October 22, 2012

The Pull List: 17 October 2012

September sales figures have made it very clear that, as irritating and underwhelming as I personally found it, DC's Zero Month was a big hit with readers. Every New 52 title saw a bump in sales. For some titles it was relatively minor: Aquaman sold an extra 17 copies, at best estimates. For others it was surprisingly huge: Batman jumped 25%, The Savage Hawkman 27% and Green Lantern 16%, for example. Sales of Frankenstein jumped from 14,700 to 18,100 - sadly that still wasn't enough to save it from cancellation come January.

Of course the real test will be to see how many of these new readers stay on for October - those that do may be in for a shock, given how many cliffhangers will be getting resolved this month. To fully exploit the sales potential of the Zero Month stunt, DC really needed all of its titles to have strong jumping-on points the following month - and very few books do. It smells, as does much of the New 52, like DC editorial is running things off the tops of their heads, improvising the creative direction as they go.

One thing the success of Zero Month pretty much guarantees is another sales stunt in 2013. Minus One Month? A return to DC One Million? A month of issues devoted to the villains? There are a lot of ideas, but I would bet all the money in my pockets that we're going to get something around September next year.

Under the cut: reviews of Batwoman, Cyber-Force, Daredevil, DC Comics Presents, Hawkeye, It Girl and the Atomics, Legion of Super-Heroes, Sword of Sorcery and Wonder Woman.

Batwoman #13
DC Comics. Written by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman. Art by J.H. Williams III.
Batwoman teams up with Wonder Woman to follow the trail of the villain Medusa. I know it's par for the course by now to praise J.H. Williams III for his inventive and beautiful panel layouts, but it's still worth mentioning that this issue in particular features some outstanding work. It's also great to see Batwoman connecting with the broader DC Universe at last: she and Wonder Woman make a great team, and a lot of time is spent on internal monologues expressing how they feel about each other. (5/5)

Cyber-Force #1
Image Comics. Written by Marc Silvestri and Matt Hawkins. Art by Khoi Pham and Sunny Gho.
This is the first issue of Marc Silvestri's Kickstarter-funded reboot, and since it came for free I'd have to say it's easily the best value-for-money in comic shops this week. The comic itself is relatively entertaining: nothing exceptional storywise, but with some nice artwork by Khoi Pham. I'm not entirely sure I'd race to read any more, and certainly I doubt I'll start paying for it come issue #6 (the first five are free), but at this price you've really no excuse not to check it out. (2/5)

Daredevil #19
Marvel. Written by Mark Waid. Art by Chris Samnee.
Matt Murdock's increasingly paranoid delusions come to a head this issue, with an answer as to whether he genuinely is going out of his mind, or if somebody is setting him up. Add in some nice scenes for his supporting cast (particularly Foggy Nelson) and you've got one top-quality comic once again. This really is Marvel's best monthly comic at the moment (with one possible exception: see below) and I'm loving how Waid is weaving in all of his storylines so far into a cohesive, serialized run. This is a comic that's actually better to read month-by-month, rather than waiting for the trade. (5/5)

DC Comics Presents #13
DC Comics. Written by Marc Andreyko. Art by Robson Rocha.
I don't quite understand the point of DC Comics Presents, which appears to be a pointless over-arching label for a series of miniseries that would probably have sold just as well on their own. It seems particularly redundant with the introduction of the National Comics brand, which does exactly the same thing via a series of one-shots. This issue is the start of a new four-issue storyline re-introducing second-string heroes Black Lightning and Blue Devil. It's a clever combination (black and blue, get it?) and one that writer Marc Andreyko uses well. It's only a first issue, but two characters I've always had a fondness four seem to be getting an introduction that's contemporary, entertaining and a close reflection of their respective origins as well. (4/5)

Hawkeye #3
Marvel. Written by Matt Fraction. Art by David Aja.
Now that we're three issues in, I think Hawkeye is Marvel's best bet to top Daredevil as "Marvel comic currently in print". It's fast-paced, fun to read, gut-bustingly funny and boasts striking art by David Aja with a deliberately limited colour palette. This issue focuses on Clint's trick arrows as he chats up and sleeps with a woman, and then has to rescue her from mysterious assailants. I'm so impressed with Fraction's writing that I'm planning on checking out Marvel's upcoming relaunches of Fantastic Four and FF, both of which Fraction will be writing - and I hate the Fantastic Four. (5/5)

It Girl and the Atomics #3
Image Comics. Written by Jamie S. Rich. Art by Mike Norton.
This comic has a character called the Skunk whose superpower involves firing noxious gas from his butt. That's pretty much all you need to know to determine whether or not It Girl and the Atomics is for you. I'm really digging it: Jamie S. Rich continues to fill the characters with a lot of personality and humour, while Mike Norton's art is bright and expressive. While I've enjoyed the previous issues, this one cemented my decision to follow It Girl for the long run. (4/5)

Legion of Super-Heroes #13
DC Comics. Written by Paul Levitz. Art by Scott Kolins.
This is the worst-drawn comic I think I have ever purchased. It features art so bad that I could have drawn better - and one successful comic I have drawn as good as featured stick-figure artwork. I am stunned that DC editorial would let this book out of the door. Has it always been this awful and I failed to notice? Paul Levitz's script continues in its typically enjoyable vein, but it's hard to enjoy when read through the appaling, fractured lens of Scott Kolins. With a whole pile of new Marvel books coming I'm going to have to be very harsh with my pull list - another issue like this and DC's going to make it really easy for me. (1/5)

Sword of Sorcery #1
DC Comics. Written by Christy Marx. Art by Aaron Lopresti. Backup written by Tony Bedard. Backup art by Jesus Saiz.
I wasn't entirely sure what I thought of Sword of Sorcery's zero issue, but this second installment (titled issue #1, which is unnecessarily confusing) kicks into high gear. What we have here is a much stronger story, with no real world introduction, no attempts at sexual assault and four female protagonists. It's unashamed high fantasy, but then again that isn't really a genre that's getting much of a look-in these days. It's a welcome addition to the New 52, and if you read #0 feeling doubtful, I recommend giving this new issue a try. (4/5)

Wonder Woman #13
DC Comics. Written by Brian Azzarello. Art by Tony Akins and Dan Green.
The short version is that Wonder Woman continues to be an outstanding read. The longer version is that not only does this issue smoothly pick up the threads from issue #12 but appears to be tying into issue #0 as well. I like that Azzarello has done this - taken what could have been a one-off interlude and turned it into an integral part of the overall story. (4/5)

Winner of the Week: Hawkeye #3. This is a fabulous, self-contained read.
Loser of the Week: Legion of Super-Heroes #13. Like the Matrix, nobody can tell you how bad this issue's artwork is - you have to see it for yourself.

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