New Comic Reviews! (11-3-14)

Catwoman 35

Catwoman #35

“Comfort to the Hurt of the King”

Genevieve Valentine (writer), Garry Brown (artist). Covers by Jae Lee and Josh Middleton.

Loyal readers will remember that we just took a look at Catwoman last month, and generally I would never review two issues of the same series in a row. That said, this title is so unrecognizable from how it was last month, I had to triple-check to make sure I was still reading the same series. Spinning out of the Batman Eternal weekly series, “Comfort to the Hurt of the King” establishes a completely new status quo for Catwoman. Right up front, there’s a new creative team, with a style completely unlike what Ann Nocenti and Patrick Olliffe were doing last month. Beyond that though, the setting, cast of characters and overall tone have completely changed.

Over the past four weeks, Selena Kyle has hung up her cat-suit to become the head of a powerful crime family, formerly led by her estranged father. Using her newfound power, Kyle decides to rebuild Gotham City from the ground up, even if doing so means having to sink deeper into the criminal underworld than she’s ever been before. There’s no transition into any of this, mind you – if you haven’t been reading Batman Eternal, good luck, you’re going to have to play catch up as you go along.

The key to this new creative direction is the irony that as a simple thief, Kyle was a wanted criminal; yet, by running an entire criminal cartel, her power has legitimized her enough for her to be brought back into high society, to rub noses with Gotham’s cultural elite. It’s an absolutely brilliant idea for the character, and one that I hope Genevieve Valentine explores to its fullest. Despite the tonal shift without a clutch, Catwoman is suddenly one of the most interesting books in DC’s catalogue.

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A Town Called Dragon 2

A Town Called Dragon #2

“You Can’t Fight a Monster”

Judd Winick (writer), Geoff Shaw (artist and cover).

Stop me if you’ve heard this one – The residents of a Small Town America find their folksy way of life threatened when an ancient creature wakes up from hibernation. The beast begins wreaking havoc, and it’s up to the more capable citizens to band together and take the monster down. Basically, A Town Called Dragon is the movie Tremors, though without the acting tour-de-force of Kevin Bacon and Reba McEntire.

Now I will grant you, the emergence of a fire-breathing, man-eating dragon would no doubt prove troublesome for a sleepy rural community, what with its killing everything and growing at an exponential rate and all. But the solicits for this series literally say that on its own, the dragon threatens to Endanger Modern Life As We Know It, and that seems like a bit of an overstatement. Granted, we’re only two issues in to a five part miniseries, but it feels like we’re still much closer to the “just shoot the fucker” phase than we are to “carpet-bomb the whole county” or anything like that. I’m not convinced that this whole dragon problem couldn’t be solved by a quick run to the assault rifles section at the nearest Bass Pro Shop.

All the tropes you’d expect to see are here – the troublemaking teenagers, the stern but heroic sheriff, the naturalist whose warnings about what he was go unheeded, the black guy who might as well have “kill me” tattooed on his forehead (though I suspect that last one will be subverted). Honestly, A Town Called Dragon has thus far been completely paint-by-numbers. It’s inoffensive though, and the artwork is quite good, so if you’re a fan of the monster-thriller genre, you ought to give this one a look. Just don’t expect anything all that ground breaking – not yet, anyway. Stick around through the next three issues, and who knows how things will turn out. Maybe it’ll end up leading directly into the sequel, A Town Called Dragon 2: Aftershocks.

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Delinquents 3

The Delinquents #3

James Asmus and Fred Van Lente (writers), Kano (artist). Covers by Paolo Rivera, Khari Evans and Juan Doe.

In the latest adventure of Archer & Armstrong & Quantum & Woody (and the Goat!), our mismatched pairs finally join forces in their quest to find the a fabled horde of hobo treasure, led by a map tattooed on the remains of a dead man’s ass cheeks. As the unlikely heroes go native and hit the boxcars, they’re being stalked by the Veggie-Meat-Men Assassins from Uncanny Valley. That might be the most insane paragraph I’ve ever written.

 Delinquents is fantastic. It’s funny, irreverent, and stunningly creative. More than anything else, it reminds of Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonent’s much-missed Nextwave, and I can’t offer much higher praise than that. Not only is the story fantastic, the artwork is also stellar. Kano is at his very best here, demonstrating a brilliant eye for design in his layouts, expressions, gestures, nonverbal communication… and he draws a damned good fight scene to boot. There are a few times his non-traditional panel placement can become confusing in the story’s double-page spreads, but that’s very much a minor quibble.

As an aside, I was amused by James Asmus and Fred Van Lente’s use of Harry McClintock’s song “Big Rock Candy Mountain” as a leitmotif – mainly because of that last verse no one seems to know about, where the song turns out to a shifty vagabond seducing a young prospect with tall tales and fantasies, so he can get the chance to (and I quote) bugger him sore like a hobo’s whore. Kind of makes you look at the grizzled old Armstrong and his young pretty-boy companion Archer in a slightly different way.

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Avengers and X-Men Axis 3

Avengers and X-Men: AXIS #3

“The Red Supremacy pt. 3 – Good News for Bad People”

Rick Remender (writer), Leinil Francis Yu (artist). Covers by Jim Cheung, Nick Bradshaw and Humberto Ramos.

I try to stay up on my big Marvel mega-events, but I just couldn’t muster up any excitement for Axis. Continuing from the downright lamentable Uncanny X-Men series, we have a Red Skull with Charles Xavier’s dead brain in his head – I’m not even going to get into the many ways in which that doesn’t work – who has now becomes Red Onslaught, and has been wiping the floor with both the Avengers and the X-Men. Just when things looked their bleakest, Magneto showed up with a strike force of super-villains in tow, and it’s time for round two. Of course, this being a Rick Remender book, it all just leads to a long scene of everyone whining a whole lot, and the X-Men acting like insufferable pricks. I’ll say this for Remender, if nothing else, he’s consistent.

Any enthusiasm I might have had for AXIS was doomed to be quickly quashed by some of the most agonizing dialogue I’ve ever had to slog through. I’m not sure if it was clichéd lines like “Ridley Scott, eat your heart out!”, or the ever-so-timely references to George Clinton and the Monkees, but halfway through this comic I was ready to bin it and start fresh with something else. I persevered though, and so I can at least say with full certainty that the second half didn’t get any better.

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Vertigo Quarterly CMYK 3

Vertigo Quarterly CMYK #3

Steve Orlando, Gerard Way, Toril Orlesky, Marguerite Bennett, Diego Agrimbau, João M.P. Lemos, Matt Miner, Benjamin Read and Fábio Moon (writers), Emilio Utrera, Philip Bond, Orlesky, Bill Sienkiewicz, Lucas Varela, Lemos, Tanya Kurtulus, Christian Wildgoose and Moon (artists). Cover by Jared K. Fletcher.

CMYK is a quarterly anthology series that pays tribute to the comic industries past, with a quartet of issues dedicated to each of the four colors of the original color printing process. High concept, to be sure, but dear god, is this thing ever pretentious.

There are a lot of interesting visual styles on display here, but from a narrative standpoint, CMYK has little to offer. This is avant garde stuff, comics by way of Terrence Malick, and it’ll no doubt be roundly praised by snobby highbrow critics. Personally, I found nothing of substance to this issue’s vignettes (I hesitate to classify all of them as stories).

Maybe I’m just dense, too much of a philistine to appreciate such brilliant, experimental work. Then again, seeing as the best thing some creators came up with to explore the Yellow theme were two stories about lemons and one about urine, it might be possible that past the impressive visuals, CMYK just isn’t very good. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions – provided you’re willing to pay the hefty $7.99 cover price. I’d rather spend that money to buy two comics that don’t bore me to tears.

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Death of Wolverine Deadpool and Captain America OS

Death of Wolverine: Deadpool and Captain America #1

Gerry Duggan (writer), Scott Kolins (artist). Covers by Ed McGuinness and Declan Shalvey.

No one over the age of ten is liable to believe the premise of the storyline The Death of Wolverine. Sure, Logan may technically be pining for the fjords right now, but c’mon… there’s no way he won’t be back a year from now. There’s merchandise to move and movies to promote, and as long as Wolverine is one of Marvel’s most lucrative cash cows, he’s not going away for any length of time. With that in mind, I figured if I’d review any tie-in book, it might as well be the one that won’t take itself too seriously.

Here’s the thing though – DoW:DaCA has a surprising amount of heart. While the combination of the two lead characters may seem a bit arbitrary at first glance, Gerry Duggan does a typically excellent job of exploring the unique relationship between two veterans of military mad-science. Despite being nearly polar opposites of one another, America is one of the few people Deadpool respects, and in turn he’s one of the few people to treat Deadpool like an actual human being. Both men also had an unlikely friendship with Wolverine, with this issue seeing them come together to clean up the loose ends surrounding Wolverine’s death – and any number of the myriad ways he might end up being resurrected.

This one-shot could have easily been a simple cash-in, but it completely overachieves. While introspective and thoughtful at times, it’s also incredibly funny – I love the fact that even years after it was a recurring joke in Cable and Deadpool, we still have henchmen complaining about A.I.M.’s lack of an employee dental plan. The art is also stellar – Scott Kolins is at the top of his game here, especially with the flash-back splash page that lets him put his spin on the classic Mike Zeck-drawn cover of Captain America Annual #8. The man can also draw the hell out of a Black Widow cameo, and I will never tire of seeing Old Man Steve Rogers hit guys with his cane.

I didn’t expect much going in to this one, but it was a pleasant surprise… if you’re a fan of either Captain America or Deadpool, this one is worth a look.

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