Singles Going Steady

Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin’s weekly single issue review roundup. 

X-Men #18

(Marc Guggenheim / Harvey Tolibao / Paul Mounts; Marvel Comics)

4 stars

 

 

 

When the new Brian Wood X-Men series was introduced last year, I was excited about it and did my best to stay up-to-date. Yet, as much as I tried to keep up with it, the more I lost interest. With a plethora of X-Men titles out, this was one I decided to drop around issue 6 and hadn’t looked back.

Fast forward to the present and the run is currently at issue #18. So what caught my attention, compelling me to pick up this title for another try? Marc Guggenheim (producer of the TV show Arrow) is now the herald of the new creative team writing for the all-female run X-Men team– in space!

Guggenheim has returned some familiar faces to team up with the current run of X-Women (really) and put them in a different atmosphere (quite literally) with a tremendous amount of humor and laughs. The way Gugs is able to seamlessly write the characters as real people shows that he cares for and has invested time in getting to know these ladies. It’s an interesting premise and the reader feels it throughout.

She must have just been reading Multiversity.

As a fan, I usually have to connect to the art work before I can really get involved with the story. The work done by the abominable Harvey Tolibao (Green Arrow, Heroes for Hire) and Paul Mounts (Fantastic Four) does not disappoint. I’m a huge fan of blue and green hues, which made the coloring in this issue engaging and brilliant.

 

In short, X-Men #18 — which makes you wonder why this is one of the few book NOT being renumbered — has a lethal combination of daring sci-fi details, bizarro ideas and quips-in-space may ever-so-satisfyingly remind some of Grant Morrison’s famed New X-Men. Your Dutchess will again keep her eyes on this run for a few issues, for the sake of being opened-minded.

- Taffeta Darling


Shutter #5

(Joe Keatinge /Leila Del Luca; Image Comics)

5 stars

Shutter hit the comics scene with a bang and has been gaining momentum ever since, but issue 5 is the first installment where things have started to slow down a bit. Most of the action takes place during Kate’s flashbacks of her and her father’s adventures together. The changing of pace doesn’t detract from the series, but allows for some questions to be answered.

Kate Kristopher has some family issues, (I mean, who doesn’t) but she really has a dysfunctional family littered with her father’s secrets. In the opening two pages we are sent into a flashback where Kate saves her father from being killed by a hooded figure who happens to know her name. Upon chasing the figure and asking how, her father follows suit and mentions that some things are better left unknown.

This leads us into the heart of the story: family. Kate has recently found out that she has siblings. Lots of siblings. Many of which are apparently out to kill her. She’s brought back to her house where she is introduced to her younger brother for the first time.

This scene is one of my favorites in comics because of how the emotion is captured. The dialogue between Kate and her brother, Chris, is exactly what you’d expect from a reunion of long lost siblings that are at least a decade apart in age. It’s sort of awkward, choppy, but heartfelt and genuine. We learn that Chris is 8¾ years old and the conversation regarding dinosaurs quickly turns towards their father – something an innocent, almost-nine-year-old would bring up into conversation so casually. It’s, it’s just perfect. He even goes further to ask Kate how old she is – a panel I found humorous because of her reaction.

I ‘spose this is the perfect time to mention Del Luca’s art. She is amazing. She has captured Kate’s full range of emotions in this issue, everything from rage to sadness to empathy, not to mention how well she portrays the characters that Keatinge has created.

I think it would be entirely unfair not to mention the level of fan involvement this team has. Each issue contains letters and responses to fans from all over the world. Issue #5 included some of the best fan art I’ve ever seen…inspired by the 8-bit NES.

This team has created yet another fantastic title for Image Comics. If you liked Indiana Jones (the first three) and enjoy weird alternate New York Cities and Earths – Shutter is for you. Who doesn’t like Lion Gangters, skeleton-butlers, foot-clan-esque-pink-ninjas, and Alarm Cats? Everything about this book is fantastic.

-Michael Bettendorf


Harley Quinn #9

(Jimmy Palmiotti / Amanda Conner / John Timms / Paul Mounts; DC Comics)

4.5 stars

The latest issue of Harley had a special variant cover (as did other select DC comics, though Batman didn’t look too happy with his shot) dubbed the “Selfie series,” and they’re hilarious.

Harley seems like the perfect selfie candidate, doesn’t she?

harleyquinn9_
 

Getting to the actual book, Amanda Conner (Power Girl) and Jimmy Palmiotti (All-Star Western) pen a fantastic issue to the series, replete with the dark humor and zany situations you’d expect Quinn to get caught up in. As a Staten Islander, I absolutely appreciated Harley’s jokes targeted at the “forgotten borough” (WE DON’T HAVE THREE-HEADED RACCOONS.), and the fake cop/Harley devotee Ed’s part-time job at Jim Handy’s Galaxy of Comics, a clear nod to my personal favorite comic book shop, Jim Hanley’s Comic Universe!

I just constantly found myself cracking up the entire time, whether it was Harley taking out ex-boyfriend anger at a burlesque show or sending Ed to a psychiatric hospital (well yeah, she of all people could do that) and it was a blast to continue the story. Fantastic character art and coloring added to the awesomeness, with John Timms (Deadpool) and Paul Mounts (once again!) creating a crazy, dark carnival-esque atmosphere that suits the story damn-near-perfectly.

- Christine Manzione


All-New X-Men #30

(Brian Michael Bendis / Sara Pichelli / Marte Gracia; Marvel Comics)

2 stars

It’s been quite busy in the last few issues of All-New X-Men. The X-Men from the past raced into space to save the younger version of Jean Grey from the Kree Empire. They came back to earth only to learn that the younger version of Cyclops was leaving to go traveling around space with his dad Corsair. The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants from the future infiltrated the new Xavier school and was able to beat the X-Men to a standstill before the younger Jean Grey could psychically defeat the evil son of Xavier and Mystique.

So one could argue that it’s a good place for a bit of down time as this issue deals with fleshing out a few of the All-new X-men’s relationships. Laura “X-23″ Kinney goes on a date with the young Angel, Jean Grey and Emma Frost finally start to bond and Kitty Pride continues her odd relationship with Star-Lord from the Guardians of the Galaxy.

All-New X-Men has been my favorite X-book for quite a while now. The characters are fun, the situations are interesting and the series lets Brian Michael Bendis focus a lot more on doing personal stories about these characters — which is where I’ve always felt was where he is strongest. But this issue just felt off. None of the three stories in this issue are particularly interesting and all reiterate stuff that we already know.

We know that Laura is awkward with love, we know that Jean and Emma have to get to like each other, we know that Kitty feels awkward dating a guy three million light years away… nothing in this issue is particularly new. It’s also odd that a lot of the dialogue in this issue pretty bad, especially the romantic dialogue between Laura and Angel. It’s not a good sign when you’re actually reminding readers of Anakin and Padmes dialogue from Attack of the Clones.

That ‘off’ feeling carries over to the art by Sara Pichelli. Usually her art is amazing. It’s got a great sense of people, props, action and scenery, and is usually able to carry a book even when the script isn’t too strong. But something about her art felt off in this issue and that may be because that she isn’t working with her regular colorist Justin Ponsor. Ponsor is like the cherry on top of Pichelli’s artwork, an extra bit of beautiful colors that really fit with her line work and makes the art pop off the page. But the colorist on this issue, Marte Gracia, just doesn’t fit very well. It looks a little bit muddy and a bit too dull and doesn’t complement the line work nearly as well as Ponsor does.

The issue, while a nice break, feels like nothing more than treading water. It’s got three uncompelling stories, decent to unbearable dialogue and the beautiful art is ruined by a mismatched colorist. It really does feel like the worst kind of filler, the kind that doesn’t really do anything that couldn’t be accomplished in other issues.

- Jordan Glazer


Star Wars #20

(Brian Wood / Carlos D’Anda; Dark Horse Comics)

3.5 stars

It’s never been a better time to be a Star Wars fan. Much of the same can’t be said for fans of superstar writer Brian Wood.

He’s left one big book (X-Men) and leaving another.

With Dark Horse’s final goodbye to the George Lucas saga as we know it, Wood’s Star Wars #20 also finishes off one of the finest comic runs on the franchise in recent memory. It also shuts the door in fine fashion, leaving us with an uplifting moment from the fresh rebellion– although this particular issue pales in comparison to the awesome threats of Vader and company. Sure, robot hunter IG-88 is no one to play with; but appears like cannon fodder for the newly gelled family of Luke, Solo, Leia, and Chewie.

Seren Song might also be an issue for many, sorta reflecting Ms. Organa in both the function and flesh. She sorta resembles a dark-haired Leia through Carlos (Bionicle) D’Anda’s imagining, but thankfully the artist doesn’t bother to reach for likeness with the other characters. The Alliance remain as detailed as ever, and his Millennium Falcon space shoot-outs have never looked better. Just watch how this tenacious droid and Mothma’s upgraded ships operate around the Earth’s orbit. Wonderful stuff.

While the Star Wars license is off to “The House that Stan Built”, Wood (now moving forth to Moon Knight), D’Anda and the rest of the team have something to be proud of: Memorable comics that deserve a rightful position alongside the original trilogy. They certainly had their moments. Urrrrrrrrggggghhhh!!! Issue #20

- Travis Moody


Batman #34

(Scott Snyder / Gerry Duggan / Matteo Scalera / Lee Loughridge / Steve Wands; DC Comics)

4 stars

After the massive “Zero Year” storyline that ran in Batman for the better part of a year, this nice little one-and-done issue titled “The Meek” served as the perfect palette cleanser after the ramifications of that massive event while still managing to deliver a deep and satisfying story. Even more impressive is the fact that the Batman’s very own dynamic duo, creators Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, took a break with this issue (although Snyder did plot out the storyline) and the series didn’t miss a single beat!

Mr. “Go-To” Writer of the moment Gerry Duggan, who has the uncanny knack of stepping into a title and delivering some fine work, manages to write an insightful issue of Batman that treats readers to a tale of a non-metahuman serial killer who has managed to evade Batman’s radar over the span of a few years while setting his sights on average people who are connected by a common factor – they are all patients of Dr. Thompkins.

Batman #34 is balls-to-the-wall from the opening page. The “bad guy” of the issue is a regular Joe (though extremely disturbed as evident by the pile of bodies in the bed of his pick-up truck) and the writer injects a much appreciated personality into him. He has an agenda and a reasoning to his madness. To stay under the radar he targets individuals who are nobodies, just like himself. He will satisfy his demented desires until appeased and then slither back into obscurity. After all the threats we have seen Batman have to contend with in the “New 52″ it was nice to see him square off against an enemy without any powers.

Just as appealing is the way Gerry Duggan writes the titular hero doing what he does best, which of course is pretty much everything. Bats’ detective skills are on full display here as he attempts to track down the serial killer. He even resorts to the utilization of a victim’s dog when his normal methods come up empty. Particularly clever is how Batman, upon the defiant reasoning of Meek who proclaims that no one will remember him even in the bowels of Arkham, brilliantly decides to place he antagonist into the empty cell normally occupied by the Joker.

However the real sell here is the humanity that he is able to inject into the protagonist as he portrays Batman as one willing to protect the people of his city, regardless of their social status. He vows to avenge these victims who are the “invisible” citizens of Gotham, many being homeless. Protecting Gotham City is and always will be the burden of Batman/Bruce Wayne which is plainly evident in that haunting last page.

Matteo Scalera fills in on art duties for regular artist Greg Capullo and while the differences in style are instantly evident Scalera does a damn fine job of leaving his mark here and making this story his own. Incorporating a vastly contrasting line work in comparison to his beautiful renderings on Black Science proves no problem for the artist as his take on Gotham and her inhabitants are just as beautiful in their own right.

Scalera can handle whatever is thrown his way from over the top science fiction to super hero fare at its best all the while infusing emotion and heart into each panel and page. Scalera draws a pretty deranged looking killer in Meek, often choosing to shadow out the majority of the character’s face leaving only that sinister smile that is enough to send a chill or two up your spine. Oh and that last page depicting Batman standing above Gotham’s Potter’s Field while the bodies below make up a skull is just gorgeous!

Batman #34 was a fantastic look into the smaller in scale side of Gotham City while still by no means diminishing the quality you would expect to find in the title. I can’t commend the creators enough for what they managed to turn in which just happens to be a damn fine look into the cat and mouse game between a killer and a detective done in a sequential format.

Gerry Duggan’s star keeps on rising and he is firing on all cylinders regardless of what topic and character he is undertaking. If you enjoyed his take on Batman with this issue be sure to check out his upcoming Arkham Manor that is one of the few new titles in the Batman stable that has recently been announced by DC Comics. If this story is any indicator of what to expect in Arkham Manor than sign me up!

- Robert Tacopina 


Godzilla Cataclysm #1

(Cullen Bunn / Dave Wachter; IDW)

4.5 stars

It’s been a great year for Godzilla fans. We finally got the modern version of the King of the Monsters that we all deserved thanks to Gareth Edwards. The problem is, the movie was so good that it left us wanting more, just like the spoiled consumers we are these days.

Well, monster lovers, I have your solution; Enter Godzilla Cataclysm. Cullen Bunn (Magneto, Sinestro) has done a stunningly great job with this story and set everything up just right for the mini-series. We have our wise old man, our fun young couple and, of course, a shit load of cool monsters. Godzilla himself doesn’t even show up until the last page, but it does what all great first issues should do– leave you wanting more. Bunn’s Hollywood-worthy storyline is the real highlight, but Dave (Breath of Bones) Wachter‘s art is a perfect fit. The problem with many Godzilla comics over the years is that the art often undermines the cool factor of the monster. That is not the case here. This kaiju-packed issue of kick-assery is in, this monster lover’s opinion, a nearly pitch-perfect first issue.

- Ryan Scott


Dark Ages #1

(Dan Abnett / I. N. J. Culbard; Dark Horse Comics)

2.5 stars

A band of knights wander around, quibbling about God and food in the Year of Our Lord 1333. Then, they fight space monsters. Didn’t expect that, huh?

Now, these English knights seem hungry and bored, wont for adventures. Did they not join King Edward III’s war against Scottish independence? How about, since the soldier of fortune thing is more their style, fight for one side or the other in the Irish civil war raging across the sea (both of those wars were happening in 1333)? Whatever. These silly English kaniggets are bored with it. And thank God they are because… Space monsters.

Dan Abnett, an Oxford educated Britton, whose titles include Legion Lost and Knights Pendragon, is a skilled writer and, hopefully, has an inkling about the history of this year. Since the Hundred Years War (starts in 1337), is foreshadowed, I suppose he does. Abnett’s 2000 A.D. collaborator, I. N. J. Culbard’s art is flat but striking. The very conscience two dimensional panels gives the book a very Bayeux Tapestry (look it up) feel, which is cool if you’re a history geek as well as a comics geek. It’s a bland first issue, but stick with this series, but not so long as it takes to start quibbling about God and food.

- Matt McGrath