In this week’s ‘Panel Discussions’ Anghus Houvouras reviews Superior Foes of Spider-Man #25, All-New X-Men #18, Unity #1, Suicide Squad #25, Manifest Destiny #1 and Batman: The Deal…
Superior Foes of Spider-Man #5
The Sinister Six is down to four members after Boomerang left Shocker for dead in the trunk of a car headed to the bottom of the East River. This D-List helmed cavalcade of crime capers is still one of my favorite books month over month. The fifth issue finally sees the team in action, running through a gauntlet of obstacles in order to recover the head of Silvermane. Though it turns out that might have been a ruse. The actual loot being sought by Boomerang is a painting of Victor Von Doom, the only known image of his true disfigured face. Allegiances are quickly shifting as Boomerang tries to maintain control of a multi-layered game of deceit, one that will no doubt blow up in his face any time now. Between double crossing Shocker, the remaining members of the Sinister Six, and now The Owl, things are looking increasingly complicated. Superior Foes of Spider-Man is such an enjoyable read. The perfect blend of pulpy crime fiction and comedy with just the right amount of self referential meta hijinks.
All-New X-Men #18
Marvel’s mutant themed books have been on an epic journey of insanity since Brian Michael Bendis took over. Time travellers from the past, Time travellers from the future, and an ever expanding roster of new mutants would usually make for a complicated and obtuse read. Somehow these characters seem to work better when everything is spiraling out of control. Chaos works for the X-Men and Bendis apparently is a master of anarchy. After the events of Battle of the Atom, the original five X-Men from the past have decided to follow Kitty Pryde and join Scott Summers’ and his rogue band of Uncanny X-Men. This creates some genuinely hilarious situations, the best of which being a conversation between Magneto and the time travelling Beast who takes a moment to acknowledge just how awkward it is working side by side with the villain who in his timeline was hellbent on killing them.
There are so many great character moments in this issue, as once again this roster benefits from Bendis’ rapid fire cadence. Stuart Immomen’s art is always expressive and really helps sell some of the awkwardly funny moments packed into this issue. All-New X-Men continues to deliver every month.
The resurgence of Valiant Comics caught me totally by surprise. I was there back in the day when Vailaint and Image were challenging Marvel and DC. Back when I was clad in flannel listening to Soundgarden and wasting countless hours on my Super Nintendo. Valiant was always the more cerebral choice. Image has certainly become a more intelligent line of books. Back when they first launched, the titles were about as smart as a box of hammers. Valiant on the other hand was a more reserved line of characters and titles that were less flashy but far more nuanced.
The new Valiant titles have been something of a mixed bag for me. Unity was being pitched as a the first real Valiant event since the titles were repackaged for the 21st Century and also as a kind of jumping on point for new readers, but I’ll be real honest: I felt a little rusty reading the first issue of Unity. Like I needed a primer. Marketing people love to push the idea of ‘jumping on points’, but as someone who left the Valiant fold a long time ago, Unity did little to gear up excitement or ease me back into this universe of characters. I would never be so bold to call it bad, but for a book called ‘Unity’, it lacked cohesion.
Suicide Squad #25
DC’s best guilty pleasure has also been the most entertaining Forever Evil tie in. The members of the Suicide Squad are operating under the new world order of the Crime Syndicate. Amanda Waller is trying to deal with the rapid decay or order in the wake of Earth’s Heroes being defeated. The situation at Belle Reve prison is rapidly deteriorating. Control is a fleeting concept. Meanwhile, the team has been dispatched to and recover the extremely powerful and unpredictable OMAC. Standing in their way is a team of superheroes including Power Girl and Steel.
Suicide Squad is one of the few monthly highlights in a very bleak New 52 line up. The book continues to be a great showcase for the darker side of the DCU. If Forever Evil and Villains Month has taught us anything, it’s that the villains of DC are often times infinitely more interesting than the heroes. Suicide Squad proves that month after month.
Manifest Destiny #1
Image is just killing it this year. So many quality titles coming out each month. Add Manifest Destiny to the list, which marries a great concept by writer Chris Dingess with some unique art by Matthew Roberts. The series takes the alternate history concept into some new territory. Lewis & Clark are making their way out west in search of mysterious and dangerous creatures. Their party is made up of not only explorers but killers and mercenaries looking to be pardoned for their crimes by helping to clear the frontier of potential threats. Image has been a fantastic farm for new ideas and intellectual properties. Manifest Destiny is a great adventure book with a lot of potential and even amid a number of alternate history concepts feels fresh.
Batman: The Deal
Yes, it’s a webcomic. And yes, it’s fan fiction. This brilliantly executed little story has been lighting up the geekosphere this week and getting a lot of mixed reaction. It’s a brutal little endgame scenario once again focused on the thematic connections between Batman and Joker, a relationship that has been explored to a microscopic level by a hundred different writers. And while the scenario is about as fresh as a bucket full of rotten fish, the story by Gerardo Preciado is wonderfully weird and there aren’t enough adjectives to describe my admiration for Daniel Bayliss’ macabre art. The fact that Preciado was able to weave Batman and Bill Hicks together is breathtakingly brilliant. And let’s be honest, this is better than any Batman story DC has put out in 2013.
What have you been reading this week? Let us know in the comments below…
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker. His latest work, the novel My Career Suicide Note, is available from Amazon.