There have been so many Batman comic books published over the decades that it really can get difficult for writers to find new angles and story ideas. Kings of Fear certainly doesn't kick off in the freshest of fashions: Batman recaptures a runaway Joker, and then has to enter Arkham Asylum to defeat him again. It's standard stuff for the character, although it does dangle some intriguing criticism of Batman's methods at one point that could lead somewhere if writer Scott Peterson is bold enough to extend it fully.
Visually there are some inventive panels and pages, but ultimately how much one likes it will come down to how much one enjoys the art of Kelley Jones. A noted Batman artist of past years, Jones has a distinctive and exaggerated style to which I've never quite warmed. Your taste may vary. (3/5)
Batman: Kings of Fear #1. DC Comics. Written by Scott Peterson. Art by Kelley Jones. Colours by Michelle Madsen.
Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Daredevil, Detective Comics, Justice League Dark, Star Wars: Darth Vader, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, and The Terrifics.
DC Comics. Written by Brian Michael Bendis. Art by Patrick Gleason. Colours by Alejandro Sanchez.We're a few issues into Brian Michael Bendis' double-book run on Action Comics and Superman, and we're pretty much getting what any regular Bendis reader will have expected. Long-form storytelling, with a comparatively slow plot and a lot of conversation and moments of character. This Action story thread, which follows how the Metropolis criminal underworld tries to work around Superman, is fascinating stuff but it does seem to be dragging a little already. Patrick Gleason's art is sensational though, so while the writing is imperfect the visuals are compensating wonderfully. A cliffhanger ending throws a major plot ball into the air that I did not expect; I'm keen to see where it goes. (4/5)
Marvel. Written by Charles Soule. Art and colours by Phil Noto.In the past, Matt Murdock had invented a twin named Mike that he could masquerade as in the course of his crime-fighting adventures. Now Mike Murdock has returned - which is, of course, impossible. After a long and unfinished arc regarding the Kingpin becoming New York's mayor, seeing a strange whimsical storyline like this feels like a mild irritation. Phil Noto's art is great and Charles Soule's script is okay enough, the concept of the story simply doesn't hold very much appeal. (3/5)
DC Comics. Written by Bryan Hill. Art by Miguel Mendonca and Diana Egea. Colours by Adriano Lucas.Karma lures Batman and his sidekicks into a final confrontation in the climactic issue of "On the Outside". It's all a set-up for a new Outsiders monthly in which Batman, Katana, Orphan, the Signal, and Black Lightning travel the world tracking down crises around the world based on alien intelligence. In effect, that makes this current Detective arc its pilot. The character set is good - it's particularly nice for DC to find a purpose for the Signal - and Bryan Hill's writing is solid and effective superhero stuff. The artwork by Mendonca and Egea is particularly strong: both detailed and effective. (4/5)
Oni Press. Written by Sam Logan. Art and colours by Fred C. Stresing.Invader Zim is a typically reliable book with a consistent quality and style: broadly amusing, and clearly of appeal to TV series fans, but never exceptional or ground-breaking. This issue, in which Zim's attempt to win a school science fair is sabotaged by robot sidekick Gir and a sackful of wiener sausages, actually feels slightly under-par. It's enjoyable enough but ultimately mediocre. It feels like a subject the show would have covered, but the jokes simply don't feel strong enough. Collectors of the whole series won't find it as waste as such, but certainly casual readers could be reading much better stuff. (2/5)
DC Comics. Written by James Tynion IV. Art by Alvaro Martinez Bueno and Raul Fernandez. Colours by Brad Anderson.With the original owners of magic seemingly coming to take it back from humanity, Wonder Woman, Zatanna, Man-Bat, Detective Chimp, and Swamp Thing travel to the Tower of Dr Fate for assistance. I love a good team book, a comic that generally rises and falls based on two factors: firstly, a good combination of superheroes, which I definitely feel has been nailed here. It's in a team that second-string heroes like Detective Chimp can thrive, and it is where bigger characters like Swamp Thing can keep being used between their own solo titles. Secondly, a good team delivers good dialogue, and James Tynion IV is absolutely succeeding as well. (4/5)
Marvel. Written by Charles Soule. Art by Guiseppe Camuncoli and Daniele Orlandini. Colours by Dono Sanchez-Almara and Erick Arciniega.Two Imperial Inquisitors reveal they have a heart - and with Vader on the warpath that makes them his latest target. A well-developed and staged chase through Coruscant allows this current story arc to advance into its next stage via an important conversation between Vader and the Emperor. The artwork this issue is boosted by some lovely rich colours, particularly the golds and oranges of Coruscant at dusk. It's solidly enjoyable tie-in work that fans will love. (3/5)
Marvel. Written by Simon Spurrier. Art by Kev Walker and Marc Deering. Colours by Java Tartaglia.Aphra remains trapped inside a spore-infested space prison, being targeted by a new lover - an Imperial lover - and hunted down by an older one. The combination of action, humour, and odd moments of heart really works for this, the best of Marvel's Star Wars comics. The overall story arc takes a firm step forward as Aphra works towards her escape, and it all comes nicely illustrated by Kev Walker and Marc Deering. I don't think it's a coincidence that the best Star Wars comic is the one that relies the least on pre-existing movie characters. There's a much stronger sense of uncertainty and suspense going on. (4/5)
DC Comics. Written by Jeff Lemire. Art by Dale Eaglesham. Colours by Mike Atiyeh.The meeting of heroes promised back at the beginning of The Terrifics finally arrives, and the DC Universe heroes led by Mr Terrific finally come face-to-face with Alan Moore's Tom Strong. It feels terribly cynical and mercenary, taking Moore's creation and incorporating it into the DCU in the full knowledge that Moore wants them to leave his characters alone. The bottom line? Strong is not an interesting or original enough character for DC to sacrifice their creative dignity by including him. Dale Eaglesham's art is clean and neatly composed, with an old-fashioned style. Lemire's writing is still fairly simple and - one could argue - ordinary. There have been better issues of this book, for sure. (2/5)