I continue to tweak my pull list, as lots of people have recommended Swamp Thing to me, so I figured that it was easy enough to catch up with only 3 previous issues thus far. And I love it! Surprising to me because I was never into the original series in the 80s, but Scott Snyder makes it easy to pick up and go. It’s replacing Detective Comics for the moment. So we’ll kick things off there…
Swamp Thing #4
As mentioned above, this is quite the interesting title. I was only vaguely aware of Swamp Thing’s deal back in the 80s, as in I basically knew he was Dr. Alec Holland and now he was recently back from the dead as a part of Brightest Day. Of course, that particular crossover may or may not have actually happened now, but for the purposes of the story Holland is now mysteriously back from the dead regardless. This is kind of like a sister title to Animal Man, with a horror feel but with much cleaner and more pleasant artwork than Animal Man offers. Instead of the Red, Swamp Thing focuses on The Green, aka the plantlife of the world. The really interesting thing about this book thus far, for me, is that we’re 4 issues in and it’s still only about Alec Holland and not about Swamp Thing. In fact, the whole first arc is about Swamp Thing bugging Holland to accept his destiny and become Swamp Thing himself. Abby Arcane returns from the original series, with shorter hair, and her brother William is a creepy bubble boy who taps into The Rot. This means that although he’s allergic to air basically, he can harness and control any dead matter he can see. He’s a nasty little guy and bad stuff happens if you don’t get his milkshake order right. I liked how Snyder builds up sympathy for William early on, as he’s tormented by bullies in his hospital room, but then pulls the rug out from under you by revealing just what he can do to people. It involves pulling their lungs out through their mouth. And this is all great stuff, as I had no problem getting right into the series from #1. I’m kind of disappointed that Paquette is gone as penciller, but it’s not a jarring transition to the new guy or anything. Thumbs up and welcome to the pull list, Swamp Thing!
Animal Man #4
Hey, speaking of The Rot, Animal Man is also busy fighting them in his own title. I smell crossover! This continues to be a title that’s creepy as hell, with a bad guy seemingly right out of Men In Black (you know, the farmer infested with the insect alien?). Buddy Baker faces the question that all parents eventually have to: Do you let your 4-year old daughter act as an avatar for a supernatural force of nature? And if so, do you get her a costume and cool superhero nickname? Maxine continues to steal the show here, developing healing powers to save her dad and then bonding with a cat who’s actually her mentor in the Red (“My name used to be Socks, but I prefer to be called Ignatius.” “I’m gonna call you Socks.”) I’m actually glad I jumped onto Swamp Thing when I did, because these storylines will mesh well together. This continues to be the nicest surprise of the New 52 thus far and makes me wonder if I should be reading Jeff Lemire’s Frankenstein as well.
Action Comics #4
Superman has his showdown with Metallo (still not named as such, but it’s basically him), thus ripping his t-shirt all to pieces. Luckily, Steel joins the new universe and makes the save, giving us a connection that I’m kind of shocked no one ever thought of doing before. Much like the title, this is all action, leading up to the shock cliffhanger and reveal of the big villain…and then it’s continued in Action #7? That’s just mean, Grant Morrison. Not as much of a blowaway issue as the previous three, but dammit if don’t want to know what happens next, something I’ve never said about Superman to date. The backup story focuses on the fight between Steel and Metallo, a weird storyline choice where you learn the outcome of the fight after it’s already wrapped up in the main story. I don’t think anyone’s buying this for John Henry Irons, but it was fine.
Justice League International #4
So it turns out that the dude the JLI is after, who calls himself Peraxxus, is really just a glorified scrap dealer who wants to blow up the Earth and sell the salvage parts to some sort of galactic pawn shop. As evil plans go, that’s a pretty evil one. He’s also too individually powerful for the League to take out, even after they escape his clutches and regroup, so that’s not good either. Hopefully Batman’s got a plan to deal with this, although really he feels a bit superfluous when there’s already Booster Gold and Guy Gardner to carry the star power for the title. I don’t mind the new serious leader Booster, although the artwork gives everyone way too much ab definition. Do all these heroes just do crunches in their downtime? Anyway, as I’ve said before, this is a solid and enjoyable superhero team book that I am enjoying a lot after a shaky start, but this is all so paint-by-numbers that it’s not like you’re missing anything if you’re not reading it, either. As I’ve mentioned a few times, I go where Booster goes, so I’m in it for the long haul anyway.
I don’t know if the artwork change from Ben Oliver’s painted backgrounds to ChrisCross’s standard pencils is a temporary thing, but it really hurts the issue for me. Nothing against the fill-in artist, but the dark and slightly dreamy feel of the original art helped out the story for me a lot. Without it, all you’ve got is a guy in a Batsuit who killed a bunch of people as a kid. This would be the “secret origin” issue, although it’s more of a backstory rather than a discussion of the hows and whys behind David becoming Batwing. Unfortunately the characters aren’t really distinct enough to where it’s easy to follow what exactly was going on, and that’s kind of frustrating. I’ll give Winnick the benefit of the doubt and keep coming back, but hopefully Ben Oliver sticks around.
I think I’ve said it before, but this is just a FUN comic. Keith Giffen lets it all hang out with nine-panel goofy comic book adventures here, gleefully swiping from Kirby in only the best manner possible. Poor Kevin Kho continues to get jerked around by Brother Eye and his soul-crushing job, (“I’m afraid you’ll have to take the past week as UNPAID time.”) as well as dumped by his girlfriend. Luckily, it turns out that the subway blocks Eye’s signal, so he can ride the train in peace and quiet. Until giant mutant alligators attack him, of course, and then he suddenly would like to OMACTIVATE at the soonest possible opportunity. I actually giggled while he was hanging from a sewer grate and desperately asking Brother Eye “Can you hear me now?” because it’s such a cheap gag and thus the most awesomely cheesy thing for DiDio and Giffen to have him say. Unfortunately this wonderful comic book is one of the lowest-selling of the new 52 line, so buy it and support it while you can!
Avenging Spider-Man #2
I picked up the first issue on a whim because it’s got a great title and team-up books are really cool, generally speaking. It wasn’t reinventing the wheel or anything, but it was such a fun and effectively drawn romp that I just had to keep going with it. Red Hulk, who I know nothing about outside of him being General Ross, makes a nice super-serious counterpoint to the wisecracking Spider-Man (“So we got eaten by this thing. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”) and Jonah Jameson (he’s the MAYOR?) giving the Mole-Man some “New York diplomacy” is also tremendously entertaining. Even J. Jonah gets some good lines (“I’ve got a direct line to the Avengers. I don’t know which team exactly, but it’s a good one!”), and Rulk apparently meets a bad end for the big cliffhanger. I’m pretty sure he’ll pull through. This stays on my pull list.
And because it’s the season, we finish with a Christmas special that’s been out for a few weeks.
This one was annoyingly present in the backpages of almost all the October DC comics, so I figured I might as well give it a look. And as promised, the artwork from Lee Bermejo is breathtaking. Kind of reminded me of Alex Ross with the hyper-detailed photo look to it, in fact. The details in Batman’s boots and costume in general are amazing. The story, however, is something else entirely. Basically it’s “A Christmas Carol” welded onto the Batman mythos and it works about as well as you’d imagine. Batman is “Scrooge”, and he’s visited by the ghost of Robin and then three “spirits” while he’s suffering from pneumonia. It’s a kind of cliché story about a henchman (named Bob Cratchit) who just wants to do right by his young son (Tiny Tim), but mean old Bruce Wayne makes him work Christmas and so he does work for the Joker on the side. This was a wonderful book to look at, but the juxtaposing of Dickens with Batman just doesn’t work. At all. But that scene of Superman flying down to help Batman and bathed in a red glow…awesome. I’ll give it a slight recommendation because it’s so damn pretty to look at.
Your winners this week: Animal Man and Swamp Thing, with OMAC continuing to be the stupidest and most fun comic you’ll see on the rack this week.