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 February 1, 2011.
Reviews by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)
Winter Soldier #1
What it’s about: When writer Ed Brubaker began his run on the newly relaunched Captain America title in 2005, he made the controversial decision to bring Cap’s long-dead sidekick, Bucky Barnes, back to life. But instead of reviving the Spandex-clad adolescent version of the character, Brubaker decided to reimagine Bucky as a brainwashed killing machine who's an assassin for the Soviet Union and known as the Winter Soldier.
Before long, Bucky and Cap came to blows, but eventually the Winter Soldier’s memories were restored and he resumed his life as a hero. He even took the mantle of Captain America over for a while when the original was believed to be dead. But after the events of Fear Itself, Bucky was thought to be dead again; however, he now lives in secret to pull off espionage missions all across the world.
Now Brubaker is bringing the Winter Soldier back in his own solo series, along with the art of Butch Guice. Much like his previous run on Captain America, Winter Soldier is an espionage book that teams Bucky up with the Black Widow as they uncover secrets from his past and hunt down former Soviet assassins.
This book reads more like a spy movie than a conventional comic. Visually, Guice has a wide-screen style that makes the book look similar to films like The Bourne Identity. And while Brubaker has a solid handle on these hard-boiled scripts, it’s the atmospheric art that's the most immersive thing about Winter Soldier.
Animal Man #6
What it’s about: Ever since writer Jeff Lemire relaunched Animal Man last September, the book has been among the best in the industry. By combining elements of horror and action, along with some superhero staples, the book has found a tone that is wildly different than any other DC comic on the shelf.
Animal Man revolves around Buddy Baker and his life as the his titular alter-ego, a meta-human who can absorb the physical traits of any nearby animal. Along with his wife and kids, Baker/Animal Man has been fighting off an entity known as The Rot, which brings decay to all of Earth's animals.
What to expect this month: This issue marks a break from the ongoing struggles between Animal Man and The Rot, and instead flashes back to a movie that Buddy Baker filmed years ago while he was hard-up for cash. Much like Darren Aronofsky did with professional wrestling and The Wrestler, Baker's "film" explores the life of a down-and-out superhero and the unglamorous lives they lead when their glory days are in the past.
This is a high-concept issue that breaks mainstream comics' norms, but that’s also what makes this title work so well. This is the perfect issue to check out for people new to the book to see why this is one of the best titles available.
Swamp Thing #6
What it’s about: If there's one area that DC’s “New 52” initiative succeeded in, it’s making lesser-known heroes relevant again, and no other character has benefited more than Swamp Thing. Written by Scott Snyder, this book has taken a character that was virtually forgotten by comic book readers and injected him with engrossing plots and imaginative art.
The story revolves around Alec Holland being separated from his Swamp Thing identity as he is confronted with the threat of a young boy named William, who has the power to cause decay to anything in his path. If that sounds familiar, it should. This book is currently on a collision course with Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man in a crossover event that is scheduled for later this year.
What to expect this month: With The Rot continuing its attack on The Green, Alec Holland is confronted by William after Abby is consumed by his powers. In its darkest hour, the world needs Swamp Thing to be reborn, but Holland might not be up to the challenge.
Some people might be turned off by the book’s methodical pace, but Snyder gives real depth and emotion to every plot development, which is a luxury not often found in faster-paced books. Also, the tense wait to finally see Alec Holland return to being the Swamp Thing we all know and love is quite exciting.
What it’s about: Featuring nefarious mobsters, crooked cops, a seemingly immortal vixen, and even a demon or two, Ed Brubaker’s Fatale is making a case for being one of the more bizarre comics currently of the market. It’s not just the subject matter that makes this book so unique, it’s the fact that Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips combine the fantasy-heavy story with a noir style that looks like it was pulled from a John Huston movie.
What to expect this month: This issue of Fatale consists mostly of exposition as Brubaker seems to be setting up big moments for the future, but there is still plenty of intrigue and creepy moments to keep anyone’s interest intact. The real genius here comes from the fact that Brubaker deftly juggles multiple plot-lines without ever shortchanging one of them.
And while this issue does contain a lot of talking head scenes, Sean Phillips managed to keep these moments moving with his heavily-shadowed art that jumps right off the page. There's a unique blend of beauty and grime in each panel that perfectly compliments Brubaker’s scripts. Something big is going on here that's boiling right under the surface, and even though this issue isn’t action-packed, it certainly sets the table for what's to come.
Batman: Gates Of Gotham - Trade Paperback
What it’s about: In order to fully understand Scott Snyder’s current run on Batman, you have to read his 2011 miniseries Batman: Gates Of Gotham. The story details the history of Gotham City itself as Snyder explores how the Wayne, Cobblepot, Kane, and Elliot families all played a part in shaping the city during the turn of the 20th century. Concurrently, the series flashes forward into the future where a mysterious villain has been destroying Gotham landmarks as “revenge” for the past misdeeds of the founding families.
Snyder and co-writer Kyle Higgins brilliantly connect the two narratives while giving comic book fans a thorough history lesson on Gotham City. But aside from its gripping central mystery, the story also features some tense action scenes that rival anything witnessed in Batman’s live-action exploits. And it's all possible thanks to Trevor McCarthy's brilliant art, filled with rich detail and a constant sense of energy.
Gates Of Gotham ties into Snyder’s current Batman material, which furthers the background detailing of Gotham City and the revelation that the city itself is more villainous than most of the Dark Knight’s rogues. For a miniseries that seemingly came out of nowhere in 2011, Gates Of Gotham quickly established itself as one of the most entertaining and unpredictable Batman stories of the past decade.