Every week the Boise Comic Book Examiner will evaluate and dissect all of the most important comics to hit the stands on Wednesday morning. From the top titles and event books by mainstream publishers Marvel and DC to the buzz-worthy indie gems that simply cannot be overlooked, this is the spot to watch to determine which titles to put on your pull list and which to leave on the racks.
Between the simple, character-driven plotting of superstar writer Geoff Johns and the career-defining, Americana-imbued artwork of penciler Francis Manapul and colorist Brian Buccellato, “Adventure Comics” became one of the best new series of the past year. Until, of course, Superboy-Prime showed up to interrupt the elegant, carefully crafted tale of Conner Kent’s return to the world of the living to take some more meta-textual jabs at fanboy culture. While the spotlight returns to the Superboy readers are actually invested in with this installment, the fact that it’s both Johns’ and Manapul’s last issue as they move on to “The Flash” ongoing makes this a truly bittersweet affair. Luckily for readers, however, not a single panel is wasted and by forgoing the obligatory “Legion of Superheroes” co-feature, the story is given enough space for a proper conclusion. As with most of Johns’ work, it’s the strong focus on the characters’ respective journeys that makes this issue shine. And, boy, is that last page a doozy!
While titles like writer Grant Morrison’s much-touted “Batman and Robin” series and artist G.H. Williams’ inventive “Detective Comics” run seem to be hogging the entire bat-signal spotlight these days, one of the big surprises to emerge from the current crop of bat-books is Tony Daniel. While Daniel’s previous claims to fame include his crisp pencil-work on Morrison’s “Batman R.I.P.” and his somewhat spotty writing for “Battle of the Cowl,” he has truly come into his own on an arc that seems to be about Dick Grayson doing the same. And while Daniel proves he is more than capable of juggling a number of exciting storylines in this issue, it does seem like his portrayal of Grayson as a more menacing, confident Batman than we’ve seen in the past is a little out of sync with his depiction elsewhere. Inconsistent characterization and continuity flubs aside, though, who knew Daniel was capable of a lot more than just a few pretty pictures?
The return and re-imagining of classic Spider-Man villains continues in the next chapter of the on-going “Gauntlet” storyline and, this time, it’s the Rhino’s turn for some much-needed updating. Fortunately for Alexsi Systevich, Deadpool creator Joe Kelly takes up the writing chores for the issue. Ever since “Amazing” became a weekly series, Kelly has offered the most consistently entertaining Spider-Man stories out of any of the series’ illustrious writers and this issue is no exception. While it’s not quite as strong as Kelly’s uproarious and inventive Spider-Man-Deadpool team-up, this installment is still a worthwhile read simply because Kelly’s script depicts Systevich as a very appealing and sympathetic rogue while also managing to deliver a few thrilling action sequences with his Rhino persona in full force. All of this is rendered by very stylistic, heavily-inked artwork from the team of Max Fiumara and Array. Another week, another solid reminder that the witty wallcrawler has one of the greatest rogues galleries in all of comic-dom.
“Immortal Iron Fist” writer Matt Fraction continues to deliver another gripping installment in what is quickly becoming the definitive Iron Man run. The third part of Fraction’s five-part “Tony Stark Disassembled” storyline reveals the next phase of Tony’s “rebooting” and features an appearance by Sorceror Supreme Doctor Strange as he attempts to apply his magic touch to Stark’s brain-dead condition. Although this issue isn’t quite the page-turner that previous installments have been due to some confounding plot developments and the lack of a credible threat in the form of Ghost, the subplot of Tony’s psychological odyssey is starting to gain some traction. And, once again, the Iron Man supporting cast occupies much of the issue’s focus as Pepper Potts and Maria Hill get a few more moments to shine. It is also a bit unfortunate that the timing of Marvel’s “Siege” event and Tony’s involvement is removing some of the tension from this story but, ultimately, Fraction has another fantastic Iron Man issue under his belt.
One of the greatest complements “Buffy” fans have been able to pay to Dark Horse’s “Season 8” series is that the comic, despite featuring time travel, a giant-sized Dawn, and globe-trotting adventures, still feels very much like the previous seven seasons that aired on television. Very few licensed properties can make such a claim. This, in no small part, is due to the involvement of “Buffy” creator Joss Whedon. And never has the series so dramatically and stylistically channeled the television show more than it has with this issue which, unsurprisingly, was penned by Whedon himself. Dealing very specifically with both the physical and emotional fallout of Jane Espenson’s action-heavy “Retreat” arc, “Turbulence” addresses the emergence of Buffy’s new “powers,” the fate of the three goddesses Willow unleashed in previous issues, and, of course, the Buffy-Xander-Dawn triangle. It’s a testament to the characters that Whedon has created and developed over the years that, even after being showcased in a decade’s worth of stories, they all still remain compelling. The heart-to-heart in this issue between Buffy and Xander, in particular, was a fantastic reminder of that fact.