The weekly reviews of the best comics for August 21st, 2013!
Book of the week: Daredevil #30
Having wrapped up its long term subplot from the start of the launch, writer Mark Waid now has a difficult task to maintain momentum on his historic run of "Daredevil" without making it seem to readers that he's improvising or trying to produce another slow and steady build. While the previous two issues dealt with a conspiracy with the "Sons of the Serpent", this issue takes Daredevil out of his element in a more extreme way. Alongside artist and co-storyteller Chris Samnee and colorist Javier Rodriguez, the cover lays it all on the table. This issue sees Daredevil have a team-up with Silver Surfer, in a move which could "jump the shark" for some readers yet succeeds due to the series' unbeatable style.
It starts as another typical day at the law firm of Nelson and Murdock. Since Foggy Nelson is still being treated for cancer, Murdock has had to tire a temp to manage and organize his caseload. To this end he's hired ex district attorney Kirsten McDuffie for that role, which causes him to remember all the other women he's worked with at the office. Unfortunately, an alien literally beams into his office with a wild tale to tell, and soon the Silver Surfer himself is hot on his heels. The rest of the story is as off the wall as the cover promises, yet it all manages to work by being a fun diversion from some previous stories. Waid wisely plays to the absurdity of the team-up to view the Surfer from Daredevil's more unique and "down to earth" perspective. Samnee and Rodriguez once again unite for thrilling and imaginative artwork, making something as mundane as a surf flight over the city seem more exciting. Furthermore, this issue also works as an homage to the "Daredevil" comics of the 1970's by Gerry Conway and Marv Wolfman which saw stories involving aliens such as "Sky-Walker" or alternate dimensional cops such as "Tagak the Leopard Lord". True maturity isn't denying a past which was silly or over the top, but in accepting it and making it work with how one is currently. With this in mind, Waid manages to take a story which could very well seem like a fill-in issue and instead makes it an engaging adventure.
Since the start of this run, Waid has sought to bring "Daredevil" away from an endless cycle of wrist-slitting grimness and towards a future of balance. Many stories in this run have put Murdock through the ringer of suspense or despair, yet others have managed to capture the adventurous flair that the character used to be known for. To this end "Daredevil" has become a book where it has become impossible to predict the stories, whether they'll be grim battles with ninja or mobsters or more over the top adventures against a super-villain or aliens, they all flow together. Having mastered the voice of the character, Waid continues to helm one of the best mainstream superhero comics on the shelves today.
Batman Beyond Universe #1: DC Comics have relaunched their reprint anthology series which offers digital-first stories revolving around their "Beyond" universe based on the "Batman Beyond" animated series from the start of the 21st century. While a relaunch with a fresh "number one" will kick up print sales for a month or two, the series has seen a shift in the creative team and the advancement of the setting by a year, so a fresh title feels warranted. Kyle Higgins takes over for the "Batman Beyond" strip from Adam Beechen (who wrote the series in print and online for years) with Thony Silas on art and Andrew Elder on colors. Terry McGinnis/Batman is now 19, attending college, apparently broken up with Dana Tan and taking mission orders with the middle aged Dick Grayson instead of the octogenarian Bruce Wayne. Police Commissioner Barbara Gordon investigates the strange death of the latest mayor, which soon leads to a massive break out at the mayor's new Arkham Asylum facility. The plot seems to be an excuse to offer appearances by regular "Beyond" villains like Mad Stan, Spellbinder and Ghoul, which is a good enough place to kick off a new run. Christos Gage ("Avengers Academy", "Avengers: The Initiative") takes over writing duties on "Justice League Beyond", detailing the adventures of the "Justice League Unlimited" squad of the future; artist Ban Coello is also in tow. The opening issue offers a story which allows the team to assemble to stomp heads and be named off, before deciding to focus on a Superman story in which his powers begin flaring out of control, and he becomes a danger to all around him. Gage has long been adept at telling stories with an extended cast of heroes, although focusing on Superman has become old hat for the series, and one hopes future strips move on from him. Regardless, offering 40 pages of story for $3.99 is still a great bargain, and this remains one of DC's strongest titles. The company's digital-first content has, frankly, been offering material of better quality than its main line for some time.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Micro-Series: Villains #5: The secondary title to IDW Comics' core "TMNT" title continues to focus on the antagonists of the series. As the cover displays, Karai gets the spotlight this time around from writer Erik Burnham with art by Cory Smith and colors by Ian Herring. Unlike some characters from this era of "TMNT" comics (such as Old Hob or Alopex, the star of the last issue), Karai is a long established character from the original Mirage Studios comics from the 1980's and 1990's. The villain (or sporadic anti-heroine) has even been immortalized in two cartoon series and a CGI animated film since 2003. In this comics' canon, she is the great granddaughter of the feudal era warlord Oroku Saki (or, the Shredder) who wound up unearthing a process to revive him from centuries of slumber. Within this story, readers learn how her childhood unfolded with a corporate tycoon of a father she didn't respect and how she was propelled to embrace the past of the Foot Clan to rebuild it in her image. Having been supplanted by the Shredder, she is now further troubled about being replaced as "second in command" by his new acolyte - a brainwashed Leonardo. That twist is from the more recent issues and remains a darkly fascinating path to take the leader of the Turtles, and the two get into quite a brawl here. The art is great and Burnham establishes Karai's voice well. IDW continues to skillfully merge the prior "TMNT" stories of comics and cartoons from the recent and distant path into a new lore, and this issue does well to add to that foundation.
Indestructible Hulk #12: Mark Waid's "other" Marvel Comics this week, readers will be delighted by a story which can be summarized in three words. Those words are: Hulk, cowboys, and dinosaurs. Employed to try to fix the damage to the time-stream caused by the "Age of Ultron" crossover event, the Hulk and Bruce Banner (via his consciousness uploaded into a robot drone) have been hurled back to the late 1800's on the first step in their quest. Not only does this mean a team-up adventure with Marvel cowboys Two-Gun Kid, Kid Colt and Rawhide Kid, but a struggle against a 23rd century despot with a pack of dinosaurs in his employ. Matteo Scalera and Val Staples unite for art and colors (respectively) and the adventure is as over-the-top as it sounds. Highlights include Banner having to continually goad Hulk to "aim" him at threats and the bombastic artwork offered of the time twisted tale. The finale offers another time-flung setting, and it seems that the Hulk will be tossed to different time periods of Marvel for the near future. Jeff Parker's "Thunderbolts" run did something similar for its last year and it wore thin quickly; however, so long as Waid manages to continue along with as much wit and flair as this issue, the change in setting will instead be a fun diversion.
Morbius the Living Vampire #8: A dead book walking, this serves as the penultimate issue of Marvel's first stab at a spin-off series starring Morbius since 1995. In the end it's lasted less than a sixth as long. Richard Elson returns to handle art as Josh Keatinge begins his endgame for a series which has been awkward at best and underwhelming at worst. Having been sloppily manipulated by the new Rose (who is Morbius' father), now the living vampire is seeking to protect Brownsville from being blown up by a bootleg version of the Ultimate Nullifier. Keatinge envisions his villains as master manipulators, but in the end they've been too crude and blunt to serve such claims. Now the supporting cast members as well as some spare figures Morbius knew unite for a hastily assembled moral that Morbius isn't as alone as he believes, as the final showdown begins. The artwork for this issue is terrific, although this series never managed to rise above being mediocre and its cancellation isn't surprising.
Superior Spider-Man #16: Dan Slott and artist Humberto Ramos (alongside inks by Victor Olazaba and colors Edgar Delgado) bring the saga of the newest Hobgoblin to a head in dramatic fashion. Having been set up by Ty Stone for a fall, Phil Urich has been chased into a corner in which the "superior" Spider-Man (who is really Dr. Octopus successfully possessing Spider-Man after murdering Peter Parker) is employing social media as well as an army of thugs and robots to hunt him down. This leads to a tense showdown at the Daily Bugle building and the seeming fall of a villain Slott has built up for some two years on this title. For the first time in this era, a major supporting character (Robbie Robertson) seems to chastise Spidey-Ock for his reckless approach to fighting crime. Meanwhile, Carlie Cooper and the new Wraith seek to track down the source of Spidey-Ock's money as Carlie is literally the only character on the face of the earth who has noticed that Spider-Man is talking, acting, and operating like a villain from a Saturday morning cartoon. In the end, it all leads to the Green Goblin continuing to assemble forces in the shadows. Ramos' artwork is as energetic as ever, with some terrific coloring by Olazaba. Overall the story continues to be captivating in the long term, even if it requires swallowing the whale of nobody but Carlie figuring out that Spider-Man is acting "off" lately despite the evidence being so obvious it would make the Scooby gang blush. Swallow that whale, much like one had to do to appreciate the "Dark Reign" era, and the rest of this relaunch remains fascinating.
Venom #39: It certainly is a strange time in Marvel Comics when this becomes one of their few titles which is numbered at nearly issue forty. Regardless, Cullen Bunn finishes up this arc yet builds ore for something new as unstable former agent and Avenger Flash Thompson/Venom seeks to settle in Philadelphia and build a new life. He's thus attracted the attention of local crime boss "Lord Ogre" who has put a contract on Venom's head, attracting scores of costumed mercenaries to the city of brotherly love. Thompson has struggled to fit in at his new apartment complex and job as a high school coach, in which in both places he's sought to get through with a troubled youth, Andi. Now, their worlds have become intertwined as Jack O' Lantern returns to menace Venom by killing Andi's father, and Andi has been transformed into a symbiote empowered being as well! The result is a vicious fight and Venom gaining a sidekick, which opens up volumes of story potential for future issues. The art by Kim Jacinto and Mike Henderson (with colors by Lee Loughridge) capture the brutality and horror of the situation well. Venom comics of the 90's delved too far into many alien symbiote affairs, and it could be concerning to see this era dip a toe into repeating such mistakes. On the other hand, this is a new Venom who handles things in different ways, and the results should be entertaining as Bunn has finally found his groove here.
Stay tuned for a review of Numbercruncher #2 in the next article!