Each week, 8th Dimension’s Jeremy Bulloch reads every new comic that comes out and recommends some of the best titles for you to check out. Here are this week’s picks!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 #12 (Dark Horse Comics)
Theo Daniels invented a social networking site called “TinCan.” It’s pretty much like Facebook, only its startup funds came from the evil law firm of Wolfram & Hart. The world of Buffy has been cut off from magic ever since the Slayer destroyed the universe seed at the end of Season Eight. TinCan presents a loophole though. Embedded deep in its source code is a digital portal to the home hell dimensions of demons. Theo has hired a private security firm run by Willow’s ex-girlfriend Kennedy to help him destroy TinCan’s servers before their IPO goes public. Tone-wise, this story does a very good job capturing the personality of its characters. This is much harder to do than you might expect. Long time fans of the TV show know how these people act, and there’s a big disconnect with the reader when that’s not properly realized. I have read some BAD comics based on TV shows and movies, but this is a very good one.
Scarlet Spider #8 (Marvel Comics)
First off, I’d like to remind everyone that Scarlet Spider’s new regular artist, Khoi Pham, is a guest at this weekend’s Space City Con (tickets still available!). You can get him to sign this comic so it matches the signed #1 you got with us in January. Writer Chris Yost is obviously a lifelong Marvel fan. You can tell that by how deep he goes to pick out forgotten characters and give them a new lease on life. Just like Quentin Tarantino revived the careers of actors like Robert Forster, Yost brought back washed-up Texas heroes like the Texas Twister and Shooting Star. The Rangers are a team of super-Texans given official sanction during the post-Civil War (Marvel’s recent Civil War, not the 1860s one) 50 States Initiative. They’ve been called in by Roxxon C.E.O. David Walsh to squish the Scarlet Spider. Now, the Rangers aren’t stupid. They know that something’s majorly crooked about Roxxon, but they also know that Houston’s welfare depends on the jobs that they provide. We’re not sure what’s happening at the Roxxon refinery in Galveston, but it can’t be good. Two or three of those explode on a GOOD day.
Conan the Barbarian #7 (Dark Horse Comics)
This is the first of two Bulloch Points appearances by artist Becky Cloonan this week, and it launches a new story arc that’s accessible for a new reader. Conan and his special lady friend, Belit, the infamous Pirate Queen of the Black Coast, have left the sun-drenched South and headed to his bleak Northern homeland of Cimmeria. Someone has been laying waste to villages, butchering townsfolk, and claiming the name of Conan for himself. The village elders believe that whoever this reaver is, he has some connection to our sullen-eyed (anti-)hero. There has to be some reason that he is impersonating the real Conan. What makes this issue interesting is how out of her element Belit is. We’ve just finished reading six issues of her being the most ferocious and horrifying badass in a comic that also stars Conan the freakin’ Barbarian. For six issues, Belit has out Conan-ed Conan himself. Now, she’s gone to the frozen hell that her man grew up in, and it’s a different story. Back home if someone was to just whisper her name, people would faint in abject terror. Now, Conan’s mom just assumes she’s some slave girl he picked up to help with the chores. Becky Cloonan’s art shows Belit’s confusion and is then equally adept at showing her ferocity when she refuses to be defined this way. She doesn’t belong in this place, and neither does Conan. The villagers will die, 200 generations deep, without ever traveling a mile away from home. When Conan and Belit have killed the man who stole his name, they will leave and never return. What’s most important is that they will kill him as a couple, ‘cause that’s what couples do.
Batman #12 (DC Comics)
This issue is a necessary breather after the epic Court of Owls story, and like Conan, it was drawn by Becky Cloonan. You wanna hear something crazy? Becky Cloonan is the first woman to draw an issue of Batman or Detective Comics. I don’t mean since the reboot. I mean since 1939! Cloonan’s usual finesse with realistic storytelling and normal people shines throughout the comic. The story follows a brother and sister, Cullen and Harper Row, who live in the slums of Gotham. Harper has a talent for fixing broken things, and works on the city’s electrical grid. After the Batman saves her and her brother from gay-bashing thugs, she is inspired to use her knowledge and skill with the city’s electrical system to help him. This is a story about what Batman means to people, how he can inspire us, and how he can change someone’s life. It’s ALSO about how a person can change their OWN life, and make their own choices. That last part sets this issue apart from many others that tell a similar story.
Incredible Hulk #12 (Marvel Comics)
If Dr. Doom is breaking into your underground prison, the Avengers send Captain America. If you’ve got a problem with the Hulk, they send the Thing and Wolverine, in spite of the fact that neither guy has ever beaten him. Ever. Because Hulk am strongest there is. For the last several issues, the Hulk has been manipulated by the ghost of Bruce Banner in his skull. Whenever he’s calm and collected, the Hulk turns back into whack-a-doodle mad scientist Bruce Banner and does crazy stuff. Every time the Hulk comes to, he’s in a situation where Banner clearly has set him up to smash something. No matter what the monster does, the man has been two steps ahead of him. Now, in an underground base built a hundred years ago by the League of Nations, he’s stuck in a fight with two Avengers. Two Avengers he really hates. By the end of the issue, we get a familiar cliffhanger. Banner has played him again. The difference is that now, we’re approaching the end game. This issue tells us some of the “why” Banner has been running Hulk ragged and sets the stage for the climax of Jason Aaron’s run.
New Avengers #29 (Marvel Comics)
The X-Men have beaten the Avengers at every turn, using the unlimited cosmic power of the Phoenix to enforce their fascist utopia on the world. Captain America knows that they cannot win in a fair fight, and he no longer believes that they could win in an unfair fight. He only sees one possible tactic left: Namor. Before he was a member of the Phoenix Five, the Sub-Mariner fought alongside Captain America against the Nazis. They forged a bond then that Cap hopes is still strong enough that he could get his old friend to listen to reason. He sent word out to Namor that he wanted to meet and talk. That’s all, just talk. Cap doesn’t have a trap planned or a secret agenda. He just wanted to talk to one of his oldest friends and try to find a way to end all this that doesn’t result in death or destruction. What follows is one of the best Marvel comics I have read in years. One by one, all of the Illuminati arrive. Tony Stark, Professor X, Dr. Strange, and Reed Richards all tell Cap the same thing. “He’s not coming,” they say. Captain America never leaves his chair. “He might,” says Cap. One by one, each of the Illuminati let loose. They share their raw feelings on matters from Scott Summers to the Infinity Gems, and it gets ugly. Still, Captain America doesn’t waver. As each of the other heroes storm off, he still waits for Namor. There’s no fighting in this comic book, no explosions, and nobody contorting themselves into impossible postures. It’s just desperate people, talking to each other. And it’s awesome.
Spider-Men #4 (Marvel Comics)
This comic had me both laughing and crying, sometimes on the same page. The 616 universe’s Peter Parker meets Ultimate Aunt May and Gwen Stacy. The quiet, character driven moments that they have with each other, and just as importantly with Miles Morales, are better than any super-villain smackdown. Best moment in the issue, however, is between Peter and Ultimate Nick Fury. You’ll know the scene when you read it. I’m not spoiling it for you.
The Massive #3 (Dark Horse Comics)
Captain America #16 (Marvel Comics)
Archer & Armstrong (Valiant Comics)
Batgirl #12 (DC Comics)
Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #2 (DC Comics)