This Week in Comics: 7/11/12

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.

Pictured: A scene that is still a good 15+ years off from where this issue ends.

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)

Batman #11

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)

Revival #1

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.

read/RANT

Last week in comics

7 Responses to This Week in Comics: 7/11/12

  1. xxadverbxx says:

    You’re review on Action Comics makes me a bit sad I left it behind. Suppose I’ll check out the trade first though whenever I see it sitting in the book store before deciding to go back to it or not. Batman, I have about the same feelings. And that fight was absurd. To think he could grab on like that and keep himself from being pulled into the intake, much less climb out and onto the wing is asinine. People have been sucked right off the ground and into intakes when the jet wasn’t even moving! And the ultimately leaving it up how they did is a bit annoying too, though I do admit I enjoyed most of the talk between him and Dick at the end. I will also agree with you though that these last couple issues of Batman dealing with the court has put me a bit off of the comic, and I also hope it picks back up. Shame considering how fantastic it started off.

    • Cal C. says:

      I’m wondering if it was just (like with Animal Man and Swamp Thing – though Animal Man at least brought things together nicely this past issue) they stretched the story out way too long in order to fit nicely in a collected edition. You know? If the whole Court of Owls story had wrapped up two issues back and crammed most of this material into the last six issues, it probably would have been pretty a pretty solid story. I obviously have no idea if that’s true, but it feels like it could help explain why some of these New 52 books have been so drawn-out lately.

      • xxadverbxx says:

        Maybe, though as it covers more than one comic title a good trade of this would hopefully include all of the parts, in which case it would have to be a large trade or at least a two parter (if not more). I must say, I did enjoy the Nightwing issues of it, the rest were kinda meh, and yeah, Batman feels it got drawn out too much. If they erased the Jarvis story at the end, cut a few things, they could have fit it and ended it a few issues ago perfectly.

        Talking about over doing though, the AvX stuff seems far too stretched out as well. Some reason I first thought it was to be 6 parts, now I think I saw its 12…??

      • Cal C. says:

        AVX has always been 12 parts (at least as far as I know), though, yes, it’s INCREDIBLY stretched out to fit that. The first 6 issues have maybe 2-3 issues worth of actual, readable material in them.

  2. wwayne says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention Batman: Arkham Unhinged # 4, since the preview is very exciting, in my opinion. The only thing I didn’t appreciate of that preview was the cover: Batman is so muscular that he seems to come directly from a 90s comic… I admit it, I’m an 80s nostalgic! At those times colour wasn’t digitally added, superheroes did not look like a bunch of body builders and they did not hold ridiculously oversized weapons. The stories were better as well – of course we can find something good and something bad in each era, but at those times there was more irony, more deepness, and, most of all, more hugely talented authors. Nowadays, even if you find an ironic author, he’s ironic in a Tarantino way, like Garth Ennis. And even if he/she is talented, he/she will never reach the level of authors like Frank Miller or Chris Claremont. Another thing I don’t like of 10s comics is their excessive violence: it’s ok if you put it in an adult series, like The Punisher, but you can’t put a cut off face in Detective Comics, because that page could be read by a 10 year old child. And don’t tell me that writing “Teen +” is the solution: parents take for granted that superhero comics are perfectly suitable for children, since the superhero is supposed to be a model figure for them, no matter what the cover says. If you wrote “Teen +” on a bicycle, this wouldn’t stop parents from buying it for their children, and it’s the same for comic books.
    What is happening with Snyder’s Batman really reminds me what happened with Smith’s Daredevil: the first issues had been so much appreciated that everybody was saying he was writing the best storyline since Miller times, but then, when he started to involve Mysterio (a character which is not very interesting and, most of all, not at all related to the Daredevil world), his popularity dropped a little. In Snyder’s case, it looks like there isn’t a so specific reason – he’s simply relaxing, after a long period of awesomeness.
    Demon Knights is a fantasy comic, so it’s not my cup of tea at all, but all this hype I’m hearing about it… a blogger told me that its writer is so obviously in love with his larger – than – life characters that it’s impossible not to be overwhelmed by his enthusiasm, and this statement impressed me so much that it almost convinced me to check for the TP. I still don’t know if I’ll buy it or not.

    • Cal C. says:

      I’ll be interested to hear what you think of Demon Knights, if you do end up checking it out. While I’m loving the book now, the first arc was a bit uneven in single issues – no idea how it would read as a trade. Better, I’d imagine.

      I’m a big proponent of all-ages comics. In fact, if I were running things, I would make Action Comics, Detective Comics and Sensation Comics (the old WW book) into all-ages anthology titles featuring new creators and with a lower paper quality and a lower price point to try and sneak it out of the direct market, into stores. Imagine if there was a $1.99, 40+ page book of Batman comics in supermarkets when The Dark Knight Rises came out?

      I don’t mind creators taking things a little dark – even to the point of cutting off the Joker’s face, if need be – but I DO mind that that’s ALL comics can offer now. There is no alternative. If you don’t want to read Batman stories with a bloody, faceless Joker, you’re just out of luck, which is an absolutely horrible policy, continuity be damned. And that’s just a little sad.

      I didn’t see the preview for Arkham Unhinged, though it may be that I just subconsciously dismissed it as a videogame tie-in, which I just generally avoid as a rule. Not sure. I’ll check the preview out soon, though, thanks for letting me know!

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