The first volume of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “Batman” was easily one of the highlights of DC’s “New 52.” Sharply written and tightly plotted by Snyder with some very stylish and detailed art from Capullo, the story of Batman finding a new threat in a city he thought he knew from top to bottom and being humbled by it managed to feel fresh in their hands. It also set up the company’s first crossover since the relaunch in “Night of the Owls,” which I’ve skipped since it wasn’t telling an ongoing story. From what I heard, all of the issues involved a Talon showing up to fight the protagonists of whatever title he was appearing in. That sounded deeply skippable, so I’m sticking with the meat of the story in “Batman” proper. Though the conflict between the Court of Owls wraps up in a suitably dynamic fashion the arrangement of the stories here gives the narrative a jarring start-stop feel and one of them even manages to ruin one of the title character’s most interesting villains.
Rucka’s run on the title has focused on the descent of Rachel Cole-Alves from former marine and bride-to-be to willing participant in the title character’s neverending war on crime. Though it looked as if she was going to reconsider her current path in life at the end of the previous volume, she realizes that the people who killed everyone she loved are still out there and they have to pay for their crime. This leads to a couple encounters with the criminal group known as The Exchange and as we see Cole-Alves in action, it quickly becomes clear that in spite of all of her skill, she doesn’t have the cold, ruthless precision that is necessary to be The Punisher.
(The following contains spoilers for last Sunday’s episode of “The Walking Dead” so if you haven’t seen it yet, AVERT YOUR EYES!)
I was all ready to believe that The Governor had really turned on Merle, the man who does all of his dirty work, because it made for such a delicious surprise twist in what had seemed to be a rock-solid working relationship. That is, until one of my co-workers pointed out that it could also be a trap set up to have the elder Dixon infiltrate the prison, get some reconnaissance on Rick’s group and then return with all of the information Woodbury needs to take out these troublemakers. He’d also chop off Rick’s hand and bring it back to his boss as equal parts payback and war trophy. It all made perfect sense in my mind and through each episode for the last seven weeks, I’ve waited to see this scenario play out. Then on Sunday... it didn’t.
Sending a B-list character out with their own solo series without an A-list creative team has proven to be commercial suicide again and again over the past few years. Occasionally, you’ll get lucky and the team will click and we’ll have ourselves a new hit book that will go on for as long as the team stays together and is then promptly cancelled when the new team who isn’t quite as good takes over. David Aja and Javier Pulido are fantastic artists who bring their distinct styles to whatever project they work on, though their appeal has only remained at “niche” despite many years of quality work. Matt Fraction, on the other hand, has proven to be consistently hit-or-miss in his many contributions to the Marvel Universe particularly in his signature series “The Invincible Iron Man.” When this series was announced the only thing it managed to provoke in me was mild sarcasm. However, after nearly a year on the stands it has since emerged as a critical darling and consistent seller much like Mark Waid’s “Daredevil.” So I figured I’d check it out to see how deserved the buzz was.
This is a review of vol. 24 of “Blade of the Immortal.” The reason the title isn’t listed above is because I wanted to write, “The latest volume of ‘Blade of the Immortal’ is so goddamn good that you need to stop reading this now and go out and buy it!” (Which I’ll admit could also be interpreted as, “Come see Glick’s latest rant about the series he loves more than any other on the market right now!”) Podbean won’t let you write that much in the title box, unfortunately. But it’s all true! After the cliffhanger from the previous volume, things ramp up in spectacular fashion as female shinobi Meguro and Tampopo arrive just in time to turn the tide in the battle against Shira. After volumes serving as punchlines and eye candy, the two of them finally prove their worth in the aid they offer to our protagonists. Well, Meguro really does at any rate as she goes toe-to-toe with Shira in a blindingly fast series of attacks that show you why she was recruited for the new Mugai-ryu in the first place.
So the big news this week is Marvel-related, but borne out of Image. The announcement that “Spawn” supporting character Angela will be appearing in that formerly so-secret-they-had-to-get-Joe-Quesada-to-draw-it epilogue to “Age of Ultron” and subsequently decamping to “Guardians of the Galaxy” is more interesting than exciting. Let’s face it, we’re talking about a character whose commercial appeal peaked well over a decade ago and has been out of circulation as a result of the since-concluded legal battles between Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane. The only, and I mean ONLY reason we’re seeing her here now is for the express purposes of Sticking It To McFarlane. I’m sure that Gaiman and the crew at Marvel were giddy with schadenfreude when the former got the character as spoils from his lawsuit against the “Spawn” creator. After all, I’m sure there are still some people at the company that are smarting over McFarlane’s defection to Image all those years ago.
So good for them! I’ve never thought much of McFarlane as a creator mainly because it always looked like he was more interested in building a media empire around “Spawn” rather than actually creating comics. Yeah, he’s been back writing the character for a while, but the biggest buzz you hear about the series these days is from its alternate covers -- its largest sales in recent memory were tied to cover that homaged the first issue of “The Walking Dead.” That said, he may have the last laugh if Angela’s stint in the Marvel Universe turns out to be a flash in the pan. Sure, I hear that Gaiman will be coming onboard to co-write the issue of “Guardians of the Galaxy” in which she appears, but will he really be sticking around for all of the character’s appearances? I can’t imagine he’ll want to leave her in Bendis’ hands for long -- look at what happened to The Sentry if you need an example.
Talk about actual comics from Image follows after the break.
What haven't I talked about in the last several months? Morrison's "Action Comics," the latest "The Walking Dead," Kaoru Mori's "Anything & Something," "Northlanders vol. 7," "Gantz vol. 26" and "21st Century Boys vol. 1."
The finale to “Age of Ultron” ships this month with an ending so secret, they had to get someone else to illustrate it. In addition to Brandon Peterson and Carlos Pacheco, former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada comes onboard to draw a sequence that will have people talking about for years. No, really. All we know about it now comes from (who else but) Rich Johnston who has apparently used his sources to piece together that this final issue will involve “a special guest star” being added to the Marvel Universe. An intriguing proposition to be sure, though the first thought that came to my mind was, “Is it Mickey?” That would be hilarious. It could also be the rum talking.
James Robinson disappeared from comics to Hollywood for a while after completing his magnum opus “Starman.” That didn’t work out so well (see “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” movie) and he eventually came back to us. That didn’t work out so well either for a while as his “One Year Later” storyline on “Batman” was marred by an awful anticlimax, his “Superman” and “Justice League” stories didn’t really set the world on fire, and the less said about “Cry For Justice” the better is what I’ve heard. However, now that he’s returned to Opal City and one of its most memorable inhabitants. If you’re like me and you enjoyed “Starman” then this will be worth your time, even if if you’re left with the feeling that it’s not quite all it could’ve been.
It’s been a quiet time for news involving Dark Horse, so I’m at somewhat of a loss as to what to put here. I could always rehash my grudges involving the current state of their manga line, particularly after the puff piece masquerading as an interview publisher Mike Richardson did for Previews. However, it’s hard to be angry at them right now when Amazon has informed me that the latest volume of “Blade of the Immortal” will be arriving at my place this Thursday. Also, the company tends to make most (really, all) of its major manga announcements at Sakura Con which will be happening later this month. We’ve been promised new titles from Clamp and Kazuo Koike, but I’m hoping we’ll get a few surprises there too.