Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin's weekly single issue review roundup.
Not everything gets covered in Singles, so here are the comics that got reviewed separately:
- Were you there when Keith and Jamil covered Jupiter's Legacy and Theremin for the latest Two for #1? You shoulda been.
The Victories #1
(Michael Avon Oeming, Nick Filardi; Dark Horse)
I was convinced that were I to read a ANOTHER comic about ANOTHER superhero team trying to save the world by beating the crap out of ANOTHER over-powered Douche Canoe, I would start either foaming at the mouth uncontrollably while having full-body spasms akin to twerking OR give up reading comics altogether.
That's how bad it has gotten for me.
Then Djeljosevic sent me The Victories to review. I read it fully expecting to foam/twerk or quit, but surprisingly neither of these things happened.
Because this is a good comic.
For some reason I think I like it when my heroes are more fucked up than I am, and The Victories seems to be an entire superhero team of damage cases. And yet, still, despite all their flaws they persist in being heroes — acting in a heroic manner — saving the day and all that — for no other reason that I can discern except it is "what you do" when you have super powers.
Because the world that Oeming has created as the backdrop for this book is a crumbling semblance of ours. The world's power supply has crapped out, plunging everyone into the dark, afraid, unable to communicate in the ways they had grown used to. This is narrated by a deformed former hero named Strike who's narration bookends this issue in a pretty profound way.
"Instead of hide us, the darkness actually reveals us."
In between these bookends are The Victories, specifically the character D. D. Mau, who may be my new favorite fucked up hero — and Oeming goes to great lengths to make her both likable and obviously fucked up — I appreciate the extra mile Oeming goes to emphasize this, there's nothing casual in this character's damage and Oeming isn't casual with it either. The Victories are battling a bad guy who's taken on the handle of Bacchus. He's got a rod (not a euphemism) that shoots a beam which makes a person either horny or drunk (he is Bacchus, after all). The interaction between D. D. Mau and Metatron after he gets hit with the beam is pretty damn funny.
And it is the juxtaposition between funny and serious — the light of our team and the dark of our bookends, the outward joy and the inner torment of so many of the characters — that I think separates this book from the same old same old same old OLD OLD OLD books that we've all read over and over and over again. Oeming is putting some slick shit down with this team book and, from what I can tell at the end, we are going to be seeing something even slicker down the line.
Of course, you can't talk about a book by Michael Avon Oeming and not mention his pages. It works in this book in the same way that it works in Powers — his style provides distance and perspective. You know you are in a comic book and that's just where you need to be right at that moment.
Oeming is promising us that he is going to free us of our "body/mind prison" somewhere along the way in this series. I say, let's do that. I'm ready.
– Daniel Elkin
Iron Man #9
(Kieron Gillen, Dale Eaglesham, Guru; Marvel)
My disappointment with Iron Man 3 may make it seem like I hate fun, but I promise that isn't the case. As proof of that, I'd like to direct you towards the latest issue of Kieron Gillen's Iron Man, which happens to be full of things that scream fun to me: giant sassy robots that definitely shoot first, weird alien races and techno-mysteries that span decades. I'll admit that I'm coming aboard Gillen's Iron Man series late, but that's because I couldn't handle the threat of Greg Land interiors, which luckily isn't a problem in the arc Gillen kicks off in issue nine, "The Secret Origin of Tony Stark," which not only promises to bring major changes to all things Stark, but also features the always welcome stylings of Dale Eaglesham.
Eaglesham is a perfect fit for Gillen's script, which demands a high level of detail and charac
terization, particularly since the setting at the start of the issue is an inhospitable planet that Han Solo would have felt right at home in. Eaglesham more than nails it, delivering art that is familiar and comforting for Marvel fans, but also deep and creative enough to draw in newcomers and encourage rereads in the process. Unlike Iron Man's adventures over in Guardians of the Galaxy, the story here makes the most of its cosmic setting, turning Iron Man into a bit of a fish out of water, who is trying to compensate for his relative lack of galactic experience with a cockiness, which bites him in the ass more than once.
The best instance of that comes from Iron Man's interactions with Death's Head, the gigantic robot bounty hunter he has hired to assist him in tracking down a rogue mysterious robot who he manages to accidentally offend with some roboracist remarks. Unlike Bendis, Gillen knows how to make a set-up issue fun, from the witty repartee between the two main characters to the big reveal at the end of the issue, which feels far more substantial than Marvel's big event comics that lean on decompressed storytelling. Gillen could stand to get more comfortable with action and build-ups, but there's no denying he knows how to draw readers into his stories with his deft characterization and knack for fun dialogue, and as a result, "The Secret Origin of Tony Stark" might be the real Iron Man blockbuster to beat this year.
– Nick Hanover
Thanos Rising #2
(Jason Aaron, Simone Bianchi, Ive Svorcina; Marvel)
Marvel is confusing me. Boy Thanos' major crime last issue was massacring a cave full of carnivorous lizards, because they ate some of his friends who were killed by a cave-in. Pretty justified by most standards. This issue he enlarges the reach of his knives, but he also tries to kiss a girl and cope with a mom who loathes him and an indifferent, distracted father. Poor kid.
I'm not sure how to feel about a story that wants me to empathize with Thanos. In tracking his early development on Titan, Aaron's bildungsroman is part Damien: Omen II and part Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. With a bit of Dexter thrown in.
Aaron has complicated the story in a few aspects, but they make me no easier. Thanos' mom went insane at the sight of him. That he is a strange purple child surrounded by paler skins brings little comment, it's his weird personality that make him a trench coat mafia candidate. When he starts taking the bad advice of a girl only he seems to see, I have to assume Death is just toying with him. Only, instead of just proving frustratingly aloof, this young seductress is more of an active femme fatale who goads him on to depravity. Pretty weird.
On the positive side, Marvel has finally found the perfect use for the unnecessarily decorated art of Bianchi. Always a weird flavor for the mutants, he couldn't be more at home on the alien underground world of Titan. His costumes are ornate, his tech is convincing, and there's a loony sort of art deco strangeness that is perfectly at home within sci-fi environs. He's also really good at bondage and torture, making him the ideal choice to depict this injured man-child as he falls into the abyss of mad godhood.
– Shawn Hill
Superior Spider-Man #9
(Dan Slott, Ryan Stegman, Edgar Delgado; Marvel)
The most important thing I can say about this issue is that, front to back, this is one goddamn beautifully drawn book. Da art be good. I would've paid at least a couple dollars just to look at the cover. Ryan Stegman is at the very top of his game; it's incredible the way he creates contrast between two Spider-Men and two Peter Parkers. Otto-Peter (insert octopus penis joke) has deeper set eyes and a harder jaw line, while Peter-Peter-Ghost-Peter has a John Romita Sr.-esque innocence to him. It's a feat the way Stegman sets these two apart as completely separate characters in the same skin.
Regardless of what Dan Slott or anyone says, Superior Spider-Man is the story of how Peter Parker makes it back, how he overcomes such impossible odds. This doesn't mean we can't have fun with Octavius as Spider-Man for a while, but at the end of the day, that's what the story is about. And honestly, it seems like they're keeping the reset button handy for this exact purpose. If Peter is gone permanently, I think this book becomes more boring. Issues of Avenging Spider-Man have been fun lately without the nagging Peter-Ghost, but I think there's something very cool about Peter lurking the shadows, trying to find his way back to existence. It's a great reversal of the stature some villains have received in modern comics. Some villains garner so much acclaim and notoriety that they almost become members of the supporting cast, with each issue or so checking up on their whereabouts. The Kingpin, the Joker, Lex Luthor — these types of dudes have enjoyed this type of role in the past. With Superior Spider-Man, the reversal is that the villain has taken the role of primary protagonist and the hero lurks in the shadows, moving towards an endgame. It's exciting to see Doc upstream without his octopus arms, but I can't wait to see how Peter continues to function in this book. I'm really not sour about the changes that've come with Superior, but come on; Peter is the Spider-Man we love, t
he one we grew up with.
One of the truly great moments in this issue is when Peter gets called out for his actions in the previous issue, putting his own safety before that of the girl Otto was saving. It's rare that heroes are portrayed as truly fallible (the last great example was The Ultimates). Characters make mistakes and have outer weaknesses, but it's rare that they are portrayed as selfish or taking part in some general dickery.
This was the best issue of Superior Spider-Man yet. Hopefully it continues to get better. Though the changes initially stunned many, the best thing I can say about Superior is that everyone knows what will happen eventually, but few know how the story will get there. And that makes this book worth reading.
– Tyler Gross
Animal Man #20
(Jeff Lemire, John Paul Leon, Timothy Green II, Joseph Silver, Lovern Kindzierski; DC)
Jeff Lemire and John Paul Leon revisit Tights, Buddy's movie from issue #6 a la those Starman issues where Jacket Starman visits Ghost Starman, and it's artistically very solid because you can never go wrong with a comic drawn by John Paul Leon. At least, visually speaking.
My one issue back when Animal Man #6 came out was Leon's decisions in conveying that we're watching a film within a comic. The fact that it's not Travel Foreman or Steve Pugh or Timothy Green II drawing it is one big step, but comics are (usually) a bunch of rectangles of varying size and a movie is just one rectangle you stare at for two hours. I think that latter effect needs to be maintained, and the first part of Tights varied panel shape and size like it was a regular ol' comic. In #20 Leon mostly alternates between widescreen panels and half-tier deals, only deviating when an choice moment calls for it, which works a lot better considering we're supposed to pretend that we're watching a movie.
The movie in question is engaging — even, at times, emotionally, which is actually kind of rare in my personal reading of this current iteration of Animal Man — but Lemire's idea to make the story of Tights parallel Buddy's own life (a small-time superhero who becomes a celebrity) is maybe not the wisest choice. At least, it doesn't sit well with me. It seems too easy, a bit too silly that what's happening in the movie is also happening to him in real life.
Wouldn't it be more powerful to be shown, I dunno, an indie movie about a minor superhero who (a la The Wrestler) dies doing the only thing he knows how to do before returning to "reality" where Buddy Baker is a budding celebrity whose big superhero battle ended not with his own valiant death, but with his son being unceremoniously offed in the fight's final moments? Something about the divide between reality and fiction, where we're being shown this story that's made to be tied up in a neat little package, then cutting to real life, where there is no neat little package as you sit in a messy room by yourself — something like that would be the gut punch that this issue needed.
– Danny Djeljosevic
All-New X-Men #11/Uncanny X-Men #5
(Brian Michael Bendis, Stuart Immonen, Frazer Irving Wade Von Grawbadger, Marte Gracia; Marvel)
A handful of Marvel writers are doing the "write two parallel books at once" trick — Hickman with Avengers/New Avengers, Fraction with Fantastic Four/FF and Bendis with All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men — but only Bendis so far has been putting them in frequent and direct contact, having scenes carry out from different perspectives and so on. I don't think it necessarily works — All-New X-Men #11's cover drops that "who will join Cyclops?!?!" teaser, but it already got revealed in Uncanny X-Men #4 so what's the big deal? Chances are if you're reading one Brian Bendis X-Men book you're reading both, so why even pretend? Maybe these two books should have just been combined into one double/triple/quadruple-shipping book in order to cut down on the redundancy — seriously, this issue is the second instance in Bendis' X-Run that ends with a cliffhanger of the Avengers showing up to pose threateningly.
But Stuart Immonen is illustrating lovely looking comics with All-New as Frazer Irving does the same with Uncanny — while Irving's style doesn't automatically scream "people standing around and talking for 20 pages," it's actually a great pairing as Bendis beings an arc delving into Magik's monster world thing.
That said, it's a bit of a slight issue, as Bendis spends a huge chunk explaining what Magik's deal is before dropping Cyclops' team into the fray. It's a bit of a waste — seeing the X-Folks suddenly appear in hell-world isn't particularly surprising or worrying considering Irving had been drawing pages and pages of it to begin with. We already know what it looks like and that it's likely going to be an immediate threat, he's just now combined the scary rock world with the people who are standing around and talking on the other pages.
But, like I said, verrrry easy on the eyes.
– Danny Djeljosevic
(Ann Nocenti, Cliff Richards, Four Goddamn Inkers, Pete Pantazis; DC)
Katana is pretty much the same as it was in prior issues — it's kind of weird (hint: there's a scene in which our hero hits a dude with a bowling ball), there's lots of combat and Katana once again fights the karate wino while wearing a cute outfit that doesn't look like she was dressed by some beardo comics artist. I think Nocenti is (wisely) giving her artists photo references.
But this time artist Cliff Richards fills in for Alex Sanchez and colorist Pete Pantazis fills in for Matt Yackey, and it's one of those moments that exemplifies the importance of the art team to a book's consistency. Richards is fine, but Sanchez's vaguely grotesque linework is a better fit for the straight-faced absurdity of this comic in ways that Richards is not. I feel like keeping the colorist consistent might do some of the lifting in keeping the art changes from being jarring, but the color shift makes for a way more generic looking comic.
The fact that there are four credited inkers on this book and that the April 2013 solicitations promised art by Cristina Coronas and Bill Sienkiewicz (!) tells me that something went awry while this book was being produced.
Also, I'm not exactly a "no spoilers!" kind of guy, but the fold-out "WTF" cover for this issue basically gives away the final page.
– Danny Djeljosevic
Red She-Hulk #65
(Lots of people)
Why are there three artists on this comic?
The answer: no one gives a fuck.
Look, someone gives a fuck, while we read this stuff as entertainment it's someone's job to put together Red She-Hulk, a comic that follows a woman on the run from law. It's just that I can find no reason for Pagualayan, Alves and Height to all throw in an issue that doesn't require radical art changes.
Parker also doesn't seem to give a fuck. The villain of this issue is Red Skull, Loki, Dr. Doom and Ultron combined. No, that's not a metaphor, that's literally the origin of the character. Furthermore, it's named the Yologarch.
So should I give a fuck?
I dunno. I'm literally asking. I mean, Betty Ross is a pretty cool character, the draw being that she's got a anti-Banner thing going on where she loves being a Hulk and generally enjoys messing shit up, but the plot is doing almost nothing for me, and the emotional draw is a kid I haven't seen in the three issues I've read so far.
Jeff Parker wrote an awesome Man-Thing in Thunderbolts/Dark Avengers so I'm getting the next issue, however I'm not expecting any fucks to be given.
– Jamil Scalese
(Jonathan Hickman, Mike Deodato, Frank Martin; Marvel)
One of my favorite Grant Morrison tropes is the expendable superhero team. Whenever he needs to establish a huge threat, he usually opens a story with a rag-tag group of sharply sketched superheroes who are just interesting enough that we kind of want to see more of them, but instead they get murdered. It's in JLA, Seven Soldiers of Victory, Final Crisis, Batman Incorporated and even New X-Men. They show up, have some idle conversation that endears them to us, then get killed by the Hyperclan or Weapon XIII or whoever.
Jonathan Hickman pulls that trick in the latest Avengers by introducing a new (?) Omega flight of mostly palette-swapped Alpha Fight characters (Validator, Wendigo), but it still works as they investigate one of the bio-bombs from the first story arc that landed in Canada, with disastrous results. I can't say no to that kind of thing, so I mostly enjoyed it.
The real issue with this issue is Mike Deodato, who seems to be entering that "shameless use of computer art" phase of his career. Now, I don't mean drawing stuff using a tablet — everybody does that these days and you don't even notice. Deodato's art in this issue looks like he's putting textures over awkwardly posed 3D models (and, even worse, copy-pasting alien creatures all over the damn place) and it's pretty jarring and distracting. It's art that's as mechanical and soulless as the tools used to make it.
– Danny Djeljosevic
G.I. JOE #3 IS SUCH A SERIOUS, THOUGHTFULLY WRITTEN COMIC BOOK THAT IT'S ACTUALLY KIND OF AMAZING
Indestructible Hulk #7
Dial H #12