Comicbook Reviews – 1/1/2020

Happy New Year, Joestice Leaguers! A new year means new comics, so what’s on your pull list this week? Below you’ll find the most recent additions to the longbox. Let’s get started!

Action Comics #1018

One of the biggest Superman stories of all time continues in “Metropolis Doom” part two! War and chaos strikes the heart of Metropolis. The Invisible Mafia, Lex Luthor, and the Legion of Doom all stand their ground to take over Metropolis. Superstar writer Brian Michael Bendis reunites with comic art legends John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson to bring you a Superman story for the ages! Guest starring the Justice League, Young Justice, and more!

What I’m Excited For…

The Justice / Doom War has come for the Man of Steel’s city, and if past DC events are any indication, making Metropolis ground zero for an assault is not only a BAD decision, but one that will hopefully result in a shinning moment for Superman.

What I thought…

Disappointment, thy name is Bendis.

What is billed as continuation of the Justice/Doom currently unfolding in Justice League, is really just a sucession vignets that use Scott Snyder’s opus as a backdrop. Eighteen issues into Bendis’ tenure on Action Comics and we are treated to flashback origin of the Invisible Mafia’s enforcer, Red Cloud.

The backstory is as underwhelming as it is awkward, with Bendis’ usual quip laden dialogue feeling utterly out of place amongst a group of S.T.A.R labs technicians. The whole thing reads like Green Goblins origins from the Sam Raimi films, if perpetrated by the gang from The Hangover.

If this wasn’t enough, we follow this with an equally random flashback to moments before the battle began in the last issue, where Clark reveals his identity to Fire Chief Moore. The quasi-romantic chemistry between Clark and Moore is strained, but somehow more palatable than any interactions between Clark & Lois thus far.

To round out the issue, we have a “surprise” (read: forced) last page cameo from Leviathan, and a Lex Luthor quip that is so out of place it is grating.

While I am usually a fan of Romita Jr, his approach here feels as slapdash as the writing. From downright garish representations, to inverted panels that are less attempt at cinematic presentation and more awkward and unnecessary.

All in all, this issue is a solid disappointment.

Above Average Joe’s Rating

Detective Comics #1018

In the aftermath of “City of Bane,” the Dark Knight has found himself cold, alone, and missing one of the very foundations of his life as both Bruce Wayne and the Batman. But personal problems will have to wait—a mysterious series of deaths have been peppered throughout Gotham and it seems an element of the supernatural is at play in the form of a monstrous pagan spirit. Can Batman silence the demons within to stop the killing? Or will this silent night be for keeps?

What I’m Excited For…

“City of Bane” marks a major turning point in Batman storytelling and any manner of aftermath is needed to help guide the character into this new era. While we’re still a ways our from Tom King & Clay Mann’s Batman & Catwoman which will serve as the event’s epilogue, its still nice to get a sense of the state of Gotham City in the wake of such traumatic events.

What I thought…

While the set up Batman v Krampus Cosplayer isn’t exactly elegant, the straightforward absurdity of the premise is a good counterbalance to the heavy internal drama. This is our first glimpse of Bruce’s life without Alfred, and it’s a bleak one.

seeing the Batcave empty, Alfred’s customary seat at the Batcomputer abandoned, and Bruce trying to balance his escapades as the Caped Crusader, tending Ace and Titus and his responsibilities as CEO and billionaire playboy. After we’ve seen Bruce beat the odds time and time again on no sleep, bloody and broken, it’s truly staggering to see him exhausted to the point of oversleeping.

Godlewski’s art is at its best when it makes smart use of shadow and negative space. Particularly in the scenes between Batman and Bullock. Baron’s colors evoke classic noir and traditional superhero fare.

All in all, a fun and sobering entry in the history of the Dark Knight.

Above Average Joe’s Rating

The Flash #85

“Rogues’ Reign” part four! An out-of-control Flash must figure out a way to harness his powers, because he’s about to face the villain who flipped his world upside down— Mirror Master! Our hero has only one hope of survival—the Rogues are warring with each other and their forces are split. But while Barry struggles with his own abilities, are the Rogues headed for a reconciliation that would make stopping any of them that much harder?

What I’m Excited For…

Williamson has been killing it on Flash, so I naturally look forward to each installment but I have a special place in my heart for any matchup against Mirror Master.

What I thought…

While the concept of The Flash being forced to team up with the Rogues isn’t exactly a novel one, Williamson manages to make this outing intriguing by pairing Barry with Golden Glider in a way we’ve not seen before.

Supercharging the Speed Force is an interesting way to knock Barry back to square one without putting the audience through an ersatz origin reboot or status quo shift. All of the old ticks no longer work, so instead of retreading them, Williamson decides to just make new tricks. Its a refreshing approach to storytelling that is both classic and vibrant. The Master/Apprentice vibe between the Flash Famiy and their respective Rogues is an intersting juxtaposition between their roles as Heroes and Villains. Made all the more interesting by the Rogues knowing that they never should have won in the first place.

Amid all this upheaval the story doesn’t loose site of the fact that this is a battle for the soul of Central City. A battle waged strictly between The Flash and King Cold. May the Best Man win.

Above Average Joe’s Rating

Lois Lane #7

Someone wanting to kill Lois Lane is nothing new for the famed reporter, but is it because of something she knows or something she’s about to uncover? Plus, this issue ties to the events of December’s Superman #18 and the gigantic status quo shift for both Lois and her husband, Superman, when the Man of Steel decides to reveal his identity to the world.

What I’m Excited For…

Really just want to see how this book is going to react against Superman #18. I vastly prefer the way Rucka treats strong female characters (Lois, Diana, etc) to the rather hollow characterization that Bendis seems to favor with regard to Lois.

What I thought…

If the idea of Renee Montoya’s incarnation of The Question acting as a paparazzi deterent wasn’t enjoyably absurd enough for some, then having the posterchild for self destructive relationships lecture Lois Lane on the moral implications of spending the night with Superman whilst married to Clark Kent.

I’ll admit it, seeing Clark and Lois’s relationship in the shadow of impropriety is uncomfortable, but it lends some much needed gravitas to the narrative being woven into the Man of Steel’s legacy in other publications. The rest of the issue is pure set up, but Rucka’s mastery of strong female characters makes for dialogue that is both pointed and entertaining. Lois and Renee trade barbs and information with the kind of razor sharp wit you’d expect from an ex-Gotham City police office and pulitzer winning Reporter.

While the last page reveal isn’t shocking in any real way, it does set up some intriguing circumstances for the next entry.

Above Average Joe’s Rating

Miles Morales: Spider-Man #14

Rematch: Spider-Man VS. the Ultimate Green Goblin!

  • Miles is tracking the mysterious drug ULTIMATUM’S syndicate is selling to some and force-injecting into others!
  • But between protecting a new Morales at home and fighting academic probation, Miles’ attention has never been more scattered…
  • He’s about to lose something precious, right before a CRITICAL fight
What I’m Excited For…

Saladin Ahmed has been steadily delivering one of the best Miles Morales stories since the character first appeared. There is so much classic Spider-Man energy in this book, and somehow it still manages to create something original.

What I thought…

This issue is classic Spidey at it’s finest. Things in Miles’ life have been good, so true to form this is the moment where everything goes topsy turvy. It was fun seeing Spider-Man of all people balk at the horror of a poopy diaper, largely because I’m a new dad and have a very similar reaction to my daughter’s abilities in that department.

Seeing Miles take a more measured approach to his actions has been one of the best elements of this book, and the same holds true here…with the notable of exception of the use of his cloaking abilities in new and hilarious ways. While the battle between Miles and Green Goblin is brief and fast paced, it is as rewarding as I expected and I appreciated that Miles’ has become a more proficient fighter since their first bout.

The final moments of the book are an interesting change of direction, that quite enjoyed, right up until the moment when Miles got the worst news imaginable.

Above Average Joe’s Rating

Daredevil #16

The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen returns!

As Matt Murdock rekindles his alliance with Elektra, Kingpin plans to rekindle some alliances of his own…

What I’m Excited for…

Chip Zdarsky has quickly become one of my favorite writers in recent years, and his run on Daredevil has been added to my shortlist of favorite tales for the Man Without Fear.

What I thought…

I’ll admit, I thought this arc was going to be a bit of an unnecessary plot twist just to put Matt back in a costume that resembles the Netflix outfit from Season 3. To an extent, this is true. However, Zdarsky manages to make this not only a thematic parallel but also emblematic of how Matt is changing tactics.

The training between Elektra and Matt works, because it illustrates how well the pair know each other, and this is a good counterpart to scenes with Wilson Fisk, who is lost in a bit of an Identity Crisis. The narrative leans a little too hard into the “Daredevil / Kingpin” is dead schtick, but it works simply because we all know it is the last delusions these characters have to shed before becoming who they are meant to be once more.

Above Average Joe’s Rating

Star Wars #1

In the wake of the events following The Empire Strikes Back, it is a dark time for the heroes of the Rebellion. The Rebel fleet…scattered following a disastrous defeat at the Battle of Hoth. Han Solo…lost to the bounty hunter, Boba Fett, after being frozen in carbonite. And after being lured into a trap on Cloud City and bested in a vicious lightsaber duel against the evil Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker…learned the horrible truth about his past. Vader did not kill Luke’s father Anakin–Vader is Luke’s father! Now, after narrowly escaping the dark lord’s clutches, and wounded and reeling from the revelation, Luke, Princess Leia, Lando Calrissian, the Wookiee Chewbacca and the droids C-3PO and R2-D2 must fight their way back to the Rebel Alliance-for the fate of the entire galaxy is at stake! After so many losses is victory still possible?  But, what Leia, Luke and their ragtag band of freedom fighters do not realize is that they have only traded one Imperial trap for another! Enter the cunning and vengeful Imperial Commander Zahra, at the helm of the Tarkin’s Will!

Writer Charles Soule (DARTH VADER) and artist Jesus Saiz (DOCTOR STRANGE) are taking us all to the galaxy far, far away next year! With covers by RB Silva (POWERS OF X)!

THE GREATEST SPACE ADVENTURE OF ALL TIME BEGINS THIS JANUARY!

What I’m excited for…

For some time i’ve been saying that the Star Wars comics have been moving at a glacial pace. Starting in 2015, and we are just now getting to the Empire Strikes Back era. It will be good to see some movement, and the ramifications of the Skywalker Saga’s fifth entry will be a welcome change to the storyline.

What I thought…

Sigh. Did we have to reboot this series with another number one? It’s part of a saga, and the constant relaunching of the books in the Star Wars line really hampers that sense of inter-connectivity. That said, this is a solid entry into the post Empire Strikes Back era.

Luke struggling with his recently revealed lineage is a good counterpoint to his frustrations with both of his Jedi Mentors. He feels cursed, forsaken and the imagery is a smart parallel to a sequence in the original volume of the Darth Vader title. Soule does a good job of sewing unease around Lando without tarnishing the character’s charm, and the use of C-3PO’s obtuse self interest as comedy relief is a welcomed pallet cleanser amid the drama of the rebellion’s darkest hour.

Yes, some events are unoriginal, if not downright pulled from previous Expanded Universe materials (IE, Luke vs TIEs on Niklon) but they play well within the new canon.

Above Average Joe’s Rating

Thor #1

A BRAND-NEW, SUPERSTAR CREATIVE TEAM TAKES THE KING OF ASGARD TO NEW REALMS OF GLORY!

The prince is now a king. All Asgard lies before Thor, the God of Thunder. And after many months of war, the Ten Realms are finally at peace. But the skies above the Realm Eternal are never clear for long. The Black Winter is coming. And the God of the Storm will be powerless before it.

What I’m excited for…

It’s a new era for Thor, as Donny Cates takes over the reigns from Jason Aaron. With a changing of the guard after such a tenured run, i’m naturally curious to see what changes will be made. Also, what is up with this new design? I MUST KNOW

What I thought…

Whoa. Okay, this one is a doozy. Cates hits the ground running with the Thor run. The implication of impending unworthiness is a bit of a groan at first, but it quickly levels off as the true nature of the story hits and hits hard.

The changes to the trappings of All Father between Thor and Odin make sense, and it is good to see the Odinson settle in and make the role his own, rather than chafe against the bounds of the throne as we have seen previously. This story actively makes me want to go back and read more of Cates’ Guardians and Silver Surfer runs. Not out of this story’s dependency on those events, but out of genuine curiosity for the intergalactic events that have suddenly found their way to the gates of Asgard itself.

The reveal of how Thor comes by his new threads is awesome and left me craving more of this story. FOR ASGARD!

Above Average Joe’s Rating

X-Men #4

The Krakoan leaders attend an economic forum to show the humans what real power looks like.

What I’m excited for…

Only Hickman could possibly get me excited about the idea of an economics conference. Although with both Magneto and Apocalypse in attendance, i’d say the likelihood of there actually being a murder in the middle of a business meeting to be somewhat higher than normal.

What I thought…

Hickman is killing it. Seriously. To take something as ostensibly banal as an economic conference and turn it into an essay on Mutant Independence as well as the evils of unrestrained capitalism in the modern world.

The confrontation between the world’s elite and Krakoan leadership plays out like a diatribe between Bond villains, with dialogue as delicious as the fictitious menu being served (seriously, I want that watermelon gazpacho recipe). Having Erik act as the sole political voice of Krakoa while flanked by someone like Apocalypse makes the point all too clear. We are here to stay.

The second of as many assassination attempts plays out like you’d expect, with both Cyclops and Gorgon effortlessly dispatching the would be assailants as Magneto effortlessly lectures the assembled heads of state on the affairs of Mutant and Man. When Charles finally speaks, he speaks to great effect. Reminding the Heads of State that it took Mankind less than a month to take action Mutant Sovereignty.

Mutants want peace with Man, but they aren’t to be trusted. A united Mutant Nation may be new, but Mutankind’s memory is long and their reach is longer.

Above Average Joe’s Rating

The Transformers #15

A conspiracy unravels. The Autobots race to restore order. Megatron reaches his breaking point and Shockwave finds himself broken. There are no more Ascenticons. There is no more Rise. There are only… The Decepticons.

What I’m excited for…

Decepticons! DECEPTICONS!!!! Nuff said

What I thought…

Okay, this is a big issue. The Ascenticon rebellion and the conflict with the rise has reached a fever pitch and the stage is set for Megatron to truly rise and become the tyrant we all know and loathe him to be.

This issue spends a great amount of time making Megatron’s view’s sympathetic. With all his Spark he longs for Cybertron to be great once again, and the rhetoric is chillingly familiar given the current reality, however it serves to remind the audience that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and Megatron has his sights set on absolute power.

We also get a glimpse at Sentinel Prime’s desperate scramble to keep Cybertron from once again descending into war. A war that is inevitable and will shape the history of Cybertron for eons.

Above Average Joe’s Rating

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