Comics (#SFWApro)

FANTASTIC FOUR: New Departure, New Arrivals by Matt Fraction, Mark Bagley and Mike Allred is an immense amount of fun. The premise is that Reed discovers the cosmic-irradiated molecules in the FF’s bodies are breaking down and sets off on an interdimensional hunt for a cure. Having set up a kind of Xavier Academy for super-children, they recruit Ant-Man, She-Hulk and Medusa to run it while they’re gone—theoretically briefly, but hey, it’s the Fantastic Four, things happen … This has some gloriously odd bits (the android Dragon Man is now one of the Richards’ kids nannies) and the same kind of over-the-top science as New Avengers, but without the pretensions of seriousness. Thumbs up.
HAWKEYE: My Life as a Weapon by Fraction and multiple illustrators didn’t work as well for me: the stories of Hawkeye and Kate Bishop (who’s kind of Hawkeye Jr.) are entertaining but Hawk’s way too laid-back for the central character—I have the same problem with him I did with the Dude in The Big Lebowski.
200px-The_Drowning_01ABE SAPIENS: The Drowning by Mike Mignola and Jason Shaw Alexander (cover by Mignola, rights with current holder) has Abe on his first mission without Hellboy, a routine assignment recovering a dagger from a corpse in a sunken ship. Unfortunately it turns out the dagger has been holding something down there that’s very eager to get to the surface … A good one, very well illustrated, making excellent use of the Hellboy universe mythology.
THE MIDDLEMAN: The Trade Paperback Imperative by Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Les Mcclaine is a faithful adaptation of the script that eventually became the first episode of the TV show, in which a young artist gets recruited by a covert agency dedicated to busting threats nobody else knows exist (in this case, killer mobster gorillas). Which is an old premise, but Grillo-Marxuach executes it wonderfully and weirdly; that said, I’d sooner stick with the TV version.
(Cover by Neal Adams, rights with current holder)
BATMAN ILLUSTRATED BY NEAL ADAMS, Vol. 2 hooked me from the opening text pages, in which Adams discusses how his Bat-art had changed over the course of Vol. 1: Instead of just making him big and buff, he’s tall but lithe, moving like a much shorter man (Bruce Lee was the specific reference)—and as soon as he said it, I could see what he meant. Adams and frequent collaborator Denny O’Neil redefined Batman as a dark, vengeful figure in these stories (the Silver Age Batman had been much lighter and less likely to strike fear into anyone’s heart) though by today’s standards he’s positively a wacky funster. The wonderful “Silent Night of the Batman” for instance has Batman singing carols with the GCPD on Christmas Eve while we see the good that he’s put in motion working on without him. You’d never get away with such a human, ordinary moment now (I’m not sure they’d accept Gotham as anything but a hellhole, even for one night, either). I don’t think that’s an improvement.

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