First up, because I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it, is Nightwing #129 (written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Keith Champagne). It introduces “Bride & Groom,” a pair of long-lived serial killers who prey on young, hot, single people by stripping them to their underwear and sacrificing them. That Marv — always with his finger on the audience’s pulse! (To be fair, Nightwing spends time sweating in his boxers as well.) Maybe I like it because it’s pretty straightforward. The scene of Dick talking back to the TV news was also fairly appealing. Mostly, this was the first issue I really got a feeling that the book was about Dick “Nightwing” Grayson, ex-Boy Wonder, and not Generic Urban Acrobat. Having him go to a party at Wayne Manor didn’t hurt, but I have to say, the new art team of Igle and Champagne are a vast improvement over Dan Jurgens’ old stiff figures. The faces sometimes seem a little too fluid, but overall it’s a solid package.
52 #40 (written by JMRW, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Chris Batista, inks by Rodney Ramos & Dan Green) is just as advertised — the bare-knuckle beatdown of Lex Luthor by John Henry Irons. While everyone does their best to make Luthor detestable, it all seems too convenient somehow, aspiring to the “Aha! I too am left-handed!” school of dramatic reveals, but never getting there. It seems intended to work on a visceral, almost pulpish level, but so much has gone into this arc that that kind of resolution isn’t very satisfying after all. Also, Gar Logan making a crack literally over a villain’s dead body was pretty disconcerting.
I like Fantastic Four: The End (#5 written and pencilled by Alan Davis and inked by Mark Farmer), but there doesn’t seem to be much “The End” in it. Mostly it’s an all-inclusive FF/Marvel Universe story set a few decades from now, with no indication that this is supposed to be the last FF adventure. Maybe it’s setting readers up for a tragic ending, but that doesn’t quite fit its overall jaunty tone. This issue, like the others, features the FF reunited at last, but other than that it’s more of the very nicely rendered travelogue in which Alan Davis seems to delight.
Welcome To Tranquility #3 (written by Gail Simone, drawn by Neil Googe) was a good introduction to one of Tranquility’s younger residents, a former teen speedster gone goth with a history with the late Mr. Articulate. We get to know a lot about her in this issue, and by the end it might seem like too much, but it’s really paced well, with a nice balance between the series’ “multimedia” elements and more traditional storytelling. This series is growing on me, slowly but surely.
Gail Simone also writes The All-New Atom #8 (pencils by Mike Norton, inks by Andy Owens), the second half of a time-travel-based storyline featuring a Linear Man and the old Atom’s friend Professor Hyatt. It’s fun as usual, with shout-outs to bits of DC kitsch, but honestly, I was a little disappointed that the Linear Man didn’t turn out to be as inflexible as he had indicated. Just a minor complaint.
I liked Astro City: The Dark Age Book Two #2 (written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by Brent Anderson) well enough, but I can’t point to anything specific that really stood out. It’s more of a mood-setting installment than anything else, establishing the change in society and the superheroes that characterized this period of AC history. Not bad, but not as memorable as some Astro City issues.
Action Comics Annual #10 (written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner, drawn by various artists) was basically a Secret Files without the Who’s Who-style pages: a smorgasbord of variable-length stories presented in scattershot fashion. The issue’s two complete stories are a pastiche of the original Mon-El introduction, and a bit on the familiar (from the movies, that is) Phantom Zone villains’ secret origins. They’re fine on their own, and the other storylets aren’t bad, but it all feels rather haphazard.
Detective Comics #828 (written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Don Kramer, inked by Wayne Faucher) started off well, with a murder at Bruce Wayne’s yacht party, but it starts to get a little hinky about halfway through. The murder turns out to be pretty simple once Batman and special guest detective the Riddler put everything together, so the end result turns more on how Batman can hide Bruce Wayne’s friendship with the victim. It’s not a bad story; it just doesn’t seem that consequential.
Finally, I really enjoyed Shazam! The Monster Society Of Evil #1 (by Jeff Smith). If you know anything about this miniseries, you can guess why. For the uninitiated, it’s an all-ages look at the quintessential kids’ superhero, Captain Marvel. He’s the adult protector Billy Batson never had, a creation of the wizard Shazam put under Billy’s control. I have two very minor complaints about this issue: the format is durable but not quite kid-friendly, and I really, really wanted Shazam to order Billy to “SPEAK MY NAME!!!” as I believe he does in the original.