Well this was one HELL of a week from Marvel. The Dark Reign story arc running through Marvel, headed up by the seemingly limitless brilliance of Brian Michael Bendis, is reaching Dark Knight level intensity and moments that got my blood boiling, arm hairs standing and reactions I actually had to spout out loud.
And I got one DC book this week (and one from last week), sadly no stand out indies for me this week (if I missed something good, let me know!). Marvel dominated this Wednesday's Stack.
Lets' get to it.
The New Avengers #56
Currently this title seems to be handling some back burner action with all that's going on with more eventful conflicts between Mutant kind and Osborne but we're still getting a solid book. Several "ten time loser" villains have secured, built or bought one hardcore peace of equipment that drops powers like an EMP does electric devices. The tool is used as a bargaining chip with Norman Osborne. Osborne doesn't bite and pays a heavy price. While this title is not currently rocking the front lines of the DKR arc, this is a fun and well written read with some fantastic art right now. And I'm sure the New Avengers will be on the front lines with Osborne, if not in the next issue, very soon. They're still mighty pissed at his little team of impostors smearing their good names.
Dark Avengers #8 (Utopia Chapter 5)
On to one of Osborne's little puppet empire's more pressing problems: Mutants. We're finally treated to some answers as to just what Ms. Emma Frost is doing heading up an Osborne overseen mutant team claiming to be "X-Men". The mutant riots are squashed and the end of the issue, which I will not spoil, had me honestly laughing out loud for the sheer brilliance of what Scott "Cyclops" Summers has done to Osborne's ego and public image. I was never the biggest Cyclops fan and I'm sure I've flat out said I hate the guy over the years, but ever since Grant Morrison built the foundations of a bad ass in Summers way back in New X-Men, writers seem to be jumping at the chance to keep the trend up and growing. What Summers achieves by the end of this issue might infuriate Xavier but thrill Magneto. Mutants got a brand new bag. If you haven't picked up Utopia (running through alternating issues of Uncanny X-Men and Dark Avengers) its time to get caught up before the big finale issue X-Men/Dark Avengers Exodus coming out soon.
Secret Warriors #7
Johnathan Hickman (read Nightly News to figure out why he's one of the best writers of comics possibly ever) continues to give Nick Fury his greatest portrayal yet. Fury has gone so far rogue as to be taking on HAMMER (formerly SHIELD, basically Marvel's version of a CIA type group) with an army of former SHIELD agents and his own personally trained team of young superhumans. Normally, I hate the grizzled old guys trains smart mouth recruits plot lines because they tend to land in god awful cliche territory in no time. Hickman is not that kind of writer. Hickman is capable of managing multiple plot threads, characterizations, his own additions to the Marvel U and established canon like its a walk in the park. The new issue gives readers a glimpse at just how exactly Fury plans to fund such an outrageous endeavor. Osborne also appears, shortly, in the current issue and I eagerly awate the moment Fury gets to stare down a barrel pressed firmly against Osborne's wrinkled forehead. Despite how slighted the Avengers currently feel, or the Mutants or even the Fantastic Four, its Fury who has ultimately had it the worst: watching the organization he built since WW2 be warped and twisted into what it was designed to stop. And Fury, militant idealist that he is, is going to have some serious fun reclaiming his property... and I'm going to have some serious fun reading it. I have not been thrilled by or emotionally invested in too many titles like I am in this one.
Wolverine #77 (Dark Wolverine arc)
Wolverine continues to cover the current schemes of Wolverine's son Daken, a character I once figured would end up a throw away plot devise. Not in the hands of Daniel Way. Way introduced Daken in his Wolverine Origins title that I'm certainly going to have to pick up trades for. Daken, posing as his own father for Osborne's nasty little "Avengers" continues to push his plans to thwart Osborne (which seems to be motivated simply by Daken's desire to show Osborne he ain't the smartest man alive). Despite Daken's extreme hatred for his father and rather dumb brute portrayal in most Marvel books, Way writes him as incredibly intelligent. He's a fun character to read. He possesses the thug like capabilities of his father BUT ALSO the sort of political maneuvering usually given to characters in the realm of super villains/heroes... not newly established characters without much pull or page time. Daken is proving himself to be quite the likable anit-hero. The current issue depicts how he almost managed to stop Osborne altogether, in between genius mind fucking amongst his fellow "Avengers" and establishing an interesting partnership with the Fantastic Four, Daken is one busy boy. All of this AND the art is spectacular in its complex simplicity.
Following their trip through time and space, the team is dropped back almost to the second they left, allowing them to finish the job they were forced (literally) to leave behind. Those events lead to the capture of Laura (X-23) and Wolverine is not happy to find that his daughter is missing. Logan's reaction is downright awww, what a good father... except its in perfect Wolverine fashion. Marvel's new trend of hiring hard hitting, unflinching writers continues in X-Force where we see a captured X-23 tortured by her own creators with a chainsaw. We're talking Scarface level torture here... only in X-Force they actually show it. Its damn brutal. As the team tries to figure out just where Laura is as they reel from their return to their own time, some action ensues and most of the team ends up covered in blood. This is not a book for the Silver Age fan sipping on cream soda under a Norman Rockwell. This is a team of good guys that make a lot of the baddest bad guys piss themselves. The book has been and continues to be a favorite and highly anticipated book for me every single month.
Yes, despite DC's refusal to attempt the levels of quality their own films possess (see current Nolan Batman films... like you haven't...pfff), I still read a few titles monthly. All Bat titles of course.
The identity of Batgirl, both inside the comics and out, has been something DC seems perpetually lost in figuring out. Obviously the original Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, has been out of the game for a long time having been paralyzed by the Joker in the late 80's. Then DC cooked up Cassandra Cain, a very well written and loved character who just happened to be the daughter of two of Bruce Wayne's own trainers, David Cain and Lady Shiva. Now since Bruce had trouble defeating Shiva at times and Cassandra nearly beat her once, many believed it would be Cassandra who would be groomed to be the best replacement for Bruce. If not on her own, than at least in teaming with Tim Drake (Robin III and currently Red Robin). She was certainly one of my favorites. However she was essentially and unceremoniously dropped for quite a while. Then she was a villain. Now she's back for a couple pages to hand the suit to yet another lost in DC continuity nightmare character: Spoiler. Spoiler was a teen girl who decided to become a costumed vigilante and was on again/off again with Tim Drake throughout his title and Bruce, after Tim once quit, even hired her as Robin for a whole two weeks, at which point Bruce fired her for incompetence. She was then killed in a very important scene following a massive gang war in Gotham that she herself inadvertently started trying to win back Bruce's favor. T'was fitting for her to die in the end of it I thought. Good epic tragedy. Then she was back, no real explanation (or one buried in some throwaway side title I skipped). The NEW Batgirl title is funny, well written and well drawn. However, when rebooting a character identity, especially Batgirl, perhaps it would have been wiser to NOT have it involve two (now) c list characters with confusing and horribly explained continuities? Way to open the market up to new readers DC. Such is the genius planning they seem fit to give us lately. Its still a good book, and with all that I've just covered, one should be able to follow it. If you want a far better version of a Batgirl character however, check out Rucka's Batwoman... that's how you take a nearly c-list character and make her just as fascinating as your big guns. But its hard to compete with Rucka.
BATMAN AND ROBIN #3
My favorite book right now because its the only really good REAL Bat-book currently ongoing. Most of the Batbooks (with the exception of Batman and Batwoman strangely enough) are throw away filler that will not take their characters into anything we have not seen before over and over and over. In Batman and Robin however, we get the more in depth look at just what its like for Dick Grayson (OG Robin) to have to become Batman. He's spent his whole life trying to do the opposite. And worse, he's faced with training an apprentice, Damian (Robin IV... V if you count Spoiler's two week stint) who happens to behave worse than Bruce ever did at his most solemn/pissed/stand offish. Morrison creates genius characters and takes established ones into new territory. Here we continue to follow Batman and Robin on their hunt for the gang leader known as Pyg. Pyg is one of the most terrifying baddies I've seen (and in a Batbook where crazy is always today's special, that's saying something). He puts these horrible masks on to the faces of his kidnapping victims. And of course, he can't just use some Krazy Glue... he uses acid. Its horrible and creepy. The victims are then drugged and end up serving him in a henchmen capacity. They look like that old Outer Limits episode where everyone has hideous pig faces and the hot blonde is considered ugly. Morrison is very up on his classic sci-fi and I'm sure that's the gag. His Batman and Robin, according to an IGN interview I read, is sort of his take on the 50's series if that series was given the Dark Knight treatment. Its brighter than you expect, but the subject matter is far darker than you can imagine. And, as of issue 3, its beginning to show signs of tying back in to Morrison's last arc on Batman, "RIP" (the one where Batman either died or took off aka DC's excuse for all of these crappy filler books polluting the Batman racks). When all is said and done, Morrison's run on Batman/Batman and Robin will no doubt be remembered as one epic and redefining ride. Which is great, that's what the man does. What I'm terrified of however, is that DC will (almost guaranteed) do to him what Marvel did following the New X-Men arc: practically negate everything he started in the guise of yet ANOTHER reboot. Marvel has clearly corrected their behavior but DC is a slow learner (like... retarded slow) so we shall see. Its only on issue 3 and there are reprints of one and two galore out there. Catch up and keep reading! Its a great book (and I didn't even get into how crazy good Frank Quitely's pencils are!).