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 May 16, 2011.
Reviews by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)
Avengers vs. X-Men #4
What it’s about: As the title suggests, Avengers vs. X-Men takes the heaviest-hitting teams in comics and places them squarely at odds with each other over the future of Hope and the Phoenix Force. With the deadly alien parasite heading straight towards Earth, the X-Men want Hope, its potential host, to accept it into her body and save the mutant race from extinction.
The Avengers, on the other hand, fear what the Phoenix has done in the past and want to eliminate it forever. During the series’ first three issues, we have seen epic brawls and shocking twists that should have any comic book fan's head spinning. Everything from the action to the dialogue is completely over-the-top, and, to put it mildly, this is everything a superhero fan could ever want from a book.
What to expect this month: A squad of Avengers has been staked out in space to try and stop the Phoenix from ever hitting Earth, but not even the combined efforts of Thor, War Machine, Ms. Marvel, The Vision, and some of Marvel’s more powerful heroes could stop this force of nature. Meanwhile, on Earth, the fighting continues as neither team is giving an inch for what they believe in. And, remember, Wolverine is still stranded in an icy tundra, which obviously doesn’t make him too happy.
All of these dynamics are slowly coming together to eventually blow the story wide open as we head towards the second act in a few issues. And this is all crafted by the expert eye of artist John Romita Jr., who has a style that might not appeal to everybody, but he is certainly a master at creating hectic action.
Like most crossovers, it’s clear that this story is building towards something big at the end that will change the entire Marvel landscape. Will books get canceled? Will universes get rebooted or split apart? We have no idea, but we’ll enjoy the ride while it lasts.
What it’s about: Since Mark Waid began writing Daredevil last year, the title has gone from stagnant to must-buy almost instantaneously. What Waid brings to the character is a sense of relatable humanity that was lost over the years as writers were seemingly just trying to make the character as gritty and dark as possible. Waid’s direction is completely different.
The book now has a palette that expands beyond simple crime stories. There are splashes of fantasy and whimsy in these pages as Matt Murdock’s world finally has some color in it once again.
What to expect this month: This month’s issue of Daredevil begins the culmination of a story that Waid has been planning for some time. After Daredevil stole a valuable piece of information from Megacrime, a combined force of the Marvel Universe’s most powerful criminal groups, all of these syndicates team up to take down Ol’ Horn Head and take back their tech.
Waid has been sewing the seeds for this big fight for a while, but the thing to keep an eye on is how Matt Murdock responds to this personally, especially since his love interest, Kirsten McDuffie, was directly threatened by Megacrime. The smiling veneer of Murdock is beginning to crack as yet another female in his life is in harm’s way. Artist Khoi Pham also returns in this issue to provide the type of brightly-colored and kinetic artwork that the book has enjoyed since the beginning. Daredevil further proves that heroes don't need to be grim and gritty vigilantes with a mad-on for criminals; we're allowed to have some fun with these characters.
Manhattan Projects #3
What it’s about: Combining fantasy and history, Manhattan Projects takes a look at the group that constructed the atomic in a much different light. Instead of crafting them as brilliant future-thinkers, writer Jonathan Hickman has portrayed them as a collection of maladjusted sociopaths with multiple personalities, drinking problems, and, in one particular case, a flaming, irradiated skull.
What to expect this month: There's no doubt about it now: Manhattan Projects will be near the top of the list when we rank the best comics of 2012. Hickman has ratcheted up the crazy here to give us one of the smartest and gleefully twisted tales we have read in recent years. Complete with Freemasons, mushroom clouds, and the reanimated corpse of FDR, this issue is the highlight of the series so far, and we feel like it’s only going to get better.
Chronicling the final day of FDR’s natural life, and Harry Truman’s subsequent decision (or indecision) to drop the atomic bomb, Manhattan Projects #3 achieves what most comics fail to do: complete unpredictability. This isn’t a superhero book where we know that no one will die; instead, it's so uniquely fresh and dangerous that every page offers up something completely new.
The scripts are backed up by the tremendous art by Nick Pitarra, who does an excellent job bringing Hickman’s bizarre ideas to life. One page in particular with FDR’s slumped body is simply beautiful, in a macabre way. If you haven’t figured it out by now, this book is good; damn good. Do yourself a favor and pick this up right now.
What it’s about: Taking a break from zombies and superheroes, Image Comics debuts the brand-new series, Dancer, this week. Written by Nathan Edmondson and illustrated by Nic Klein, this first issue is a pulse-pounding mystery story that starts off with a gunshot and never lets up until its final shocking pages.
When a mysterious ex-assassin and his ballerina girlfriend are attacked on the streets of Milan, all hell breaks loose in the style of espionage/thriller flicks like The Bourne Identity and Taken. But it’s not all bloodshed and carnage because Edmondson reels things in with a mystery that starts to bubble in the beginning and then boils completely over by the end. We won’t spoil anything too much, but it’s a shocking finale to say the least.
None of this would work nearly as well if Klein’s art wasn’t spot-on, and fortunately it is. His heavily shadowed style gives the whole book a palpable ambiance that adds to the panicked, mysterious tone of the script. From the clothing to the architecture, his version of Milan is authentically European. The site of one of the world's most romantic cities stained with blood and terror is a brilliantly haunting way to kick off the series, and it sticks with you after it's all over.
Dancer #1 is a breezy read—you probably won’t spend more than five minutes with it. But we guarantee that if you’re a fan of spy/espionage thrillers, you won’t be able to wait for next issue.
Green Lantern Volume 1: Sinestro
What it’s about: Geoff Johns’ first story arc after DC’s “New 52” reboot was also one of his better Green Lantern stories since Blackest Night. Focusing on the relationship between a depowered Hal Jordan and his arch nemesis, and current begrudging partner, Sinestro, this story focused less on complicated Lantern continuity and more on character and personality.
Hal needs Sinestro to help him become a Green Lantern again, and Sinestro needs Hal to help him save his homeworld of Korugar. This dynamic is currently one of the best at the company thanks to Johns' intimate understanding of each character. Collecting the first six issues of the newly launched Green Lantern series, this hardcover book is perfect for anyone looking to get into the character in a way that doesn’t include Ryan Reynolds’ cheese grater abs or shoddy CGI.
The storyline has connections to Johns’ work from before “New 52,” but it also stands on its own. And for fans with an eye towards the future, some of the seeds sewn here will have major repercussions for Hal Jordan and Sinestro later on as well. Johns manages to pull off expansive serialized storytelling with intimate character moments in a way that should appeal to any type of comic book reader.
But the real highlight is Doug Mahnke's artwork. The man simply owns the Green Lantern and his world at this point. His lines are clean and dynamic, and his action scenes trump any blockbuster you will see this summer.