So many comics came out this week of March 14, and there's no way we can devote a full-length review to all of them. So let's take a quick run around the horn and at least give some shout outs to as many of them as we can testify to. We'll take the good and take the bad and take 'em both and there we'll have the facts of life.
BATTLE SCARS #5
What began as an interesting new story with a compelling new character has devolved into a painfully obvious shoehorning of a black Nick Fury into the 616 Marvel universe in time for the Avengers movie. Chris Yost is still a good enough writer to keep us hooked in, but it still feels forced. We get the backstory here – Nick Fury had a fling with an agent named Nia Jones, who kept the child of that union and gave up her life of action to settle down and raise our Marcus Johnson. We also see that one of Nick's many enemies, a man named Orion dependent on the Infinity Formula that's kept Nick alive and young for so long, is out to get Marcus because his body produces the formula naturally. Oh, and Marcus gets his eye ripped out and hints that he's going to cast off his name. The only question left is whether or not they're going 'out with the old' and killing off Nick Fury as they come 'in with the new' and give us Marcus Fury? Or will the old Nick die and his son will take on Nick Fury as if it's a title instead of a name? It's good enough to keep reading, but it's not the really cool thing we'd hoped it to be.
STAR WARS: AGENT OF THE EMPIRE – THE IRON ECLIPSE #4
Having just checked into this John Ostrander series before the latest issue, it's fresh in my mind, and it's still a reasonably fun little exercise in interstellar intrigue with our Agent Jahan Cross, who gives us some insight into why a man with any form of moral character faithfully serves the Empire – and basically, it's all based on misinformation about the Jedi being corrupt. Either that, or it's all B.S., depending on whether Cross is telling the truth when he gives his back story to Elli Stark, the woman putting herself on the line to take down her own family's sinister machinations towards commandeering all droids in the galaxy through a virus – including and especially Cross' own Inga 44. Plus, we get some more Han Solo fun and some creepy human-droid hybrid stuff. It's nothing too special, but it's neat.
THE RAY #4
The conclusion of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray's reinvention of The Ray not only has him fighting go-bots, but it also shows Lucien Gates as a hero who is not afraid to do the kind of stuff DC once had an entire brutal miniseries showing the repercussions of – namely, manipulate a bad guy's mind and force him to be better. In this case, the bad guy is a froot-loop reality-warper, and Lucien discovers the power to hypnotise people and uses it to make this goofball not only bring his girlfriend's father back to life and erase all the bad things he's ever done, but also erase his awful first impression on her family from existence so he can get a do-over. Abuse of power for personal gain, and it's all well and good! Maybe those morality lines aren't so hard and fast anymore. Either way, Jamal Ingle's art is pretty cool (minus the lame costume design for The Ray) and the story is relatively light-hearted and free-wheeling. And just who is that 'government agency' showing up at the end? Dare we hope Director Bones of the DEO is assembling an awesome team whose comic we'd really want to see?
MY GREATEST ADVENTURE #6
The anthology miniseries featuring the New 52 versions of Robotman, Garbage Man and Tanga ends all three stories in descending levels of quality, but none of them are bad by any means. Matt Kindt's Robotman story is a look at a heartbreaking status quo about a man trapped forever in an unfeeling robot body while the woman he once might've loved stands by him out of guilt and likely some kind of pity as he continues an altered life he doesn't really want to live anymore. Aaron Lopresti's Garbage Man tale doesn't pack quite the punch, but it does have Batman in it and he hears a criminal he's served justice to commit suicide, and just grumbles "Coward." That's pretty cool, and Richard Morse the Trash Man is a guy we like. Then Kevin Maguire's Tanga has an argument with an evil floating head what looks like a Skrull, and then proves she's ridiculously poweful and destined to be a nomad wandering the universe for the forseeable future – seems she has crap luck and accidentally manages to hurt her friends while trying to do good. All three of them are characters we want to see more of in the future.
Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello continues his post-apocalyptic tale about a teenage girl who is destined to become "the Spartacus of Whores." A lot of stuff happens in this issue – the motley team of aspiring revolutionaries gets another member from the last failed revolution in Westin the Apothecary, although he's become a mercenary in the interim, and his burly goon Feathers, and they've all made their way to the stronghold of the nefarious Tomo Wolfe to try and free the inept Simon's Shadow-Rebel comrade Anzio from the torture within. But all you're going to remember from this issue is that Opal cuts off Orchid's old pimp's junk and shoves it down his throat. Rather graphically, I might add.
SCARLET SPIDER #3
Chris Yost is having more success reviving 90s detritus Kaine than he is in introducing a 616 Samuel L. Fury, as he seems to be crystallizing some of what people liked about the 90s – savage anti-heroes and "lethal protectors" – into a much more palatable and less obnoxious form. As the Scarlet Spider, Kaine is ruthlessly terrorizing Houston's street thug set, while also trying to protect a woman named Aracely from being deported (and thus victimized by the mysterious jerks who want her dead) and now, trying to save his doctor friend's life from other mysterious jerks who want him dead. Apparently, it's the Assassins Guild, and they have some history with Kaine. Because Kaine used to kill people often. But he's still interesting. He refuses to call himself a superhero, he doesn't bother with a secret identity and he doesn't even attempt to be friendly. Somehow, that's a hook to readers as much as it is to the brassy bartender Annabelle Adams who sort of hits on him. It's entertaining, certainly, and this issue also introduces an assassin who looks like a cross between Lobo and Deadshot. Oh, how we miss the mustachio'ed Floyd Lawton.
LOBSTER JOHNSON: THE BURNING HAND #3
We're not all that used to seeing the badass Lobster Johnson outmatched, but that seems to be the case in Mike Mignola and John Arcudi's latest tale, as he learns now that he's up against some kind of supernatural demon with a skull-head wielding evil black fire. He doesn't even seem to have the same oomph behind his taunts. "There's a special place in hell for arsonists!" doesn't have the panache of "TASTE JUSTICE, IMPOSTORS!" from the first issue in this series. We do, however, see that Lobster has a network of local street folks helping him out, bringing to mind Matt Wagner's Dr. Mid-Nite series for DC back in 1999. We also get a lot more banter between the criminals who are obviously played by Peter Lorre and Paul Sorvino, one of whom favors the dark-arts approach and the the other is constantly confused and nauseated by it. It's good readin'.
PETER PANZERFAUST #2
I was kind of an idiot about the first issue in this Image series, not even realizing it was a Peter Pan riff until after I'd read it and just before I was about to start to write the review, and I found myself a little disappointed once I made the realization. However, that doesn't mean this isn't still a cool notion from Kurtis Wiebe – setting that story in Occupied France during World War II, with a bunch of wild orphan teens running around causing problems for Nazis. In this issue, they manage to pull some ruffian-style shenanigans enough to rescue some British soldiers from imprisonment in hopes that they'll be a ticket to escape. Tyler Jenkins' art isn't my favorite in its angular style, but it works when it needs to. It's a classic adventure set in a different, yet still classic era.
INCREDIBLE HULK #6
Jason Aaron's frustrating story (for longtime Hulk fans, anyway) simultaneously takes a turn for the better and for the worse in the same issue, and Whilce Portacio trying to be Marc Silvestri doesn't help matters. Last issue, we learned that Dr. Doom is the man who separated the Hulk and Bruce Banner, and the turn for the better this issue is that we can chalk up the absolute idiocy and annoying stupidity that Banner's been engaging in for the last five issues to "Doom did something to him that made him crazy and dumb enough to give himself a brain tumor." If we can even consider it to be Banner at all, given that Doom grew the Banner body out of nothing as a vessel for what he cut from the Hulk's brain. The turn for the worse is what we all saw coming three issues ago – the death of Bruce Banner. Again, if we can consider him to be Banner. Yes, that probably means he'll be back, re-manifesting in Hulk's brain or what have you, but this whole exercise is not fun, it's not interesting and Amanda Von Doom No Relation (now turning out to, of course, be a relation) and her non-stop moistening at gamma musculature is not funny.
FRANKENSTEIN: AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. #7
Jeff Lemire continues to write an entertaining book that doesn't aspire to be all that much more than monsters fighting monsters. The synthetic android Humanids that service the S.H.A.D.E. headquarters have arisen in rebellion against their servitude, and thus, we get to have badass moments from the perennially offended Frankenstein, his perennially surly estranged wife, and finally, resident scientific liaison Ray Palmer, formerly known as The Atom, gets to kick a little ass himself, although he assures Father Time (and the hopeful readership) that a costume ain't his style. So it looks like we're waiting for Ryan Choi to show up again somewhere. The art from Alberto Ponticelli is cleaner than this book has had, and it helps make it a little less uncomfortable to look at. Next issue promises to get into exactly what the deal is between Frank and The Former Mrs. Frank when they apparently have to go after their renegade son. Bring it!