avengers arena

This Week’s Best

spider-man batman superman reviewsI read about 30 new books a week. This is a pretty good sized haul considering that the overwhelming majority of books I read are from Marvel and DC and are super hero books. It’s not like all I like is Big Two capes books it’s just that these stories work in this format for me the most. The rest of what I read comes in trade paper back for me. Since Marvel and DC books are so interconnected, I like to keep up.

That all said, I’ve been dropping more DC books than I have in a long time and picking up many more Marvel books. It’s been widely reported that DC is losing market share as well as critical acclaim as the New 52 continues. The Batman books have been the only DC books that have consistently stayed at the top of my pile. Animal Man and Aquaman have and continue to be some of my favorite books while Scott Snyder leaving Swamp Thing has me worried. Either way, here are the standouts from this week:

 

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_3_5Uncanny X-Men #5

Marvel Comics

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: Frasier Irving

This is starting to really feel like an X-Men book now. It’s a totally new era but what makes X-Men books work is all intact here. Enemies from all sides, love triangles, mysteries, an all powerful villain, humans fearing them, in-fighting, new mutants, powers not working…this really has it all! This was billed as the true flagship X-Men book before it came out and I found that hard to believe. Wolverine and the X-Men felt like the true flagship book to me. Then I thought about it more. Wolverine and the X-Men represents the Morrison-era X-Men style of a book while Uncanny X-Men represents the more classic X-Men team. Uncanny has more baggage and is the outlaw team with a manageable roster. I think both styles work and are just as legitimate. This issue let the action die down just a bit in order for the interactions to have their place. The expansion of this team feels organic and really has me wanting more.

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Batman-Inc-10-variantBatman Incorporated #10

DC Comics

Writer: Grant Morrison

Artists: Chris Burnham & Jason Masters

While not my favorite issue recently, Batman Inc. books are still some of the best on the shelves. This one felt a bit slow till the last page and somewhat redundant but I see why Morrison made these choices. With three issues left in his HUGE run on Batman, this issue brought in elements from a variety of his past stories that are all going to build towards the finale. I love the idea that Batman is pulling out all the stops to take on Leviathan. Incorporating his Batbots, the Suit of Sarrows, and the Man-Bat Serum to give him the edge he needs makes this feel as big as it should be. The Al Ghul “family” is coming apart and it’s going to be a factor for the future of Batman. This had one of the best last pages of a Batman book that I can remember. If this was a Rocky movie, it’s where you would hear his theme music starting up. Game on!

Avengers_Arena_Vol_1_8Avengers Arena #8

Marvel Comics

Writer: Dennis Hopeless

Artist: Kev Walker

Last issue took time away from the main story (which had one crazy ending) to give us the set-up of Arcade to the way we find him in issue #1. This issue takes us back to the scene of Kid Briton’s death and we see how everyone is dealing with it. With as many characters with powers there are in this book, this never feels like a super hero book. These teens are confused real sounding characters who are way out of their element. This title grows on me with each issue. Once I got over if this whole story was happening in a virtual reality or not I finally fully committed to what’s been going on. Combining all these eras of Marvel teens from every corner of the Marvel U really works because the cliches feel very tenuous and alliances feel strained throughout. I’ve read many of these characters in the titles they came from so the accumulation of all those stories really enhances this for me. As a Darkhawk fan from the 90s as well as someone who has never missed a Runaways appearance, this book had a great twist for me. I recommend this book to non super hero fans as well as seasoned Marvel Zombies. There’s really something for everyone here and Kev Walker’s art is always crisp and approachable.

This week’s Worst

X-Termination_Vol_1_2

X-Termination #2 – Conclusion

Marvel Comics

Writers: David Lapham, Marjorie Liu, Greg Pak
Artists: David Lopez, Guillermo Mogorron, Raul Valdes, Matteo Lolli, Don Ho, Lorenzo Ruggiero, Carlos Cuevas, Allen Martinez
It’s really rare that I use this space as a place to complain about comics. For the most part, I’m dedicated to talking about what I like in comics and letting people know about it. This storyline and this issue (in particular) is awful. Uncoordinated collaborative writing and art made this feel like the obvious editorially mandated story that it was. Two so/so X-Men books that everyone knew would be canceled crossover with the least important X-Men title (Astonishing) to combine into a really basic story that ends two titles. Extreme X-Men was the new version of the Exiles which means it was a reality jumping title that was basically Sliders meets the X-Men. Crossing that title with Age of Apocalypse makes sense because that’s another alternate reality X-Men title with low sales. The contributions made by the various artists seem rushed and are very inconsistent from page to page. It was jarring. The ending was obvious from the from the first page and it felt like everyone was just going through the motions. The upshot is that I will be picking up two less mediocre books from now on so at least there’s that.

Marvel’s Newest Chapter

avengers arena hickman

Marvel Now keeps rolling out


Marvel Now started in October 2012 and looks to continue creating new titles through at least March 2013. Books are being re-touched, relaunched, and made more approachable.

Not a reboot, but a jumping on point for new and lapsed readers to pick up these books. New number one issues, new costumes, and new status quo these comics should be approachable and get you hooked.

When grading these books, I needed criteria. The best criteria would be Marve’s own, in my opinion. I’m using a 1 to 5 star rating with 5 being the best. Here is what I am looking for:

1. Approachable to a new reader. Could anyone who liked the recent Marvel Movies pick this book up as their first comic and enjoy it?

2. New status quo. Is this new enough to warrant this new labeling and reboot?

3. New cover designs. Covers will be less dogmatic (logos always on the top) and look more like movie posters.

4. New looks. We have been promised new costumes for established characters.

Round 3

Avengers #1

thor captain america

So this book is set up to be BIG. Which it should be. The tone of this book feels like Morrison’s JLA. Hickman is taking his time with this story for that “Epic” feel but it’s not a bunch of loose plot threats like his FF run.

The similarities to Morrison’s JLA run are in the the scale of the threat as well as the make-up of the team. After Morrison’s initial storyline on the book he went about growing the team’s ranks beyond the big seven with some unlikely members in order to take on threats Biblically big! This massive line-up feels like an assembly of the world’s greatest heroes. The lineup is diverse in every sense of the word. Men and women of difference races and creeds, established top-tier characters, B and C Level characters brought up from the “minor leagues”, and all-new characters in legacy roles…this is an impressive team.

Just look at Jerome Opena’s art! This book has the feel of an event story because of just how detailed and kinetic his art is in this series. This is very much a movie style story and the art is a big part of that. The two page spread for the title and credits really drives that movie feeling into my head. The story starts off with a premise similar to the team-building story of Giant Sized X-Men #1 and grows from there because this antagonist is more mysterious and interesting than an angry living island.

This team also seems to have more raw power than any line-up that comes to mind (with possible exception to the Initiative Era Mighty Avengers team with Ares and Sentry). Iron Man and Cap are the creators of this team with Iron Man as the visionary and Cap as the leader and inspiration to the team. That part came through and really worked for me.

This book is what I am looking for in a Marvel Now #1. It was approachable because it didn’t really get too into any of the new characters and instead spent it’s time defining the threat and need for this type of team. This is a book I think someone who saw The Avengers movie would appreciate as well as long-time Marvel fans. No easy task.

Approachable:

This book doesn’t give Captain America and Iron Man’s origin but…does it need to? You don’t need to read any specific storylines to understand this new status-que and that makes this very easy to pick up. You don’t need to know much about these characters (yet) to enjoy this story other than Cap and Iron Man. This feels like it was designed for the movie fan to pick up without being boring.

New Status-Que:

This is the next stage of evolution for the Avengers. Sure, it’s a traditional team building issue but with nontraditional choices for members. The diversity of the line-up again reminds me of how Giant Sized X-Men #1 changed the team forever.

New Cover Designs:

Dustin Weaver’s interlocking covers are a perfect way to define this series. A wide screen shot of this new team emerging from light lets you know that this is a massive team ready to take on anything. If Marvel now covers are trying to look like movie posters, they nailed it.

New Looks:

The last page has some, I suppose. This book takes characters from many other books and puts them together for threats deemed big enough to warrant Avenger involvement. I don’t think a uniform look that changes what they already have going would have made sense.

Avengers Arena #1

battle royale arena

This is probably the most drastic relaunch of any title Marvel now put together. Many of the characters from Avengers Academy appear in this book and it seems like this is the new teen hero book for Marvel. The comic borrow HEAVILY from the Japanese movie “Battle Royale” to the degree that it even pays homage to the films poster art with the cover. Making it more meta, the antagonist even admits to stealing the idea for this new status-que from the movie (in so many words). Let’s get into what this is about…

Heroes pitted against heroes? New characters with mysterious pasts? B Level characters thrust in the spotlight? Yes! This book has the make-up for a memorable series. The idea that classic X-Men villain, Arcade, has somehow REALLY upped his game to this level in order to prove that he’s a significant threat is very appealing to a fan who enjoys those types of stories. The premise is wonderfully simple. Like Battle Royale and The Hunger games, teens are put on an island where they are monitored and must kill all other contestants until there is only one remaining. Friendships are broken, alliances made, and even lovers are torn apart because of the game’s rules.

marvel now comics reviews

I have so many questions that have me eagerly awaiting the next issue. How did Arcade pull this off, obtain a new level of power, and access to these heroes? Have other heroes noticed theses teens are missing? Who are these new characters anyway? All of these and more are why this is possibly the best book for brand new readers to pick up. I haven’t even got into the point of view of the first issue that will have both new readers and (especially) Avengers Academy fans with jaws on the floor. The stakes are big and the story is in a bubble (not to be crossed over with other books) which are two criteria for a breakout hit.

Kev Walker really gets what makes young super heroes look cool for years and he adds a new level of darkness to that aesthetic this time around. It’s clean action-oriented art that also guts you at the right moments. These characters look like traditional Marvel super heroes but the setting is alien and that juxtaposition is great.

So far, this is the ONLY Marvel Now book I would really recommend first time comic readers to pick up. That’s impressive.

Approachable:

Everything you need to know is in this issue but long time fans will appreciate the impact of this book on another level (especially Avengers Academy fans…trust me). What it lacks in an original concept, it makes up for by being very easy to pick up.

New Status Quo:

This is a modern Secret War! Heroes against heroes for the amusement of a evil with god-like powers…it’s all there. These characters have not been through anything like this so this book is very different from others on the market right now. How long this can go for, however, is up for debate.

New Cover Designs: 

This one is tough! Although this is only an homage, it tells you everything you need to know just by the cover! It’s Battle Royale with super heroes. Nailed it. The fact that it is patterned after an actual movie poster makes it easy to live up to the mandate set forth by Marvel to do just that.

New Looks:

Costumes aren’t a big part of this series because of the lack of any real super heroics taking place here. That said, there are some cool new character designs that premiere here.