by Aaron Einhorn
Every week Aaron goes to The Laughing Ogre in Columbus, Ohio and spends far more money than his wife would prefer. He then comes back here and writes about the comics he reads that he thought were noteworthy. This isn’t everything he picks up, just the things that he feels merit discussion – either for being really good, or for having something really wrong with them.
Incredible Hulk #3
I’ve said before how much I’m gettiing a kick out of the “Island of Dr. Banner” scenario playing out in the pages of this book, and I’m sure I’ll say it again. Banner as evil mad scientist is, frankly, awesome and is an excellent follow-up to the stories that began before Fear Itself. As for the Hulk, it is interesting to see a version of the Hulk who is separate from Banner, but is not a mindless vehicle for rage, like we saw during Byrne’s run in the eighties. This actually brings up one slight flaw with Jason Aaron’s script, in that this really can’t be the “second” birth of the Hulk, since he and Banner have been separated before. But it’s a minor quibble, so I’ll overlook it.
Banner’s demented, mutated, warthog creatures have found the Hulk and his Moloid friends, and threatened the children. This spurs the Hulk in to action, and their battle rages through the under-Earth, setting off earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Although he finally defeats them (and the remnants of #26 and #27 are chilling – no doubt they’ll be back in some fashion, and it will be ugly), Hulk finally realizes that he can’t possibly have peace until Banner is gone, and so he returns to the surface to help Von Doom (no relation) take down Banner once and for all, abandoning the home he found with the Moloids.
It’s fun, sometimes heart-warming, sometimes heart-breaking stuff. And Marc Silvestri’s pencils really make it all come alive. It’s not the best Hulk stories I’ve ever read, but they’re the best they’ve been for some time.
Justice League #4
With the appearance of Aquaman at the end of the previous issue, and the conversion of Vic Stone into Cyborg well under way, we finally get to the action of Justice League. This book is still mostly about character establishment, so while we get some good quips, and a lot of posturing, we also get a lot of having other characters fade into the background (seriously, I’m trying to remember a single line delivered by either Superman or Wonder Woman).
We also finally get the payoff, as the issue ends with the appearance of the great threat, Darkseid.
I wish I knew what it was about this title that isn’t working for me, but there’s something about it that really isn’t. I don’t know whether it’s the feeling that Geoff Johns doesn’t really like writing Superman or Wonder Woman, but feels like they have to be on the team, so their appearance is only token, or if it’s the fact that as gorgeous and engaging as Jim Lee’s pencils are, they are at times overwhelming to read a full page of. I honestly can’t pin down where I feel the disconnect with the book, but it’s there.
Its not that anything is wrong with the title as a whole. It’s doing a respectable job of assembling the team, and giving them something big to fight. But something is off, and I finished the issue feeling decidedly unsatisfied.
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2
The strength of this book has always been in pitting the old against the new, and that really comes to light as we discover more about Demo, and his history with the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Devices. I like the sense that there is a real history to this team, and to the suit, the belt, the cloak and the helmet (Raven’s flying suit being a later invention).
There isn’t a lot of action within the issue. Mostly, we get backstory and explanation, along with Demo pontificating and preparing to execute Dynamo in front of the subterraneans. But it’s good, solid, silver-age style storytelling, and it sets us up for some great action as the team is no doubt going to have to try to rescue Lightning, along with the suit and the belt and the cloak. There’s also the unpleasant revelation about a former associate of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. who is still alive, and who will no doubt come back next issue.
My only fear is that this issue may have slowed the pacing down too much for a six-issue miniseries. I also worry that the book doesn’t stand on its own two feet very well. I’ve followed it easily, enjoying every issue of both this miniseries and the previous run by Spencer. But I also read the old T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents comics. Does this story hold up without knowing that past? I’m honestly not sure.
I’m also not sure whether this takes place in the prime DC Universe or not, and if it does, than I kind of feel like the flaws in the premise are even greater. The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and their devices are fantastic, but compared to the rest of the DCU, they’re fairly underpowered. The Dynamo belt is distinctly inferior to a dose of Miraclo. The Lightning suit doesn’t even come close to touching the speed of the rest of the Speedsters. And an invisibility cloak just isn’t that impressive. I suspect we won’t see any of the other heroes of the DC Universe in here, and that’s probably for the best. But with the book bearing the DC Comics imprint, one can’t help but wonder.
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #5
The story of Miles Morales finally gets some payoff as several major events occur within this issue. We get the confrontation between Miles and Spider-Woman (who understandably has some serious issues with some unknown kid wearing Peter’s costume). We get the first meeting between Miles and the Ultimates (of sorts, they don’t really get to talk, and Bendis writes the Ultimates much more like the Avengers than like the Ultimates). We also get the first talk between Nick Fury and Miles, which shows us just how upsetting Peter’s death was for Fury, and gives us one of the best awkward but effective two pages of dialogue in the issue.
And, at long last, we get the new costume.
That isn’t to say that the issue is perfect. Electro escapes from the Triskellion, and while it’s good to see Miles finally defeat his first supervillain, the ease with which Electro defeats the Avengers Ultimates feels a little forced. They’re supposed to be world-saving heroes. Allowing Electro to hand them their butts makes you wonder what their kryptonite was (other than the ever-famous “This isn’t my comic” weakness). The mention of Miles’ uncle being the Prowler also doesn’t get enough of a mention (especially since the solicitation for next issue is called “The Prowler”.
But the issue does give us a lot of big payoffs, and I for one am really, really happy with it. I like Miles, quite a lot. I like that he’s awkward and uncomfortable and sincere. I like that Jessica Drew doesn’t really know how to handle him, but is trying, and that Fury is in the same boat.
There’s a lot here to set up a really good series, and I can’t wait for the rest of it.
Special Bonus Mention Nightwing #4 and Birds of Prey #4
Full disclosure: Neither of these issues was great. Nightwing continues the mystery at the heart of Haley’s circus in a story that somehow manages to even further confuse the continuity of the Bat-family, while Birds of Prey avoids revealing anything about the Birds’ enemy.
What makes this issue notable is the fact that in the same month that Batgirl finally starts to find its footing, she makes a guest appearance in two other titles – and is wildly inconsistent in both. The romance-that-isn’t with Dick is awkward, weird, and really disruptive to what was an interestingly developing relationship with Reya, and in Birds she is a competent fighter, and shows no real signs of the brilliance that made Babs such a great part of the pre-New 52 Birds of Prey.
In other words, they manage to really confirm that taking Barbara out of the chair and back into being Batgirl was poorly conceived, and that as a caped vigilante, she isn’t half as interesting as she was as Oracle.
Meanwhile, in Avengers #20, H.A.M.M.E.R. sticks it to the Avengers, taking the team apart both in battle and in the court of public opinion, Blue Beetle #4 shows Jaime and the scarab starting to get to understand each other as the Fatal Five kill those around him to find the scarab, and Jaime’s father pays the price, Daredevil #7 is a great non-supervillain-focused story about Matt and a bunch of disabled kids finding a small miracle, DC Universe Presents #4 reads more than a little like an issue of Promethea as the philosophy behind the universe is discussed by Brand and Lucifer, Fear Itself: The Fearless #5 continues to be far more interesting than the main Fear Itself book as Ben Grimm hands his hammer over to Valkyrie while Crossbones reclaims Juggernaut’s hammer from the Thunderbolts, Green Lantern Corps #4 starts to reveal who the mysterious attackers of the Corps really are, as we see how bad Salaak is at playing “bad cop”, and the Martian Manhunter makes an appearance, Hulk #46 ties up the “Hulk of Arabia” storyline in an annoyingly unsatisfying fashion, Supergirl #4 lets Kara break free of the man who was clearly using her from the start, reminds us how scary Kryptonians really should be, and still brings us no closer to letting her and Kal-El come to an understanding, Thunderbolts #157 finishes up the team’s time in Victorian England and playing at being Jack the Ripper, sends them even further back into the past, while the present-day team send Ghost after them, and Wonder Woman #4 has an interesting confrontation between Hera and Hipolyta as Diana struggles to accept what being Zeus’ daughter means.
Thoughts? Disagreements? Want to offer up ideas on what books you’re reading this week? Let us know in the comments!