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:
(Brian Wood, Ming Doyle, Jordie Bellaire; Image)
Maaaan Mara is a gorgeous book — I'm a huge fan of Ming Doyle, to the point of buying a graphic tee a few sizes too big (it was the only one in stock) just because she illustrated the image on it. I like how she draws women, I like how she draws volleyballs, I like how she draws hair. She's one of those artists with an understanding that not everybody looks the same, and so she draws background characters in a variety of looks and hairstyles, so even if you didn't have Jordie Bellaire's subtle pastel-y colors as a guide you could easily differentiate the characters. Even in the big crowd scene that opens the issue you can tell that she made everybody look different. That's amazing.
After Issue #1 I was sure I was buying it more for the art than the story — even though the dystopian volleyball premise is exciting for being something we haven't really seen before — but Wood's second issue is pretty strong. I found the expository worldbuilding a bit tedious in the opening issue, but here it works, probably because we're embedded enough at this point that not a lot needs to be explained to us. There's fallout from the events of the previous issue, followed by some intriguing escalation. And it's all very pretty.
Also, Doyle's cover looks like it needs an accompanying Young Romance style blurb, which I find dee-lightful.
– Danny Djeljosevic
(Joe Keatinge, Ross Campbell; Image)
There are just two more issues left in Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell's run on Glory. A titanic, earth-shattering battle will most likely wrap up this series. The current issue is filled with preparation for that battle. It's filled with scenes of characters wrapping up personal business, coming to terms with their lives and getting themselves emotionally ready for the chaos that will come.
Joe Keatinge knows all about comic book tropes, and he loves them dearly. This issue embraces the trope of the calm before the storm. It's the middle part of the long story sequence where readers and characters alike take a deep breath before plunging into the inevitable war. As such, Joe knows to give each character their metaphorical moment in the sun.
Aided by guest artists like Owen Gieni, Emi Lenox, Sloane Leong, Jed Dougherty and Greg Hinkle, Keatinge and Ross show each of the book's characters making their preparations in ways that are wonderfully appropriate to their characters: Glory ponders philosophy and prepares for war; Demeter and Silverfall find one last moment of peace in each other's arms; Henry (who looks so inhuman) has a thoroughly human moment with a sweet young girl; Glory is visited by a strange faceless man who brings her an unexpected weapon.
Like most tropes that Keatinge embraces, this story reads in an interesting way and builds well for the next few issues. The last page reveal is intriguing and implies that the resolution of this storyline might not quite be what I was expecting. And, oddly enough, that's exactly what I'm expecting from the resolution of this very cool, very unique series.
– Jason Sacks
Journey Into Mystery #648
(Kathryn Immonen, Valerio Schiti, Jordie Bellaire; Marvel)
Hopefully not too many readers dropped this book after Kieron Gillen packed up his Kid Loki and moved to Young Avengers Town, because the newly Sif-focused Journey Into Mystery is some underrated hot fire. It's a different book from what it was under Gillen and his myriad collaborators, but it's in the same spirit, as Immonen's scripts are as fun and imaginative and full of Asgardian craziness.
Jordie Bellaire colored this one too, and here she shows off a palette different from Mara — one brighter and more "comic booky"
; which is a necessity for these things. Nobody has fun in a brown world, and Journey Into Mystery is fun comics.
Decidedly a different book, which is for the best, but Immonen is a worthy successor — her scripts are fun and imaginative, and with Valerio Schitti and Jordie Bellaire doing the art the pages are very nice to look at. I'm really impressed by that seven-panel sequence of Sif hacking away at a monster. It's probably the best use of thin vertical panels (especially considering I complain about them an another review below).
FYI: Marvel has three female-fronted solo titles — Journey Into Mystery, Captain Marvel and Red She-Hulk, and each one is distinct. Upcoming are two all-woman team books (Fearless Defenders and X-Men). Of these five, created by men and women alike, only one title explicitly mentions a character's gender. This is how you do it, Comics.
– Danny Djeljosevic
Mars Attacks Zombies vs. Robots
(Chris Ryall, Andy Kuhn; IDW)
I'm a pretty big fan of IDW's original Zombies vs. Robots series, based mostly on my love of Ashley Wood's art, but also because… well, I mean… it's ZOMBIES VS. ROBOTS! Much like my beloved Cowboy Ninja Viking from Image, when you start mashing up things that I love, I love you even more for it (kind of like when you make a sandwich out of scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, ham, mayo and American cheese). When I heard that Chris Ryall was going to revisit the world of his Zombies vs. Robots AND layer in Martians attacking, how could I not be intrigued?
Sure there's no Ashley Wood attached to this book, but Andy Kuhn is no slouch either, and in Mars Attacks Zombies vs. Robots he has many opportunities to prove that again and again.
This book is the last of a five-issue Mars Attacks series that IDW has foisted on the comic book buying public, a series which had previously featured Mars Attacking the likes of the Transformers, the Ghostbusters, the band Kiss, and even good old Popeye. Knowing that this crossover series HAD to be either a cash grab, a contractual obligation, or a good old punk rock stick-in-the-eye, I girded myself to expect pretty much nothing in terms of lasting value, and spent a couple of hours in preparation inserting my tongue firmly in my cheek over and over again.
What we got here is a goof of little substance but fair entertainment. The story starts on Mars with Chief Commander (Science Division) Yaz announcing that they have discovered an "all new human threat to contend with." This threat is Stargate, which would allow an invasion force to transport anywhere in the universe (I think). The Martians figure out that they can synch up their Stargate to the one on Earth and use it to launch an invasion force of their own. The conceit of this concept is that "organic matter cannot pass between these gates without imploding the entire gateway."
Enter the Martian Elite Striker force. They zap through the Stargate and end up in on an Earth devastated by the war between zombies and robots. From there, the hijinks ensue.
Mars Attacks Zombies vs. Robots is pretty much a puff piece. It's like a two-drink minimum stand up routine that consists of one joke. Sure, the joke is kinda funny, but the price of the drinks start you wondering if this was the best use of your entertainment dollar. Ryall is great at a sort of rapid deployment character development (this is a one-shot after all), and Kuhn's art is oftentimes great, almost approaching the beauty of Wood's on the original property. The book reads rocket fast and the story unfolds along a back highway with twists and turns, but ultimately you end up only two blocks away from home wondering why you even bothered driving in the first place.
It's fine. It is what it is, a quick hit of entertainment. If you need something to distract you while waiting for your Grand Slamwich® at Denny's, then Mars Attacks Zombies vs. Robots fits the bill perfectly.
– Daniel Elkin
(Matt Fraction, Steve Lieber, Jesse Hamm, Matt Hollingsworth; Marvel)
One of two examples of artist changes affecting a book in this installment of Singles Going Steady, as Periscope studiomates Steve Lieber and Jesse Ham fill in for this special Super Storm Sandy benefit issue of Hawkeye, where Matt Fraction will give royalties from sales of the book to the Red Cross and encourages people to give even more. The news may have moved on, but there are people who still suffering from the effects of the thing, and Fraction and the editorial team of Hawkeye decided to shift their schedule and drop in this special issue to do their part.
It's a special charity issue set during a real-life disaster, but it's not preachy or treacly — it's an issue of Hawkeye through and through, just one with a lot of flooding at it as Lieber illustrates a section with Clint Barton and Grills (the John Goodman looking fella who always calls him "Hawkguy") help Grills' dad get out of his house before it gets flooded, and Jesse Hamm covers a section with Kate Bishop attending a wedding that gets interrupted by the storm, forcing her to go find some medicine and deal with some looters. Which sounds like it could be p
reachy, but I assure you it isn't.
Steve Lieber and Jesse Hamm draw differently from Aja as well as one another — Lieber's more grounded while Hamm is more animated — but both fit in amazingly with what's come before. Lieber eases us into the issue with the dense panel layouts that Aja often does, but soon opens up and does his own thing. Hamm is more playful and offers more dynamic layouts with inset panels and fun, exaggerated poses, but again, it feels like the same book we've been reading for the past six months.
The art changes prove that Matt Hollingsworth is this book's secret weapon. His colors are so integral to Hawkeye's look that the art shifts never feel jarring or distracting. It helps that the artist choices are in the book's wheelhouse too, but the colors make all the difference.
– Danny Djeljosevic
Superior Spider-Man #2
(Dan Slott, Ryan Stegman, Edgar Delgado; Marvel)
Not sure about the controversy here. It seems to me like this is a perfectly executed Spider-Man comic. While the situation is weird — and will be changed back, did you forget you were reading superhero comics or something — the trappings all fit. Peter Parker has lost power over his own body, but manages to become a subtle force for responsibility by nagging the subconscious of Doctor Octopus — who's the poster boy for having a gift and selfishly squandering it. I love the idea that you can't try to be Spider-Man and be a villain, that there's something about donning that costume that makes you want to become good. Even worked for Venom, and that guy has sharp teeth.
But yeah, otherwise this is what I expect whenever I read Spider-Man comics — some webbing around, some non-costumed drama with the supporting cast, some mild chuckles. Spider-Man's got an unfuckwithable formula like that — even the Marcus Webb movie, for all its flaws, understood that and succeeded in that respect even if it didn't in pretty much any other. If you don't play with those elements, you could be making Spider-Man comics all the way to that unspecified Prophet future and it'd still be a decent read.
Personally, I'm tickled by the fact that Superior Spider-Man is remarkably similar to The Ghost Engine. Technically, I probably ripped off the talking apparition thing from Firestorm the Nuclear Man. In other words, friends — Circle of Life.
– Danny Djeljosevic
Justice League #15, Aquaman #15, Justice League #16
(Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Paul Pelletier; DC)
The first three parts of this "Throne of Atlantis" crossover, wherein Ocean Master starts swinging his dick around and the Justice League get kidnapped by evil kelp or something. Cities get drowned and those piranha people from the first issue of Aquaman resurface. To its credit, there are fewer jokes about Aquaman sucking, which made me stop reading the series after Aquaman #1.
It's a wildly uneven crossover as Justice League writer Geoff Johns can't really get into it while Aquaman scribe Geoff Johns is carrying the crossover, which is natural because it's completely Aquaman-centric. I guess Johns owed Johns a favor. There's not much to say about this crossover — it's not particularly fun but the artists acquit themselves by being Ivan Reis and Paul Pelletier.
To me the most interesting thing about this story is the replacement team that shows up at the end of Justice League #16, which is pretty much the same thing as Joe Kelly's equally Aquaman-centric "Obsidian Age" storyline back in the early 2000s — the big guns have been incapacitated by Atlantis-type things, so a scrappier team of B-listers has been enlisted to take their place and they're having an incredibly difficult time of it, overwhelmed and struggling to keep together during a global crisis.
I loved that aspect of the story and honestly believe it's a legitimate highlight of that title post-Grant Morrison. I was really sad to see that team go when the main team returned, but at least Kelly alternated issues between the big guns and the replacements so we got to spend some time with them. The New 52 doesn't have that luxury, so we can expect the replacements to get short shrift before a few of them get spun off into Justice League of America.
Below, Steve Morris tackles the next chapter. Not to steal his thunder, but I think it's the best issue of the story arc.
– Danny Djeljosevic
(Geoff Johns, Paul Pelletier; DC)
The penultimate part of Geoff Johns' first crossover storyline for Justice League sees Aquaman at the bottom of the sea, talking to Batman in a casket. This is the "Throne of Atlantis" story which was building up in Aquaman's fir
st year and has now roped in the Justice League for a bit of a sales boost. It's a decent issue, although the twists are a little uneven and don't have quite the impact you'd like. The final surprise suffers from happening to a character nobody particularly cares for, with some slightly difficult storytelling within Paul Pelletier's artwork. He's not helped by lettering which tends to suffocate the pages and block out some of the details in his work – one panel sees Vixen adopting the powers of an animal, but the lettering covers up the animal itself, leaving it difficult to work out what she's doing. It's an unimportant thing to be annoyed about, but it does speak to a rather poor editorial effort (there are also a handful of spelling mistakes, which you really think should've been wiped out early on).
Aside from that, the storyline moves forward in fairly standard, although entertaining enough, fashion. It's a shame that the first year of Justice League has cleared out all the more interesting members of the team and left us with Superman, a grumpy Batman, and Wonder Woman who has virtually nothing in common with the character being used in Brian Azzarello's series. This does serve to make Cyborg and Aquaman into more compelling figures than they were before, and Johns continues to have a great grasp on one of the only major marriages in mainstream comics which is still standing — Arthur and Mera, who are great together.
It's a decent issue, but the Justice League book has been rather generic and lifeless so far, and that drags the sprightlier Aquaman down a little.
– Steve Morris
(Jonathan Hickman, Adam Kubert, Frank D'Armata; publisher)
After a pretty good opening arc — one that ended up reading way better as a complete piece — we get a done-in-one that advances some of the seeds planted in the first three issues while illuminating the origin of this particular iteration of Hyperion. Cool stuff, and I'm glad Marvel is opting for more self-contained stuff nowadays. It's really, really easy to forget why you're even reading comics if everything is a middle chapter every month until you realize you're wasting your life and quit.
And third-person narration is decidedly back in comics. As a Watchmen Baby, I didn't think I'd miss it, but I also spent my teens preferring Ethan Van Sciver's issues of New X-Men to Igor Kordey's and Bryan Hitch to Chris Bachalo. TIME MAKES FOOLS OF US ALL.
Next step: thought balloons.
Pretty art from Opeña and White is followed by, um, less pretty art from Adam Kubert and Frank D'Armata. Kubert's alright — he shines on some pages while on others he makes some layout decisions I cannot abide (a 2×4 grid of slender vertical panels? really difficult to read) but he's got a vague Chaykin vibe I can't resist. On the colors end, cool name aside, I'm decidedly not a fan of D'Armata's work — I find his palette pretty drab and he does that annoying colorist move of adding weird Photoshop details to the line art that makes everybody look like they had CG plastic surgery. Remember that time a colorist added bridges to all of Milo Manara's noses in X-Women? I know it's meant to fill in perceived gaps in the line art, but too often it just draws attention to the effort. In the same week Hawkeye and Avengers showed the importance of colorist to a book's look and character.
The other night I was talking to my friends about The Sentry and DC's Triumph and realized my enjoyment of Superman analogue names. Besides the above, there's Supreme, Majestic, Anthem, Prime and, like, 50 others. Really good bombastic names for ultra-powerful flying guys.
– Danny Djeljosevic
(Scott Lobdell, Kenneth Rocafort, Sunny Gho; DC)
Another crossover, with Scott Lobdell offering an issue of complete filler during the "H'el on Earth" storyline. The Superboy book has been okay, the Supergirl book has been exceptional, but Superman remains just okay here. The issue has super art from Kenneth Rocafort, but the artistic team are let down by a boring, exposition-heavy storyline which also has a continually dispiriting take on gender politics. Wonder Woman is referred to as Superman's 'current' lover, whilst Supergirl is dumbed down tremendously from the energetic, feisty character seen in her own series.
Exposition can be done well, but here it takes the form of sagging narration, which burdens each page with too many words which simply describes Rocafort's artwork. The creative team worked very well together on Red Hood, but it looks like Lobdell is starting to lose track of the collaborative process and weight down every panel with pointless writing. A misstep for a halfway-decent event storyline.
– Steve Morris
Justice League Dark #16
(Jeff Lemire, Ray Fakes, Mikel Janin, Jeromy Cox; DC)
The new year brings all sorts of changes, as new years often do. One suc
h change is my declining interest in reading DC comics titles. It's not that I don't like DC — I want to enjoy DC, but I keep finding myself gradually worn down. Not worn down by the personalities or the PR gaffes — never forget I was a Jemas-Quesada Nu-Marvel fan back in the day — but worn down by comics that aren't very good.
Justice League Dark may be next to go on my pull list. If you'll remember, I was pretty positive about it to begin with, but the cautious optimism has given way to ennui.
Syfy reality show Face Off contestant J. Anthony Kosar designed a supervillain for one of the show's challenges, and he was lucky enough to get his design illustrated in Dark #16 by Mikel Janin, who's one of the better artists in the New 52, which I imagine is very exciting. For the rest of us, the story's a bit of a bore — most of the team spends the issue literally standing around and fighting a glowing sci-fi mech (who I think they were also standing around and fighting in the previous issue?) while Zatanna and Tim Hunter sit around with some elves and we learn that Hunter's ancestor was some fantasy warrior.
Here's what really gets me about this current arc: the heroes are trapped in a world where magic doesn't work; as a result Deadman becomes Aliveman and the immortal Madame Xanadu transforms into an old-ass lady and so on. Meanwhile, John Constantine loses his ability to say stuff? You mean to tell me fast-talking and lying is a superpower now? That's completely illogical, even if the script tries to cover it up with Constantine going "Oh, I guess our very natures got twisted too!" Seems to me like the idea should be that, of all characters, Constantine doesn't have to depend on the supernatural to get one over on people — or find out that his oratory skills aren't enough in this strange land.
Cool that Janin's been on this book since Issue #1; ignoring the odd fill-in, it's really nice to see that, nearly 1.5 years in, somebody's stuck with a book at DC, and on some level, this is marginally better than Justice League, but hardly as interesting. It's got kind of a Grant Morrison-y, Vertigo-type thing going on — evidenced by having Peter Milligan, Jeff Lemire and now One Soul's Ray Fawkes on it as co-writer — and instead of going balls deep in the weird it's becoming the book that appears to be edgy and off-kilter because they fought a talking tree once. Justice League Dark should be more interesting than it is.
– Danny Djeljosevic
Green Lantern Annual #1
(Geoff Johns, Ethan Van Sciver, DC)
What's that? A crossover from DC? Whatever next. This brings together all the narrative threads from four different Green Lantern titles and thread them brilliantly into a final battle sequence. It was hard to see just how some of the disjointed stories being told were going to somehow join together, but the writers have done a very good job of making sure each book gets a payoff — even if, for Red Lanterns, it's a single panel reveal.
The problem is that the story is impenetrable for anybody who hasn't been reading at least two or three of the books, and the ending is a copout. Rather than giving us some closure, everything is left open-ended and vague by the time you finish the annual, making for a rather unsatisfying read. It looks as though all the Lantern books are now going to jump straight into ANOTHER crossover without concluding this one. Readers deserve to get some closure and satisfaction from a story before they move over to the next one, but Green Lantern Annual doesn't provide it. Fans won't mind, but it's another step towards locking out new readers from this section of the DC Universe.
– Steve Morris
Adventure Time #12
(Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, Braden Lamb, Lisa Moore, Alexis Frederick-Frost, Andrew Arnold; BOOM!)
I was gonna save this for the next section, but then I actually studied my Cover A by Chris Houghton, which is basically a microcosm of how Adventure Time the comic works — while it looks just like any other piece of official Adventure Time product and is remarkably on-model, it's actually much better than that. Houghton could have just drawn a bunch of characters and called it a day, but instead he has them all crammed on the page, playing off of one another as well as the logos (the creature being poked by the sword kills me) and even the UPC symbol.
Adventure Time in a nutshell: the comic that refuses to do the bare minimum.
– Danny Djeljosevic
DAMIAN WAYNE IS SO TOTALLY GONNA DIE, BUT SOON DAN DIDIO WILL REVEAL THAT HE WAS NEVER REALLY A ROBIN TO BEGIN WITH
Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time #1
(Scott Tipton, David Tipton, Simon Fraser, Gary Caldwell; IDW)
Batman Incorporated #7
(Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham, Nathan Fairbairn; DC)
Dark Avengers #186
(Jeff Parker, Mirco Pierfederici, Neil Edwards, Terry Pallot, Chris Sotomayor; Marvel)