It might sound a little bit like I’m picking on Marvel this week, but for what it’s worth, I assure you I don’t mean to. Last month, Punisher got a new #1. In short, it was pretty awful. The plot followed a couple of cops who didn’t really matter, but served to dump exposition by the page-load. The art was stiff, and even in the few action sequences seemed static. I try not to be too hard on any #1. As much like nails on a chalkboard as exposition can be, when it comes to comics, some writers just like to pour it out in the first issue, then get to the meat of the story. If the story picks up, I can overlook the wasted first issue. Well, the second issue of Punisher came out this week, and I’m sorry to say it hasn’t improved at all. The story revolves around a new drug that turns users into a sort of super-soldier, but the only people we’ve seen use it are a guy who gets his head caved in with a cinderblock courtesy of Frank Castle, and a guy who ends up failing to get the drop on Castle and running away. I’m not saying The Punisher needs to get his head handed to him right from the start of his own book, but so far the effect of this wonder drug doesn’t seem all that great beyond turning people’s eyes red. The dialogue is also pretty cringeworthy. It’s loaded with exposition, and ranges from generic goon-speak, to that of a goon using a word-of-the-day calendar. I’m sorry to say I’ve picked up the first two issues of Punisher now, and it won’t be making my pull list.
Amazing Spider-man was a much better entry for Marvel. It’s been one of the stronger titles, and while this issue didn’t do much beyond setting the stage for the arc, it was mostly effective. Peter Parker’s feud with Tony Stark escalated a bit quickly, and I found it hard to watch it come to blows without feeling like Parker is coming off a bit childish, but the story is well aware of that sentiment, and Miles Morales voices that very viewpoint. If I have one big gripe about the book as a whole it’s that it’s feeling a little crowded. I like my Spider-man stories smaller, but the Zodiac arc defied that and managed to keep me entertained, so I’m still happy to be on board here.
Rebirth gave us a couple of #1’s for Batman and Superman this week. Batman: Rebirth #1 was a decent read, though I question how essential it, or any of the “Rebirth” branded solo books will be moving forward. The artwork was compelling enough, and that’s actually saying something considering it’s following Greg Capullo’s work on the title. Scott Snyder is credited as a writer on the issue, and I can see his influence especially where Calendar Man’s new status quo comes in. I’ll admit I’m probably a purist to a fault when it comes to introducing new status quos, but I’m usually only that way with core characters. I don’t think Calendar Man is on the level that other members of Gotham City’s rogues gallery have reached, so I don’t feel too averse to making changes to him. With that said, I don’t care for the new status quo. Having him molt and rejuvenate with the seasons is very paranormal/horror, and that screams Scott Snyder all over, but it doesn’t sit well with, or interest me. I got the impression I was meant to be more excited to learn Duke Thomas’ new role than I am. Part of that is that I don’t know or care much about Duke Thomas. I never got into We are Robin, and Batman: Rebirth doesn’t do much for an introduction. The creators here might have expected us to have done a little more homework than they should have, and that hurts the book. Ultimately, it’s not a bad read, but I’m not convinced I couldn’t have skipped it.
Superman: Rebirth #1 feels like a tighter book, and I’ve been waiting for several years to say that about Superman book. Mostly, it’s a long narrative path toward telling us The New 52 Superman is dead, and the pre-New 52 Superman is going to fill the void. The effect here is a little weird. It tries to eulogize Clark Kent and convince us he’s dead, even while the previous reality’s Clark Kent is standing over his grave. I see how they wanted this to have en emotional appeal. They remind us that although we still have Clark Kent, who will be Superman again, the version we’ve known the last five years is dead. It’s hard to make that feel real, and though they try to with Lana, and showing the different relationships each Clark had with her, it’s a little too much focus on a gray area in comics. This issue was light on action, and tried to make up for it in sentiment with some mixed results. I do, however, feel like the things that happened in Superman’s rebirth issue have a better chance of mattering down the road, and that’s where the pay-off for having picked up this book came in.
For those worried about such things, I do read a few indie books, and from time to time, I’ll cover them. If I’m being honest, though, I read comics for superheroes, and that usually brings me to the big two (Marvel and DC). I don’t mean to neglect smaller publishers, and there’s a ton of high quality work floating around out there, so when something gets on my radar and I’m really into it, I’ll write about it, but more often than not, my comics involve capes and masks.