November 22, 2012

The Pull List: 21 November 2012

I've always considered myself a DC fan, and not so much of a Marvel fan. It's not that I dislike Marvel, I've just always responded more positively to DC's characters. Ask me to name my favourite superheroes, and I'm going to give you a list that includes Batman, Wonder Woman, Nightwing and Hawkman rather than a list including Iron Man, Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four.

I can't help but notice, however, that I'm starting to buy more and more of Marvel's product. Obviously I'm checking out their Marvel Now relaunches as they come out, but I'm also regularly buying Daredevil, Hawkeye and Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, and they're consistently among the best comics I read. Add in the new Thor and Captain America comics and I'm becoming more involved in Marvel by the minute.

This doesn't take into account Image, whose string of science fiction miniseries have me hooked pretty aggressively as well. Between them, Marvel and the DC titles I was already buying, my weekly comics spend is threatening to spin out of control. It may be time to make some tough choices on which regular titles I keep, and which get dropped.

Under the cut: reviews of Batwoman, Captain America, Comeback, Daredevil, Hawkeye, The Indestructible Hulk, Iron Man, It Girl and the Atomics, Judge Dredd, Legion of Super-Heroes, Sword of Sorcery, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man and Wonder Woman. I intended to read and review Journey into Mystery #646 and Revival #5, but haven't managed to buy copies of them yet. I really need to pre-order more often.

Batwoman #14
DC Comics. Written by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman. Art by J.H. Williams III.
For one thing I want to thank Williams for proving my point about Wonder Woman: it's not her costume that makes her look skeezy, it's the way that she's drawn - evidenced by the noble, powerful, utterly awesome way the character is represented here. This Batwoman/Wonder Woman team-up is working brilliantly, with both characters having something to offer each other, and who appreciate each other's abilities. This feels like a World's Finest-level friendship in the making, and I hope DC continues to pursue it. The artwork and layout is, as always, top-notch. The storyline advances towards a climax that's been more than a year in the making. This is a classy, entertaining, wonderfully presented comic book. (5/5)

Captain America #1
Marvel Comics. Written by Rick Remender. Art by John Romita Jr, Klaus Janson and Dean White.
Rick Remender's been given one of the hardest gigs in comics: following up from Ed Brubaker on Captain America. Thankfully he's got a lot going for him: firstly, he's been paired with John Romita Jr, Klaus Janson and Dean White's outstanding artwork. Secondly, he's written an absolutely fantastic script. It takes the Planet Hulk approach to the character: re-invigorate the character's potential by taking them completely out of their standard environment. Clever use of flashbacks to Steve Rogers' childhood helps give this issue a really strong focus on who Captain America is and what he stands for (other than America, of course). This is a wonderful first issue, and has me hooked for the second issue in a way that didn't happen for Iron Man (below) or Remender's own Uncanny Avengers. (5/5)

Comeback #1
Image. Written by Ed Brisson. Art by Michael Walsh.
Yet another science fiction miniseries from Image, and yet another comic book that falls into a genre I'm going to refer to as 'film pitch'. You know the comic: it's perfectly entertaining and enjoyable in its own right, but it's hard not to notice that Comeback would probably make a better feature film than a comic book. Here a secretive company rescues people from fatal accidents in the past to reunite them with their families in the future - only something is clearly going to go wrong. There's not quite enough of a hook in this issue to make me desperate to find out what happens next. Promising, but not perfect. (3/5)

Daredevil #20
Marvel Comics. Written by Mark Waid. Art by Chris Samnee and Javier Rodriguez.
The Spot is a ridiculous villain, but Mark Waid has thought up some absolutely brilliant uses of his super-power: generating little holes in space that you can put things into. So, to use one of this issue's examples, you could stick Daredevil's head in one hole, pull it out of another, and you can hold Daredevil's severed head in your hands on the other side of the room to his body. It's a device that Waid cleverly uses twice: the first time it's hilarious, the second it's one of the most effective moments of comic book horror this year. Chris Samnee's art is excellent, as always. This comic is excellent, as always. (5/5)

Hawkeye #4
Marvel Comics. Written by Matt Fraction. Art by Javier Pulido.
Damn it if Hawkeye isn't simply continuing to knock my socks off. This fourth issue is possibly the best so far, combining low-level vigilante superheroics, international espionage, drama and laugh-out-loud humour. Pulido fills in for David Aja so brilliantly that at first I actually didn't notice. This comic also benefits from more panels per page than you usually see nowadays: the effect is that you're getting a lot more story per issue than the usual Marvel or DC title. When comics are costing more and more, getting this much plot per issue for only $2.99 makes this one of the best deals around. And it's bloody fantastic. (5/5)

The Indestructible Hulk #1
Marvel Comics. Written by Mark Waid. Art by Leinil Francis Yu.
Another Marvel Now relaunch, thankfully this is one of the good ones. Mark Waid's always known how to tell a satisfying story, and here he gives Bruce Banner a whole new direction that still allows for satisfying "Hulk Smash!" action. I'm not entirely sold on Yu's artwork, but that's pretty much a taste thing. Avengers fans should note that SHIELD Agent Maria Hill appears to be getting a strong supporting presence in this book. This isn't a knock out of the park like Thor: God of Thunder or Captain America, but it's definitely entertaining and has a lot of promise: Daredevil's testament to how brilliantly Waid can develop an ongoing series. (4/5)

Iron Man #2
Marvel Comics. Written by Kieron Gillen. Art by Greg Land and Jay Leisten.
I think it's a bit cheeky of Marvel to start releasing the second issues of some of these Marvel Now relaunches only a fortnight after the first issues were released. They did it with Deadpool #2 (which I've decided not to keep on with) and they've done it with Iron Man #2. Here Tony Stark fights a bunch of modern-day Arthurian knights in robot suits while swapping out elements of his own Iron Man outfit so many times it's like he's a walking Micronaut. It's not bad, but neither is it exceptionally great, and if Marvel are going to expect me to buy a $3.99 comic twice a month then I'm afraid they're going to be sorely disappointed. (2/5)

It Girl and the Atomics #4
Image. Written by Jamie S. Rich. Art by Mike Norton.
Another breezy, highly entertaining instalment of pop art superheroics. I'm really enjoying It Girl and the Atomics - Rich and Norton are doing their own thing, but still keeping the book broadly in the style that Mike Allred made famous when he created the characters. This issue reunites It Girl with her estranged sister, leading to a string of hilarious chibi-style interludes in between the main action. There's an inventiveness to this issue that makes it the best one yet for this fledgling series. I dig it. (4/5)

Judge Dredd #1
IDW. Written by Duane Swierczynski. Art by Nelson Daniel and Paul Gulacy.
IDW has made an enormous impact on the market with TV and movie spin-offs, including Doctor Who, Star Trek and Transformers. Now they've moved to an odder sort of spin-off: adapting other people's pre-existing comics. They launched new versions of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Popeye and The Crow, and now their attention has shifted to Britain's most famous comic book antihero: Judge Dredd. I'm not entirely sure why. There's some potential in an American format comic of Judge Dredd, since 2000AD only features Dredd in short seven-page episodes and an American comic can at least stretch out each episode to a full 20-24 pages. Why, then, has IDW split this issue in half, the first with the first part of a serialised adventure and the second a one-shot comedy backup? It's not just duplicating the character, it's duplicating the format now as well. As I result I can't bring myself to recommend that you spend US$3.99 on this comic. Buy 2000AD instead. It's still in print, freely available and you can subscribe to the digital edition online. (2/5)

Legion of Super-Heroes #14
DC Comics. Written by Paul Levitz. Art by Scott Kolins.
Thank God Scott Kolins' art has improved since last issue. It's still not great, but I feel like a certain European style is developing in his work now. I hope he pursues it, because he needs a stronger distinctive style. Here Element Lad and Chemical Kid go after some raiders while Braniac continues his own investigations and the threat of a new Fatal Five grows ever closer. The Legion of Super-Heroes is a franchise I think you either get or you don't. It's heavily serialised with a massive cast, and I think the only way to engage with the book is to just dive in and keep reading until you understand what's going on. I'm 15 issues in and I finally think I know who's who. A long-term investment, then - but an enjoyable one. (3/5)

Sword of Sorcery #2
DC Comics. Written by Christy Marx. Art by Aaron Lopresti. Backup written by Tony Bedard with art by Jesus Saiz.
Three issues in, and Sword of Sorcery has settled down into a pleasant high fantasy with a bunch of prominent female characters. I therefore give this comic 12 issues maximum before it's cancelled. It's enjoyable stuff without blowing me away, the sort of comic that's fiendishly difficult to review, because all I want to write I "well, it was enjoyable". Well, it was enjoyable. Tony Bedard's Beowulf backup continues to feel superfluous. Why this comic isn't simply titled Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld, and priced at $2.99, is beyond me. (3/5)

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #17
Marvel Comics. Written by Brian Michael Bendis. Art by Pepe Larraz.
I have adored this version of Ultimate Spider-Man since it started, but I have to admit this current "Divided We Stand" storyline is beginning to wear me a little thin. I'm craving a return of Miles Morales' personal problems, difficulties balancing school and superheroics, struggling with the death of his uncle and hiding his heroic identity from his parents. Instead we get some more civil war, a prolonged fight scene and Spider-Woman being pissy at him. I feel the series has lost its focus while it ties into whatever's going on in The Ultimates - which I don't read. (3/5)

Wonder Woman #14
DC Comics. Written by Brain Azzarello. Art by Tony Akins.
On the other hand, I am just continuing to dig the hell out of this comic. Brian Azzarello has shoved Wonder Woman's adventures headlong into Greek myth, making this feel extraordinarily fresh and engaging. In this issue we get a further introduction into one of Diana's half-sisters, the ghostly Siracca, and I think she's one of the most promising new characters I've seen this year. I hope Azzarello uses her again, or DC give her a National Comics one-shot or something: she's great. As an added bonus, we get the New 52 introduction of Orion of the New Gods - and I'm getting very excited about what he's about to bring to this title. All in all, a massively enjoyable must-read for me. (5/5)

Winner of the Week: So many five-star comics this week, but I'm going to go with Hawkeye. This book can do no wrong.
Loser of the Week: Judge Dredd. There is quite simply no legitimate reason for this comic to exist.

1 comment:

  1. I must admit that a year on from buying every comic in the New 52 relaunch, my list is starting to tilt toward Marvel too. There are just some really good writers working there right now, and they seem to be achieving with their Marvel One books what DC didn't manage with a significant number of New 52 launches... making an easy jumping on point for new readers.

    Hawkeye definitely pleasantly surprised me too... I had no interest in the character and had found Fractions Fear Itself books just so-so, but it's definitely a stand-out at the moment.

    Batwoman and Wonder Woman continue to be among the best DC books. It was a great week for releases in fact. I found it difficult to not buy more...

    Like you, I liked Remender's CA and wasn't fussed on Gillen's Iron Man. I like Gillen's past work but found Iron Man to be a bit dull, with too much narration.

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