Gotham Sirens #1
Written by: Paul Dini
Drawn by: Guillem March
Cover by: Guillem March
Variant cover by: JG Jones
A new Batman series by Paul Dini is cause enough for any Batman fan to pick this first issue up. The fact that he’s teaming Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, a bad-girl team he made legendary in Batman: The Animated Series, and also is adding Catwoman to the mix makes this a complete no-brainer. The pre-Batman RIP “Heart of Hush” storyline that ran through Dini’s Detective Comics run showed us poor Selina in the most unlikely scenario of living without her heart, removed by Thomas Elliot, with only machines to sustain her life while Batman hunted down Hush and the missing heart. Of course, Selina was made whole again and a spell from Zatanna healed her physical wound. But following this and a thrashing by the Jason Todd faux-Batman during Battle for the Cowl, and Selina’s not exactly mentally hail and hearty. When she nearly gets her head handed to her by lame new villain Boneblaster, Poison Ivy lends a hand. Despite Catwoman’s mistreatment by Poison Ivy during the first Hush story, she’s grateful so much to the point that she suggests Ivy, her pal Harley and Selina form a partnership to insure each other’s interests.
And so a DC dream villainess team is born, penned by the best writer to deliver such a series and drawn by the very capable Guillem March who, from his work on Joker’s Asylum: Poison Ivy and Gotham Gazette, has already shown how well his agile line work and moody pseudo-sexy art works for the Bat-verse. Of course, it’s really Ivy and Harley who have the bond of trust between them. Selena, despite her considerable and well deserved street cred, is the outsider in this relationship. Dini plays this little fact beautifully as we learn that if there’s to be honor among thieves there’s to be some trust that also must be shared, regardless of the means of coercion. For a new series launch, this is about as strong as it gets. Of course, having a trio of lead characters like this should make it easier. But, despite how fun the premise of this book is, we shouldn’t underestimate Dini’s ability, or how difficult it actually may be, to deliver the goods. Thus far, he’s delivering in spades and I’m on for at least the next issue.
Oh, and for more on Dini’s Bat-verse please be sure to check out my trade review this week for some of the best Batman stories you’ll ever read.
New Avengers #54
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Drawn by: Billy Tan
Cover by: Billy Tan
Variant cover by: Chris Bachalo
As we saw last issue, it looks like a new Sorcerer Supreme to replace Dr. Strange has been chosen. This was a most unlikely but highly interesting choice. How it happened in the ten minutes before last issue’s closing shot is revealed in this issue. For those who may not know it, The Ancient One, Dr. Strange’s deceased master and mentor, lives within The Eye of Agamotto and, among all in the Marvel Universe who’ve dedicated their lives to the study of sorcery, has found the one soul most deserving of Strange’s forsaken mantle. And, not a moment too soon as The Son of Satan and Dr. Strange battle the combined Hood/Dormammu who so desperately seeks the Eye.
It takes the combined forces of Strange, Hellstrom and the new, very cool Sorcerer Supreme to put Dormammu on ice. But the battle, ultimately involving the New Avengers in some very unlikely bashing of the demonic Hood, feels entirely secondary to the two other stories cycling through this issue. The first’s being this seemingly important inflection point in Marvel’s world of magic, and the second’s being Clint Barton’s ongoing personal war with Norman Osborn. Like Spider-Man in his recent story arc, Clint’s decided to get at Osborn in any way possible and, with his current media strategy not really working, desperate times call for desperate measures.
I’ve never really been a fan of Tan’s art. It’s always felt a bit sketchy to me and his line work to thin, not really strong enough. But more and more with this title Tan’s art’s beginning to grow on me. He really does a helluva job with the Hood Demon and the Dread One as well. With his usual snappy and humorous dialogue, Bendis continues to be one of the strongest character and dialog writers out there. Forever this has seemed like the Little Avengers Book That Could and more than ever, lately, it’s really been feeling like the core Avengers book and not to be missed.
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Drawn by: Michael Lark
Cover by: Marko Djurdjevic
This issue is the penultimate chapter of the RETURN OF THE KING arc, with The Kingpin's return to New York and his alliance with Daredevil against Lady Bullsey and The Hand. We’ve gotten hints for several issues, primarily from the blind, alcoholic and potentially immortal sensie Master Izo that all is not as it seems both with Lady Bullseye and The Kingpin. Despite his trying to coach Matt through the miasma that’s Daredevil’s mind right now, Matt’s enough of a mental mess to actually ally himself with his greatest enemy to strike back at the force he believes instigated the near-end of his marriage. But, naturally, The Kingpin who himself seems to be having some psychological issues (talk to your dead wife much?) has revealed in this issue his true intentions for Murdock and New York.
When Bendis left this book to Brubaker he left DD in a real mess. In fact, he left him in jail. Next issue’s #500 promises that Bru will do the same for DD’s incoming team as all forces in this story seem to converge at the end of this issue for a confrontation that surely will set the new status quo for Daredevil’s world going forward and make for quite the bloody anniversary issue next month. I, for one, will be sorry to see Bru and Lark go. They made a fantastic team on Gotham Central and have done so again with Daredevil. This issue did feel a little slower than the previous ones in this arc, but I imagine that’s because the creative team used it to put there pieces into place for next issue. Daredevil #500 should be a hell of a showdown if this issue’s any indications.
Written by: J. Michael Straczynski
Drawn by: Marko Djurdjevic
Cover by: Marko Djurdjevic
One of the very best comics put out by any company continues to rock on. Last issue Loki warned Don Blake that Sif was still alive, though hidden in a mortal shell. Which shell has been known to us for months but still is a mystery to Thor. Why would Loki send Thor in search of Sif, other than to shed her body which he’s been wearing since his return? What possibly could be his motivation? Well, as Sif’s whereabouts are revealed to Doctor Jane Foster and she, in turn, contacts Don, we learn with this issue why Loki seems to want to help his hated brother. Thor #600 saw not only Thor’s being cast from Asgard for killing Bor, the resurrected father of Odin and all of Asgard. It also saw Mjolnir nearly shattered in this battle. Mjolnir’s injured state has caused Thor great emotional and physical strife and his fear that it’s instability may kill Sif in his attempt to resurrect her, he seeks the aid of Doctor Strange (who, unlike in New Avengers, still is in possession of the cloak of levitation and the Eye of Agamotto) to repair his beloved weapon.
Strange cannot conjure his usual mystic sources for this cause as the Odinpower that birthed the universe’s greatest weapon is a force far more primal and linked to the universe’s life force, itself. And, of course, there’s a cost to invoking the power needed partly which must be drawn from the very Odinforce that Thor now possesses. A cost that seems to be the driving force motivating Loki. The race to save Sif’s life and repair Mjolnir, the means toward that end, runs parallel to Loki’s dialogue with Dr. Doom and the mortal Bill’s issues involving his love for the stunning wind and storm goddess Kelda and the jealously that seems to elicit from the other Asgardian alpha males. What’s more, in seeking to save Sif, Thor may well have driven a wedge between Blake and Dr. Foster’s renewed friendship…not so much out of jealously as out of the additional cost in human life this effort causes.
As much as I’m enjoying Djurdjevic’s art I find myself missing Olivier Coipel on this book. Djurdjevic tends to render far darker, more shadowy and less distinct images compared to Coipel’s far crisper and more powerful figures. Still, the art here is as beautiful as ever and JMS just keeps the plot twisting as much as Thor’s stomach must be right now. Heimdall’s warning to Baldar at the end of this issue really sets the ominous tone of what must follow soon. Easily, this book is my pick of the week.
Sam Wilson’s Reviews
Written by: Andy Diggle
Drawn by: Miguel Sepulveda
Cover by: Francesco Mattina
The Thunderbolts, once upon a time Marvel’s worst kept secret, are the Marvel U’s premiere team of anti-heroes. Literally, considering they were all villains at one point. Throughout the years they’ve changed their roster with Moonstone and Songbird always managing to hang on (except for the John Arcudi run when Thunderbolts became an underground fight club, yeah, I know…), and most recently Norman Osborne took over as chairperson. In case you have been under a rock, Norman Osborne used this as a stepping-stone to pretty much take over the Marvel Universe (Dark Reign for those who have been preoccupied elsewhere). So the Thunderbolts have changed it up once again, still villains, still ruthless and bad-assed, probably even more so now with Andy Diggle helming things. For those of you who don’t know his work, Andy Diggle is right up there with the biggest bad-asses in comic books (Jason Aaron, Garth Ennis and Warren Ellis would be on that list). He got his start on 2000 AD, giving that book balls once again, and I personally was introduced to him on DC/Vertigo’s retake on “The Losers” (one of the most underrated comics of the last 10 years). He transformed Ollie Queen from bi**-ass to bad-ass in “Green Arrow: Year One”. So how is he doing with Marvel’s #1 team of bad guys?
Andy Diggle started his run on the T-bolts a little while back by shaking up the membership once again (in case you missed it, the old T-bolts are now the Dark Avengers, but whatever). The new team is led by Yelena Belova (the blonde Black Widow, apparently getting burnt to a crisp in the Savage Land in the “New Avengers” didn’t keep her down), creepy Ant-man, Ghost, Headsman and Paladin (except for Paladin I don’t know who any of those guys are nor do I care). About the new team I’ll just say this, Bullseye and Venom were on the old one, how evil and psychotic do you think the new team is? Thus far they’ve tussled with Deadpool (it was a draw, sort of) and found a new recruit in the assassin named Mr. X (by the way of Mandipoor). Being a psychotic killer, he fits right in with Yelena and the gang. This of course brings us to our current issue. Our story opens with Yelena and Ghost having a dialogue, each trying to get a read on each other. Ghost apparently has the better read on Yelena, which may or may not be so good (in typical Andy Diggle fashion, Yelena has a secret, an awesome, super-bad a** secret). Osborne recruits a new guy whom he dubs the new “Scrouge” (a hockey mask wearing, gun-totting unpleasant sort of guy who is probably a killer) and Songbird pops back up on the radar. I have a feeling things are going to be going real, real bad for her shortly, and so it goes…
Andy Diggle, as I’ve stated before, is one of the most underrated guys in comics. Solid story, good dialogue, and enough bad-ass to last you until next month. Him on the Thunderbolts; putting Yelena Belova in charge? Genius. Word…
Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-men Utopia chapter one
Written by: Matt Fraction
Drawn by: Mark Silvestri
For those of you who have been sleeping, Norman Osborne is the new Tony Stark. To explain that a little more, after the superhero Civil War (sorry, that’s all the further back I’m going) Tony Stark became in charge of SHIELD and the entire defense of the United States (more or less). Secret Invasion made him out to be a villain (Skrulls dammit, it was all Tony’s fault) and Norman Osborne saw this opportunity to put himself in charge. He dismantled SHIELD and created HAMMER (yes, subtle, I know) and fired all the Avengers (they went underground anyway) and replaced them with the Thunderbolts (and Daken, Wolverine’s bitchy, half-Japanese son who I think sucks a** and is a little femmy). Anyway, the Avengers are Ms. Marvel (Moonstone), Iron Patriot (Norman Osborne), Daken (sucky Dark Wolverine), Spider-Man (Venom, not Eddie Brock, whoever that guy was who used to be the Scorpion, Max Garrigan I think), Sentry (why can’t he just go away?), Marvel Boy (a Grant Morrison creation), Hawkeye (Bullseye, totally awesome) and Ares (Thor on steroids and cocaine). Okay, so I liked the Dark Avengers better as the Thunderbolts, and Sentry, well, is retarded and Ares and Marvel Boy just seem random and total filler, but honestly Dark Avengers is really cool (thus far). I like the evil Ms. Marvel and Hawkeye/Bullseye is, well, genius. Anyway, as shown at the end of Secret Invasion there is a sort of “Dark Illuminati” too, and Emma Frost (gasp) aka the White Queen was sitting at the table with Norman and crew. Yeah, this probably doesn’t bode well for the X-men, who were all thinking Emma Frost wasn’t a skanky beyotch anymore, but either way they are off in San Francisco staying out of all the Dark Reign business. Until now…
Utopia opens with Simon Trask (of the Sentinel Trasks) leading his version of the million man (in this case human) march on San Francisco, the new home to mutants nation (and maybe even world) wide. Trask wants mutant births to be controlled, and wants the government to take control of their reproductive rights. Yeah, loosing their basic civil rights isn’t so appealing to mutants so there was a confrontation. Initially led by Hank McCoy and a few of the younger X-men, things started out peaceful enough but soon erupted. The mayor of San Francisco demanded that Scott Summer take responsibility for mutant kind, he tried, and ultimately failed to quell the hate pushed by Trask and his “Humanity Now!” a**holes and soon the entire city erupted in a full scale riot. This of course brings in Norman Osborne and the Dark Avengers, whom he uses to restore martial law to San Fran (ignoring the wishes of the mayor and not really carrying that his Dark Avengers are evil psychotics). Of course while restoring order to the city the Dark Avengers just make things worse, but true to form they come down like a hammer (sorry) and arrest some X-men and make Osborne look like a hero. Keeping with his PR genius of selling himself as the new messiah, Osborne uses this riot (which it seems like he engineered, or at least took complete advantage of) to make light his team of mutants. It seems like he has the blessing of Professor X (really? Well, maybe not), and Emma Frost as the newly ordained Black Queen (it was inevitable). As far as the rest of his X-men? Revealed probably in the next issue of Uncanny X-men (Utopia part two), and as of right now things for the X-men we no and love, well, to say the least they are in a worse spot than the New Avengers…
Utopia is fantastic. Many of Marvel’s crossovers have been mediocre at best lately, even major event books like Secret Invasion were just okay, not “amazing” or “awesome”. Utopia is both of those things. The first X-men/Avengers crossover in awhile, with classic X-men artist Marc Silvestri pulling it down (I grew up on his X-men, always had a soft spot for him) on the art. Matt Fraction unfolds a methodical, well plotted story that made me feel a range of emotions from anger to anxiety, and that’s a good thing. Utopia is an excellent book and is easily my pick of the week.