A couple of days later than planned, but hey – there was a lot going on on Wednesday. But comics came out, and I still read comics, so here’s what I thought, with as little in the way of a sense of looming apocalyptic doom as I can manage…
Action Comics #967
(DC / Dan Jurgens, Tyler Kirkham, Rob Leigh, Arif Prianto)
This continues to be a perfectly serviceable Superman run, the sort of thing Jurgens can turn out in his sleep; but it struggles to make itself feel essential while Tomasi and Gleason’s Superman is so good. As ever with Jurgens, it feels like it’d be better if he were also drawing it (no disrespect to Kirkham, who is fine; but the writer is an all-time classic Superman artist), and there’s little that feels especially inspiring about “Lex is trying to fill Superman’s shoes”. The exposition in the early pages about why Clark’s wearing this new costume, meanwhile, is amusing but somewhat corny.
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #1
(Marvel / Gerry Conway, Ryan Stegman, Sonia Oback, Joe Caramagna)
Stories about superheroes as dads are all the rage, it seems; and so we have an alternate-timeline Peter Parker married to MJ with a super-powered daughter named Annie-May. I struggle to figure out exactly where this fits in terms of continuity (I’d got the impression from Spider-Verse that this Peter lived in the future, but he’s selling photos to a Bugle-owning Jonah), but otherwise it does exactly what you’d expect from that premise and this creative team. It’s absolutely fine, and Stegman is excellent, but I’m still not entirely sure why it exists.
The Clone Conspiracy #2
(Marvel / Dan Slott, Jim Cheung, John Dell, Justin Ponsor, Joe Caramagna)
Or to give it its full cover title: The Amazing Spider-Man: Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy. Sigh. Anyway, Dan Slott’s 90s extravaganza continues, with a hefty dose of explanatory backstory and one pretty excellent bait-and-switch twist (even if that does serve as pretty much the only actual piece of plot movement in the issue). This is proving to be a more enjoyable Spider-event so far than Verse was, although given its premise (the Jackal is bringing literally everybody from Peter’s past back to life) it’s going to have to work hard to stick the landing. But if it does, and ends up being everything this several years’ run was building towards, it’ll justify Slott arguably having carried on with Amazing past the point where it would have made sense to stop.
Detective Comics #944
(DC / James Tynion IV, Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Adriano Lucas, Marilyn Patrizio)
Tom King’s Batman hitting its stride lately meant that Tynion and Barrows faced competition for the “best Batbook” mantle. But this second major arc (ignoring the Monster Men crossover that I skipped entirely) starts to live up to the standards of the first with this issue, after a slightly flat opening chapter. The Victim Syndicate are a great conceit, and while this issue is once again (a theme for the week) a pretty heavy exposition dump, it’s a fascinating situation to watch unfold. Barrows, one of DC’s most rapidly-improving talents, is on top form, with some truly great expressions on Batman under his mask (not always an easy thing to pull off) and a genuinely chilling final page.
The Flash #10
(DC / Joshua Williamson, Felipe Watanabe, Oclair Albert, Chris Sotomayor, Steve Wands)
I haven’t really been following Flash, having been disappointed by the Rebirth issue. And the Barry Allen of this issue shows me exactly why, by virtue of still not being anything like the Grant Gustin version I love so much. But the reason I picked this up was the identity of this new arc’s antagonist: The Shade, my favourite character from one of my favourite ever series (Starman). It’s a risky move putting him in the hands of someone who isn’t James Robinson (even though he was actually a Flash villain before his repurposing in that series), and even riskier to seemingly make him the villain. And I won’t be impressed if Hope is getting fridged, either. But the opening pages do a pretty good job of imitating the way Robinson wrote about him, so for the moment I’m cautiously optimistic this is leading somewhere rather than just being a cheap bit of name recognition.
Invincible Iron Man #1
(Marvel / Brian Michael Bendis, Stefano Caselli, Marte Cragia, Clayton Cowles)
I’ve been a Bendis fan to at least some degree for a decade and a half, but I have to admit to finding myself disillusioned with his recent output. I only gave the previous iteration of Iron Man a handful of issues, and even the previously untouchable (No Longer Ultimate) Spider-Man has lost a bit of its spark. In many ways, this launching of Riri Williams as the new “Ironheart” does feel a little like Miles Morales 2.0 – but Bendis can often be at his most fun when writing teenage characters, and so it proves here. Riri’s personality and backstory are obviously close to his heart (evidently inspired to at least some degree by his adoptive daughters) and when Bendis really cares about something is when it tends to shine. So I don’t know how long it’ll stay like this, but for the moment this was enough to have me consider coming back for #2.
Mother Panic #1
(DC Young Animal / Jody Houser, Tommy Lee Edwards, John Workman)
Each of the Young Animal launches has had its own way of feeling like a continuation of the spirit of early ’90s Vertigo; and while on the surface Mother Panic is the least like the others, the way it achieves this instead is to be an edgy sweary book that’s also set directly in the DCU. In and of itself, it’s a very nicely wrought and intriguing opening issue that, in being a Gotham-set, Bat-peripheral book, is reminiscent of a Brubaker/Rucka joint. Its problem, though, is that it exists at the same time as there being loads of other Bat-peripheral books and characters; and with Kate Kane doing her thing over in Detective Comics I’m not sure how much this one marks out its own niche, “Fuck the Bat” dialogue or no. But if you weren’t reading any other Gotham-set titles, I can see how it would stand out better.
New Super-Man #5
(DC / Gene Luen Yang, Viktor Bogdanovic, Richard Friend, Hi-Fi, Dave Sharpe)
Seriously, how much exposition does one week need? This hugely entertaining series, a brand new launch as part of Rebirth, fills us in on the backstory of Kenan’s father, and takes a number of twists and turns as the “Super-Man” struggles to figure out which side of the conflict he should be on. I’ve no idea if anyone else is even reading this series, or if it’ll make it into double figures, but I like it a lot.
(DC / Steve Orlando, Brian Ching, Michael Atiyek, Steve Wands)
I’m still not entirely feeling this book, and I don’t really know why. I think it’s maybe that it’s taken a leap into cosmic spacey stuff a bit too quickly – launching into the ill-advised “Zor-El is Cyborg Superman” stuff that was also the point around which the previous New 52 run started to run out of steam. And while Ching’s art is distinctive and characterful, I think I’d rather see it deployed on a book about Kara coming to terms with life on Earth, which is what I hoped this new series’ setup would revolve around. We’ll see how it goes when this arc is done, but I’ll struggle to maintain interest in a Supergirl book that’s mostly just about angst for Argo City.
Next week’s pull list: Batman #10, Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye #2, Green Arrow #11, Jessica Jones #2, Kill or Be Killed #4, Superman #11, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #14. Want to suggest something I should be reading? Shout up in the comments or on Twitter!