In a tight economy, it's not always clear what you should spend your hard-earned money on, and with comic books getting more and more expensive, your dollar doesn’t go as far at the comic shop as it did in the past. We here at Complex feel your pain, so we're providing you with a rundown of the best comics coming out on December 7, 2011.
Reviews by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)
What it’s about: In 1971, Marvel decided to bring some of the company's most underappreciated characters into one offbeat team of outsiders called The Defenders. Featuring the Hulk, Namor, Doctor Strange, and the Silver Surfer, the Defenders differed from the Avengers by acting away from the public eye and fighting off supernatural and occult threats. But as the series went on, the roster of heroes began to change, and the book soon lost the charm that made it so popular in the beginning.
Now Marvel is trying its hand again at the team by relaunching The Defenders with writer Matt Fraction and artist Terry Dodson. Consisting of Doctor Strange, Namor, the Red She-Hulk, the Silver Surfer, and Iron Fist, this new incarnation begin to take shape in this debut issue as Strange stumbles upon a supernatural threat that's tied into Fraction’s Fear Itself.
Even though this book spins directly out of Fear Itself, it isn’t necessary to have read that story in order to enjoy this. Fraction has more than proven himself as one of the premiere writers in the business as long as he has editorial freedom, and Terry Dodson, despite being late with his art at times, is still one of Marvel's best image-providers.
Much like DC is doing with its current "New 52" slate, Marvel’s recent reboots have been very impressive. It remains to be seen if this new Defenders title can match the quality of Daredevil’s recent relaunch, but, with the talent involved, we wouldn’t be surprised if its a success.
Action Comics #4
What it’s about: Whether people want to admit it or not, Superman has been on life-support for over a decade now. Between failed movies and less-than-stellar comics, the Man of Steel has become nothing more than a corporate mascot with very little creative support behind him. Thankfully, Grant Morrison shed that notion when he took over the writing duties on Action Comics after it was relaunched this September.
By injecting social commentary and vulnerability into the book, Morrison has done the unthinkable: He's made Superman relevant again. Sporting an updated supporting cast and an actual personality, Supes has re-solidified himself as Earth’s savior and DC’s most important hero.
What to expect this month: The early days of Superman continue as a wary public and police force is still unsure whether to embrace or eviscerate the last son of Krypton. Even though people may look down on him, Superman is still doing his job as he attempts to stop a robotic threat named Terminauts that's threatening Metropolis. This is the same renegade computer system that was involved in the destruction of Superman’s homeworld, and it also shares a resemblance with his classic foe, Brainiac. As they say, the plot thickens.
And, as a backup story, this issue also shows the new origin of one of Superman’s closest allies, Steel, as he battles the new-and-improved Metallo. If you ever thought Supes was too plain and straight-edged to be entertaining, then prepare to have your mind blown.
Animal Man #4
What it’s about: During the ‘80s, Grant Morrison turned Animal Man from a forgotten Silver Age C-lister into a postmodern breath of fresh air that helped change the comic book industry into a more sophisticated business filled with creativity and offbeat ideas. But once Morrison left the book, the character was basically left for dead by DC.
Thankfully the company’s latest reboot offered Animal Man a new shot at a solo-book under the watchful eyes of writer Jeff Lemire and artist Travel Foreman. Together, they've resuscitated the previously forgotten hero and turned this book into DC's best ongoing comic.
What to expect this month: As Animal Man learns more about the very nature of his powers, as well as his those of his daughter, the life web is infiltrated by a corruption known as "The Other" that can destroy Buddy Baker's animal kingdom There's a lot of exposition here, but questions get answered, and the character's world begins to become a lot clearer. As Baker deals with the evolution of his powers, his family must fend off "The Other" after they infiltrated society.
Lemire's scripts, coupled with Foreman's art, have been a horror fan's dream so far. If you're willing to accept the book's lofty ideas and eccentricities, Animal Man has a lot of offer comic fans looking for something a little different in their reading diet.
Swamp Thing #4
What it’s about: He may be best known for the campy movies from the ‘80s or the awful cartoon that he was in during the early ‘90s, but what's less acknowledged is the fact that Swamp Thing has also starred in some of DC's strongest comic. Writers like Len Wein, Alan Moore, and Mark Millar all put their own spin on the character, with Moore’s run in particular being a highlight.
DC has given the character a bit of a facelift thanks to writer Scott Snyder, and the result is “New 52” highlight. In addition to maintaining the character's traditional horror elements, Snyder adds sophistication and intelligence to Swamp's world that makes this book hard to ignore.
What it’s about this month: Last issue, a mysterious young man named William made his debut and quickly showed why he might be the most dangerous person on the planet. It turns out that he can cause any organic life form to instantly rot from the inside-out. This issue continues to showcase William's destructive powers, and it’s up to Alec Holland, a.k.a. Swamp Thing, to stop it. The only problem is that Holland can't transform into Swamp Thing at the moment, and the clock is ticking.
With this plotline, Snyder is planting seeds for a huge, future crossover with Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man. Both books are redefining what a superhero book could and should be; simply put, we can't wait for these two worlds to collide.
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World - Volume 1
What it’s about: To try and explain the brilliance of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World epic in writing is a disservice to everything that “The King” accomplished during his career. These comics paved the way for movies like Star Wars and Avatar, and it was also one of the first tales to combine classical myth and science-fiction into one overwhelmingly detailed universe. Spanning many years and multiple comic book titles, this was Kirby’s magnum opus.
Fourth World introduced readers to the villainous Darkseid, the death-defying Mr. Miracle, and a host of other characters that have since become DC staples. But Kirby didn't just write all of these mind-bending stories—he also provided the art. And it’s in Kirby’s art where the real brilliance is seen.
Kirby was at his prime during the time these titles hit the shelves in the '70s. He created vast sci-fi worlds in a four-sided panel structure, completely changing the way comics were made. Alien worlds, complex technology, and gruesome creatures were all handled with a pop-art flare that made Roy Lichtenstein look like he was simply coloring place mats at the local Denny's.
This omnibus has been printed before, but now it’s available in a more affordable paperback form (priced at $39.99). If you enjoy comics, sci-fi, or bombastic art, Jack Kirby’s Fourth World is tough to beat.