Welcome back to Reviews from the Hold Box. Each week, I look at what was in my hold box at my local comics shop. Good or bad, I’ll let you know what I thought of each issue. Along the way, I’ll talk about whatever topics come to mind based on the material reviewed. When I feel I have a bias coloring my review, I’ll note it. Of course, as always for a review column, spoiler warnings are in effect.
Previously in 52:
- Steel grounds his niece from super heroics and suffers from some kind of delusional episode as a result of being secretly injected with Lex Luthor’s new meta-formula. Steel has gained the ability to turn into living steel. Natasha, frustrated at her failure to earn powers, learns this, rebels against her uncle and goes to Lex for “real” powers of her own. When confronted by Steel, she attacks him in a battle across Metropolis that leaves him battered.
- Booster Gold has returned to his capitalistic ways, re-establishing himself as a hero using his knowledge of the future, knowledge which is proving to be imperfect. In his quest for fame and fortune, he’s hired an actor to “play” a super villain and stage a robbery. He also finds the headquarters of Rip Hunter, Time Master. Rip Hunter’s not home, but his notes suggest that something is wrong with time and it’s Booster’s fault. Booster’s machinations have come back to haunt him. Manthrax goes public about the charade when Booster fails to pay him. Ralph Dibny confirms Manthrax’s story. To further push Booster over the edge, a new, altruistic hero called Supernova has been stealing his headlines.
- The Question hires former Gotham detective Renee Montoya to investigate a derelict warehouse, which contains some kind of monsters and futuristic weaponry. The warehouse belongs to an old lover of Montoya’s, Kathy Kane, whom she turns to for answers. The Question reveals that the weapons are part of a move by Intergang to infiltrate Gotham.
- Ralph Dibny, formerly the Elongated Man, is roused from his depression by the mystery of his wife’s grave’s desecration. He has discovered and been deceived by a cult dedicated to Krypton and the deceased Superboy. His quest to track down the cult has led him to Metropolis where he was refused help by Booster Gold and Star City, where he and Green Arrow discover an abandoned cult headquarters containing cloning equipment.
- Black Adam has turned his nation of Kahndaq into a world power, refusing passage through it to other heroes and declaring the rest of the hero community too soft on the villains. He interferes with a Green Lantern incursion into China, siding with China’s heroes the Great Ten. A Mexican standoff occurs with Black Adam and the Great Ten on one side and the Green Lanterns, Hal and John, and Rocket Reds on the other. He speaks of a non-meta interference treaty and a metahuman-based power bloc he is forming with other nations. He has signed up Russia, Egypt, Zandia, China, and several other countries. He continues to be vexed by a female dissident he saved from Intergang, much to his amusement. Black Adam also discovers he is “stuck” as Black Adam.
- Someone is kidnapping “mad” scientists. T.O. Morrow and Will Magnus continue to discuss this and other topics during monthly visits, though recently they are being watched.
- Luthor is cleared of all charges with the discovery of his pan-dimensional duplicate (Alex Luthor) and announces a means of giving anyone super powers. His promise of power to every man has lured several, including Natasha Irons. Luthor has already developed his own super-team.
- Sentinel, Hawkgirl, Bumblebee, Cyborg, Firestorm, Herald, and Red Tornado all return from space injured.
- Animal Man, Starfire, and Adam Strange are stuck in space on an alien planet. They discover a power source strong enough to get their ship off the planet, only to find that it belongs to the new god Devilance, God of the Hunt.
- Clark Kent is on the verge of being fired from the Daily Planet. He secures his job by throwing himself out a window to get an interview with Supernova. It is Clark’s guess that Supernova is an old face behind a new mask, based on his experience.
Another great week for 52. This is the much ballyhooed Batwoman premiere issue. She is used to good effect here, though the main draw is still the banter between Question and Montoya as they take information from Kathy Kane and continue to move up the Intergang food chain with their acquired information. Ralph Dibny bookends the issue with his continued quest to track down the Cult of Conner. I know that a lot of people are clamoring for him to down the Gingold, but Ralph has really shone as a globetrotting detective. Yes, he’s still one step behind, but I get the feeling he’s catching up fast.
“The History of the DC Universe” ends this issue with a tie-in to the Brave New World one-shot. Not enough really to salvage the back-up feature. Luckily, Mark Waid’s two page origin tales start next week.
Annihilation: Nova #4
Written by Dan Abnett; Art by Kev Walker
In this issue, Nova and Quasar try to hold off the wave to allow some refugees to escape.This series managed to save itself here in the last issue by providing a power upgrade for the title character that makes sense, having some impact to the status quo, and presenting a plot that is essentially the “we’ve won the battle, but the war wages on story”. It has been the one series so far that looks like it will have repercussions on Annihilation, and it is the only one that I think might lead someone to check out the larger Annihilation mini-series.
Only two of the Annihilation mini-series really seemed to provide set-up for the Annihilation mini: this one and Nova. This series has chronicled Annihilus’ henchmen’s attempts to track down and kill the Heralds of Galactus and Galactus himself. Thrown into the mix are Thanos and a couple of heretofore-unknown cosmic entities from the universe before. I like Thanos, but I think his inclusion was a mistake. It clouded the issue too much. Other than that intrigue though, all that happened was the Surfer fought the villain to a stalemate for three issues, gets an upgrade from Galactus, then defeats the villain. How this or the vague plans of Thanos and the other cosmic entities will tie into the larger Annihilation series isn’t clear. Note: This title actually shipped the week of 7/12/2006.
Cable and Deadpool #30
Written by Fabian Nicieza; Art by Staz Johnson
Civil War #3
Written by Mark Millar; Art by Steve McNiven
Civil War:X-Men #1
Written by David Hine; Art by Yanick Paquette
Written by Peter David; Art by Dennis Calero
The pro-registration side reaches out for help outside of the proto-typical super-hero community and is rebuffed from all sides. The X-Men find that “being Switzerland” isn’t easy. X-Factor investigations take a stand, and the first fight between Iron Man’s pro-registration team and Captain America’s anti-registration team takes place.
The best issue this week was the Cable and Deadpool tie-in. It was fun, and though not necessarily essential, it gave a unique perspective of two allies who disagree on the issue but try not to let it come between them. Next was the X-Factor issue, which continued to deftly tie not only Civil War but also House of M together. It took this month’s issue to understand why last month’s issue, as the first part of the story, was a Civil War crossover. Civil War was beautifully illustrated but continues to not make much sense other than as eye candy that relies on the tie-ins to explain it. A couple of things that didn’t feel right: Spider-Man’s flippant attitude to Captain America. I would have expected him, and truth be told most of the pro-registration side, to be a little more hesitant to beat down the other heroes once confronted with them. It also strains belief that Captain America’s team is any kind of threat with the forces arrayed against them. The only heavy hitters on his team really are Goliath (easily matched by Yellow Jacket) and Hercules. On the other side? She-Hulk, Thing, Iron Man, Spider-Man, etc. All the real power seems to be on the other side. As for the last page “surprise”, it didn’t do anything for me as it rang false and seemed out of left field.
Finally, we come to Civil War: X-Men. Well-written and well-drawn but editorially a mistake. Most of the other issues and several creator interviews bend over backwards to justify why the X-Men are staying out of it. All of the reasons make sense. So what does Marvel do? Create a mini-series to drag the X-Men into the fray. Talk about schizophrenic. They should have stuck to their public statements and left the X-Men out of this one.
Justice League of America #0
Written by Brad Meltzer; Art by various
Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman form the Justice League and meet every year, despite what is going on in their lives or their involvement with the team, to discuss it. There is some good characterization of the Big Three here, but not much else. This reads like a filler issue designed to illustrate how Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman’s relationships with each other affect the team. There are some good moments here, but I’m not a big fan of the possible future teases. Anyone hoping to get teases as to who will be on the team will be disappointed.
Written by Marc Andreyko; Art by Jesus Saiz
Moments before his verdict is handed down, Dr. Psycho goes on a rampage. If you aren’t reading this book, you really should. The book floundered a little in its first story arc, but it has gotten much better. In addition, this book has benefited the most from the “One Year Later” concept, gaining from it a better focus. A super-hero who is a lawyer has been done, but not a federal lawyer called on to defend those she sometimes helps put away. Definitely check this book out.
Written by Brian K. Vaughan; Art by Adrian Alphona
The resurrected Geoffery Wilder prepares to sacrifice a member of the Runaways while the rest of the team contends with the new Pride. This issue, a Runaway dies. Wow. Hats off to Vaughn. He really threw me for a loop with bringing back the most evil member of the Pride, and he did it again this issue by killing the one member I just knew was safe. Forget New Avengers, Uncanny X-Men, and Fantastic Four. This is the Marvel team book you should be reading.
Written by Daniel Slott; Art by Ron Frenz
She-Hulk has dinner with the Jamesons. Every night, when I go to bed I say a silent prayer that the name Brian Michael Bendis’ will magically be replaced with Dan Slott’s on every title. The man just gets it. He consistently delivers great characterization, fun plots, and continuity that works for those in the know, but he doesn’t confuse those that aren’t in the know. With a Marvel Universe that is becoming less and less fun, his title is a refreshing change.
Xavier’s team breaks into a hidden Shi’ar base on Earth to steal a spaceship. I really wasn’t impressed with X-Men: Deadly Genesis, but I am getting into Brubaker’s Uncanny run. His characterization is dead-on, and he’s using events from previous runs that had me gnashing my teeth (the slaughter of the Grey family) to build some compelling motivation. My only quibble is that we’ve talked about the Shi’ar for a couple of issues, let’s see what they are doing. However, we are only two issues into the story, so that quibble will probably be addressed next month.
That’s it for this week! Next week, I hope to have a few independent (or at least non-super) titles to look at. See you then!