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This week, we look at DC’s Batman Incorporated #2, the slight improvement of Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #1, the must-read Fatale #6, curiosity Hit-Girl #1 and the surprisingly compelling Spider-Men #2.
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Batman Incorporated #2 [DC Comics, Grant Morrison (writer), Chris Burnham (art) – Bits Rating: ★★★★]: The series that brought us a literal slaughterhouse of fun last month, not to mention the almighty Bat-Cow, gets a little bit more personal this month as Grant Morrison gives us a coming of age story for Talia Al Ghul. What is amazing about this issue is that in rapid-fire panels, jumping through various points in Bat-history that Morrison has covered elsewhere, he manages to get to the heart of what makes Talia a compelling villain, love interest and here, an empathetic character as well. Moments of dark humour, including Talia’s delight over getting to try out her deadly martial arts in her own secret underground lair, are offset by Morrison’s mastery of these characters. He recognises that elements of this character are laughable, but never makes the characters a joke. Burnham’s art suits the delightfully batty (!) pacing of the series, making this one of the must-read books every month. Who would have thought that with 11 Bat-books in the New 52, we really did need another one?
Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #1 [DC Comics, J. Michael Straczynski, (writer), Andy and Joe Kubert (art) – Bits Rating: ★★★]: An awful lot happens in the first issue of the Nite Owl leg of the Before Watchmen saga, and one has to wonder why Straczynski is in such a rush. While Minutemen tells the origins of Hollis Mason, Straczynski is interested in the formative years of Dan Dreiberg, the man who would succeed Mason as the crime-fighting costume hero. After a far too brief explanation of the parental abuse he suffered at the hands of his rich father, Dreiberg’s effective Blue Beetle stand-in tracks down and convinces Mason to train him in the ways of owling. The no-frills story has the promise of more, but before we know it, Dreiberg is in the costume, kitted out with all of his toys and partnered up with Rorschach. From here they rapidly begin to meet with the other folks who will eventually be their team members, including a moment where Dreiberg feels a connection to Silk Spectre. The Kuberts’ art is retro and nostalgic, the closest so far to evoking the same feel as Dave Gibbons original artwork. Yet with three issues to go, Straczynski has already brought us to a place that could readily segue into to Alan Moore’s masterpiece. It will be interesting to see if anything that happens from here is anything other that perfunctory.
Fatale #6 [Image Comics, Ed Brubaker (writer), Sean Phillips (art) – Bits Rating: ★★★★½]: Without a doubt, Fatale is the best debuts of 2012, and very little has come along to challenge it in the last few months. Its curious mixture of Lovecraftian horror and noir captivated in the first five-issue arc, also out this week as a trade paperback, and with this sixth outing Brubaker starts in on a new arc. We return briefly to the modern-day story of Nicolas Lash, who searches for clues about the mysterious and seemingly ageless Josephine. Meanwhile, in 1970s Los Angeles, Jo begins a new life in the wake of what has come before, although the darkness of her past continues to follow her. From cover to cover, this is another outstanding piece of fiction from Brubaker, seeped in his literary influences, but creating something entirely new at the same time. Phillip’s art mirrors this approach, from the pulp-inspired covers to the sinister contents of the interiors. If you aren’t reading this book, take the week as an opportunity to catch up. It will be the best comic-related decision you’ll make this year.
Hit-Girl #1 [Icon, Mark Millar (writer), John Romita Jr (art) – Bits Rating: ★★★½]: After the disappointment of Kick-Ass 2, which did very little to distinguish itself from the crowd Millar typically leads, expectations were somewhat low on this new outing. While we never quite get a sense of how much time has passed since the open-door ending to Kick-Ass 2, Millar concentrates on Mindy Macready’s life after the events of that mini-series. Rather than going balls-deep into more splatter territory, which we expect is ahead in this R-rated comic, Millar concentrates on Mindy’s life at school, including her fears and inability to deal with schoolyard taunts, despite her lethal training. This makes for a far more engaging story, and by rights should have been the immediate sequel to the original Kick-Ass. Romita’s art is always polarising, and his rough lines look even rougher around the edges here. That’s always been the charm of this universe, after all. The introduction of the Red Mist might have been one element too many, but for the first time in a while, we are interested in what comes next.
Spider-Men #2 [Marvel, Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Sarah Pichelli (art) – Bits Rating: ★★★★]: The idea of crossing over the Ultimate and original Marvel 616 universes has been floating around since the standalone line began, but it was always dismissed by many. The very point of the Ultimate line was to have a sandbox that never impacted on the rest of the Marvel U. Yet Spider-Men is showing us that it can be done, and if you are going to do it, get Brian Michael Bendis. Without knowing anything about Ultimate Spider-man or the fate of that universe’s Peter Parker, this provides a great jumping on point for new readers. With the “mainstream” Peter Parker acting as our eyes, the plot thickens when it comes to Mysterio’s involvement. A terrific scene between Parker and the Ultimate Nick Fury, who mostly accepts what Peter is saying at face value, and more words in a single bubble we’ve seen outside of a Grant Morrison book. Pichelli, who is the regular series artist on Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, brings her vibrant style to the book, free to play with a new character within the world she has created. At the end of the day, we love a good crossover, and this has all the markings of being a memorable one.