Picks of the Week – Giant Size Edition

So I have fallen behind on doing my Picks of the Week the past couple of weeks for various reasons that I will not bore you with right now. So here is what we are going to do. This edition of Picks of the Week is going to be Giant Sized because it will be covering THREE weeks worth of books. (I can only blame myself!). It will also be the introduction of my new shorter format for these posts because as much as I like writing at length about the comics I read in a given week. It takes up a lot of time and it is one of the reasons why I have fallen behind recently. Like I have said before I will go into added detail occasionally but for the time being these reviews are going to be concise and the talk of wider issues, ideas and themes will be covered in separate posts that I can allocate the appropriate amount time to write.

So this post is going to break down into three distinct sections (think of it as a three for the price of one type deal!):

  1. The Past (the week of October 31st)
  2. The Recent Past (last week, the week of November 7th)
  3. This Week (that one should be self explanatory, the week of November #14)

So without further ado let us get this show on the road!

WARNING though, there will be SPOILERS!

The Past:

DC

Aquaman #13 is my top pick for DC this week and closes the thrilling The Others story arc with plenty of action and intrigue. The best way to describe this arc is: epic. Everything in this issue is big. The story is big. The action is big. Even the character moments have weight to them.

This is Geoff Johns looking at Aquaman seriously as a character, embracing the inherent cheese and humour that has grown around the character over the past decade or so then turning it into comic book gold. Arthur is now a deep character struggling with how the public sees him and as a result struggling with his own perception of self. This arc and issue brings these feelings to a head as he is confronted with his past. Add to this brilliant bit of retconning and additions to Aquaman’s origins in the form of The Others (who need their own series pronto!) and you get an interesting hero. A hero that you care about when he steps into action mode in a beautifully epic way.

He has a reason to fight beyond the usual “I’m a superhero, I need to hit things” motivation. The book also makes much needed changes to Aquaman and Black Manta’s relationship making them so heavily intertwined to the point where their everlasting animosity finally makes sense and is full of that most brilliant of things, emotion.

This is one of my favourite books of the New 52 and it just goes from strength to strength with each issue. Both Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis are on the top of their games with this book and it makes great strides at moving Aquaman into a corner stone of the DC Universe. The plans for the next twelve months have him primed to become the next big character. Wether that happens or not is not really the point, as long as we keep getting this awesome version of the character this consistently and with as interesting a story as we are getting currently. The future is bright for that guy who just talks to fish.

Throughout the issue, especially in the big final confrontation we get hints of the larger story that is building and the impending Atlantis story that ties into the main Justice League book. Thankfully it is not thrown in your face, there are both subtle and overt hints and teasers intermixed with all the action and character development. Such as this heartwarming Arthur/Mera moment that closes the story and the issue:

Also check out:

The other books worth your time this week are Action Comics Annual #1 & Justice League Dark Annual #1.

Action Comics Annual picks up pretty much every loose thread Grant Morrison has been leaving all over the place the past few months and either wraps them up neatly or adds to them, giving hints for the post Morrison future of the book. It also features a brilliant Anchiale back up story by Max Landis (the guy responsible for this cameo filled parody of The Death and Return of Superman) and Ryan Sook. Justice League Dark Annual takes the slow meandering pace that has plagued the book for the past few months and ramps it up into overdrive. So much happens! New members are added to the team! The story actually goes somewhere! Then you get an ending completely out of left field that I did not see coming.

I just about wet myself with excitement because several new wrinkles had just been added to my New Gods event theory. (Which I will write about soon)

Marvel

Captain Marvel #6 is the top pick for Marvel and for a good reason, It is Captain Marvel! I know a keep banging on about this book but it is for a good reason: it is a damn good read.

This issue wraps up the first timey-wimey (wibbly wobbly) arc of the series and sees Carol Danvers confronted with her own origin, the possibility of her long time friend/mentor/mother figure gaining her powers instead of her and needing to get back to the future to come to said friend’s older self’s aid in an hour of need. There is a lot going on but it never gets confusing or too much. Kelly Sue DeConnick’s writing manages to keep everything on track to a very satisfying conclusion. And can we just take a moment to highlight Emma Rios’ art?

I can understand how her exaggerated and expressive style is not for everyone but with each book she does she just gets better and better. She is a perfect fit for character driven stories such as this one and her art has this quality to it that just has me begging to see more of it.

When this book started I was a bit apprehensive that this was going to end up as yet another failed attempt on Marvel’s part to make one of their top female characters popular. This arc has shown that such apprehension was unwarranted and that things can only get better from this point on. I am really looking forward to the next issue and the start of the next story arc for Captain Marvel.

Also check out:

Also from Marvel that is worth your time this week is Winter Soldier #12 & AvX Consequences #4.

Consequences continues to be a surprisingly good read as it deals with the post-event battle of ideologies as people come to prison to talk to Cyclops and other characters encounter each other and talk about their current state of being. In the issue we also get the moment that serves as Cyclops’ tipping point into villain-hood with the death of his mutant prison mate, Jake. The issue ends with Scott telling Magneto to break him out.

Winter Soldier is also a must read as Ed Brubaker comes ever closer to the end of his time with the book and character. All bets are off as the stakes constantly get higher and higher. It is also required reading for the amazing pencils of Butch Guice, the inks of Brian Thies and the colours of Bettie Breitweiser working together in near perfect harmony to produce some fittingly dark and broody art for the book.

Special Mention: Happy! 

This week also sees a special pick in the form of Happy! #2 by Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson. Simply because it is refreshing to see Morrison cut loose a bit and write a book with swearwords and comedy relating to the talking blue horse, Happy.

This issue closes of the setup portion of the story as Nick finally accepts the existence of Happy. So the final two issues of this mini-series should be pure action and story, ending with Morrison’s trademark craziness coming out to wrap it all up. It is a nice change of pace to see Morrison play around with new characters he has created. It shows that he can do more than play with long established character’s continuities like putty and it makes me all the more excited to see what he does once he leaves DC Comics next year.

The Recent Past:

DC

I do not care what anyone else says , I am loving GL and what it happening in it right now. Green Lantern #14 is my pick for DC this week. Baz is quickly growing on me as a character he is for filling his purpose of turning your preconceptions on their head while providing an interesting take on the fish out of water story. He is dealing with being the wrong guy, in the wrong place, at the wrong time thing (or is it all right guy, place and time? ooooooo). As a result he is on the run from pretty much everyone which gives us a nice high-octane and action packed story.

Interestingly though when confronted by the whole of the Justice League our man Baz stops in his tracks like he should, rather than kicking off a fight which is what usually happens. This shows us two things:

  1. That Baz is a smart guy. He knows he is out classed by the JL and that they are more likely to help him instead of harming him.
  2. That this is yet another world building moment on the part of Geoff Johns. He shows that the Justice League are a big deal and that they strike fear into anyone they confront. Which is a far cry from the DC of old were a character would be confronted by the League, say hi and then start punching them.

Of course all this does not stop all hell eventually breaking loose…

From this point on we get Baz on the run again, outsmarting the Justice League and then getting a moment to breath talking to his sister. On the other, more cosmic side of things we get The Guardians continuing to be the biggest pricks ever as their Third Army continues to grow and the trapped guardians start to form an escape plan. It all comes together to make an exciting issue and Doug Mahnke’s pencils make it all look so good! I enjoy his expressive, yet slightly dark style. It oddly fits with universe Green Lantern, big bright action with hints of darkness running underneath. The issue ends with Geoff Johns trowing one more mystery at us in the form of a hooded figure confronting Sinestro and Hal inside Black Hand’s ring.

Also check out:

Action Comics #14, Animal Man/Swamp Thing #14 & Earth 2 #6 are also worth your time this week.

While Action Comics skirts some dodgy ground with its evil space angels (yup, space angels!) it is worth your time for the wonderful backup story that has considerable emotional weight as Superman gets to see the destruction of Krypton. The main story of the issue is also peppered with moments of Grant Morrison really understanding Superman. He has fun with his power and abilities, thinks nothing of doing the right thing and inspiring those around him in the process.

Animal Man and Swamp Thing really get the ball rolling on Rotworld. I am basically counting them as two sides of the same coin at the point because even though the characters are separated you know the storyline is going to be all about them coming together to kick some evil arse! Also Animal Ends with a sentient ape ambush so you just know the next issue is going to be balls out AMAZING!

Then we come to Earth 2 which continues to get better with each issue. James Robinson’s writing is not for everyone but you can tell in this series that he has more or less been given free reign ro do as his wishes with the characters and world he is presenting. The result of this along with Nicola Scott’s action packed art makes for a fun comic and there is nothing wrong with a comic book being fun to read. We also get Alan Scott continuing the grand tradition of Green Lantern’s being assholes when they initially gain their abilities as he tells Hawkgirl and The Flash to basically piss-off once they have helped him save the world. How nice of him!

Marvel

Oh The Defenders #12 and The Defenders as a series, you mad, crazy, gem of a comic book! One of the few redeeming things to spin out of Fear Itself, Defenders has been one heck of a ride through the impossible and this final issue has made the madness worth while. The rag tag team of The Defenders face the ultimate threat in the form of the end of all things and during the process several things are revealed to us. The main one being that the Concordance Engine’s purpose is to create the ultimate last line of defence against the Mad Gods who wish to destroy everything. That last line of defence just so happens to be the main Marvel Universe.

Stuff like this has happend in the past and in particular over at the Distinguished Competition were Earth of the main DC Universe has long been the keystone to the whole multiverse and reality itself. Still I love it when this idea rears its head. It is a fun notion, one that goes to explain at least some of the reasons behind all the tights and drama that make up superhero comics. It gives the universe some purpose beyond the standard heroes and villains punching each other. Then again if The Defenders sales figures are anything to go by this great universal secret is something few readers will be privy to. Even that depressing thought fits in well with the issue because by the end of it all the characters have forgotten this as everything is reset. Only the reader knows the truth of what happend.

The power of comics and time travel (wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff) basically retcons the past twelve issues worth of story for the best of reasons. The Defenders finding and taking The Concordance Engine set all the destruction in motion so in order to save everything Doctor Strange need to make sure none of it ever happend. Queue self-deprecating trips back to the past, tea bags, heroic last stands and the death of everything.

Time resets and the universe carries on, saved all because Doctor Strange stayed for a chat.

It is also worth noting that Mirco Pierfederici’s pencils really help make this final issue special. There is a lot of simplicity to them while at the same time delivering a lot of expression and feeling to every panel. I am sad that it has come to an end but glad that this version of The Defenders was a finite story with a clear beginning, middle and end. It did not run to long, never petered out into nothingness or was cancelled in the middle of a story. You get a whole tale that has big implications without actually changing anything at all.

Also check out:

Iron Man #1, New Avengers #32 & Avengers Vs X-Men Consequences #5 are all worth picking up this week.

Iron Man gets the ball rolling on the NOW! era of the character with Kieron Gillen taking over the writing duties and Greg Land on art. So while Greg Land’s art continues to be a point of great contention (Google it I have already written enough for this post! Getting into the nitty gritty of Greg Land would double the length of this thing!). When he’s drawing armour and action the extensive referencing falls into the background so there is that I guess. What makes the issue worth it and as a result has me ready to buy the next few issues at least is Gillen’s writing. From the way he brings Extremis back into play (I wonder why they are doing that? Hmmmm…) to simple things such as Tony Stark’s disguise. It has a wit and charm to it that makes me glad he is tackling Iron Man. It has started off strong so I am hoping that things are only going to get better from here.

Over on the endings side of things everything starts to unravel for the New Avengers in #32. To sum up this issue in one word: Tension. Lots and lots of tension, with a peppering of humour. The bad guy is revealed, although the cover kind of does that for you before the actual story and things really come to a head. There is just one thing that I really do not like about this issue.

Why did Bendis have to kill Victoria Hand? Dammnit she was an interesting character! She walked in the moral grey area almost gleefully. She had potential dammnit! Did Bendis not want anyone else to play with her? Why Bendis? WHY? This is comic books so she could always come back but for now comics has lost a potentially great LGBT character.

Finally we come to Avengers Vs X-Men Consequences which is all about the prison break. Oh and some stuff with Hope that is sort of not really needed but which is nice to read. Cyclops’ decent into bad guy territory is completed and things are setup for the coming months of craziness with All-New X-Men. The switching of Cyclops and Wolverine’s positions with Logan now being the better man, doing the right thing and Scott being the one who in his own words “does what is necessary” in his own, in my view, delusional way is brilliant. It has me looking forward to seeing where Marvel and Bendis, when he takes over the X-Men, take it before inevitably resetting it all and redeeming Cyclops. The issue also ends with a delightfully twisted version of the X-Men mantra.

This Week:

DC

Boy oh boy was Batman #14 one heck of a comic! Everything about Batman is just mind-blowingly amazing at the moment. If you have not read it yet, what the hell is wrong with you? The writing & story from Scott Snyder, the pencils from Greg Capullo (the best Batman artist in years!), to the inks and colours from Jonathan Glapion and Fco Plascencia (what a name!), also lets not forget the lettering from Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt! It is all just simply amazing.

From Batman dealing with Alfred’s kidnapping,

to Gordon being take off the board so quickly,

It all works give us an amazing Joker story were he does not really appear until the last few pages.

This is making The Joker an event once again instead of just being a tool for whatever big bad Batman is facing this time. (See Hush, R.I.P and more for examples of this). Death of the Family is coming from the point of view that The Joker is the Bat-Family’s personal bogeyman. He strikes fear into each of them in their own way all in a twisted attempt to make Batman better at being Batman because that’s all he wants to do. Help Batman because he loves him. It is brilliantly twisted and is honestly the best use of The Joker in years. Things are only going to get better as his latest plan and apparent knowledge of all the Bat-Family’s secret identities come into play.

Also check out:

Green Lantern Corps #14 and The Phantom Stranger #2 are the other books you should have a look at this week.

Phantom Stranger is best for people seeking the following:

  • People wanting to know more about the Phantom Stranger who until now has never really been defined
  • People wanting to possibly see the birth of the New 52 Spectre (old Jim Corrigan makes an appearance at the end of the issue and New 52 Raven has already been introduced in this book)
  • People wanting to know more about the Trinity of Sin and how it all ties into the upcoming Trinity War and as a result the wider mysteries behind the New 52

What makes the book interesting is that because it is written by Dan Didio like the short lived OMAC it has freedom to introduce characters as and when he sees fit. He is one of the controllers of the gates of the DCU so if he wants to give us the new version of Raven, The Spectre, whoever he can kind of do whatever he wants. Brent Anderson’s pencils are also nice to look at too!

Green Lantern Corps continues the Guardians decent into madness/ultimate dicks of the universe as they continue to pull the strings of the whole GL Corps like the evil blue midgets they are aspiring to be! The most important thread for this issue apart from John Stewart rebuilding Mogo (yay!) is the fall of Guy Gardner.

The Guardians see Guy and the other Earth Lanterns as a threat to their plan to wipeout freewill in the universe and Guy being the most head strong of them needs to have his will broken to be taken of the board. Publicly shamed for being responsible for the deaths of several Lanterns Guy is forced to resign. Another Earth Lantern down, two more to go. Well worth reading if your a GL fan.

Marvel

After being on the fence for Thor: God of Thunder #1 and the cover eventually swaying me to buy it I am so happy I decided to take the plunge and read it. This has been the best Marvel NOW! book I have picked up so far and it is so good that it justifies the rebranding, renumbering and marketing push behind Marvel NOW! The story by Jason Aaron is unique and the art from Esad Ribic is just simply jaw dropping. It fits Thor perfectly and gives it that high fantasy/heavymetal feel the character has been missing for me until now. If you cannot tell yet, I am totally sold on this book! I’m in it for the long run now if it continues this level of quality and shine.

The story sees us following Thor at three different points in his life, unravelling the mystery of the God Butcher. We have the above Young Thor who is very similar to the arrogant fun loving Thor seen in the start of his movie. Fighting Frost Giants, bedding women, drinking too much and hiding behind his heroic persona. He is young, inexperienced and still has to learn the lessons that make him the Thor we know today.

Present Day Thor is the heroic good guy god we love. Coming to the aid of a godless alien race a galaxy away (making Thor more cosmic once again?) Thor quickly uncovers that the planet’s pantheon has been killed off by the same God Butcher he encountered in his youth. The mystery deepens.

Then we come to Old God Thor. The last of his kind making a heroic (or is that godly?) last stand against the God Butcher and his minons. Old and battle warn but not down for the count, this is one angry god who will not lay down and die.

The key to the story is that with each subsequent time period we get a big escalation in the God Butcher’s power and presence. Young Thor is dealing with the aftermath of the Butcher killing the gods of presumably a Native American or Maya tribe. Present Day Thor is dealing with the aftermath of the Butcher killing a pantheon of giant alien gods a long way from Earth. Old God Thor is dealing with the God Butcher’s army singlehandedly after they have presumably torn through the rest of the Norse pantheon, Thor’s friends and family. With each jump the God Butcher grows in power and as the story continues we will find out the finer details of each period and the workings of the God Butcher.

I am being deadly serious when I say this is the best Thor comic I have ever read. This single issue is everything I thought I wanted from the character and more. That this is an ongoing series makes me very excited. Even if it slows down after this God Butcher arc I do not care because I can tell that this story is going to be something special. So here’s hoping that it turns from singular amazing story arc to character defining run that will be remembered for decades to come. That is what Marvel NOW! is all about. Everyone, for the most part, has ended their current career and character defining runs to start fresh. Start newer and better career and character defining runs. With Thor: God of Thunder Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic have thrown the gauntlet down. Let us hope that at least two or three more Marvel NOW! books pick it up.

Also check out:

It is hard to even compare any other book to Thor this week but All-New X-Men #1 and Amazing Spider-Man #697 are the closest.

Amazing Spider-Man continues Dan Slott and Co.’s charge towards #700 and the end of Amazing. A lot of things happen in this issue with all of them pretty much tying into the story or themes for the end of the long running book.

The Kingpin’s Spider-Jammers make a weakend Spidey’s face-off against not one but two Hobgoblins (the original and new model) that little bit harder. There is a brilliant race against time to save my favourite comic book reporter, Norah Winters. The possibility that Peter Parker’s boss has put two and two together. A mysterious golden Octobot skittering about the place. A tease at a larger Hobgoblin story to play out at some point in the future (Amazing may be ending but Spider-Man continues into Superior Spider-Man). Then a single panel towards the end of the issue that raises the stakes for the grand finale considerably. The finale story arc promises to be a real doozy. In Dan Slott I trust.

This week also so the launch of All-New X-Men, a book I have been looking forward to because it gives me another jumping on point to give the X-Men franchise its fourth or fifth chance. While this issue is mainly about establishing the current status quo and the jumping off point for the time bending story (wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff). It has a few Bendis moments and I love Bendis moments (I am one of those people) along with some great pieces of characterisation. Such as Cyclops’ stance as a self proclaimed mutant revolutionary.

The implications of it are rather cool as we will see two distinct sets of X-Men with two very different points of view. I am glad Bendis/Marvel decided not to just have Cyclops resurrect the Brotherhood with Magneto. It shows that despite his new “evil” status he is still doing what he thinks is right and best for the mutant race that he kind of, sort of, maybe saved from extinction. It delivers on the promise of being a great jumping on point for new and lapsed X-Men readers because all you really need to know to get involved is who the X-Men are (as in the basics and classic characters) and the events of Avengers Vs X-Men (mainly the ending and Cyclops’ fall from grace). Plus it is a fun read that has a lot of promise. Also, ART BY STUART IMMONEN! Go buy it now!!!

Special Mention: Saga Chapter 7

SAGA IS BACK! WOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

That is all you need to know really. One of the best comics out there and you should be reading it. Particularly if you are a fan of epic adventures for adults. The writing is amazing. The art is amazing. The book is amazing!

What’s that you want more? Okay fine!

This re-introductory issue kicks off the second arc of the Saga of saga with the introduction of Marko’s parents. We seem some of their relationship and Marko’s backstory. Basically his parents very supportive of the war that has thrown our star crossed lovers together. We also get more displays of the crazy technology at play in the universe of Saga. With which I love the constant it is there….because attitude to explanation for. The issue is also full of the now standard beats of Saga humour and also NUDITY!

Which I have censored as to not offend anyone. (If you are planning on reading Saga at any point be knowledgeable in the fact that their is frequent, mostly naturalistic, nudity at play. This is a comic for adults after all.) Marko’s parents are quickly and effortlessly established with their divergent personalities and approaches coming to the forefront. I get the feeling that they are here for the long run so for them to be this interesting is a huge boon to the story being built here.

Saga is something special. It should be read and if you have not started yet do yourself a favour and pick up the first trade. Brian K. Vaughan is back and at the top of his game and Fiona Staples art is something to behold in each and every issue so far. So get it while the getting is good and relatively cheap!

So that’s it for this Giant Sized edition of Picks of the Week! Phew! We made it! Normal programming will resume this week….hopefully….

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