In 1984, Mike Barr and Michael Golden introduced The Wrath in “The Player on the Other Side,” a first-rate tale about another child orphaned the night the Waynes got shot—but his parents were petty hoods gunned down in self-defense by beat cop James Gordon. Dedicating himself to vengeance, the Wrath is now a professional assassin specializing in cop-killings, and he and Batman are about to come face to face. It’s a classic story, but unfortunately BATMAN: The Wrath reprints a 2010 follow-up story arc by Tony Bedard and Rags Morales in which the Wrath’s counterpart to Robin shows up hungry for revenge on Batman. This is a very poor story that in trying to make the Wrath more realistic (he’s not a mirror image as much as a copycat) makes him much less interesting.
DAYTRIPPER by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba is one where the whole is less than the sum of its parts: the individual accounts of a Brazilian writer who dies over and over again at different points in his life turn out to be an end-of-life dream sequence that really doesn’t add up to much. Frustrating.
WINTER SOLDIER: The Longest Winter by Ed Brubaker and Jackson Guice has Captain America’s resurrected partner Bucky team up with the Black Widow to break up a plot involving Dr. Doom, a deposted Latverian politician and a bunch of leftover Soviet killers. While super-heroes who have to do dirty work in the shadows have become cliche, this is very good (reminiscent of Brubaker’s superhuman-spy thriller Sleeper). Though the emphasis on how Nick Fury and Bucky are still alive and fit after so many years (immortality serum and cryosleep respectively) raises the obvious question of why the Black Widow isn’t in her sixties.
INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK: Agent of SHIELD by Marc Waid and Francis Yu is part of Marvel’s recent revamp-but-not-a-reboot: Realizing he’s never going to cure his alter ego, Bruce Banner offers his services to SHIELD as a super-scientist helping the world, with the Hulk as a super-weapon available when they need one. This feels very much like Marvel wants this in line with the movies, as Bruce has brought the Hulk under control often enough—but conversely he’s been through so many changes over the years, a new set-up doesn’t feel that jarring. Still, this didn’t really grab me, maybe because I’m not a huge Hulk fan.
SUPERGIRL: Candor collects a series of Supergirl adventures in various books, all tied to the Infinity Crisis big event of a few years ago. Unfortunately that means there’s no underlying arc, and as IC was a reality-bending big event, we have people popping in and out, winding up somewhere else, disappearing … the end result is a chaotic, seemingly plotless mess.
DOCTOR STRANGE AND DOCTOR DOOM: Triumph and Torment is an excellent, recently reprinted graphic novel by Roger Stern and Mike Mignola in which Doom manipulates Dr. Strange into helping Doom free his mother’s spirit from Hell (Doom is simply too proud to beg). Visually memorable, and both doctors are handled well. The backups, other than the story this is as sequel too (Doom has been trying to free his mother for years) feel almost like they were picked at random: Another Stern Dr. Strange story in which Doom appears briefly, and a couple of Mike Mignola stories starring Sub-Mariner (much as I like Mignola, his style doesn’t suit Namor). Still well worth getting.
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