Virtually every online comic book website and/or review site will be reviewing JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, which is the official debut of DC’s “NEW 52” relaunch of their entire superhero line (and will likely be the top seller of August 2011). That won’t happen here. It isn’t because this column is 90% Marvel Comics, but because JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 didn’t pass the muster on a “flip-through” test. While it’s unfair to judge work on such a thing, this Examiner is not rich enough to be able to buy $3.99 priced comics for the purposes of professional reviews and little else.
Instead, you’ll all have to be entertained by these other comics that also came out this week, which’re actually good!
Book Of The Week – HERC #6.1
Another week, another .1 issue as part of the Point One Initiative. In theory, it was Marvel’s way to try to entice readers to hop aboard an ongoing series in mid-progress with a one-shot tale that summarizes what is going on, while giving longtime readers of said series a story they can enjoy, too. In practice, they have merely replaced annuals – although many sell better than annuals usually do. Often, the Point One Initiative issues written by the same creative team as the ongoing series they promote fair better, as they become extra issues of content – such as HERC #6.1 (or AVENGERS ACADEMY #14.1). Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente – the regular HERC/INCREDIBLE HERCULES/CHAOS WAR writers for several years of material – naturally produce another stand out single issue story that accomplishes the mission statement of telling a tale new and old readers can get. While someone who has never read INCREDIBLE HERCULES since 2007-2008 might be a bit lost, someone who hasn’t read HERC since it debuted in the spring will have a fair refresher course on the status quo of the book. An added treat for this done-in-one story is legendary artist Mike Grell on pencils – the same Grell who is best known for creating WARLORD at DC Comics as well as JON SABLE FREELANCE and STARSLAYER at the creator owned First Comics, along with notable runs on IRON MAN and GREEN ARROW. His work is inked by two inkers and colored by regular HERC colorist Jesus Aburtov.
This issue provides not only a solid story that takes place in current HERC continuity (last issue reviewed here:http://knotmove.com/comic-books-in-new-york/picks-of-comic-book-week-for-8-3-11-puberty-and-crossovers-review), but it also explains the gap between CHAOS WAR #5 and HERC #1. As this issue summarizes, Herc had become a “super god” during CHAOS WAR and destroyed the Chaos King, who sought to destroy all of reality. He used all his power to undo the damage of the battle as well as restore all the lost gods – mostly the Greek pantheon – to life and vigor. This left Hercules in a mortal, and somewhat brighter, form. Here, we learn through the eyes of Hermes – the messenger god – that Herc tried to remain in Olympus, but it was no place for a mortal. When even his wife Hebe ends up condescending to him – as most gods tend to with mortals – Herc fled to Brooklyn to answer the call of his worshippers (who wound up being about 3-4 nerds in robes). This issue also explains how Herc acquired his godly weaponry; in fact, it is that theft which puts Hermes on his trail. Initially seeking to catch a thief for Zeus (who is once again seducing women in far off lands away from Hera), he winds up in the middle of a fight between Herc and Mr. Negative and gains perspective on the situation.
The story is simple and not one that offers many twists and turns, but it doesn’t need them. The art is very effective for the godly scenes as well as the combat, there’s a dash of humor along with the heart, and Pak and Ven Lante manage to convey why Herc is a cool lead character even in a tale where he isn’t one. Grell’s artwork is enhanced well by the inks and colors, and is of such a timeless style that readers who are less knowledgeable may have no clue that Grell’s an old hand who’s been in the business since 1973. Even the choice of villain in Mr. Negative works because HERC is about to start a crossover with AMAZING SPIDER-MAN next issue for “Spider-Island”. Mr. Negative – created in 2008 – is getting a lot of traction lately and will also appear in SPIDER-ISLAND: CLOAK AND DAGGER. It is possible that other writers are thrilled to be given a crime lord who is Asian-American who isn’t dressed as a ninja, a martial artist or a samurai. Alas, such a gesture is moot, as the latest issue of PREVIEWS has announced that HERC will be canceled with issue ten. Given the sales, it is great that it lasted that long.
This issue is what good comics should be – $2.99, done-in-one, with a story anyone can pick up and enjoy with great artwork.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #668 – This is the second chapter of “SPIDER-ISLAND”, or the third if you count the prelude issue. This was very close to being the top of the heap, although HERC #6.1 won out due to being more timeless, standalone, and with a legendary artist. That isn’t to say that Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos, alongside Victor Olazaba on inks and Edgar Delgado on colors, are not producing a very entertaining and riveting Spider-Man epic. With the disappointment of FEAR ITSELF an ongoing dilemma this summer, and with the modest SHADOWLAND of last winter still fresh in memory, “SPIDER-ISLAND” is quickly standing head and shoulders above competition of recent memory, whether big or small. That isn’t to say that it is flawless, but usually “mini events” don’t get this solid unless they’re written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning and about space. While this issue naturally picks right up from the last (http://knotmove.com/comic-books-in-new-york/picks-of-comic-book-week-for-8-10-11-real-heroes-don-t-use-drugs-willingly-review), it is awkwardly scheduled after VENOM #6, which actually takes place afterward. At any rate, the Jackal has succeeded in his plan to infest “thousands” of Manhattan citizens with his genetically enhanced bed-bugs to induce within them powers similar to Spider-Man. The immediate effect is now hundreds of people are manifesting super-powers, and not all of them are good. Jackal has assembled an army of those who were criminals (or inclined to be), clad them in various Spidey costumes and sent them on a rampage. The Avengers, the Future Foundation, Cloak and Dagger, what’s left of the Young Allies as well as Shang Chi (and apparently Storm) have all assembled to stop them, while Spider-Man quickly realizes it is a situation where he seemingly isn’t needed and can be of no use. However, inspired by the women in his life, Peter very quickly realizes that he can showcase how to be responsible to others without a mask. Mayor Jameson is vindicated as his “Anti-Spider Patrol” was put to use to deploy technologically advanced cops to help ease the brawl. Jameson then deputizes everyone and seals Manhattan’s borders, but will it be enough to stem the plague? What role does Spider-Man play in that, and is there a dark side to being infected down the pipeline? Who is that mysterious scientist at Horizon Labs? All questions for another issue. This issue naturally starts out with a lot of action and then manages to hit the rounds for interaction and even a few chuckles. A cynic might note that even without being married, Mary Jane seems to fill the same role for Peter as she always did – as his rock and voice of reason – to the point that ONE MORE DAY merely seems like an effort to bring back love triangles into the title. If there is any quibble, it is that Peter’s refusal to acknowledge how useful it is to be working alongside Carlie Cooper is bordering on insanity. Due to this situation, Peter and Carlie both have super powers and are both employing those powers, skills, and their brains to try to solve this mystery. Given that Carlie is a fan of Spider-Man (and masked vigilantes in general), there is no reason for Peter to have kept his secret from her beyond either his unwillingness to commit or sheer stubbornness. He did once unmask for a cat-burglar, people! Yet all Peter can gush about is not having to change clothes in an alley before web-slinging. A story that was willing to claim that Peter is too insecure to date any woman who isn’t either a civilian or inferior to him in power level would be fascinating if it were intentional. On the positive, this event is playing up all of the Marvel Universe elements of BIG TIME while focusing on the fact that Peter can be a hero without a mask, and he can win a fight without being a brawler. So far, this has been a rare comic event that has lived up to it’s own hype. On the downside, this is one of the first issues since November to be priced at $3.99 despite only having 22 pages, and unlikely to be the last.
INVINCIBLE #82 – While it seems longer due to the fifth Wednesday this month, the previous issue did actually ship at the end of July (knotmove.com/comic-books-in-new-york/picks-of-comic-book-week-for-7-…); whether this means that this Image Comics mainstay by Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley will be able to get back to a monthly schedule (as it did in 2009) is unknown. The colorist position has seemed to be a fluctuating role for this series for the past several issues; this time, regular Marvel and DC Comics colorist John Rauch lends his digital talents for this issue, and does a great job. As has been true of the past couple of issues, Kirkman is exploring things on earth with Mark/Invincible now that he has back from yet another long space war. He is investing quite a lot of panel time to some of his newer villains, which is good to keep the rogues and character cast fresh. Rex/Robot is reintroduced to the series while Invincible pays a visit to a character he and Eve defeated roughly a year ago in real time – Universa. Finding a suitable solution with dealing with her highlights a current character arc for Invincible, which benefits the long time reader. When the hero debuted, he was young, spunky, and full of naive idealism. When he was exposed to the ugly reality of the business through betrayals and gory battles, as well as the grays that are explored by Pentagon head Cecil Stedman, he often flexed against them. For a time he was swallowed by the darkness and sought to kill threats immediately – complete with a dark costume. Now, after another space war and personal drama, Invincible is seeking to employ other approaches besides violence. Tiring of villains who seek endless revenge on him (and others), Mark is seeking to find compromises when possible. As Cecil warns, Mark may be going “all in” on this strategy when there still will be maniacs who need to be punched – but that tends to be Mark’s standard operating procedure. The ending pays homage to the finale of issue 49 – or rips it off, whichever you prefer. What makes the book succeed is what has made most other issues succeed – a strong and vibrant supporting cast, flowing subplots and character arcs, ramifications to past actions, crisp dialogue and top notch art. In fact, this issue took longer to read than quite a few others on this list because of the dense dialogue – which didn’t make it boring. Plus, 22 pages for $2.99 is fast becoming a luxury in comic books. While new fans may be lost by the dense storyline at this rate and be obligated to catch up via the armada of trade collections for INVINCIBLE, it remains one of the best superhero series for fans of the genre.
Also Good Reads: Haunt #17 (Image Comics) & Spider-Island: Deadly Hands Of Kung-Fu #1 (Marvel Comics)
Last Week’s Reviews – http://knotmove.com/comic-books-in-new-york/picks-of-comic-book-week-for-8-24-11-they-re-heroes-a-half-shell-review