Picks of the Week

Superman #15 & All-New X-Men #5

As you can see I decided to make a slight tweak to the header images for these posts. To put them together I use an app on my iPad called Pic Stitch to quickly make them. I then use iCloud and Photostream to get them on my laptop/desktop to put into the final posts (mainly because the WordPress App is….well….a bit naff). The problem is though that I am stuck with the layouts Pic Stitch offers and as a result the past few Picks of the Week posts have had good but squashed headers. Which I both liked and hated at the same time! So after a bit of thought and fiddling I have come to a compromise as to how I put the images together. Basically smaller header text, bigger boxes for the images and keeping the black borders for the screen grabs of the covers so they fit in the box.

Anyway, on to the comic books!

The first proper week’s worth of comics for the year has been a rather good one with both of the big two coming out strong. Over at DC crossover mayhem continues as both H’el on Earth and Death of the Family continue. At Marvel their Marvel NOW! initiative continues to surprise and enthral with a strong line up of great books, there are a few duds however but in the grand scheme of things I feel the good books far outweigh the bad.

So let’s get on with the reviews!

WARNING though, there will be SPOILERS!

Oh and I will share my thoughts on Amazing Spider-Man #700 soon. I just need to find the time to go through it all again first!

DC

Superman #15

Superman #15 is a great issue even though it is part of a somewhat hit and miss crossover with the other Superman Family books. The issue focuses on two things in particular:

  1. Superman and Superboy bonding and forming a friendship (thank god for that! I do not know if I could deal with yet another strained Kryptonian relationship!)
  2. Lex Luthor being an evil badass of epic proportions!

The issue opens with our narrator explaining who Lex is and his constant scheming and planning to break into the Fortress of Solitude then noticing he has some visitors arriving. It is worth noting at this point that this is the first time we have seen Luthor in the present day New 52 DC Universe. Up to this point he has been in the past set Action Comics and we do not know what has happened between Action and now. We then cut to Supers, Man and Boy arriving at a fancy military installation which is actually Lex’s prison.

The greatest prison for the greatest mind!

That he designed himself for himself because Superman dared him to design an inescapable prison! A small bit of genius there I think you will agree. Superman and Superboy slowly make their way to the prison’s inner chamber overcoming some of its traps and obstacles along the way while talking about H’el and getting all chummy.

It is the confrontation with Lex in his cell that is the main piece of “action” in the issue and it does not disappoint. It is great to see Lex Luthor in pure evil genius mode rather the usual and somewhat tired über-twat business man mode. Again this is more Golden/Silver Age aspects of Superman being brought back into the comic were Lex switched between mad scientist and business man of evil depending on the story being told. You can see the glee in his arrogance because Superman is coming to him for aid.

Mind games from the master

Another good thing to see is the seeds being planted for Superboy once again being a joint clone of Lex and Superman, or it could just be Lex messing with him and the readers. It is something that I personally like about the character because it gives him something more than just being a younger mirror of Superman. Also it allows him to be taken to some dark places if wanted. Lex helps explain what H’el is planning and why Superman needs to stop him during their chat and we get a few little hints at past events too. Such as Superman giving Lex the scars on his face with his heat vision and that Lex pushed Superman to the point of nearly killing him. All of which will be filled in at some point in the future I am sure.

The issue ends with Superboy telling Superman about the Teen Titans and possibly calling them in to help but Superman being Superman goes one better and calls in the Justice League. That is after he promises Superboy they will have a “chat” about the Teen Titans once all of the H’el business is over.

Justice League ASSEMBLE!

The issue is very much a calm before the storm type deal but it is a gripping and beautiful looking read. I know I keep saying this but Rocafort’s art just keeps going from strength to strength while Lobdell’s writing continues to surprise as he continues to flesh out the New 52 incarnation of Superman more than anyone else has so far. Bringing back older techniques such as third person narration and allowing Rocafort to layout the pages in inventive ways with lots of double page spreads geometric shapes for the panels makes the book look and feel unique. It is well worth picking up.

Batman Incorporated #6 & Justice League Dark #15

Batman Incorporated #6 and Justice League Dark #15 are the other DC picks for this week.

In all things Batman, Batman Incorporated takes centre stage this week in perhaps the most nail-biting issue so far as Batman attempts to reason with Talia. While Knight, Squire, Batwing and the other Batman Inc members face-off against Talia’s self made Batman with disastrous results for Knight all while the shit really starts to hit the fan.

Noooo! Not Knight!!!!! WHYYYYYY?!!!!!

Morrison manages to put a bit of humour into the proceedings to with a side scene in the Batcave with the various Robins, Alfred and the growing gaggle of animals Damian has. The latest addition of which is a cat named Alfred. (So yes Damian’s fondness for cats is now cannon Tumblr can rejoice) Sadly the book only really works if you have read the pre-New 52 Morrison Batman epics. There is a lot of payoff happening to things that were kicked off years ago and the result for the newer readers is that there is a great amount of confusion. My wife keeps having to ask me who such and such a character is and why everything is happening. So while it is an amazing read for me I can fully understand it being lost on many other readers.

Justice League Dark is also a rather good read this week as its next major story arc, The Death of Magic begins. Sadly it looks like my New Gods theory for the Books of Magic might be off (this saddens me deeply). Still the place where Tim and Zatanna have ended up could still turn out to be New Gods related. Despite this disappointment the issue itself is still a fun read. The rest of the gang figure out a way to journey to the mysterious place Z and Tim are trapped and because this is magic related we get some hilarious ramifications for travelling to this strange world. Basically the planet/dimension/whatever effects everyone in a different way. Zatanna’s powers are amplified to addictive levels, Xnadu shows her actual age, Orchid takes on a more Swamp Thing like form (which is kind of cool), Constantine is unable to lie which means instant comedy! And Deadman well…

Deadman just can't catch a break!He is given life once again only to have it instantly taken away from him! The only team member that seems unaffected is Frankenstein but we might see his change in a later issue. Justice League Dark continues to be a solid read and is well worth checking out.

Marvel

New Avengers #1

New Avengers was one of my most anticipated Marvel NOW! books not only because it carried the name of one of my all time favourite comics (both volumes of it) but mainly because it focuses on a group of Marvel characters I am really interested in, The Illuminati.

You know stuff is going down when Reed gets serious

This book is basically being pegged as an Illuminati the ongoing, the only reason why it is called New Avengers is because it is, by now, a well known brand name for Marvel that guarantees a certain amount of sales. They could have called it Avengers: Illuminati and still seen a similar amount of sales but hey I do not work for Marvel’s marketing department so what do I know?

This first issue is pure stage setting as we are given a quick flashback to the formation of the Illuminati and their purpose. Raising questions of their collective arrogance and motives in the process which is why this book and the group is such a great idea. Even when they were introduce by Bendis, had their mini-series and popped up occasionally in big events their appearance meant something big was happening. So to have a whole ongoing book dedicated to awesome things happening in the shadows with links to the main Avengers book also by Hickman is brilliant. Another key part of this first issue is making Black Panther a bad ass once again!

Black Panther strikes!

After almost a decade of being on the edges of Marvel’s output it is great to see T’Challa back in a big way kicking ass and taking names at the centre of this new New Avengers title. The main thread of the book introduces us to Black Panther, Wakanda and the mysterious new threat of the odd alien planet hanging in the sky. We see T’Challa’s perspective on things and his reluctance to summon the Illuminati to aid him.

Ooooooo!It is a great introduction to the concept and the series. Sowing seeds and introducing the players in a suitably grim way. If you have no idea who or what The Illuminati is it is well worth picking up and giving it a go because things are only going to get bigger, crazier and more secretive from here!

All-New X-Men #5 & Iron Man #5

All-New X-Men #5 and Iron Man #5 are also worth checking out this week.

All-New X-Men continues to grow and build into a damn fine comic as issue 5 focuses on Jean Grey and her finding out about then dealing with the events of her life with surprising results. We also see adult Cyclops and co. setting up their new Charles Xavier School for the Gifted in the old Weapon X base. Also of equal importance is Beast’s new look,

A new Beast equals a new man?While I am not fully sold on it, mainly because it is hard to see what kind of animal his look is derived from this time around. (My best guess is that most dangerous of animals, Man) It is still good to see because it means Bendis is not afraid to keep changing things as he gets started, very much in a similar way to how he started on the Avengers many, many, many moons ago. So while I am sad to see cat-like Beast go I am interested to see how this new look changes the character. The issue ends with Jean coming to the decision to fix the current situation for the X-Men before heading back to the past to have her memory erased by herself or Professor X. So the stage is now set for all kinds of hijinks to ensue!

Iron Man continues to shine despite the at times dodgy art from Greg Land. Here we see the end of the book’s first arc and the starting point of Tony Stark’s adventures in space. Tony seeing how all these different people have used Extremis has forced him to question things and have the need to seek out new ideas and inspiration on the last fronter for both him and humanity. So you know what that means! NEW ARMOUR!

Shiny!Which I actually like the look of because when Greg Land is drawing stuff like armour, monsters, machines and action scenes I am fine with his art. It looks great even. It is sharp and full of personality. It is just a shame that when the armour is off or a female character is on the page that the art falls down. Every female character looks like the exact same soulless glamour model and every male character has the same five facial expressions. Still the writing from Kieron Gillen keeps things moving at a brisk pace and with a lot of wit and thought behind it.

So while this first arc and the black and yellow armour designed for it serves simply as an easy in continuity way to let Iron Man be both on Earth and in space at the same time. Basically:

  • Black and Yellow Armour is pre-space Tony. So every appearance of Iron Man in Avengers and other books until the space story ends will feature this armour and be set in the past, for Iron Man at least.
  • Red and Yellow Space Armour means future Tony. It just gives the character and story the time to let Tony Stark journey out into the black to find both himself and new ideas. (Oh and join the Guardians of the Galaxy too!) Without interfering with the main Marvel continuity to much.

It has been a good opener for Gillen’s time on the book and I am interested to see what he does with the character in his new space based adventures from now until hopefully the end of time!

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