I made a double stop to Orbital this week, picking up a number of new titles, a couple of reprint of popular comics from the last few months and dabbled with DC’s ‘WTF certified’ experiment. I bought two (two!) Marvel comics too, in an effort to branch out of my comfort zone a little.
3rd April 2013
Hawkeye #1, Matt Fraction, David Aja, Marvel
Matt Fraction’s new Hawkeye title has garnered a lot of attention and praise recently. The first issue is now on its fifth printing and under the recommendation of Mat Barnett I picked it up. The book bills itself as what Clint Barton gets up to ‘when he’s not being an Avenger’, which based on this first issue, is getting hospitalised and dealing with his landlords. This being a gritty-ish take on a crime-fighting hero, ‘dealing with his landlords’ means something slightly different to phoning up to complain about a leaky tap.
David Aja’s artwork reminded me strongly of David Mazzucchelli’s work on Batman Year One and tonally the book has a similar real-world, scuzzy feel. It’s surely no coincidence the use of the character in the Avengers Assemble film was followed shortly by the launch of Hawkeye’s own book, but the brash, cartoony feel of Joss Whedon’s money-making Marvel behemoth couldn’t be further from what Fraction is doing with the character. It’s perhaps a little tired to deem a comic as being for ‘grown ups’ (as well as patronising to other comics) but that would be the lazy shorthand way to describe Hawkeye’s appeal. I’m going to check out the trade paperback, which collates the first five issues and make judgement on whether to keep following the series from there.
Guardians of the Galaxy #1, Brian Michael Bendis, Steve McNiven, Marvel
I don’t care for Bendis’ All New x-Men, Marvel in particular and cosmic space sagas in general (curiously enough, Saga the comic is my perfect antidote to the self-important space operas to which I’m usually averse in this medium). As such, Guardians of the Galaxy seemed an unlikely title for me to pick up, no matter how many heavy artillery-wielding space racoons it has. Despite all these factors, I rather enjoyed this relaunch of the title. Again, it seems to be back in order to herald the forthcoming film next year.
This issue sees Iron Man run into the titular team whilst mucking about in space. The Guardians consist of Peter Qill, aka Star-Lord, son of the king of the galaxy; Gamora, ‘the most dangerous woman in the universe’; Drax the Destoyer (whose defining characteristic so far is uh, being green); Groot, a walking, talking tree-beast and Rocket Racoon, a wisecracking mutant racoon with lots of guns. Due to some galactic politicking, the planet Earth has been declared a no-go area, which conversely makes it a target for a bunch of space gribblies called the Badoon (no doubt this means something to dedicated Marvel fans; I hope they can forgive me for any errors in this scene-setting exercise). The Guardians, of course, set out to stop them.
The book was accessible where it could have been alienating (pun intended) and fun where it could have been portentous. Clearly Marvel is trying to embrace new readers under the NOW! initiative and in this instance it’s worked well. One wonders however, whether they’ve left enough juicy stuff for the hardcore fans to enjoy.
Batman Detective Comics #19, John Layman, Jason Fabok, DC
The New 52 titles are all getting gatefold ‘WTF’ covers this month, for reasons that are not entirely clear (probably something to do with selling comics I imagine). Each one has something ker-razy revealed on its inner flap. Perhaps most intriguingly, the Batman and Robin book will be adding Carrie Kelley from The Dark Knight Returns to The New 52 continuity. Cynical publicity stunt or crafty creative wonder-stroke? Time will tell on that one (personally, I’ve been won over by Harper Row; if we’re getting a new Robin already, I hope it’ll be her).
Anyway, that’ll be out later in the month. Here and now, we have Detective Comics, which had The New 52 reboot not happened, would be on issue 900. To celebrate, we have a bumper eighty page issue (albeit a bumper issue nineteen) with five different stories, most set around a Man-Bat invasion of Gotham. The lead story acknowledges the milestone the book has reached with ‘The 900’ which introduces Kirk Langstrom to the new continuity. What is the 900? asks the book’s gatefold. The answer isn’t very exciting, but the story is decent enough and we finally get some further reference to the fallout from the Death of the Family arc.
The backup stories feature further revelations regarding Langstrom, some Bane action, references to the Court of Owls, some machinations in the on-going war between The Penguin and his replacement, Emperor Penguin and some neat stuff with the Gotham City Police Department, which I always enjoy reading. You may pay a premium price for the premium size of the book, but for that you get a fair amount of expansion of the world of Gotham, which Bat-fans such as myself will lap right up.
’68 Jungle Jim #1, Mark Kidwell, Jeff Zornow, Image
Pretty straightforward concept this one: the Vietnam war, with zombies. I’m not a huge zombie fan (they’re only slightly less overexposed than vampires in today’s pop culture), but I’m always open to Image titles, especially when they’re number ones, new storylines or other such places to jump aboard easily. There have been previously been ’68 books, but this is the first of four issues of a new story.
Jungle Jim, or Brian Curliss as he’d prefer to be known, is an elite US marine on the hunt for his sergeant, lost somewhere in the jungle, which is inhabited by both the ferocious Vietcong and hordes of zombies. The book is incredibly violent – notably, an elephant gets graphically blown to pieces on the first double page spread, amongst numerous decapitations, eye-gouging and other maimings. It certainly isn’t for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. The violence I could live with, but I’m not sure how comfortable I was with the rather one dimensional depiction of the Vietcong. Whilst this was something of a curiosity-satisfier, I don’t particularly envision myself continuing to follow the series, reluctant as I am to write something off after a single issue.
Five Weapons Book One: Jade the Blade, Jimmie Robinson, Image, Shadowline
Finally, another short series and another reprinting of a popular first issue. Five Weapons mashes up a lot of stuff you’ve probably already seen, but is pretty fun and likable with it. Tyler Shainline is the thirteen year old son of renowned assassins who is enrolled at The School of Five Weapons, which trains its pupils in the use of one of five disciplines – knives, staves, archery, guns and exotic weapons. Tyler is a very observant wiseacre who is reluctant to pick one of the five school clubs to join. Instead he uses his considerable wits to learn more about the school and begins manipulating the teachers and its pupils.
Genius kids, schools for especially talented students, assassins, opposing factions within the same organisation, secretive authority figures; these are all well-used ingredients in many comic titles, yet somehow Five Weapons manages to feel fresh and fun. Robinson’s bold and bright artwork is perhaps the most likable thing about the book, although the amusing characterisation of Tyler comes a close second. If you’re stuck in a rut of moody and introspective books, Five Weapons will be a welcome antidote.