After several weeks of spending all my comic reading time working my way through Preacher I thought I should get to work on the ever-growing to-read pile. (Preacher, by the way, for those of you like me who had not got round to it, is well worth reading!)
BLACK WIDOW #1
SCRIPT – CHRIS SAMNEE & MARK WAID
ART – CHRIS SAMNEE
The Daredevil team of Waid and Samnee reteam for this new Black Widow book. For me Black Widow has always been primarily a supporting character turning up in books like Daredevil. I read a few issues of the last Widow series (featuring the lovely art of Phil Noto) and there was a great issue of Secret Avengers by Warren Ellis and Alex Maleev in which she took the lead, but overall she is not a character I know very well. By the end of this first issue, that’s still the case. Samnee’s art is amazing, as always, but this first issue is essentially one big chase/action scene, feeling like the comic book equivalent of a James Bond movie prologue: it looks great and gives you a feel for what’s to come, but there’s no time for serious character building. Which is cool. It just means that in this issue, in which Black Widow utters just two words, that you are along for the visually impressive ride and not much more. It’s a heck of a ride though, and I’m sure that, with this team, a lot more will come shortly.
SCRIPT – WARREN ELLIS
ART – GERARDO ZAFFINO with ANTONIO FUSO
Also from Marvel is the long delayed second issue of Karnak. Before Issue 1, Karnak was a character I knew zero about, but as with Waid and Samnee, an Ellis book is one I’m going to check out, even if I know nothing about the lead. Karnak #2 is fun, but like Black Widow (more so, even) you’d better not be here for the script, because this issue is essentially one long fight scene. A very well drawn one, but not much more.
JAMES BOND 007 – VARGR #1-4
SCRIPT – WARREN ELLIS
ART – JASON MASTERS
Like I said, I’ll try anything that Ellis is doing, and in this case it meant breaking my (admittedly not set in stone) rule about reading licenced comics. All I can say is that, four issues in, Ellis fans, Bond fans, and comics fans in general should give this book a shot. (It’s set in the present day, but feels more like it’s set in it’s own world – one closer to the books than the films.)
Now, I’ve only read some of the Bond short stories, but compared with the film equivalent, I’d have to say this is probably the most interesting version of the character I’ve seen in some time. Largely because he feels like an actual character and not just an action hero. This Bond is still a badass, and his mission, which finds him uncovering a bigger mystery while hunting down the source of some bad drugs, involves him brutally murdering anyone who crosses him. But he doesn’t always make it look easy. He gets hurt, worn down and scared in the process. The quieter moments also help: like Bond chatting with Tanner or having a coffee with fellow agents.
SCRIPT – WARREN ELLIS
ART – DECLAN SHALVEY
Finally from Ellis is Injection Issue 7 – the second part of the second arc – which finds Headland continue his investigation into murder and ghosts. Another fun issue, it also starts to bring the cast closer together, as so far they have only been seen together in flashback. Shalvey’s art, by the way, is ace.
JUDGE DREDD – CITY ZERO #3
SCRIPT – ULISES FARINAS & ERICK FREITAS
ART – DAN MCDAID
The first two issues set things up so this third issue moves a little faster. By the end, Dredd heads off looking for answers, starting to feel more like the lead in his own book than before. I like McDaid’s art, which really suits the book and the script is faster paced, though it still retains some of the problems that the first issue had: namely characters monologuing too much.
SUPERMAN – AMERICAN ALIEN #4
SCRIPT- MAX LANDIS
ART – JAE LEE
After a slight misstep, Issue 4 is a return to form. This issue finds Clark Kent in Metropolis. Part of a student group, that also includes Lois Lane, Clark finds himself covering a business summit attended by Oliver Queen, Bruce Wayne, and Lex Luthor.
Reuniting with Oliver, who mistook him for Bruce Wayne in the last issue, Clark finds his way into the summit where he meets Luthor for the first time. This is a great scene where Luthor lets us see his world view.
Later Clarke meets the young Dick Grayson, ward of Bruce Wayne. This, along with the events of last issue, attracts the attention of Bruce, in the form of Batman. It’s a great little scene, with Batman knowing there is more to Clark than meets the eye and Clark unmasking Bruce who is in no way prepared for someone like Clark. It’s a better first meeting between the two than has been shown before and it leads into another great scene. Contacted by Lois about collaborating on the story, Clark goes up to the roof and pulls on Batman’s cape. The whole issue comes together beautifully, especially with Lee’s art, which I think is the best it’s ever been. I often feel his art, while always lovely, can be a little dark and painterly. Here it’s bright and light, a lot sketchier than usual and it looks amazing. I’m not a huge Superman fan, but I’ve really been enjoying this book and this may be the best issue yet.
THE SHERIFF OF BABYLON
SCRIPT – TOM KING
ART – MITCH GERADS
Finally, the Sheriff of Babylon. This is surely the best book of the last few months. A crime series set in the The American-controlled Green Zone in Baghdad post-invasion, it finds former cop turned Iraqi police trainer, Christopher, working with local cop, Nassir, to solve the murder of one of his trainees.
Connecting them both is the mysterious Sofia, an Iraqi recently returned from America. The script, by former CIA agent King is excellent and Gerads’ art is every bit its equal. With each issue the tension rises as the mystery gets deeper and more tangled, but as strong as the mystery is, it’s the three great central characters that really stand out.
Initially planned as an eight issue mini-series the book has apparently been upgraded to an ongoing, which is great news if King and Gerads can maintain this quality. Only four issues in and already a serious contender for book of the year.