Azrael: Death’s Dark Knight No 2 of 3
You know, this isn’t half bad. I didn’t pay too much attention to Azrael the first time out but he had some interesting history, with the secret religious order and the mental conditioning and so forth (and wouldn’t it have been a great idea for DC to have brought him back a few years ago, during the height of Da Vinci Code fever?) but was way too tied into the spiky Early Nineties sensibilities for my taste. Not that I won’t read all his stuff eventually - my quest to read All Batman Ever is a heavy burden to bear.
So this series is concerned with Michael Lane, one of the prospective replacement Batmen from the Morrison run, being offered the role of Azrael by a splinter faction of the Order of St. Dumas. Hey, there’s some cursed armour, some flaming swords, some personal tragedy - lots of fun. Oracle puts in a much better appearance here than she does in her own book, which must be set in the future or the past or something, I guess. Best of all? The League of Assassins! Those guys don’t get used enough, I assure you, and they have the Hook with them to boot, in one of the few comics that I’ve read where the Hook neither kills Boston Brand nor is killed himself. I think that the Hook might just be one of the most frequently-dead characters in comics. Also, Leland McCauley, who is a Legion antagonist, appears, I think.
Anyway, given my expectations going in, this was an enjoyable time.
Battle for the Cowl: Arkham Asylum No 1 (of 1!)
I was going to lead into this one by saying that just like it was interesting to read a story featuring the Hook wherein he doesn’t die it would be so to read a comic about Jeremiah Arkham not going mad, but I’ve changed my mind. All of the best Arkham Asylum stories have ol’ Jeremiah and the very best ones imply that he’s completely off his rocker without stating it outright.
So the Asylum was blown up during Batman R.I.P. and now Jeremiah Arkham is wandering around in the wreckage remembering the good old days when costumed maniacs used to taunt him. It’s a decent enough comic but it’s definitely the final nail in the coffin for Battle for the Cowl as any sort of accurate title for this whole mess. As far as I can make out, the actual Battle for the Cowl comics and maybe Azrael are actually concerned with actual battling for an actual cowl. The rest of these comics (Commissioner Gordon, Man-Bat, etc) are like unto a separate series about what Gotham is like sans Batman - why not call the World Without a Batman and get on with things? Oracle I think is just kind of tacked on because she’s part of the Bat-family.
This issue is notable because it features a new version of No-Face (no doctor, this one), thus showcasing my astonishing prophetic abilities. And he’s interesting! Also, Humpty Dumpty!
Supergirl No 40
WHAAAA? Superwoman is… whaaa?
Neat! Good reveal! What a twist! I have one important question that is totally a spoiler!
You know what I like about the Superman titles right now? That the bad guys are just so thoroughly rotten - even Cat Grant, though I’ll bet a dollar that she’ll have a life-changing experience and mend her ways some day. I’m still a little sad that Agent Liberty is dead, but I just like having as many different superfolk running around the DCU as possible (and it’s not like someone else won’t end up in the suit PDQ). I think I’m going to have to go back and read me some more Supergirl - I’m late to this particular ballgame.
Invincible No. 61
So: last issue insane villain Angstrom Levy brought in a bunch of alternate versions of Invincible (and have I ever mentioned how fond I am of alternate versions of characters? If I were a super-hero I’d eat lunch with a different alternate-universe Johnathan every day. Even the evil ones surely couldn’t resist a good sammich) and they all fought basically everyone in the shared Image Universe and wrecked the whole damn place. I’m sure that you’ve gathered that I’m not fond of the crossover event as a whole but this one was pretty well done, all-in-all, possibly because it was so blessedly short. And this issue was great. Invincible is another of those great series that actually change over time - heck, the status quo has been stood on its head about seventeen times so far, and for good reason. Half a dozen nigh-invulnerable, super-strong dudes slugging it out with dozens of super-heroes? Of course a few cities are going to be leveled, and now we get to read about all sorts of delicious aftermath. Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley are a heckuva team - I’m very sure that this comic would swiftly go off the rails into unreadability if someone else tried to write it.
Mister X: Condemned No. 4 of 4
Man, I almost wish I hadn’t picked up the first issue of this when it came out a few months ago. It’s great - visually interesting and full of terrific weird characters and set in a city that drives people mad and there are retro-future robots and such everywhere - but as I soon learned it has a lot of prior history and now I’m going to have to go back and read it all to satisfy the information demands of my own fevered brain. Not that it was hard to follow: Mister X has been out of circulation for a while so this story acts as a very effective introduction to the setting and to some of the cast, setting the mood along the way. People use the word “noir” a lot when they talk about this series and it’s very appropriate - lucky for me there appears to be a trade or three on the horizon so’s I can catch up.
Oh! There was an Art Frahm joke in the first issue! Tell me how I could resist that.
Viking No. 1
Good times! This is a gorgeous damn comic, with all kinds of painted art and super nice (non-glossy!) paper. Hell, it even smells good for some reason.
The writing is good and - and I hope that this comes out right - will be better after a few more issues come out. Hmm, wait. By which I mean that once I come back and read this again after getting to know the characters involved and so forth I’ll appreciate it even more. There’s no short story to set the stage and no text box pops in to tell me who every character is as they appear so things must be figured out contextually. It’s a good technique if done well, and Ivan Brandon has managed to do it quite well here. Also, he hasn’t fallen into the trap of over-romanticising the past: the characters aren’t noble, honour-bound warriors speaking solely in archaic terms and neither are they grunting, blood-soaked savages. Like most people in history they speak colloquially and are concerned with making money and dealing with their crazy family and having a good time. And fighting with spears. Big thumbs up, JOHN APPROVED.
Warlord of Io and Other Stories
Oh, good show James Turner. You can always be counted on to write and illustrate something very strange and very wonderful, like the very odd Nil: a Land Beyond Belief or Rex Libris, a book that makes the part of me that loves working in libraries very happy indeed.
The title story, "Warlord of Io" features a lad named Zing who becomes ruler of that whole damn moon when his father retires to the pleasure domes. There are lotsa good weird aliens and space facts and such... I sure hope that this continues as is promised at the end of this chapter, as Turner's imagination is very appealing to me. The rest of the comic follow suit, demons and Tiki Pirates and all.
I mean, just check out the map on the inside cover - there's something called The Great Steel Anenome Brain... can you afford to miss this?
Ho ho ho, what's this?
Showcase Presents: legion of Super-Heroes, Volume 3!
Hooray! And how, you ask, do I feel about this?
Also this week: Batman: The Brave and the Bold No. 4, which remains a very good comic adaptation of a cartoon based on a comic book character, which is a surprisingly failure-ridden subset of the comics field. I am extraordinarily fond of the cartoon and this comic does a great job of capturing some of its energy. And being able to hear Aquaman shout “Outrageous!” in my head enhances the experience to no end.