Yes, alright, it’s been a month, not a week, since the last one. But I found throughout January that while I was reading several things, they were mostly mid-arc issues of ongoing comics I’d already said something about – the perennial problem of reviewing single-issue series. I didn’t really try anything new in that time, either; but I have done this week, plus a few interesting things have jumped out in my regular books, so let’s take a look.
All-Star Batman #7
(DC / Scott Snyder, Tula Lotay, Steve Wands)
It’s still tough to get a handle on what Scott Snyder is doing with the character and the stories in All-Star, but this is a done-in-one (despite being part of the book’s second arc) about Poison Ivy drawn by Tula Lotay, and is every bit as gorgeous as that sounds like it would be. I think this dramatic take on Batman – worlds away from what Snyder was doing in his run on the main title – would have more impact if Tom King’s run weren’t going on at the moment, to be honest. As it is, while it’s interesting, it struggles to feel essential – except when the art jumps out.
Detective Comics #950
(DC / James Tynion IV, Marcio Takara, Alvaro Martinez, Eddy Barrows, Raul Fernandez, Eber Ferreira, Dean White, Brad Anderson, Adriano Lucas, Marilyn Patrizio)
Yes, it’s an arbitrary number to mark as a landmark, especially since we’re not that far away from the comic hitting four digits, but I always liked when high-numbered DC books did an oversized special in the ’80s and ’90s, so there’s no reason to rail against it now. And this basically means getting a twice-as-long issue of current Detective Comics for an extra 50p, which is no bad thing at all. It’s basically a couple of extended vignettes, filled with the sort of excellent character work that Tynion has been bringing to his building of the Gotham Family over the past year. The first half is the standout – an absolutely terrific piece focusing on Cassandra Cain that sets up the imminent reappearance of a classic, but often forgotten, mid-tier Bat-villain. But there’s good stuff elsewhere, too, especially in the conversations between Batwing and Azrael. In the case of the latter, it’s still kind of weird reading comics about Jean-Paul Valley (long hair and glasses at all) where he hasn’t been created with the sole purpose of taking over as Batman and going mad at some point; but it’s still kind of nice having him around.
Jessica Jones #5
(Marvel / Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos, Matt Hollingsworth, Cory Petit)
Okay, so here’s a thing. I’ve talked before (maybe not on here, but definitely elsewhere) about an issue I have with superhero comics’ Big Event Storytelling sometimes, in that it too often focuses on the effect that these events have on the heroes, and not on the ordinary people around them. Sometimes it makes sense to do that, and sometimes they get away with it; but when you’ve got huge, cataclysmic events going on, some creators can sometimes be guilty of ignoring those effects. It’s a problem I’ve had with the writing of Jonathan Hickman on more than one occasion – first, when he wiped out most of mainland Europe with barely a glance in Ultimates, and then in Secret Wars, when entire universes were merged with one-another, but we never got to see how that affected ordinary people (like the majority of the Ultimate Spider-Man supporting cast, who never got a proper farewell).
So I’m interested to see a comic coming out that is addressing that – and, what’s more, a comic written by someone who’s done the majority of Marvel’s big events in recent years (including one that’s just finished and which, let’s be blunt, got some terrible reviews). In a lot of readers’ eyes, Brian Michael Bendis can’t do much right at the moment – so even though I expected him to still be good when reteaming with Alias co-creator Michael Gaydos on Jessica Jones, I didn’t expect him to deliver a Grant Morrisonian dialectic on the nature of superhero events, universe-merging and story rebooting.
Having present-day Marvel publish a comic, by their highest-profile writer, in which somebody says the words “None of it matters”… well, that’s as shocking as the time Buddy Baker turned around and said “I can see you!” It’s utterly fascinating, and I’ve no idea if any other comic (or even any other issues of this one) will continue to address it, but… wow.
New Super-Man #8
(DC / Gene Luen Yang, Billy Tan, Haining, Gadson, Dave Sharpe)
And speaking of “Wow”… there’s this. Already a pretty damned great issue of New Super-Man – one of the best since the first couple, with an absolutely brilliant proper full-on coming-of-age hero moment for Kenan and a general shuffling up of the status quo for its three lead characters – this all of a sudden does… something on its last page. I can’t say what it is. I can’t even hint at it. Because you won’t see it’s coming. You also may not get it, unless you know a certain bit of historical detail about comics. But, bloody hell. Round of applause. I love this book.
Justice League of America #1
(DC / Steve Orlando, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Marcelo Maiolo, Clayton Cowles)
This is… well, it’s fine. I think I’d like it more if it was called Batman and the Outsiders, as that’s more what it feels like a revamp of; like with the last time DC were doing something like this (with Justice League United), I don’t really see the point of there being more than one Justice League book with more than one Justice League lineup (unless you’re doing the International/Europe thing). This is basically just “Batman assembles a group of earthier, B- and C-list heroes to do ground-level missions”, and that’s fine, but I don’t know what makes it a Justice League. But the issue itself is fine at what it does, I like some of the characters and I’m less keen on some of the others. But a first issue of something like this needs to justify itself better than I think this manages to.
(Marvel / Matthew Rosenberg, Ben Torres, Jordan Boyd, Travis Lanham)
A quite interesting take on a Wilson Fisk solo series, spinning off from the “Yes, he’s a baddie, but let’s try and see if we can approach him from a sympathetic angle” kind of thing the Daredevil TV series did. Actually, what strikes me the most about this is how much it reminds me of the late ’80s take on Lex Luthor (it probably helps that I only just re-read Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography the other day, which as well as being about a big and bald rich supervillain also even follows a journalist writing a book about him). That makes it difficult to see this as doing something truly original, but with the Eduardo Risso-meets-Frank Miller stylings of Ben Torres, it’s a good-looking book that could yet have some depth to it if it manages to steer clear of some obvious cliches. Worth sticking with, for now.