This Week In Comics: 6/27/2012

This week in comics, Before Watchmen: Nite Owl shows us why we should have feared this whole silly prequel business more, Abnett & Lanning launch a new superhero book for Boom! and two of Gotham’s many, many massive criminal conspiracies clash in All-Star Western.  Would you like to know more?

Everyone is super hostile to the kindly old man inviting them all into his house. It’s like a gritty retelling of The Sandlot.

All-Star Western #10

All-Star Western #10 is all set-up, and it deals with a storyline – “The Night of the Owls” – I don’t particularly care for.  And yet, it’s my favorite issue of the series in a long, long time.  Tallulah is a great foil for Arkham and Hex, and Palmiotti and Gray do a good job incorporating her into the partnership quickly.  There are some neat plot twists, and the conflict set up here – the Religion of Crime vs the Court of Owls, with our heroes caught in the middle – is a genuinely interesting one.  I have a lot of hope for this arc.  Moritat’s art still doesn’t really satisfy, though I’m getting used to it, and the back-up continues to be the series weak point (though the Bat Lash story here is just goofy enough to almost work), but overall, All-Star Western has never been better. (B+. DC Comics, $3.99)

Batman Incorporated #2

There are some interesting ideas at the core of Batman Incorporated #2, which serves as an introduction to the other side of the brewing conflict between Batman’s new team of heroes and Talia’s brutal Leviathan by showing us Talia’s mother, her childhood, the conception of her son and, finally, her takeover of her father’s criminal empire.  There are some interesting ideas and images here, and Talia is definitely an interesting villain, but the history lesson plays like a lot of history lessons: dry, without the wit, excitement and emotion of the events themselves. (C+. DC Comics, $2.99)

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #1 (of 4)

One thing I was worried “Before Watchmen” would become was just a series of origin stories with little point besides showing us younger versions of the characters we already knew (because that worked so well for Darth Vader in the Star Wars prequels).  So far, Minutemen and Silk Spectre have done that, but with enough wit and artistry to largely escape the complaint, and while I certainly didn’t like Comedian, it wasn’t an origin story by any stretch.  But Nite Owl?  Pure, generic origin slog.  Professional, yes. Well-drawn, sure.  But bland and uninspired as humanly possible.  (D+. DC Comics, $3.99)

Fatale #6

Though Fatale has never been my favorite of the Brubaker/Phillips books, I can forgive it its mistakes – they are made, after all, in the name of ambition and trying something new.  Cthulhu noir, as the series seems to be, is a neat little genre mash-up, and I like the way Brubaker slowly builds to the weird stuff rather than launching with it outright.  Fatale #6 begins a new arc for the book, putting Hank and Jo’s story on the backburner while some new characters come to the foreground.  This arc seems to be focusing on a cult in Los Angeles in the late 70s, a milieu with a great deal of potential for the creepiness the book needs.  The set-up is slow but interesting, and those craving something that feels fresh should check it out. (B. Image, $3.50)

The Hypernaturals #1

I want to say this right off the bad: though I gave this issue a fairly low grade, I genuinely think Abnett and Lanning have a series with an incredible amount of potential.  Sure, superheroes in a far-future sci-fi setting is pretty familiar stuff to anyone who’s read Legion of Super-Heroes before, and some of the character work here is pretty clumsy, but the world-building?  That’s a blast, and what gives me the most hope for the series overall.  The opening issue suffers from a bit too much exposition now and again, but that’s almost a necessity, and it is by and large well-handled, interesting exposition.  If Abnett and Lanning can avoid falling into sci-fi/superhero cliches and build on the already-solid foundation laid here, I think The Hypernaturals could become very, very good.  (B-. Boom! Studios, $3.99)

I, Vampire #10

You know what, I’m just going to say it now: I, Vampire is my favorite book of the New 52.  I love Animal Man and a whole host of other titles, but Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino are just knocking it out of the park month in and month out with I, Vampire.  This issue continues the winning streak as Mary and Andrew fight for the right to rule the vampires while Professor Troughton and a Van  Helsing argue the moral implications of Andrew’s actions and the Van Helsings’ extreme reactions.  It’s an interesting idea that never holds up the action or slows down the book.  The only problem I really have is the twist at the end: yes, it’s pulpy fun that sets up a massive ‘vampires vs. zombies’ brawl, but the actual outcome of the plot doesn’t make a terrific amount of sense.  Still – I would read an entire arc of Troughton and Van Helsing arguing the morality of superheroes while two vampires had a lovingly rendered brawl. (A. DC Comics, $2.99)

Justice League #10

This is the first issue in some time that I’ve felt was legitimately something of a dud.  The series normally specializes in larger-than-life moments and big enemies, but Graves still feels undercooked and half-hearted, and his ‘origin’ here does little to inspire me to feel otherwise – a problem, when this issue focuses so heavily on him and his fight with the League.  Interestingly, though, this was the first week the back-up feature has really had anything to say.  Though Billy remains more obnoxious than he has to be, I still found this to be a fairly compelling bit of character work and set-up in general, and this is the first time I’ve felt like Johns might actually have a solid Shazam story in him after all.  (C. DC Comics, $3.99)

Justice League Dark #10

Jeff Lemire’s reinvention of this book from a slow, portentous affair into a roaring supernatural ensemble book continues here – and continues to impress. The book makes excellent use of all its characters and of DC’s rich mystical history without devolving into camp or making things difficult to follow for newcomers.  Though this issue is largely set-up, Janin’s solid art and Lemire’s grasp on the team’s fractious personalities help keep things chugging along before the issue-ending twist gets us to the meat of “The Black Room”‘s plot. (A-. DC Comics, $2.99)

– Cal C.


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