Let’s kick off this week’s reviews with Avengers #14, which resumes the vampire storyline that was randomly dropped in favor of the Iron Fist origin story last issue.
There’s apparently a vampire civil war going on, with a bunch of anti-Dracula vampires attacking Dracula’s castle, and Blade is in the middle of it trying to stop the anti-Dracula vampires, led by a guy called Shadow Colonel. In a scene that is basically just the “Joker gets arrested on purpose” scene from The Dark Knight, the Shadow Colonel is deliberately taken into custody by the Avengers so that he and his evil buddies can be on the inside and start causing problems with folks like Blade and Ghost Rider.
“He’s far too confident,” Black Panther says. “It would appear the Shadow Colonel wanted to be here.”
There’s something really kind of stupid about all of this, yet I find myself being uncharacteristically patient. As I’ve noted in recent weeks, in spite of steps that seem wobbly and goofy on their own—like maybe imagine a drunk person trying to walk a straight line and stepping on squeaky toys with each pace—there really seems to be a purpose to all of this (which does not carry through to the drunk-person-on-squeaky-toys analogy). Any regular reader of this blog would know that I am in no way inclined to be patient with Jason Aaron, but for some reason I just have some faith that this is leading somewhere.
Ironically, all signs actually seem to be pointing somewhere else, as the cover advertising makes it clear that War of the Realms is coming in two months, and so many of these random loose ends I find myself believing will be resolved (remember Namor going nuts? The Squadron Supreme and the Winter Guard? The one-million-years-ago Avengers?) really don’t seem to have anything to do with that. But for now, it appears we’re sticking with this vampires story.
Speaking of things that won’t stay dead, that leads me to Daredevil #1. I hadn’t planned to read this new Daredevil series, after the previous series fizzled out and the Man Without Fear series started out awful. But apparently I needed to actually remove Daredevil from my pull list even though the series ended! And if something has been pulled for me, I consider myself honor bound to purchase it (also I have never tested this honor-driven commitment to find out if it’s even an option to defy it).
Daredevil is recovering from the accident that was so severe it ended his series, but since Matt Murdock is an idiot, he’s pushing himself too hard to come back too soon. And there’s a tough new cop on the beat who’s not going to stand for New York’s finest turning a blind eye to Daredevil’s now-poorly-executed antics! And—wouldn’t you know it—there are also flashbacks to Matt’s youth, and the prominent role that Catholicism plays in his development! There are scenes in the confessional booth!
It’s a tough act to pull off—you obviously want to be true to the hallmarks of the character, but you don’t want to feel like you’re just checking off boxes on the list of Daredevil clichés. Unfortunately this issue is very much the latter.
A few years back—maybe it was like 10 years back—after Ed Brubaker built on Brian Michael Bendis’ run, before Andy Diggle kind of ruined it – I was saying that what Daredevil really needed was a departure from the ultra-angsty Frank Miller tributes and something that really embraced the spandex superhero side. Little did I know at the time that Mark Waid was thinking the same thing. And even though that approach couldn’t have lasted forever, the return to what I’d consider Bendis-Brubaker-Diggle and eventually Soule themes just already feels stale again.
That’s why I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was actually a little disappointed that Daredevil didn’t die in Death of Daredevil (spoiler)—the character could stand to go away for a while. And I say this as someone who loves Daredevil and credits Daredevil for bringing me back into comics! There’s just nowhere to go with him.
Speaking of dipping into the same well of tired cliches that just beat the same horses to death like a broken record, that leads me to Uncanny X-Men #11, which starts with “Every X-Men story is the same.”
Doominator appropriately addressed a few months ago here on the blog, back before Uncanny X-Men #1-10 proved that to be true. We’ve got anti-mutant vaccines, mutants supposedly being on the verge of extinction, X-Men headquarters buildings being destroyed, anti-mutant political rallies spoiled by misbehaving mutants—I mean good grief, am I reading X-Men Classics with a $7.99 cover price? (It might be closer to Classic X-Men, as this issue contains original backup stories.)
Fortunately the series appears to be taking a much different—and markedly more interesting—turn than the first ten issues did. True to its billing, it’s essentially the same story told three times! But this ridiculously priced (did I mention it costs $7.99?) issue introduces a much darker tone, as the freshly resurrected Cyclops stumbles through many of the aforementioned clichés, but writer Matthew Rosenberg leverages the repetition of generations of X-Men stories and repetition within the issue itself to reveal some deeper mysteries and dangers, and I dare say it was a remarkably successful pivot.
I’d rather it not cost $7.99 for me to feel better about ten wasted $3.99 issues, but I’m not the one who makes these editorial and marketing decisions. I just make the decision to buy the dumb things.
The writing sets the tone but the art was no slouch! I have had no kind words for Salvador Larroca, mostly because I’ve found his art stiff and lifeless, but also rather punished with terrible inking. Whether it was the bare-minimum ballpoint-pen style tracing of Danny Miki, or the “let’s not even bother inking him at all and just crank up the contrast on his pencils” approach that followed, poor Salvador was terribly mistreated as a penciler and his art carried no weight at all.
Now he seems to have figured it out—when Marvel can’t be trusted to ink you properly, ink yourself. And Salvador has inked himself like crazy. This book is drenched in blacks! And for the first time in probably 20 years, Salvador’s art looks pretty decent!
I do not have the same praise for second-act artist John McCrea, whose art is like a bad Matt Wagner. I got déjà vu writing that and remembered that I wrote similar thoughts a few weeks ago when reviewing Return of Wolverine #4, so I thought to myself “Oh, I wonder if John McCrea illustrated that!” Turns out that was some guy called Declan Shalvey! Grendel was a fun book but why in 2019 do we have several bad Matt Wagner wannabes?
Juanan Ramirez’s art got things back on track for the trippy but tragic third act, setting an appropriately uneasy tone. The casualties of this issue came from an era of X-Men I didn’t really follow, and thus didn’t really care about, yet the care that Rosenberg and his team of artists showed in telling this story made the pain resonate even to a detached soul like me. I’m definitely curious to see where this goes from here, provided the issues stop costing $7.99.
Speaking of taking more control of how I spend my money, that leads me to Green Lantern #4.
I don’t want to spoil this review, but I did successfully remove Green Lantern from my pull list, though tragically not until I found this in my box and felt the aforementioned honor-bound compulsion to purchase it.
In an issue entitled “The Cosmic Vampire’s Beautiful Daughter,” no—I’m sorry—I can’t actually bring myself to do this. I hate this series, I’m done buying it, and shame on me for falling for the Grand Morrison trick yet again.
The one thing I did really like about this issue was the double-page Mister Miracle trade paperback advertisement in the middle, which led me to stop reading the issue and go online to place a pre-order. Then I returned to this stupid story to find out that it turns out the four-armed Clint Eastwood pastiche was actually Hal Jordan all along.
Speaking of interruptions to stories that compel decisions about future purchasing behaviors, that leads me to Batman #64, an unfortunate detour from the Knightmares arc. It’s one thing to cut away from a dramatic in-progress story where Batman seems to be in some kind of manipulated dream state; it’s quite another to cut away from that dramatic in-progress story for a crossover with captain lame himself, The Flash.
We begin the issue with Batman about to start dissecting Wally West, one of the casualties of Heroes in Crisis. We catch a few glimpses of how Batman’s dealing with the stress of being unable to solve the mystery. We see flashbacks to Robin and Wally playing together as kid sidekicks. And tragically, we also learn that this crossover is tied to Gotham and Gotham Girl, the really lame super-powered heroes of the first Tom King Batman art that led me (admittedly erroneously!) to think that Tom King was a bad writer of comics. And while I admit that was a harsh and premature judgment, that doesn’t make me retroactively think that Gotham and Gotham Girl were interesting characters. Who knows, maybe it’s their calligraphy logos?
But I get to the end of the issue and I find out that if I want to find out what happens next, I have to buy an issue of The Flash? The good news is, if I don’t care about what happens next, I don’t have to buy an issue of the Flash!
Guillem March had an interesting performance here as artist. At his peaks, his art has the loose expressiveness of a Sean Murphy; unfortunately—but fittingly—in his valleys, he has all the distortions and stray lines of Andy Kubert at his worst, much like Gotham and Gotham Girl’s original renderer, David Finch.
I’m probably going to sit out Batman #65, unless the thing is in my blasted pull file!