It’s happened – Jackson has gotten his chance to rule over the pull list solo. It was probably inevitable, but his opinions are the only ones that matter this week. Check out how issues Inferno #4 and Batman Annual #4 let him down, while Superman #44 revealed his surprisingly strong feelings on Superman’s hair.
Let us know what you think in the comments!
Author: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Javier Garrón
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Marvel’s Secret Wars event has been, if anything, a complicated look at the way the company views its own history. For so many of the companion miniseries based on past comics events, the company has had an opportunity to dip back into the past and take a look at classic stories from a more modern perspective. Most writers have used those old settings as a jumping-off point, like last week’s Years of Future Past, Brian Michael Bendis’ Old Man Logan or the post-apocalyptic take on Civil War. Others, like Inferno do little more than revel in nostalgia.
This week’s Inferno #4 is an homage to the ‘80s most goth event, when Magik’s control of her dark side and Maddie Pryor’s rage ran into the wrath of Mr. Sinister. It was a story line that had been building for years, requiring an extensive knowledge of what was happening in four different X-Men comics to understand the situation. The Secret Wars update doesn’t so much change the rules of Inferno but just moves the timeline forward. In this reality, the Darkchilde controls Manhattan and is opposed by the remaining X-Men and a guerilla fighting force led by the Goblin Queen.
In this series’ final issue, Colossus finally is forced to confront what his sister has become and the squabbling over who will lead Manhattan is decided. It’s mostly perfunctory though. Writer Dennis Hopeless is clearly in love with this era of X-Men and is more interested in playing with visuals and classic characters than in shining a different light on the characters and world. That’s fine but readers shouldn’t expect anything new from this series or anything. Artist Javier Garrón the only significant change to the story with his cartoonish line-work but your enjoyment of Inferno is going to solely depend on your own nostalgia. Even as someone obsessed with this era and Magik as a character, there’s just not much to recommend here.
Author: James Tynion IV
Artist: Roge Antonio
Publisher: DC Comics
Batman Annual #4 is an odd duck, even at a time when Batman as a franchise is in an odd place. More of a spiritual finale for the recently canceled, little read Arkham Manor, this issue brings Bruce and his new love, Julie Madison, back to Wayne Manor to meet with Alfred after the last of the Arkhamites are transferred to Blackgate as the Asylum is rebuilt. After his mind was wiped at the end of the “Endgame” story, Bruce’s relationship with the manor, Alfred, and his former home’s secrets are considerably more complex than they previously have been and those are only more complicated when it’s revealed that the group have walked into a trap set by Mr. Freeze, Riddler, and Clayface.
James Tynion IV has been set as something of Scott Snyder’s second-hand man when it comes to Batman and here, Tynion puts the protagonist through a Die Hard inspired psychological and physical gauntlet. Riddler is primarily targeting and challenging Bruce for his relationship with Batman Incorporated as well as his past and the book comes right up to the line of maybe revealing that Riddler has learned Batman’s identity during his time in the manor. Tynion doesn’t come quite to that precipice but his conclusions are, well, a little on the surface. Having characters comment that Bruce Wayne is as insane as the villains who haunt Gotham isn’t exactly freshly trod territory and Tynion doesn’t exactly shine a new light here. His analysis of Bruce’s role in Batman’s war is interesting but not iluminating and his fascination with having Bruce wield a gun isn’t as shocking as he seems to think it is.
The real star is here is Roge Antonio, an incredibly new artist who’s previously only drawn a handful of issues, who does an excellent, slightly horror inspired job here. His line work is familiar to anyone who’s followed Rafael Albuquerque, Shawn Crystal or Declan Shalvey but he uses an unconventional, Stewart Immonen inspired panel layout that gives his horror-inspired art a wide-screen, action movie feel. It’s an interesting, not always successful style. There are a lot of dutch angles that don’t add much other than a touch of nausea and some of his details are a bit distracting. Still, it’s interesting to see and it’s wildly more successful than his last effort on Batman Annual #3. In an issue filled with story beats that will be achingly familiar to longtime Batman readers, seeing a new artist deliver in a big way here may be the best reason to pick this one up.
Author: Gene Luen Yang
Artist: John Romita Jr.
Publisher: DC Comics
After months of teasing exactly how it was that Superman’s identity was leaked to the world, creators Gene Luen Yang and John Romita Jr. now have to actually deal with the consequences in this week’s Superman #44. Here, they decide to deal with the fallout with page after page of bone-crunching action and there are few people who can draw a desperate, back-to-the-ropes Superman like John Romita Jr. There are some visceral fights in this issue that will stick with readers for months. A fight between the Royal Flush Gang and an enraged Clark Kent is bloody, brutal and, frankly, fucking awesome. Yang does a great job never quite letting Clark’s rage overcome the character’s innate goodness but he knows that this is an issue when Superman shouldn’t be pulling punches.
Those emotional punches aren’t pulled either. After a fight at the Daily Planet, Perry, Lois, and Clark have a moment that is genuinely going to hurt for a lot of longtime Superman fans and the way Lang and Romita handle Clark’s transformation into a down-and-dirty shaved-headed Superman is intensely personal and maybe the most heartbreaking haircut in comics. That sounds silly and, yeah, maybe it is, but if that S-shaped curl in Superman’s hair means as much to me as it does to you, just see how you feel by issue’s end.
Yang and Romita haven’t gotten enough attention for their run on Superman as it’s been slightly overshadowed by Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder’s great, long run on Action Comics, but that shouldn’t sway fans and new Superman readers from picking this one up. This is genuinely one of the best times to be reading Superman comics since John Byrne’s Man of Steel run in the ‘80s and this book is one that absolutely should not be missed.