Shadowland #1 (of 5) — Writer: Andy Diggle; Pencils: Billy Tan; Inks: Batt
This is the kickoff to yet another crossover event, one stretching over the next five months, although the only regular titles involved seem to be Daredevil and Thunderbolts (depressingly, there will be 18 “extra” books with “Shadowland” in the title that readers will be expected to buy too). It looks like a “Dark DD” riff, sort of like DC’s Arsenal (but, sadly, without any dead-cat weapons or heroin use), involving DD, who’s now the leader of the Hand (don’t ask) against most of the NYC heroes, like Power Man, Iron Fist, Moon Knight, etc. This first issue is competent enough, and has the advantage of a startling last-page splash, but it’s mostly predictable and pedestrian, too — and, after Siege and Second Coming, the tolerance of Marvel fans for these things ought to be low, especially when they require a 30-issue, 5-month commitment at $3.99 a pop. For that kind of money, you could buy a double set of all six Scott Pilgrim books, and be vastly more entertained….
X-Women #1 (of 1) — Writer: Chris Claremont; Art: Milo Manara
Manara has a vast, and lofty, reputation, but he’s basically Greg Land: he has a repertoire of maybe a dozen female faces and poses that he uses all the damn time. The cover tells you exactly what you’re going to get: X-Men females (Rogue, Betsy Braddock, Storm and Kitty Pride, with Rachel Summers inside too) making O-faces and looking suggestively at one another; inside, there are another 48 pages of exactly the same thing. OK, that just made about a third of you decide to buy the book, but trust me, it’s not that good: The Claremont script tries mightily to bring a pulpy energy to the proceedings, but it’s all the same tired riffs and tics — boring, limp and as insubstantial as smoke. It all feels very 1980s — and, back then, the idea of pseudo-X-Men porn might have been attractive, but in our brave new modern world, you could surely find plenty of that for free on the Internet; you don’t need to pay $4.99 for it.
Fantastic Four Annual #32 — Writer: Joe Ahearne; Pencils: Bryan Hitch; Inks: Hitch and Andrew Currie
The story’s about Johnny getting a woman pregnant (turns out it was done by bad guys, with nanobots, so Storm isn’t the cad you might think — although the script still uses the opportunity to get in some public service/afternoon special “responsibility” bits), and the FF doing a “Fantastic Voyage” deal in her body, and… well, like X-Women, it sounds better on paper than it turns out to be in execution, although the Hitch art is a selling point. It’s also nice to see the Annuals revert to the “old” numbering, and offer a long self-contained story with a name artist, instead of a crossover or a mere fill-in tale, so there’s that….
Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #1 (of 9) — Writer: Allan Heinberg; Pencils: Jim Cheung; Inkers: Chung and Mark Morales
Despite the title logo, this is a Young Avengers mini-series — and one so long in development (Heinberg’s original run ended over four years ago) that the title page has a disclaimer regarding its seeming out-of-continuityness. Since it picks up right after that original story, time has, indeed, passed it by, but if you squint a little and ignore continuity, and if you liked the characters the first time, here they are again. A big advantage of the 2005-6 series was that, on paper, the idea of a “Young Avengers” book sounded stupid, and yet the actual story was non-cliched and considerably smarter than its premise; this new series, which no longer benefits from lowered expectations, is simply a pretty-good superhero story. Is it worth 9 x $3.99? Close call: I put it back, but I wouldn’t laugh at you if you bought it.
Thor: The Mighty Avenger #1 — Writer: Roger Langridge; Art: Chris Samnee
Langridge has been creating great stories over in the Muppets books for Boom! Studios; what can he do with a younger-readers version of Marvel’s Asgardian hero? Quite a bit, actually: young museum coordinator Jane Foster runs into a mysteriously noble vagrant with an obsession with one of the exhibitions, and then finds him in a bar fight with a Mr. Hyde, and, eventually, of course there’s a hammer struck and a transformation…. As an introduction to a new-readers version of Thor, this is clever and quick, and does well by making Jane as much of a hero as the big blonde guy; it’s aided immeasurably by Samnee’s expressive, attractive and very human art. Only my ingrained (and, yes, probably stupid) reluctance to get involved with yet another alternate-continuity version of the character kept me from buying this — but it’s definitely worth a look.
The Smurfs #1 (of 1) — Creators: Y. Delporte and Peyo
Papercutz is about to launch a graphic novel line reprinting the adventures of these little blue… beings, so this comic is a special $1 preview, featuring their first 20-page appearance; it introduces bad-guy Gargamel, sets up the premise (he needs a Smurf to dissolve into one of his potions), and generally sets the tone for the rest of the series. There’s both good here — very solid story construction and art — and bad (it’s definitely aimed at a younger audience, and the signature tic of the dialogue, substituting “smurf” for random nouns, adjectives and verbs, gets very old very fast for grown-ups). If you’re going for European-style kids’ stories, you should be checking out Asterix and Tintin first — but these are a respectable third-place finisher, and if you have any nostalgia for the cartoons it’s a cheap trip back to your childhood.
Marvelman Family’s Finest #1 (of 6) — Writer: Mick Anglo; Art: Various
This is the “Miracleman” family of characters, with their original name restored now that Marvel has negotiated the rights to them. However, this series doesn’t feature new stories, or even the ’80s Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman stuff (that’s, presumably, still tangled up legally). Instead, these are black-and-white reprints of the original British comics from the ’50s, a Captain Marvel… er, tribute (well, let’s be honest: ripoff), that, in the manner of a lot of Golden Age stuff, is historically important but barely readable. Six issues of this? Ehhh… if they get to the ’80s revival, then yes yes, but otherwise one issue is more than any comics fan really needs.
Hit Monkey #1 (of 3) — Writer: Daniel Way; Art: Dalibor Talajic
Marvel demonstrating how to run a not-very-interesting-in-the-first-place concept into the ground. Medium-intriguing art, but… no. Hell no. Tiptoe past this, and don’t encourage them.