This Week in Comics—November 20, 2013

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Archie and the gang find Rivedale overrun by zombies and must escape the “Dance of Death”.  Animal Man hits the Oscars…unfortunately they are being controlled by Brother Blood’s men.  Batwoman finds herself trapped in Gotham during Zero Year, while Bloodshot and new H.A.R.D. Corps agents fight to get his nanites back from Harada.  Harley Quinn kicks off her new series with a search for an artist, and Aric finds himself immersed in Unity as he battles to keep control of his own people.

With two Valiant, one Archie, and three DC, Marvel misses out this week on getting the play “This Week in Comics”.  It is a rather sad sign when none of the Marvel titles reached a level that had me reaching for them.

No surprise after last month’s pleasant surprise, the winner of this week continues to be Afterlife with Archie which needs to be read…even if you aren’t fans of Archie or zombies.  It is just a great fun series.  There were some ho-hum issues this week so check out all the reviews and as always, I tried to include corresponding links to other related reviews.

Issues covered this week:  Afterlife with Archie #2, Animal Man (2) #25, Batwoman #25, Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps #16, Harley Quinn (2) #0, and X-O Manowar (3) #19

Afterlife with Archie #2

Publisher:  Archie Comics

Cover Price:  $2.99

Writer:  Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Artist:  Francesco Francavilla

Date:  January 2014

Title:  “Dance of the Dead” Escape from Riverdale Part 2

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Afterlife with Archie #2

The Riverdale dance turns into a nightmare as Jughead arrives as a zombie and begins attacking students.  Now, the fight is on for survival as the zombie plague begins to spread through the town.  Archie and his friends are on the run and there might only be one safe place left in Riverdale.

I bought the first Afterlife with Archie for fun in October on a lark.  It turned out to be one of the best new comics I had read in months.  It found a perfect balance with Archie and horror that wasn’t insulting to either genre.  Afterlife with Archie #2 continues this great trend with some more great storytelling and art.

Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Afterlife with Archie is pretty smart.  The series has just a hint of comedy to it, but despite the horror, it really does feel like it is in the Archie universe.  The characterizations are more dramatic and “real” but hold true to the classic characters which have years of development behind them.  You also find yourself rooting for characters and wishing others would fall victim to the zombies bite (I felt pretty bad for Ethel).

Aiding Aguirre-Sacasa’s great writing is Francesco Francavilla’s art.  Archie tried to modernize their characters a few years ago and made them look more realistic…it never really worked (and they looked creepy as hell).  Here, Francavilla finds a great balance between classic Archie and “real” Archie.  Plus, Francesco Francavilla is a great illustrator of horror.

In addition to this story there is a short horror tale called “…Cat!” which was originally published in Chilling Adventures in Sorcery.  It is by Gray Morrow and the comic plans to place these short horror stories in the back of Afterlife of Archie as a homage to classic comic book horror.

Get Afterlife with Archie.  It is one of the best comics out there and has me waiting for #3 (which comes out on New Year’s Day)…the Riverdale dead will walk again!

Animal Man (2) #25

Publisher:  DC Comics

Cover Price:  $2.99

Writer:  Jeff Lemire

Artist:  Rafael Albuquerque

Date:  January 2014

Title:  “Hollywood Babylon” Part 2 of 2

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Animal Man (2) #25

Brother Blood’s men are pushing Buddy Baker for a confrontation at the Oscars, and Buddy and his wife Ellen find they might have to submit if they want to have any chance of finding Maxine in the Red.  As Buddy tries to find out Blood’s plans for Earth and the Red, time might be running out for Maxine and her allies within the Red.

Animal Man started out with a bang in the New 52, but now I have to admit, that I’m getting kind of war weary.  The stories lines have been strong, but I just want a bit of a different direction for Buddy and his family.  With the overly long Rot/Green/Red War, I grew a bit tired of the storyline and this follow-up isn’t helping much.

Buddy is a great character and though I love that he’s a family man, I want a little less angst each issue.  Here, Buddy and Ellen go charging into battle (it appears that they didn’t learn anything from the death of Cliff).  You get Ellen having her own little adventure and a rather dull fight between Buddy and Blood’s men.  It doesn’t feel like that dramatic of a conclusion to the “Hollywood Babylon” story.

The art is just not where it was when Animal Man kicked off.  I enjoyed Travel Foreman’s style and it worked with the strange Animal Man story.  Rafael Albuquerque just isn’t as good as Foreman.

I’d like to see Animal Man have some guest stars besides “the Dark” type characters.  An appearance by Superman or the Justice League might put some life into this title.  I’d like to see how other superheroes respond to this “celebrity” hero.  I will stick with the series (it fortunately is $2.99), but I am wishing for more.

Batwoman #25

Publisher:  DC Comics

Cover Price:  $3.99

Writer:  Marc Andreyko

Artist:  Trevor McCarthy/Andrea Mutti/Pat Olliffe/Jim Fern

Date:  January 2014

Title:  “…Or High Water” Zero Year Tie-In

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Batwoman #25

Kate is called back to Gotham from the Academy when her Uncle Philip is killed and finds herself caught in the middle of a massive blackout and storm.  With a sense of duty taking over, Kate sneaks out of Wayne Manor to help enforce her own sense of justice and finds herself in a life-or-death battle with jewel thieves.

Batwoman #25 is a Batman:  Zero Year tie in and marks a big moment for the Batwoman book.  With the fallout of the gay marriage that was quashed by DC and the leaving of J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, now is the time whether to see if Batwoman can sink-or-swim with the controversy and new writers.

It works out well for Batwoman that the issue could be a Zero Year which gives some distance from William and Blackman’s storyline.  The Zero Year issue actually is quite strong in showing Kate’s character and also it reveals how Kate really first met her lover Maggie Sawyer during the Gotham blackout.

The art for Batwoman #25 isn’t J.H. Williams art but it is good.  The art is pretty basic, but it is also a bare bones story.  It will be interesting to see how the art is for future issues where Kate is in her costume.

I loved Batwoman on its onset but the second storyline lost me with confusing framework and no art by Williams.  I have all the back issues, but haven’t caught up on the series for about a year.  That being said, this also was a decent stand-alone issue in that I never felt lost, plus I did enjoy its rather direct tie to Batman in that it brings up events in his solo series.  I’m going to stick with Batwoman for a bit just to see the direction it goes, but Kate’s days could be numbered.

Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps #16

Publisher:  Valiant Comics

Cover Price:  $3.99

Writer:  Christos Gage/Joshua Dysart

Artist:  Emanuela Lupacchino

Date:  November 2013

Title:  “The H.A.R.D. Way” Part 3

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Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps #16

Harada has Bloodshot’s missing nanites and Bloodshot will do anything to get them back.  With three new H.A.R.D. Corps members joining him, Bloodshot makes another strike at Harada, but Kozol has secret plans of his own.  Bloodshot faces off against Harada but learns the real threat could come from someone or something called Lysander.

I was pretty leery of Bloodshot when it launched, but it turned out to be a really fun book.  The series got a bit bogged down with the whole Harbinger Wars limited series, and then became Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps…I still think Bloodshot is struggling to find direction, but I do find this issue a bit better.

Though this issue is better, it feels like rehash of Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps #15 which also saw Bloodshot trying to get his nanites back from Harada.  If the series falls into this endless loop, it could spell real trouble, and a drop-off for readership so I hope it refocuses after this “The H.A.R.D. Way” ends.

The art for Bloodshot continues to be strong, but I still have a hard time distinguishing the H.A.R.D. Corps agents since they all wear virtually the same costume.  Fortunately, the series has been working on developing the characters, but it still has a long way to go to make me care about characters that “burn-out” after a while.

Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps is on my fringe.  I really support Valiant, but this book needs some serious retooling and direction to get it on the move again.  The writing for the issue is better, it still has a long way to go to make it a “must read” again.

Harley Quinn (2) #0

Publisher:  DC Comics

Cover Price:  $2.99

Writer:  Amanda Conner/Jimmy Palmiotti

Artist:  Amanda Conner/Becky Cloonan/Tony S. Daniel/Sandu Florea/Stephan Roux/Dan Panosian/Walter Simonson/Jim Lee/Scott Williams/Bruce Timm/Charlie Adlard/Adam Hughes/Art Baltazar/Tradd Moore/Dave Johnson/Jerem Roberts/Sam Kieth/Darwyn Cooke/Chad Hardin

Date:  January 2014

Title:  “Picky Sicky”

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Harley Quinn (2) #0

Harley Quinn is getting a new series and trying out new artists.  As she goes through different styles, she tries to find a permanent team for her new series.

Harley Quinn (2) #0 is almost a preview issue.  There really isn’t much of a story and not much of a set-up.  The issue virtually is a showcase issue where you get to imagine if one of your favorite artists got their hands on the character…which has pluses and minuses.

I enjoyed Batman Adventures where Harley Quinn first appeared, but I always found Harley Quinn kind of annoying.  As a regular comic character, she didn’t work very well and it was always unclear if she was a serious character or a comic character since she never quite lined up with the Joker.  Plus, it seems like every writer wrote her different.

Here, it isn’t clear what type of character Harley will be.  It is made clear that the comic will not break the fourth wall like this comic, but I think that might be a mistake.  Harley Quinn could work like John Byrne’s She-Hulk as a humorous comic with a lot of commentary about comics or villains.

This issue is primarily about the art.  It is almost a “What If”.  I do like seeing some of my favorite artists taking on the character but although I like Jimmy Palmiotti, I almost found myself wishing that they went for a more experimental artist (some of which are showcased here).  I did enjoy the jab at Jim Lee which essentially was a replay of his art from earlier issues.  It was nice to see some Sam Keith, Art Baltazar, Darwyn Cooke, and Harley’s original artist Bruce Timm for some fun very stylized art.

Harley Quinn (2) #0 really isn’t worth picking up unless you want to see some interesting art.  The story is non-existent and from what Harley tells the reader, it isn’t even demonstrative of how the continuing story will proceed.  I don’t see Harley Quinn having a long life in the competitive world of comics, but comic books also have a way of surprising you.

X-O Manowar (3) #19

Publisher:  Valiant Comics

Cover Price:  $3.99

Writer:  Robert Venditti

Artist:  Cary Nord

Date:  November 2013

Title:  “Challenges” Unity Tie-In

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X-O Manowar (3) #19

Aric has made himself the target of the world by taking over Romania for his people.  With Ninjak as his prisoner after a failed attack, Ninjak tries to show Aric the errors of his way.  Aric is also facing dissent from within as Volo makes his move for power.

X-O Manowar (3) #19 doesn’t actually follow X-O Manowar (3) #18 but really follows Unity #1.  The issue is the first in a series of tie-ins with the multi-series event in the Valiant universe and puts X-O Manowar in an interesting place.

With so few Valiant titles at the moment, it is quite possible to read all of them.  I have read Unity (reviewed in last week’s This Week in Comics) and understand what is occurring in this issue.  It also contains storyline threads from X-O Manowar with Aric’s power battle with Volo.  With these combined factors, I don’t know if you could jump on to X-O Manowar on this issue and really get what is occurring.

Cary Nord’s art for the issue is rather bare bones.  The comic is very “white” with a lot of unused space and focus on the characters rather than much background development.  With such a raw illustration attempt, some might feel it is a bit underdrawn and feels more like sketch work than the finished product (I was hesitant for the first few pages, but did like some of the visuals near the end).

X-O Manowar continues to be one of the better Valiant comics and a fun series.  I feel Marvel and DC have missed the boat in many areas, and it is nice to find a fresh and new series that has some well-developed characters.  I do recommend picking up some of the X-O Manowar trade paperbacks and then hop on for this fun series which continues to evolve.

Preceded By:

This Week in Comics—November 4, 2013

http://basementrejects.com/latest-news/this-week-in-comics-november-13-2013/

Followed By:

This Week in Comics—November 27, 2013

http://basementrejects.com/latest-news/week-comics-november-27-2013/

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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