If you're here in the Panel Discussion programming block, you might be a lapsed comics reader, trying to find a way back to the JLA Satellite. Or you might someone killing time until you pick up your weekly Wednesday pull list. Or maybe you've said goodbye to dozens of longboxes to embrace the promise of digital comics. Whichever it is, you're still interested in the good stuff.
Welcome, then, to the Panel Discussion
Dozen Tentet, where I pick out just-released or out-soon comics that I think are worth paying attention to. Ready? Then, let's meet the sequential art that'll be draining your wallet this week. Be sure to chime in with the books you'll be picking up or that you think everybody should be ready in the comments.
Batman Incorporated #4
Y'know, before the recent developments in Batman Incorporated, Talia Al Gul never felt like a real villain. Oh, sure, she'd team up with Lex Luthor and other archenemies from time to time. But it never seemed as if she was really that agreeable to her father's plans for world domination or that she'd ever leave the side of the Demon's Head to live with Bruce Wayne. That's why this current storyline that pits her against Batman for the soul of their son Damian—who's currently Robin—reads so great. It's as if all the indecision that seemed a part of the character has burned away to reveal a more ruthless version of herself, one that the men in her life never even thought was there. With the psychological attachments she has to her opponents, Talia may have an upper hand on Batman and Ra's Al Ghul that they never had on each other.
I Vampire #13
The best thing about Joshua Hale Fialkov's nosferatu-centric series is how it's rotated on a series of reversals that have found power shift to and from its principal characters in the book. We've seen lead bloodsucker Andrew Bennett go from reluctant vampire hunter to benevolent leader of a nightstalker nation to, as of last issue, something very, very bad. Now his lover Mary—who once lead vampires in a nearly apocalyptic war against humans—is the only chance mankind has against an evil Andrew. And she doesn't have any powers any more. The turnarounds in I Vampire also get at a subtext that's always present in vampire lore, which is how predators run amok become prey for other creatures by virtue of their own excesses. Enough to keep me reading.
I liked the Talons from the Court of Owls crossover as remorseless killing machines, since their singlemindedness made them impressive enemies for Batman and his allies. This series casts a former assassin from the Court of Owls as its heroic lead, in yet another riff on the ol' bad-guy-rebels-against-former-masters plot. However, the writing in this first issue—provided to me early by DC Comics—moves things along well and the art by Guillem March features some nicely dynamic page layouts. What Talon is really going to need to succeed is a milieu and heroic character that feels distinct from similar ones already in play in the crowded DC Universe. Time will tell if writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV will be able to pull it off.
Invincible Iron Man #527
Captain America #19
Incredible Hulk #15
FF #23 These are all books that are either at finales or in the endstages of long, definitive runs by acclaimed creators. Moments like this afford talent the opportunity to not just tie up storylines but also spool out thematic subplots and re-visit characters in a way that could winding up being grandiose. Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca's Iron Man gave us a Tony Stark whose worst enemy was at times his own psychological make-up and Bendis' Avengers worked off an emotionally charged dynamic that made it feel simultaneously more grounded and more cosmic.
Ed Brubaker's work on Captain America did the impossible—killing off an icon, resurrecting Bucky and making readers love him as a replacement Cap and bringing Steve Rogers back—while slyly folding in commentary about how America sees itself and is seen around the world. Jason Aaron's tenure on Incredible Hulk has been shorter than some of these other runs but he's still managed to create a hilariously twisted version of the Banner-vs-Hulk dynamic while still touching on the lonely, sad and dangerous psychological realities at the core of Marvel's strongest hero. And Jonathan Hickman's writing for Fantastic Four and FF has been a poignant exercise in delivering stories that scale emotions up to the point where they feel like universe-changing powers. Together, they all make a strong case as to why it's always better to follow a creator than a character.
Praise be that we get two Brandon Graham comics this week. I've written before about how Graham may be wielding the best imagination in comics. But, if you think I'm just blowing smoke, read the solicitation copy for his newest work:
Old man Prophet's team goes looking for supplies on a city built into the torso of a giant at war with its other body parts. And an old acquaintance.
Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity #1
Sexica and her Werewolf boyfriend Nikoli travel across a sci-fi, fantasy Russia smoking singing cigarettes. Meanwhile the organ hunter Nura is sent out with a severed head and instructions to find its body.
Look: whatever happens inside those comics is likely to have at least a few cool sequences, isn't it? Me, I just want to know what singing cigarettes sound like.