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This week (22 May 2013) is another big one! First up, we check out a Grant Morrison-less Batman Incorporated #11 (DC Comics), a conclusion of sorts in Daredevil #26 (Marvel), a Trinity War prelude in Justice League #20 (DC Comics) and Gotham’s version of the undead in Talon #8 (DC Comics). This is Graphic Bits.
Other reviews…Don’t forget, each week we also feature other outstanding or high-profile issues in their own reviews. Check out full reviews for The Green Team – Teen Trillionaires #1 (DC Comics), The Bounce #1 (Image Comics) and Akaneiro #1 (Dark Horse) and Green Lantern #20 (DC Comics).
As Grant Morrison’s historic Batman run comes to a close in the next few months, this interlude issue allows series artist Chris Burnham to take over the writers’ reins for an issue. Revisiting the Batman of Japan character, we get something that is a complete anomaly. Coming at a crucial time, this filler issue is a slice of the absurd and as frustrating as an ad break in the middle of a show’s climax, taking us not only away from Gotham, but away from Batman completely. Here we see the Batman of Japan fighting a trio of nano-enhanced, leather-clad female motorcyclists in the war against Leviathan. Grant Morrison’s issues can get pretty off the wall and non-linear at times, but Burnham seems to take it up a notch and finally explode after years of drawing Morrison’s weird tales. Jorge Lucas does a great job of continuing the tone that Burnham himself has set. Yet this is still an odd little issue, especially given that the previous one literally saw a genetically enhanced Batman riding into town with bat-wings attached to his back. Enjoyment of this interlude will depend entirely on your tolerance for the kitsch and surrealist aspects of this run, with Batman of Japan’s adventure being very much an Eastern version of Batman’s own 1960s TV series filtered through the pink violence of a Yasuharu Hasebe film. It’s more than a little frustrating, and probably would have worked better as part of the special that is coming up in August. For the curious only.
As good as Mark Waid’s Daredevil has been over the last few years, what has helped readers stay the course is the sense that it was leading to something big. Waid took over following a period of great darkness for the character, and restored much of his hope – only to snatch it away from him and send him to the brink of madness. In this superb extra-sized issue, Matt Murdoch is left bloody and beaten by Ikari, a villain with the same powers as him, and the threat that he could return at any time. Indeed, this outing is about the mind games, pushing Murdoch/Daredevil as far as he can go in both of his lives. Yet the promise of this issue was the reveal of the great mastermind behind the plot against Daredevil. We witness the return of a classic Daredevil villain as we’ve never seen them before, and the results are truly frightening. It’s one of those moments when you begin to realise that not a single issue in Waid’s run has put a foot out of place, and that every tiny element has been leading up to this moment. As the tables turn, issue #27 just seems too far away. This plus-sized issue also features a superb back-up story (“Punching Cancer”) in which Foggy visits some sick kids and has his own revelations, along with a peek and some of the work that goes into every issue in some behind-the-scenes notes and sketches from Waid and Samnee. Speaking of Samnee, it almost goes without saying that he cracks this one out of the park again, framing a flawless set of action/thriller sequences that span clock towers and subway lines through interpersonal moments with Matt and Foggy. Yet another perfect example of comic bookery.
The flagship of the Newish 50-or-so has had its ups and downs over the last two years, arguably reaching a high water mark (ahem, pardon the pun) during the recent “Throne of Atlantis” arc. In the last issue, the League began actively searching for new recruits, introducing a few new characters and beginning the Prelude to the Trinity War. As the issue kicks off, Element Woman is delivering fast food to the Watchtower Satellite, when she and fellow recruits Firestorm and the new Atom (now Rhonda Pineda) are set upon by Despero, who is wearing a stolen Kryptonite ring. They fight the good fight until Martian Manhunter turns up to put a stop to it, refusing to take any credit. Meanwhile, the rest of the League investigate the Kryptonite stolen from Batman, and the Dark Knight reveals the contingency plan for himself to a stunned Superman. It’s all about secrets, and little Atom has a big one. Indeed, the whole issue seems to be biding time to reveal those secrets before the Trinity War begins. Coupled with some inconsistent art from a whole team of pencillers, it’s a slow month for the Justice League. Fortunately, back-up story Shazam! Chapter 12 continues to be one of the best titles in the DC lineup. Johns and Frank reveal more about Black Adam’s origin, promising an epic conclusion next month. We’d make the argument for a Shazam ongoing if it could maintain this quality, but for now it is doing just fine by propping up the main title for the last year.
Since spinning out of Scott Snyder and Tynion’s era defining “Court of Owls” storyline, Talon has managed to successfully carve out its own identity. After the appearance of Bane last month, this begins the second proper arc of the fledgling series. Calvin Rose has proven to be a capable and flawed hero, and the events of the last issue made him even more flawed than most. Mr. Rose was killed at the hands of Bane, who promptly disappears for this outing. Resurrected by the Court of Owls, Calvin finally becomes the thing he has feared the most: a monster who feels no pain. Blackmailed by the court to do their bidding, he sets off to terminate someone with extreme prejudice, leading to a crossover with Birds of Prey. A crossover this early in a book’s run usually suggests flagging sales, or a poor quality of writing. Talon is victim to neither of these maladies as a top 100 book, so we wonder if this mini-event is timed a little early. It robs the book of some of the momentum it has been otherwise convincingly building up, and this issue is a little awkward in trying to make the segue. Otherwise, the art is top-notch: there’s a particularly strong two-page spread that recounts Calvin’s life, making it even more of a jumping on point. We are still keen to see where this goes in issue #9.
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