There haven’t been any “Comics Picks of the Week” articles for a while, and the major reason for that is because I’ve just been too caught up with other stuff and I just can’t be… well bothered. It just takes too much out of my time to keep these titles going, especially when Wednesdays also see me trying to get through two TV shows and doing reviews for them. Though, that situation has kind of abated now.
Anyway, this week’s surprise hits were Batman: Arkham Knight #2 and Gotham Central Book 1 from DC. It was a relatively small week for me since I didn’t read all that many new titles and most of those were middling. Ongoing greats were Django/Zorro #4, John Carter: Warlord of Mars #4, Fantastic Four #643 , Inhuman #12, Aquaman #39 , Catwoman #39 , and He-Man: The Eternity War #3 among others .
Not much of a secret of late that ever since Selina took over as the Head of the Calabrese-Kyle family that things have been heating up between the various crimelords of Gotham. She is a completely new element thrown into the picture, someone who never worked well with any of the others, being a lone wolf of sorts, but now she is suddenly at the head of the entire pack. Since taking over from the previous writer, Genevieve Valentine has been crafting a pretty incredible tale with the “former” Catwoman, and artists Garry Brown and Lee Loughridge have clearly enjoyed going to town with the new status quo of the titular character.
With all that Selina has been through of late, there are still plenty of challenges ahead of her and this past week’s Catwoman #39 presents one of the many ways in which she has started to bounce back after all the setup of the previous issue. This time, she takes Roman Sionis head on and even attempts to influence the Hasigawa family. Her enemies are all converging on her, and Genevieve shows that Selina is at her best with her back to the wall. This issue also presents some new opportunities to the artists, and they deliver quite well on the expectations.
The first two installments of The Eternity War have been very impressive. Writer Dan Abnett did some great work in the now-cancelled ongoing and then he ported all of that to the new series, where he has finally pitched He-Man against Hordak in a mass epic war that is something straight out of a fantasy novel. And it is glorious. Utterly glorious. It also helps that artists Pop Mhan and Mark Roberts have given him ample support and have put out some really great visuals that perfectly capture the feel of the setting and the franchise at large.
The newest issue from this past week takes a break from all the He-Man stuff and instead focuses on a character I’ve dearly missed in the new series, She-Ra aka Princess Adora aka Despara aka He-Man’s sister. She has been conspicuous by her absence so far, but in this issue Dan Abnett deftly segues her arc into a mission for the new Sorceress, Teela, and shows what happens when She-Ra goes after her former Horde comrades. And along the way, we get more awesome visuals by Pop and Mark, who have a great handle on how to depict all the glory of She-Ra.
Marvel launched its new line of Star Wars comics in January/February and one of the many new titles is Darth Vader, which is set in the aftermath of the Battle of Yavin and has Darth Vader trying to make up for his mistakes. Or at least, that’s what I think writer Kieron Gillen is attempting to do here, but the first issue fell flat for me as far as the story and the characters go, though the art wasn’t so bad and was fairly decent in places. Being a huge fan of the titular character, this did not seem like a good start to me at all, especially as I’m still sour on the whole deal with Marvel getting back the rights to these comics.
Darth Vader #2 continues the story of the titular character having been verbally punished by the Emperor and going on a crusade to hunt down the rebels who so confounded him at Yavin, particularly the young pilot who destroyed the Death Star, a supposedly impregnable battle station the size of a moon. And my issues with the story continued, what with General Tagge being an absolute ass in this issue, acting just like the pompous fool of an Imperial officer I’ve come to expect. The art was marginally better too.
One of the newest kids on the block, John Carter: Warlord of Mars has turned out to be pretty impressive, reminding me of Arvid Nelson’s first arc on Warlord of Mars, which totally made me fall in love with the characters and the setting, though the movie John Carter had done that already to a great extent. The comics were just icing on the cake. In the soft-rebooted world of the new series, writer Ron Marz goes forward in a great way, touching on things we haven’t seen before, and artist Abhishek Malsuni has contributed well, creating some really strong visuals.
From this past week, John Carter: Warlord of Mars #4 finally touches on the animosity between John Carter and Captain Clark by giving us a flashback to the battle that set off their rivalry in the first place. And it makes for a really great read since that first meeting was under banners of war, much as their reunion in the present is going to be. Captain Clark has slowly developed as a major villain for John Carter, and this issue adds some much-needed backstory, not to mention that the artwork as a whole continues to be good.
Of late, Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson transformed the title from one that was meant to remind us of the incredible potential of brand-new characters (and young ones at that) to one where the title could actually tap into the apathy of the modern generation and force them to sit up and take notice of the things around them. It was a nice (subtle) arc that I really liked, and it also brought to conclusion the whole thing going on with the supervillain The Inventor, with the whole thing becoming one of the most fun and awesome meta-arcs of any comics of late.
In this past week’s issue, we see a new guest character on the comic, none other than Loki Laufeyson, the adopted son of the All-Father Odin and the All-Mother Freyja. Loki is sent to Kamala’s high school by Freyja to find out and neutralize a threat to Asgard. Of course, said threat also involves The Inventor, so things are a bit woozy there for a while, but by the end, you see some fantastic stuff between Loki and Kamala, not to mention that Elmo Bondac’s art made for a nice change from Adrian Alphona’s typicla high standards.
Nathan Edmondson has been going full out with Black Widow of late, backing the SHIELD agent into a corner of hell and making her work doubly hard. Recently, she finally infiltrated a high-level meeting of CHAOS, the group that has been causing problems for SHIELD and for her right from the first issue of the series last year, and she didn’t exactly come out of it without a scratch. It has been a pretty incredible journey so far in this series, and with the addition of yet another guest star this past week, things look set to get even more crazy.
Black Widow #15 deals with the aftermath of Natasha’s infiltration of a high-level CHAOS meeting, a meeting that she forced to happen so that she could finally face her enemies. But things didn’t go according to plan since it turns out that CHAOS has hired soldiers who can, effectively, turn invisible. Problematic for sure, and much of this issue focuses on how Black Widow beats these guys, with some expert help of course. And that’s where the true fun of this book is, since each guest appearance so far has been handled artfully, and that looks set to continue with this one too.
Matt Hawkins and Stjepan Sejic’s IXth Generation, the next phase in the future-set Aphrodite IX storyline, finally kicked off last month and proved to be one hell of a comic. In retrospect and time-context, it definitely beat most of my expectation. Which I’m honestly quite happy for, since I wanted this book to be good and the first issue did not disappoint me.Weaving in a story with the IXs and their fight against The Darkness with Aphrodite IX and Hephaestus IX leading the way, the first issue was an intense story about fighting ancient monsters and confronting your own weaknesses. Great concept that.
In this past week’s IXth Generation #2, we follow on from the events of the first issue as Aph and Heph break out from Sanctuary XIII to get back to Earth, while at the same time we also see the flashbacks that portray the life of the IXs following the Ascension, when they all took control of the Earth from the two warring states of Speros City and Genesis, establishing their own dominance over the world. The story here is much more intense this time and on several different levels too, and that makes for one hell of a read. Not to mention Stjepan’s amazing visuals as usual.
Last month Valiant launched Ivar, Timewalker, bringing the third and final Anni-Padda brother into the spotlight with his own book, with Gilad and Armstrong already having their own solo titles in Eternal Warrior and Archer & Armstrong and the two have also shown up in the recent The Valiant mini-series. This new book by Fred Van Lente, Clayton Henry and Brian Reber explores the time-traveler’s self-appointed mission to keep the timelines safe and also feature a great supporting actor in CERN scientist Neela Sethi, caught up in Ivar’s time-hopping madness.
The second issue, out this past Wednesday, picks up from where the first issue left off last month and we have Ivar and Neela in a prehistoric time several millions of years in Earth’s past trying to figure out what to do next. Having just “discovered” time travel, Neela is attempting to sort everything out while Ivar fills her in, and the neat thing here is how he teaches her about the immutable nature of changing the past or the future, with the most classic of tropes of time travel: killing Hitler.
In recent months, Geoff Johns’ Justice League seems to have found a new lease on being awesome after all the unpleasantness of the Forever Evil crossover, and has become one of my most anticipated titles in any given month. The current story arc with the AMAZO virus is incredibly by all accounts, and it is really nice to see a comic that mixes in supervillains working alongside superheroes work out so well. Plus, who can really fault a comic where the Justice League has to depend on Lex Luthor to save the day and even work with him on it? Crazy, I tell you!
We have seen in the previous issues that as far as the AMAZO virus is concerned, the fate of metahumans everywhere and even the world hangs in the balance. And all that stands between this supposedly sentient and ever-evolving virus and the world are Lex Luthor, Superman and Wonder Woman. Batman was a part of the action too, but unfortunately he too has “fallen” and is now part of the enemy host. What this issue does really well is show off the antagonism between Lex and Superman in a great way, while Wonder Woman gets some of the most amazing action sequences that a female superhero at DC has gotten in the last three and a half years.
In December of last year, DC kicked off its New 52 version of the Secret Six with a new series by Gail Simone and Ken Lashley. The first issue introduced Catman to us in detail while also covering the other members of the team roster, and it ended up being one hell of a story combined with some equally great art. As a fan of Gail’s work in general, and having read a previous Secret Six graphic novel, this was definitely one of my highly-anticipated titles of the Fall’14 season, and the book did not disappoint.
This past week’s Secret Six #2 carries on directly from where the first issue left off some 2 months back. We continue to get some great background information on Thomas Blake aka Catman, while at the same time also coming to understand the group of misfits assembled together by some mysterious character for some so-far-unexplained objective. Gail Simone continues to delve rather fantastically into what makes each of these characters tick, especially Catman, while on the other side Ken Lashley and the other artists also turn out some magic.