Comics 4th Jan 2012

And we’re finally up to date. I’ve cut down on my New 52 reviews fairly brutally dropping five titles from the list. I’m not sure if I’ll be similarly harsh on the other 3 release windows, but the titles have all had 5 issues to prove themselves.

From outside the New 52 there’s two great releases apiece from DC and Marvel, but sadly no 2000AD yet.

As is becoming the format, contents, then a jump.

DC – New 52 #5 Part 1
Animal Man
Batwing
Hawk & Dove
Justice League International
Red Lantern
Static Shock
Stormwatch
Swamp Thing

Not Reviewed
Action Comics
Detective Comics
Green Arrow
Men Of War
OMAC

Skipped To The End…

DC
The Huntress
Penguin: Pain & Prejudice

Marvel
Defenders
Villains For Hire


DC – New 52 #5 Part 1

Animal Man #5
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art and cover by Travel Foreman and Jeff Huet
Cover by Travel ForemanAnimal Man utterly floored me this week. There’s a real sense of events reaching a crescendo, both for the plot and the artwork. I have remarked before on the body horror that is so evocatively drawn, and the series surpasses itself this month. Buddy, Maxine, and the talking cat Socks return to the real world, to rescue Ellen and Cliff, fighting against the last of the Hunters. And that’s all you need to know really, without me spoiling things.

The ending shows a nice symmetry with Swamp Thing, and leaves me longing for issue 7. Issue 6 is going to be a break from the arc, which should be good as well, but I want to know what happens next.

Batwing #5
Written by Judd Winick
Art by Ben Oliver
Cover by Ken LashleyWe get more of David’s past as a child soldier and it’s grim reading this month. In the present The Citadel, the abandoned base of The Kingdom is being opened as a museum, an event Batwing feels sure will attract Massacre.

There’s an odd bit of unintended misogyny from the lead, which is hopefully just social idiocy rather than anything deeper. It’s at least dealt with in the issue rather than just put out there unattended by comment.

This issue is a serious change of pace, only partly for the inclusion of Batman, but for the villain too. With a number of twists the plot end with a shift of scene to Eygpt and the promise of a final showdown.

Hawk & Dove #5
Written by Sterling Gates
Art and cover by Rob LiefeldLiefield’s

Deadman once again gets a cameo, but it’s not the best rendering of the character. The plot is slipping from the entertaining storytelling in the first issue to a more straight-faced style, to it’s detriment. Hawk and Dove’s relationship seems overworked, with Hawk questioning Dove’s actions and disagreeing before acquiescing to the extent it feels like a display rather than honest discourse. Essentially Hank seems to be a bit of a prick.  The pair are tracking Deadman, who’s been captured by Condor and Swan (where does Boston find the time? he’s in almost as many books as Batman). The final confrontation leans towards the ridiculous rather than the impressive, with Dove showing off her Care Bear stare the extent of her powers.

Justice League International #5
Written by Dan Jurgens
Art by Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan
Cover by David Finch and Richard FriendI’m enjoying JLI. There’s a undercurrent of humour that doesn’t overwhelm the situations they’re in, and the team is getting closer to working as a unit, and the stereotypical quirks are fading as the individuals develop.

The first arc concludes this month, with the JLI taking the fight to Peraxxus, aboard his space ship, and working as a team to stop him. The friction between some members fades, while others still chafe (Booster/Gardner). With there first successful mission behind them I hope the team get a bit of downtime, so we can see their civi sides, rather than just perpetually costumed up.

Red Lantern #5
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Ed Benes and Rob Hunter
Cover by Ed BenesThe confrontation promised on the cover doesn’t quiet come to fruition, but there’s certainly fisticuffs. There’s a very fine line being trodden this issue about violence to women, and I’m waery of it. Bleez is massively sexualised, and the series continues to fall between this and violence on one hand and musing about the nature of rage on the other. Unless the arc comes to a good ending I can see this series being added to the list of those going unreviewed.

This issue we see Atrocitus confronting Bleez, and the return of Ratchet, Skallox, andZilius Zox from the blood ocean, with two of their origin stories finished off. Krona’s body has gone missing, and this only drives Atrocitus’ rage. The earthside story comes to a conclusion with a brutal beating and the appearance of a red ring.

Static Shock #5
Written by Scott Mcdaniel
Art by Scott Mcdaniel and Andy Owens
Cover by Khary Randolph

A return of Science! (I’m going to keep writing it like that. Deal with it) on page two with one of Faraday’s laws. I’m not struck on the artwork, but the overall story arc being constructed is impressive. We get a brief window on Virgil’s life before he became Static, and a racketing up of the stakes for his family, as Sharon is kidnapped.

Stormwatch #5
Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Miguel Sepulveda and Al BarrionuevoThe penultimate issue of Paul Cornell’s Stormwatch run has the internal struggles come to a head in spectacular form as Adam is removed as the leader of Stormwatch. There a nicely executed scene serving to reinforce the role and origin of each team member as well as shedding further light on them. The fight shown on the cover resolves in marvellous style, and concludes with a shocking cliff hanger.

Swamp Thing #5
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Yanick PaquetteAnd we close this month’s New 52 reviews with another fantastic issue of Swamp Thing. The lampshading about the slaughterhouse comes to fruition in horrific fashion this month, with Alec and Abby facing off against William and his morbid allies. The artwork is once again stunning, as battle is joined. Elsewhere the Rot attacks on an unexpected front.

The interlinking of Animal Man and Swamp Thing is loose enough that one can be read without the other, but why would you want to do that? The peril for each character is escalating, with hints that any hope Buddy has now resides with Swamp Thing.


Not Reviewed

Action Comics #5
Written by Grant Morrison
Backup story written by SHOLLY FISCH
Art by Rags Morales and Rick Bryant
Backup story art by Brad Walker
Cover by Rags Morales

Detective Comics #5
Written by Tony S. Daniel
Art by Tony S. Daniel and Ryan Winn
Cover by TONY S. DANIEL

Green Arrow #5
Written by Keith Giffen and Dan Jurgens
Art by Dan Jurgens and Ray Mccarthy
Cover by Jason Fabok and Ryan Winn

Men Of War #5
Written by Ivan Brandon and Matt Kindt
Art by Tom Derenick, Patrick Scherberger and Dan Green
Cover by Viktor Kalvachev

OMAC #5
Written by Dan Didio and Keith Giffen
Art and cover by Keith Giffen and Scott Koblish

A crossover with Frankenstein may mean I’ll be coming back to the title if it’s second half in Frankenstein is unintelligible, but I doubt it.


Skipped To The End…

Animal Man and Swamp Thing stand together as must buys this month, along with Stormwatch in shared first place. Animal Man and Swamp Thing work together to provide a fantastically delivered story, while Stormwatch ups the ante once again.

Other than those the only issue I really would get behind is Justice League International. Batwing and Static top the remainder, while I remain unsure about the continuing appeal of Hawk & Dove and Red Lantern.

This release cycle does seem to be suffering as I cut back reviews, with OMAC and Detective Comics joining the not reviewed list.

DC

The Huntress #4
Written by Paul Levitz
Art by Marcus To
Cover by Guillem MarchThe indulgent tour of Italy continues, as Huntress steps up her one woman war against Moretti’s organisation. There are extra layers added to the plot this month, which serve to add more realism to the set up. The final half of the issue has Huntress taking down Moretti’s gang is fantastic style, less planned and perfect than Batman, and possibly better for it.

Penguin: Pain and Prejudice #4
Written by Gregg Hurwitz
Art and cover by Szymon KudranskiThis continues to be amongst the best books of the month, with gourgeous artwork, and a huge dicotemy at the heart of it. It’s all a question of perspective. When presented with the viewpoint of The Penguin, he seems sympathetic to some degree, but as soon as you step back he’s a monster. Equally interesting is the view of Batman, with him presented here as almost as much of a monster as Penguin; a violent bully who goes to any length to enforce his own will.

Oswald’s romance continues, while his criminal enterprise comes under increased pressure from Batman and the police. This drives him to put into action a grim revenge against the city he sees as constantly wronging him.


Marvel

The Defenders #2
Written by Mayy Fraction
Art by Terry DobsonI’ve missed Marvels little catch up pages. Without starting off a DC vs Marvel rant, I’ll jut mention that it is a nice feature and DC could maybe learn from it. Moving on…
It’s Defenders vs Tigermen in the snow to kick the issue off, with Danny Rand pulling of a handy chi trick involving bullets, but it is ultimately all for nought as the Defenders are captured. The architect of all this is the fantastically unhinged Prester John, bent on his own goals, no matter the cost.
I’ve deleted the sentence that starts with “my favourite character is…” quite a few times now. Everyone is brilliant (Silver Surfer maybe a little lacking, but he’s not had the page time of the others).
Two little quirks are worth mentioning. There’s narrative captions (in a yeelow box reminiscent of Deadpool’s monologues) which almost seem to be the thoughts of one of the team, but it’s never pinpointed, and they suddenly disappear post action scene. Most pages have an enigmatic little footer, some advertising other titles, but others seemingly related to the book itself.
Villains For Hire #2 (of 4)
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by Renato ArlemThe dialogue crackles this month, with a first page snigger, and a sense of humour that permeates the dialogue without lessening the action or plot.

Villain of the month goes to “Monster” for becoming what Crossfire fears (Clue: One of the Avengers).

Purple Man’s crew is once again getting the run around from the mysterious secondary group, and makes a play for defectors. He’s credulous as to the identity of the other groups leader, but these doubt are addressed in fine style at the end of the issue.

 

And we’re done. More comics next week, but expect a actual book review from me before then (shock and indeed horror).

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