4.18.12 Reviews (Big Two Summer Crossover Edition)
Batman #8 (DC): Night of the Owls officially kicks off, and it’s immediately evident that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are just pouring their hearts into this book, unleashing a story they’ve been setting up since DC’s New 52 began. It’s essentially an extended assault on Wayne Manor by the Talons, and I’ll tell you what… it’s pretty rare that a comic book actually makes me feel nervous. Bruce is simply overwhelmed by the Talons, Alfred is hiding out in the Bat Cave, and ultimately they retreat to an impromptu safe room in order to try and mount a counter-offensive. It’s a very tightly paced issue, as Snyder picks a great moment to pause and end the issue. Capullo really is a master of using shadows and silhouettes, at times bordering the drenched-in-darkness feel of someone like Eduardo Risso on 100 Bullets. At times, he might dip his toe into the waters of style points vs. logic (for example, a metallic bat mounted on the rooftop weathervane of the manor might be a big tipoff for anyone investigating the identity of Batman!), but for the most part I feel like he was simply born to illustrate these characters and this city. Despite a few very minor eyebrow raises like that, this is certainly shaping up to be one of the most memorable runs in franchise history, and is certainly in the (small) upper echelon of great books coming out of the main DCU, err DCNU, err DCNEW52, or whatever the heck the kids are calling it these days. Now, for the price increase of $1 to $3.99 you’re given a “back-up” story penciled by Rafael Albuquerque. Honestly, I could do without the decidedly non-essential passage and would just rather have my dollar back, kthxbye. I mean, Albuquerque is a good enough artist, but the transition in styles is pretty jarring. It’s also not really what I’d call a "back-up" per se, but a direct continuation of what just occurred when it’s not off on a boring tangent about the Gotham City Comptroller. Once Alfred initiated the widespread distress call, I also found it distracting that Batwoman was prominently NOT displayed. I guess that book isn’t participating in this? Grade A-.
Avengers Vs. X-Men #2 (Marvel): As an exercise in outright fanboy stimulation, this thing hits all the right buttons. I’ll get my little quibbles out of the way first with a couple of book-end examples, and then get to the good stuff. First, am I the only one who thought that the fighter jets coming off the SHIELD Helicarrier looked suspiciously like Colonial Vipers launching out of the Battlestar Galactica as it did that freefall move on New Caprica? I am? Oh. Ok. At the end, Thor’s words with the Deep Space Team also smack of Worf piloting the USS Defiant in the Star Trek: First Contact movie, you’ll know ‘em when you see ‘em. Anyway, there are some other pop culture buttons being tapped (like Cap’s advance on the beachhead playing to his WWII roots) and I’m not sure how much of that is deliberate and how much is just so pervasive in pop culture these days that it should be called out as slightly derivative. I have to say, though, that for the most part, Jason Aaron’s scripting is much better than Bendis’ in the preceding issue. Aaron uses wit too, but it’s very subtle, and not annoying like the constant stream of misplaced Bendis Banter™ usually is. He’s also better at these lyrical lines that emphasize the gravitas of the situation, if being a little narration-heavy in the process. John Romita, Jr. (not to mention Laura Martin’s coloring) is a great fit for this series, able to capture the static nobility of these familiar and iconic figures, but also able to deliver the kinetic action scenes. And there are plenty of those fan-pleasing, unbelievably cool match-ups. Off the top of my head, you have Red Hulk vs. Colossus, Luke Cage & Thing vs. Namor, Emma Frost & Magneto vs. Iron Man, Storm Vs. Black Panther, Magik vs. Dr. Strange, and some small throwaway moments that just tickled me, like Warpath vs. Daredevil, or the way Warpath is a brawler always at Scott’s side. It’s probably annoying that Cap and Scott have time to talk in what we’re continually reminded is such a loud manic battle, but the more they do, the more you begin to realize their calcified positions. As they flip between tactical and strategic thinking so that Scott can “protect Hope, at all costs,” you understand that this is a battle of wills, not logic. So if you’re able to suspend that disbelief and just be entertained, I think you’ll like this. Grade A-.