So welcome to the first Comics Picks of The Week for 2014 where I list the comics that were actually to be the first ones released in the new year. Everything that has been revealed so far about 2014 promises an amazing year, I have to say. Well, for the most part at least. There are some things that I don’t quite understand, or like, but eh, it is still going to be a great year I feel.
This past week, Marvel finally launched its All-New Marvel NOW! line with Black Widow, All-New X-Factor and Revolutionary War: Alpha and they aren’t going to stop. New releases will continue throughout March at the least and we will even be getting some of these new titles double-shipped, such as Black Widow #2 which comes out next week. In other news, I had some fun reading DC titles this week, although Detective Comics #27 proved to be quite disappointing for most of the first half. And my disappointment is on several levels, not just with one particular aspect of it. But, more on that in the reviews.
My first graphic novel of the year happened to be the (unfinished) mini-series that Steve Gerber and Matthew Sturges wrote a few years ago, with the former writing the tale of a new Doctor Fate while the latter wrote about the supervillain Eclipse. Only eight issues of this double-sized series were released, but I have to say that I definitely enjoyed it and based on that, my graphic novel reading is off to a good start.
The new year might have come but comics are still dealing with ongoing events that began last year, and one of these events is Forever Evil by DC in which the world has been taken over by the supervillains and evil is everywhere. Tying into this larger event is an 18-part mini-event Forever Evil: Blight which deals with the goings on in the supernatural world and concerns the remnants of the Justice League Dark as per their reformation since October last year and DC’s mythological (New 52) heavyweights Pandora and the Phantom Stranger. Till now, I’ve read only the Phantom Stranger and Justice League Dark issues of the crossover, both written by J. M. Dematteis but I have to say its been quite a fun time and Phantom Stranger #14 ended in a really good place.
Phantom Starnger #15 carries on directly from the ending of Justice League Dark #26 from the previous week, and its actually quite exciting to see this entire story develop. Having read the new issue, I do feel that I should really catch up on Ray Fawkes’ Pandora and Constantine since there is finally a lot of crossover between the books, with references being thrown back and forth, but still, I feel that if you are reading both Phantom Stranger and Justice League Dark then you are good. You’ll get the story here and you won’t be lost. Plus Fernando Blanco, Miguel Sepulveda, Brad Anderson and Travis Lanham’s art is pretty good too.
Note: This review contains some minor spoilers about the issue.
After all the build-up in the previous issues of Justice League Dark and The Phantom Stranger, writer J. M. DeMatteis gets things into gear finally with this week’s issue of the latter series. We’ve seen how the manifestation of pure evil that crossed over from Earth 3 to Earth 1 with the Crime Syndicate has begun to effect the supernatural-oriented heroes of the DC Universe and we’ve seen how Constantine and his allies have tried to take the fight to this manifestation, Blight, and failed. Now, Constantine has rebounded from that defeat by doing the impossible: bringing the Trinity of Sin to his doorstep in chains in order to solicit their help, essentially at the point of a gun.
Ever since DeMatteis took over on the series he has been turning out one great issue after another and this new issue follows that trend. It is moody, it has character drama, it has tension, it has action. Its got everything, in short, and DeMatteis has been incredibly consistent with his writing along with Fernando Blanco and Brad Anderson on the artwork. Issue #14 is where the status quo for all these characters really shifts and where a new (temporary) Justice League Dark is born.
Part of DC’s third wave of launch titles for its New 52 reboot from 2011 was The Phantom Stranger, written by DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio and drawn by Brett Anderson. I picked up the zero issue (which was the first of the new ongoing) in September last year but I wasn’t too taken with it. The story just didn’t work for me, and I ended up ignoring the title altogether. But then came the Trinity War event this year and since a different writer was on the series at the time, I decided to read the tie-in issues and see if things had gotten better. They had.
I’ve been reading The Phantom Stranger since issue #10 (July), and I have to say that I’m really enjoying. There’s something about DeMatteis’ writing that really draws you in, presents a compelling character that you can really follow, with some great premises in each issue and a great build-up of all the mysteries in Phantom Stranger’s life. It also helps that Fernando Blanco is an excellent artist. All of which means that, first with Trinity War and now with the Forever Evil: Blight arcs, I’m really enjoying this series.
Note: This review contains spoilers for Trinity War and possibly the Forever Evil story so far.