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Reading few comic books, loving the new Spider-man actor

I’m sorry to say that I didn’t get a lot of comic reading done this week. Here’s the problem: On a regular week, I stay at home to care for my four months old daughter at least two days. On these days I find myself frequently stuck on the couch while bottle feeding her. That’s when I get most of my reading done nowadays. However, the last week and a half my wife stayed at home because she was sick, all the while breast-feeding the baby and letting me get to my work…. So while I got a lot of things done last week, reading comics was put on the back burner…

Keeping that in mind I’m still very glad to have found the time to have read DC’s cosmic crossover from the late ’80’s Cosmic Odyssee, the Walking Dead 87, Daredevil 1, a biography comic about Stephen King, Screamland 2 from Image and the first issue of the most recent arc of Locke and Key: Clockworks… Reviews will be up shortly.

To make up for my straggling comic reading I offer a video of my favourite news coming out of Sandiego Comic Con this weekend. While I was excited by lots of stuff like the Eisners, Brian K. Vaugh’s return to comics, DC preview art from the upcoming reboot and the trailer of the second season of the Walking Dead television series. The following video of an apparent lifelong comic fan rushing the stage just before the panel of the new Spider-man movie left me with a warm feeling and got me pumped for the new film like nothing else I had seen up till now. Enjoy and see you shortly:

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Reviews for week 26: Holy keys to the Flashpoint universe, Batman!

Okay, so as soon as I sat down behind my keyboard to write this first week’s batch of reviews I realized I’ve got a problem. I don’t want to write solemnly about the comics that came out this week, or even the fairly recent ones. Truth is I’m only up to date on a handful of titles, while most books I’m weeks if not months behind on. And whites better than to read a whole slew of issues of the same title back to back?
So that’s what I did this week with Locke and Key: Keys to the Kingdom.

While issue six of Keys to the Kingdom was my absolute favorite of the week, I feel it wouldn’t make any sense to write something about issue six, before reviewing the rest of the series. So my solution is to first review all six issues of Keys to the Kingdom, which was my favorite read of the week, before continuing with the rest of the books.

So without further ado…

Reviews
I finally got around to reading Lock and Key. What I lacked for in timeliness, I made up for in reading speed. After a couple of days I opened the fourth volume: Keys to the Kingdom. While admittedly I had to warm up to the art by Gabriel Rodriguez, Joe Hill’s believable dialogues of the young protagonists sucked me right into the story. Halfway through the second series I suddenly ‘got’ why the art works extremely well with this story. It’s a horror book about children, and the art displays just that: A childlike cheerfulness with a sharp and dangerous edge to it. In the first three volumes the story of the Locke children unfolds. The briefest summary I can give is: ‘Key House mansion has many magical keys, three kids live in the mansion, a dark force is hell-bent on retrieving one such key, luckily the keys have magic properties which the kids can use to wage war against this dark force.’ Dealing with this subject matter, it an amazing feat that the story is more about character interaction than about magic key whacking.

Opening Splash page of Locke and Key. Keys to the Kingdom

The opening splash page of Keys to the Kingdom #4. Bode Locke's imaginary Squadron Strange.

Throughout the previous volumes the readers pulses have been rising as they have seen the bad guy get closer to his/her/its goal one step at a time. What’s worse is that he has taken the form of a cocky teenager who has befriended the kids. In this volume however the plot proverbially thickens as the first cracks show up in the cover of their enemy and things finally come to an ugly confrontation. With their enemy seemingly dead, it appears to the kids that better times are on the horizon. However at the end of this volume, the readers know that things are actually worse than ever.

In closing, some short thoughts: If you don’t care for Calvin and Hobbes you might scratch your head as I did during the first issue. Parts of the story seen from the youngest kid’s perspective are rendered in Calvin and Hobbes style. It fitted wonderfully however. The second issue has some clunky and heavy handed social commentary on racism, which to me felt like the worst and most contrived writing since Locke and Key started. The third issue is suddenly ultra compressed. Wikipedia describes it as 28 issues crammed into one. I agree, while I see how this played out in the overall story arc, as an issue it did not work particularly well. The three final issues however are deep fried comic book gold, nothing to complain there.

Average grades for the whole series based on the issues:
Art: 8.8 Writing: 7.9 overall: 8.2

If you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor: read Locke and Key from IDW. I’ll go and find the first issue of the volume currently being published, Clockworks.

My runner-up is a current single issue, namely Detective Comics #878. With Art by Jock and words by Scott Snyder I don’t think you can go wrong. This continues Dick Grayson‘s stint as Gotham‘s Batman. While Bruce is of gallivanting the world in Batman Inc., Dick is left with the dark streets of Gotham to protect. It’s moody, it’s atmospheric, it’s noir. While the story is very much compelling, with all its twists and turns I have no idea where this is going and why it is taking the route it has. However, I am onboard for the trip!
This issue opens with Dick being captured by pirate villain Tiger Shark, who apparently lets his henchman do all the work, and because of this becomes way more compelling than his name might lead you to believe. Plus there are Killer Wales or Orca’s as I like to call them:

Batman fighting Killer Wale

Without question, Batman struggling in the jaws of a Killer Wale was my favorite panel of this week!

Batman fighting Killer Wales as rendered by Jock, I hope to continue seeing much more of this. Killer Wales are truly terrifying animal, not?
Art: 9 Writing: 8 Overall: 8.5

Also very good was the Walking Dead #86. This goes without mentioning of course. The only real topic of discussion with this series being whether the plots are too horrific, or rely too much on dialogue. However, to me it is the balance between these two ingredients, which can suddenly shift, that makes this series not only a horror comic but also a character study. This issue is a case in point: After some serious  horrifying shit went down the last couple of issues, this is where the characters pick up the pieces and try to get on with their lives. A talk between the main character Rick and the katana wielding Michone poignantly shows the state of emotional breakdown in which these characters find themselves, Michone: ‘…After everything that’s happened, why would I think that — that I could be happy? […] What’s wrong with us?‘ Oh, and there’s also a couple of zombies that get shot trough the head.
Art: 7.5 Writing: 9 Overall: 8.3 

Another great recent Bat-book was Batman Inc. #7, which proves that Batman stories can be fun. Which, I think, was one of Grant Morrison‘s main goals for his long running writing gig on the Bat. In this issue Batman is recruiting in a native American reserve. The local franchise holders on the reserve are Man-of-Bats and his son Red Raven. Without superpowers and without the money of Bruce Wayne it turns out this dynamic duo is pretty much the laughing stock of the reserve. So much so that Red Raven is one step away from quitting as a vigilante. Luckily Bruce arrives for a team up and to open his wallet. I think the following panel shows just why his money was so badly needed:

Great art by Chris Burnham on this one! And it would have scored higher if it would not have been for the typo on page 5. I can’t stand when books (let alone by the Big Two) have typo’s. Aren’t there like at least four people that should have catched this? Anyway:
Art: 8 Writing: 9 Overall: 8.5 …Nah, let’s make that 7.5 

Seeing as this is taking up far too much time and words, quick shots:

Flashpoint Deadman and the Flying Graysons #1                           7.5
Hey look, it’s Dick Grayson being happy with his parents. Let’s just give him his moment, yes? An interesting take on Doctor Fate in the Flashpoint universe shows some mysterious revelations. And very interesting to see the story of what’s left of Europe during the war between Wonder Woman and Aquaman. Plus a beautiful cover by Cliff Chang.
Flashpoint Captain Cold #1                                                                     7.5
So I am guessing this is Scot Kollins his old style? Very painterly and less cartoony? It looks really good and reads well too. Only problem that I totally got my Flashes mixed up. At the end of the book I thought: ‘Didn’t he already die in Flashpoint #2?
Wolverine #9                                                                                              7.5
While I like Acuna‘s art just fine, I always thought it didn’t really fit Wolverine. This issue he changes his stuff up, to almost look like Darwyn Cooke. Short to say, it looks fantastic! Wolverine takes revenge on Mystique for sending him to hell, and Jason Aaron writes it pretty well.
Flashpoint Wonder Woman and the Furies #1                                7.5
The art by Scott Clark is kinda Greg Landish, but way better. While this gives an interesting insight into the conflict between Wonder Woman and Aquaman even Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s great writing chops could not prevent this from feeling rather contrived. Still an entertaining read though…
X-men Legacy #251                                                                                   7.2
In my opinion Mike Carey‘s run on X-men/X-men Legacy is the qualitatively most constant run of any X series in recent years. While he may not always work with the greatest artists and it still remains to be seen where the book matters (ugh… I know) in the greater scheme of the X-universe, Carey really delves into the characters previous continuity and hit’s X-men fanboy gold. This issue shows artist Khoi Pham‘s best work ever. Clean dynamic line art depicts the fight of prof. X, Gambit, Rogue, Magneto, Frenzy and Legion against two of Legion‘s escaped personalities.
Flashpoint Grodd of War                                                                             7
Poor disgruntled Gorilla Grodd rules Africa. But as it is known as the forgotten continent his reign is largely neglected internationally. Seeking an even fight I think he might show up in upcoming issues of Flashpoint proper… While art and story where just fine, I thought the colouring was somewhat off on this one.
 Screamland #1                                                                                              7
One Fantasy Con. One Werewolf. One Creature from the Black Lagoon. One Invisible man. One former Starship captain. One Blob. One vampire. One acting Nazi robot. And one long forgotten sex tape. I mean come on, read it!
Alpha Flight #1                                                                                              7
The first Fear itself tie-in I actually like. While I was very psyched about Eaglesham on this book, they did something (inks/colour maybe?) that makes it look more like a standard superhero comic from the ’90’s than the great artwork I was expecting after having read Captain America and Fantastic Four. Solid writing, good dialogues. Great set-up for tensions between Northstar and Aurora. Seeing as I’m new to Alpha Flight I have no idea who the alien chick is, but the ‘Die human scum’-joke was priceless.
Alpha Flight #0.01                                                                                    6.5
Was this necessary? It was an adequate story, but nothing special. It also did not add much to the set-up for issue 1. Fun read though. 
Avengers #14                                                                                              6.5
This felt really contrived. We still get only one splash page of the blitzkrieg on Washington, however we do get an awesome fight between the bad Thing the Red Hulk. Apparently the Red Hulk dies and Jarvis is very upset about it. I mean come on… The whole structure of this issue, with an interview framing device was set up for something emotional, it worked out however as very cheesy.
Wolverine #10                                                                                            6.5
Not Jason Aaron‘s best work. One villain is called Cannon Foot, he kicks objects at Wolverine. We also find out what the Red Right Hand is, which is pretty cool. The back story of this organization however was not very good. Oh and the artist from the first arc is back. Not pleased with that…
Flashpoint Emperor Aquaman #1                                                         6.5
Aquaman is all brooding and angry and floods Rome. Why? Art looks kinda ’90’s but in a good way. When Merra is decapitated her helmet is empty but her hair sticks out of it, I’m guessing she was bald… An entertaining read but I think I am missing the significance of a lot of things in this. Maybe this is more for the die hard DC fans?
Flashpoint Secret Seven #1                                                                     5.5
I do not believe there was a lot of George Perez in here. And I don’t have enough DC lore in my head to understand what the hell is going on and who all these characters are.
Flashpoint Legion of Doom #1                                                               5.2
At some point in the story Plastic Man makes an appearance, that was the only good part of this comic. This book is filled with all kinds of corny puns on heat and fire, because it revolves around Firestorm and Heatwave. Also there was some wonky sequential storytelling, I will not be picking this up again.

Okay, so the first week. I read 24 books, which I rated on average 7.3. I guess that’s a pretty big week as well as a pretty good week.