This week: Avenging Spider-Man #6 kicks off a mini-crossover in Marvel, Dark Horse brings us a post-apocalyptic Western with Alabaster Wolves #1, and much more!
I wanted to try something different for awhile. As some of you know (because I complain about it not infrequently) I find that writing about comics on a weekly basis is tough. I love writing about comics, reading them, discussing them, dissecting them and more, but the days when a single issue routinely came with a complete narrative or even a single coherent thematic hook are long gone, if they ever existed at all, and as the number of pages creators are working with shrinks per issue, the problem isn’t likely to go away.
So, instead, every Wednesday – Internet connection permitting – I’m going to provide a run down of all the comics I picked up from my local comic shop (the amazing Oxford Comics in Atlanta), along with a grade. Anything that sticks with me for more than a day or really demands that I say more on it will get a full review linked back to the weekly post, and anything that’s really lodged itself into my brain will be revisited in future weeks or months to be seen as part of a bigger picture.
And here we go!
Alabaster Wolves #1 (of 5)
Caitlin R. Kiernan brings us Alabaster Wolves #1, which plays like a clever, post-apocalyptic riff on shows like Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and reads like a Western. I went in not knowing what to expect and found a clever story about a blessed monster hunter named Dancy who makes an impulsive decision that comes with severe consequences. I can’t wait to see how the events of the first issue play out, especially if Steven Lieber and Rachelle Rosenberg continue to work together on the rich, evocative art. (A. Dark Horse Comics, $3.50)
Avenging Spider-Man #6
Though I avoided the last crossover between Daredevil and a Spider-Man title, this one serves as the culmination of Daredevil‘s yearlong plot… so, as frustrating as it is, I forked over the extra cash. And while the $3.99 price tag still grates, I have to admit: “The Omega Effect” has all the makings of a great crossover. Action packed, well-illustrated and with a number of quotable lines and memorable character beats, Avenging Spider-Man #6 (written by Waid and Rucka) starts off the event with a bang. Let’s hope the rest can live up. (A-. Marvel Comics, $3.99)
Eight issues in, and I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about Batwoman. I enjoy reading it, certainly. But there’s a distance to the book, too. But while the plotting occasionally feels insignificant and (at its worst) purposely obfuscatory, there’s a simple fact that, at the Big 2, it just doesn’t get prettier than this. Even with J.H. Williams III ceding the bulk of the art to Amy Reeder Hadley, Batwoman remains an impossibly pretty title. It’s just one that I think will read much, much better in trade. This issue finds Batwoman using her romantic liaison to a police captain to pump her for information about an upcoming prisoner transport so she can get the information she needs to have infiltrated the new villain’s base last issue, and while it’s not the most compelling story ever, it’s engaging and, I can’t stress this enough, so fun to look at. (B. DC Comics, $2.99)
Paul Cornell’s Demon Knights is probably tied with Justice League Dark for me for the New 52 book that most excited me conceptually while periodically boring me in execution. For every memorable issue (#1’s “Seven Against the Dark”, or #4’s “Merlin Watches the Storm”) there have been two aimless, meandering issues. Thankfully, both #7 and #8 seem to have figured out how to tell stories in this setting, and #8 does what Demon Knights does best: build a dark, character-based mythology behind a piece of the team. (B+. DC Comics, $2.99)
Last month, I was incredibly kind to Saga #1. Well, the grace period? It’s over. This month, I’m going to be EVEN NICER! Seriously, Saga seems like it was written from the detritus and useless bits floating around my skull, except everything looks cooler because Fiona Staples is a fantastic artistic talent. This month introduces us to the Stalk, a hardened bounty hunter hiding a creepy secret under her dress, as well as continuing to build the bizarre world Vaughan has imagined. It’s just a neat book, well-written and gorgeously illustrated, and it’s one I think any fantasy fan owes it to themselves to try. (A. Image, $2.99)
Though I respect Jonathan Hickman’s talent, his books have thus far been incredibly hit-or-miss with me. Though I’ll try any new book he brings out, I’ve found that, if I don’t have a solid idea of who the main players are and what drives them, I’m not as likely to enjoy the book. It’s why, I think, I loved The Nightly News but was turned off by the aggressive oddness of S.H.I.E.L.D. – and while his newest book, Secret, is far from one of his most obtuse works, its combination of predictability and lack of memorable characters combine with a particularly odd coloring choice by Michael Garland to make this one feel pretty inessential, at least by the end of its opening issue. (C+. Image, $3.50)
The Secret Service #1
It’s safe, I think, to call the creative team behind The Secret Service ‘all-star': Mark Millar (The Ultimates and Kick-Ass) and Dave Gibbons (Watchmen) seem like a fairly natural team-up, and they’ve worked on some of the most influential mainstream comics out there. But The Secret Service doesn’t really do justice to their legacy. Don’t get me wrong – the first issue isn’t bad at all. The opening riff on James Bond-like secret agents and Star Wars legend Mark Hamill is rather funny and unpredictable, but the twist the book takes shortly after, into the domestic drama of teenage wastrel Gary and his extended family is fairly uninspired. There’s potential, and a lot of nerd love in the name dropping, but all things considered, there’s not much there to make me want more. (C+. Icon, $2.99)
The Shade #7
James Robinson concludes the Shade’s adventures in Barcelona here, bringing the Shade, his vampire daughter La Sangre and the Spanish superhero Montpellier together for a final showdown with the Inquisitor. Though the last issue (and, to a lesser degree, this one) have been a step down from the excellence of “Times Past: 1944″ and “Memoria Roja”, The Shade remains an exciting, well-illustrated book, and James Robinson proves he can quip with the best of ‘em. With slightly tighter plotting (or more expansive character work), The Shade could be one of the best – but even as is, it’s more than worth a read. (B. DC Comics, $2.99)
The Unwritten #36
After seemingly wrapping up much of the main plot two issues back, Carey continues to show that every action has consequences – and the consequences of Tommy’s actions in “The War of the Words” may be far more dire than anyone could have foreseen. I enjoyed this issue thoroughly… but how could I not, as it brought back a number of my favorite elements about the series: Pauly Bruckner, the foul-mouthed crook turned into a fairy tale rabbit; the endless staircase of stories; and the Tinker, noble superhero done horribly wrong by Wilson Taylor. Together, the pair of them confront the Wave, a massive event that’s sent all of fiction fleeing. Though it’s far from the most enthralling issue Vertigo’s series has produced, it’s still endlessly enjoyable, particularly for those fans like me who have often enjoyed the bizarre tangents Carey’s book periodically takes more than the series that spawned them. (B+. Vertigo, $2.99)