Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin’s weekly single issue review roundup.
Avenging Spider-Man #14
(Cullen Bunn, Gabriele Dell’Otto, Dommo Sanchez Aymara; Marvel)
It seems fitting that a quintessential Spider-Man issue would be coming out now, just as Dan Slott prepares us for life without Peter Parker. Cullen Bunn steps in and delivers everything you need for a great Spider-Man story; Devil Dinosaur, fire breathing dinosaurs, Parker luck and, of course, the Friendly-Neighborhood Spider-Man. Gabriele Dell’Otto does a wonderful job of bringing the wall crawler to life in the Savage Lands as well. This was easily my favorite book of the week and I can’t want for more Devil Dinosaur and Moon-Boy. As far as swan songs go, this is one fine ditty.
This is how I felt while reading this issue:
– Dylan Tano
The Defenders #12/Invincible Iron Man #527
(Matt Fraction, Salvador Larroca; Marvel)
Due to a shipping error that resulted in a delay of the Invincible Iron Man issue, I ended up reading two Matt Fraction finales this week.
The Defenders #12 was a bummer, mainly because it was my absolute favorite superhero book these days — freewheeling, cosmic and crazy, like reading a monthly version of Final Crisis featuring everyone’s favorite Marvel characters that historically struggle to carry successful ongoings. It should have sold better than it did, but it was an offbeat superhero comic that was being sold for $3.99 — which would have been defensible if it’s called Weird Avengers, but not so much for something where the marquee characters are Dr. Strange and Black Cat.
The story itself, illustrated in pretty, ethereal — but maybe inappropriate — perpetual soft focus by Mirco Perfederici, attempts to tie up most of the plot points introduced in Defenders #1, but overall it feels rushed considering Fraction seemed to want to play a pretty long game with the ideas going on in the series. But in some meta sense it mostly works — a book with characters that make less sense together than the Avengers suddenly slamming on the breaks to hit an abrupt and strange ending. It was never meant to last forever, and I’m glad we got 12 issues out of it. I can’t wait to reread it all.
Replacing The Defenders is the all-female Fearless Defenders by Cullen Bunn and Will Sliney, which I can’t be too mad about.
Invincible Iron Man #527 was less of a bummer considering that it had a good long run and seemed to end at a decent place. “The Future” wasn’t as explosive of a finale as one might expect, but it works great thematically considering Tony Stark’s fears about his technology being misused get escalated with Stark himself having fallen into the wrong hands.
“Finale: The Stars My Destination” is a solid ending to a nearly five-year run that was so consistent that Salvador Larroca managed to illustrate almost the entire goddamn thing, which these days is unheard of, especially considering how many panels a given page of this series has. Fraction’s script manages to sum up, conclude and encapsulate the whole run in one issue that takes on a metatextual message of “I’m just going to humbly bow out now. Thanks, guys.”
Kieron Gillen follows Fraction on Iron Man with a new number one which — oh hey, I guess Chris is talking about it below.
– Danny Djeljosevic
Iron Man #1
(Kieron Gillen, Greg Land, Jay Leisten, Guru eFX; Marvel)
Let me just start off by saying that I like Kieron Gillen’s Marvel work quite a bit. He helped me rediscover my love of the X-characters after I spent several years not giving a Bamf about them, and his and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers might be the most exciting-looking amongst a pretty promising lineup of Marvel NOW! titles. But none of that really does much to bail out this first issue of his other new series, which reads like an Ir
on Man Mad Lib that someone filled out in a disappointingly serious fashion.
So instead of at least getting something fun from the template like “Tony Stark is a FAT PROCTOLOGIST who, as Iron Man, must prevent his TURDS from BARFING into the SMELLY NIPPLES,” we merely get “Tony Stark is a wealthy playboy who, as Iron Man, must prevent his technology from falling into the wrong hands” as our story premise. That’s essentially what happens in this comic, and, in addition to the requisite repartee with Pepper Potts and the debut of a new Iron Man armor, it presents a map of some very well-trodden ground. If there’s anything here that works to surprise, it’s that so many Iron Man tropes from the past 50 years have been crammed into the span of a single issue.
Those familiar concepts are executed just fine, but Gillen fans should expect more panache from our favorite witty Brit. Whether we find it palatable or not, we all come to a Greg Land-illustrated comic prepared to experience a cut-and-paste job, but it’s a real drag when that feeling extends beyond just the pictures.
– Chris Kiser
Dial H #6
(China Miéville, David Lapham, Tanya and Richard Horie; DC)
It’s funny, we were just talking about Vibe, the Justice League’s ’80s Latino stereotype and here comes an entire issue of Dial H revolving around the idea that sometimes the dial transforms our mortal protagonists into superheroes who are way too inappropriate to go out and save people, either because they’re weird sex things or racial stereotypes. It’s a concept that I read as a kid in this John Varley anthology Superheroes, with a story about a guy who receives Captain Marvel-esque powers to transform into an unfortunate superhero with a swastika on his chest — the non-Nazi version, but how many people do you know who can tell the difference?
The result is something I can’t believe DC published. Not just because it’s meta story that basically calls out how comics tend to do some seriously racist shit — unintentionally or not — or that Young Liars creator David Lapham drew it with some pleasantly bright colors by the Hories, but because it’s a really funny, self-contained bottle episode of an weird series. This might just be our Morrison/Case Doom Patrol.
– Danny Djeljosevic
(Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan, Tony Moore, Val Staples; Marvel)
The point behind re-launching your entire line and slapping #1 across as many books as possible is to garner excitement for things gone stale. Recently, Deadpool has fallen into this category. Yes, even after a recent popularity boon envied by every other C-lister in all of comicdom
The surprising creator lineup of Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan and Terry Moore offer a noticeably different Wade Wilson in their debut. From story beats to humor and, maybe most importantly, what goes in the yellow balloons is surely not the Daniel Way style of Deadpool comics. Gone is the “bro” and “dude” vernacular, the yelling for tacos and an ongoing dialogue with two caption boxes. The Marvel NOW! Merc with a Mouth shifts to a wise crackin’ one-liner type with a penchant for addressing pop culture and societal truisms. Is it funny? Eh, it’s funnier than the predecessor.
Check Fry’s face for my reaction when Marvel announced Tony Moore as the artist for Deadpool:
Moore is great, I’m all about his art, but he isn’t exactly quick at his craft and I worried his Deadpool comics might get a little too absurd looking. While I know he won’t be on the book consistently (this will start double shipping in a few months), Moore’s work carries the comic at its weak points, establishing a horror/superhero tone as the early look for the series.
I’m not sold on the zombie presidents concept (unless it’s Dead Prez, then I’m all about it. RGB.). It’s a bunch of puns and pop culture references about dead politicians, and it read weird in the Marvel Universe. I could be missing the point, but I’m not hating the formula I see in issue one. The cameos, the high-action, the crudeness and the humor are all there. The newest Marvel rollout contains a bunch of promising titles, and this is right up there with the rest of them.
– Jamil Scalese
(Ian Brill, Joshua Covey, Matt Gagnon, Felipe Smith; BOOM!)
Not gonna lie: I mostly came for the Felipe Smith backup. As I expected, it’s fantastic, full of hyper energetic art and some seriously funny moments. Worth the $1 price tag alone.
The main series ain’t too shabby, either — Ian Brill’s having fun with a script full of jokes, action and plotting that doesn’t feel as slight as many first issues these days. I wasn’t too keen on Joshua Covey’s art until I realized he makes Freelancers look like Archie with martial arts and car chases.
I can fucks with that.
– Danny Djeljosevic
Action Comics #14
(Grant Morrison, Rags Morales, Mark Propst, Sholly Fisch, Chris Sprouse)
Without a doubt, Action Comics has been the least consistent Morrison book I can remember reading. When it’s on, such as his two-part story with the Legion or the one-shot with President Superman, it is pure Morrison goodness on par with some of his best work.
But the rest? Well, it’s really pretty bland. There’s part of me that wants to blame DC for this; that first arc was six issues and felt like something Morrison would’ve typically done in two or three. Of course, it was clear from the get go that the New 52 were going to be all over TPB sales (nothing screams steady income like knowing six months ahead of time that you’re going to have a pile of books priced at $20 that people will gobble up).
Part of me wants to blame Rags Morales, who was conveniently absent on those issues I enjoyed. His art varies in quality from page to page, and it seems pretty random as to what, exactly, gets his best attention.
But in the end, I’m sure Morrison is at least equally responsible. I mean, he can write longer stories if he wants to and I’m pretty sure he chose Morales as his penciler. It’s just a general disappointment.
Sholly Fisch and Chris Sprouse contribute the best part of the story in the backup, where we get Neil DeGrasse Tyson helping Superman discover Krypton.
– David Fairbanks
Green Lantern #14
(Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin, Keith Champagne, Tom Nguyen, Alex Sinclair, Tony Avina; DC)
You know, from time to time I don’t mind my superhero comics being really obvious and simple, and it’s in those moments that something like Green Lantern can really hit the spot. No one’s ever gonna confuse this book with the annotation-begging work of Grant Morrison or Jonathan Hickman, but it has the means to deliver some nice, straightforward fun. So my problem with the most recent few issues in this series isn’t that they’re shallow, underdeveloped and preachy, but that they’re just so unbelievably repetitive.
Since new Green Lantern Simon Baz took over the lead role in the zero issue, every one of Geoff Johns’ scripts has followed the same basic outline. Show the Guardians floating around talking about how evil they’ve suddenly become, check in on Hal Jordan and Sinestro in the netherworld, then have Simon, an Arab-American, inadvertently get in trouble with the cops, the feds or — this time around — the Justice League.
That’s right, the punch line of this comic is that its Muslim protagonist keeps committing accidental acts of terrorism. It’s like a rejected pitch for a recurring bit on Animaniacs. You can picture the writers room debating back-and-forth between this and Chicken Boo, before some network exec comes in and tells them they’re only allowed to get but so edgy on a kids’ show.
– Chris Kiser
Animal Man #14/Swamp Thing #14
(Jeff Lemire, Steve Pugh, Timothy Green II/Scott Snyder, Yanick Paquette; DC)
I’m hitting these together because at this point, Animal Man is the only reason I’m reading Swamp Thing, and both of them have the same levels of successes and failures in my eyes.
If you’ve been enjoying either of these books, you’ll continue to do so. The same goes if you feel they’ve been dragging on a bit or if you haven’t liked them much at all.
That’s the thing, really. Both of these titles started out strong, easily some of the strongest of the new books, and while I’m reluctant to say they are dragging on as some folks have indicated — the overall story seems to move at a reasonable pace — it just feels as though Lemire and Snyder are both checking of boxes of stuff they wanted to do with these characters. It feels formulaic.
Also, I don’t know whose idea it was to have Timothy Green II do 6 pages of Animal Man, but I really hope it was out of a need to hit a deadline and not because they thought he belonged there. I did a double take when I saw his work, because it’s not anywhere near what Pugh has been doing.
While Swamp Thing certainly offers more attractive artwork, it lacks the believable character dynamics we get with Animal Man. It’s a trade off, and it’s why I rated them both the same, although I personally enjoy reading Animal Man more. The Bakers are easily one of the best families in comics right now.
I want to see where this all is going, I especially want to see what is in store after all of this Rot World stuff is done, but the journey isn’t really anything to write home about.
– David Fairbanks
(Peter Milligan, Will Conrad, Cliff Richards; DC)
I really wish this was better. When Peter Milligan was set to take over Stormwatch, I was pretty excited — Milligan’s one of my favorite writers and I’m a fan of the first couple runs of The Authority, so it seemed like a promising way to breathe new life in a series that begs to be a weirdo fringe book but feels written for the same people who bought Grifter.
Stormwatch #14 features our heroes punching a newly resurrected Etrigan (boring) and some brief handwringing about a last-ditch maneuver that may give local bystanders cancer and birth defects (pretty interesting), all leading up to a last page reveal (?) with so much dissonance between the script and art that I think there may have been a last-minute rewrite.
It’s pretty well documented that DC’s got a creative stranglehold on its talent since their New 52 relaunch began, as legends and indie talent have been quitting books left and light. Peter Milligan works best when he’s given a degree of creative freedom (X-Force) rather than simply doing licensed, for-hire work (Army of Two). All this to say I think I give up.
– Danny Djeljosevic
AND THE REST
The Manhattan Projects
(Jonathan Hickman, Nick Pitarra, Jordie Bellaire; Image)
Black Kiss #4 (of 6)
(Howard Chaykin, Image)
Dylan B. Tano is a relatively new reviewer powered by a love of bacon and constantly distracted by a kitten who would rather use his laptop as a bed. He grew up idolizing Spider-Man and can’t believe he gets to review comics all day.
You can read some of his short stories at tanoworks.tumblr.com
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions) and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his comic with Mike Prezzato, “Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men,” over at Champion City Comics and check out his other comics at his Tumblr, Sequential Fuckery. His webcomic The Ghost Engine, with artist Eric Zawadzki, updates twice a week.
Raised on a steady diet of Super Powers action figures and Adam West Batman reruns, Chris Kiser now writes for Comics Bulletin. He once reviewed every tie-in to a major DC Comics summer event and survived to tell the tale. Ask him about it on Twitter, where he can be found at @Chris_Kiser!
Jamil Scalese is just like you — an avid comics reader and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, devotee of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation. Check out his original, ongoing webcomic And Then There Were Zombies and follow his subpar tweeting at @jamilscalese.
David Fairbanks doesn’t get many things right the first time. He studied physics in college, loves science, music, comics, poetry, movies, books and education pertaining to all of the above. He will talk your ear off about Grant Morrison and Ben Folds, has an indie bookshelf larger than his Marvel, DC and Vertigo ones combined and if he ever actually grows up, more than anything else, he wants to still be happy as an “adult,” whatever that is.