Last Week’s Comics 5/14/2014

Future’s End #1

(DC – Writer: Brian Azzarello, Keith Giffen, Dan Jurgens, Jeff Lemire; Art: Keith Giffen, Patrick Zircher)

The future is here, and – spoiler alert – it’s not looking too good. That’s the situation in the dystopian future depicted in Future’s End, DC Comics’ next weekly comic book, as well as its next universe-wide (or even multiverse-wide) crossover. Unfortunately, that’s also the situation with Future’s End itself.

The issue begins with Terry McGinnis’ New 52 debut as the Batman of the far future who has traveled backwards to a point five years ahead of the current New 52 continuity. So what’s a jump ahead for readers is a leap behind for Terry. Got it? Cool.

But don’t get too excited yet, Batman Beyond fans. This Terry shows no sign of the qualities that made the 2001 TV show so great: his boyish charm, his attempts to balance family and school and supherheroing, his dorky future-slang, his crew of quirky supporting lady characters. And in place of crotchety old Bruce, Terry’s new guide-slash-verbal-sparring-partner is an artificial intelligence named A.L.F.R.E.D. Yes, Alfred Pennyworth has been Jarvis’d, but unlike with J.A.R.V.I.S. and Tony Stark, I can’t tell if A.L.F.R.E.D. and Terry actually like each other. At the very least, Terry gives the distinct impression of not wanting to be here.

The book then jumps to a space station called Stormwatch, whose crew includes Jack Hawksmoor, the Engineer, Mermaid, Hawkman and Apollo and Midnighter. The crew of the station actually seem to like each other, so of course they’re killed instantly, and we move on to another character: Grifter.

I’ll admit I know almost nothing about Grifter except that his mask looks very improbable and he had a solo book at the beginning of the New 52 that was quickly canceled, which tells me most of Future’s End‘s readers are in the same boat I am. When we catch up with Grifter, he’s gunning down an innocent-looking nuclear family, ending with a cute little girl who turns out to be an alien in disguise. Nice use of a female body to signify both unquestionable innocence and eldritch horror, Future’s End!

Finally we meet Jason and Ronnie, two halves of the superhero Firestorm. And guess what? They hate each other, too! Ronnie also doesn’t like the girl he was just trying to have sex with when Jason found him – but she’s hot, so who cares! The two merge into Firestorm and continue to drip venom at each other right up until the last page of the comic, where the two discover yet another dead superhero.

The art style is pretty standard fare for a superhero comic book: square panels, heavy black lines and gradient shading. The colors are largely muted, which echoes the book’s somber themes and keeps it from seeming too excited with its own gore.

It’s hard to judge a first issue of any comic book, particularly one with so many main characters, and seeing as it’s set in an alternate future (according to DC editorial at least) Future’s End has plenty of room for experimentation. The thing is, Future’s End doesn’t have any kind of experimentation at all – just a lot of male characters insulting each other and propping up their own egos while people die around them. A weekly comic book is a not-inconsiderable financial and mental commitment, but by the end of Future’s End #1 I didn’t find anything worth sticking around for.

– Jill Scharr

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Nailbiter #1

(Image – writer: Joshua Williamson; art: Mike Henderson)

The bulk of the Nailbiter #1 takes place in the serial killer capital of the USA, Buckaroo, Oregon. It’s been three years since Agents Carroll and Finch arrested serial killer Edward “Nailbiter” Warren. Warren was one of 16 serial killers born and bred in Buckaroo – the last that anyone seems to be aware of. His modus operandi was to choose victims that chewed on their nails. He’d kidnap them, wait for their nails to grow back and then gnaw on their fingers to the bone, eventually killing them. It’s pretty gruesome stuff, but just the kind of creepiness one would want from a horror comic.

After the arrest, Carroll went to Buckaroo to find out just why this town produced evils like Warren and others like the Book Burner and 14 other unnamed psychopaths. As the book begins, Carroll believes he’s found his answer and calls his old pal, Agent Finch, to share (and corroborate) his findings. Little does Carroll know he just interrupted Finch attempting suicide. By conversation’s end, Finch agrees to fly to Buckaroo to see just what Carroll’s discovered.

Williamson and Henderson spend the bulk of the first issue setting up the premise and the cast. Finch has a problem controlling his temper. Now he and the town sheriff have to find out just what happened to Carroll. According to the sheriff, everyone in town loved Carroll, except for the recently acquitted Warren. We also meet some town residents who are reminiscent of horror stereotypes: the creepy old guy, the cute misfit girl and the dumb jocks. If the issue has one weakness, it’s that it’s a little too exposition heavy when setting these characters up. I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt, because Williamson and Henderson’s Masks & Mobsters is amazing, and Williamson’s Ghosted is one of my favorite comics of the year. Also (and most importantly), the art is terrifying.

Nailbiter is an eerie concept made even creepier since it focuses on a town in the Pacific Northwest that’s infamous for breeding monsters. Henderson’s art, along with Adam Guzowski’s visceral colors, sets a dire mood. The reds, off-whites and browns in this book are disturbing and set the tone perfectly.

Nailbiter #1 aims to look into just what makes a serial killer. Nailbiter is a creepy book – an heir to the evilest of EC Comics. Williamson and Henderson do a good job setting up Buckaroo and the world around it, producing a book that is thick with atmosphere and plenty of room to grow.

– Ian Gonzales

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Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #1

(Marvel – writer: Brian Michael Bendis; art: David Marquez)

I love this book. I’ve loved this book since it debuted in 2011 as Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man. Since then, Brian Michael Bendis, Sara Pichelli and current Ultimate Spidey artist, David Marquez, have built a world around Miles Morales that is simultaneously different from Peter Parker and distinctly, even fundamentally, Spider-Man.

The Ultimate Universe, once a movie-friendly analogue of the regular Marvel U, is now something very different. Reed Richards is criminally insane, Kitty Pryde is the face of the Mutant Revolution and Peter Parker died saving Aunt May. This new series picks up after Ultimate Cataclysm. Galactus destroyed New Jersey (thanks, ya purple tunic-wearing chump!) leaving Thor dead and Captain America presumably killed in action. It’s been a few months since the Cataclysm. S.H.I.E.L.D. is being shut down, and one of their last secret prisoners is being handed over to the Feds: Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin.

This issue starts with a lot of plates spinning, as is the way of any good Spider-Man comic book. Miles’ father, Jefferson, is missing. He disappeared after Miles confided in him that he was Spider-Man. Jefferson, a man who hates all costumed super people, did not take the news well. So Miles is living with his best friend, Ganke. Meanwhile, Miles has a girlfriend Kate – whom he hasn’t confided his secret to yet and she is a bit suspicious of Miles’ evasiveness. Miles, being a good kid, hates lying to her. So he does the only logical thing, he asks Mary Jane Watson to weigh in on his predicament.

While Miles’ life is a mess, there are two superpowered costumed thieves that the Daily Bugle is dubbing “The Spider-Man Twins” running loose. However, something deadlier is on the horizon for Miles: the man who murdered his predecessor is free. The Green Goblin wants to see Spider-Man burn.

See? This book is so Spider-Man!

Miles is an infinitely likeable kid. He has powers like Peter Parker’s, but he’s much younger than Peter was. After Venom murdered Miles’ mother, he took a year off from being Spider-Man. The great power and great responsibility were too much for the kid. But now here he is, on the other side of tragedy, doing the right thing. He’s a little older and a little wiser. He wisecracks like Peter did, but on the surface, he does take things a bit more seriously.

Marquez’s art in this book is kinetic and the acting his characters do is fantastic. We get to see Miles do some web slinging, but the real gem of this issue is his conversation with MJ. When Mary Jane explains to Miles how big the idea of a secret identity is in comparison to the relationship – the amount of trust required – Marquez nails MJ’s concern for Miles. It’s something special that is another stroke of genius on Bendis’ part: having Peter’s supporting cast embrace and support Miles bridges the gap between Spider-Men perfectly. It’s a refreshing take on these characters.

Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #1 shows us a Spider-Man who is in his superheroic groove while his personal life is a mess of spinning plates. The media may be out to get him, and his own father hates him. He also has multiple bad guys ready to cause problems for him. But hey, that comes with the costume, and Miles wears it well.

– Ian Gonzales

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Moon Knight #3

(Marvel – writer: Warren Ellis; art: Declan Shalvey)

Warren Ellis was made to write Moon Knight. Many other great writers have tried their own take on Marc Spector and his multiple personalities, but Ellis has the first creative interpretation since the great Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz run that so far truly understands what a messed up yet awesome character he can be. So far, each issue of this series has been very different from the last, with each of the three stories presented having a beginning, middle and end. It’s such a rarity in this day and age of writing for the graphic novel that you see stand-alone issues, let alone the first three in a row. So far it is working out well.

The premise of Moon Knight #3 is simple, in a strange and supernatural way. A gang of ghost punks are assaulting average folk on the streets of New York City. Moon Knight rolls up in his limo dressed in his fancy new Moon Knight suit and proceeds to get the snot kicked out of him. He retreats to his headquarters full of his internal ghosts to regroup, and in a couple of pages discovers abilities that up until now have not been tapped into, as well as new toys. Ellis skillfully takes what was there to the world of Marc Spector/ Moon Knight and very quickly expands on it in a wonderful way. By the end of the issue, Moon Knight has solved the problem.

The art by Declan Shalvey continues to amaze me, and the striking coloring by Jordie Bellaire make this comic a visual treat. While I eagerly await what Ellis has in store for Moon Knight in the long run, I’m also enjoying the episodic nature of each issue so far. It makes a case for how easy it could be to adapt Moon Knight to television, considering how versatile the character is with his strikingly different personalities and how that can translate into individual standalone stories. What has been a lot of fun so far is how the episodic nature of each issue lends itself to these personalities, whether he’s a detective, a playboy, a vigilante, a supernatural warrior or simply a man struggling with his psychological problems. It’s also amazing how creepy the comic can be – in a way it’s the closest thing I’ve experienced from Marvel that could be a superhero comic published by Vertigo.

I’ve always liked Moon Knight in the same way I like Ghost Rider. They’re both cool-looking characters with ties to the supernatural who have never been able to keep a long-running series going. While I still don’t think Ghost Rider is there yet, I think Ellis has so far tapped into a magic formula with Moon Knight. Like that house of artifacts that Marc Spector calls home, I think there are still many unopened boxes full of potential left to crack into.

– Michael Edwards

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You can follow Jill, Ian and Mike on Twitter @JillScharr@IanGonzales and @EdwardsDeuce. Talk to them about last week’s comics, or this week’s, for that matter!

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