Hello, comic-lovers! If you’ve noticed a lack of rambling within the FPI blog, that would be my absence. As much as I detest it, real-life tends to get in the way of my comic-reading adventures and the only chance I get to check out the new releases is in the basement of the shop on my lunch break. However, enough is enough and I have abandoned university coursework to bring you the latest books to hit the shelves (sorry it is several days later than planned, but still some good suggestions in there!). If I fail this semester, you’ve only yourselves to blame…
Death of the Family continues this week with Batman, Batgirl and Suicide Squad all getting in the action. Gail Simone is carrying the torch for fantastic female writers with Batgirl. She pens a compelling Barbara Gordon, whose strength and determination are a delight to read. Batgirl #14 sees Barbara faced with the Joker, struggling to overcome a crippling sense of fear to fulfil her overwhelming desire for revenge. As it turns out, the Joker has a special proposition for her…
Suicide Squad #14 comes complete with one of those fancy Joker-cut covers – which guarantees it being snatched up quickly – and serves as an insight into the relationship between the Joker and Harley. As Harley is quick to discover, he’s no longer the “Mr J” she fondly remembers – he’s back and he knows everything she’s been up to while he’s been gone.
Then there’s the one we’ve all been waiting for: Batman #14. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo prove that #13 was no fluke, by delivering a near-perfect follow-up.
The Joker is appealing to readers because he lacks the typical human emotion that usually holds back our favourite protagonists. There is no real rhyme or reason behind the psychotic stunts he pulls and – because his games are just that, games; played for his amusement and nonchalant to the innocent people hurt in the process – that makes for truly terrifying reading. In this issue, we see Bruce Wayne shut down and Batman take over – simply because it’s the only way that Wayne can even begin to deal with the return of the clown. Last issue, we saw the kidnapping of Alfred – does that mean he knows Batman’s real identity? The Joker certainly seems to think he has everyone in the Bat-family figured out.
Aiming to single out Batman, by illuminating those he is closest to, the Joker provides a disturbing trip down memory lane; reconstructing the evil stunts he pulled the last time he was in Gotham. The fear he provokes in characters that we take for granted as being virtually unmovable is tackled expertly by Snyder. It’s also important to appreciate Capullo’s talent for bringing the Joker to life, especially as the reattachment of his face doesn’t look like the cleanest cosmetic surgery job.
There’s definitely trouble brewing. The Joker has no limits, whereas Bruce Wayne has a team of heroes that he cares deeply about. Commissioner Gordon is used to taking down criminals, but not like this – the usually calm and collected leader of Gotham PD is visibly shaken. What has the cackling villain got up his sleeve and what can anyone possibly do to stop him?
Punk Rock Jesus #5 is on its penultimate issue, which is disappointing as it’s been a consistently great run. Sean Murphy pens and inks a ruthless assault on religion and celebrity culture – centring around a reality television show which claims to have cloned Jesus Christ. Chris, as he prefers to be known, breaks free from his producer-slash-captors and spends his adolescence trying to make people see the corrupt nature of his upbringing by joining a foul-mouth punk band and literally screaming his message to the world. The irony is evident as Chris appears to be using his unwanted celebrity status to preach the absurdity of religion to the world. Meanwhile former-IRA member Thomas, in a promise to Chris’ mother before her death, strives to protect the teenage anarchist – no matter what. This series really hasn’t missed a beat; the pace has been fast and there is plenty to gain from a thorough second reading. If you’ve been sleeping on this, it’s time to wake up.
The gorgeously illustrated Saga #7 from Image Comics also hits the shelves last week. Seven issues in, Saga just doesn’t disappoint. The relationship between Alana and Marko is still as beautifully compelling as ever; as Marko’s parents condemn their partnership, we see a couple whose passion for one another override everything else… even an inter-racial war. It’s original, emotive and unlike anything else you’re reading at the moment.
I want to describe Ame-Comi Girls #2 from DC as my ‘guilty pleasure’ for this week but a) I don’t feel remotely guilty about enjoying it and b) I’ll plan on lying in bed and watching the second half of a Gossip Girl boxset after I finish writing this week’s review. This issue features Batgirl (the first issue starred Wonder Woman) and the art is right up my street. It’s a fun title, I defy anyone to read it and disregard it (grumpy forum members who enjoy having a bee in their bonnet need not apply!). Unsurprisingly, I am also bigging up Marceline and the Scream Queens #5 from Boom. Light-relief and childish humour are severely underrated in comics, I guarantee it will put a big goofy smile on your face at least once.
Of course, this week is all about Marvel NOW. Dedicated FPI shops opened their doors at 8am to welcome over-eager comics get their fix of All New X-Men #1. Have I jumped my admittedly DC-orientated ship? Not quite. I’m a creature of habit and I think I’ll always be a ‘DC girl’. However the Marvel relaunch has captured my interest and I’m prepared to read twice as many comics per week – a selfless sacrifice, I know – so I get the best of both worlds. I mean, have you read Hawkeye – HAVE YOU? (yes, your reviews talked me into it and glad they did, it’s superb! – Joe)
Released last week from Marvel we had the All New X-Men #1 and X-Men Legacy #1. Brian Michael Bendis wastes no time building a fast-paced plot in the former, demonstrating a highly welcomed return to form. Fantastic Four #1, penned by Matt Fraction, flashes ahead a year to hook the reader; the vision is shown to be nothing more than Franklin’s over-active self-conscious… but you can’t help but think that the dream might have been a vision and will become a reality in time… Thor: God of Thunder #1 was also released – although it doesn’t quite move with the pace of its Marvel counterparts.
As always, happy reading.