We begin with Detective Comics #821 (drawn by J.H. Williams III), the first of what I hope are many consecutive issues written by Paul Dini. If JHW3 were sticking around longer, I might be calling this the next great Batman team … but then again, Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert are on deck, so we’ll just have to see. Crikey, I’m negative, and for no good reason except being burned by so many Batman comics in the past several years. Anyway, buy this issue. Savor its done-in-oneness, and remember the years of line-wide crossovers. Notice the painted scene transitions, the deco-font captions, the fact that Robin (!) gets a dramatic reveal. Ponder whether the opening two-page spread, with its judicious use of white impact marks and sound effect, is an homage to the Adam West show. Everything about this comic feels right.
Secret Six #2 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Brad Walker, inked by Jimmy Palmiotti) sports a cover that would send Sir Mix-A-Lot into orbit, but it’s actually kind of a fakeout. The Six spend much of the issue getting back on those that done them wrong, including a torture scene that ends unexpectedly. Art is still rather murky, and the colors this issue don’t help much. A flashback scene involving Scandal swimming uses much the same shade of orange for the water and land elements, making me wonder how long she could hold her breath. Also, one of the Six is the subject of a cliffhanger, but because it wasn’t telegraphed earlier in the book, it’s somehow not as suspenseful. I know that sounds fallacious, but I don’t want to spoil anything. Still, I thnk Deadshot makes a Batman Begins joke, and everything else seems to hold together, so I’m on board for another month.
52 #9 (written by Ace, Rocky, Prof, and Red, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Shawn Moll, inks by Tom Nguyen) tracks two main stories: Steel confronts Luthor over Natasha’s powering-up; and Buddy, Adam, and Starfire escape Devilance the Pursuer. Also, Montoya meets an unmasked Question, and her old girlfriend gets a costumed cameo. (“History of the DCU” covers Identity Crisis, so you can imagine how that goes.) It’s rather predictable to have Natasha and Steel fight, but I like Natasha so far, so I’m rooting for her to have a happy ending. However, the question for the other main story is, how blind is Adam Strange? At one point he can tell that Devilance is looking into the unfriendly end of Adam’s jetpack. Did I miss the part where Adam now has radar sense from the truck full of chemicals passing by the spatial anomaly? Maybe I did; but please, 52, have mercy on us slow folk.
Neck-and-neck with Detective #821 in for this week’s Why Aren’t All Comics Like This? award is The Thing #8 (written by Dan Slott, drawn by Kieron Dwyer), featuring Ben Grimm’s spectacular Marvel Universe-wide poker party, in celebration of a true milestone in his life. Yes, Alicia is involved, but it’s not what you might think. I thought it was a terrifically charming issue built around nothing more than colleagues gathering for a good time, and if I start to think about how much of Marvel and DC’s recent sales are based around blood, death, and artificial bids for relevance, while this title never found its audience, it will just make me madder. If you are enjoying “Civil War,” I can understand why; but if you have a spare $2.99 for this issue, or you want to splurge on the upcoming paperback, you could do worse. Dan Slott loves Marvel’s characters like family, and this series has been a great showcase for him and them.
I wanted Fantastic Four: First Family #5 (written by Joe Casey, pencilled by Chris Weston, inked by Gary Erskine) to step up the pace, and it did. As Sue struggles with her feelings for Reed and Johnny tries to save his mechanic buddies from burglars, Reed is called in to stop Evil Peter Lorre from irradiating upstate New York with cosmic rays. It’s all good setup for what could be a very satisfying conclusion.
Ever since seeing that Peter David was writing Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man (#17 pencilled by Mike Norton, inked by Norman Lee), I had been meaning to get it. This issue features Spidey (still in high school) trying to cure Flash Thompson’s lycanthropy, with the help of special guest star Doctor Strange. I didn’t think David would dumb down an all-ages story, and I wasn’t disappointed. Predictable elements of the story are given good twists, and while David’s trademark sense of humor isn’t front and center, the story is very good-natured. Art is also simple and straightforward, but professional, in the mold of Paul Smith, Ty Templeton, or cover artist Cameron Stewart. If I were feeling more cynical, I’d say sure, Marvel, get the kids hooked on this, and in a few years they’ll be ready for civil liberties and ugly art. Next issue: Man-Thing!
Finally, an impulse buy: Beyond! #1 (drawn by Scott Kolins), bought on the strength of writer Dwayne McDuffie. It’s a sequel to Secret Wars, featuring Spider-Man, Venom, the Wasp, Gravity, Firebird, Hank Pym, a new Kraven, Medusa, and (unfamiliar to me) The Hood. The story is told from Gravity’s perspective, which is nice for someone like me who needs to be introduced to him and some of these others. Now, you might think that some of the big names involved here would be safe from death and carnage, but let me tell you, you would be wrong. While there might be a reset button at the end of issue #6, it looks like an entertaining ride nonetheless.