Welcome to the all-new Comicscape! Each week we'll be taking a look at a few of the week's new books in hopes of informing your comic shop purchases, or at the very least giving you 4-color thrills and chills. Enjoy!
Age of Ultron #1 (by Brian Michael Bendis, Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary) People will complain this issue has no set-up, they don't know why they're thrown into this world, they don't know the score. There's no full page "previously in Avengers...", or 20 pages of build up to a final page that says "To be continued". The action starts immediately, and it's up to you to keep up. The beautiful thing is- it's not hard to, Bendis has such a perfect grasp of pacing, the reader doesn't have to stop to try and figure things out, They will be so engrossed in the action they won't realize just how many little hints and clues they've actually seen until they hit the last page (and it's a good one). With all the consternation of a big crossover like Avengers vs X-men, it's nice to have one that boils things down to one simple idea- survival.
Something went terribly wrong, and Ultron has taken over the world. Humans live in dilapidated squalor, and the heroes have retreated deep underground (if you want to actually know what went wrong, dig through the back issue bins 2 years, and snag a copy of Avengers #12.1) We follow Hawkeye, in full ass-kicking mode, on a rescue mission. He storms the urban decayed base of Hammerhead and the Owl in search of a missing teammate. Arrows aplenty find their way into unsuspecting thugs, and Hawkeye continues his reign as the coolest character in the Marvel U. Once he rescues his comrade, and single handedly takes out an Ultron, he finds himself unwelcome back at the super hero hideout. It turns out even a simple rescue mission is too great a risk, but Hawkeye was never one to sit idle. Things are so bad, Tony Stark has to strap a body scanner to everyone to make sure they haven't been infected by Ultron tech. Obviously Bendis will flesh out the "hows" and "whys" in future issues, but here we are given plenty of tantalizing glimpses of what this dark future holds. Bryan Hitch is in top form, his cinematic layouts give the book the larger than life feel it needs, and it matches the kinetic pace of Bendis' script. I'm excited to see where this one goes, with a tight shipping schedule and a limited amount of tie-in books, this could be the type of event book we've been hoping for.
Shadowman #5 (by Justin Jordan, Patrick Zircher, Rob Delatorre, Stephano Guadiano and Lee Garbett) Readers of this column know my love for the new Valiant books, I've loved every one, every one that is, except Shadowman. I was a fan of the original Shadowman in the 90's, but this new re-launch failed to grab me initially. Oddly enough, when compared to what I wrote about Age of Ultron, I felt the introduction to Shadowman's world was very rushed, and the character of Jack Boniface lacked the depth needed to carry the book. Issue #5 doesn't solve all these problems, but it is the best issue of the series yet. A big reason for this is the introduction of another classic Valiant character- Doctor Mirage. Once a man, now a woman with a shock of blue hair on her bangs, Dr. Mirage is a supernatural investigator who's talents are leading her to get entangled with Shadowman's ultimate foe- Master Darque. The star of Shadowman so far has been Patrick Zircher's art, and this issue is no exception. There is a well rendered bit of action to open the book, and the redesign of Dr. Mirage is strong. The good Dr. makes for a welcome addition to the book's supporting cast, which has been one of its strongest aspect so far, hopefully they can give the book's namesake an equal amount of depth in this new arc.
Snapshot #2 (by Andy Diggle and Jock) a few weeks ago I sang the praises of Snapshot #1, it was one of the best books I had read in a long time. Fresh, original and immediately engaging, it was everything one could possibly hope for. The tricky thing is always the second issue, and in a finite series you don't have the luxury of a Sophomore slump. I am happy to report issue #2 is every bit as kinetic and engrossing as the first. A good chunk of the mystery comes to light, yet more questions get their hooks in you deep. Jock has much more action to deal with in this issue, and he makes the gorgeous black and white art riveting. You truly need to be picking up this book, whether it's in the eventual trade, or monthly, Snapshot is earning its place among the year's best.
Joel Rickenbach is a curator of cult cinema at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA, and can be heard every week talking film, TV and other geekery on the You’ve got GEEK podcast. Follow him onTwitter and hilarity will no doubt ensue.