Quick Hits: Reviews of Deathstroke #3, Batwoman #3 and more…

Deathstroke #3

Deathstroke #3: The thing that’s most interesting to me about Deathstroke is how smart this book is. You wouldn’t really expect that from a comic about a costumed contract killer that takes delight in finding new ways to dismember, but writer Kyle Higgins gives us a little something to ponder in every issue of his title. Here, for instance, Deathstroke’s hired to off a philanthropist who repurposes supervillain weaponry to help the planet (for example, using freeze guns to restore polar ice caps). That’s a cool idea, and in the days of Occupy Wall Street it only makes sense that someone would want him dead for doing so. Beyond that, although Higgins’ stories have so far all been done-in-one (a format I really enjoy), we’re getting signs of a long-term plot shaping up here. As new villain Legacy tells our protagonist, “Consequences, Slade… every action has them…. It’s why we get hired, to carry them out. It’s our purpose.” This sets up a situation where every page of Deathstroke, no matter how throwaway it seems, is worth paying attention to — you never know what might play into the larger web being spun here. Artist Joe Bennett continues to excel in these pages, contributing vivid action scenes and striking character designs. This book’s better than it has any right to be, and that’s awesome. A

Batwoman #3: Batwoman’s on the trail of the mysterious child-abducting Weeping Woman, but this time the Woman finds her first and puts her through a horrifying psychological ordeal. Meanwhile, government agents close in on the identity of Gotham’s newest caped crusader. The first time I read Batwoman #3, I thought it was the first issue of this series I didn’t love — so of course I had to read back through it again to see if I was crazy. Turns out I was. The key to this issue is the extended underwater sequence at its opening, beautifully presented by artist and co-writer JH Williams III. It’s creepy, even terrifying, and if you try to put yourself in Kate Kane’s mindset you’ll see why she’s off her game for the rest of this book, making some questionable decisions and bringing a level of melodrama to Batwoman we’ve not yet seen. This issue also reveals some potential commonalities between Batwoman and her masculine counterpart, both in personality (watch how she treats her partner) and in her the details of her adventures (the run-from-the-cops scene in this issue strikes me as very classic Batman). Overall, with fantastic characters, frightening threats and jaw-dropping art, Batwoman continues to be one of the finest books on the comic rack. A

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #3: “Khalis took out the spider-like life forms on this continent, but we still need to take care of the ogres and the sea monsters before this thing makes it to Earth!” That line of dialog from Ray Palmer basically sums up everything you need to know about Jeff Lemire and Alberto Ponticelli’s Frankenstein. It occurred to me reading this issue that the book’s basically Stormwatch if sci-fi were subbed out for horror/adventure, and that’s totally cool with me. Here our heroes have a wild time as they attempt to murder an entire planet of monsters before they invade a small town in Washington State. It’s a really fun, inventive book with some great characters (what is up with Khalis, man?!) and really cool monsters. Although I’m still not totally in love with Ponticelli’s art, I’m starting to accept it, and while his takes on the book’s protagonists aren’t my favorite he does a great job on the many monsters our team deals with here. Frankenstein is certainly a niche book, but it also lives squarely in the DC Universe, which I appreciate; it’s a lot of fun to see Ray Palmer (here merely a scientist) interact with these characters, and the end of the issue’s promise of a character from the past popping up in Vietnam gives me a few really intriguing ideas regarding who might be next to join Frankenstein’s team. A-

Green Lantern #3: Hal Jordan and Sinestro embark on their mission to free the latter’s planet from the Yellow Lantern Corps, but of course nothing goes according to Sinestro’s plan. Of the three issues of Green Lantern released so far, this one was probably least interesting to me; a lot of it seems to be falling back on tired plot developments, including yet another run at the “Guardians are evil” idea (haven’t we exhausted this plot already?) and some over-emotional bickering between characters, the hallmark of writer Geoff Johns at his worst. That’s disappointing considering how fresh the first few issues of this series felt. On the other hand, lead villain/hero Sinestro continues to be a well-crafted character deserving of the spotlight; I particularly love his response to Hal Jordan accusing him of thinking himself a superior being. And although this book is maybe some of the least-detailed work to come out of artist Doug Mahnke in a long time, it’s still quite good, especially when we get to Korugar and Mahnke can show off all his crazy alien designs for the Sinestro Corps members. This book’s last few pages pack a pretty substantial wallop; although it’s clearly a situation Hal Jordan will be able to get himself out of (he’s the star of the book after all), I’m not quite clear on how yet, and Sinestro’s reaction to Jordan’s predicament is interesting indeed. B-

Red Lanterns #3: The third installment of Peter Milligan and Ed Benes’ meditation on rage focuses on Bleez, Atrocitus’ second-in-command, who in this issue is given intelligence enough to make an able counterpart for the Red Lantern Corps leader. Red Lanterns isn’t a bad book, and it actually does a few things that are pretty interesting, but its basic structure — single-issue spotlights on characters who have in some way been touched by rage — isn’t holding my attention. There are certainly elements of a cohesive plot peeking through here; issue #3 even flashes back to a couple angry Londonites we haven’t seen since this book’s debut in September, but again their scenes are totally contextless. I feel that whatever overarching story’s being built here is probably more interesting than the done-in-one vignettes we’re getting, especially when none of them so far have had anything very compelling to say about actually feeling rage, at least to my mind. While I haven’t hated reading these books, I think I’ve given the title enough of a chance to be something I want to keep purchasing, and unfortunately at this juncture it just isn’t. DROP IT. C

Resurrection Man #3: In a nice recovery from last issue’s slow-down, Resurrection Man #3 gets back to the stuff about this series I find really interesting — hero Mitch Shelley’s existential dilemma. In other words, what does it do to your psyche when you can’t die? What do the cosmic forces in charge of the afterlife think about that? What results is a pretty cool action parable, kind of a ‘roided-up version of ideas explored in Vertigo books like Lucifer. There’s also a great scene in this issue where two agents sent to capture Shelley keep killing him and hoping he won’t come back with powers that thwart their strategies; not only is it funny, but it’s nice to see the book exploring the mechanics of its central character in such a way. To top it off, Fernando Dagnino has his best issue yet with this book’s art, helped out in a major way by colorist Santi Arcas in some scenes set in the afterlife. This book’s Purgatory visuals are legitimately creepy, as are the several scenes of Shelley actually resurrecting (one of them quite graphically). This issue renews the excitement I had for this title after its first issue, and the title reclaims its place as one of my favorites in DC’s New 52. A-

Stormwatch #3: While Harry Tanner finishes killing the moon, Apollo, Adam One and the rest of Stormwatch set their sights on a planet-destroying monster that’s landed above a hidden city in Nowhere, Colorado. Paul Cornell and Miguel Sepulveda’s Stormwatch continues to be perhaps the most inventive book of all the New 52, at least when it comes to creative use of superpowers. Cornell’s got a team on his hands that can do almost anything, and it’s a lot of fun to see how they react to threats that are slightly beyond even their scope. While the book’s quick-paced and full of action, it’s also densely plotted; there are a lot of different bits of stories going on in these 20 pages, and they’re all interesting, at least to me. The only real complaint I can muster is that occasionally the characters’ dialog is too expository, but that’s easy enough to overlook in a book of this caliber, especially next to all the things Stormwatch delivers that no other comic does. This issue’s worth the price just for the page two image of Jack Hawksmoor talking with physical embodiments of Paris, Metropolis and Gotham City. It’s just brilliant. A-

Unwritten #31: “Tommy Taylor and the War of the Words” begins, and though I haven’t heard anything about Unwritten ending any time soon, this sure seems to me like the book’s ramping up to a finale — or at least a climax. We’re in full-on action mode as Tom finally embraces the powers of his literary namesake and takes his battle to the wicked Cabal. He’s casting spells like there’s no tomorrow and generally kicking ass, and it’s really cool to see this book’s hero in so proactive a state. He’s also got a more fully developed team of partners on his hands; Frankenstein’s Monster has seemingly joined the fray full-time, a welcome addition. If this book isn’t heading towards some kind of ending, it’s definitely changing direction; at least for the moment, Tom seems to be done investigating his identity, choosing instead to fight for it. What results is a really exciting, intense issue that promises a fantastic story arc to come. A

tags: batwoman, deathstroke, Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E., green lantern, red lanterns, resurrection man, stormwatch, unwritten

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