Comics Shotglass Reviews for 10/28/15: Gods and Monsters

Comics Shotglass Reviews for 10/28/15: Gods and Monsters

The Justice League gets an upgrade, Invincible reboots, and Warren Ellis does something inhuman.

Hello, hello! Welcome to my assorted comic reviews for the week of October 28, 2015. I'm also including a few of the reviews I wrote up for last week, so don't think I forgot about it. This week, we're diving into Invincible #124, Karnak #1, Justice League #45, The Darkseid War: Batman #1, Martian Manhunter #5, Art Ops #1, and Captain America: Sam Wilson #2. Like always, this series highlights just a few of the comic books on sale each week, without delving into heavy spoilers. If you're interested in any book, click on the title and it'll take you to that book's Comixology page. Let us proceed.

Invincible #124

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn, Jean-Francois Beaulieu

What would you do if you could repeat your life over again? Mark Grayson, the hero known as Invincible, has been trying to build a new life for his family out in space, but events have conspired to send him back in time. He's in his old body, on the day that he first gained his powers, but he remembers everything that happened before! This is Invincible's chance to do everything again and in the course of a few pages, he cleans up problems that took issues to solve before. But he still has to deal with the biggest problem: His dad wanting to conquer the Earth.

The arc is called "Reboot" and is listed as running for three issues. It's uncertain if Kirkman will stick with this new continuity once we finish the arc. He could continue on from this point. He could jump into the future of this new timeline. He could even return to the original timeline.

One of the strengths of Invincible is you don't know where the comic is going. Like The Walking Dead, it's owned wholly by Kirkman, so if he decides that Mark needs to die tomorrow, that'll happen. Invincible is a ride and while it traffics in the same doom and gore that The Walking Dead does, it at least takes the time to be more upbeat and enjoyable occasionally. That's why I still read it, instead of letting it fall by the wayside. Great stuff.


Karnak #1

Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Gerardo Zaffino, Dan Brown

Warren Ellis has a weird relationship with Marvel. He doesn't really like doing corporate-owned work. Why would he, when his creator-owned stuff makes him more money? Despite that, every two years or so, Ellis picks a Marvel property at random and goes to work. Think of him as a fixer: he looks at the character or team, gets to the interesting root of it, and then plays around for 6 to 12 issues. Moon Knight, Secret Avengers, Next Wave, and Thunderbolts are all examples. Ellis is pretty good at what he does.

His newest Marvel revamp is… Karnak. Karnak is a member of the Inhuman royal family. He has the ability to see the flaw in all things. If you strike at such flaws, things break and fall apart. Karnak used his ability to advise the Inhuman king, Black Bolt, until things went wrong a few years ago. Karnak committed suicide, but apparently it didn't stick. He found the flaw in death itself, hit it, and now he's back in the land of the living.

Now he's the Magister a group of monks at the Tower of Wisdom. In his spare time, he takes cases from SHIELD. Cases involving this new breed of Inhuman spreading around the world. In return for his services, he takes the inhuman in question back to the Tower to train and SHIELD gives him more money to keep his operation running.

This is a very Warren Ellis book. The characters are hard as nails, they say very little, and there's always a sense of oddness when you're reading his books. If you're new to Warren Ellis, I'd pick up his collected run on Moon Knight first. If you're not, then you already know what you're getting into.


Justice League #45

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato

Justice League: The Darkseid War: Batman #1

Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Fernando Pasarin, Matt Ryan, Gabe Eltaeb

It looks like this was the point of Darkseid War. The universe abhors a vacuum. Darkseid is dead. In his place, there are new Gods. Justice League have undergone changes in this arc: Batman sits on Metron's Mobius Chair, The Flash is possessed by the Black Racer, Superman is powered by the dark sunlight of Apokolips' inner core. They were near gods before, now they are gods.

This issue of Justice League spirals out into separate a Darkseid War mini-series, where we see the outcomes of the Justice League's new godhood. The first mini, Darkseid War: Batman, features the Dark Knight punishing criminals for the crimes they have yet to commit. Gotham's justice system is unable to hold them - no crime has been committed - but for Batman the very point is no crime was committed. Lives are saved regardless.

In his powered fugue state, Batman decides to visit the person who created him all those years ago: criminal Joe Chill. He walks back through that night with Chill and reveals his great secret to a simple thug. And with that revelation comes a threat. Batman is clearly unhinged and his next target is his other worst enemy, the Joker.

This is an exploration of what Batman truly believes. Who you are, the real you, is the person that you become without limits. With the resources of the Mobius Chair at his disposal, can you still call Batman a good guy? People are argued that Batman is fascist at his core and given the power of a god, he has proven them right. Who is Superman? Who is the Flash? I wasn't big on the Darkseid War until now, as it's been mostly pomp and circumstance, but here we finally have some substance. Hopefully, that'll carry over to the other minis and the rest of the arc in Justice League.


Martian Manhunter #5

Written by Rob Williams
Art by Diogenes Neves, Marc Deering, Gabe Eltaeb

The Martian Manhunter has died, but like Karnak above, he's not really gone. Years before he died, J'onn J'onzz left parts of himself out in the world. Classically, J'onzz has had a number of different secret identities, but in the new 52, he apparently let these bits of himself live their independent lives so he could understand humanity a bit better. Now those parts need to be brought back together to make a new Martian Manhunter.

Mr. Biscuits is the best.

FBI Agent Daryl Wessel, the wheelchair bound Leo Chandler, super-thief the Pearl, the odd Mr. Biscuits, and now old-timer Mould have to come together to save the world. It's a team-up book where the people teaming up are all parts of the same guy. Also, if you've ever wanted to see the female version of the Martian Manhunter kissing Aquaman, this book is for you.

Rob Williams has struck an odd balance here. The Martian Manhunter has always been a heroic character, but this series is more of a science-fiction horror book than anything else. The Martians are coming to invade the Earth and J'onn is the only one that can see them, let alone stop them. There's a bit of science, a bit of magic, and some weirdness, all combining to form a new origin story for this version of a fan-favorite. Probably one of the more enjoyable books DC is publishing now.


Art Ops #1

Written by Shaun Simon
Art by Mike Allred, Laura Allred.

Art is real.

In one terrible night, Reggie Riot lost the love of his life and his arm to living graffiti. He gained a new arm made of living paint from his mother, an agent in an elite organization called Art Ops. He was supposed to join her, to help her protect art - the subjects and settings of your favorite works of art live their own secret lives - but instead he ran. Now the entire Art Ops organization is gone and it's up to Reggie, mysterious handler The Body, and the Mona Lisa to save the world.

Yeah, it's a pretty weird pitch. This is the kind of book that can only work if the entire team is on point. Writer Shaun Simon writes a sufficiency odd script, but the work of Mike and Laura Allred make everything come together. A punk rocker with an arm of living paint? In the hands of another artist, it might look stupid, but the Allreds are masters of pop art weirdness.

I don't know if I'm onboard with Art Ops yet; the first issue is setting up the premise. I can't say I particularly like any of the characters yet: Reggie is kind of a dick, The Body is a cipher, and Mona Lisa is barely a character yet. This book is trading on the strong art of the Allreds and Simon's previous work as co-writer of The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. At the very least, they've got me for issue #2, to see if Reggie can become a more enjoyable character.


Captain America: Sam Wilson #2

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Daniel Acuna

Nick Spencer is onto something here. His Captain America is the story of a world like ours, be tweaked. The government is doing what it thinks it needs to in order to protect us, but it's not wiretapping our phone calls, it's trying to build a Cosmic Cube. The old guard carefully dodging questions in interviews? That's the former Captain America, Steve Rogers, doing his best impression of a politician. It's not a right-wing militia, it's the Sons of the Serpent. The Marvel Universe is like our own, but bigger.

One thing I do enjoy is that the rift between Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson is one of nuance. Rogers, at his core, believes that the law and the government will do what's right if you just let the system play out. Wilson understands that good intentions don't always lead to good outcomes. It's a subtle distinction, but an important one.

Sam Wilson is a Captain America for the people of the Marvel Universe, even if they still can't agree with one another. This is great stuff from Spencer. This issue and the preceding one make up a mission statement for this new Cap and Spencer hits the ground running. Love it.

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Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

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