Comics Shotglass Reviews for 12/02/2015: Ego Leads Us Astray

Comics Shotglass Reviews for 12/02/2015: Ego Leads Us Astray

Frank Miller returns to Batman, the Avengers are all-new, and James Bond has a brand new face.

New week, new comics reviews! This week I'm covering All-New, All-Different Avengers #2, James Bond #1 and 2, Totally Awesome Hulk #1, The Vision #1 and 2, Sheriff of Babylon #1, and Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1. 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.

All-New, All-Different Avengers #2

Written by Mark Waid
Art by Adam Kubert, Sonia Oback

There's something decidedly classic about this issue for a book led by the adjectives "All-New, All-Different". Maybe it's the creative team with writer Mark Waid and artist Adam Kubert, two veterans in the comic industry. Maybe it's the 4-color presentation of the villain, the Chitauri Warbringer, and its motivations.

For a book that's largely new versions of classic characters - Captain America, Thor, Spider-Man, Nova, Ms. Marvel are all very different characters than those namesakes would imply - the formation of this team is very much in the older style. See, back in the day, teams that didn't share a single origin would form due to serendipity more than anything else. The actions of one villain would draw the attention of multiple heroes, who would later decide that they work well together. That's pretty much what's happening here.

Warbringer isn't that compelling a villain on his own, but Waid is obviously setting up Mr. Gryphon as the major antagonist. Gryphon purchased Avengers Tower from Stark and he keeps helping Warbringer for some other purpose. Gryphon reminds me of Damian Tryp from Peter David's last X-Factor run, possessed of more information than what's available to anyone else in the book. Is he from the future like Tryp, or is he perhaps something else?

Regardless, Waid's excellent work on Daredevil and Archie means I'm giving him some leeway with this book, even though what's here hasn't completely sold me on collecting it. He's going for a different tone than what we've seen recently, so I want to give him room to see what he delivers.

James Bond #1 and #2

Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Jason Masters, Guy Major

I admit, I've been waiting for this book for some time. The pairing of one of my favorite characters, James Bond, and writer Warren Ellis seems like a match made in heaven. This Bond universe is a melange of different versions of the character over the years. Bond himself is closest physically to Brosnan, with a the cold angry streak you'd find in Dalton and Craig's Bonds. Moneypenny is essentially her Craig-era version and M looks to be his novel counterpart, albeit of African descent. Q likewise is the Major Boothroyd version from the novels, looking a bit like an angry John Cleese here.

With the death of 008, Bond has to take over his caseload. This means Bond is heading to Berlin to track down whoever's importing a new drug into the United Kingdom. The drug is like cocaine, but by issue #2 it's clear that the side-effects are much worse and Bond is dealing with something much larger. Namely, criminals using powered prostheses.

Ellis nails Bond straight on in both issues, which isn't surprising, given that Ellis has written Bond into various other characters over the course of his career. This honestly should be like riding a bike for him. Artist Jason Masters does a solid job on the action as well. The larger issue present in both issues is the lack of a strong antagonist for Bond to bounce off of. I think once Ellis gets to that, we'll have a cracking little Bond adventure.

Totally Awesome Hulk #1

Written by Greg Pak
Art by Frank Cho, Sonia Oback

Bruce Banner is gone and in his place, there's a new Hulk. Former Hulk sidekick Amadeus Cho, the eighth smartest person in the Marvel Universe, has taken on the Gamma-irradiated strength that comes with it. And while Banner's Hulk was a representation of his boundless anger, Cho's Hulk is more of an outlet for his considerable ego.

I was torn on this book. While I love the work of Greg Pak and the character of Amadeus Cho, Frank Cho can go in either direction. He's an amazing artist, but when he's free to do whatever he wants, he tends to lean hard on just doing sexy women. That's fine in a book about sexy women and Cho has made bank on his personal projects like Jungle Girl, but it's not something I particularly look forward to in a more generalized book.

Totally Awesome Hulk hits a few of those "Frank Cho" notes at the beginning and end of the book, but otherwise, it's much more restrained. It's a light and fun book, with Cho (Amadeus, not Frank) tracking down giant monsters with his heretofore unmentioned little sister, Maddy. The spectre of an uncontrollable Hulk presents itself and what exactly happened to Bruce Banner is still up in the air, but Totally Awesome Hulk is still a great debut.

The Vision #1 and 2

Written by Tom King
Art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Jordie Bellaire

The Vision is a synthezoid, an android created by Ultron to destroy the Avengers. The Vision is an Avenger. He's been killed, rebooted, and redone many times. He's been "young" and "old". He's been a husband and a father. This series is about Vision trying to recapture that feeling again.

So The Vision has created his own family. He crafted his wife Virginia, his daughter Viv, and his son Vin. They have a home in the suburbs of Virginia. When Vision is out saving the world, his wife is at home and his kids are at school. They are normal. At least as close to normal as a family of synthetic people can be.

And then things go horribly wrong.

The Vision series is something a bit different from the rest of the Marvel books being published. It's not about the Vision's exploits as a hero. If anything, it's a slow burning sci-fi thriller. Vision desperately wants his family to be normal and human, but they're not. But that's not the only problem. The magic of this book is it's their inhumanity and their humanity together that come together to topple this house of cards.

Marvel isn't publishing another book quite like this. Read it while you can. (The same can be said of King's DC book, Omega Men.)

Sheriff of Babylon #1

Written by Tom King
Art by Mitch Gerads

No, you're not crazy. Tom King is on this list twice. This is actually the second of three books this week that Mr. King is writing. It is as odd as the rest and it actually took me a few reads before I understood the setup.

Christopher Henry is a cop. Well, was a cop. Now it's 2004 and he's in the Iraqi Green Zone, where he's supposed to train the new police force for the city of Baghdad. Ten months ago it was a war zone. Now it's about rebuilding.

There's two other characters joining Christopher on this journey. Nassir is one of the last remaining former investigators in the city, though he has a grudge against the local American forces, since his daughters died in the siege on the city. There's Sofia, who was born in Iraq, but sent to America for schooling, only to watch her family be killed by Saddam. Now she's on the Iraqi council, but she's also quietly building her control of the local underworld.

The inciting incident is when one of Christopher trainees is killed and the body is dumped in the city. There's no standing police force. So Sofia brings together Chris and Nassir to solve the crime.

This is going to be a dark book. It's nominally a crime drama, but the setting and the conflicting motivations elevate it over the normal cop and mafia stories we're used to seeing. With his work on Grayson, Omega Men, and Vision, King has bought a certain amount of trust from me. I don't always know where his stories are heading, but I know they'll be interesting. An in the case of the Sheriff of Babylon, I only have eight issues to worry about.

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1

Written by Brian Azzarello, Frank Miller
Art by Andy Kubert, Frank Miller, Klaus Jansen, Brad Anderson, Alex Sinclair

On paper I was not excited for this. Frank Miller is a long way from his heyday. While his work on titles like Daredevil, Sin City, and The Dark Knight Returns was amazing, his work of the past decade hasn't been to my liking. The Dark Knight Strikes Again was more energy than good execution, All-Star Batman & Robin read like parody, and Holy Terror was intensely xenophobic at best. So when DC announced a third Dark Knight book by Miller with the subtitle "The Master Race", I was not onboard.

Of course, DC seems to have seen Miller's worse predilections in Holy Terror, because they've blunted his output here. They put Brian Azzarello on the book as co-writer and Andy Kubert is doing his best Miller impression instead of Miller himself on art. The resulting book is… pretty good.

Following the end of The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Batman is gone, Wonder Woman is in hiding with her daughter and young son, and Superman has exiled himself to his Fortress of Solitude. But the city of Gotham needs help and so Batman returns to save the people from those who are meant to protect them. So begins a war between Batman and the police. But there's something different about this Dark Knight...

Miller has definitely offered his input here. You can see his mark on the use of newscasts and the smaller, more frequent panels. Mostly though, this feels like Azzarello's take on Miller's Dark Knight Universe. And the reason it's easy to see that is because Miller also pitches on the mini-comic bundled with Book One of the Master Race. That story focuses on the Atom and though Azzarello is still co-writing, Miller handles the art himself. Though the cover to Dark Knight Universe Presents: The Atom #1 is dire, the interior art is more restrained.

The mini-comic feels more like Miller. It's more inward-facing with a hard-worn Ray Palmer reminiscing about standing alongside gods. The artwork is still a bit dodgy, but it's not as all over the place as Holy Terror was. The ending of the book, with Superman's daughter Lara bringing the Bottled City of Kandor to Palmer for help, seems to point towards the "Master Race" in the subtitle of the main book, but perhaps I'm reading into this too much.

All in all, I'm surprised to say that I enjoyed a book by Frank Miller. It's been awhile.

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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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