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Batwoman #14 (DC): Batwoman continues her team-up with Wonder Woman, on the trail of missing children at the hands of Medusa. Their decent into the Greek underworld takes them to Pegasus, the son of Medusa. Williams’ does a tremendous job depicting Wonder Woman and Batwoman playing off of each other as aspects of “light” and “dark,” while they admire each other for completely different reasons. We see a still-slightly-awestruck Kate and a vulnerable side to Diana, which had me scribbling in my notes that this is the best portrayal of Diana that I maybe have ever seen, and it’s not even her book! Williams’ layouts are, at times, the experimental variety he used in Promethea and are, for me, at their best when he’s using things like the Roman Key design on inset panels during the two-page forensic analysis spreads. JH Williams III is just on a different plane of artistic existence, visually stunning and a joy to behold for how it’s completely not like anything else out there. 20 or 30 years from now, our kids are going to look back at his oeuvre like we looked at Steranko, or any number of others who atypically revolutionized the medium. No disrespect to Snyder and Capullo over on Batman (which is a fine, fine book, probably the only other success for me in The New 52), but this is actually the book everyone should be talking about. It was also nice of DC to push all the ads to the very back for an uninterrupted reading experience. Grade A+.
Ultimate Comics: X-Men #18.1 (Marvel): Filipe Andrade’s art strikes me as some kind of Danijel Zezelj / Brett Weldele hybrid with sharp angular lines that still manage to have a welcoming warmth to them. The issue is framed around a Kitty Pryde interrogation / detention / debriefing scene and it has a very cinematic flair to it. The story is told in flashback as she relays it in an effort to shape the “official record” of events, which is highly subject to narrative spin. This somewhat standalone issue is very charged with familiar Wood language of insurgencies and displaced militant forces. The core incident with Paige Guthrie is a startling event that rings with real world relevance, not to mention the slick two-page spread that accompanies it. It’s a closed room character study about Kitty as a Professor X, with someone like Nomi acting as possible Magneto archetype, and by the end Kitty realizes that she may have ostensibly won the war, but lost the point. If ever there was a question as to why Brian Wood should be paired with a property like X-Men during his work-for-hire sorties, here you go. It’s the best issue of the series to date and serves as a primer for potential newbies about the concepts he’s working with. Grade A.
Clone #1 (Image): I’m not sure if this is a mini-series or an ongoing, but it’s an impressive debut from David Schulner and Juan Jose Ryp. I’ve long been a fan of Ryp’s explosive and detailed art, so it’s the type of book that I’d almost pick up for that alone. But, TV writer David Schulner comes charging out of the gate with his first comic book and really made me take notice. There’s no exposition whatsoever about the larger plot machinations, which I think some people will find challenging, but I loved it. Just when you think it’s getting perhaps a little too obtuse or coy, Schulner knows right when to pull the trigger on the script side so that you have some idea of what’s happening, but still no idea why. It’s a strong hook for the first time comic scribe, about, well, the titular clones and literally confronting different versions of yourself. By the time I got to “biodegradable film with time release coagulants” I felt like I was reading some Warren Ellis. PS – Neither here nor there, but if I had a magic wand I’d still create a JLA book by Warren Ellis and Juan Jose Ryp. Anyway, Clone is one of those debuts that makes me happy to be reading comics, the surprise find you don’t see coming that reaffirms your faith in the medium. Grade A-.
Captain America #1 (Marvel): Yeah, I caved and basically picked this up solely for the Dean White art, which is phenomenal, particularly with stuff like the lighting as the B-52 plunges down toward NYC. I think Remender tries his best to offer something slightly new here. I did enjoy the pulpy adventure vibe to the whole thing, but the generic villains up front just feel really bland, and the revealed villain at the end (complete with inconsequential Bond contraption) just feels like really tired rehash. The origins of Steve’s family and the push to modernize him with Sharon Carter flirtation and proposals is admirable, revisionist poking at both past and possible future, but for me the whiff of attempting to alter the status quo just played awkward. Amid the expositional voiceover permeating the majority of the book, there are some awkwardly constructed lines as well, such as “Okay, distant… what’s bothering you?” Really, how many times have you ever called someone “distant,” but as a proper noun?! Weird. There are also some noticeably off art transitions. Steve is in his suit for the date and then I guess when he’s out cold, the bad guys changed him into his Cap uniform(?). Later, I guess shirtless Steve found time to don the rest of his uniform on his way down during a multi-story fall(?). This has the potential to develop, I suppose, but not enough of a hook to keep me coming back monthly. With apologies to the astounding Dean White on color, for 50% off the first trade at a con, I’ll see how it pans out. Grade B.