The holidays are over, but the first week of the new year brought some really great stuff. Shall we dig in?
Batman and The Signal #1 (DC Comics)
It’s arguable that Duke Thomas is the most interesting addition to the Bat-mythos after the New52 reboot in 2011. He’s been around since early in Scott Snyder’s Batman run and has appeared pretty much constantly since, even getting a previous starring turn in We Are Robin. Here though Tony Patrick, Scott Snyder and Cull Hamner take Duke to the next level in a miniseries designed to launch the next phase of his character life.
After expressing his insecurities among the more experienced Bat-family members, we jump into the story en media res, as Duke is battling a new meta- Null- and trying to get comfortable with his own powers. Null is rambling about some sort of dial, and Duke is able to use his powers (which he knows have to do with light but is still figuring out otherwise) to take him out. From there we learn about the meta crisis gripping Gotham as well as meet Duke’s supporting cast, leading up to Duke confronting some leads in this “crisis.”
Patrick and Snyder create an interesting mystery here. Some people might think that “metas” are just DC’s versions of Marvel’s mutants, however, metas remain dormant without a catalyst of some sort (and before you make the Inhumans comparison with Terrigen, it’s not that specific). The mystery of WHY these metas are popping up, suddenly manifesting in such high numbers, is a great hook, especially with Duke being one of those metas.
Patrick’s script is sharp for a newer writer. He gets into Duke’s head wonderfully. He quickly ,makes Duke his own, thanks to his new situation. His powers are still a little ill-defined, but Patrick is making an effort there. It’s a great early effort by a newer writer.
Cully Hamner was a great choice to illustrate this story. It reminds me quite a bit of his work on the initial Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle series. There’s a great energy on the page. He illustrates the action scenes just as well as the quieter moments as well. He also does a great job illustrating that Duke is actually still a developing teenager. Color artist Laura Martin also does a great job here, filling the pages with light and bright colors, to go with the themes of this issue.
Just a note for hardcore Batman fans though- if you’re going into this expecting a team-up book you may be disappointed with this issue. Bruce Wayne only appears on a few pages, and they’re fairly talky, not fight-y.
However, for a Batman fan, this is a great payoff for the past few years of stories, and I really hope this continues past the initial 3 issues!
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
The Verdict: Buy for a Batman fan
Rogue & Gambit #1 (Marvel Comics)
After one issue, I have one demand for Mark Paniccia and the X-Men office at Marvel- give this creative team an ongoing series within your office.
Gambit is a character that I personally am not a huge fan of. Right writer, he’s a lot of fun. Wrong writer, he’s unbearable. Rogue, on the other hand, is probably my favorite X-person. I will acknowledge that the relationship between this duo, when done right, is one of the BEST in comics. So, an entire miniseries about them has a lot of potential.
The story opens with a gorgeously illustrated recap of the titular duo’s relationship, before segueing into a trio of endangered mutants, who are apparently murdered by a mysterious being with glowing eyes. Naturally, mutants disappearing gets the X-Men’s attention, and when the disappearances are traced to a therapy retreat, Kitty Pryde sends Remy and Rogue to investigate. The two bicker from the moment they get on a private jet tp to the walk to their first therapy session.
And then things go wrong.
Kelly Thompson is a master of interpersonal relationships, and her work her is razor sharp. The two leads feel like a couple with all the history they share, and she avoids writing them as if they’re meant to be together. There’s tension but not not in a hokey way. The interactions with the other X-Men are great too. I would love to see Thompson writing a Rogue-led X-team title after this. Both the Danger Room scene and the conversation with X-Men leader Kitty Pryde were a lot of fun.
Pere Perez is a master of facial expressions. Between bemused grins, disgust, and the absolutely hilarious plane ride (which I will not spoil), he sells this issue on that alone. However, his action work is great too. There’s a lot of tension in the opening escape attempt. The fight in the Danger room was great. It’s all fantastic.
Color artist Frank D’Armata deserves a special mention for his great colors, but especially pages 2 & 3, a two page spread that has a beautiful rainbow effect in the background. It’s just fabulous.
So way to go Kelly, Pere, Frank and the X-office. You started the year off right.
Rating: 8 out of 10
The Verdict: X-Men fans- SUBSCRIBE
Atomic Robo and the Spectre of Tomorrow #3 (IDW Publishing)
I’m just going to say it- Atomic Robo should be to science fiction comics what Hellboy is to horror-fantasy. At this point Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener’s long-running series has been running for years, with a mythology and world as rich as Mignola’s BPRD-verse. It’s just a fun series too, so it’s really too bad that since the series’ move to IDW it’s kind of left the forefront of fans’ minds.
Robo and his team are dealing with some sort of virus or disease that is violently transforming human beings into machines. The team is in a race against time to find some sort of pattern, motive, or even a cause before it spreads. Robo figures it out and launches a secret mission to stop the AI at the heart of the crisis.
Clevenger’s story clips along briskly. This isn’t a story with much character work, but it’s not intended to be such. It’s a tense outbreak thriller, with emphasis on the tense. The tension is extremely well done here, even after the solution is found and Robo and the team jump into action.
Wegener’s art is still sharp. It deserves a comparison to Mignola as much as the story does. It’s a very similar style, though more bright and cartoony. The best moments artistically are when the action happens, whether it’s the virus turning someone into a cyborg, or Robo’s issue-ending fight with a monstrous machine. There are a few scenes where Wegener skimps a bit on details that comes across more looking rushed than I think was intended.
Still it’s a fan all-ages sci-fi adventure, and worth your money.
Rating: 7 out of 10
The Verdict: Buy to try something new!
Crosswind #6 (Image Comics)
This series isn’t getting talked about enough. It should simply be on everyone’s lips with each release and it’s not.
The conflict building through this first arc comes to a head and the body-swapped Juniper and Cason come face to face. Meanwhile, Cruz is coming from Cason and James wants revenge on Juniper (who is actually Cason). This all builds to a violent and bloody conflict, with huge pieces of the series mythology laying bare.
Gail Simone writes a crime story better than pretty much all of the comics industry (with maybe one exception). The action is tense. The dialogue is sharp. The mythology is fascinating. In all, it’s a great ride.
Cat Staggs’ art is still stellar. It’s sharp and realistic, but Cat is able to keep it moving and flowing. She’s probably the best photo-real artist in comics.
You should be reading this book, no question. I just can’t wait for season 2 to come soon.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
The Verdict: Subscribe
Secret Weapons #0 (Valiant Comics)
I’ll be honest- I missed Eric Heisserer’s initial miniseries. I’m kicking myself for that. But I was eager to give this issue a try. Heisserer teams with Adam Pollina to tell the backstory of Nikki, who I assume to be one of the stars of the mini series.
Nikki is a normal high school senior who receives an email one day, inquiring about an old video of her doing gymnastics. The issue then goes on to chronicle Nikki’s activation by the Harbinger Foundation through where the story found her at the beginning of Secret Weapons (I assume).
Heisserer uses an interesting narrative technique, mostly covering a day per panel (with a few days taking an entire page). Though it doesn’t allow for a deep dive into Nikki’s character, it does help build her up over time.
Pollina takes that structure and literally centers the story on Nikki. No matter how she’s posed, she’s in the center of each panel. It builds an intimacy with the character in a very fascinating way.
Even without reading the miniseries, this was an interesting character study set firmly in the Valiant Universe.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
The Verdict: Buy if a Valiant fan, pass if not.