Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Steve Lieber and Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by George Marston
'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
So, this is how the other side lives. Crawling inside the lives of F-rated villain Boomerang and his cadre of criminal associates, Superior Foes of Spider-Man delivers a slice of life that's pitch perfect in its misanthropy, sarcasm, and burgeoning caper. Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber draw on some of the same sensibilities as Matt Fraction and David Aja's Hawkeye, crafting a comic that is equal parts subversive sitcom, heist film, and costume drama.
Kicking off with a look back at some of Boomerang's less upstanding moments narrated in an oddly hilarious Neil Simon-meets-Guy Ritchie style, Superior Foes quickly dials in on the relationships between Boomerang and his allies in the Sinister Six (of which there are only five), particularly Speed Demon and the Shocker. As Shocker and Speed Demon visit Boomerang in prison, he downright begs them to look in on his pet birds. Speed Demon and Shocker take on the task, completing it in a way that only a pair of bottom of the barrel villains could. It's scenes like Shocker and Speed Demon robbing a pet store for bird seed and then complaining as they have to lug it up numerous flights of stairs to Boomerang's pad that really make this comic. The balance of pathos and sarcasm is spot on, selling wholesale the conceit that these guys are, at their core, kind of screwed up friends with the same bad ideas.
Meanwhile, amid birdseed heists and a stick up of a comic store by Beetle and Overdrive, the other two members of Boomerang's gang, Nick Spencer actually manages to deliver something of a mystery building around a character who just might wind up being the group's sixth member. Boomerang's deal with this secret ally, and his manipulation of his teammates, combined with his off-beat, chuckling inducing narration really make a case for Boomerang as a leading man, evolving him even beyond the screen time he received in Jeff Parker's Thunderbolts. Taking a character as obvious and dumb as Boomerang and making him not only a character you want to root for, but someone you want to read more about is no mean feat, and Spencer does it in spades.
Along the way, Steve Lieber joins Mike Allred, Chris Samnee, and David Aja as one of the great character artists in Marvel's stable. Superior Foes wouldn't work nearly as well without the personality and heart that Lieber is able to inject into the costumed miscreants of the not so Sinister Six. Lieber captures Shocker and Speed Demon's turn-on-a-dime switch from menacing villain to annoyed, long-suffering friends with as little effort as it takes the character to make it themselves. Rachelle Rosenberg is the perfect partner in crime for Lieber's line art, crafting a colorful but moody palette that uses occasional watercolor and newsprint tones to add just the right amount of dinginess to the lives of the Sinister Six.
Superior Foes of Spider-Man is something special, a new entry in a growing crop of Marvel comics like Hawkeye, FF, and Daredevil that focus on characters first, and use unmatched art and humor to do so. It's early yet, but Marvel hasn't had this strong a debut issue since Hawkeye, a comparison which bodes very well for Superior Foes of Spider-Man. If this is the new Marvel, I say keep 'em coming.
Detective Comics #22
Written by John Layman
Art by Jason Fabok, Emilio Lopez, Andy Clarke, and Blond
Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher and Dezi Sienty
Published by DC Comics
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
While the cover shows us that this is definitely the debut of Batman rogue Wrath version New 52, albeit briefly, it plays out more of a detective story with Bats trying to figure out this new cop killer that's been popping up. Add in Bruce Wayne not having the most pleasant of times dealing with one E. D. Caldwell about trying get him board with weapons manufacturing, and you have a good start for a potentially great arc.
John Layman has come a long way in recent years since his creator-owned book Chew hit the stands a few years back, and currently, he's writing the second-best Bat-title next to Scott Snyder's Batman. There's a lot of love about this issue and you really have to nitpick when you're trying to figure out something negative to say. While Snyder takes his stories more into fantastical territory, Layman's approach by comparison is more grounded and gritty, giving Batman/Bruce Wayne an all too human feel.
Bruce Wayne here is written with not only a tactician, but a businessman as well. We see more to Wayne's business side to things and even more personable. After meeting Caldwell he thinks to himself "Yes. I'm positive I don't like this man". He's good at reading people and even Josh Fabok's art shows Wayne's body language as somebody who doesn't just give his trust away because of dollar signs.
Speaking of Fabok's art, it's just stellar here. Going from a strong opening prologue with a bold splash page to even the quieter moments of Alfred and Batman talking strategy and reasoning behind Caldwell's intentions, it definitely hearkens back to some old school Batman imagery. The chase sequence of Batman going after Wrath's apprentice, Scorn, is just high-octane cinematic goodness. Fabok accomplishes so much if three panels what some artists take up to eight to get across.
Again, going back to nitpicking, some of the inking is a bit heavy-handed and I'd like see the colorist, Blond, get a little bit more to do, but the mood that Fabok has set so far is top notch. Blond certainly does a great job with what he's dealt adding pops of gunfire in the mix of Gotham's moody surroundings. Even the grey skies during the daytime sequence are a nice touch.
The back up featuring a Man-Bat story by Layman and artist Andy Clarke takes the book a complete 180. While Wrath is a more sensible and grounded villain, Layman's take here on one of more fantastical rogues is a pleasant surprise. Clarke is one of those artists that has a genuine and distinguishing style that's a mixture of Art Adams, Steve Pugh, and Travel Foreman with thin linework and heavy crosshatching, with his figure compositions coming out clean and clear. Blond gets a little bit more to pay with here and does a decent job of not overcomplicating the pages and sticks to a basic palette.
Detective Comics #22 might not have a lot of Wrath action in it as the cover might have promised, but what it does have is Layman still proving he's one of the best DC has to offer, with Fabok close behind. While this is just the beginning of something big, the unlimited potential is staggering. Be prepared.
Avengers A.I. #1
Written by Sam Humphries
Art by Andre Lima Araujo and Frank D'Armata
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
"Bigger. Better. Faster. Stranger." Avengers A.I. starts off audaciously enough, and there is clearly more potential than you might expect from Hank Pym's team of android avengers. That said, there are still some bugs to work out in this new adventure, as sheer enthusiasm isn't quite enough to mask the roughness around this book's edges.
To his credit, writer Sam Humphries wastes little time bringing the team together, as he breathlessly introduces Hank Pym, the Vision, Victor Mancha and Doombot. You can see that Humphries wears his influences on his sleeve, as he clearly is doing his best impression of Warren Ellis circa Nextwave, particularly as Doombot tells his teammates "my most fervent wish is to crush your pathetic freedoms beneath my boots."
Sometimes, however, the overuse of humor winds up grating, almost coming off as self-indulgent - thankfully, Humphries does have a moment or two where he also examines the science behind the superheroes. Watching the Vision meditate around the sun is a moment that really makes the synthezoid a powerhouse, and a beat where he utilizes nanotechnology is probably the best part of the book.
Artist Andre Lima Araujo, fresh off his issue of Mark Waid in the epilogue of Age of Ultron, isn't an A-lister yet, but his enthusiasm for the product is palpable. His take on the Vision is probably the strongest of the bunch, even if occasionally the character comes off as surprisingly husky. That said, Araujo could stand to use an inker, preferably one who could add a lushness to his sketchy lines. Additionally, Araujo's composition isn't always on point, robbing some of the action sequences - like Victor crash-landing on a runaway drone - of their vigor.
Still, there are some serious hiccups as far as this book goes, particularly the dynamic between Hank Pym and his SHIELD liaison, Monica Chang. Monica is probably the least developed character of the bunch, with dialogue like "I'm the hardcore ------- that's going to save us from the machines" actually being a bit cringe-worthy. The problem is, Monica is also the catalyst for this team springing into action, so when her Guantanamo-style interrogation of Hank Pym oscillates between semi-cordial to out-and-out punching Hank in the face, it winds up being an anchor around this book's neck.
Additionally - and this is the clincher - Humphries leans so much on the semi-humorous bits that he doesn't really justify or explore the actual high concept enough: these aren't human heroes, but A.I. What does that mean? What is the difference? What sets this book apart? And what kind of leader is Hank Pym going to become? Without that hook, this book comes off as a group of D-list Avengers in a marketplace saturated with other Avenger titles. But with the team coming together like a well-oiled machine, here's hoping that Humphries and Araujo can show us what makes these tin men tick.
Batman Incorporated #12
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn
Lettering by Dave Lamphear
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10
For years, Grant Morrison has led the charge for Batman's comic book adventures, which is why Batman Incorporated #12 feels so bittersweet. After all those issues - after all this time - Batman's final battle against Leviathan doesn't feel like an earned victory, but instead just a string of blows that ring more hollow than heroic.
Part of the problem is that Morrison's cliffhanger from last month - where Batman arms himself with Azrael's Suit of Sorrows, the Man-Bat serum and experimental Waynetech battle armor - winds up becoming quickly discarded, as Morrison just moves on to his next set of ideas. The problem here is... what you see is really what you get. It's actually an astonishingly straightforward script from Morrison, but when it's 90% fighting, there's not much more you can add - it's page after page of Batman beating the tar out of the Heretic, with Morrison throwing out new gadgets like electrical blasts and invisibility just to keep stacking the deck. Unfortunately, without that trademark Morrison wit, the script winds up coming off more like an illustrated game of Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, except that you already know exactly who is going to win.
Still, Chris Burnham gamely keeps the energy high for this issue, with his cartoony linework really making the violence of the fight seem that much more visceral. (Seriously, Batman's jaw nearly explodes with blood when he takes a haymaker from the Heretic.) That said, that over-the-top nature does occasionally distract a bit, particularly when you see Batman all pulped up, standing in a school bus filled with bug-eyed children. That said, the Heretic gets the best moments in the book, particularly as Burnham reveals the face behind the mask. Fairly haunting stuff.
Unfortunately, not only is the outcome of this "final battle" between Batman and Leviathan a foregone conclusion, but after all the possible buildup that Morrison has built over years and years of storytelling... all we get is a fistfight? Granted, Batman's reckoning with Talia will finally unfold next issue, but aside from the Heretic's final fate, this feels a little too easy, a little underdeveloped. This is neither Batman nor Morrison's finest hour.