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This week (18 July 2012), the fight continues in Avengers Vs X-Men #8, Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #2 is all sex and drugs, Captain Marvel #1 debuts, plus the rather less feminist Danger Girl G.I. Joe #1. Then it’s old reliables Daredevil #15, Justice League #11, Saga #5 and more!
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Avengers Vs X-Men #8 [Marvel, Brian Michael Bendis (script), Adam Kubert (artist) – Bits Rating: ★★★½] – Sigh. The problem with AvX hasn’t been the basic premise, which is kind of cool albeit familiar, but rather in its inconsistent execution. As we mentioned with Issue #7, very little had been lost or gained in what we now know is simply another event leading into Marvel NOW! Once again, a conversation with Cap provides the big question, when he is asked if there is a plan. Like most readers, Captain America doesn’t have the easy answers right now. There is no denying that the names involved in the story are some of the best in the business, but they are hamstrung but what appears to be an imposed length. Bendis makes the most of this issue, peppering the gathered Avengers with the dialogue that those reading his main title are well and truly used to. This is mostly a fight issue, with the Avengers against supersized Namor, but we finally get a lot more humanity injected back into proceedings. The stakes have been raised, and allegiances are starting to crumble, and Bendis knows this. A small victory is also a major setback, and we finally get a sense that this is going somewhere. Kubert’s art is unsurprisingly epic, making this a visual treat at the very least.
Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #2 [DC Comics, Darwyn Cooke (writer), Amanda Conner (artist) – Bits Rating: ★★★½] – Drugs are bad, mkay? At least, that seems to be the surface story of Cooke’s second outing with this character. Prima facie, Silk Spectre #2 is as clunky an anti-drugs story as anything Stan Lee did in the 1960s. Yet this is actually a story about awakening, both mental and physical, for the young Laurie Juspeczyk. Separated from her family and making her way in the big city, just as the peace and love movement is taking over San Francisco, the almost Saturday morning cartoon antics of the first issue make sense when contrasted against the sexually liberated Laurie of the second outing. In terms of pacing, this comes closest now to mirroring the complex narrative of Moore’s original work, with Cooke also succeeding in Minutemen, although this is still essentially an origin story. Conner’s art is pitch-perfect in this issue, capturing box the intimacy of Laurie’s development and the old-fashioned freak-out of the hippie scene. The final few pages, as various characters succumb to a mysterious narcotic, truly showcase why comics are a medium that can do things no other format can. Alan Moore may have rejected this series, and perhaps rightfully so, but his ideals remain intact in this issue.
Captain Marvel #1 [Marvel Comics, Kelly Sue DeConnick (writer), Dexter Soy (artist) – Bits Rating: ★★★★] – Now that DC no longer have a use for the Captain Marvel name, the former Ms. Marvel (who we saw last week in Avenging Spider-man #9) has a new costume and a new attitude. DeConnick does a terrific job of (re)introducing this character to the Marvel Universe, and providing a comfortable jumping-on point for readers unfamiliar with Ms. Marvel or Sue Danvers. Drawing on her own experience of growing up on military bases, there is a comfortable dialogue between other like characters, especially Captain America, as Sue Danvers struggles with the idea of taking on the mantle. Soy’s distinctive artwork is bold and consistent, equally eye-catching in the splash pages as it is in the smaller character pieces. By the very nature of comics, Soy’s rendering of Marvel is sexy without being sexualised, never undermining DeConnick’s attempts to paint her as a modern woman of many hats. Setting up just enough story elements to carry this series through several arcs to come, it is a strong start for a new direction.
Danger Girl G.I. Joe #1 [IDW, Andy Hartnell (writer), John Royle (pencils) – Bits Rating: ★★½]: How could we not look at this one? J. Scott Campbell’s Danger Girl has the union we’ve all been waiting for, as she enters the world of G.I. Joe. With the latter’s film delayed for 9 months to add some 3D and a larger dose of Channing Tatum, fans can still enjoy the antics of the Joes and Cobra in sequential art form. This is all a bit of fun, of course, with nothing too serious going on here. It’s all international adventure, planes, explosions, jungles, double-crossing agents and super-spies, and of course, large doses of fan-service. You’ll believe that J. Scott Campbell is actually doing the art on this one too, as Royle does a pretty good approximation of his style. Yet for the uninitiated, there will be a lot of head-scratching as people wandering in and out, Hartnell assuming that we will know what their significance is in the universe. For fans only.
Daredevil #15 [Marvel, Mark Waid (writer), Chris Samnee (artist) – Bits Rating: ★★★★]: Last week, Mark Waid and his team won Best Continuing Series at the 2012 Eisner Awards, and justifiably so. In all of mainstream comics, only Daredevil and Scott Snyder’s Batman have been consistently this good. The ongoing strength has been in Waid breaking down exactly what is intriguing about the character and playing to its strengths. Simple as that. This month, Waid ponders what would happen if all of that was taken away, and that which makes Matt Murdock special – that is, his radar sense – was suddenly taken away. Working symbiotically with artist Chris Samnee, who has been doing some terrific Wolverine covers of late, the pair create a sense of what it would be like to suddenly have that taken away, all in static panels. Word balloons are simply colours, indicating the emotion behind the speech, and this contrasts spectacular against the already interesting choices from colourist Javier Rodriguez. Trapped in Latveria, Murdoch is also taken out of his native New York, keeping the reader off-balance, and it allows for one of the biggest saves of the year when an old friend drops in for a rescue.
Justice League #11 [DC Comics, Geoff Johns (writer), Jim Lee (artist) – Bits Rating: ★★★] – The tent-pole of the DCU has always been one to keep going back to, simply because it is the book that has helped us better understand the world of the New 52. Now that we are well into this new arc, Johns has fallen back on the familiar, rediscovering the problem of putting all of the world’s major heroes in a single book. So this month it’s a whole lot of being confronted with demons from the past, which raises tensions and leads to a superhero smackdown between the allies. That old chestnut. Indeed, the confrontation of ghosts is a trick so nice, he uses it twice. Wonder Woman is painted as a bit of a dick too, initiating a fight with Green Lantern, although the direction of team conflict is generally a good one. Jim Lee’s art is less than consistent, looking great in the big splash pages, but a little rushed in the character moments. Conversely, Johns is building a great backup story in Shazam – Chapter 5, with wonderful artwork from Gary Frank. The appearance of Black Adam is terrific for those missing him, and some forward momentum has finally been made in Billy Batson’s steps towards becoming the superhero he is destined to be.
Saga #5 [Image, Brian K. Vaughan (writer), Fiona Staples (artist) – Bits Rating: ★★★★½ – PICK OF THE WEEK!] – If there is a better new book this year (other than Fatale), we want to know what it is. A turning point was reached in Issue #4, as Marko chose to break his self-imposed code and use violence for the protection of his newborn daughter and wife Alana. One of the strength’s of Vaughan’s storytelling has been his world-building in this title, and the disparate elements begin to come together in this issue. Weaving no less than four complex stories at play here, Vaughan manages to humanise even the most inhuman of characters. Case in point is the little surprise he has for Prince Robot IV, who in a single scene is given a ton of emotion to burden. Similarly, the appearance of the spider-like Stalk may elicit some sorrow, especially when balanced against the moral struggle that bounty hunter The Will engages in this issue. The nature of Alana and Marko’s relationship shifts slightly, with the realisation that Alana may actually be protecting Marko from becoming something he doesn’t wish to return to. Staples once again impresses with a consistent style over the most diverse group of characters in a comic book, also imbuing human qualities in the weird and wonderful. This is essential reading.