Another week and another selection of comic that you really should be reading! While not as action packed as recent weeks there are still a few real gems and interesting new books out there.
DC is pretty much crossover central at the moment as all the Batman books deal with The Joker’s gripping return, the Superman titles with H’el and the Green Lantern books with the Rise of the Third Army. It works to help created more cohesion between the various parts of the New 52 version of the DC Universe but it means a lot of smaller books are starting to slip through the cracks. Marvel NOW! continues to gather steam this week as a couple more titles and relaunches get started. The initial quick releasing of several Marvel NOW! titles is also starting to pay off as books like Iron Man are really starting to get stuck into their new directions.
So without further a do let us review some comics!
A WARNING though, there will be SPOILERS!
The Joker’s epic return continues this week as Batman #15 keeps the ball rolling. It is more of a calm before the storm type deal this issue and it is awesome! The issue opens with The Joker and Batman’s moment on the bridge from the end of #14 being interrupted by the GCPD. (Hint: it does not end well for them!) Queue lots of explosions, a brief scuffle and Batman being kicked into the river so The Joker can make his escape. Not before doing that thing he always does in these types of situations, dare Batman to come and hunt him down.
The rest of the issue deals with Bruce having a nightmare involving Alfred being all Joker facemasky and then waking up to talk things over with his family of allies in the Batcave. There is a sense that The Joker has got them all rattled (and each character’s own books show this to be true) and the issue is more about everyone trying to process The Joker’s return and just what exactly his plan is. Scott Snyder and Capullo also add another wrinkle to their The Joker being the Bat-Family’s personal boogie man angle with a tale of a playing card finding its way into the Batcave after one of Batman’s early confrontations with him,
It is actually a really creepy story that clearly hits all the characters being told it in unique ways as they all try to reason how or why it would have been impossible for The Joker to make his way into the Batcave. It shows how easily The Joker can effect everyone when he wants to. It also adds more to the myth surrounding the character being a genius mastermind that is on a completely different playing field to the rest of us. It does not matter if The Joker actually got into the cave. His presence did and that is all that counts because it frightens Bruce, hence why he has never told anyone the story of the playing card until now. It is also clear that it is one of those things The Joker has done to help improve Batman. The card getting into the cave forced Bats to upgrade his defences and then in turn display a huge replica of the card in the cave. To serve as a constant reminder that even his best plans and defences will and do have holes in them. Also The Joker keeps saying that what he is currently doing is to make Batman better so their is a certain amount of symmetry to it.
More interesting however is Jason Todd being let in the Batcave! Sure he came in with the others but Bruce does not grab him and throw him out the door as soon as he sees him. This along with his recent appearance in Batman Incorporated (the as and when of which is still up in the air) could mean that tensions between the two are starting to cool down as Jason starts to walk a slightly more noble path once again. Or maybe it is just that The Joker is such a big deal to both of them that an unspoken temporary truce has been declared. If any two characters in this story can temporarily put aside their differences to face The Joker it is Jason and Bruce because their entwined history with him is very deep and personal.
The issue ends with Bruce doing what he does best. Shutting everyone out and heading out to hunt down and confront The Joker alone. Which naturally leads him to Arkham Asylum which it turns out The Joker has secretly been in control of for the past few weeks.
There is an unmistakable poetry of Batman going to face his personal nightmare in a house of nightmares and it is something that has been explored before. Still The Joker has been building and scheming away in there for weeks so whatever it is, it is bound to surprise and terrify us all.
I keep saying this, but as with a lot of Scott Snyder’s Batman work it is a joy to see a true classic Batman tale unfold infront of you. You can tell as each issue ups the stakes that this will be one of those Batman stories held up there with the likes of Year One, The Long Halloween, Knightfall, Morrison’s work with the character and more. Synder continually shows that he understands not just how Batman works as a comic book but how characters like Bruce Wayne think and what makes them tick. Seeing him push Wayne to the edge in Court of Owls was a treat and now seeing him truly afraid for what is to come has me terrified and excited all at the same time.
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Superboy #15 and Batgirl #15 are your other picks for this week.
Superboy continues the slowly building H’el on Earth storyline that is currently crossing over through all the Superman Family of books. This issue however puts aside moving along the plot substantially to focus on the first proper meeting of the New 52 Superman and Superboy and the results are fairly interesting.
The main thing that happens this issue is Superman having to put his red and blue Kryptonian Armour on Superboy to keep him alive. (H’el did something to him last issue that is making his DNA unravel) This also gives us confirmation of a couple of other lingering plot points at the same time. The first being that this Superboy is once again a partial clone of Superman and that his indoctrination to hate Superman (as seen in the recent issue #0) seems to be coming to the surface. This is only a good read if you are following the H’el on Earth storyline but it is good to see the various Kryptonians finally coming together in a larger storyline (although I would prefer the Supergirl being duped by H’el thing not to have happend). It is slowly building and hopefully the next few parts will expand the story and get things moving.
Batgirl is the other book you need to read this week from DC. Its inclusion here has nothing to do with writer Gale Simone recently being thrown off the book for no good reason whatsoever although you should be reading and supporting it while the getting is good!
This issue is worth it just for Babs confronting The Joker and wrestling with killing him or not due to their history. In the end she is forced to leave and play her part in The Joker’s scheme but for a moment you see how much Batgirl hates The Joker for what he did her. We also get some more of Jame Gordon Jr being evil and threatening The Joker for messing with the two women whose lives he wants to ruin. Along with an interesting flashback to one of The Jokers therapy sessions were he reveals a little bit more about his tiny note book he has been carrying around. Batgirl is certainly one of the better tie-ins to Death of the Family story and is well worth checking out.
My main pick for Marvel this week might seem a bit odd as it is nether a big event style book, an important character storyline or one of the numerous Marvel NOW! relaunched books. Instead it is a breath of fresh air that closes the first year of this surprisingly good Spider-Man spin-off book. It also helps that this Christmasy tale comes out at a very convenient time when I myself am in a festive mood! But while this a tale set in and around Christmas it is not what you would expect because this is the Scarlet Spider and he does not have time to feel festive. Mainly because he is passed out drunk for half of the issue,
Being a clone of the Teetotal Peter Parker means that sadly Kaine cannot handle his drink so he gets himself into such a state fairly quickly and ends up having to sleep it off while his supporting cast gets a chance to flesh themselves out a bit more. With Aracely showing some more of her mysterious powers and everyone else working together help stop the small army of thieves dressed as Santas that are trying to rob the hotel Kaine lives in.
Once Kaine starts to wake up we get a moment of him showing his guilt and remorse for his past actions and life and we also see how the recent Carnage storyline has effected him. But there is not much time for him to explore those pesky feelings as he jumps into action and reluctantly saves the day!
I think the reason I enjoyed the issue so much was because it was a nice departure from pretty much everything else I have read this week. As a series Scarlett Spider has been rather hit and miss but this issue hits it out of the park because it is a lot of fun. Also it is good to see Kaine finally coming to terms with his past and become the hero we know he can be. I have loved the character since he appeared in the 90s so seeing him back, changing and developing on a monthly basis is a great thing especially when it is done as well as it is in this issue. So more of this please Marvel, Christopher Yost, Reilly Brown and co!
The issue is also worth reading to see Kaine beat the crap out of a bunch of gun toting goons in Santa costumes!
Because there is something inherently funny about it not matter how much of a Scrooge you are.
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Avengers Arena #1 (don’t throw rocks at me!) and Winter Soldier #13 are the other Marvel books worth your time this week.
So, yeah Avengers Arena…that’s going to take some explaining on my part I think. Unlike most people I went into it with a fairly open mind for the following reasons:
- I am a big fan of the inspiration for this storyline, Battle Royale. I love the film, I love the manga and most of all I love the book (I have a well thumbed and note ridden translation that I read every year or so!) I also like many other stories that cover a similar sort of ground like Lord of the Files (yes I am known to read “normal” books from time to time)
- I thought The Hunger Games film was….alright so again more fuel added to the fire
- I honestly do not care for most of the characters in the book because I have not really read anything else with them in. So the emotional attachment I have to them is purely from this book. The result is that I am not having a freakout as and when people die or kill each other.
Do not get me wrong though, I can fully understand why long time Avengers Academy and Runaways fans are venting their frustrations online about the book. They have every right to be dismayed at the thought of their favourite teen heroes being pushed to the brink and killing each other all for Arcade’s enjoyment. For me it is just another tale in a particular genre of fiction I like that just happens to feature Teen Superheroes this time around. So I am having fun with it. Plus I have a niggling feeling that all is not as it seems and that this could all be something related to Marvel’s in universe devil of television personified, Mojo. The setup and presentation is to good not to have it be one of his reality shows for the bloodthirsty citizens of Mojoverse. So if I am correct the conclusion will be one of two things:
- The people who die are actually dead because Arcade/Mojo is playing for keeps this time.
- The people who die are moved into some sort of stasis ready for the next season of Murder World.
The Mojo theory also explains Arcade’s sudden jump in power levels too. Anyway it is worth checking out because it is a fun, trashy comic that is an enjoyable, if a bit bloody, read.
Finally my last pick is of course Winter Soldier as it continues its breakneck ride to the conclusion of the story and Ed Brubaker’s time on the book. If you like your superspy comics then you really should be reading this already!
While the issue is more about using Bucky running around as the original, evil, Winter Soldier to pad things out a bit. It does not stop it from being an entertaining read dripping with cool from every beautifully dark page. I cannot wait for the last issue to see how it all ends. It is going to be epic!