Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out.
This week is all about the new releases, including Batman, Hawkeye, Beasts of Burden and more. So let's get to it ...
You got your gritty in my superheroes, and it's delicious
The highest compliment I can give writer Scott Snyder, penciller Greg Capullo, inker Danny Miki, colorist FCO Plascencia, letterer Steve Wands, and editors Mike Marts and Katie Kubert, is that I want to read it -- and the rest of "Zero Year" thus far -- again, trying to piece together clues and themes for some hint as to what's coming next, because it's going to be a long four weeks until issue #30.
Issue #29 is the double-sized conclusion to "Dark City," the second act in a three-part epic, and it works on multiple levels. It evokes the sneering establishment cynicism of corrupt Gotham that distinguished the origins in "Batman: Year One" and Batman Begins. It bridges the gap between the mad-scientist horrors of 1939 and 1940 and the super-criminals which were just around the corner. It juxtaposes the Wayne murders with a citywide tragedy, simultaneously making that tragedy personal to Batman and extending his feelings of childhood loss across Gotham. More importantly, though, it's just a great superhero story, full of fist-pump moments (including a couple of gratuitous Frank Miller shout-outs and a blatantly obvious justification for the Bat-Signal), hissable villains, and sweeping set-pieces.
Snyder's script relies so heavily on spoken dialogue, I don't think there's a single thought-caption box in the whole issue. That means the characters actually have to talk to each other, as opposed to narrating everything internally, and it reinforces the various battles of wits. It also brings out a talkier Batman, which helps humanize him greatly. Capullo and Miki's work complements Snyder's perfectly, allowing the issue's events to unfold on a grand canvas. A few things strain credulity (yes, even for a Batman comic) -- the issue introduces yet another repurposed Wayne Enterprises prototype, and there's that shout-out to the Bat-Signal -- but everyone on the creative team seems to be having so much fun, it's hard not to be a little forgiving.
Plenty of superhero comics get bogged down in their own seriousness, and plenty of Batman comics want to run away from the not-as-grim "superhero" aspects. Batman #29 is not one of those. In balancing all the elements that make Batman memorable, Snyder, Capullo, and company have continued to improve on an already-impressive run. (Tom Bondurant)
Dorkin and Thompson's Beasts of Burden returns
This week marked the return of Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson's Beasts of Burden with a "Hunters & Gatherers" one-shot. To be storytellers as strong as Dorkin and Thompson is a blessing and a curse. They both are just so incredibly talented, and yet oddly for that same reason we take their work for granted. We should not.
In reading this one-shot, I took the time to appreciate Dorkin's knack for nuanced dialogue. At one point, in the wake of another BoB victory, one of the members of the dog community thank the gang, stating: "Bless you all. Even that cat."
As for Thompson, she does an incredible job through much of the action in conveying a giant invisible monster in pursuit of the heroes. After reading the story in its entirety, it was even more fun to go back and read it again just to see the visual clues (through shadows and use of color) that Thompson employed to give hints of the size of the monster. Plus, as simple as this may sound, Thompson uses some great angles in some of the action to perfectly portray the athleticism and skill of a dog like Rex when he is in a full run. (Tim O'Shea)
Merry Everything from the Hawkeye team
Who knew that a shipping error could turn out so great? Hawkeye #16, 17 and 18 have all been arriving out of order and, for some strange reason, it's turning out rather brilliantly.
This week, Hawkeye #17 (previously Hawkeye #18) gives us a rather refreshing little breather between the hard-boiled action of Clint Barton and The Rockford Files-y Kate Bishop stories, as Clint Barton gets introduced to the animated "Winter Friends" special through the kids in his apartment building. Artist Chris Eliopoulos outdoes himself on the charm and design of this winter holiday special, giving us amazing new holiday heroes in the form of the Winter Friends, and his dog designs for the Hawkeye cast are quick to pick up. Matt Fraction may want to look into writing an all-ages mini-series or two because Steve the Dog's story is just as full of drama and wit as his usual Hawkguy tales.
Sure, it seems a little out of place now that the holiday season has passed us, and we are on the edge of our seats after last issue's cliffhanger, but maybe the Winter Friends have shown up just in time to rescue us from serious drama and keep us on our toes. Thanks, dog. (Carla Hoffman)
Superman leaps into action in Adventures of Superman
DC's digital line offers writers and artists a unique opportunity. It is supremely doubtful that DC editorial would allow for a story set in the early days of Superman in one of the regular monthly series. But because of the Adventures of Superman digital series, such an opportunity is readily an option.
This week saw the launch of writer Joe Keatinge's three-part "Strange Visitor" arc in Adventures of Superman #46. The artist Ming Doyle, who frames the story being told by a much older Kamandi (the last astronaut on earth) to Rathotis (the Boy King of America), is joined by Brent Schoonover, who gets the opportunity to draw a tale from the early days of Superman, when he leapt everywhere, rather than flying.
It's an interesting choice to have Doyle frame the main story--as her style is different than Schoonover, but not startingly enough that it distracts the reader. Plus you get to see a bit of 1939 Batman teaming with Superman to fight Frankenstein's Forbidden Army, even though it is a small part of the larger 1939 tale--it's fun to see. Also compliments to colorists Jordie Bellaire (coloring Doyle) and Nick Filardi (coloring Schoonover) who favor similar styles in this assignment to make the different art teams work effectively compliment each other. (Tim O'Shea)
Out of the Arena and going Undercover
Avengers Arena, the much-maligned title that saw several of Marvel's teen heroes forced to fight it out Hunger Games-style by the villainous Arcade, was one of my favorite titles of the last couple years and established Dennis Hopeless as a writer to watch at Marvel. That book ended with the what was left of the cast, broken and bruised, making a pact not to talk about the horrible experiences they went through while captured by Arcade, just as the once C-list X-Men villain prepared to release footage of what happened during his "game" onto the internet.
Avengers Undercover, which reunites Hopeless and artist Kev Walker with most of the cast from the first book, picks up "Where are they now?" style with several of the survivors, as we learn about the fallout from what happened when Arcade made his YouTube post. While the first series saw many of the cast making tough decisions in an unthinkable situation, forced to decide between what was right and what meant survival, this one shows the real-world fallout as they try to readjust to normal life, then ultimately come back together when one of them needs help. While the "undercover" premise hasn't kicked in yet, you can see where it's going, and I'm glad to be along for another fun ride. (JK Parkin)