This week in comics, Saga and Justice League are sold out at my shop so I don’t get to read them, Carol Danvers returns to the spotlight in Captain Marvel #1, and Mark Waid completely rocks.
Avengers Vs. X-Men #8
Here’s the biggest problem with Avengers Vs. X-Men: the fights are far and away the most boring parts. This issue is taken up with a huge brawl – Namor vs. all of t he Avengers. The brawl FEELS epic – Namor snapping Red Hulk’s arm, or beating the tar out of Thor – but looks boring, as mundane panel compositions and bland art make everything appear static. There are interesting ideas here (Utopia, K’un Lun’s legacy of the Phoenix, Xavier’s threats) but the best parts of Avengers Vs. X-Men happen behind the scenes. (B. Marvel Comics, $3.99)
Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #2 (of 4)
The only of the Before Watchmen books thus far that was good enough to demand I buy the second issue, Silk Spectre takes a light dive in quality here as Laurie dons the costume for the first time to go fight some crime. That dive is most notable in the Sand Doze segment, in which we learn of the eeeeeevil capitalist plan in the bluntest terms possible. The core idea of the issue – someone is spiking drugs and feeding them into the hippie community – isn’t a bad one, but the execution is blunt and ridiculous, especially since Cooke comes up with a much darker, more realistic look at the way these drugs breed sex and violence halfway through the evil monologue. Thankfully, whenever Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner focus on Laurie, all the problems fade away – they’re really doing a good job building her up, and the issue picks up steam again near the end. And, of course, Amanda Conner remains one of the best artists working in comics today, making every panel of Silk Spectre a joy to look at. (B+. DC Comics, $3.99)
Captain Marvel #1
So, this issue has its problems. The opening reads more like a Big Statement than a decent action scene, with villain Absorbing Man’s every line reflecting how Captain Marvel is a woman and how gross that is, while Dexter Soy’s moody, atmospheric art makes the action itself look muddy and even goofy at times. But it gets better. By the time we relax into Carol’s internal monologue after the fight, writer Kelly Sue DeConnick has clearly found her voice, and Soy’s art fits the drama much, much better. By the end of the book, I was actually looking forward to more – but that action scene at the beginning was just plain bad. Still, DeConnick has a solid hook – Carol Danvers tries to live up to the legacies of both the original Captain Marvel and her childhood hero and mentor, pilot Helen Cobb, while stepping up to a new level of responsibility and prominence in the Marvel Universe. There’s a good story to be told here, and I’m looking forward to seeing DeConnick and Soy find it. (B. Marvel Comics, $2.99)
Ah, Catwoman. Without Guillem March providing cheesecake – replaced in this issue by Adriana Melo, who does a very good job here – some of Winick’s over-sexualized ticks for Selina really do seem a bit more out of place. That said, this issue finds Selina pretty much fully clothes the entire time as she seeks to take down the Dollhouse, a mysterious ring that is kidnapping prostitutes and homeless people for organ harvesting/elaborate tea parties. The plot moves forward a bit, as she finally teams up with Detective Alvarez, but unbeknownst to her, ally Spark is working against her. There’s some plot contrivance going on here, but not too much. Mostly, the arc still feels half-formed… which is worrisome, given that next issue is Winick’s last. (B+. DC Comics, $2.99)
I begin to think more and more that Mark Waid’s Daredevil may end up being the character’s best run yet. While it lacks the grit of other classic runs (Miller, Bendis, Brubaker), it’s so at home in the Marvel Universe in a way so very few titles are. Captured by Latveria, kept in a state of permanent sensory deprivation, Waid finds an interesting new way to look at Daredevil’s origin story, and manages to tell an incredibly compelling story even though a giant amount of panels are nothing but darkness. And after Daredevil‘s well-deserved showing at the Eisners, where it won “Best Single Issue” and “Best Continuing Series” (and Waid won “Best Writer”), I can’t wait for new readers to discover this series. (A. Marvel Comics, $2.99)
Are you sick of me gushing over Mark Waid yet? Too bad. Insufferable #11 also came out this week, and it continues to push the momentum forward, build the world in new and interesting ways, and also tell a compelling story with a hell of a cliffhanger – this series is great at cliffhangers – all without costing you a dime. Peter Krause keeps turning in excellent artwork, and the way the pair of them use the digital format continues to impress. (A-. Thrillbent, Free)
The Unwritten #39
“The War of Words” was always going to be a difficult act to follow – it was the most action-packed arc the series had known in its three-year run, and in many ways, it brought to close the series’ biggest conflict. Little did I know what Carey and Gross had in store with “The Wound”, the current arc, which brings us back to reality (and introduces us to some new characters along the way) just to show us how much things are falling apart after what Tommy and Pullman did a few issues back. The Unwritten remains Vertigo’s last truly great series (at least for now), a mantle it wears with surprising skill. (A-. Vertigo, $2.99)
Wonder Woman #11
To be honest, I still have no idea how to review this book. Wonder Woman #11 was easily the most traditional issue of Azzarello’s run thus far – and Cliff Chiang made a welcome return this month – and that brought with it a much-needed dose of excitement that pushed the plot, the characters, and the danger to new levels. On the other hand, the book’s standard problems, especially the dialogue, all remain. But I’m inclined to look fondly on this issue, which (despite its issues) pushed some genuinely interesting conflicts to the foreground, had some pretty solid fight scenes, and kept the book’s relatively solid cast together to good effect. (B+. DC Comics, $2.99)
– Cal C.