Ms. Marvel #12 — Writer: G. Willow Wilson; Art: Mirka Andolfo; Colors: Ian Herring
Silver Surfer #7 — Writer: Dan Slott; Art: Michael Allred; Colors: Laura Allred
The Vision #12 (of 12) — Writer: Tom King; Art: Gabriel Hernandez Walta; Colors: Jordie Bellaire
These were the better Marvel books for the week — Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur ends its second arc in fine form, just as appealingly nerdy as ever, and excellent in both art and story. The writers up the stakes on Lunella’s brilliance, too, by having Amadeus Cho/the Hulk (famous for being the “seventh smartest person in the world”) decide that she’s smarter than he is. It’s all a lot of bright, flashy, good-looking all-ages fun, worth checking out if you’ve never read it before (you really should start…). Ms. Marvel sees its young title heroine spending a month with relatives in her native Pakistan, detoxing after the emotionally-tough events of the last few issues. It’s one of those stand-alone, character-building issues, with author Wilson letting us understand Kamala’s heritage more easily, thanks to some well-researched scenes and conversations — and a little super-heroing, too. That it doesn’t come off as preachy is a tribute to the writer; even the cover, with its iconic crescent moon and star, is a sign of how subtly, and smartly, this book handles its Muslim main character. There’s also a ten-page backup story starring the Red Widow, written by Margaret Stohl and with art by Ray-Anthony Height, that’s helping to advertise Stohl’s Black Widow novel, also due out this month. Silver Surfer features the Surfer and his girlfriend, Dawn Greenwood, visiting the Casino Cosmico (a “literal dimension of gambling and games of chance”), and, inevitably, getting into trouble; Slott’s skilled at making it light-hearted, but with an undercurrent of drama, and, since no one can draw alien planets, creatures and environments like Allred, it’s a lot of fun to look at. The Vision isn’t light-hearted at all (well, maybe the dog, but of course then they killed it…); if it had a soundtrack, it’d be the Black Keys, all somber blues and heartbreak. Very well done, though, and it’s certainly made writer King’s reputation — if you haven’t been reading it, this last issue isn’t the place to start (unless you’re the type who likes to read mystery novels by starting with the final chapter), but it’s a fitting end to the series, wrapping it up in a (mostly) satisfying way while still leaving the character intact enough for other writers to play with, and with Walta’s art continuing to strike just the right combination of clearly-drawn suburban settings and just-slightly-off-kilter foreboding.
Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #1 — Writer: Robbie Thompson; Pencils: Javier Rodriguez; Inks: Alvaro Lopez; Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Doctor Strange: Mystic Apprentice #1 (of 1) — Writer: Will Corona Pilgrim; Art: Andrea Di Vito; Colors: Laura Villari
The Prowler #1 — Writer: Sean Ryan; Layouts: Javier Saltares; Art/Colors: Jamal Campbell
Spider-Man/Deadpool #10 — Writer: Joe Kelly; Pencils: Ed McGuinness; Inks: Mark Morales, Livesay, Jay Leisten and Ed McGuinness; Colors: Jason Keith
Deadpool #21 — Writer: Gerry Duggan; Art: Matteo Lolli; Colors: Guru-eFX; (second story): Writer: Ian Doescher; Art: Bruno Oliveira; Colors: Nick Filardi
The Punisher Annual #1 — Writer: Gerry Conway; Art: Felix Ruiz; Colors: Lee Looughridge
The other Marvels — Civil War II continues to motor along, with this issue mostly people talking (no surprise in a Bendis book), Carol Danvers getting both criticism and compliments on her future-profiling policies, and a lot of set-up for lots of action in the series’s final two issues, supposedly out by the end of the year. It’s still too early to call this a success or a failure; despite the lateness and the character-yanking necessary to make the plot work, it’s been one of the spines of current Marvel continuity, and thus a hard comic to avoid… or resist. Doctor Strange, to no one’s surprise, has a couple of new titles out this week, as the movie looms ever closer; Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme is the first of an ongoing title taking him back to ancient England and Camelot, and encountering a menace that brings together mystical heroes from both his past and future. Thompson offers an action-filled plot, while Rodriguez’s style, standard superhero/magical with just enough exaggeration and caricature thrown in to be interesting, works well with it. Doctor Strange: Mystic Apprentice is a one-shot, with a regular-size new story about Strange’s very early days trying to learn magic in Tibet, plus reprints of his origin and first appearance (Strange Tales #115 and 110); considering that the comic is that standard $3.99, those Stan Lee/Steve Ditko tales are worth the price by themselves. The Prowler is the debut of a new series about that long-time Spider-Man supporting character (now, unknown to Spidey, having been killed and then resurrected by the Jackal), and is a tie-in to the “Clone Conspiracy” saga that’s been winding its way through Amazing Spider-Man and its own title lately. Decent enough (and good-looking, thanks to some striking coloring by artist Campbell), but no one was exactly clamoring for more stories about this character; it will have to do an effective sales job to convince readers to stick around after the Spidey tie-in has ended. Meanwhile, All-New, All-Different Avengers ends its current run with a totally Thor-centric issue, as Lady Thor talks to Heimdall, the Asgardian watcher at the gates, who reveals a tale featuring the original Thunder God, from the early days of the Avengers. Lots of good art and story with both versions of the character, as you’d expect from Waid and Kubert — and news in the back that, besides the recently-launched Champions, with Ms. Marvel, Nova and the Miles Morales Spider-Man, Waid’s teaming up with Mike del Mundo for a new Avengers book (titled, imaginatively, just “Avengers“), with the Vision, Sam “Captain America” Wilson and Thor joined by Hercules and the Peter Parker Spider-Man. Speaking of Spider-Man, Spider-Man/Deadpool #10 is out this week, and it continues to be a surprisingly fun and character-rich (if very snarky) team-up, with Kelly and McGuinness making it feel like an extension of their run on Wade’s original series, back in the ’90s. Not only that, but Deadpool #21 is out, and it’s another one of those jam-packed $9.99 issues, with the regular story (involving Wade trying to track down his now-nemesis, Madcap) supplemented by a 55-page, five-part romp involving him waking up in Elizabethan England, and getting tangled up with a number of characters and plotlines from Shakespeare’s plays; points to the writer, Ian Doescher, for maintaining the book’s zany tone while demonstrating a lot of knowledge of the Bard, and writing the dialogue, as in the original plays, in iambic pentameter. That leaves Punisher Annual, a Hallowe’en-themed one-shot by Frank’s creator, Gerry Conway, that sees him tracking down a murderer (who’s using kid trick-or-treaters as hostages) and crossing paths with a Muslim cop whose father (also a cop) the bad guy has killed. As gritty and well-constructed as you might expect, and, while there are couple of covers, the main one, with a scarecrow/jack o’lantern/Punisher shirt combo, is the best.
Batman Beyond #1 — Writer: Dan Jurgens; Art: Bernard Chang; Colors: Marcelo Maiolo
Teen Titans #1 — Writer: Benjamin Percy; Art: Jonboy Meyers; Colors: Jim Charalampidis
Vigilante: Southland #1 (of 6) — Writer: Gary Phillips; Art: Elena Casagrande; Colors: Giulia Brusco
The Wonder Woman anniversary special is $7.99, but that buys you 76 pages of story and art (plus five pages of ads, but DC puts them all at the end of the book, so they don’t interfere), from an all-star lineup: Rafael Scavone and Rafael Albuquerque handle the first story, a WWII-era tale, while Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl offer one about Diana confronting a poacher; Mairghread Scott and Riley Rossmo cover a Wonder Woman/Giganta battle, and its aftermath, while Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp craft a faux magazine interview with the Amazon princess (written by, of course, “Lois Lane.”), and Sharp also gets a two-page solo lament about Diana’s lost homeland. The remarkable Fabio Moon gets three pages, while the even more remarkable Jill Thompson gets six; there are also stories by Renae de Liz and Ray Dillon; from Hope Larson and Ramon Bachs; and from Gail Simone and Coleen Doran, who wrap it all up; sprinkled throughout are pinups and splashes from a number of other people, too, and a Brian Bolland cover gallery, including some of his original pencil sketches: more than enough to keep readers busily entertained, and justify that price. Batman Beyond continues the adventures of the original version of that character, Terry McGuiness (no, I don’t know how he ended up back from the dead, either, but hey: it’s the future…), as he battles a bunch of Joker wannabes who are trying to resurrect their icon. Teen Titans #1 also picks up right from its Rebirth one-shot, as Damian “Robin” Wayne, having kidnapped Starfire, Beast Boy, Raven and Kid Flash (the younger one, not the pre-new-52 version), tries to talk them into reforming the team, complicated by the fact that they all think he’s a jerk; there’s a last-page villain reveal that is, let’s say, not totally unexpected, given Damian’s heritage. That leaves Vigilante: Southland, yet another reimagining of that character, this time as a slacker ex-basketballer from south L.A. who gets tangled up in the mean streets and decides to… do something; he hasn’t quite done it yet by the end of this first issue. Reasonably decent art and story, in its gritty, film-noir way.
Seven to Eternity #2 — Writer: Rick Remender; Art: Jerome Opena; Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Outcast #22 — Writer: Robert Kirkman; Art: Paul Azeceta; Colors: Elizaberth Breitweiser
Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #19 — Creator: David Lapham
Jughead #10 — Writer: Ryan North; Art/Colors: Derek Charm
Lumberjanes #31 — Writers: Shannon Watters and Kat Leyh; Art: carey Pietsch; Colors: Maarta Laiho
Spook House is the only indy debut here, and it’s, appropriately, Hallowe’en-themed, and from the fertile brain and drawing hand of Eric Powell (The Goon), who lets his inner Jack Davis out for three light-hearted (but sometimes creepy) stories that wouldn’t have been out of place in a very early issue of Mad magazine. Seven to Eternity, written by Phoenix’s own Rick Remender, involves a son trying to reclaim his family’s honor from the tyrant who ruined them; it’s set on an alien, barbarian world and benefits greatly from the lush, beautiful art of Remender’s longtime collaborator, Jerome Opena. Outcast, after a couple of relatively-static issues, ups the action and plot-movement quotient this time; if you’ve been losing interest in Robert Kirkman’s Exorcist-tribute-with-twists, it’s a good time to hop back on board (given the TV adaptation, now on track for a second season next summer, the comic’s going to be around for quite a while). Having most of the action take place in a woods, at night, in a snowstorm would be a problem for most artists, but Azeceta’s good at managing the shadows and still making the storytelling clear; his signature little spotlight panels help quite a bit, and the result is bloody, violent… and kind of pretty, too, with all that snowfall and woodland. There are also new issues of Saga and Stray Bullets out this week; one’s sf and one’s a hard-boiled street-level crime caper, but both manage to integrate compelling stories with wonderful art, and their creators know just how to keep readers coming back issue after issue (for over 20 years now, in Lapham’s case), with memorable characters, unexpected plot twists and the occasional injection of sex, drugs and, in Stray Bullets‘s case, rock and roll (I don’t now what kind of music the alien races in Saga listen to, although we’ve established that they have soap operas…). Jughead continues its Sabrina crossover, as the teenage witch (in her mischievous Dan deCarlo version, not the apocalyptic bride-of-Cthulhu one over in Afterlife With Archie), ends up on a date with Jug, which goes about as badly as you might expect, leading her to try to humble the clueless hamburger-scarfer, with predictably-boomeranging results. It’s by Ryan (Squirrel Girl) North, which makes it both smart and fun, and Derek Charm draws a cute Sabrina. Only one complaint: the cover says “All New!” but, as always, the comic has a reprint of a classic Reggie/Jughead story as a back-up; I’m glad it’s there, but how is that “all new”? That leads us to Lumberjanes, in the middle of a story with kid-goddess and frenemy Diane, plus a Gorgon, a couple of monstrous googly-eyed chicken-birds whose gaze can turn things (and people) into stone, a mystery and other assorted weirdness: business as usual for this critically-acclaimed all-ages adventure book. That leaves Rick and Morty, a perfect, bitter chaser to the warm-heartedness of Lumberjanes: just as cynical and drunken as ever (and a good place to end this list, before an alternate-universe version of myself shows up and dies horribly in front of me, which seems to happen a lot in this comic…).