Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Paul's Picks! - February 1, 2013

Well, it's that time again folks: Wednesday! And you know what Wednesday is?... Well, of course you do, you're reading a blog about comics, so you obviously know it's New Comics Day, a.k.a. Paul's favorite weekly holiday! And now for his much-anticipated pick-of-the-week...

Hey there friends! It's been a while, hasn't it? Alas, due to my recent relocation for my student teaching assignment, I've been forced into a comic shop dead zone. As this is the case, I am currently having to have my pulls shipped to me from my regular shop back in Bowling Green, KY, the Great Escape Records and Comics. They have been gracious enough to take on the task of shipping me my books so that I can continue buying print comics (I'll never give in, digital overlords!), but the downside is that I often have to wait weeks at a time for my massive stacks of pulls. As such, the entire premise of "Paul's Picks" has become tainted and strictly limited to the ancillary purchase that I make via Comixology. However, since this week managed to land on a shipping week, I was able to read a good stack of books, including this week's!

And man, what a week it is! As I'm sitting down to write this article, I am torn practically in two on which book best deserves my pick. I'll tell you right outside the gate, DC Comics took the cake. If you've been tuning in (as you should be) to the AC Podcast, then you'll be well aware of all the Marvel love we've been spreading around lately, myself included. But for all of the good stuff coming out of the NOW! relaunch, there is no question in my mind that DC brought their "A" game this week with two titles that may or may not be in your sights: Aquaman #16 and Batman Incorporated #7. As a matter of fact, I loved both of these books so much, I don't think I can make Sophie's choice. In other words, I'ma go with both.

Since I'm already cheating this week, instead of my usual 3 point system, I will justify my picks with 2 reasonings each, so as to not drag this post on beyond your attention span. Here we go:

Aquaman #16 by Geoff Johns and Paul Pelletier

1. Three little words: Throne. Of. Atlantis. How did this sneak past the internet? I mean, seriously DC, why is this not posted on every interstate side billboard in the country? Why are there not TV commercial ads between every show on the Cartoon Network advertising this crossover event? I went into the "Throne of Atlantis" crossover with only one or two things in mind. For one, Ivan Reis stepped onto Justice League for the first time with this, so I was definitely looking forward to that. On the other hand, while Aquaman had been good, the thought of an "event" based on his neck of the woods sounded... Well, for a lack of better words, boring. I've enjoyed Aquaman from its start at the New 52, but I just didn't see the necessary momentum for such an event. Boy, was I wrong.

  To say the least, this is absolutely the best "event" to occur at DC since Flashpoint. And regardless of your feelings about that series, this 6 issue crossover has quickly become the most exciting and satisfying story to come out from the publisher in ages. As a matter of fact, I would put the quality of work on par with the best issues from AvX. Of course, this isn't nearly on the same scale as that, but it is WOWing me!

2. The creative team is everything. As my colleague Seth said on last night's One Year Anniversary podcast, Reis is a better artist today than Jim Lee over on JL. And even though he's no longer on Aquaman, Paul Pelletier has taken that role in swing without a blink. While issue 16 of JL was the most cinematic and large scale of the event yet, Aquaman 16 was probably the most challenging for the artist. Most of the issue takes place underwater, with Aquaman, Mera, and Cyborg trying to rescue the Big Three from the depths of the Trench (introduced in the first arc of this run). The claustrophobic nature of the story, along with the well played villain twist at the end, made this easily the most emotionally gripping entry in the story yet.

  That, of course, is in no small part due to DC staple Geoff Johns really stepping it up for this story. If you look back over the last year on this site, I'm sure you'll find that we have been both up and down on his work since the New 52 began, but this story feels like Johns at his absolute prime. I'm talking Johns' JSA, Flash, Green Lantern Rebirth, Infinite Crisis prime. With this arc he has rekindled my confidence in him as a class A author, the kind of writer who can take a group of characters with such a wide span and make each one feel both real and appreciated. Kudos to you, Mr. Johns. You have just exceeded all of my expectations for a Geoff Johns Justice League title.

Batman Incorporated #7 by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham

1. It's all coming together... Back in the old Pre-New 52 DCU, AC favorite Grant Morrison had been running the show on Batman for years. Starting with his introduction of the Black Glove, and of course Damian, Grant had crafted some of the most complicated and beloved story lines to ever grace the Bat. That run has leaked over into the DCnU with the continuation of his own created series, Batman Incorporated. Although many of DC's properties have taken some left turns here and there, it is almost as if Morrison's own title is still carrying on within the same continuity as before, without all of the concerns about lost continuity and the like. In fact, I would go as far as to say that this is the only title in the New 52 that still maintains the (pleasant) feeling of days past.

  Of course, I'm aware that some may not hold Morrison's run in the same high regards as we do here at the Ancillary Characters. There are complaints that it is conviluted, complicated, obscure, and even hard to follow. While I will conceded there have been some iffy moments (You guys remember Return of Bruce Wayne #2? What in the world...), I believe that with the ending of this DCnU Batman Inc. title, everything is going to come together. It's not just gonna get some cheap resolution, nor will it simply be finished. I believe it is going to tie together, connecting many dots and plot points that Morrison has been crafting for more than 5 years, and it is going to be mind blowing. I am both anxiously anticipating and painfully dreading the day that Morrison writes issue #12 to finish the series, and his run on Batman.

2. So many big moments... This book has been consistently top notch since it (re)started last year. However, the last two issues have been jaw-droppingly amazing. The perfect combination of Bunham's art and Morrison's scripting have come together recently to drive home some of the most tragic moments that I've ever read in comics. In particular, I am referring to the death of one AC favorite character in issue #6, who's death was felt to its full potency in this week's entry. I believe have felt more emotional impact from those few pages than I have from any comic in ages. Perhaps this is due to my unbridled love for the character, but the few moments of grief displayed by those closest to him in this issue were just heartbreaking. Rarely have I come so close to tears in a comic, and the cold chills were abundant.

  Of course, these tragic scenes pass quickly, which leads into some of the best story development that Morrison has given us since the final issue from the Pre-New 52 universe, Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that this single issue does a better job of tying in the last couple years of this book than any of its predecessors. We are finally getting a view of Talia's grand plan, along with some of the more twisted and shocking reveals to come from the series yet. In summation, this series is approaching its finale at issue 12, and I have a feeling that once it is finished, all of the doubters and haters will be forever quieted by the full scale and effect of Morrison's swan song at DC.

If you are one of those readers who passed on one or both of these books, do yourself a favor: go out a buy them both. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that you should buy all of the Throne of Atlantis books, and start working you're way through the entirety of Batman Inc. At a time when there is a veritable plethora of top notch books on the market, it's easy to let some slip through your fingers. Trust me when I say, you do not wanna miss out on these!

Hasta luego.

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