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.
DC’s Grayson has been very impressive since its debut, with only an odd issue along the way that didn’t exactly capture my attention, and that’s saying something since each issue has pushed boundaries. And last month Grayson #6 pushed even more boundaries by finally setting up a defining conflict between Agent 37 and Midnighter, one that proved to be really informative on how Dick sees himself, and how people constantly underestimate him, whether his allies or enemies. And you underestimate Dick Grayson aka Agent 37 only at cost to your own self.
Following the events of the previous issue where Dick came to blows for a third time against the Midnighter and finally met the Gardener finally Helena Bertinelli aka Matron figured out what the Fist of Cain was planning, this past week’s issue sees the hero try to set off a psychological bomb going off in Tel Aviv during a concert. There’s some really intricate stuff happening, and each is quite merited after all the cloak-and-dagger stuff of late, despite the occasional high-intensity action. But the ending, well that is indeed something different.
It isn’t without reason that one of DC’s newest books, Gotham Academy, has found such success among the glut of superhero comics everywhere. A story set in Gotham that focuses on kids in a school environment with some inbuilt horror and thrills, Gotham Academy has quickly become one of my favourite comics to read every month. The writing on this is excellent, and so is the art. Plus I just adore the characters, and the whole mystery with what happened to the protagonist over the summer, something related to Batman no less, well, that’s a great hook too, I think.
In Gotham Academy #4 from last week, we see more of what is happening at the boarding school. With all the (light) supernatural things going on, it has been a pretty rough time for Olive and we are finally beginning to get some answers about the whole thing, not to mention that we are slightly closer to understanding what happened to the protagonist over the summer. More mysteries, more thrills, some answers, more questions, there’s a hell of a lot here to unpack and the new issue was just as good as the previous issues, if not better.
Even though Fox’s Gotham had an interesting enough mid-season finale, the changes in the status quo didn’t really stick it out once the show came back on air a month ago, and things were back to normal pretty damn quick, as it were. All of which was rather disappointing since I was really looking forward to the writers exploring with the concept of Jim Gordon being a shift guard at Arkham. But at the same time we got to see the awesome Morena Baccarin as Dr. Leslie Thompkins, and things looked somewhat positive on that front.
In episodes 13 and 14 of the show, we see what the city is like once Jim Gordon is back in the GCPD as a full detective and thus back on the streets. And things are pretty damn crazy right now since Fish Mooney has finally been outed as Carmine Falcone’s enemy and is on the death-list, with Oswald Cobbelpot’s star in the ascendancy. While the main story deals with corrupt narcotics cops and the fearsome Dr. Crane, the subplots deal with the criminal politics of the city. And I’ve gotta admit that I’m starting to lose my excitement with the show since the stories are becoming more mundane and tiring than ever before.
Its really not a good time for Selina Kyle, or should I say, Selina Kyle-Calabrese. The head of the Calabrese crime family that rules a good portion of Gotham. She also happens to be in direct opposition to Roman Sionis aka the Black Mask and the Hasigawa family, though she is courting them for now and has a temporary alliance in place. With the advent of the new creative team, the title has undergone a serious makeover and has come off the better for it thankfully, with a superb crime story that also has some really great thriller moments to it.
When last we were with Selina, she had just ordered the death of her cousin, at the hands of his sister no less, and was also taken down a few pegs in the eternal battle for control of all criminal activities in Gotham. That definitely hurt her reputation and now in Catwoman #38 we see how she plans to bounce back from all of that, to regain the lost prestige of her family, and to come out of the experience with a solid and even unenviable position amongst all the other families. The story is great, the art is great, what more can you want really?
Fox’s Gotham had a very interesting mid-season finale in that it ended with Gordon demoted from being a Detective on the GCPD to a watchman at the Arkham facility, which had recently been the metaphorical scene for a war of control between Don Falcone and Don Maroni. Other characters weren’t all that well-off either, and it seemed that the show was going to take a rather dark turn, more so than expected, and that with the whole status quo shake-up things would get really interesting in that nothing was certain and there was a lot of chaos going on in everyone’s life, which works for me on one level.
But it seems that the writers aren’t really committed to making the new status quo stick for too long. Because while the mid-season premiere two weeks back was fairly solid and promised a lot, the follow-up this week (with a weird break in between) didn’t work so well for me. And that kind of highlights the shortcomings of the show in that the writers often put forward some really great ideas, but they don’t go the distance with them, coming up short to take things in a yet another direction. And that kind of rankles as a fan, particularly when one half of the cast doesn’t even get any screen-time in these two episodes! Criminal, I tell you!
Note: Some spoilers from these two episodes are mentioned in the review.
On a list of 25 of the best new comics series to come out last year, Grayson by the creative team of Tim Seeley, Tom King and Mikel Janin scored 19. Now, that might seem like a low number, but the fact is that Grayson came out in a year filled to the brim with absolutely great stuff and competition sure was fierce. Only seven issues in, but this has become one of my most-anticipated titles each month and I’m loving what the team is doing, pushing the boundary with respect to where they can develop the character and his supporting cast, and just taking things from there.
Last month we got to see a great desert adventure in the ongoing while also getting to see Helena’s origins exposed in the Annual issue in the final week. Now, we are back to the main story as Dick and Helena’s search for superorgans continues and they finally come into conflict with none other than the Midnighter, the series antagonist introduced back in the debut issue last year and also a big threat to the two of them. The story has some great fun moments, packs a lot of great action, and also has a couple of neat twists to it that I really liked seeing. Plus the oh-so-gorgeous art.
No “Magic 40” in the first week of the new year, but the second week definitely sees me hit that landmark number, and with graphic novels mixed in to boot!
This week’s surprise hits were Angry Birds/Transformers #2 from IDW Publishing, Ares & Aphrodite #1 from Oni Press, Operation: S.I.N. #1 and Wolverines #1 from Marvel. The disappointments of the week were Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #2 and Ant-Man #1 from Marvel and Future’s End #36 from DC. Ongoing greats like Swamp Thing #38 and Detective Comics #38 from DC, Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #3 from Marvel, and John Carter: Warlord of Mars #3 from Dynamite to name a few were just as I expected them to be: superb.
As mentioned above, the graphic novels for the week were Legends of Red Sonja Volume 1 from Dynamite and Quest: Age of Darkness Volume 1 from Zenescope. The former was a fun book where Gail Simone brought together several different female prose writers, paired them with different artists, and wrote a grand, sweeping Red Sonja story. The latter was part of the publisher’s Age of Darkness event and was more a prequel story.
I skipped outon the previous week since there was a very small number of comics released, and I wasn’t really interested in reviewing more of them than I already did. So, welcome to the first good and proper edition of this new feature, and have a blast!
The picks for this week are: Eternal Warrior: Days of Steel #3, Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #2, Operation: SIN #1, Detective Comics #37-38, Justice League 3000 #12-13 and Vampirella #7-8.
Last year I did a small roundup over at The Founding Fields with fellow reviewer Bane of Kings which contained a list of the best new comics to have come out in 2013. It was a rather small list with only 10 entries each from the two of us, reflecting our reading for the year and the consequent small pool to pick from. But in 2014, I greatly expanded my weekly reading, and so for the round-up of the best new comics to have come out in 2014, whether as mini-series or ongoings, I have decided to go much bigger.
There were a ton of new comics to come out last year and many of them started off well enough but unfortunately well by wayside since subsequent issues were nowhere near as good. That however, is a call to make on any new comic and you have to have a wait-and-see attitude for the most part. For this embiggened round-up, I have some mini-series here and some ongoing titles. Some have had multiple issues come out in 2014, while some have had less than three.
Irrespective of that, these are all the most promising new series of 2014, and I think that they are all well worth the read in 2015.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!