This week in comics, Marvel breaks ground in Astonishing X-Men #50, Justice League Dark gets a new writer and a new sense of purpose, and DC continues to beat up on owls, like, everywhere.
All-Star Western #9 (A “Night of the Owls” Book)
This was either the laziest possible tie-in to Scott Snyder’s “Night of the Owls” story… or the best. Though Snyder still has a firm hand on Batman, the tie-ins to this series have been disappointing at best – issue-long fight scenes with a character we’ll never see again who has no impact on the title he’s appearing in. Which is why it’s nice that the tie-in aspect of the still-solid All-Star Western lasts only a couple pages and is quickly dismissed by the book’s apathetic hero, as Palmiotti and Grey spend the remainder of the time wrapping up the ongoing plot of the “August 7″ and their trip to New Orleans. Moritat’s art doesn’t quite work for me, but I appreciate the gritty atmosphere he sets up for the title, and the back-up wraps up the story of Nighthawk and Cinnamon in a satisfying manner. It may not be DC’s best book, but it’s one of the most consistent. (B. DC Comics, $3.99)
Astonishing X-Men #50
I’m a fan of Marjorie Liu’s writing, though I wish she’d branch out a bit more from the overpriced X-books, but this was not her best work. Though I suspect it will be a landmark issue of comics for the leap forward it begins to take with Northstar and his boyfriend, the sad fact is, it isn’t a terribly good issue of comics. It’s not terrible, either, of course, particularly when Liu relaxes and just lets the characters hang out, but the book’s melodramatic plot – involving mind-controlled villains kidnapping Northstar’s boyfriend – is a ‘classic’ love interest plot line in all the very worst ways. Gay marriage coming to mainstream comics? Definitely a good thing. Here’s hoping it has a brighter future than what we see here. (C. Marvel Comics, $3.99)
Batman Incorporated #1
Grant Morrison returns to the Batman franchise with an incredibly strong debut in Batman Incorporated #1, a book that brings to mind the absolute best of Morrison’s Batman and Robin and provides rock-solid action beats, fantastic art from Chris Burnham doing his best Frank Quitely impression, a number of solid jokes, great banter, solid plotting and shocking plot twists. While Snyder’s otherwise excellent run has trapped itself in a corner with this owls story, Morrison’s Batman Incorporated is a thrilling, unquestionably fun breath of fresh air. (A. DC Comics, $2.99)
I, Vampire #9
The new status quo for everyone’s favorite vampire is here, and it’s handled way better than I thought it would be. Andrew Bennett has taken control of Mary’s vampire army, and he has led them to… Utah? There, he’s trying to get the vampires used to feeding off animals and remaining under the radar, while Tig and the Professor are telling the Van Helsings – a far, far crazier version than most you’ve seen before – about what’s happened. Fialkov’s script is tight, Sorrentino and Maiolo continue to impress with their smooth, dark art and colors, and the title continues to be quite probably the best book none of you are reading. (A. DC Comics, $2.99)
Justice League Dark #9
I’ve spoken before about my disappointment with this title – a disappointment, I’m happy to say, that has vanished completely. New writer Jeff Lemire (joined by regular artist Mikel Janin, who knows how to make this stuff look good) found in a single issue a way to bring the team together and keep things lively in a way the previous eight only dreamed about. With a new team that includes Andrew Bennett and Black Orchid and an actual connection to the Justice League through Steve Trevor and A.R.G.U.S., Lemire has brought a number of disparate elements together in a single issue. Anyone with even mild curiosity about the book should start reading right here. (A-. DC Comics, $2.99)
The Unwritten #37
Mike Carey’s world in The Unwritten started off very much like our own, and one of my favorite things to track as the series has progressed is just how insane his world has slowly become. Kicking off a new story titled “The Wound”, The Unwritten #37 follows an investigation into a cult that has been built up around Tommy Taylor – a cult that has somehow tapped into some real power. Carey’s worldbuilding has been a pleasure, and the snippets he grants us of the lives of Tommy and Richard are definitely interesting, and illustrate that this book has plenty of life left in it after all. (B+. Vertigo, $2.99)
– Cal C.