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 April 18, 2011.
Reviews by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)
What it’s about: Over the past eight months, Scott Snyder has beaten Batman to a pulp both mentally and physically in the pages of the Caped Crusader’s solo book. Along the way, Snyder has introduced readers to The Court of the Owls, a centuries-old cult that has been running Gotham in the background for as long as the city has existed.
The problem is that Batman viewed the Court as nothing more than an urban legend. But as he has learned over the past few issues, the Court is all too real, and the Dark Knight has felt the brunt of their power first-hand.
What to expect this month: With the opening salvo of Snyder’s story over and done with, the next part of his saga begins in this issue. “Night of the Owls” is a crossover event that spans every Batman-related book, and the prelude for it starts here. The Court unleashes a massive assault on Gotham and its most prominent citizens, and their first target is Wayne Manor.
Much like the second act of any great play, this is where everything starts to go to Hell. Gotham’s politicians and lawmakers are assaulted, Bruce Wayne is attacked in his home, and the entire city is under siege. And with superstar artist Greg Capullo on the main story and Snyder’s American Vampire battery mate, Rafael Albuquerque, on the issue’s back-up tale, Batman #8 is easily the most anticipated Bat book in some time.
Avengers Vs. X-Men #2
What it’s about: Since the mid 2000’s, Marvel has gotten back into the habit of unleashing a yearly crossover on comic book fans everywhere in order to increase visibility and sales. These events range from great (Civil War) to mediocre (Fear Itself) to downright painful (Secret Invasion).
But this time the company has simplified the premise of its latest crossover to give the fans what they really want: Avengers vs. X-Men. This event has been a few months in the making, and it already looks more promising than any of the company’s recent crossover titles after just one issue.
What to expect this month: The opening issue of Avengers vs. X-Men was exactly what we thought it would be: It featured enough exposition to give us a general feel for the story, great art, and a tantalizing tease for the upcoming war between the two super teams. This issue kicks off the good stuff as the X-Men fire the first shots on the Avengers by attacking the SHIELD Hellicarrier. From there, we have spats between the Red Hulk, Colossus, and countless other heavy-hitters as all hell breaks loose for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Cyclops continues to be the focal point of aggression as his years of frustration have finally driven him to adopt a militant, dogmatic stance against the Avengers. And as with last issue, the real star here is artist John Romita Jr., who can draw super powered action as well as anyone. For comic book fans that can get past the “big event stigma” attached to this series, Avengers vs. X-Men is exactly the kind of light, fun read that people need from this medium from time-to-time.
No Place Like Home #3
What it’s about: In Image Comics’ surprising new series, writer Angelo Tirotto re-imagines the story of The Wizard of Oz in the look and tone of a horror novel the likes of which Stephen King would have once unleashed upon the world. This isn’t the brightly lit, colorful world that Victor Flemming brought to life in MGM’s movie back in the ‘30s; instead, this is a harshly violent, brutal landscape where hope goes to die.
What to expect this month: The story behind the tornado that hit Kansas and killed Dee’s parents continues as flesh-eating flying monkeys begin to terrorize the town. The deep-seeded mystery continues to be the driving force behind the book as every scene seemingly asks more questions than it answers. But there are payoffs here, especially when it comes to the deranged hobo that has been following Dee since the first issue.
This third issue is more decompressed than the first two, giving us a chance to breathe and catch-up with what has been going on so far, which is exactly what we needed at this point. Richard Jordan's art, meanwhile, is probably the best it has been yet in this installment. The storytelling is so clean and crisp that each ounce of terror is felt in the eyes of every character. And to be quite honest, the man can draw a hell of a flying monkey. It might be under the radar for most, but No Place Like Home is slowly becoming one of the most intriguing titles on shelves now.
Manhattan Projects #2
What it’s about: Jonathan Hickman might be known by most comic fans for his work on Fantastic Four and Ultimate Comics: Ultimates, but his new series, Manhattan Projects, looks like it might be his best book of the year. Focusing on the military think tank that created the atomic bomb, Manhattan Projects takes a fantasy-driven look at the final days of WWII and how a bunch of maladjusted and sociopathic geniuses gave us peace.
What to expect this month: The story continues as FDR announces that Germany has been defeated in the European theater; however, there's still the issue of the Japanese to deal with. The U.S. government hatches a plan to go to the newly-defeated Germany and recruit some of its best and brightest scientists to complete their ultimate weapon. But does cutting deals with their one-time adversaries stain the moral code of the most powerful men in the U.S.?
Hickman’s moral question soon takes a backseat to the eclectic personalities of the group, especially Albert Einstein, wh'os portrayed as a booze-swilling, foul mouthed brainiac with a general apathy for others. It's the type of history that we wish we learned about in high school.
Arrogant scientists, cybernetic Nazis, and a schizophrenic Robert Oppenheimer all add up to a book that brings the absurd nature of the comic book industry back with style. Hickman and artist Nick Pitarra are definitely in the midst of telling what could be one of Image Comics’ most delightfully bizarre books in recent memory.
What it’s about: The best part about a summer filled with superhero movies is that comic book companies will stop at nothing to release a character’s back catalogue of stories in order to drum up interest for the film. That’s exactly what DC has done here with Batman: Venom, which has been reprinted because of its thin connection to the villain of The Dark Knight Rises, Bane.
In the story, Batman fails to save a little girl from drowning due to his own physical limitations. Overcome with guilt and obsessed with improving himself, the Dark Knight stops at nothing to become the perfect human specimen. This leads him to try a new street drug named venom, which can increase your strength exponentially when taken. It's also the drug that Bane will make famous later on in Batman's mythology, even though he doesn’t appear in the story. As the book progresses, Batman’s demeanor changes because of the drug’s aggressive side-effects, and he soon finds himself spiraling out of control and slipping into madness.
Written by legendary Batman writer Denny O’Neil, Venom is a disturbing look at the obsession of the Caped Crusader and the dangerous side of these types of drugs. The story came out during a time when steroids were becoming culturally significant in sports and the media, and O’Neil—who was always a crusader on social issues—broached this dangerous subject almost before anyone else.
This book is an intense character study without any colorful villains as Batman is broken down by O’Neil before he is finally put back together again. If you want a different kind of Batman story to fill-out your knowledge of the character, Venom is an underrated gem that is finally getting its due.