The pick of the list is ASTRO CITY: Tarnished Angel by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson. Carl “Steeljack” Donewicz is a B-list supervillain who’s out on parole, trying to stay clean, but the families of Astro City’s other B-listers recruit him to find out who’s killing supercrooks (Golden Gloves, the Chain, etc.). Can a screwup like Steeljack finally do something right? Will he even try? The arc works well but Busiek squeezes two unrelated stories into the arc, one concerning British supercrooks, one dealing with a 1970s Latino hero, El Hombre (this one’s actually relevant, but I don’t buy the guy has any reason to invite Carl into his flashback booth). Those drag down the overall quality
I wasn’t a huge fan of the 1980s Suicide Squad series, but no question it was well executed (just not to my taste). I was a lot less impressed with Rob Williams’ SUICIDE SQUAD: Burning Down the House (illustrated by various artists). This mess of conspiracies and elaborate backup plans, mixed in with the New 52 version of the Squad’s old foes the Jihad, just doesn’t catch fire — and Deadshot’s outfit looks like he swiped it from one of Marvel’s Celestials. John Ostrander, who wrote the 1980s series, does much better in the final story, but it tried too hard to have it both ways (simultaneously grim and gritty while giving the bad guy what he deserves).
A-FORCE: Warzones by G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennett interested me for its all female cast. I’d have been less interested if I’d known it was set during the recent Secret Wars event because big event spinoffs rarely work after the fact. Sure enough, the fun cast interactions bog down in all the Battleworld geopolitics which I doubt I’d have cared about even reading it at the time.
DEATHSTROKE: Twilight by Christopher J. Priest works no better for me than the previous two TPBs did (a good example of being more interested in the character in my head than on the page). A newly blinded Slade gets involved in various international schemes, but they’re less dramatic than all the sturm and angst involving his kids Rose and Joseph. Despite some good reviews, Priest, as usual, falls flat for me (his Black Panther run excepted).
AQUAMAN: The Drowning by Dan Abnett and multiple artists is weaker than I expected given I enjoyed Vols. 2 and 3 a lot. In setting up the political struggles (Aquaman tries to make nice with the US, Atlanteans resent him kow-towing to surface dwellers), this gets very, very talky. It didn’t help that Geoff Johns’ run retconned a tragic dead parent (Johns loves those) onto Aquaman’s history, something Abnett apparently feels he resolved here (it doesn’t come up again in 2 and 3). Not bad, just mediocre.
#SFWApro. Cover by Alex Ross, all rights to image remain with current holder.