This week’s Fistful of Comics witnesses the end of a few prevelant comic titles and stories, from Snyder & Capullo’s Dark Knight “Endgame” to Hickman’s epic Avengers/New Avengers (and you can read our thoughts on Morrison’s final chapter of The Multiversity this Monday on The Stash), and the beginning of a ginormous new one: “The Darkseid War”.
We got a pair of real life HOODED bar security dudes reviewing the most famous superheroes on the planet this week, so let’s just get right into it… Shall we?
Desperate Times, desperate measures. Exactly how many times can we see Joker and Batman face off? Is it even possible anymore to find something new and original for these two to tell a compelling story? Good Lord, yes. I was admittedly, incredibly skeptical about this final confrontation that has happened again and again over the years– but I was absolutely thrilled reading the culmination to this masterful arc by Scott Snyder (Wytches, The Wake, American Vampire). “Endgame” ups the stakes, creating a palpable feel of desperation, all with a very satisying blowoff. Not only does it provide good closure to Snyder’s work thus far, it leaves enough open for stories in the future. And that Greg Capullo (Spawn) art! My lord, it’s never been this gruesome. The highlight in my view, however — aside from the entire 27-pages — was Capullo’s slobber-knocking final confrontation. Not for the faint of heart, Bats and Mr. J leave it all on the table and make the reader feel like this is really the end; maybe not quite as visceral and powerful as Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Return‘s Joker/Batman fight, but a very close second, and full of all the riht drama. Climactic, engaging, and very satisfying. There’s arguably never been a better time to be a fan of The Batman.
Ahh… THE DARKSEID WAR! We’ve Done this Before? Right? No? Yes? Just when you thought maybe the Crisis shtick was a thing of the past, and that New 52 was going to bring an end to the Multiverse and sort of simplify things, good old Metron just HAS to show up. Shit’s bound to get real when DC’s version of Marvel’s The Watcher (although he looks exactly like the Inhumans’ Black Bolt) has his worried face on, and that’s what we have here. Metron is spooked, we get a quick re-hash of all the Crisis’ and the general theme of death and rebirth.
With all the previous events, the very fabric of reality has always remained intact, and been able to sustain itself. Only this time, with what Metron has foreseen, the war that is to come will rend reality asunder, and all existence will cease. Anti-Monitor, for actually pretty interesting reasons of his own, wants to kick the crap out of Darkseid, and when has the Despot of Apokolips ever backed down from a war? Things are shaping up to be one helluva fight, one that could (once again) change the scope of the DC Universe!!!!
Hats off to Kevin Maguire (X-Men, Batman: Confidential) and Phil Jimenez (Wonder Woman) for some pretty solid artwork, but I can’t really find myself getting behind DC or Geoff Johns (Aquaman, Batman: Earth One) here. “The Darkseid War” feels like a cash grab and like they’re going to the well one too many times with a tried-and-true story, with big names to lure readers in. Don’t get me wrong, all of the previous Crisis tales have ranged from “good” to “damn good”, and I understand that they’re saying something to the effect of “but this time, THIS time, it’s different!!”; but this Geek Disciple isn’t quite sold. The story in and of itself isn’t bad, but I still can’t really get too excited for the same concept over and over. This, from a guy who doesn’t ever stop playing Destiny… Batman #40 = 5/5 Batarang Shaped Bibles, Embossed with a Smile; Justice League #40 = 2/5 Bibles (but 5/5 Bibles for the Magic Mike inspired Justice League cover for the ladies, or the fellas– if that’s your thing).
This isn’t the The Avengers form of media you expected the Monsignor to review today, huh? Knew I could throw you all in for a loop. It isn’t often I review Marvel titles anymore, either. Ever since Matt Fraction left the company (with two of my favorite titles in the balance, Hawkguy and Future Foundation), I’ve been following but not reviewing. But look: That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m overlooking Jonathan Hickman‘s epic, “universe building” Avengers tales each and every month. His plans set the stage for some really great Marvel stories, at the least some of the very best Avengers comics since Mark Millar had everyone up in arms with a franchise everyone now can’t wait for on the big screen. Sure, Hick’s Avengers can be argued as a bit too methodical, with a lot of planning, and very few organic outcomes.
While I’m not exactly sure whose fastball of the modern day Marvel bullpen hit the catcher’s mit on this one, there couldn’t possibly have been a better explaination for next week’s Secret Wars.
We, as readers, typically despise that last page that “only sets up the next [event]”, but the two final pindrops of Avengers #44 and New Avengers #44 had me going “Ahh. Yeah, now it all makes sense.” And fortunately for noobs and novices, Marvel promises (and Lord knows they’ve made a lot of those) that anyone will be able to jump on Secret Wars and any and all the nifty “past” event one-shots they have planned over the next 5 months. But jumping ahead to the conclusion to the most consistent title of the two, New Avengers #44 opts for more of a deep and rivetting conversation about the End of the World (“As We Know It!”) between Victor Von Doom, Doc Strange, and Molecule Man…
Uh, yeah, that guy. For my tastes, Molecular Man (“lol”) talks too much in this issue, and I’m greatly surprised the Motha Effin’ Metal Faced Doom didn’t slap the taste out of it after panels and panels of ambiguous sci-fi multiverse gibberish. While MnM seems like an OK guy, I swear we saw more of him from Bendis’ run on the title and not Hick’s. That said, Hickman just OWNS Doom. If anything great can come out of Secret Wars 3.0, that would be a standalone Doctor Doom title that doesn’t appeal to small children (remember that one?). He basically owned Hick’s run on the Fantastic Four and, almost out of nowhere, he’s owning this run on New Avengers, too. Regal as always, Doom convinces the other two — and possibly the world — that he’s been right all along. The last few pages prove just as powerful, and it’s moments like these that remind me why Doom is my all-time favorite Marvel villain.
On the other hand, Hickman does an even better job with his heroes. The one issue I’ve had from reading all of Hickman’s work with Marvel over the years is his use of TOO MANY characters. A casual reader who just randomly wants to see what The Avengers (you know, the ones that we’re gonna see on the big screen this weekend) are up to at their local comic shop will likely have their head scratching and their fists clenched with rage when they see unfamiliar heroes like Manifold, Smasher and the Zebra Kids taking up most of their $3.99. With Avengers #44, Hickman produces the battle everyone is hyping up this week next year: Captain America vs. Iron Man…
How he does it is even more impressive, presenting the two biggest icons — since Hollywood Hogan and Sting — face-to-face with inevitable disruption and chaos surrounding them. How Old Man Steve steps up to Tony is the highlight (if you didn’t pay too much mind to the spoiling cover, of course), and the fight, illustrated by longtime Hickman collaborator Stefano Caselli (Secret Warriors) and Kev Walker (Judge Dredd), is one of the comic year’s finest. You’ll be hooked with Caselli’s dynamics from the very first page. Other fantastic moments in the issue include a meeting between Mr. Black Panther and Mr. Black President, Thanos and Maximus having their “Why hasn’t Doom yet already slapped Molecule Man’ moment?”, and Namor the Sub-Mariner gearing up his newly-found Cabal for, of course, a “secret invasion” (of the Ultimate Universe).
My only possible final thoughts? Hickman built this world, and he’s gonna finish it. Longtime readers know that every big comic event can only lead to another, but at least Hickman tied up every dangling thread towards the looming SW (hell, he wrote a book called Secret Warriors!). And, yet, while his 2+ year run on The Avengers and New Avengers hasn’t been the definition of perfection — though far superior to most Big 2 comic runs these days — it will go down as one of the most inventive, most massive, and most important. Just what comes next, after “time ran out” on the Shi’ar invaders and our beloved Doom was consumed “Beyond” reality is this: The 616 and Ultimate U Incursion, and (most importantly to fans of the movies), the latest Civil War-level showdown sets the stage for a BRAND NEW MARVEL U. Whew. Take my money, Hick. Take it all. Avengers #44 = 4.75/5 World Building Bibles; New Avengers #33 = 3.75/5 Madvillainy Sequels.