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This week (13 March 2013), it’s a requiem for a little bird in the powerhouse punches of Batman #18 and pick-of-the-week Batman and Robin #18 (DC Comics). The Avengers begin again in The Avengers: Season One (Marvel), Phil Noto gets his TriggerGirl 6 (Image Comics) on and yet another Wolverine #1 (Marvel) arrives on the market.
The Avengers: Season One HC – Marvel, Peter David (writer), Andrea DiVito, Jon Buran, Nigel Raynor, Mike Bowden (artists)
Marvel’s Season One series has been a patchy affair to date, and for every fun romp like Ant-Man: Season One, there is a Fantastic Four: Season One that just doesn’t quite hit all the marks. While Marvel NOW! provides new readers with jumping on points but maintains continuity, this series of graphic novels updates origin stories for modern settings. Fans may remember a copy of this available with certain versions of The Avengers film on DVD/Blu-ray last year, and it is presented here as an alternate telling of the events immediately after the fight that originally brought the comic book team together. Loki tries to turn the team against each other by creating suspicion, and a series of squabbling misadventures follow. There’s really not much more to it than that, and the legendary Peter David provides a taut albeit lightweight introductory adventure. Despite the large roster of artists on the book, the artwork is fairly consistent. The book ultimately achieves it goal of being an introduction, but we’d probably recommend some other classic Avengers stories rather than recommend this as an introduction to Earth’s mightiest heroes.
Batman #18 – DC Comics, Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV (writers), Andy Kubert & Alex Maleev (artists)
When Scott Snyder finished his last great arc on Batman, we were treated to a great single issue that introduced the character of Harper Row. We hoped to see more of her, and now that Death of the Family arc is over, Snyder and Tynion reintroduce the scrappy girl from the Narrows. Once again, she finds Batman coping with a traumatic event, namely the death of his son Damien Wayne, the latest to bear the mantle Robin. The story is effectively split into two parts, with Snyder taking a lead on the first part, and Tynion grabbing first author rights on the second half. Yet like Harper and Batman, this book is a meeting of minds, balancing off the brutal aftermath of Batman/Bruce Wayne’s grief with the own personal turmoil of Harper. The Batman represented here is vicious, and as close to a low point as the one we saw all the way back in Knightfall. Even Harper comments that there is something familiar about all of this, although she could just be talking about her own past. We get a few more glimpses into what makes the would be vigilante tick as well. Despite having more training and regular patrols, and Batman’s brutal reminder that this is still not enough, Harper is haunted by her own demons and her imprisoned father. She attempts to care for her insecure brother, who still has faith despite the hardship, which is something she in turn must remind Batman and Bruce Wayne of. Giving the hardworking Greg Capullo a break this month, Andy Kubert delivers an awe-inspiring first half. Witness the shot of Batman taking down a perp in the glow of the Batmobile’s headlights. Alek Maleev shifts the tone in the second chapter, delivering a more personalised art style that recalls David Aja (Hawkeye) and Paolo Rivera (Daredevil) in the best way. Snyder and Tynion continue to brove that great Batman stories can still be told in big a small forms.
Batman and Robin #18 – Peter J. Tomasi (writer), Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, John Kalisz (artists)
Since the launch of the Newish 50-or-so, Snyder and Tynion’s Batman has been the only Bat-book that you really needed to read. While everybody else upped their game around that tentpole, there have been some fairly forgettable non-event stories in the last 18 months. Yet Tomasi’s requiem issue is as close to a perfect single issue as any you might find. If Batman #18 was caught between violent response and finding human connection again, then Batman and Robin #18 is the mournful silent scream of anguish. Presented entirely in captionless panels, save for one heart-rending letter, this is Bruce Wayne at the lowest depths of despair. The plotting will bring any sane person close to tears, but the lion’s share of the credit must go to penciller Patrick Gleason, inker Mick Gray, and colorist John Kalisz. From the fire caught in Wayne’s eyes in the opening panels, Gleason allows Batman nowhere to hide from his grief. Gray and Kalisz trace his emotion turmoil in the ebbs and flows of the colours and shadows, bringing the book to a devastating final panel that is as iconic as anything in Jim Aparo’s A Death in the Family. If anybody wonders how a Batman and Robin book goes on without one of the characters in the title, Tomasi makes a good case for why it shouldn’t. Yet the next few months will see Batman partnered up with Red Robin, Red Hood, Batgirl, Catwoman and Nightwing through issue 23. For now, Bruce begins the process of dealing with grief.
Rating: ★★★★★ – PICK OF THE WEEK
Trigger Girl 6 – Image Comics, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (writers), Phil Noto (artist)
Don’t fret: you didn’t miss the first 5 issues. This standalone prestige format book actually collects together pages from the Creator Owned Heroes anthology releases, so this is essentially a reprint. However, together in one place for the first time, this (along with Dark Horse Presents) is the kind of creator-owned material that shows the strengths of Dark Horse and where the publisher should be focusing its efforts. The Trigger Girls of the title are semi-celebrity super assassins, known for their special suits and virtual impossibility to be caught on camera. The sixth such creation is sent to kill the US President, something she fails to do but not before uncovering a fabric of conspiracies that might impact the whole planet. Part sexy sleeper agent adventure, Palmiotti and Gray’s tale is actually born out of deep sense of environmentalism. This may not be obvious from the first three-quarters of this slick story, but it ultimately acts as a wake-up call to anybody who is still denying the effects of humans on global warming. The dual messages about forging your own destiny and learning to find harmony in this fragile planet we call home are rare in action comics, and Palmiotti/Gray need to be commended for effortlessly weaving in these important issues into a modern superhero story. Noto’s art is unquestionably sublime, demonstrating his expertise in crafting beautiful renderings of women that are both strong and feminine. The opening pages feature several nude shots, but they aren’t there for titillation. Instead they show the innocent beauty of a creation before it turns into one of humankind’s (kick ass) creations. His colours are delicately applied, with most of the scenery gorgeous. As a bonus, we get some backmatter that includes interviews, concept sketches, cover art and even shots of a model in cosplay. They really have thought of everything.
Wolverine #1 – Marvel, Paul Cornell (writer), Alan Davis (artist)
If Wolverine and the X-Men, Savage Wolverine, Wolverine: MAX, his various appearance in team books ( was it two in Astonishing X-Men this month?) and Ultimate Comics: Wolverine (also launched this week) were simply not enough monthly claws for you, Marvel NOW! has a new book to add to its roster of 18 other X-books currently on the market. While the book itself acknowledges this glut in the post-script, it also claims that this is Wolverine’s “time to himself”, setting off on an adventure when he was just trying to get some coffee. Cornell wastes no time in throwing us into the action, with Logan caught in the middle of a firefight with alien weaponry, and their owners seem to be possessing humans to pull the triggers. The tightly plotted script rips along, but most will simply welcome Alan Davis’s return to the X-fold, confidently drawing a raggedy Wolverine like no other. Yet for all this talent and capable craftsmanship on display, the title is yet to do anything to truly distinguish itself from what has come before. That said, with a new Wolverine film due out in cinemas imminently, this fairly straightforward adventure would make for a solid jumping on place for anybody simply wanting a monthly book with the most popular X-Man who ever snikt and snikt.