Originally Posted on cxPulp on April 22nd, 2012. Click here to comment.

Welcome back to another week of the $40 Pull List! Overall this was a pretty solid week. Batman appears to have redeemed itself for the time being with the start of the Night of Owls, The Sixth Gun gets a little artsy, we have a string of outstanding issues with Nightwing, John Carter: Gods of Mars, and Blue Beetle; and The Defenders? Well, that one is first up, so you can jump right into that.

I am also starting a new ongoing promotion this week – read on to find out more.

We have six new issues this week to cover, so let’s jump right in!


NEW ISSUES: APRIL 18th, 2012

The Defenders #5, $3.99, Marvel Comics. Due out 04/18/2012 ON TIME
Written by Matt Fraction, Art by Mitch Breitweiser, Color Art by Mitch and Bettie Breitweiser

In the deep, Namor, Strange, Silver Surfer, and Red She-Hulk investigate what appears to be a tomb, marked by a symbol resembling the Concordance Engine. Inside they find some mysterious beings, and a ship lodged in the heart of a giant. The beings turn out to be the “99 Daughters of Pontus – a violent and ancient enemy that rejects Namor’s rule almost immediately, and the ship appears to be the Nautilus – the very ship from Jules Verne’s story that has some tie to Namor’s past. Danny Rand helps bring the ship to the surface, and everyone associated with the Concordance Engine seems to have a hard time talking about it – almost as if they are being magically prevented from doing so.

I’ve got mixed feelings about this issue. On the one hand – the tone was fantastic. From the first page this felt like a Namor story. Fraction (and almost to a larger extent Breitweiser) did a wonderful job of establishing a classic sci-fi tone. On the other hand – that is all this story was – tone. Sure, there were one or two hints at character development for Namor, but hints was all we got. As far as story goes, everything was pretty well dull. The most interesting parts were the flashbacks revolving around Namor and his mother, but Fraction played pretty much everything else so close to the vest that it was hard to care about what we didn’t know.

The ending with Iron Fist and Misty Knight was also a bit confusing – it was out of left field and seemed to have absolutely nothing to do with what was going on during the rest of the story. It looks like we will be seeing more of Misty Knight next issue – which is fine – but we just spent an entire issue building up a story around Namor. Why wasn’t the tense cliff-hanger centered on that? The only connection between the two was the ship that Rand salvaged, and the connection between that ship and what happened at the end is too muddy for me to see.

Speaking of muddy – dear lord, the coloring. I think Breitweiser manages the “muted” palette as well as anyone, but there was entirely too much of it in this issue. It felt like that early issue of Secret Avengers on Mars – everything was far too dark. It didn’t help that every underwater scene was dominated by air bubbles and water currents completely cluttering each and every panel. Overall, the art was a real turn-off for me in this issue, and while it set a good tone at the outset, it ended up staying dark and muddy throughout, even on the surface.

My interest is really waning with The Defenders… I’ll give it credit for lasting as long as it has, because I didn’t think this one would last this long on the list. Still – my interest is to a point I don’t think it can come back from. There just hasn’t been enough meat in this series to really keep my interest.

Batman #8, $3.99, DC Comics. Due out 04/18/2012 ON TIME
Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, Art by Rafael Albuquerque, Color by Nathan Fairbairn

The Court of Owls attacks.

A sparse recap, but it really says it all. This issue is action from start to finish, as all of the “Talons” hit Gotham in force. Most of them attack Wayne Manor and the Batcave, but many are sent out into Gotham itself to attack the city’s leaders.

I’ve been very down on this title for the last few issues, but none of my ongoing gripes made an appearance in this issue. Unnecessary artsy-ness was nowhere to be found – thank heavens. Bruce seemed to shake off his angst when pressed, and that was a welcome development. As I said, the issue was all action, which left little room for story development, leaving little to comment on. Still, fights in the Batcave are always entertaining, and I was happy to see an appearance by the giant penny in the brawl.

This is the beginning of the Night of Owls crossover event. Usually crossover events are difficult to cover in the pull list, but since we are also getting Bargirl and Nightwing, we are already reading the bulk of the books this story will cross into. Thankfully, Batman didn’t continue to deteriorate, and I am interested enough in what is happening here to keep it on the list another month. Great stories always have a way of rekindling interest, and this issue gave Batman a stay of execution.

A curious note – the Editor’s column makes mention of a back-up story – “The Fall of the Wayne Family,” which was supposed to begin with this issue. This story was nowhere to be seen. The issue did come with a $3.99 cover price, and there were 40 pages… so maybe they decided to hold off on the back-up for a month. I was pleased to see how few ads were in this issue as well. I am not a fan of $4 comics, but we seemed to get our money’s worth here.

Overall, a thumbs up across the board for this issue.

Blue Beetle #8, $2.99, DC Comics. Due Out 04/18/2012 ON TIME
Written by Tony Bedard, Art by Marcio Takara, Color by Pete Pantazis

Jaime’s hunt for Stopwatch leads him to a shelter for runaway boys – where Stopwatch himself happens to be hiding out. We learn of Stopwatch’s origin, and find he is struggling to complete his time machine so that he can go back and undo all of the deaths he has caused. Blue Beetle tries to stop him, but let’s him escape. Jaime is frustrated, and decides that he needs to publicly defeat a villain to help restore his damaged reputation, and sets his sights on the other hostile reading his scarab has picked up. To his surprise, Jaime is met by Kyle Rayner and a couple of allies, who are tracking the same target.

The issue seemed to go by very fast, but a lot happened. I love Stopwatch as a villain for Jaime, and his escape leaves the door wide open for a future appearance. Stopwatch has a unique origin, and his character is made more interesting by the fact that he doesn’t want to be a villain, and doesn’t believe himself to be one. In his mind, once he finishes his time travel machine and undoes the accident that started him down this path, all of the death he has caused will be undone. Like Jaime, he is new to this as well, and makes mistakes. If handled properly, Stopwatch may well grow along with Jaime, becoming more competent as time goes on. I am looking forward to seeing him again.

We do get a flash of Paco and Brenda in this issue – the fact that they haven’t been left behind seems to indicate that Jaime will be returning to El Paso at some point. That is good news – this little trip will be good for Jaime, but I’d hate to see it be a permanent change.

Nightwing #8, $2.99, DC Comics. Due Out 04/18/2012 ON TIME
Written by Kyle Higgins, Pencils by Eddy Barrows, Colors by Rod Reis, Inks by Ruy Jose and Eber Ferreira

Nightwing puts his investigation on hold as he receives an ominous transmission from Alfred in the Batcave (See Batman #8). He springs into action and makes his way to the mayor, but he is too late – one of the Talons has already made several kills, and the mayor is in his cross-hairs. Nightiwng is ultimately successful in fending off that threat, but there is another Talon to pick up where the first left off. This one is named William Cobb – who has his sights set on Nightwing over a more personal grudge.

We had a few calls back to Gates of Gotham which was nice – Higgins did a great job sliding into that style of story, and he effectively used the William Cobb flashbacks to add flavor to this story. This was exactly the kind of story I was hoping for when Batman first started dealing with the Court of Owls – unfortunately those early stories were less about weaving historical tidbits into the overall story tapestry, and more about being artsy for the sake of art. We see none of that here.

The ending of this story is a bit of a shocker, but I don’t think anything is final – that would certainly be a surprise so early in the title’s run. I am very interested in learning more about some of the things Cobb alluded to at the end of this story – there is an obvious conclusion you could draw, but I am not ready to totally buy into that yet. What we see in this issue does shed some light on why Dick’s name is in that book, and exactly what involvement Haly’s Circus had with the Court of Owls, even if it addresses it indirectly.

Once again Nightwing features a meticulously constructed story with some solid art – this is quickly becoming one of my favorite reads each month.

John Carter: Gods of Mars #2 (of 5), $2.99, Marvel Comics. Due out 04/18/2012 ON TIME
Written by Sam Humphries, Art by Ramon Perez, Color by Jordie Bellaire


John Carter and Phaidor, Princess of the Therns have been captured by the Black Pirates, who are taking them deep within Barsoom to the “Goddess” Issus for tribute. John is without fear, and lunges for the Goddess – dooming himself and his captor Xodar to the fighting pits. While imprisoned there, the pair meet a Red Martian named Cathorsis, and the trio escape from their cell and steal a flying ship. When Xodar thanks John Carter for his part in their escape, Cathorsis is offended. He calls John Carter a charlatan who is insulting his father’s memory by using his name.

Just like the last series, Gods of Mars is turning into a fantastic adaptation. John Carter really is a straightforward character to write, yet so often we see adapters (like what we saw in the film) screw with that very simple formula and hurt what makes these titles so enjoyable. John Carter is virtually without fear – at least, he may experience the emotion but he absolutely never lets it stop him from acting. As it was put in this issue, John Carter thinks by acting, and finds it best to rush forward into a fight and figure things out while he goes. He is chivalry embodied – as we see here, he even defends Phaidor without hesitation despite the fact that she really isn’t all that good a person. There are so few heroes with honor in modern literature, and it is so refreshing to revisit a character that embodies honor by default.

The art is solid – these stories are bound to be high action, and Perez and Bellaire handle both the calm and the action quite well. The books is wonderful to look at, and the art really helps the story along. I complained earlier at the way darkness was handled in The Defenders – it is a common complaint, but I really like to highlight when artists do it right as well. This is one of those times. Instead of using artificial brightness, Bellaire instead gets creative with color, and uses contrasting colors to help you see what is going on. I appreciate artists who find ways to show you what is going on, while making you understand that it is supposed to be dark. Kudos to the art team on this one.

Next issue can’t come soon enough for me. These stories are just as much fun as they ever were. And on a closing note – what a gorgeous cover.

The Sixth Gun #21, $3.99, Oni Press. Due Out 04/18/2012 ON TIME
Written by Cullen Bunn, Art by Brian Hurtt, Color by Bill Crabtree


In the aftermath of last issue’s explosive cliffhanger, Becky is left deaf. She presses on – and delves deep within the sanctuary of the Knights of Solomon to find Drake Sinclair. Eventually she fights her way to him – and after freeing him and returning his guns, the pair try to make their escape. Their fight causes the cavern to fall in on itself, destroying buildings and walkways alike. Trapped on a platform, they decide to jump into the water below – and find a mysterious stone on the bottom of the cavern deep under water.

I have mixed feelings about the whole “silent” issue approach – at least there was a reason to do it, but I have never seen one of these books that were better without the dialogue. At least there was a reason to go without this time around (unlike that “‘Nuff Said” gimmick month Marvel did a few years back), but this story still suffered as a result. It is a credit to Hurtt that the reader could glean a story out of this without words, but to do something like this for such an important issue was a risk they probably shouldn’t have taken. The lack of dialogue and narration was a weakness that this title doesn’t normally have, and while the story itself was strong enough to carry the issue without words – it still muted what should have been a spectacular climax. They have been building to Drake’s rescue for so long… and so much was missing from the issue.

Of course Hurtt did an artful job with what he was given, and I can see many other reviewers raving about this. At this point, it should go without saying that I am not a fan of artsy for the sake of it. As I mentioned before, my annoyance at this decision is muted by the fact that there was a concrete story reason to do it – but it doesn’t change the fact that it was a poor choice of issues to do it in. Yes, Becky missed out on a lot, but it isn’t always the best decision to force the reader to miss out on something, especially when you have been selling that very thing for so many issues.

I am possibly being unecessarily harsh on this issue, but when a title achieves a certain level of consistent quality, the mistakes are easy to point out. Bunn and Hurtt took a risk here, and while I don’t think it panned out, they are definitely not going to suffer for it. I can’t deny that a lot of indy comic fans eat this stuff up. I can only assume that next month the words will be back, and this title will go back to being an A+ title month after month. One minor dip isn’t going to kill this book – even on such an important issue.



LATE AND UNRELEASED TITLES

Reed Gunther #10, $2.99, Image Comics, Due out 04/18/2012 DELAYED – Due Out 05/09/2012

Not sure what is behind the delay here – but the shipping schedule is now showing that this issue won’t be out until May 9th. I haven’t seen an explanation given, but I don’t think we will see it pushed back any farther. At least I hope not!

RELEASED SO FAR

Daredevil #10.1, $2.99, Marvel Comics. Due Out 04/04/2012 ON TIME
Batgirl #8, $2.99, DC Comics. Due out 04/11/2012 ON TIME
The Defenders #5, $3.99, Marvel Comics. Due out 04/18/2012 ON TIME
Batman #8, $3.99, DC Comics. Due out 04/18/2012 ON TIME
Blue Beetle #8, $2.99, DC Comics. Due Out 04/18/2012 ON TIME
Nightwing #8, $2.99, DC Comics. Due Out 04/18/2012 ON TIME
John Carter: Gods of Mars #2 (of 5), $2.99, Marvel Comics. Due out 04/18/2012 ON TIME
The Sixth Gun #21, $3.99, Oni Press. Due Out 04/18/2012 ON TIME

STILL TO COME

Daredevil #11, $2.99, Marvel Comics. Due Out 04/25/2012
Wolverine #305, $3.99, Marvel Comics. Due out 04/25/2012
Reed Gunther #10, $2.99, Image Comics, Due out 04/18/2012 DELAYED – Due Out 05/09/2012

TRADE BANK – $6.00
Daytripper TP, $19.99, DC Comics. Due out 02/01/2012

$1.98 (Bank from March) + $40.00 (April Budget) = $41.98
$41.98 – $36.89 (April Issues) – $2.86 (tax) – $2.00 (Trade Bank Deposit) = $0.23 Banked for May

FREE COMICS

Over the last couple months I have been trying several new things with the $40 Pull List – it is now time for another one! Starting this month, I am going to give away the issues I have reviewed in the Pull List. So, if you want any of the issues I have covered this month, send me a message and it is yours! Of course, I only have one copy of each issue to give away, so it will be first come, first serve. In future months there will be some hoops to jump through (trivia questions and the like), but this month, all I need is a message! I will cover the shipping cost on domestic orders, so if you are outside of the country we will have to work something out. If you are international and want to get an issue, let me know and I will tell you what is involved.

That will wrap things up this week – check back next Monday when we will have two final issues for the month – Daredevil #11 and Wolverine #305!

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