We're nearing Christmas, and I haven't even started narrowing down the best of the year 2014. But here's the best (and worst) of this week?
I really want to like what we’ve established here. Angela, having found out her entire life is a lie, clings to the one truth she knows - nothing from nothing - even though it’s based on the same lie she’s just escaped the shadow of. But it never gets past the surface. We’re shown how no-nonsense and good-at-slaying things she is, but nothing really about her as a character. Except that she has a friend. Who apparently didn’t get the memo about Angela’s forfeiture of Angelic status.
I was excited to see Gillen’s name on an Asgard book, but this one’s a pass.
8 - Secret Six #1 (last issue - n/a)
One of the growing concerns of a vocal portion of DC’s longtime audience is the inherent grimness of DC’s books, especially here in the New 52. There’s a darkness that just kind of lives over everything, and while the trend started before the company’s re-launch, the re-launch certainly solidified it.
The previous incarnation of the Secret Six was certainly dark. The issue that won it Funnybook of the Year honors was particularly dirty with grimness. But that issue also had layers of hope and the power of friendship. It also had the title’s air of whimsy that made all of the dark places Gail Simone took those misfits to all palatable. From the time the ongoing series hit almost all the way through its run, it was probably my favorite comic on the shelf.
What I’m reading now is a very New 52 version of that. The whimsy is gone. Sure, there are fun bits about how va-va-va-voom Catman is, but since we’re starting at zero, the fun dynamics of a team that loved each other until it was time for a betrayal have been erased. Now it’s all threats and who are you’s and where are we’s and I get that this is just the first issue - but we also know I’m notoriously biased against “getting the band together” stories.
It’s grim, I’m not sure I get any of the characters after one issue (though Catman’s insistence that he get out before bad things happen is an interesting note to keep hitting), and I don’t have that palate cleanser. If this was any other writer or any other title on a book, I’d be back down to zero DC-published books. But this is Gail and this is the Secret Six. So I’ll stick around.
7 - Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #7 (last issue - 10 out of 10 books)
I wasn’t big on how the last few issues went. But here we see Danny Rand trying to rediscover himself now that he’s been separated from the source of his strength, and I’m intrigued. Danny is going back to the past to discover what about him made him worthy to begin with, and the weird tension with Sparrow is helping.
Meanwhile, Brenda has awkwardly become the star of the book, working her way into the new Rand tower to save “Kung Fu Girl.” This isn’t perfect, but Andrews’ art is making up for the gaps at a strong clip.
6 - Nailbiter #8 (last issue - 2 out of 10 books)
Something about the bees, right? This was a sudden and odd shift, as we try to investigate the previous leads and find out more about what made the Bucakroo Butchers tick. So it’s the bees? In big letters? Well, they’re connected to the town and people are acting strangely there. So maybe? Seems a little bit off from the rest of the story, but we’ll see.
This issue does excel in other areas, though. The tension between the FBI and local law enforcement is well-worn territory, but works really well here as everyone is convinced that only half the cards are on the table.
And the Nailbiter himself responding to demands for his time and attention was a nice and creepy look.
5 - Hulk #9 (last issue - 3 out of 10 books)
Doctor Green (eschewing the less formal Doc for this trip) goes to Kitty Pryde - still inexplicably hiding out with Scott Summers - for some surgery that allows for a little bit of fun, but is just the warm up. An unexplained move in his chess match against Banner.
And that was the real delight in this little detour from the quest to put all of the gamma toys (save one) back in the box. Seeing Banner outclassed by an opponent before he even knew the rules of the game had changed so drastically.
4 - Sixth Gun #45 (last issue - 8 out of 10 books)
Hope exists in the bleakest of places. In a familiar and comforting face that’s actually neither one anymore. In the idea that the impossible has been done by lesser people than yourself. In one distraction being enough. In fear.
But hopelessness is in those same places. A friend asking you to end his misery. The impossible being a little too tall an order. A distraction being a small thing. Fear being available to everyone.
3 - Sheltered #12 (last issue - 6 out of 9 books)
And now? What it sounds like when a kid tries to explain that everything that could go wrong in a survivalist camp did, and it was the children that ran it. How one homicide turns to more than a dozen with one wild-eyed girl’s story. And how a bunch of kids ready for the end of the world react to being discovered as on their own and dangerous.
2 - The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #2 (last issue - 1 out of 10 books)
Does it matter that we all knew what ‘animal’ the Champion would turn out to be as soon as the arguments started? The answer is no. It really doesn’t. Because that debut, to save what was left of a magical city’s residents even as the children recognized that this wasn’t bloodthirstiness but more the sum total of years of oppression. Everything was great. Again.
“They hate us,” our young hero puppy realizes, in a night-and-day contrast to what he was told about how fairly those bison have been treated. As the former elite realize that they’re now homeless and out of their element. As they know they’re now the oppressed save for the Champion, who they only want to study. This was just so very good.
1 - Sheltered #13 (last issue - 3 out of 9 books)
And then it got better. Lucas working the idea that they’re kids to buy them safety until such time as the end of the world that only our Sheltered children are ready for. Foiled plots and an FBI agent helpless to help because he doesn’t want to be the one who raided and shot up a camp full of kids.
But it’s the conclusion that really hits home. The end of this issue, showing us what kids sheltered not just from the oncoming apocalypse but from active participation in the outside world might be a little too exuberant. Even as the older, wiser, more experienced master manipulator sees his own scheming undone in one loud moment.