This week in comics, Frankenstein, Demon Knights, and The Shade continue to impress, Image launches a pretty fantastic new title in Revival, and we can finally stop giving a crap about owls.
Action Comics #11
I know, I know, there are plenty of problems with Grant Morrison’s current run on Action Comics. But, you know what? I don’t care. I’m serious. Grant Morrison and Rags Morales are creating a Superman comic that I understand on every level, that gets what it is to be a young person full of fire and conviction but not entirely certain that what you’re doing is right. And they’re doing it while peppering in cool, bizarre sci-fi plots as Superman prepares for the invasion of the Multitude without really understanding what it is, and while Lois Lane finally meets the Blake Farm Ghost we’ve been hearing about for a few months now. This is Morrison’s most relaxed, accessible book in ages, and his worldbuilding here is second to none. Sholly Fisch continues to do sweet, small backup stories focusing on building Superman’s world and supporting cast, the kind of low-key storytelling I wish I saw more of in comics. (A-. DC Comics, $3.99)
This… was not a terribly good issue. I mean, it had a 10-page long monologue from the villain. I think Bruce speaks on maybe two of those pages. Greg Capullo’s art remains solid, but the Court of Owls story is, in the end, a complete wash. Outside of introducing Owlman to the New 52, Scott Snyder’s big epic here was deeply flawed. “The Fall of the House of Wayne” back-up was just as bad. I’ll give the title another issue or two to see if things pick up now that Snyder has finished with owls for now, but this is a title that has disappointed me greatly after its thoroughly exciting opening issues. (C-. DC Comics, $3.99)
Demon Knights #11
Though now quite as strong as some recent issues of Demon Knights, the book continues to be much more solid than its opening arc suggested. The team has reached Camelot and finds themselves transformed by a strange light shining from a tower at the heart of the once-great city – a tower they need to bypass or destroy to reach Avalon. So much of the cast is tied to Avalon’s history that this is giving us a great opportunity to see a little bit more of our heroes, particularly the mysterious Madame Xanadu, and artists Diogenes Neves and Robson Rocha clearly had fun designing monstrous versions of our heroes and the twisted ruins of Camelot. I’m glad to see Cornell has found a tone and story that works consistently, because this is shaping up to be a heck of an adventure. (B+. DC Comics, $2.99)
Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #11
And Frankenstein‘s roll continues. What was once a frequent “Most Disappointing Title of the Month” contender is quickly becoming a favorite as new writer Matt Kindt combines high concept sci-fi and fantasy with a more traditional espionage narrative that lets him go to some pretty weird places without losing his audience. This issue finds Frankenstein invading Leviathan, saved from deconstruction at the last minute due to Nina’s quick thinking. His rapidly building rage doesn’t quite work, and I think Kindt jumps a little too quickly to “Frankenstein trying to destroy the Leviathan” for it to be a believable build, but those minor issues aside, this was another solid issue for a series that badly needed it. (B+. DC Comics, $2.99)
Punk Rock Jesus #1 (of 6)
Punk Rock Jesus is hardly the first book to deal with a lot of the tropes it traffics in – namely, cloning Jesus from the Shroud of Turin and satirizing the over-the-top, manipulative nature of reality television – but the first issue of Sean Murphy’s Vertigo title ranges much wider than those two things would suggest. Though the book is tonally just a little too over-the-top for me, Murphy introduces enough hooks to the title to make it irresistible, and it helps that his art, even in black and white, is lovely and easy-to-follow, with crisp, recognizable character designs. If Murphy can master the pacing issues and find a slightly more stable tone, this could end up being a legitimately intriguing mini-series, albeit one I’m pretty sure would prove more satisfying as a graphic novel. (B. Vertigo, $2.99)
Well, Image has been on something of a roll lately – seriously, if you haven’t been reading Prophet or Saga, you’re making a huge mistake – and they just keep on printing winners. Revival is a sort of rural fantasy that’s pretty rare to see on the shelves, and very well-executed here by writer Tim Seeley and artist Mike Norton. Set around a series of small towns in rural Wisconsin, the story follows Dana Cypress, a police officer whose dad runs the department and whose sister is in college, as she navigates a tricky new job: investigate all claims involving a ‘reviver’, a local member of the community who has come back to life. The pair manage to come up with some sublimely creepy imagery and ideas that push the concept way beyond its procedural roots, and this opening issue is as assured as you’re likely to see. (A-. Image, $2.99)
The Shade #10 (of 12)
James Robinson is a man who knows his way around a quip. Though The Shade #10 features our (anti?) hero bound through the entire issue as he converses with the men who imprisoned him and learns the nature of the beings who currently dampen his powers, it’s nevertheless an endlessly entertaining read, thanks in part to the Shade’s dry, sardonic wit. And, of course, to Frazer Irving’s expressive, colorful art – the same art that made Xombi such an absolute pleasure to read. The Shade has taken some bizarre twists and turns throughout its too-brief run, but it has remained fun throughout, a book that more people should have tried and one that people will discover in trade for years to come. Here, Robinson begins to bring things to what promises to be an epic climax, though I hope we return to the Shade’s home one last time before the series ends. Opal City needs some representation in the new DC. (A-. DC Comics, $2.99)
Swamp Thing #11
I’m not sure if Animal Man is holding Swamp Thing up or if Swamp Thing is holding Animal Man up, but both books have become turgid and overblown in the slow, ponderous build to their crossover. I’m glad to see that next issue will finally begin their team-up, but I can’t imagine the wait will have been worth it. But while this little bit of momentum was enough to give Animal Man its best issue in months, it did little to help Swamp Thing, which settled for a fairly banal pair of fight scenes and little else by way of plot, characterization, or familiarizing us with new big bad Anton Arcane. At this point, the only reason I’m sticking around is because Animal Man is still periodically good enough to keep me interested. (C+. DC Comics, $2.99)
– Cal C.