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. This week we find out just how deep Batman's loss of his son really is, and we join the Avengers as they go gambling (?) Enjoy!
Batman and Red Hood #20 (by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Cliff Richards, Mick Gray and Mark Irwin) We've covered a good deal of the post-Damian Wayne mourning here at Comicscape, and the main reason is it's so darn interesting. I can't remember the last time a character's death has had such an effect on the books he or she inhabited. I think a good deal of comic fans are used to just moving on to the next thing, but DC and the Bat-writers just won't let us forget, and this episode gives it to us two-fold. The first is the continued presence of Carrie Kelly. Yes, The Dark Knight Returns favorite has now become canonical in the DC mainstream. She has materialized after Damian's death as the acting and dance instructor no one knew Damian had. She has taken a shine to the youngest Wayne, but suddenly he stopped showing up for his lessons. She's a bit tenacious about finding him, even showing up at Wayne manor, but Bruce wants nothing to do with her, and placates her with the news that Damian has decided to study abroad for the next few years. Carrie throws Bruce's inner demons into turmoil when she reveals Damian took acting classes because he "wanted to know what it would be like to be someone else". It looks like Carrie will be sticking around, as Alfred sees her as a kindred spirit (they can both quote Titus Andronicus), and asks if she would be interested in coming to the mansion a few times a week to take care of Damian's dog, Titus. Here the writers are throwing another potential Robin in our faces, and it makes us wonder what the future of that costume will bring, and how long will it be filled by the absence of Damian. It also has felt like a shoe-in that Harper Row would take the mantle at some point, but Carrie's appearance muddles things a bit, not to mention all the other possibilities.
The second stab of mourning comes when Batman enlists Red Hood to help him take out a cadre of elite snipers in Ethiopia, who were hired by Talia to target Damian during her siege of Gotham. Their dispatching of the snipers feels more like Jason Todd than Bruce Wayne, and clues us in to just how deeply Bruce is grieving. Afterwards, Bruce's further motive is revealed when he takes Jason to the very spot where he was resurrected, with the hope that Jason will finally tell him how he came back to life, and possibly give Bruce a clue to bringing Damian back as well. I haven't read much of Red Hood's exploits in the New 52, but I find it interesting that they are making Jason Todd's reincarnation a mystery, and the fact that he knows how it happened, but considers it the worst day of his life. In the old continuity he was basically shook back to life by an angry, alternate earth, Super Boy petulantly punching the fabric of our dimension, so hopefully it's a bit cleaner this time. The ever rotating cast of Batman and ___ is keeping the book interesting, but I wonder what grand plan awaits...
Avengers #11 (by Johnathan Hickman and Mike Deodato) Marvel's flagship Avengers book may also be its most curious and obtuse. We've been treated to world building alien deities in Ex Nihilo, and a team member who is literally the power of the universe itself. This week Hickman and co. drop the heady sci-fi, and have a select team of Avengers dress to the nines, and do some good old fashioned espionage. AIM has used some of Ex Nihilo's "creation bombs" to develop new types of bio weapons, and it's up to the Avengers' slinkiest and most kung-fu-est to infiltrate a private auction of said weapon prototypes at, where else, a casino. It's an odd mix of characters- Black Widow, Captain Marvel, Shang-Chi, Spider-Woman, Sunspot and Cannonball, but that's exactly why this issue works. It's nice to see some of the lesser known (or lesser powered) characters flex their muscles and take on an important mission. There's a lot of humor mined in this issue, and it's something this book has sorely needed. We can only be presented with so many cosmos-spanning Sci-Fi concepts before we start missing the core elements of our favorite Avengers characters. We want these people to interact, not just stare in awe and wonder.
There's an argument between Black Window and Spider-Woman in this issue that is both hilarious and character defining, and it's something I hope Hickman peppers more throughout the future of this book. It's a tone Brian Michael Bendis has mastered, and the current crop of Avengers writers would do well to keep that in mind. The rest of the fun comes from Carol Danvers playing a mean game of poker (and looking positively kick-ass with that haircut), and the guys making drinking buddies out of AIM scientists. It's not all fun and games- Shang-Chi has a run in with Hydra and their bad boy samurai "Chimera", providing some kung-fu thrills. Speaking of, Mike Deadato's art is never more jaw dropping than in those Shang-Chi scenes. Deodato has somehow gotten even better, and that's saying something. He's streamlined his style to incredible effect, and I would literally recommend picking up this issue if for nothing else than the art. Avengers remains a curious book, but it's good to know it can let its hair down once in awhile.
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.