter Yang does a good job of making his rookie super-guy just self-centered and clueless enough to have room to grow into the hero he’ll eventually become… maybe. Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps is another comic packed with various elements — a universe-patrolling Sinestro Corps, a Jordan who’s battling them while thinking he’s the last GL, and (as the cover shows), the reintroduction of the GLC itself, depleted but with most of the familiar faces intact; if you’re a GL fan, this should provide more than enough action and suspense to keep you happy.
Hillbilly #2 — Creator: Eric Powell
Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy #3 (of 6) — Writer: Chynna Clugston Flores; Pencils: Rosemary Valero-O’Connell; Inks: Maddi Gonzalez; Colors: Whitney Cogar
War Stories #19 — Writer: Garth Ennis; Art: Tomas Aira; Colors: Digikore Studios
Not that many indy books, but some good ones: Sherlock adapts Steven Moffat’s script for the British TV series’s first episode, and if you’re a fan it’s educational listening to the rhythms of his dialogue, the interplay between the characters, and being able to see how each scene is staged. Some of that’s down to “Jay,” the adapter, who’s crafting this for the Japanese market and uses standard manga conventions, like lettered sound effects. These are retained (with small translations) in this English version (of, yes, the Japanese version of the British TV show…), which has only one editing flaw: it’s not at all obvious that the comic is supposed to be read from right to left, starting with what Americans think of as the “back” cover. That’s going to lead to some unnecessarily-confused readers. Hillbilly continues writer/artist Eric Powell’s Appalachian Gothic folktale about backwoods h’ants, curses, avatars of death and axe-wielding avengers; it’s got some of the cockeyed internal logic of a Mike Mignola ghost story, and the cheerful, deadpan horror of some lost EC comic. Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy isn’t as odd a pairing as it seems, since fans of one of those titles would definitely like the other. Chynna Clugston Flores has crafted a suspenseful, adventurous and oddly gentle ghost story, and Valero-O’Connell’s cartoony art should be attractive to regular readers of either group. In a perfect world, this would be a best-seller; in reality, though, it’s an acquired, if high-quality, taste — not unlike Garth Ennis’s War Stories, with its thoughtful, well-researched takes on various historic battlefields. This issue begins a new tale with one of Ennis’s favorite settings: the England of early World War II, here with the Royal Air Force pilots struggling to fly unfamiliar planes to defend the night skies of London from German Blitz bombers, and with all the self-serving cynicism, casual heroism and startling violence that we’ve come to expect from his war stories.