Amazing Spider-Man #592 (Marvel Comics)
by Mark Waid, Mike McKone & Andy Lanning
Best ending to a Spider-Man comic. Ever. OK, maybe I’m overstating it, but man, it was a riot. And everything about this issue seems to revolve around the more extreme, goofy elements in Spider-Man’s world. Mark Waid focuses his attention on the enmity between the title character and ex-newspaper publisher turned New York City Mayor J. Jonah Jameson. Now, I have to admit that I was much more impressed with Brian Michael Bendis’s take on the character recently in Ultimate Spider-Man, but Waid celebrates the stubbornness of the classic take on the character here. One can’t help but be entertained, especially by Spidey’s determination to aggravate his old nemesis. There’s a lot in this script that doesn’t make sense — Peter’s easy acceptance that his life didn’t seem to go off the rails after a two-month absence, for example — but the writing is so much fun, you really won’t notice or care all that much.
Mike McKone’s take on Spider-Man here has the kind of energy and enthusiasm we’ve seen in the past when artists such as John Romita Sr. and the late Mike Wieringo brought the character to life on the page. The one visual element in the book that didn’t quite work for me was the rather ordinary look of JJJ’s mayoral office; I’d expected something more opulent and official in appearance. Also disappointing is the cover art. The regular cover, by Joe Quesada, is too dark and intense in tone as compared to the lighter feel found within, and the “Wolverine Art Appreciation” variant cover has absolutely nothing to do with this story or the title character. Of course, I would imagine that’s true of all the various variant covers adorning Marvel’s titles this month. 7/10
Detective Comics #853 (DC Comics)
by Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert & Scott Williams
Again, I have to give Andy Kubert a lot of credit for mimicking so many different visuals styles and eras of the Batman for this special two-part story. In this concluding chapter, there are moments that remind the reader of the styles of such artists as Neal Adams, Jim Aparo, Dick Sprang and so many more. At the same time, he maintains a surprisingly level of consistency throughout the entire issue.
Gaiman pulled off a nice little bit of misdirection in the first part of this story, and it was just based on who he is as a writer. An unseen female figure speaks with the Batman’s spirit throughout the story, and it was logical for the reader to assume it might be the cute goth version of Death that Gaiman created as part of the world of Sandman in the 1980s and 1990s. the female figure proves to be someone else, and her appearance and role in the story are just as logical… moreso, really. The best thing about this story is that it’s completely unconnected to “Batman R.I.P.,” Final Crisis, Blackest Night or any other DC event. Instead, Gaiman’s story is about all incarnations of the Batman and how much they differ, but it’s also about how each and every take on the Dark Knight is the same in a number of key ways, the most important of which is the drive never to give up no matter how hopeless the situation may be. Gaiman posits there’s only one possible ending for the Batman story, though the endings can vary as much as the incarnations of the character. Mind you, Gaiman’s approach to this point is surprisingly straightforward and matter of fact in tone. I would have expected something more nebulous and symbolic from this particular writer. 7/10
New Avengers #52 (Marvel Comics)
by Brian Michael Bendis, Billy Tan, Chris Bachalo, Matt Banning & Tim Townsend
The new storyline about the vacant Sorcerer Supreme position and the Hood has brought a fresh new feel to this title, one that’s fortunately not entrenched in previous or current event-driven storylines. Sure, this is labelled as a “Dark Reign” tie-in, and elements from that storyline are mentioned here. But for the most part, Bendis’s plot holds up well on its own. The script is accessible, even though there’s a lot of Marvel history coming into play here. I love the desperation, tempered with determination, that peppers Dr. Strange’s voice in this comic book. More importantly, Bendis is delivering a surprising effective look inside the character of the Hood, the most effective since writer Brian J. Vaughan first created the rogue a few years ago. The connection between the Hood and Madame Masque, only hinted at before this point, is quite convincing, and the glimpse we got here left me wanting more. Unfortunately, Bendis’s dialogue is awkward and distracting at times. It’s clear he’s aiming for a genuine tone with the repetitive bits, and sometimes, it works. This isn’t one of those times. The long, tedious debate that finally leads to Doc Strange accepting the Avengers’ help just didn’t ring true.
Once again, there’s a split approach with the art, and it works in this context. The mystical battle sequences are illustrated by Chris Bachalo, who delivers some of his strongest work in recent memory. Of course, the strength of Bachalo’s work here simply emphasizes the comparative weakness of Billy Tan’s art, which serves to bring the Avengers scenes to life. Those scenes are so conversational, and the dominant tone is meant to be one of reassurance, of friendship. Tan’s style just isn’t suited to conveying softer moments. 6/10