Best Shots Comic Reviews: BATMAN & TWO-FACE #24, UNCANNY X-MEN #13, More

DC Previews for October 16 2013
Credit: DC Comics
Credit: DC Comics

Batman and Two-Face #24
Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray and John Kalisz
Lettering by Carlos M. Mangual
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Two-Face gets a slight makeover in the New 52, as Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason tweak Harvey Dent's origin in Batman and Two-Face #24. While the continuity changes are largely cosmetic - and mostly needless - the execution is impossible to ignore, as this creative team continues to be the unsung heroes of the Batman lineup.

It doesn't hurt, of course, that this book is gorgeous. Patrick Gleason lends so much drama to this comic, really selling the horror that is Harvey Dent's everyday life - the book opens in silence, but watching Harvey's scarred side seep blood onto his pillow, or watching a fly land on his lidless left eye... it's chilling.

Indeed, it's such a strong opening that you almost - almost - might overlook Gleason's Batman scenes. The first page with the Dark Knight is one of the most interesting introductions I've seen in a long time, as Gleason takes a page out of the J.H. Williams playbook, breaking the page with bolts of lightning and that iconic Bat-silhouette.

With such a great artist on board, Peter Tomasi starts off with strong characterization before moving into the nuts-and-bolts of the standard Batman story. His silent treatment for Harvey Dent is a supreme show of (earned) confidence, to the point where Two-Face really does steal the show from the Dark Knight. (Although the synchopated rhythm of the Batman introduction is superb, as he shouts "Where is it?" "When is it?") By the time we hit the middle of the comic, however, the momentum does falter a bit - Tomasi is put in the unenviable position of having to rework Harvey Dent's origin, and considering how air-tight it already was, including an Irish mafia queen feels almost redundant.

While the actual interaction between Batman and Two-Face has yet to materialize, Tomasi and Gleason have delivered a gorgeous-looking setup in Batman and Two-Face #24. Consistent as ever, this creative team is one of the best DC has to offer, and with the artwork and characterization looking this good, this is a book you'd be foolish to overlook.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Superior Spider-Man #19
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Ryan Stegman, Livesay and Edgar Delgado
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Want some bang for your buck? Superior Spider-Man #19 might be one of the most densely plotted comics of the week - and that's not a bad thing. Dan Slott swings for the fences, packing in tons of status quo changes for Otto Octavius and his supporting cast, as he teams up with Spider-Man 2099 to save New York.

With the timestream fracturing thanks to Tiberius Stone's sabotage of Horizon Labs, there's a lot going on in this comic, as Slott bounces between Otto, Spider-Man 2099, the crew of Horizon Labs, and an unlikely team-up between Carlie Cooper and the Wraith. It's to Slott's credit that all of these characters push the overarching Superior Spider-Man story forward - in particular, there's a great beat where Otto struggles to live up to Peter Parker's intellectual prowess, a moment that will likely change the outcome of this series forever. Spidey 2099 also gets some great moments here, as his status quo gets a refreshing kick that I hope Marvel capitalizes on moving forward.

Yet this comic isn't all plot points. Even though there is a lot of dialogue in this issue, Ryan Stegman keeps the comic from looking stagnant, lending a lot of expressiveness and anguish to the tense situation at Horizon. (His take on the cocky, reckless Tiberius Stone is also a highlight, even if colorist Edgar Delgado occasionally changes Stone's hair color from page to page.) Sometimes Stegman does stumble, however - there are some pages that are so packed with dialogue, like Spider-Man 2099 manhandling Tiberius, that his compositions wind up looking a little too distant - but he makes up for it with his big splash pages, particularly when Otto frantically scans his memories for the key to his survival.

Dan Slott has been telling people that Superior Spider-Man #19 would be a game-changer, and he wasn't joking - there are so many plot points that he's seeded in just this one issue that he may very well have revitalized this series with one shot. With tons of progression for the entire Spider-Man cast, this issue is one you definitely shouldn't miss.

 

Credit: DC Comics

Wonder Woman #24
Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Goran Sudzuka
Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher
Published by DC Comics
Review by Noelle Webster
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

After the epic conclusion of last arc, Apollo has taken his place as king of the Olympians and is waiting on the new God of War—Wonder Woman. She’s currently trying to settle into a new place with Zola, Zeke, and Hera though, and isn’t exactly pleased with this news. The issue accomplishes a lot of set up, but it feels a bit scattered. Wonder Woman as the new God(dess?) of War is a more than intriguing storyline, but nothing else was fleshed out enough to get excited about.

Brian Azzarello has a tendency to sideline the series titular character, and this issue is no exception. A certain amount of this is understandable in a set up issue, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was given a sense of what everyone but Wonder Woman has been up to. Even without focusing on Wonder Woman though, the issue still felt a little scattered as it was checking in with all the main players. Some of this was due to the dialogue, which didn’t quite flow. There are arguments in the issue which resulted in characters talking over each other, but oftentimes sentences are finished too many panels later and on a different page so it was occasionally hard to follow.

I’m always a little bummed when Cliff Chiang isn’t the artist on an issue, but Goran Sudzuka has a good grasp on the style of the series. Matthew Wilson’s colors help maintain that feel of continuity from issue to issue as well. It’s tough for an artist to maintain the look of a series while still putting their own touch on it, and Sudzuka was up to the task. There isn’t too much going on here besides people talking, which makes the facial expressions crucial to the issue. Sudzuka’s facial expressions are well done, and I wouldn’t mind seeing more of him.

Again, I think the problems in the issue mostly stem from it being a set up issue. That being said, I’m intrigued by some of the new plot lines. Wonder Woman as the new Goddess of War sounds awesome, so while Azzarello didn’t touch on the ramifications of this yet, it’s something with a lot of potential. Also interesting is that Strife seems to be the only person more upset than Wonder Woman about her new place among the Olympians. We’ve seen Strife’s substantial abilities, and I’d like to see her go up against our new Goddess of War. Strife is always entertaining so I look forward to seeing that unfold.

There are some nice character moments throughout the issue, as well. The news of Wonder Woman’s new title is big, but it’s also important to see how Hera is holding up now that she’s a mortal. The short answer is not well, and it looks like Zola has two crying babies to deal with. Another strong moment in the issue is when Azzarello touches on the fallout of Hermes’ actions. Wonder Woman and Zola are obviously unhappy to see him, but Hermes defends himself in a logical, rational way that leaves the reader feeling more than a little guilty.

Despite some nice character moments and promising plot lines, the issue ultimately doesn’t accomplish much. Much of it is due to the nature of a set up issue, but the issue is scattered and would have benefited from more focus. I look forward to seeing some of these plots unfold, and hope to see some more action next issue.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Uncanny X-Men #13
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Mark Irwin, Jaime Mendoza, Victor olazaba and Marte Garcia
Lettering by Joe caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10

Pitting not one, not two, not three, but five different teams of X-Men against one another, Marvel's Battle of the Atom crossover was likely to be bloated just from the conceptual stage. Yet with the exception of one smart twist near the end of the issue, Uncanny X-Men #13 actually seems to reveal how threadbare this premise is, as this issue is largely just empty-calorie action.

Part of the problem with this book is Chris Bachalo. When he is on, Bachalo knocks his pages out of the park, but even with an army of inkers, his compositions and layouts really suffer this issue. His establishing shot of Cyclops' renegade team and the heroic future X-Men is just a collection of talking heads, and even with Bendis throwing in more action than he has in six months, most of the fight choreography is limited to Magik stabbing people with her Soulsword and Colossus and Molly Hayes exchanging some teeth-rattling punches. Considering his characters look even more sketchy and distended than usual, this is not one of Bachalo's strongest outings.

With the artwork already coming off shaky, Bendis comes off almost on auto-pilot this issue, as he's really just throwing characters against one another with only a minimum of surface-level banter. Part of this comes with the inherent weakness of Cyclops' team versus Wolverine's youthful, energetic series - these characters are so similar in tone and philosophy that they wind up seeming interchangeable, a problem that already plagues Bendis thanks to his Mamet-esque dialogue. Bendis does try to mitigate the problem by touching base with the evil X-Men of the future, but those characters - particularly Xorn, who tries to have someone kill themselves with a snarky line - wind up feeling like one-dimensional villains.

So what's the saving grace of this comic? Well, without giving too much away, Bendis throws a curveball near the end of this comic that shows he is looking at the long game, and that Battle of the Atom might actually have a long game in mind. Is there more to the original X-Men than meets the eye? It's that twist that gives Uncanny X-Men #13 a much-needed jolt, and keeps this issue from being completely skippable.

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