This week in comics, discover Rotworld with Animal Man and Swamp Thing, thrill to Hawkeye, savior of dogs, and meet Superman, M.D.
Action Comics #12
This is one of the weaker issues of what has been a fairly strong run for Morrison as he spends much of his time fighting the Blake Farm Ghost – the forgotten Superman of Kansas. It’s an interesting idea, but the villain never really comes alive, mostly resulting in a lackluster fight scene. It isn’t until after the fight ends that Morrison redeems himself, as he piles dramatic reversals, twists, and revelations atop one another almost as fast as you can breathe, all while setting up what I assume will be part of the big denouement of his run (which ends at Action Comics #16). This was far from the best the book has to offer, but it regains its footing by issue’s end. (C+. DC Comics, $3.99)
Animal Man #12 (Part 1 of “Rotworld”)
After getting a much-needed shot in the arm last month, Animal Man is back to its more flawed self. I’m beginning to think that jumping straight into the apocalypse was a serious mistake for what had been a small, family-oriented horror title. It’s gone from smart, exciting stories paced for maximum monthly enjoyment to long, lagging, crossover-laden slog (though its fall has been nothing compared to sister title Swamp Thing, which is truly, genuinely mediocre now). Hopefully, after taking a break next month for the #0 issues, the two books will get back on track. (B. DC Comics, $2.99)
Avengers Vs. X-Men #9 (of 12)
Not infrequently, Avengers Vs. X-Men has run into the same problem that Civil War did: It takes an interesting premise, then bends everyone and everything to making that premise happen, no matter what makes logical sense for those characters or that world. It’s a problem. The writers clearly think the Avengers are the good guys… but the Avengers have, through strong-arm tactics, bullying, and ignorance, caused virtually every problem they have. This issue, which has a few strong moments and a few very, very weak ones, just highlights the issue when you have no one to root for and no stake in the world. (C-. Marvel Comics, $3.99)
After a run of great, tense issues, Daredevil finally takes a step back and begins setting up something new. While this makes for a less exciting issue than the last few thrillers, it does a good job at keeping the stakes high for Matt by switching from superhero drama to personal drama. Solid art, good character-work, interesting problems; this may not be Daredevil‘s finest hour, but it’s relentless in pushing the character, and the narrative, forward to new and interesting places. (B+. Marvel Comics, $2.99)
Earth 2 #4
An all-out brawl introduces another key member of the Justice Society – Al Pratt – amidst some pretty boring chaos. The Grundy redesign still just isn’t really working, borrowing the entire threat of the Rot wholesale feels cheap, and the book, which is mimicking the structure of the opening Justice League arc, lacks the polish that defined Johns’ controversial opening arc. All-in-all, this just doesn’t feel like a book that’s coming together terribly well yet. There are a lot of promising things, including the title’s interesting cast, but Robinson needs to find a way to pull it all together. (C+. DC Comics, $2.99)
Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye reads like a Tarantino film at time – the playfulness of the dialogue, the nonlinear narrative, the violence – and he makes the book good. But it’s artist David Aja who makes the book border on great. I consider Aja to be perhaps the best working comic book artist when it comes to action scenes and physical storytelling, and he proves himself yet again here (fans of this issue MUST read the Brubaker/Fraction/Aja run on The Immortal Iron Fist, one of the best Marvel books of the last decade). Clint Barton makes a smart-ass, relatable hero here, and while the stakes are low, they’re also believable. This is a solid debut from a fantastic creative team, and it’s well worth a shot. (A-. Marvel Comics, $2.99)
Swamp Thing #12 (Part 2 of “Rotworld”)
Lemire and Snyder are two of DC’s rising stars, capable of blending superheroic action with creeping horror to craft memorable, character-driven action-horror stories. But thus far, just about everything building up to Rotworld has been something of a bust, bringing out the worst in both creators and stretching things out wellllllllllllllllllllll past their breaking points. This issue is a great example of that, featuring (stop me if you’ve heard this one before), a villain monologuing about how everything ever was part of his evil plan before releasing the heroes for no reason and travel to a dystopian near-future caused by the heroes’ disappearances. Very little else happens. When did Swamp Thing get so bland? (C+. DC Comics, $2.99)
– Cal C.