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!
Batman Inc. #8 (by Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham and Jason Masters)
Grant Morrison has always been hit or miss for me (why do I seem to be saying this a lot...). sometimes his stories knock me on my ass with their originality, and weight. Yet other times he is so obsessed with being obtuse he gets in the way of his own story. Broken narratives and out of context bits of dialogue can be very effective, but when they literally become a barrier between you and the characters/story, then it's a problem. How interesting then that we have an issue that promises the death of a major character, an event that needs to make us give a damn.
Grant Morrison is closing out his long run on Batman, which started pre-New 52, in the pages of Batman Inc. (a book he created). The cover of this issue brings back a familiar Grant Morrison Batman concept- R.I.P., only this time it refers to Robin, AKA Damian Wayne. I've actually always liked Damian. Sure he's cocky, but you always got the sense he truly did want to clean up Gotham and follow in his father's footsteps. He just had his own ideas on how to go about doing it. Every time Damian would launch into battle it always brought a smile to my face, because he was guaranteed to be underestimated, and he would dispatch the non believers with a deadly quickness. You got the sense that once he reaches full maturity, even Batman couldn't take him. Oddly enough, that's part of his undoing.
Even if you aren't caught up on Batman Inc. there's enough to keep your eyeballs glued to the page as the stakes of the situation are palpable. Talia Al Ghul and her Leviathan cult are trying to take over the world, and she has ensconced herself at the top of Wayne tower with The Heretic, an adult clone of Damian, and Batman himself locked in a safe at the bottom of a swimming pool. It's one of those issues that you read with a growing sense of unease, because you know a character is going to die, so you over analyze everything they say or do. Morrison's action packed story holds up to that level of scrutiny, and he even throws in a few moments that may even break your heart. Damian telling Nightwing he thinks they make the best possible team is a very touching nod to their time together in the pages of the pre-New 52 Batman and Robin.
Damian's last stand is one for the ages. Artist Chris Burnham puts together a page you will never forget, and the two page splash that closes the issue is an early nominee for best layout of the year, it's simply stunning. Of course, this is comics, where death has a very different meaning. Damian's family even has a Lazarus pit always ready to go for occasions just like this. We all know it's not permanent, but Morrison and co. give us a story that is fitting for one that is. It's been a long strange trip with Morrison on Batman (the New 52 jump makes it even weirder), but I am going to really enjoy these last few issues, and I may even miss Morrison when it's all said and done.
Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1 (by Brian Michael Bendis, Steve McNiven and John Dell)
I mentioned last week in my Nova review that cosmic Marvel was the new hotness, and this week we have the prelude to the all new Guardians of the Galaxy to back that up. Yes, there is a upcoming movie that somewhat dictates why everyone is getting all cosmic. And yes, that normally could give me pause, but there's too much talent involved this time, and the thought of a cosmic era has me very excited.
Both Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy open with the image of a star field, as if it's our POV, looking up to the vastness of space until these characters and stories come into focus. What we catch a glimpse of in this issue is the origin of Peter Quill, AKA Starlord. Writer Brian Michael Bendis has admitted in the past that Peter Quell has a fairly standard origin, so the question here is- can he make that compelling? The answer is a resounding "yes". Bendis doesn't try to reinvent the Starlord wheel, instead he tries to give it some depth, and make us care. J'Son of Spartax is basically the man who fell to earth. An alien warrior stranded in rural America. He is nursed back to heath by a woman named Meredith Quill, and as he spends the next few weeks trying to repair his star ship, he also falls for the earth girl. Once his ship is complete he has no choice but to return to the galactic fray, but he would truly rather stay. Fast forward 10 years, and Meredith is a single mother, her son, Peter, is a good boy, but his absent father, who might as well be made up in his eyes, is obviously taking its toll. I won't spoil the connective tissue, but by the book's end we have moved to present day, and Peter Quill, now the fully realized Starlord, is a confident leader, so much so that he even convinces Tony Stark to don a new cosmic suit of armor and join the Guardians. Some may cry foul at shoe horning Iron Man into the book, but it makes sense, as he is the link between the Guardians and the rest of the Marvel U. Plus, that new armor looks bloody sweet!
As always, Bendis proves he knows how to tell a thrilling story, and make us wish the next issue was only a week away. Origin stories have a high probability of being dull or derivative, but Guardians of the Galaxy moves at a pace that commands your attention. Bendis' mastery of visual storytelling is on full display, the panels speak more than words, and we believe the stranger in a strange land would fall for this woman after only a few pages. This is also due to Steve McNiven's clean and expressive art. He has a lot of responsibility in this issue, some pages have no dialogue at all, and he handles all of it with ease. He structures his layouts so the big moments get the space to have an impact, and the passage of time feels right.
I didn't realize this "point one" issue would be so important, but it is a must read if you are planning to join in Marvel's cosmic adventures. It's also an interesting companion to last week's Nova #1. Both heroes have absent fathers who answered the galaxy's call, and I have a feeling they will make an interesting crux for Marvel cosmic.
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.