This Week: Batman #23.4 / Bane, Batman and Robin #23.4 / Killer Croc, Chambers #2, Clive Barker’s Next Testament #4, Criminal Macabre: The Eyes of Frankenstein, Guardians of the Galaxy #6, Justice League of America #7.4 / Black Adam, Mass Effect Foundation #3, Miss Fury #6, Punisher: Trial of the Punisher #1, Scarlet Spider #22, Supergods TPB, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #26, Weirding Willows #4, Wolverine and the X-Men #26, Young Avengers #10
We are Living Myth Media, and we are here to read comic books! Every week, we go and feed our addiction (single issues mostly online, trades mostly from conventions or Big Pete’s). And every Wednesday we respect Woden, the God of Comics, and we speak of the stories that he, in his greatness, has brought us. We speak of it on twitter.
That’s a preview, though, and there’s time we don’t pick up the things we were looking for or end up picking up things we didn’t talk about on twitter. So, here’s what comics we got this week and what we think about ‘em after the reading.
We rate these things on a five symbol scale. The first two symbols are for art, the second two for story, and the last is based on whether we think this is a gateway comic – is this something we would lend to friends to get them into this series, or comics in general? This last one is a tricky thing, but if we think it is, then the comic gets this symbol.
Symbols can be broken down into quarters and look like this from whole to quarter: , , , and . Two symbols is a good comic, three symbols is worth taking the time to hunt down and look at. Anything at four or more symbols is of the highest possible quality.
Everyone with us so far? Cool. Onwards goes us.
Batman #23.4 / Bane
In our twitter feed this week, I asked DC Comics for two things: two good comics out of the multitude coming out. Both of them were numbered Batman #23.4. One dealt with Bane, the other with Killer Croc, and we’ll get to the latter in a moment. We’re starting with Bane. I love Bane. Bane is one of the best modern characters in DC Comics, a perfect antithesis of his nemesis, Batman. The two of them used to see one another as equals, and they’ve even teamed up from time to time, but Bane was always the one guy that Batman was afraid of. MightyGodKing did a pretty brilliant summation of his character here, so I won’t recap that. Instead, I’ll just say that the GrimDarkification of this character actually ruins him. Venom doesn’t make Bane interesting; it’s actually the least interesting thing about him, and the thing every writer since the character’s creation has tried to get rid of. Not the addiction, mind you – no writer worthy of the title would ever get rid of that good a character failing. No, the things that make Bane interesting are his ruthlessness, ambition, and intelligence. He is an innocent condemned for the crimes of a father he never knew who grew up into one of the most dangerous men in the DCU. Child beating and a pointless waste of resources were never parts of his character; he had a fondness for children before this, perhaps because of what had happened to him. That’s gone now. They’ve turned him from a capable and intelligent monster into a mindless thug who kills people loyal to him for no reason and beats their children afterwards. Bane’s new character design is atrocious, and DC’s insistence on a black and red color scheme in everything because those are the official colors of GrimDark do the art no favors. God, this book is awful, and you should avoid it like the disease it is.
Batman and Robin #23.4 / Killer Croc
And then there’s this. Let’s get it out of the way now – we love DC’s characters, but we hate what they’ve done since the reboot. We really do want DC to succeed, but most of what they’re putting out right now is either borderline unreadable or outright terrible. This was not. I want to repeat that: this is a perfectly good comic, and you will have fun reading it. It is not terribly grim or dark, despite the subject material. It is about the fall of a not particularly bright man into crime, and how he goes from that into being something more. It is about someone broken learning to protect other broken things. It sets Croc up as the king of Gotham’s literal underworld, sort of an analogue to what Morbius was back when he was feuding with Spider-Man. This comic is survival horror done right, a team of cops looking for Croc and entering a world where they are not wanted and are not welcome, and Croc hunts them down like the apex predator that he is. It’s a lot of fun, the art is colorful and great, the cops are worth caring about and Croc is utterly sympathetic. This is shockingly well done, and everyone involved should be very pleased with themselves for what they’ve done here. My only complaint is that Batwoman had turned Croc into a major character and evolved him into something that was (arguably) more interesting, but given how DC likes to fuck their creatives, I’ll take what I can get. This is fine, this is fun, and you’d be much better off grabbing this than Bane.
This is sort of a passion project that we picked up on a whim; you can read our review of the first issue here. This comic picks up exactly where the last issue left off, with Denise standing over the body of her dead brother and swearing revenge, not knowing that her partner was blackmailed into killing the last blood relative she had left. Guilt stricken, he goes to confront his blackmailers and to put an end to this, but while he’d doing this Denise is attacked, kills her attacker, and figures out where to find the people responsible. The two of them team up and take everyone down, she not knowing that he betrayed her. This would be a standard cop revenge drama except for the female lead and the blackmailed partner, both of which add a greater degree of tension than would otherwise be there. It’s a strong story that’s easy to get into with a lot of potential and a grimy art style that fits the tone of the story. I’m curious to see where they’re taking this, so I guess I’m in for the long haul.
Clive Barker’s Next Testament #4
I love Clive Barker. Most of us here are old school horror fans – Greg, Aaron, Pete, and Ray all have large collections of old horror movies kicking around, and they get a lot of play around our offices. Greg and Aaron both do horror movie nights for their friends, where they kick back and heckle with their nearest and dearest. When they really want to frighten people, though, they whip out the classics – Prince of Darkness, Evil Dead, Hellraiser. Clive Barker is one of the old masters of horror, a godfather of the genre who never lost his touch. A lot of his stories deal with the concept of God (Imagica) or man’s relationship with the divine (Books of Blood). Next Testament does both. This comic is about an atheist who hunts down and wakes up god, and now the two of them are going on a road trip. God is not impressed with what’s become of his world, and is casually violent about making things more to his liking. He can’t be stopped, though he can be reasoned with – a thing that actually makes him more terrifying, because he’s able to change the fundamental laws of reality on the fly, and you’ve got to work with his version of reason. He’s also a monstrous sociopath, and that’s always fun. After changing things so that planes will no longer fly and stopping all telecommunications, he’s decided that there are too many humans that are not doing anything entertaining. This is going to go very poorly for everyone else. The only people in any position to stop him or even any idea what’s going on are the atheist’s son and his fiancee, both of whom where also atheists but are probably now agnostic; it’s hard to keep your atheism going when you’ve had dinner with god and he’s killed all the other guests. The art is pretty decent, but the writing and concept are what carry this story and make it brilliant, and one of the more interesting looks at the cthonic concept of divinity in any modern media.
Criminal Macabre: The Eyes of Frankenstein
The last two comics where noir and horror. This is a combination of the two, a sort of Harry Dresden meets Hellboy kind of thing, similar in feel to the old Lovecraft HBO Specials. Does anyone else remember those? More importantly, does anyone know if those are available on Blu-Ray? Daddy wants. This is a story about a private investigator who does jobs between bouts of alcoholism and nervous breakdowns. All his friends are either dead or ghouls, and the police throw him a bone whenever something weird comes up that they don’t want to deal with or write a report on. In this case, the problem is twofold – one, the ghouls are dying of a mysterious illness that is hollowing them out, and ghouls are actually pretty okay when you’re talking about monsters. As for the latter, well, Frankenstein’s Monster’s eyes are beginning to fail him, and when that guy has nothing to read he’s going to have to find other things to keep him entertained. Naturally, only our protagonist is in a position to do something about either. This is well written, well drawn, and I need to go get me some back issues so I can get fully caught up. Great stuff.
Guardians of the Galaxy #6
I have been waiting for this comic. Guardians of the Galaxy has been one of my favorite titles since Annihilation, because Cosmic Marvel is often Marvel at their best (Infinity notwithstanding. Infinity sucks). This comic has been taking the imagination and storytelling seen in Annihilation and bringing it to whole new vistas of greatness, and whoever is writing this should be writing Infinity, because in a handful of pages they made Thanos more interesting and threatening than Infinity has managed in the entirety of its run. Starlord, human defender of the cosmos, goes to have a little face time with the lover of death, and the two of them chat about how the Avengers murdered time. Basically, Thanos explains that he doesn’t know who’s responsible or how they did it and that he does not care – the murder of time is so much worse than anything he’s ever done or been accused of. There’s some fascinating stuff here, and the consequences of what the Avengers have done are laid bare. Meanwhile, Angela fights the rest of the team, starting with Gamorra (the adopted daughter of Thanos and the most dangerous single combatant in the Marvel Universe), and moving on through Iron Man, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, and Drax the Destroyer (imagine Kratos in space and you have Drax). She fights everyone to a standstill until Starlord blindsides her after escaping Thanos, and then a Watcher shows up to say that as bad as things have gotten, this is only the beginning. The art is great, the dialogue is better, and this does a better job explaining Infinity than Infinity does. Also, Angela is a welcome addition to Marvel and sort of reminds me of when the Radicals jumped from WCW to the WWE way back when. She really is that cool a character, and I look forward to seeing what’s done with her.
Justice League of America #7.4 / Black Adam
A friend of mine saw me get snippy on twitter about DC Comics’ whole Forever Evil thing, and shoved this in my hands and told me to read it. I wasn’t going to, but he argued that if I liked kicking his ass with Black Adam in Injustice so much that I could stand to read this comic, so I did because I do (I love fighting games, and Injustice is pretty great). I tried reading Shazam and didn’t care much for it, though I don’t outright loathe it the way I do Justice League of America. There’s a lot of good in the new Shazam comics, actually, just not enough for those comics to be good, per se. This comic, however, is fantastic. DC has a made-up Middle-Eastern country called Kahndaq that they use as a stand-in whenever they want to talk about how complicated things are in the Middle-East. This comic calls to mind the Arab Spring, with both peaceful and violent protests happening against a brutal and oppressive regime. The protesters here are taking inspiration from their own history, wherein Black Adam once freed their country and acted as its protector for a few centuries. They use magic to try and resurrect him after the mess than was Shazam, and even manage to bring him back. They are betrayed and die in the process, but Black Adam does free their people and promote the freedom of Kahndaq itself. The art here is pretty good and the writing is better, giving us an idea of who Black Adam is and what he represents while also touching on the idea of revolution in the modern world. This is colorful and understated and actually quite good, and if a series were to come out of it I would read it.
Mass Effect Foundation #3
Oh, Mass Effect. Every now and again we remember how cool you were and the promise you made, how awesome you seemed to be. For those of you that don’t know, Mass Effect was a video game trilogy that focused on storytelling and player choice and did everything right, creating some of the most beloved characters in gaming before failing miserably at the end and making their whole franchise worse in the last twenty minutes of play. Efforts to fix things have done little more than make things worse, which is fascinating when you take into account how the fans did everything in their power to fix the game for the developers. It’s pretty frustrating, really. Still, every now and again someone goes and tells stories that have nothing to do with that godawful ending and concentrates instead on how awesome the rest of the game was. This comic falls into the latter, dealing with what happened to a character named Ashley Williams before she met up with the player’s character in the games and building some nice framework for those that haven’t played it while adding context for those of us that have. It’s a tricky thing to have done and it’s well executed here. The art’s a little wonky in places, but it’s nothing too bad and the story is a fun little romp with undertones of the conspiracies that made the game so good. The best Mass Effect comic, though, is still this one, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Hell, even the creators of the game agree.
Miss Fury #6
Wow, this comic. This is the sort of story that could only work as a comic; television would mess it up and it moves too quickly for a book to follow properly and every single frame is glorious. Miss Fury is a cat powered thief from the 1940s, a bored rich girl who gets called to a higher purpose when Nazis sneak into America to activate some sort of plot involving time travel. She gets sucked in and ends up fighting them in different time periods, both her own present and ours, and along the way meets and falls in love with a soldier who goes skipping through time with her. He, however, lacks her ability to hold onto herself through time, so when the Nazis grab him they’re able to erase him from having ever existed, forcing Miss Fury to question her own sanity – especially when she bumps into her self, a different self that recognizes her. There’s a lot of awesome mingled with tragedy and questions of madness here, and it all plays out beautifully. The art is gorgeous, the storytelling is better, and it does a pretty good job of bringing new readers up to speed without being overly expository. One of my favorite current comics.
Punisher: Trial of the Punisher #1
The entirety of the Punisher Max line is some of the best comics ever written, and we’re massive fans of both that line and the character. Why someone like HBO or AMC hasn’t snatched Punisher Max to turn it into a television series (editor’s note: trigger warning on that link, it leads to an excellent but bleak as all hell short film. You have been warned) is completely beyond us, given how well that would translate from page to screen. For those of you that don’t know, the Punisher is a man named Frank Castle, a former special operative during the Vietnam War, one of America’s best and most decorated soldiers. He came home and took his family on a picnic, where they became collateral damage during a gang war. Frank took it kind of personally and has been murdering criminals ever since. Every now and again, Frank is forced to deal with criminals that are manipulating things from within the relative safety of the prison system. Getting in and out is pretty much a cakewalk for Mr. Castle, but we’ve never seen him put on trial before. This comic is that – Frank Castle walking into a police station with a body in a duffel bag and turning himself in. This first issue has been marvellous for set up, and implies that Frank is up to something without letting anyone know what it might be. The art is great, the writing is superb, and I can hardly wait to see where this comic is going; the only thing we know for certain is that it is going to end in a bloodbath.
Scarlet Spider #22
Did DC take editorial control here, or is this the power of the Redacted Spider-Man trying to erase anything good and fun happening with the Spider books? Does anyone know? There’s reports that the Scarlet Spider is coming to an end soon, and I can’t help but think that Dan Slott is responsible for doing this in an effort to erase any but his one true vision of Spider-Man. I have no proof of that, mind. It’s based entirely on the present editorial directive of Spider-Man being based around pissing off the fanbase. It’s troubling, because the writing is excellent and the art continues to be great, but the direction is GrimDark for no real reason and it’s sorta troubling considering what this book has been. Kaine is a GrimDark character, and the heart of this book was his supporting cast not letting him mope. They kept maintaining this ridiculously upbeat air in the face of his efforts to brood, and it was glorious. What happened? Also, the resurrection of Kraven bugs me – he was a c-list Spider-Man villain right up until his death made him awesome, and this is one of those things where people want to retell that story instead of giving us new ones. Also, note to the artist – Aracely is maybe fourteen years old. Just sayin.’ Please, Marvel, don’t let this comic die. It’s one of our favorites, and the hardcover trade has been one of the comics we’ve used to get people into comics. It was pure gateway drug, and if it ends we’re going to be sad.
So, our man Andrew Spiedel was looking around his local comic store and stumbled across this thing, which he picked up, read, and started passing around the office. We read it, which means we’re going to review it for reasons that may or may not be tax related. This comic is about the idea of people building gods to worship, because there is (according to the comic) something within humankind that demands that there be gods to worship. It’s sort of an atheistic nightmare comic, the sort of apocalyptic scenario envisioned by people without faith imagining the horrors that can be perpetuated by people who do and are willing to twist science to their own perverse ends. That said, it’s pretty great. The art is pretty enough and the story is interesting, being told from the perspective of the only surviving scientist involved in the creation of one of these gods. He’s talking to another survivor that may or may not exist; the world has ended, you see, and the gods man created are just finishing things off. The scale should be epic for a comic with this title, and it is – entire nations and continents are razed to the ground as things spiral out of control until there’s nothing left, and the ending is nicely haunting. It explains everything as it goes, and keeps true to its own continuity and mythology. It’s just, as good as this comic is, Next Testament has been better. This is way the hell better than God is Dead, though, and it’s worth tracking down just for some of the concepts contained herein. Excellent, and a one-shot example of GrimDark done right.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #26
Character progression! Ye gods, but a lot happens in this comic. Fresh off the villains micro-series, IDW Publishing starts kicking things off into high gear with this comic, and they do a glorious job of things. Leo has turned traitor and become Shredder’s number one guy, fighting along with Oroko Saki while Karai and Apolex plot to overthrow both of them for reasons of their own. Meanwhile, the remaining turtles go and seek help from the friends they’ve made so far in the series, knowing that an all out shadow war is coming, and Splinter squares things with Old Hob by stealing some mutagen directly from the source. Casey Jones is here, April O’Neil is here, Hun, Baxter Stockman, the whole crew is kicking ass and taking names and it’s freaking glorious. The art, and especially the facial expressions, are excellent, and the writing keeps things moving at a brisk pace from a variety of angles. Shit it is about to get real. Despite the complexity of the multiple threads that are being woven together, this is a very easy comic to follow and even those with only a basic understanding of the Turtles should be able to follow what’s going on without too much trouble. There’s a hell of a lot more than nostalgia going on in this comic, and it deserves your attention for what it’s managed to build. Grab a copy. You need one. It is like oxygen. You must have it.
Weirding Willows #4
Alice from Wonderland and Frankenstein’s Monster team up to hunt down a purple T-Rex that’s been stealing sheep from Old Farmer MacGregor! Badger has discovered Dr. Frankenstein’s personal science journals and has been secretly traveling to other worlds! Mowgli makes a deal with the Cheshire Cat! And we still don’t know whether Mr. Hyde is Jack the Ripper, or if it’s Dr. Jekyll doing the killing (my money’s on Jekyll). If none of the previous statements aroused even the mildest curiosity then you may have misplaced your soul, and may want to talk to one of the doctors in the Weir about getting it back. Or you could talk to the PI from Criminal Macabre. Either one, really. Weirding Willows is a comic flirting with greatness, a mash-up of faerie tales that is well thought out and written. There’s a lot going on these comics and the larger picture is only being revealed a bit at a time, but the patience involved is well worth the effort considering the quality of what’s here. The art is gorgeous, the world is strange and lush, but if you haven’t been keeping track of things you’re really going to want those back issues. This comic very badly needs some sort of recap page to at least cover the basics, because new readers are going to be utterly lost otherwise.
Wolverine and the X-Men #26
This comic is impossibly good. I mean that quite literally. Given the premise, there’s no way this comic should even make sense, but everything here is logical, well written, and beautifully easy to follow. I saw that as someone who hates Big Dumb Event Comics, but even I can’t complain here; there’s nothing to complain about. Everything is bloody well perfect. To recap, before the Avengers murdered time, Hank McCoy was having some issues and brought the original five X-Men from the past to the present. Recently, past Cyclops was killed by a sentinel, and so present Cyclops vanished because time can’t handle that sort of paradox anymore because the Avengers. Resurrecting past Cyclops returned present Cyclops to time, causing the present X-Men to talk about forcing the past X-Men to go back to the past. X-Men from the future showed up to force the issue, but the past X-Men escaped because they want the freedom to choose. The future X-Men spout doom and gloom, which is what future X-Men do. The past X-Men don’t buy it and run to present Cyclops to protect them. Everyone tries to talk about things, but a fight breaks when Wolverine acts like a hypocrite and present Emma Frost takes the existence of future Jean Grey personally. They end up peacefully resolving things anyway, because they are mature adults and not Avengers (except Wolverine), but one of the present X-Men decided to investigate the future that the future X-Men come from and were sorta surprised by what they found (see the picture to the right of this review). Everyone follow that? Good? Great. We can’t wait to see where this goes.
(editor’s note: around the LMM Offices, this is who we think the revealed future X-Men are, based on nothing but this image and the names that immediately spring to mind – at top is Quentin Quire as Cloak Omega, Robert Drake as Ice Wizard, Peter Rasputin as Magik Colossus, Jubilee as Vampire Jubilee, Evan as Iron Apocalypse, Daughter of Storm and T’Challa as Black Panther, and we have no idea as Phoenix. Quentin Quire, maybe? That’d make Cloak who, maybe Wiccan? What do you think? Let us know in the comments!)
Young Avengers #10
I’m a sucker for comics that break the fourth wall like this one does, right at the start. We get to see a little of what our villains are up to – Kid Loki and Mother talk, Mother and Leah of Hel talk, and Hulkling gets screwed because Kid Loki and Leah of Hel are trying to screw each other. Also, Patriot is one of the creepiest things in comics. When Mother – the terrifying dimensional parasite that feeds on everything that crosses her path, up to and including narration – thinks twice about eating you when there’s nothing to stop her from doing so, you are officially the scariest motherfucker in the room. This comic continues to be one of the top five best comics put out every month, and this issue highlights why while also doing the idea of a villains comic properly, building upon what we know of the villains and making them all scarier while raising the stakes that the heroes are fighting for. I’m not spoiling the ending here (editor’s note: like you did above with the whole X-Men thing?), but the threats facing our heroes have truly ramped up into something that could be great, and I have utter faith that they will be. The writing, as always, is superb, the small nods and touches in the art are worth the price of the comic all by themselves, and the explanation of what’s going on at the beginning of the comic and then throughout the comic itself make this an easy thing to get into. In short, this comic is brilliant and you are being cruel to yourself if you are not reading it.