New shows often need to start out strong in order to cement themselves in the viewers’ consciousnesses, and to prove that they indeed have some staying power. Of late, that task has fallen to one of television’s biggest gambles, Gotham, a show about the city of Gotham before Bruce Wayne became Batman, when guys like Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock were still simple detectives or when mob bosses like Sal Maroni and Carmine Falcone were at the top of their game. Fortunately, Gotham has started out fairly strong and seems intent to stay that way, if last week’s episode Arkham is any indication.
In the new week, “Viper” is quite the traditional “new drug on the streets” police procedural episode but it still stands a fairly good episode on its own. It doesn’t quite match the fantasticness of last week’s Arkham, but it still moves the larger story forward while also providing a reference to one of the most iconic Batman villains ever and gives Penguin and Jim both some really great moments together. I’m really getting into the groove of the show now and having a blast as well. This is a very different take on these characters than I’m used to, but that’s exactly why I’m enjoying the show so much, this week’s episode no exception.
James Robinson’s deconstruction’s of Marvel’s First Family has seen the Fantastic Four go through some really troubled times of late. Old villains coming back. Interdimensional invasions. Getting thrown out of the Baxter Building by the Avengers and SHIELD. The children of the Future Foundation all being taken away from Sue and Richard. Sue taking on the Avengers by herself. The falling out between Ben and Johnny. And so much more. It has been a trying time for the family team of late, and with the Original Sin event these bad times certainly didn’t go away, especially not once James Robinson began to revisit the plot-threads he had introduced in the very first issue a few months back.
To be honest, this review is kind of me catching up to this massive backlog I built up for this series. As such, there are a ton of things to unpack here. But suffice to say that after laying down a lot of groundwork in the first seven issues, James Robinson finally moves forward with the “real” story progression as he touches on concepts that plots that were hinted at back when the series started and that we continue to see how the Fantastic Four are fracturing up, divided as they are because of various reasons like Johnny losing his powers, Ben arrested for murder and so on. Robinson’s writing gets ever more heart-breaking with each issue, even as the art teams switch in and out over the course of these four issues.
Though Future’s End has been one of my favourite series of this year, some of the recent decisions story-wise have made me feel as if the writers are more intent on just prolonging the inevitable and also because the long run is kind of taking its toll on me. Except for an odd title here and there, especially Future’s End #22, the title has been great, but I think some cracks are beginning to show and I would love it if the writers got the series back on track with characters who’ve been missing for a while, and for the “proper” storylines to come back to the fore.
In Future’s End #23 and #24 we see the tale of the survivors of Stormwatch and the reluctant recruits of SHADE as they continue to battle against the power of Brainiac and his legions of robots. We also see, at the same time, the troubles that Tim Draka is having in his love life and how Madison is struggling to get over his past as a Teen Titan, a dead one no less. And in the midst of this we also get to touch base with some characters we haven’t seen in a while, like Fury, Scott Free, Constantine and Superman in some really amazing sequences, both in terms of the story and the art.
Kamala Khan, the new and current Ms. Marvel has been through a lot in the last few months. First she got caught in a Terrigenesis cloud that brought out her Inhuman genes and gave her her shapeshifting morphing powers. Then she went up against a bunch of villains, normal and eccentric alike, and even got to team up with none other than Wolverine, one of the greatest X-Men ever. And now she finds herself the proud (temporary) owner of Lockjaw, a loyal follower of the Inhumans’ Queen Medusa who has taken an interest in Kamala on Wolverine’s suggestion.
Recently we saw that Kamala’s powers were on the fritz and that it happened at the worst time possible, when her enemy The Inventor sent a giant murderous robot after her, which tracked her to her school and started laying waste to everything in sight. In Ms. Marvel #9 we see what happens after that, how Kamala’s powers come back and even how she meets Medusa for the first time, a meeting that has been building up for a good while now, especially once loyal and faithful Lockjaw entered the story. G. Willow Wilson knocks this out of the park once again with artist Adrian Alphona and it was a really fun issue to read.
Since last we were with this digital-first series, Arrow has already debuted two episodes in its new season, and has gotten off to a rocking and shocking start, in equal measure. The Season 2.5 comics still seem to be stuck in the “in-between seasons 2 and 3″ timeline, and that is kind of getting just a bit confusing at this point since the show is back, but the writers are still doing a great job of things, what with the reveal of a new Brother Blood in Starling’s shadowy corners, getting ready to exact revenge on those who don’t believe and those who have caused the new (legacy) villain some grief in the past.
Arrow Season 2.5 #4 is part recap of the epic finale of Season 2 and part background material for the new Brother Blood, Clinton Hogue. Before, we didn’t really know who he was (more like I totally forgot) or what his deal as Brother Blood was. But after this comic, we sure as hell know quite a bit more, and almost all of it is excellent. We also get to touch base with Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad in the 2-page backup, in a story that is developing more and more into a commentary on some real-life issues, and overall, this is a good, decent issue, though I wish that the recap parts, pretty much verbatim, were more minimal.
Over the last several weeks, and even months, Marvel Comics has been setting the stage for Death of Wolverine. One of the most popular X-Men to have existed to date, Logan aka Wolverine died this same week in Death of Wolverine #4, in what was a heroic finale to the character. And where Ororo Munroe aka Storm is concerned, I as a reader know that she’s been worried about him for quite some time, as we saw in Storm #2 back in August, which was a really heartfelt moment between the two characters, who have often been lovers over the years.
And now Logan is dead, and that leaves a void in Storm’s heart. This is what writer Greg Pak deals with in Storm #4, also released this week. As far as I can tell what from what little Marvel I’ve read this week, Storm is the only character to mourn Logan’s death, and she does this in quite a spectacular way that is also typical Ororo. You really feel the emotional bond that existed between them, and you want to cry your heart out as well. It was a great issue for the most part, though there were indeed some things that bothered me about some of the ancillary characters.
After wrapping up the Armor Hunters event, Valiant is now dipping into origin tales for its many major books, starting with X-O Manowar #0 last week. While the ongoing X-O Manowar is firmly rooted in the present, last week’s zero issue showed us the man behind the armour as he was in his youth, an inexperienced and untested warrior. It was great, and I definitely enjoyed it. Matt Kindt’s Unity has been a relative mainstay of my comics reading since it debuted last year, and it has certainly been a very fun title, though there’ve been a few missteps here and there. But, it still remains as one of the best new series from 2013, by far.
This week’s Unity #0 takes us back to the closing stages of World War I as we meet up with Unit Y, a special forces team setup jointly by American and Britain to counter the Imperial Germany threat. The leader of this team is Gilad Anni-Padda aka Eternal Warrior, who is an immortal warrior and a mainstay of the current Unity team, and in this issue we get to see the final mission of Unit Y, in a tale full of deserved bluster and lots of action. This is a fairly decent issue, but unfortunately it doesn’t quite work as perhaps the creators expected it to, since it did have quite a few flaws.
Major characters in comics die all the time. It is how the publishers, especially the Big 2, keep things rolling and try and do some interesting things in the wake of these deaths. But deaths also rarely stick, because some major characters are just too important to the entire line-up to just let go like that. I mean, even Peter Parker is back in the Ultimate Universe right now after being dead for a number of years and with his successor having stepped in to fill his shoes big time. But the big focus is on Wolverine right now, Marvel’s greatest success in terms of any media you pinpoint.
For some six weeks now we have been watching the story of how Wolverine is going to meet his death. Whether Avengers of X-Men, Wolverine has been one of the biggest characters in the Marvel universe, and there’s a line in the second issue of this mini-event series which sums it all up (paraphrase): “nobody out there who doesn’t owe me their life…” Few heroes in the Marvel universe can say that with the same conviction. And that’s why this series has been almost heartbreaking to read, though Charles Soule and Steve McNiven bring it all to a very sentimental, true-to-form close in this week’s finale.
Each of DC’s new range of weekly comics does something different from the norm. Batman: Eternal has a rotating crew of writers and artists. Future’s End does several parallel stories together. And the new Earth 2: World’s End mixes in several different artists together each week. Launched last week, Earth 2: World’s End is what I would hardly call a good comic, because it seems to retcon a lot of things and confuses the entire timeline of the series. But there is something here that’s interesting, since this is also a prequel to a series I do like, Future’s End.
After what was a massive recap issue last week, this week’s installment of the new weekly series continues the story of Apokolips resurgent on Earth 2, as the fire pits open again and new champions of Darkseid, working under the master orders of the supervillain Bedlam emerge and lay waste to the world’s heroes. I thought last week’s issue was disappointing, turns out that the entire team was just getting started, because this is another disappointing issue. It replicates much of what Future’s End does with the parallel stories, but with a lack of distinct progression in the story and confusing artwork all throughout.
CW’s Arrow got off to an emotional start with its latest season when, at the end of the episode, Sara Lance aka Canary was ambushed and killed by a mysterious archer. Forget everything else that happened in the premiere, whether it is Ray Palmer’s spectacular entry or Roy and Ollie taking down bad guys together or anything else. Sara’s death is going to have some major repercussions, and for the showrunners to start off a new season with something like this, well, it is a hint of things to come, I’m sure. While I mourn Sara’s passing since I really loved the character, I’m also interested in what is going to follow after it.
And that’s what this week’s episode, “Sara” was all about. Laurel brings Sara’s body to the Arrow-cave, not knowing what else to do, and we get to watch the team’s reaction as they realize that a core part of their shared identity is gone. It is a very moving scene, and the rest of the episode is all about how the team tries to move on and hunt down Sara’s killer, which also confirms the first-ever live-action debut of the villain Simon Lacroix aka Komodo, introduced last year in Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s ongoing run on Green Arrow as part of a major arc. This is a non-stop action episode in the true sense of what that means on Arrow, and we also get to touch base once again with Ray Palmer, which is just too exciting really.
CW’s The Flash is undoubtedly one of the most highly anticipated shows of the season/year. Spinning out of the successful 2-season Arrow, The Flash brings to life one of DC’s greatest superheroes and it is pretty much tone-perfect. It has the right emotional beats, the right character beats, the right setting, the right stories, and some really hellish cliffhangers that blow your mind. Of course, the acting department isn’t slacking either, with the likes of Grant Gustin, Jesse Martin, Danielle Panabaker, Candice Patton, Carlos Valdes and Tom Cavanagh. It is pretty much a great show, and that is going off only the pilot from the last week!
The second episode of The Flash brings to life another true-to-comics villain like Clyde Martin aka Weather Wizard from last week, Danton Black aka Multiplex (or, as Cisco first called him, Captain Clone, hah!). Alongside a memorable villain, we also have a slightly expanded roster of characters this week as we get to meet one of the most despicable industrialists/scientists in “Fastest Man Alive” and also get to see Barry suffer from some of the side-affects of his new powers. I thought the pilot last week was great, but it turns out that it was only the start, and that the trinity of Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns are just getting started!
Note: This review contains spoilers about the final minutes of the premiere and this week’s episode.