Brendan McGuirk here, once again keeping the seat warm for David Pepose. Labor Day has come and passed, and while summer is all-too-nearly in our rear view mirror, there are comics aplenty to keep we adorning masses from entering a seasonal state of depression. This week, our crew brings word on all the best from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Vertigo, IDW and Dynamite. Beach days may be behind us, but with comics like these, we can make it through.
Invincible Iron Man #30 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): I've been lukewarm on Invincible Iron Man the past few months, as I've felt the series has been running in place a little bit -- it's not that I don't mind seeing Tony Stark rebuild his life and his empire, but it never really felt weighty or fast enough to justify doing without his sci-fi armored suit. Well, if you're in the same boat, listen up -- Matt Fraction puts his foot on the gas in this issue, with some action, some characterization, and most importantly, some bleeding-edge science. We get a taste of the new Iron Man's capabilities, and lemme tell you, I am really excited to see Fraction taking this character out of some of his preconceived limitations a bit. And to make things even better? We really dig into Sasha Hammer as a villain, and she really gets some cool moments as a cyber-powered femme fatale. Salvador Larocca is also a big part of that, as his sense of design has a real-world weight while also incorporating the high-speed high-tech big-guns wow-factor that Iron Man always has at his best. Of course, there is a cost for the methodical build-up, focusing on the subplot of Tony building up Stark Resilient -- it seems like an awful lot of set-up to get Tony in a trap, but I have faith that Fraction has a plan. While I'll be the first to say that the last few issues have been a little too slow for Marvel's Man of Tomorrow, Invincible Iron Man #30 is a real upgrade for this book.
Greek Street #15 (Published by Vertigo Comics; Review by Amanda McDonald): I grinned as soon as I flipped through this newest issue, before even really reading it. This is the Greek Street that started off the series. Along the way there have been some subplots, which were very entertaining as well, but I'm glad we're back to the central characters and main storyline that kicked off the story. We've got sex appeal, an ongoing murder mystery, and a story rife with literary allusions. The creative team of Peter Milligan and Davide Gianfelice has remained on board through the whole series to provide a consistent experience as this book comes to shelves each month. It really seems like this book doesn't get the buzz it deserves. 'Rama readers, I implore you to check this series out!
Weird War Tales #1 (Published by DC Comics; review by Brendan McGuirk): Weird? Check. War? Check. Tales? Well, obviously... This anthology revival bears the masthead of DC Comics, but it's still got the off-kilter feel most often associated with the Vertigo brand. Darwyn Cooke, the Viking creative pairing of Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein, and Jan Strnad and Gabriel Hardman all bring unique nightmares of World War II to the fold. This isn't horror, per se, but it is haunting. These stories evoke the best kind of Twilight Zone vignettes; concise, biting, and memorable. Cooke's barbeque of the war-damned reads like a Looney Tune with junk-food induced night terrors. The black humor of its absurdity sheds light on the phenomenon of instilling immortality on even history's greatest enemies. Brandon and Klein's underwater psychodrama is the most serious-minded of the bunch, exploring isolation's terrible treachery. Strnad and Hardman's offering addresses how people cope with the unfathomable, and, I mean, it has dinosaurs and Nazis. So that's pretty rad. Weird War Tales delivers exactly what it promises to. Hunker down and enjoy.
Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities and the Ghastly Fiend of London #1 (Published by Dark Horse; review by George Marston): This book is like a tiny Wold-Newton experiment on all the worst bits of the 19th century. In one issue, we have Billy the Kid and a somehow more monstrous than reality version of Joseph Merrick teaming up to fight Jack the Ripper, meeting H.H. Holmes, and running afoul of a third party that could easily be the antagonist of any number of Edgar Allen Poe or Robert Louis Stevenson stories. If all that wasn't insane enough, the book's actually really good. Great, expressive art, clear storytelling, and intuitive dialogue make this title sparkle through the ash and blood on its pages. If I have one complaint, it's that there's clearly some in-continuity history to our protagonists that I'm not aware of, and while a lot comes out through the dialogue, and I wouldn't trade content for exposition, a recap page might be nice. Either way, this is a fun read, and well worth picking up.
Red Robin #16 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman; <a href="/12965-dc-preview-red-robin-16.html> One of the most enjoyable things about this book is that it shows readers all the facets of Tim Drake Wayne. He's an increasingly mature hero who's making peace with the loss of his biological father while anticipating the return of his adoptive dad, Bruce Wayne. He's a budding philanthropist and, much to his chagrin, a tabloid staple. He's also just a young guy who'd like to go on a normal date, assuming he can squeeze one in between bouts of beating down villains. And Ulysses Armstrong (Anarky) is one seriously disturbed, deadly villain whose presence adds considerable darkness to this issue. It works, because Fabien Nicieza brings so many other tones to the comic. As for penciller Marcus To, he's easily one of the most consistently appealing illustrators on DC's roster right now. There's a cool panel of Tim crouching on a rooftop, and it takes real skill to make a moment like that appear effortless. The creators continue to make Red Robin a worthy addition to the Batman family.
Amazing Spider-Man #641 (Published by Marvel Comics; review by Brendan McGuirk): Peter Parker shouldn't be surprised, but magicking all your troubles away does not, in fact, magic all your troubles away. After three years and almost a hundred issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, there is finally resolution to the Peter/ Mary Jane breakup. It is resolved. You may not like it, you may not agree with it, but plots were advanced, actions were taken that inspired motivations, and the two have amicably parted ways. In today's environment of endless previewing, interviewing and opinionated chatter, it can be difficult to locate the line between editorial explanations and in-story justifications. Fiction and reality's bearing on that fiction have some meeting point, and an impassioned audience must negotiate their own personal reconciliation. When people care about the folks involved, nobody wants to see anybody break up. It sucks. It's an endpoint that reminds us of life's most difficult moments. Even when it's fiction. In the end, Mary Jane Watson just didn't want to be Spider-Man's old lady no more. The cost outweighed the benefits. That may not be easy for fans to accept, but from the looks of things, it's going to be even harder for Peter Parker himself.
Batman and Robin #14 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): You look at issues like this, and you see that Batman and Robin shows all of the potential that DC Comics has to offer. Frazer Irving's artwork has such mastery of color -- there's a real depth to all of his characters, but at the same time, there's that cartoony expressiveness that comics do so well. The other thing I really dug was his use of Dick Grayson's experience with escrima sticks -- this new Batman's unique fighting skills have been somewhat overlooked since Frank Quitely's opening arc, but the fight choreography has such a distinct personality here. Like I've said before, I didn't think I'd like Irving's work on this book nearly as much as I do -- but it's absolutely gorgeous. And let's not forget Grant Morrison -- man is his interplay between Robin and the Joker a work of art. Morrison's greatest success isn't just that he crams so much story into 22 pages, but the fact that you get the Joker's sense of humor. "A Robin who even brings his own crowbar to the party?" the Clown Prince of Crime leers. "You might be the funniest one yet." There were a lot of great books out this week, but with some fantastic artwork and a storyline that's really screaming towards an increasingly clear goal, Batman and Robin is head and shoulders above the pack.
Doctor Who #15 (Published by IDW; review by Teresa Jusino): Doctor Who is the only exception I’ve made as far as reading comics based on television shows. I made it, because I loved David Tennant, and this was now the only way to have new stories featuring the Tenth Doctor. However, what works on TV doesn’t necessarily work in comics. Issue #15 of Doctor Who is the Tenth Doctor’s penultimate issue in a concluding story called “Final Sacrifice.” Tony Lee’s story is a good one. However, a good comic shouldn’t be entirely dependent on either words or art. It should be a balanced marriage of the two. However, word balloons dominate just about every panel of this issue, and so the entire thing feels talky. This wouldn’t be a problem if the artwork were able to keep up, but Matthew Dow Smith’s pencilling is all vacant eyes and vague impressions of action and facial expressions. There’s nothing in the images to hang onto emotionally, leaving us with nothing but exposition to sink our teeth into. Doctor Who works as a television show because the scripts are carefully calibrated by talented actors and balanced by quality directors. It’s difficult for it to work as a comic if the artist and writer aren’t on the same page. Sadly, Lee and Smith aren’t., and the issues in this story arc feel like a wordy, boring mess. I would’ve hoped for a better send-off for Ten.
Murder of King Tut #4 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Amanda McDonald): From the great Darwyn Cooke cover, to the alternating storylines by artists Christopher Mitten and Ron Randall, to the well crafted adaptation by Alexander Irvine -- this book is a real treat. Now mind you, they are working off a James Patterson novel, so they've got some pretty strong source material. I didn't get on board until a few issues in, but the book is one that is easy to pick up, thanks to a concise synopsis of the series thus far at the beginning. As we see King Tut making a name for himself and trying to produce an heir, we also see archeologist Howard Carter close in on the discovery of Tut's tomb many centuries later. It's only a matter of time before the two stories converge, and I find myself tempted to check out the novel to see whats up next. However, I'm really enjoying this adaptation so I will patiently await the next installment.
New Avengers #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): Make no mistake -- this isn't any deep digging into the mythology of Marvel Comics. New Avengers is more of a light popcorn flick than anything else, but there is a certain amount of charm to the Mamet-esque dialogue that Brian Michael Bendis tosses around like confetti. That said, the plot is, well, a bit light -- it's still kind of unclear, four issues into the series, exactly what the Avengers are fighting here. There are some blue and green energy demons, but to be honest, there's more flying and catching and energy bolts and people punching at things that are off-panel here. That's not to say that Stuart Immonen isn't drawing some damn pretty pictures here -- Luke and Jessica Cage have some real speed and power to their movements, and man I could totally watch Immonen draw Iron Fist forever. But that said, even with the charming aspects of this book -- yeah, Bendis's dialogue sometimes feels too smarmy for me, but here it's growing on me a bit -- the lack of strong stakes or even shifting the spotlight between the various characters (Spider-Man, Wolverine, and in particular the Thing get the serious short shrift) makes the fracas feel a little too loose for my tastes. In short, if you already love this book, I doubt anything I say will deter you -- if you don't, well, it looks good, even if I think this magical struggle could have a lot more heft.
Red Sonja #51 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): Now, I walked into this book with little prior knowledge about Red Sonja, other than the fact that she's a sword-swinging badass from the Hyborian Age. So what's the verdict on Eric Trautmann's first issue? I think he's got a great handle on our heroine, and while there's some degree of set-up-itis with the various new players being introduced here, there's a real likeability to Sonja. Yeah, she's beautiful, but she sees that as just another weapon in her arsenal. And I have to give Trautmann and artist Walter Geovani some credit here -- they (mostly) don't take the cheesecake route, allowing the story to focus on something other than a chain-mail bikini. I will say, though, the weak link in this book is the action sequences -- Geovani's got the main burden on all the sword-swinging, and it doesn't quite have as much panache as it could. But he does nail the quieter scenes, particularly when Red Sonja cases out the joint. But I think Trautmann's the real draw here, because Red Sonja as a character is really effortless. With a great cliffhanger, I'd definitely be interested to see how the She-Devil with a Sword gets out of this.What were your fave reads this week? Tweet with #RamaRev or tell us here!