I’m pretty sure this was meant to be a martial arts-style kiyai!, but every time I look at it, I hear it as Roger Daltry’s punchline to David Caruso’s set-ups:
If only the panel before had involved sunglasses.
But enough of that! It’s Thursday night, and that means it’s time for another round of the Interenet’s Most Hustlin’ Comics Reviews! Here’s what I picked up this week…
…and here’s what I thought of them!
Batman/Doc Savage Special #1: Earlier today, Kevin Church pretty much nailed this one on Twitter when he said that if your story ends with Doc Savage telling everyone Batman didn’t commit a murder because Batman uses a different kind of gun, then you’re doing it wrong. And that, I think, is my biggest problem with this one: I just don’t get Azzarello’s Batman.
To start with, Batman’s using guns, and aside from a few awesome or hilarious exceptions, that’s a pretty big hurdle to get over right from the start. I mean, I know that Azzarello’s doing something different here with a more pulp-styled Batman to fit the motif he’s building, but it doesn’t even make sense in the context of the story. Yes, Batman packed a sidearm for a brief time in his early apperances, but he also used it to kill people, and it’s mentioned in this issue that the murder that drives what little plot there is would be “Batman’s first kill,” implying that–like “our” Batman–this one doesn’t. So then the question becomes why he’s got guns. Is he good enough to shoot people without accidentally killing them? Of course he is, he’s Batman. But then why not just stick to the things that make Batman unique instead of casting him as a watered-down version of the Shadow (who, again, kills people) that lacks the charm of either?
If you’ve got a pulp vigilante who packs twin .45s, giving him a code against killing is just goofy. Pick one and stick with it, or we have learned nothing from Mr. Miyagi.
The second problem is that not a whole hell of a lot happens. This thing is 38 pages, and when it’s all said and done, all that happens it that Batman and Doc Savage fight, then realize they should be friends, and then Doc finds something out that he’ll deal with in his own series at some point in the vague future. There’s ostensibly a plot running through it about Batman being wanted for murder, but as the reader can assume from page one that Batman didn’t do it, there’s no tension to it whatsoever, and it’s dismissed as an afterthought by having Savage literally go on TV and tell people he didn’t do it. It’s less a story and more of a trailer, and if that was all they wanted to do, it could’ve been done in a third of the space with room left over to get on with the actual plot, the Golden Tree stuff that’s only barely dropped in here.
Azzarello is one of those writers that swings from brilliant to unreadable at the drop of a hat, and to be fair, there is stuff to like here. I do like the idea of a more brash, lighthearted Batman to contrast with the grimness of the other pulp characters, and there are a few genuinely funny bits mixed in to keep things moving, but if this is the book that was supposed to sell me on the idea of Azzarello’s “First Wave” reimagining (something that I am actually interested in), then a rambling, half-nonsensical story wasn’t the way to do it.
Dark X-Men #1: Long-time ISB readers will probably recall that I was a huge fan of Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk’s work on the late, lamented Captain Britain and MI:13, so while Cornell’s Dark Reign: Young Avengers wasn’t my thing, I was more than willing to give this one a shot. And it is a hoot.
One of the things I love about Cornell’s work is that he’s not afraid to throw humor in alongside intense action and melodrama, and by the time Omega is shouting apologies as he destroys a statue of a beloved former mayor and his dog that appears to actually have “Beloved Former Mayor and His Dog” on its plaque, it’s safe to say that his skills in that regard are being put to good use. But what’s really on display here is his knack for crafting characters that instantly engage the reader. To be honest, the Dark X-Men are four characters that I couldn’t care less about, but within the first few pages, Cornell’s managed to get me intersted, especially in the way that he’s cast Mystique as a beleagured team leader saddled with wrangling her teammates, two neurotics and one that’s just completely amoral. It’s an interesting dynamic, and it comes off as effortless here, which is something that only happens when there’s a lot of work involved. And c’mon, I’d be lying if I said Cornell didn’t get a huge nostalgia laugh out of that last page.
As for the art, well, it’s Leonard Kirk, whose work is unfailingly fantastic on everything he does, and this is no exception. It’s got the smoothness of Alan Davis with the expressiveness of Kevin Maguire, and it’s just perfect, especially under Jay Leisten’s inks and Brian Reber’s colors, which are essential for the effects of the book.
So yeah, Dark X-Men #1 is one of the most fun comics I’ve read lately. Who knew?
PunisherMAX #1: Jason Aaron’s first issue of the Punisher reads exactly like a Garth Ennis story.
I’m hesitant to even say that, because I imagine one of the worst “compliments” you can pay to a writer is “Hey, you write exactly like this other guy,” but there’s really no getting around it. To be fair, the fact that the art for this one is by Steve Dillon–Ennis’s long-time Punisher collaborator who drew the character-redefining Welcome Back, Frank–goes a long way towards reinforcing the image in my mind, but it’s there. The brutality, the slapstick, the note-perfect interactions between characters–it all reads like a textbook example of Ennis at his best.
And as much as I cringe at saying that, it’s not a bad thing. There are certainly worse places you could take inspiration for a Punisher story, and while most of the guys who have followed Ennis’s eight-year run on the title have done their best to stay in his footsteps with varying degrees of success (Duane Swiercynski’s Six Hours to Kill being far and away the best of an otherwise mediocre lot), Aaron’s the one who has the best chance of actually pulling off what Ennis did before him. Not just because he’s an incredibly talented writer–although he is, and I kicked myself for sleeping on his awesomely fun Ghost Rider run as long as I did–or because his style compliments Ennis’s best work on the Punisher so well, but because it’s clear from this issue that he gets it.
He understands what worked so well in the past and, if this issue’s any indication, that the Punisher’s one of the only characters who works better the more one-dimensional he gets. This is a first issue where the main character only appears on five pages, and while that’s normally a recipe for a boring time, Aaron and Dillon sell it perfectly by setting up the sort of story we haven’t seen in a long, long time. And it works.
So yes, polar bear punching excepted, this is exactly the sort of Punisher story I want to read.
S.W.O.R.D. #1: Over the past few months, I’ve talked quite a bit about Kieron Gillen’s recent work for Marvel–first with Beta Ray Bill, then Ares–and as the gist of all that was that it’s pretty awesome, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that I think S.W.O.R.D. is great.
I like the concept of S.W.O.R.D. a lot, especially for its potential as a bridge from the Earth-bound Marvel Universe to the cosmic action that Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have been slowly expanding since Annihilation. Gillen does a great job getting things set up right off the bat, too, especially with the way he’s cast Henry Gyrich as a complete and utter bastard, but one that actually does have a point, and Steven Sanders’ stylized art works very well with sci-fi.
The real treat, though, was seeing the back-up from Gillen and his Phonogram partner Jamie McKelvie, as I could look at that dude’s art all day. And it doesn’t disappoint here, especially under the colors of Matt Wilson (not to be confused with our Matt Wilson), who gives the backup a clean, crisp look that was a bit lacking in McKelvie’s last work for Marvel, a two-issue stint on Cable. They work well together, and the end result is top-notch stuff.
Of course, if I’m honest with you guys, I’ve got to admit that a good chunk of my affection for this series comes from my hopes that it’d be a pretty good place for ROM: Spaceknight to make his triumphant return, in the increasingly unlikely event that such a thing ever happens. Until then, though, I’ll have to content myself with a one-panel cameo from Adam-X–THE X-TREME!–and a special surprise appearance, yes?
Strange #1: Ever since I heard that Marvel was depowering Dr. Strange (again) and passsing off the title of Sorceror Supreme, I’ve been wondering if they were going to just shuffle him off to a corner for a few years, and if not, what the heck you do with a character when you’ve pretty much removed his entire deal.
Well, if you’re Marvel, you hand him to Mark Waid and have him engage in the MU’s most beloved pastime: Baseball! Hey, it’s worked for the X-Men eight or nine times!
In this case, though, it’s a magical baseball game against demons, because otherwise it just wouldn’t be Dr. Strange, and it’s an awful lot of fun. Waid’s gifted at crafting this kind of story, laying a running subplot down under a one-issue high concept, and it works pretty well here. The low stakes and outright silliness of it underscore his loss of power–the guy who almost gets killed during demon baseball isn’t exactly the same dude who’s going to go out to the edge of space and yell at the embodiment of eternity–and Emma Rios and Christina Strain do a bang-up job with the art, all bright colors and over-the-top art to fit the story. But there is a problem.
This issue’s got a cover by Tomm Coker, and while he and Rios are both great, they’re so markedly different that there’s a huge disconnect between the cover and the interiors. It’s not just a clash in style; Coker’s cover just plain doesn’t look like a bright, popping book where Dr. Strange plays baseball against demons, and that’s a shame, because Rios is strong enough that her art oughtta be able to sell the book without jarring potential readers when they pick it up to flip through. That aside, it’s a good read, and worth checking out to see if Waid keeps up his trademark fun.
And that’s the week! If you’ve got any questions about anything I picked up this week, feel free to ask in the comments section below, although bear two things in mind:
1. If you want to hear about my reaction to this week’s Hellboy, I’ll be talking about it on the next episode of Ajax, and…
2. Wolverine: Weapon X v.1 is a comic where Wolverine fights fake Wolverines who have claws made out of lasers. Of course you should buy it.
Anything to say about the “relaunch” of M.A. Avengers? I mean other than it being awesome?
2. Wolverine: Weapon X v.1 is a comic where Wolverine fights fake Wolverines who have claws made out of lasers. Of course you should buy it.
This sums it up.
The name brand Batman uses throwing stars and explosives without killing anybody — are guns really that much of a leap, assuming this new pulp Batman doesn’t have the pathological revulsion to them that Batman classic does? He seemed to use them pretty effectively, covering his escape in the opening scene.
Can I just say that I read Aaron and Garney’s Wolverine trade Get Mystique yesterday, and it’s totally awesome. Chris *must* have raved about it before, though the cunningness of the site’s search function has defeated me…
Whoa, I was just about to ask for Hellboy. Good think I read to the bottom, so please, no fried ice cream hate for me!
It looks like someone sent a pretty nasty kick…
(takes off sunglasses)
Dark X-Men was a hoot, but the last page let me down by being the lamest version* of an already lame character, rather than the less lame version who teamed up with Spidey a few times in his post Clone Saga book, and which I inexplicably have some nostalgic affection for.
*Vanilla Ice’s look and Sting’s gimmick? “what’s that, Warren? You’re a middle class English white guy? We couldn’t have guessed, bro!”
Speaking of Rom has anybody seen seen this:
“Special surpise appearance, yes?”
If this means what I think it does, then truly light has returned to the Marvel universe.
The conversation between Logan and the lead laser-claw guy about Faulkner pretty much makes that entire storyline for me.
The banter between Maverick and the female H.A.M.M.E.R. agent (and former booty call) is great, as well.
Not even a peek at Amazing Spider-Man? Sure, Joe Kelly wrote Deadpool in his special, but that was with Rob Liefeld on pencils. While the art in the issue isn’t much better, Kelly still does Deadpool right, with the climax being a “Yo Momma” battle, with Wade threatening to unleash “Yo Mammageddon.”
Any thoughts on Comic Book Comics? I got that from Van Lente at King Con last weekend.
The thing that bugged me about the Batman/Doc Savage special is that it was meant to introduce Doc Savage to a new generation of readers and UTTERLY FAILED TO DO SO. I’m a Wold Newton geek so I knew Doc, but I asked my wife if she understood the character after reading the issue and she said “kinda.” Honestly, based on this book I would assume Doc Savage was a globe-trotting, two-fisted forensic scientist with a mean dad.
I really expected better…
Holding off on thoughts on Booster Gold since it cliffhangered just as the good stuff started happening, eh?
Man, you think Bats and Doc got problems, there’s a page of First Wave notes up on the DC blog indicating an interest in molding the Spirit’s pal Ebony White into that tired old Sassy Black Chick cliche. Though maybe I just need time to acclimate adding these characters to the usual DC multiversatile worldview… but I’m just nice and self-questioning like that.
Any X-Treme appearance, cameo or otherwise, is an event to be cherished.
Man, the cover to B&R #6 promised me Purple Rain, but the inside was Newpower Soul.
I’ve been sleeping on the Ghost Rider run as well because I’m not sure where it starts. When did Aaron take over the writing chores on that one?
My favorite part of the Weapon X storyline is the whole “Our men are badasses. Nothing Wolverine can do to them will get them to talk.” They didn’t even need to go back to the cave to see the torture. EVERYBODY knew Wolverine would get the guy to talk.
Ohh, and cancer bullets.
The Shadow may have killed people (I assume we’re talking about the Shadow of the pulps here), but he rarely if ever killed anyone with his trademark .45s. Usually Shadow villains died via their own machinations, per tradition. The only time I remember the Shadow actually shooting somebody to death was when it was an assassin disguised as a statue, and the Shadow was surprised to learn this when the guy keeled over.
Now the Spider…that guy really was kill-crazy.
Now the Spiderâ€¦that guy really was kill-crazy.
One of my favorite Spider bits is when he sets a building full of criminals on fire, blocks all of the exits except one, and then waits outside of that door with his guns at the ready for any survivors.
I’m sad that Red Rebin #6 wasn’t on your list. Not that sad, because I know it’s not really impressing anybody, but still.
THERE’S A CHARACTER NAMED SAC. AS IN A SAC THAT HOLDS THINGS. INSERT JUVENILE JOKE HERE.
The “Special Surprise Appearance” in Sword #1 made me SO HAPPY. I’ve been waiting for someone to bring the original version of that character back. So awesome.
Aside from suffering from some less than great art (Between this Tan and Tony Daniel, DC is really giving Morrison the shaft when it comes to art on his batbooks), what did you think of B&R? I loved it, especially the character bits we got with Damien.
I agree with the sentiment about the Strange art/cover discrepancy, it threw me off to see the more manga-like art interiors, but Rios definitely draws the hell out of that issue. Really excited for what Waid’s going to do in this mini, I’d love to see him get to do a Dr.Strange ongoing.
not picking up The Shield? Bet Eric Trautmann will be awfully disapointed, since I’m convinced he wrote that scene where the main character snaps a gorilla’s arm in half with krav maga and then kicks him in the head was written specifically for you.
Man, no kidding re B&R. I got a little nauseous trying to sift through the art. I really don’t know the last single issue (not written by Bendis) that took me so long to read. I had to keep going back and looking everything over again. Ordinarily that would be a good thing; here it was most certainly not. I’m so glad Tan’s run on this book is over.
it’s weird, I actually kinda liked his art on that first issue. then he progressively got messier until … this.
also as you may not know, DC was unable to get the rights to the Shadow. So I’m personally fine with a “watered down Shadow” since there is no Shadow to begin with. Plus he’s Batman.
not picking up The Shield?
Took me a moment, there, to realise you weren’t talking about some kind of Vic Mackey comic.
“That sounds a bit…unlikely,” I thought.
But mow I just wish it were true…
You know what bothers me? Why a Sorceror Supreme Brother Voodoo becomes Doctor Voodoo, and a depowered Doctor Strange becomes just Strange. Stephen Strange is still a doctor. And Jericho Drumm was already a doctor!. WTH?
@ Matthew Craig
yeah that was my first reaction when I first heard of it too. I usually give any #1 a try if it’s by someone I like (Trautmann worked on Checkmate and did the JSA/Kobra mini) and I’m liking it quite a bit.
Trautmann is showing a Brubakeresque talent for mixing complex political issues with balls to the walls superheroics. First arc has Shield going into the middle east and fighting Gorilla Grodd controlled soldiers.
Took me a moment, there, to realise you werenâ€™t talking about some kind of Vic Mackey comic.
Trautman also does a great job co-writing Sction this week.
Love that Punisher cover, very Saul Bass.
Wasn’t at all keen on Strange, especially the artwork.
I work at the retail store Kohl’s and we get Christmas Gift Shirts that come in little tin boxes that can be used as banks or whatever after you’ve removed the shirt. This is applicable to this post because: This year one shirt is Batman pointing a gun. My immediate response was to say outloud “Batman doesn’t use guns!” The customer who I was supposed to be helping said “Well, he uses grappling guns” to which I respond, “Yeah, but look at this. He is clearly just holding a pistol. This is very inaccurate!” I believe this is the correct response given the circumstances.
Opening with someone kicking Cable in the face is never a bad start.
Also, in reference to the above, God I love the Spider. Not that the stories are all that great but, Jesus, he made the Punisher looked sane and restrained in comparison.
Seconding the love for The Shield. If you liked JSA vs Kobra you owe it to yourself to be reading it.
Too bad the first issue only sold at about 16k issues. Ouch.
“This year one shirt is Batman pointing a gun. My immediate response was to say outloud â€œBatman doesnâ€™t use guns!â€ The customer who I was supposed to be helping said â€œWell, he uses grappling gunsâ€ to which I respond, â€œYeah, but look at this. He is clearly just holding a pistol. This is very inaccurate!â€ I believe this is the correct response given the circumstances.”
Reminds me of the time I very carefully set up a display featuring Marvel characters on one side and DC characters on the other. Very quickly both sides became a hodge podge because “Who cares? They’re all super heroes.” Feh.
B & R 6 was confusing, even by Morrison’s standards. It’s like Grant creates situations wherein he introduces bad ’70’s-style villains that, given their powers, should have been a bit more prevalent. The Flamingo? What’s next, the Chartreuse Chanteuse?
Robin’s comment was priceless, though.
@ Mike A
Bats used guns in the golden age. and this is supposed to be golden agey Batman, what with all the pulp characters running about
So, wait, where did Dillon draw Cable, if Kirk drew Dark X-Men? Backup story, or is the alt text incorrect?
Seriously though, what the hell happened in Batman and Robin.
Oh, and any thoughts on the newest X-Men First Class?
@Nick: yes it was a backup.
Bats used guns in the golden age.
But only for a few months. He stops in 1940, and by 1941, it’s established in Batman #4 that “the Batman never carries or kills with a gun!” which, as I said, is an intrinsic part of the character that requires a little more explanation before it’s excepted.
I am shocked, SHOCKED to hear that Morrison has written a confusing comic book.
Please, tell me again how fantastic the last issue of Final Crisis was.
“Took me a moment, there, to realise you werenâ€™t talking about some kind of Vic Mackey comic.”
Don’t read the Shield comics. I couldn’t figure out why Wimms was suspicious of Mackey yet Dutch wasn’t, why Vic was still with his wife while the money train hadn’t been robbed yet… then I realised it just wasn’t a very good comic, and written by someone who wasn’t watching the show. Or at least not paying attention to it if they WERE watching.
Morrison wrote a pretty straightforward 18-page fight scene. Philip Tan drew a confusing mess.
Please, tell me again how fantastic the last issue of Final Crisis was.
I am very sorry to hear you did not understand a comic where super-heroes fought super-villains. If I may offer a recommendation, I am told that these have been certified as Easy To Read.
The Lone Ranger carried firearms and kept a strict code against killing. The current LR series from Dynamite stays true to this characterization.
Stupid Spidey Super-Stories.
I always hurt myself turning the pages.
And I never know when to Pat the Moondragon.
I’m a bit worried by how many people seem to think it’s completely fine for Batman to just be blasting away with guns in a comic book. The only way I think I’d be okay with it is if Azzarello fairly early on into this whole First Wave deal has Bats abandon them in favour of the familiar batarangs. That would work, and would even help with the character arc, showing how his methods were refined and grew as he got more experience. But to have that be a permanent thing? No, it doesn’t sit right.
One thing I did like about the whole First Wave concept was the idea of using Doc Savage as the Superman stand-in. Flying guys in tights don’t really work in a noirish pulp setting, but having Doc be the surrogate light side to Batman’s Dark Knight actually makes perfect sense. It’s weird how Azzarello can be so spot-on with some of his stuff, and so off the mark with others.
Final Crisis was awesome but holy shit, can you imagine how great it would have been if Batman had used the god-killing bullet to blow up STAR JAWS? “Smile, you son of a bitch. Hh.”
wait, what was unreadable about Broken City? was it the fact that Bats was making one long monologue that was cut off at very jarring places at times.
The way I see it, if Kane and Finger were okay with that concept for at least the first few stories, it should be fair game for anyone that follows.
“Batman doesn’t use guns” is about as flexible as “Superman can fly,” honestly. I don’t have a problem with people going back to the very early designs of the characters when looking for ways to subvert the expectations of the audience.
I’m a week late, but thank you for reviewing STUMPTOWN. “Brubakered” is a good description.
Also, had someone told me I would be reading a comic book about essentially a Oregon-based, female version of Jim Rockford, I’d have thought they were messing with me.
My brief treatise on Batman using guns:
The bottom line is, he broke the character. In the world of mainstream comics, where every book is handed off to another creative team almost every other month, there need to be certain rules that define a character and cannot be broken. If a character has nothing that defines him, then he is just whatever the current writer wants him to be, in which case he might as well be anyone. The character has no identity of his own. Break the one or two rules a character lives by, and he is nothing. And taking away the identity of a fictional character is the equivalent of killing him.
Oh, and while Batman may have briefly used guns most of a century ago, around the same time he was casually killing people every few pages, they were still building the character at that point at weren’t quite sure who he was yet. At this point, of course, Batman’s rules have been in place for over 60 years, and became the foundation for his identity.
Going back to his messy origins would just be, well, literally going backwards. A betrayal of everything the character has come to be, and also watering the character down to something crudely generic, taking away everything that makes him special.
I don’t understand the (widespread?) puzzlement on B&R (did areas of the country get shuffled pages or something?)
which seemed straightforward enough; but I admit I was so pleased by Jason Todd setting up a scenario in which the fans had to phone in on whether Dick Grayson lives or dies (metaphorically, anyway) that I may not have noticed minor flaws.
is it just me, or should we be discussing Space Dracula and why he worships Batman?