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 #5 (by Brian Michael Bendis and Bryan Hitch) So far I'm happy to say this book has been the anti-crossover. It ships every week, or every other week, and all you need is the story at hand. There's so much that can be explored given the nature of the book's post-Ultron-ocalypse world, but so far there's no need to dig elsewhere to fill in the gaps, and that's incredibly refreshing.
Spoilers ahead for the previous four issues.
So, Ultron took over, most of the world is in shambles, and the super heroes are either dead or in hiding. Sounds about right for a dark future comic tale, and Brian Michael Bendis and Bryan Hitch spare no expense to prove it to you. Hitch delivers widescreen devastation and dejected heroes, Bendis is not afraid to get blood on his hands to show just how dire things actually are. The first issue has Hawkeye (Bro!) rescuing Peter Parker from the underworld scum that have tried to get a foothold in the aftermath. It's a risky gamble, but it pays off. Spidey tells the rest of the heroes in hiding that he was going to be "traded" to Ultron. The idea doesn't make sense, but it's the first glimmer of hope our heroes have had. Luke Cage pretends to have captured She-Hulk, and asks to barter with the robot in hopes to see how Ultron's operation works. Cage and She-Hulk get more than they bargained for when they find out the man behind the curtain in New York is not Ultron, but the Vision, and Ultron is not in the city, in fact, he's not even in the same time, he's controlling everything from the future. She-Hulk is killed, and Cage escapes to warn the others. They retreat to the Savage Land, and encounter Ka-Zar, who gives them yet another glimmer of hope- A Nick Fury safe house, and Nick Fury planned for everything.
Issue #4 really starts to dig into "how far would you go..." question. Our heroes plan to travel into the future (via Dr. Doom's handy time platform) to deal with Ultron, but what if they went into the past and killed Ultron's creator, Hank Pym? Desperate times call for desperate measures, but Nick Fury and Captain America opt for the moral high ground, and take a group to go after Ultron. Wolverine, on the other hand, could care less about morals when the world is at stake, and decides to travel back to eliminate Hanky Pym. This literally sets up a race against time, and I am really curious to see where it goes. Bendis always shines when he tackles the big ideas, but knows how to use his characters to pull them off. This could easily just be a big future battle with sacrifices, and some 11th hour macguffin. But here we're getting two schools of thought racing in two different directions, and all the while the reader is thinking "What would I do in this situation?" It's also nice to see Hank Pym get pushed to the forefront, he is a character that hasn't latched on to the current continuity like Tony Stark or Steve Rodgers. I have a feeling Wolverine may get more than he suspects when he meets Pym in the past, and I can't wait to see what the future of this future looks like when our heroes confront Ultron, I'm betting on a surprise.
Hawkeye #9 (by Matt Fraction and David Aja) Bro, seriously, bro, seeeeriously, you need to be reading this book, bro. Hawkguy is the most character driven book published by the big two, and thanks to this series he has more depth than any two other heroes from either publisher. When he's not an Avenger, Hawkeye is pretty much a regular guy. Sure he is a crackshot with a bow, but he has no actual superpowers. He doesn't brood in a mansion, or get by on his millions, he lives in an apartment in New York, goes to rooftop barbecues, and has problems, particularly when it comes to women. He's a sucker for a girl who is easy on the eyes, and will do questionable things to help them. It's that very weakness that has Clint Barton in a pickle-- he went out on a limb (and more) for a damsel in distress, meanwhile he has pissed off his Ex-Wife (Mockingbird), his "work wife" (Black Widow) and his current girlfriend (Spider Woman), and that's not to mention the track suited Russian mobsters that want him dead. This issue sees Clint have all of that come crashing down on him, and all he wants to do is sleep. When is the last time you saw a super hero finally sign their divorce papers? Or be held accountable for their philandering in a very real way? Or be constantly hounded by pistol wielding guys who only refer to each other as "Bro"? Clint is a good guy at heart, but he's his own worst enemy. Unlike the other down on his luck New York super hero, Spider-Man, Hawkeye isn't always missing connections because of his dedication to his job, or adherence to his coda, he screws up, and he pays the price. The last page of this issue shows just how real that price is, and that's the beauty of this book. It mixes humor, crime, action, relationships and true to life problems into a very mature and rewarding mix. Pick up this book, Bro.
Batman #19 (by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo) SPOILERS BELOW!
Seriously, bro, if you didn't know it was Clayface from the first page then you might need to read more Batman! I'm actually on board for this, as the story as a whole is well told (with a bit too much Clayface exposition), but we need a moratorium on the scene where someone does something unbelievable, only for it to turn out to actually be clayface. No writer could convince me that Batman could get out of robbing a bank, revealing himself to Jim Gordon, shooting Gordon point blank with a shotgun, and then running him over with a motorcycle. There's only one explanation- Clayface. This does, however, beg the question- How is Snyder going to get himself out of this one? Even though it was Clayface these event still did happen... Snyder has me hooked, as always.
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.