December 8, 2014

The Pull List: 3 December 2014

Last month Image published the first issue of Tooth & Claw, an outstanding fantasy comic by Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey. It's back for a second issue this month, one trademark dispute later, under the revised title of The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw.

The first issue introduced a world of anthropomorphic animals living in a two-tier society of powerful, upper-class magicians and enslaved miners and workers. This second issue introduces an entirely unexpected twist to the world Busiek and Dewey have created; one that will probably dictate the course of the series going forward. This impressed me, since it's rare that issue #2 of a comic book would have such a surprising change to the status quo. It has me even keener to read issue #3.

Dewey's artwork is stunning, depicting the various animal protagonists in a very realistic, non-cartoony fashion. It creates a much more mature, intricate world as a result. Kurt Busiek's script is similarly strong, boasting rich characterisation and well-considered fantasy world-building. There's such an enormous world implied in the book's dialogue and design, and hopefully future issues will begin to expand and explore that world in depth. Readers seeking a strong new fantasy comic need look no further: The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw is the real deal. (5/5)

Image. Written by Kurt Busiek. Art by Benjamin Dewey. Colours by Jordie Bellaire.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Alien vs Predator, Batman Eternal, Cloaks, Detective Comics, Doctor Who, and The Woods.

Action Comics 37
DC Comics. Written by Greg Pak. Art by Aaron Kuder. Colours by Wil Quintana.
DC are running some sensational alternate covers this month, featuring landscape oriented artwork by the fabulous Darwyn Cooke. I don't really care about limited or alternate covers that much, but these are uniformly gorgeous, and I'm glad my copies of Action and Detective Comics both came with them when I picked up my order from my local comic shop. As for the contents: Action Comics 37 is a big improvement over 36, pulling away from the apparent supernatural elements in favour of something a lot more Cthulhoid and inter-dimensional. I'm continuing to love the supporting cast that Pak has built for this book, particularly Lana Lang. I don't remember her ever getting this much depth and agency in the pre-New 52 days. (4/5)

Alien vs Predator: Fire and Stone #3
Dark Horse. Written by Christopher Sebela. Art by Ariel Olivetti.
I think this book is my least favourite of the four Fire and Stone miniseries. It's sort of all over the place, with Aliens fighting Predators, Predators fighting humans, human fighting humans, humans fighting mutated Promethean giants, mutant Promethean giants fighting Aliens... it's just too much in one book and comes across as deeply silly. This issue introduces a mutated Promethean giant Predator, so I suppose by the time the book wraps up we'll see a mutated Promethean giant Alien as well. Who can say? This book makes me exhausted trying to care about it. (1/5)

Batman Eternal 35
DC Comics. Written by James Tynion IV. Story by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV. Consulting writers: Ray Fawkes, Tim Seeley and Kyle Higgins. Art by Fernando Blanco. Colours by Marcelo Majolo.
I suppose the run of knock-out issues couldn't last. After defeating Hush, Batman has turned his attention to police commissioner Jason Bard - while in Detroit Vicki Vale is doing some digging into Bard's history herself. It's a weak issue because it doesn't actually deliver on its own promise. The cover even features events that take place moments after the issue ends, which is more than a little weird. Hopefully this issue is a momentarily stagger and not a sign that the quality's going to slip again. (Random note: I find it hilarious that in three weeks Batman Eternal will become the highest-numbered comic of the current DCU.) (2/5)

Cloaks 4
Boom Studios. Written by Caleb Monroe. Art by Mariano Navarro.
This four-issue miniseries wraps up in a mainly satifying fashion, although clearly in a way that signals future miniseries down the road - assuming sales were strong enough to warrant it. This doesn't feel like a self-contained story so much as the first arc in something ongoing. I wouldn't object to seeing Cloaks continue: I think there's enough here to warrant another few storylines that combine secret agents and stage magicians. Mariano Navarro's artwork was particularly appealing, in a nicely traditional comic-book kind of a way. (3/5)

Detective Comics 37
DC Comics. Written by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccelatto. Art by Francis Manapul. Colours by Brian Buccelatto.
I've never really read many Batman comics featuring Anarky. The character seemed to pass me by almost entirely, so even when I did stumble upon an issue featuring him I tended to just get a little confused. For what it's worth, this issue re-introduces Anarky to the DC Universe for the first time post-Flashpoint. It's a well develop opening part, with a guest appearance by the Mad Hatter thrown in for good measure. The simmering distrust between Batman and Harvey Bullock continues apace, and the issue has a good balance of plot and character development with moments of action and suspense. It's great stuff, and it's great that have Manapul and Buccelatto back after their short break. Plus I liked this book's Darwyn Cooke cover even more than Action Comics'. (4/5)

Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor 5
Titan Comics. Written by Al Ewing. Art by Boo Cook and Verity Glass. Colours by Hi-Fi.
I am getting really impressed at the consistency of Titan's Doctor Who comics. This issue concludes the first two-parter for the 11th Doctor, and it does it in a highly entertaining and efficient manner. The characterisation remains spot on: it's not just that pre-existing characters like the Doctor are written so true to the televised version, it's that the new characters introduced each issue are well-rounded and believable as well. It's good stuff. (4/5)

Justice League 3000 12
DC Comics. Written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis. Art by Howard Porter. Colours by Hi-Fi.
Despite their extensive array of publications over the decades it seems like Giffen and DeMatteis will always be most fondly remembered for their run on Justice League International, which treated the world's premier superhero team as a kind of comic book sitcom. Two of the most popular characters from that run were Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, so it's not a surprise to see them crop up here: cryogenically frozen back in the late 1980s and defrosted in the 31st century. It seems a mildly desperate gambit to boost this book's flagging sales, but if it means I get a few issues of Beetle and Booster hijinks, then I'm hardly going to complain. (3/5)

The Woods 8
Boom Studios. Written by James Tynion IV. Art by Michael Dialynas. Colours by Josan Gonzalez.
This book continues to confound. It started off seeming to be some kind of Battle Royale riff, but rapidly slid into science fiction, then fantasy, and now a sort of weird sci-fi/fantasy hybrid. It's not perfect - the current section of plot does feel as if it's beginning to drag a little - but it's definitely intriguing, and seems to be raising more and more questions with every issue. The flashbacks to the cast's backstories continues here, and gets remarkably dark. Even though I could see the resolution coming, I was desperately hoping it wasn't going to be as I suspected. Oh Adrian... (3/5)

Winner of the Week: The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw.
Loser of the Week: Alien vs Predator.

1 comment:

  1. Regarding JL3000, I've been reading the book for about four months to try and get up to speed before Beetle and Booster made their appearance. I can see why it's losing sales, because it's honestly not all that compelling, at least in my opinion. Flawed knock-off versions of five Justice League characters don't make for protagonists I care much about.

    But at least Beetle and Booster were fun to read again.


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