Comic Book Reviews: Latest issues of 'Batman' and 'Uncanny X-Men'; the outstanding graphic novel 'Daybreak'
Went to the comic book store this weekend, bought a bunch of stuff. Casanova: Avaritia #2 by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba was sensationally strange, while Swamp Thing #2 hooked me on the series. What I’ll be reading over the next couple days: Howard Chaykin’s Avengers 1959, the new issue of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s Moon Knight, and the hardcover collection of Echoes by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Rahsan Ekedal. This week’s reviews:
BATMAN #2 (DC Comics; monthly series) Bruce Wayne must survive assassination by an agent from the Court of Owls, an urban myth that shouldn’t exist but apparently does. Or doesn’t. Time will tell. WHAT’S GOOD: Scott Snyder’s characterization of The Dark Knight, which emphasizes the hero’s detective skills and Bruce Wayne’s relationship with Gotham City, “my oldest and truest friend.”
QUIBBLES: Greg Capullo’s pencils are impressive, but the storytelling in the opening sequence – in which Batman chases some crooks in a helicopter – could have been clearer. FINAL THOUGHT: My favorite book in the New 52 line. I’m fascinated by the excavations of Gotham’s past, and Bruce’s “Gotham of the future” urban renewal project make for an unusual, humane heroic endeavor.
UNCANNY X-MEN #544 (Marvel Comics) The final issue of Marvel’s flagship X-title – written by Kieron Gillen, with pencils by Greg Land — finds Mister Sinister literally writing the last chapter of the series, though it’s not really the end of anything: The story sets the stage for the launch of two “new” X-titles, Wolverine & The X-Men and a rebooted/renumbered Uncanny X-Men. And so the most byzantine soap opera in comics continues. WHAT’S GOOD: The first page, which ironically uses the first page of the very first issue of Uncanny X-Men (penciled by Jack Kirby) to offer whatever-happened-to? commentary on Professor Xavier’s dream of mutant equality and the original ‘Fab Five’ X-Men: Cyclops, Iceman, Angel, Beast and Marvel Girl. The moments when Mister Sinister incinerates himself and gets birthed anew with a “schllloop!’ of blood are delightfully disgusting. A winky metaphor for comic book reboots, too? Debate! QUIBBLES: The story is willfully anti-nostalgic, which is cool, but also renders this milestone issue emotionally cold. And I hate this version of Cyclops — a morose, miserable scruffy-chinned commander-in-chief with a perpetual inferiority complex. I’m tired of him yearning to “graduate.” Get over it, already. Whatever happened to the soulful stoic that was wryly aware of his own stick-in-the-mudness? Bring back that guy, because this putz does nothing for me. FINAL THOUGHT: Actually, I thought this issue made the X-Men intriguing enough to make this lapsed X-reader want to sample the new books.
DAYBREAK (Drawn + Quarterly; graphic novel collection) Against the backdrop of a world ravaged by zombie apocalypse, a nameless hero wanders a landscape strewn with rubble and timber, abandoned vehicles and underground bunkers. His allies: A scrappy one-armed young man and a dog. The book’s high concept conceit: First-person perspective storytelling. We only see what Nameless sees. WHAT’S GOOD: What could have been a storytelling stunt by writer/artist Brian Ralph is instead a storytelling tour de force by turns creepy and poignant. Stand-out sequences include a night-time mission that leads to an encounter with zombies lurking in the shadows and an escape from a grizzled old man with a sad, sick secret. The first person perspective forces you to internalize Nameless’ tough choices, be it pulling a trigger to take a life or pushing through a clawing, pawing zombie horde. The art work is stylishly rough, the action well plotted. The last 20 pages are chilling. QUIBBLES: None. FINAL THOUGHT: One of the best books of the year.
More comic book reviews next weekend.