Operation: CO-M.A.C.Z. #9.1 – Heroes For Hire, Available For Birthdays
By Andrew Raub Monday, 14 Feb 2011

In an attempt to maintain a solid weekly schedule, Zach and Andrew make a valiant return. We cover Marvel’s first two “.1” releases and get some serious DC batmania going.

Batgirl #18

Impressions: I haven’t really talked much about Batgirl here, and it’s kind of a shame because this is consistently one of the best comics DC is putting out right now. Truth be told, I’ve never been terribly interested in the Batbooks that pretty much ignore Batman completely but bank on the brand, but Rucka’s Batwoman work and Bryan Q.

Miller’s Batgirl stuff has made me reconsider this stance. I was stubborn on liking this series, but now with the book settling in and with the creative team of Miller and Nguyen, it’s officially one of the books I most look forward to every month. And I would be lying if I said one of the reason I looked forward to it had nothing to do with the art. Nguyen is a Bat-universe veteran at this point, and this issue is one of those sterling examples of why he is one of the best working today. We get a cute one-off tale where Batgirl meets Klarion The Witch-Boy, a character I wasn’t really familiar with but Grant Morrison has used to good effect in recent years. It’s kind of a goofy, silly tale of Klarion’s were-cat running wild and Steph bouncing her quips and wise cracks off of Klarion’s naive weirdness as they attempt to find a mate for the cat. This leads to the highlight of the book, which is a Nguyen hand painted time travel sequence which has Steph and Klarion (in some adorable pilgrim gear, no less) in some odd reverse Salem town where everyone is a witch and they crucify non-witches. In the end, it all works out and there is a great scene where Steph meets up with people from her college and she has to stand up for her new friend Klarion. Overall, this issue was kind of deceiving because nothing really happened and it was definitely just a one-off issue with a random guest star, but Miller writes a great Batgirl and seamlessly throws wackiness at her and it never seems to harm the book. It’s a fun charming book that has an underrated writer and one of the best artists in the business doing some great layouts, covers, and interiors for it. – Zach Verdict: Great.

Batman and Robin #20

Impressions: While the fill-in issues kinda filled me with doubt as to whether I would continue picking up this series, the first issue of Tomasi and Gleason has me pretty excited for what’s to come in this book. For one, I’m a big sucker for when superheroes all do something really boring like getting together to watch a movie, and Bruce getting the entire Robin flock together to watch The Mark of Zorro was one of my favorite scenes in an Batman book so far this year. It’s great when they show that these characters aren’t just relentless defenders of the night, and that they can sit around and eat popcorn and be people for one night. Beyond that, the mystery that starts up in this issue is also pretty intriguing. Batman and Robin investigate a man that fell to his death with angel wings seemingly attached to his back, with some odd fluid coursing through them. I liked that there was more detective stuff and interaction with Gordon than there has been in this book for awhile. Tomasi writes Dick Grayson very well (as he should, as he was a writer for Nightwing in the past), and he reignites some of the conflict between Gordon and Damian that was present earlier in this series and hasn’t been approached much since. This is the first time I’ve grabbed a book with Gleason as the artist, and while I wasn’t crazy about his cover (and his gigantic-headed Robin), his interior work is pretty solid and top notch. The big splash of the book, the dead “angel” on the red carpet image, was particularly striking and a very effective image. – Zach Verdict: Pretty good start for the new creative team, and I’m happy this book seems to be headed in a good direction. Excited to see where this goes.

Heroes For Hire #3

Impressions: I was about as skeptical about this series as could be when it started, but I admit that DnA have me pretty interested. The whole Charlie’s Angels/quid pro quo thing is a fun idea for a comic and the underlying mystery with Misty Knight continues to deepen, while the main Heroes For Hire part of the book continues to entertain. I mean come on. Moon Knight fighting velociraptors? Sign me up. – Zach

Iron Man #500.1

Impressions: Point one. What? I was pretty confused about what these “.1” releases were to be about until just recently. I knew they were an entry point into a series, but I initially thought that they were just going to be regular issues marked “.1” to indicate a jumping on point. As it turns out they are standalone issues. Joe Q explained them as comics that you can hand off to a non-comics reader to get them up to speed. Makes sense, I guess. Iron Man #500.1 is the first of these releases, and after reading #500 and wanting to follow the series for a while, I decided to give this a shot. I am pleasantly surprised at just how good this issue is. The issue does serve as a light recap of events leading up to this point. But more importantly Fraction does a great job at giving some insights toward Tony Stark’s character. The narrative is told from the perspective of Tony giving his story to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. The words themselves do little more than tell an abuse and recovery story. He

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doesn’t mention being Iron Man or anything like that. But the images behind the words fill in the gaps. Together they form a genuine tale of falling from grace and redemption in a brief issue. Being a fan of Matt Fraction and having read his interviews in the back of his Casanova issues, I know he has struggled with addiction in the past. This makes the issue all the more genuine. I couldn’t help but feel a little bit inspired by this book. Both Tony Stark and Matt Fraction battled through tough times but came out stronger and with more clarity about their lives. – Andrew Verdict: For an issue that is just supposed to be an intro and is probably regarded as “unimportant” by some, there is a surprising amount of character depth revealed here. This “.1” initiative is off to a great start.

Knight & Squire #5

Impressions: Even though we haven’t been reviewing this series, I feel that this issue deserves some praise. Paul Cornell has been up and down with this book, causing me to stop following after the second issue and then jump back on after I heard good things about the third and fourth books. In the first issue of Knight & Squire we get a little glimpse of Jarvis Poker, the British Joker. He seems like a feeble man and nothing compared to the real Joker. In the fifth issue he is told that he does not have long to live. As one might expect from someone who’s life is coming to a quick end, Jarvis Poker decides to make his last days worthwhile. After being humiliated by Knight and Squire, he decides to become something more than just a cheap knock off. What follows is a pathetic romp of non-crimes that result in further humiliation. The way that the Knight and Squire react shows that in this world of pretend heroes and villains, sometimes you have to play along. The story takes a turn for the serious at the end with a surprise visit from someone who is sick of seeing his name being disgraced. This comic has been a little confusing as to the purpose of the story. It’s divisively British, of course, but the story has been meandering about until now. It’s starting to show that each issue of this miniseries gives a lesson in what this world is about. This issue sets the stage for a big finale, and I am now excited rather than just waiting to see if the next issue will be enjoyable. – Andrew Verdict: This will likely be the standout issue of this series. It helps that this issue is considerably less steeped in British in-jokes.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #4

Impressions: Loved the George Perez intro and the twist at the end had me ready to buy #5 as soon as I finished, but I’m ready for this book to get out of the introductory phase. Lots of flashback and setup and we haven’t seen a ton of payoff yet. – Zach

The Walking Dead #81

Impressions: I never know what to say about Walking Dead anymore. I can only say it’s damned amazing so many times before it falls on deaf ears, but needless to say, Kirkman and Adlard continues to impress me with the solidness of this book. The situations that arise make sense and everyone has actual human reactions and emotions that make sense. This “No Way Out” storyline right now is pretty goddamned intense, with a horde of zombies threatening to overturn the compound into chaos, and the issue ends with a huge plot twist and many characters’ fates up in the air. Can’t wait till next issue, as always. – Zach

Wolverine #5.1

Impressions: Here comes Marvel .1 #2. Where Matt Fraction summed up the story thus far through a brilliant character exposition, Jason Aaron chose to do his .1 issue with a little more subtly. Wolverine is pretty much omni-present in the Marvel universe so it’s not like he really needs much explaining. And his series is only five issues deep so “He went to hell” pretty much sums it up so far. So after dragging him literally through hell and back, what does Jason Aaron choose to do? Give Wolverine a surprise birthday party, obviously. This lighthearted issue is a nice reprieve from the usual grim and gritty Wolverine. One thing that I was discussing a few days ago with fellow Good-Evil writer Zach is that Wolverine’s girlfriend has just been sidelined for a while. She’s in the first storyline from the new series but just sort of tagging along with Mystique. But in this #5.1 issue she is half the focus. Melita invites a bunch of superheroes over to their cabin for a surprise party. It’s mostly who one might expect: fellow X-Men and Avengers. But of course Deadpool crashes the party (and even tries to get some karaoke going with “Sweet Caroline”!?) Everyone gets a little face time, but Melita really gets to take some focus and we learn a little bit more about her as a girlfriend. There are some funny little bits throughout the issue that really ride on Wolverine cliches, but they are subtle and humorous. Everybody seems to have brought Logan some whiskey, and Spider-Man was left behind at the Avengers mansion seemingly on purpose. These two moments gave me a good chuckle. While everyone is waiting for Logan to show up at his own party, he’s busy tracking down two cannibals in the wilderness. The Buzzard Brothers are two large and grizzled men who have an affinity for the taste of Americans (we taste like cigarettes and syrup) and bones. They even have guns that shoot teeth. What the hell? Even though they are sick and twisted goons, there’s a sort of goofiness about them which is a nice change of pace after the seriousness of villains like Satan and a demonic Sabretooth. In the end, Logan ends up doing something that is not really characteristic of him, but he does it because of his girlfriend. It’s a nice little touch to show how much he really cares for her. The artwork by Jefte Palo is hit or miss throughout the issue. For the parts of the story focusing on Wolverine, he really nails it. But his style is a little too rough for the lighthearted party scenes. This is definitely an issue where two artists would have worked well, but being a “.1” issue I doubt Marvel really wanted to put too much effort into it. – Andrew Verdict: As a big Wolverine fan, I’m glad this wasn’t just a summary issue but rather a fun sidestory. Not often do Wolverine comics get to be fun and lighthearted, so when they do I really appreciate it. This issue ties into the upcoming story arc, but is not necessary to know what’s happening. I guess this issue would be easy for new readers to pick up, it’s hard for me to judge that again Wolverine. But there are little rewards for longtime readers as well. Second Opinion: Story-wise, I liked this issue a lot. It was one of those “downtime” issues that manages to juggle a dozen Marvel Universe characters in Logan’s life, add in a nice bit of humor (the Spider-Man bit had me laugh out loud), and it also wasn’t a totally pointless issue, as it introduced a weird new villain duo in the Buzzard Brothers and also made me like Logan’s new girlfriend quite a bit more. Biggest issue with this (and most of these .1 issues) is that it uses a pretty meh fill-in artist. Palo’s art is decent, but doesn’t seem to fit this book too well. Logan’s look in several frames seems way off-model, and often seems sloppy. Doesn’t seem like a great way to lure new readers in, with a non-regular artist. Regardless, thanks to Aaron’s story, it was worth the 3 bucks. – Zach

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