Overture! Curtain, lights! This is it, the night of nights! Or actually no, it’s not. It’s the day time, and we’re just wrapping up whatever it is we’re putting up for this week’s awards. Honestly? It’s not that glamourous. We’re sorry you had to find out this way.
BATMAN PUNCHES A HORSE IN THE FACE
A sensational headline, with real life consequences!
And by “real life consequences”, I mean it happened in the pages of a work of fiction and didn’t really happen. But come on, look at that panel. While I’m not usually a fan of horse based violence, you certainly have to hand it to Scott Snyder and Greg Cappulo for just going there. If you’re going to attack Batman with a horse, and that horse seems like a willing accomplice, he will take it down with his fists. Because he’s Batman.
Oh, and the rest of Batman #16? It was pretty great. The entire Death of the Family arc had the potential to be nothing more than flash with no substance. Some would still argue that it’s still nothing but flash, just because it’s a superhero book, but you have to remember something very important: those people are wrong. Or at the very least, they have long since forgotten how to properly have fun… but I’m getting off track here. Let’s swerve back into the purpose of this.
Batman #16 is another stellar part of another stellar Batman story from Snyder. It’s a book that doesn’t shy away from the silliness of superheroes. While the entire feel of this book is quite eerie and unsettling, when you think about the actual events, they reveal themselves to be quite silly. The Joker has lured Batman into Arkham, which he has turned into a giant death trap over the past several months. He has a bunch of guards dressed up as himself and the Bat, dancing around and around in circles for… oohhh, let’s say entertainment purposes. He has dudes riding horses attack him. And when Batman finally reaches his goal? He’s greeted by the Joker and a cadre of his rouges gallery, all dressed up in finery as though they were chess pieces. It’s a ludicrous series of events that somehow take on a serious and sinister vibe as you read. While some would point at this and balk at how the creators are trying to give weight to something so ridiculous, I see it as Snyder and Cappulo celebrating the genre in one of the most loving ways possible. It’s an ode to the pyjama fights genre, a perfect balance of the serious and the ludicrous. It’s a damn near perfect Batman book, and it’s this week’s Horsed to (Almost) Death Award recipient.
The Avengers books are at a really exciting junction right now. Brian MichaelBendis has (mostly) left the franchise (until Age of Ultron), and Johnathan Hickman is taking his place at the helm of Avengers and New Avengers. Both men have very different storytelling styles, and after eight years, it’s easy to think of Bendis‘ style as the “default” Avengers style in one’s head. So what would Hickman‘s runs be like? From it’s first issues, Avengers is about one word: “bigger.” And this week, we further saw what shape New Avengers will take with the release of Issue #2.
It’s fascinating how Hickman plays with scale; Avengers is about the team expanding to broaden in scope, with the initial goal of saving the Earth. New Avengers does the inverse: it keeps the team fairly small, and keeps so many deliberately out of the loop, but makes the scope every universe in existence. The book succeeds fantastically at differentiating itself from its sister book while still feeling like an Avengers book, filled with a problem that only the Avengers – and these specific ones especially – could solve. It’s wildly entertaining.
It also navigates the murky waters of Marvel Universe continuity extremely well, and it does so by engaging it actively. The issue itself is a sequel to Bendis‘ famous “Illuminati” story, but it also picks up on the fallout of AvX and developments from the home stretch of Hickman‘s Fantastic Four/FF run. What results is a fascinating combination of character moments; each of the Illuminati’s status quo is different than it was before, in some cases extremely – Charles Xavier is dead, after all. The issue has a mix of an action-filled opening/recap, scientific exposition and overbearing sense of doom, but nothing is more chilling or riveting than the Black Panther responding to Namor’s arrogance and recent violence with a cold, simple promise. The Illuminati of the Marvel Universe are a philosophical group as much as a superheroic one, and Hickman doesn’t skimp on giving each character their due, exploring the idea of what these heroes stand for, even if the dirty word of compromise rears its ugly head.
Hickman and Steve Epting‘s biggest success, however, is making it all exciting. This is a comic that is more exposition than not, that is mostly comprised of men talking in secret, but is still exciting nonetheless. For god’s sake, the combination of Hickman‘s incredible design sense and Epting‘s engaging, gravitas-exuding art makes what is basically a page and a half of Mister Fantastic giving a PowerPoint presentation exciting, and if that isn’t a victory in a genre where many readers want blood, nothing is. With New Avengers #2, the book’s team is cool, confident and poised to deliver a big, unique story that builds on what came before it while still being irrepressibly, wonderfully new. They’ve earned this week’s Secret Smile Award. [Ed. Note: This used to say Issue #1 because I'm dumb. Whoops.](J)
In a week where Batman punches a horse in the face, what could possibly be bigger and better? How about Carol Danvers straight knocking a T-Rex’ teeth right out of it’s mouth?
Captain Marvel #9 continues a brilliant run by Kelly Sue DeConnick. With this issue, she is joined by artist Filipe Andrade, whose art fits this story like a glove. It’s a story that runs the gambit in terms of content and tone, going from quieter moments, such as Carol trying to sort out her personal schedule, all the way to fighting two dinosaurs in downtown New York with Spider-Woman at her side. Along the way, she we touch upon a few of the other cast members in this series, and see Carol acquire a toque that is rad-as-fuck and totally a thing that you can make yourself.
This is a book that truly features everything that makes a superhero comic good. It has fun with the medium, features a wide range of supporting characters, gives everyone some time to shine and doesn’t loose focus on the main character. It’s even a really good jumping on point for those who have yet to try the series. Although seriously, if you haven’t been buying this series yet, you should probably get checked out. You’re probably haemorrhaging a thing and it’s having an affect on your decision making. Please don’t die. Instead, buy this book and maybe hug it until the pain goes away. It will make that happen, it’s that good.
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