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This week (20 February 2012), careers get started in Nova #1 (Marvel), Justice League of America #1 (DC Comics) and Vibe #1. Meanwhile, more secrets from Star Trek: Into Darkness are revealed in Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness #2 (IDW) and Grant Morrison finally delivers a conclusion to the off-the-wall Happy #4 (Image).
With Grant Morrison slowly pulling out of the capes business, Happy has been one of the best examples of where his current strengths lie. Never over-staying its welcome at a mere four issues, this Christmas cracker (sort of) has kept us off-balance for much of this singular story about a washed-up detective pursuing a kiddie killer with the help of a small blue winged horse called Happy. This title has always been one that necessitates a bath or a few pieces of fruit immediately after reading. This final issue might call for some OCD scrubbing and a whole basket of produce, with Morrison and Robertson taking us to some very sticky places. A smacked-out Santa Claus on a toilet, anyone? There are moments when it is possible that Morrison didn’t know exactly how to wrap this escalating madness up, but pulls hard on the reins after quite literally letting his imagination run wild on a nightmarish double-page spread that demands a line of plush toys. A twisted take on It’s a Wonderful Life or A Miracle on 34th Street, the final pages demand to be filmed and played every Yuletide. Perhaps a pantomime? “Behind you! Behind you!”, they’ll cry. “Oh no, he’s not”. But he is. With a string of Christmas tree lights for a garrote. Of course, the children may need counselling, but like the majority of readers of this excellent title, the rest will go home happy.
Bits Rating: ★★★★
Justice League of America #1 – DC Comics, Geoff Johns (writer), David Finch (artists)
Released with all the attention that 53 variant covers can give a new title, the latest team in the Newish 52 begins not with a bang but with a boardroom meeting. One of the major issues with the book’s predecessor, the now cancelled Justice League International, was that there were no “heavy hitters” on the team. The unlikely combination of Baz the Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Catwoman, Katana, Hawkman, Stargirl and new creation Vibe will serve as the new team, with Martian Manhunter providing the old-school muscle. Geoff Johns chooses the familiar motif of Amanda Waller and Steve Trevor exchanging files in a secret meeting room to introduce each of these heroes to a new audience, perhaps an inevitability in a first issue but not one that makes for exciting reading. As such, this first issue reads more like the prelude to a series than the start of something, with the extended page count dedicated to a series of vignettes that are middle-of-the-road by themselves, but a slow-boiling pot when taken together. David Finch’s art sits in stark contrast to Justice League‘s Ivan Reis, and is in keeping with the spirit of the ‘underground’ tone of the book. At the end of the day, readers may have a tough time buying into the idea that the Justice League of America could in any way be legitimate rivals to the all-star Justice League. Yet with an intriguing cliffhanger, and the promise of some interesting team dynamics to come, this is one that is worth a second look next month.
Bits Rating: ★★★
Justice League of America’s Vibe #1 – DC Comics, Geoff Johns and Andrew Kreisberg (writers), Pete Woods (artist)
One of the marks of the Newish 52 has been in showing incredible faith in books that are destined to not find an audience in the long-term, resulting in cancellations mere months after replacing other failing books. Vibe is not a new character for DC, who was introduced back in 1984 and unceremoniously killed off only three years later, the first JLA member to be killed on active duty. A few random appearances in the quarter century since hasn’t exactly made him a household name, but somebody in DC editorial clearly had enough of an interest to reintroduce him not only in the pages of Justice League of America (above), but in his own ongoing title immediately. Call us old-fashioned, but this used to happen the other way around. DC is aware of this odd choice, branding the cover with the moniker “The Unlikeliest Hero!”. Cynical readers might see the rapid introduction of Francisco Ramon as part of DC’s ‘commitment to diversity’, following the cancellation of hispanic Jaime Reyes as Blue Beetle last month. Not us, of course. ‘Cisco lost one of his brothers during the Darkseid invasion five years earlier, but developed vibrational powers that also allow him to sense dimensional disturbances. Minds are not exactly being blown yet. Immediately hired by A.R.G.U.S, the same secret branch of the US military that is putting the Justice League of America together, it is too early to tell whether the hero, or this book, can stand on its own two legs. Our prediction is a fifth (or is it sixth?) wave replacement for this title, but is worth a look as an a “bonus feature” to Justice League of America #1.
Bits Rating: ★★★½
Nova #1 – Marvel, Jeph Loeb (writer), Ed McGuinness (artist)
Marvel’s year of bringing back the hitherto painfully absent Cosmic Universe kicks off with the debut issue of a new Nova series. Perhaps leaving the explanation of Richard Rider’s fate to the pages of next month’s Guardians of the Galaxy, this series focuses on the young Sam Alexander. Last seen as a fully suited Nova Corps member in the pages of Marvel NOW! Point One #1 and Avengers Vs. X-Men, Jeph Loeb takes us back a step to the origins of Sam as Nova. Growing up in small-town Arizona, the son of former Nova Jess Alexander, his father tells tales from his glory days while eking out a meagre existence as a janitor at Sam’s school. One such tale pleasingly involves or favourite Guardians, Rocket Raccoon and Gamora, although Sam finds all of this a little hard to believe. Until, of course, his father mysteriously disappears and he finds himself face-to-face with figures from his dad’s stories. Immediately distinguishing itself from Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s (DnA) last run on Nova by injecting some adolescent exuberance that might just be needed to not only distinguish him from Green Lantern but to sell the character Nova to a new generation of readers, something Loeb has undoubtedly learned from his recent forays into Marvel’s television universe. Robertson’s art matches this vibe, feeling like a stylised cartoon at times, but grounding the images enough to sell this high-concept with ease. While human rocket Richard Rider will undoubtedly return in the future, for now this is set to be Ultimate Spider-man in space, and that concept – combined with plenty of crossover potential for Guardians – makes this one of the first great debuts of 2013.
Bits Rating: ★★★★★ – PICK OF THE WEEK
Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness #2 – IDW, Mike Johnson (writer), David Messina (artist)
Movie adaptations are usually a hit-and-miss affair, but IDW’s prelude to Star Trek Into Darkness is an intriguing one. Seemingly giving up some of the secrets of J.J. Abrams’s closely guarded script, it’s actually based on a story by screenwriters Roberto Orci and Mike Johnson. As such, anybody wishing to avoid any potential spoilers for the upcoming film may wish to tune out of this review now and wait patiently until the middle of the year. Picking up from the character reveal at the end of issue #1, we land smack-bang in the middle of a Edgar Rice Burroughs inspired planet. As two warring alien species battle it out for supremacy, it is Prime Directive breaker Robert April, former captain of the previous ship to bear the name Enterprise, that leads the underdogs. Following this revelation, April drops hints of characters who bear a strikingly similar name to those who turned up in previous films, along with the surprising appearance of a female character who may be a stand-in for famous Trek rogue. While this is all simply a tease for the film, it does make us lament the absence of an ongoing Star Trek television series. We’ll just have to content ourselves with comic books for now.
Bits Rating: ★★★½