This Week in Comics: 5/16/2012

This week in comics, the Avengers and the X-Men settle their differences via walk-off (with special guest judge David Bowie!), Image wows with Dancer #1, and I confuse the plot of a major event comic with that of Zoolander to mildly comedic effect. Very mild.

Let’s dance!

Avengers vs. X-Men #4 (of 12)

There’s really not a lot to say about this event, which is proving to be even blander than it’s concept first sounded.  We aren’t even getting to see the bulk of the battles – for that, you have to purchase one of many spin-offs and tie-ins!  Instead, turgid drama and constant double-crosses rule the day.  Hopefully, the arrival of the Phoenix can jolt some life into this fairly lackluster series. (C. Marvel Comics, $3.99)

Batwoman #9

For the first time in a long time, Williams III’s Batwoman managed to tell a completely coherent story, utilizing the flashback structure to help set-up, engage in and wrap-up the events of THIS ISSUE, giving it more meaning than these past few issues have managed to muster.  Though I miss Williams’ art – and, for that matter, Amy Reeder Hadley’s brief, excellent contributions – W. Haden Blackman continues to prove to be a solid replacement and Batwoman continues to be a lovely book to look at, particularly in its design and layout. (B+. DC Comics, $2.99)

Catwoman #9 (A “Night of the Owls” story)

Much like last week’s Batgirl #9, Catwoman tries to give a little gravitas to the whole “Night of the Owls” thing by giving us a little bit of backstory and character to its faceless assassin, Talon, and connecting the Talon’s tragic past with the heroine’s own issues.  The trick worked well for both issues, giving the otherwise fairly rote fights a little bit more meaning than they would have had otherwise and finding a way to connect the story to its protagonist.  Though the ending feels a little trite, this is one of the better issues of an uneven book. (B+. DC Comics, $2.99)

Dancer #1

Nathan Edmondson knows his way around a twisty action-thriller.  His first few issues of Grifter showed a potential for a taut conspiracy thriller, and even if his abbreviated run never quite had a chance to live up to its promise, it was just one sign among many that he was a writer to watch out for.  Joined here by Nic Klein on art – who does an absolutely fantastic job, by the way – he brings us Dancer, the story of a government-trained mercenary and assassin targeted by… well, that would be a spoiler for the issue’s big twist.  Suffice it to say, those looking for an enjoyable, unpredictable thriller should check out the adventures of Alan and his ballerina girlfriend Quinn. (A-. Image Comics, $3.50)

Daredevil #13

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again before Waid’s run is over, but this is Marvel done right – and Daredevil more vital than he’s been in years.  This issue does a lot to push towards a clever, unpredictable, smart ending to the Omega Drive situation while still managing to leave us with multiple trails leading towards new storylines.  Koi Pham fits in well with the look Waid’s Daredevil has been cultivating as the book continues to shine.  (A-. Marvel Comics, $2.99)

DC Universe Presents #9 (Part one of “Savage”)

Is it a blatant rip-off of Silence of the Lambs? Unquestionably.  But the relationship between FBI agent Kass Sage and her father, notorious serial killer and rumored immortal Vandal Savage, is a relatively strong one to build a story on.  DC Universe Presents‘ last story, following the Challengers of the Unknown, never quite took off for me, but this seems slightly more promising.  Bernard Chang’s art is excellent, and if Robinson can get a handle on the book’s more derivative aspects, he may well find a story worth telling. (B. DC Comics, $2.99)

Justice League #9

Geoff Johns still hasn’t QUITE found his voice for everyone on the League yet, but the series continues to grow very slightly stronger as it goes on.  The Batman segment is particularly painful – “I don’t have a favorite color anymore”? Really? – but I can’t deny that his take on the League is compulsively readable.  Less successful is his take on Billy Batson in the Shazam! backup.  But I’ll have more to say on that later.  Suffice to say, though I doubt this issue will win over any converts, fans of big action, comfortable jokes and classic villain-building will find a lot to enjoy. (B. DC Comics, $3.99)

Saga #3

Vaughan and Staples continue to build the bizarre, wondrous world of Saga as the fallout from last issue plays out here.  I’m not even sure I can rightly say why I’m enjoying Saga as much as I am, but three issues in it remains perhaps my favorite new book this year.  Marko and Alana remain well-drawn characters, and Izabel is a promising new addition to the cast, while the bad guys of the book (The Will, the Stalk and Prince Robot IV) each get a few more pages of characterization here.  It’s just an exceedingly well-constructed narrative in a fascinatingly bizarre land, and one I hope continues for as long as Vaughan wants. (A-. Image Comics, $2.99)

The Shade #8 (of 12)

Though it fails to live up to the highlights of The Shade‘s last “Times Past” issue (1944), “Times Past: 1901″ still manages to provide a solid adventure for DC’s most cultured anti-hero.  Set in Paris in 1901, the Shade finds himself relaxing with down-on-his-luck scion of the Caldecott family, Albert, who finds himself stalked by a vicious demon in the form of his lover, Otto.  Robinson’s take on the Shade remains strong, and I definitely appreciate the way he continues to flesh out the character’s family and history.  At this point, I don’t even remember the main narrative thrust of the series, but I don’t really even consider that a bad thing; the Shade and his family are such fantastic characters, I’m just glad I have the chance to hang out with them each month. (B+. DC Comics, $2.99)

Wonder Woman #9

Ah, the perils of the monthly comic. I have a hard time judging this one – the arc is fascinating, the cliff-hanger is solid, but this issue is pure set-up for what comes next.  That said, it’s pretty good set-up, missing only Chiang’s art (Tony Akins is solid, but no substitute for the crisp, cartoonish darkness of Chiang) and more Ares.  That’s right, Azzarello’s take on Diana’s longtime nemesis Ares has proven to be more enjoyable in his periodic 2-3 page appearances throughout the current series than in the last 10 years of Wonder Woman stories combined.  Azzarello is coming up with a fresh, if controversial, take on these characters, and even though I’m not sure where he’s going with it, I’m still more than happy to be along for the ride.  (B+. DC Comics, $2.99)

- Cal C.

Last Week in Comics

read/RANT

7 Responses to This Week in Comics: 5/16/2012

  1. ikeebear says:

    I have enjoyed the first two issues of Saga on your recommendation. I might try to search out Dancer.

    • Anonymous says:

      Glad to hear it! Saga is such a profoundly weird book, I’m sometimes sure that I’m the only person who would like it it. Dancer is a much more… normal book, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless – and Nic Klein’s art and layouts are all pretty fantastic.

  2. wwayne says:

    I’m glad to see that Edmonson is finally getting the attention and the good reviews he deeply deserves. Unfortunately, I don’t like spy tales and any sort of complicated plot, so I think I won’t give it a chance, even if I love Edmonson’s narrative style. I totally agree about Daredevil’s new deal, and the fact that this title did need a radical change. Bendis and Brubaker did a wonderful job, but the character had become too depressed and depressive, so a renewal was strictly necessary.

    • Cal Cleary says:

      Thus far, DANCER is neither a spy tale (… unless ‘assassin tale’ counts) or terribly complicated, but it could very easily become so in the future. I’ll be checking in with the series periodically from here on out, so if it stays sweet-and-simple, hopefully I’ll be able to get that across to you.

      Waid’s DAREDEVIL is revelatory for exactly the reason you describe. I still read the first issue from time to time, because it’s just such a fantastic introduction to the character.

  3. xxadverbxx says:

    And here I actually liked Round 4 of AvX. I was teetering between that 4.5 and a 4 on it, but found it good. Probably shoulda gone for that 4 as it rather misrepresents the fights it glimpses you at, but I kind of like that idea too for those that aren’t grabbing every issue like I am.

    • Cal Cleary says:

      I liked 2 alright, which was cheesy but fun. The rest of the series hasn’t really been doing it for me. I’ll likely keep reading, especially because a coworker loves the series but doesn’t really buy his own comics, but I’m hoping the series kicks it up a notch soon.

      • xxadverbxx says:

        Yeah. I think that is part of what I liked so much about the last issue. Mostly for it seems to me at least to show something really good should be right around the corner. If I’m wrong, well I’ll be rather upset.

        I think it was Comic Vine btw that has a theory Kid Omega will actually end up as the Phoenix host…

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