Thursday, 22 November 2012

Comix Zone NOW!

Yes. I suck. I put a NOW! in the title. Even in context this is a stupid thing to do. Like, say, you're Marvel, right, and a year or so ago your biggest competitor relaunched all their comics with a brand new, sales-grabbing #1 issue and were completely successful in successfully rebranding and rekindling interest. What are you gonna do? Well, of course, you're going to have to do the same thing yourself, and launch a buncha #1s under a single banner. Fair enough. Sense is sense. But did you have to call it "NOW!"? All in caps and with an exclamation point? I wish them the best of success, hell, I've even contributed to it - I've picked up five #1s so far - but that NOW! is just goofy. Totally gooftastic. It's the character Goofy. A Goofy Movie, if you will.

I've gone off the track somewhere here.

Comics! That was it. This week's pick features four of those NOW! #1s, a pair of DC's Death In The Family entries for the ongoing Batman saga this month and the last issue of Amazing Spider-Man before the final three-issue story launches to culminate in December's #700 and the book relaunches as Superior Spider-Man next year. I've decided I'm annoyed that I've so blindly accepted the term 'jump' as it relates to blog structuring without so much of a hint of understanding its actual meaning, so I'm just going to say click the 'read more >>' button and soothe the savagery that burns forever within at the prospect of not completely understanding Internet etymology.

I haven't much to say about Amazing Spider-Man #697, because it's a filler issue wrapping up a filler arc before the final story that's going to wrap up the series' 50-year run in December. Middlin' Spidey's preferable to no Spidey but I know these next few issues are going to be where the real good stuff's at.

So what do I do here to fill space?

I have no earthly idea.


As for Death Of The Family, it's approaching 'wow' levels of awesomeness. This whole business of The Joker going about his business wearing his own face like a mask is so perfect it seems like it's been that way forever. It's properly frightening, and perhaps the most startling development of a icon in comics in years. In ever? Maybe. Batgirl #14 plays well with Barbara's recovery from being shot and paralysed by Joker way back in The Killing Joke, and with notions of victimization, fear and rage. It's a pretty badass issue, with a neat twist that ties back to last year's The Black Mirror, and it's hooked me for the duration of this story at least. Batgirl, meet Pull List. Where it's really at, though, is Batman. Batman #14 is a perfect comic. It offers perfect distillation of character and efficiency of art. The Court Of Owls, the story that spanned the first 11 issues of the relaunched series, struck me at the time as being an instant classic, and Death Of The Family is greater still and I can see it being a book I push on friends as an introduction to the medium. If this ever gets the animated treatment it'll be a great day for those that don't know what they're missing. The story proceeds in a way that gets under your skin. It's a pleasingly uncomfortable read and compelling enough to justify that, across the several Bat-family titles, it will be coming in weekly instalments all the way through to next year.

And so we get to the four debuts, tastes of what's to come and whether or not my ever-expanding weekly hauls are to get much more expensive.

I can tell you that in the case of Matt Fraction's and Mark Bagley's Fantastic Four #1, that's a big fat havemypounds. My history with FF is spotty. I've read runs from here and there and have a good idea of what to expect but I'm not entirely clear on a lot of their history. This issue does exactly what any good-intentioned #1 should - it sets up the series and it sets up the characters. It doesn't reboot anything, but it tells us all we need to know about Ben, Johnny, Sue, and Reed and their kids Franklin and the other one I always totally forget about. This might be the first comic drawn by Bags that I've bought at the point of release since the mid-90s, and it just fills me with joys innumerable that the guy whose covers got me buying comics in the first place is still active on top titles. Fraction's script is pretty funny and the story he's set up is interesting enough for me to look forward to its continuation in two weeks (in FF - a book that actually called FF and isn't an abbreviation of Fantastic Four). Yes. I like this.

Uncanny Avengers #1, on the other hand, I will not be picking up beyond this first issue. UNLIKE what a good first issue should do, it relies awful heavy on the reader (me) being familiar with the just-ended Avengers Vs. X-Men crossover that ran over the summer. I guess it's not my fault I didn't want to jump onto that and that this issue makes little sense to me, but the simple fact of it is that nothing about this issue, even a last-panel appearance by the Red Skull, makes me want to keep reading. I'll have a look at my Astonishing X-Men Omnibus for dat lovelysome John Cassaday artwork, thanks. Apologies to the hurt feelings of all involved with a thank you note from my wallet.

Thor: God Of Thunder #1 is just the best. It's just Thor being Thor, with no reference to his time in the Avengers or past events or any of that. A totally standalone story, then, set simultaneously in the past, present and future as Thor encounters, goes after and is pestered by a nasty thing called the God Butcher, in that order. He boasts of quaffing ale and bedding ladies and is generally great fun to be around. He gets up to a bit of detection which is welcome also. Art, from the curiously named Esad Ribic, is wonderful and quite apart from the other NOW! titles so far, and though this is the first Jason Aaron comic I've read it's not likely to be the last outside of this series which mercifully is double-shipping, meaning a two-week wait instead of the typical four. More please.

All-New X-Men #1 was probably the title I was most looking forward to, given the talent involved (one-time Ultimate Spider-Man collaborators Brian Bendis and Stuart Immonen) and its premise: the original five X-Men are transported to the present to see what's become of themselves and the world. Now, being a Bendis comic, not a lot happens in this first issue, and that premise is not even hinted at until the last page or two, so it is with the caveat of saying that in a few months this will be a great read that I can claim on an issue-at-a-time basis I can see it being a little frustrating. Following on from what I said about the others, this is a solid primer issue, covering the aforementioned AVX crossover with a handy text page at the start and with worthy, natural mentions throughout the story itself. Good stuff but the cynic in me wishes there was more to it.

In summary: Batman's going to be a classic, that Thor's sure to be a lot of fun and Fantastic Four's got enough sense of adventure and heart to keep me interested for a while yet. Partial success. Next week, another first (Captain America, my first issue ever in fact) and a few more of the regulars. S'long.

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