This week Jim Starlin returns to write the Mad Titan, Kyle Higgins introduces us to C.O.W.L., and we say goodbye to Nightwing!
Thanos Annual #1 (Marvel Comics)
The Mad Titan gets his own Annual sized issue, despite the fact that he doesn’t have a current series to connect it to. Thanos Annual brings the purple-skinned madman’s creator Jim Starlin back to the writing table, as well as artist Ron Lim. What follows isn’t a book that features Thanos taking on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but a rather talky book that explains the many adventures that Thanos has gone through…as told to Thanos.
Let me back up here. Thanos Annual takes place shortly after the Mad Titan loses control of the Cosmic Cube (which happened waaaaay back in 1974 in Captain Marvel #33). Severely beaten, Thanos is found by his henchman and brought back to his ship, when suddenly he’s transported to Hell and confronted by Mephisto. Before the broken and battered Thanos is about to be destroyed by Marvel’s devil, the Infinity Gauntlet era Thanos arrives and saves his past self. Apparently Thanos has decided to use the time gem while he has control over it to learn of the various timelines and possible futures around him. Acting as an “avatar” of the real Thanos, the ghostly apparition has appeared in the past to discover the mystery of why Thanos has no memory of what happened to him after losing the Cosmic Cube.
Still with me? Good, cause we’re almost done.
The Infinity Gauntlet era Thanos starts filling in his past self on the various adventures that he will have in the near and far future. He shows him glimpses of many classic Thanos tales, from the Infinity Gauntlet to events that occur during Abnett and Lanning’s cosmic Marvel saga (there’s no mention of Infinity though). After that, he sets him back on his journey to spread terror through space.
While that summary doesn’t make Thanos Annual sound like a good comic, it actually is pretty entertaining. Jim Starlin does a really good job of presenting this story in a way that doesn’t entirely make my head hurt too much. He keeps it from going over the edge narrative wise, but just barely. Of course, Starlin’s depiction of Thanos is spot on, and surprisingly pretty funny at times too.
Ron Lim’s artwork adds to the 90’s flashbacks some readers my have when they get this issue. From the panels depicting Captain America battling Thanos to the images of Adam warlock and the Infinity Guard, there’s page after page of 90’s cosmic nostalgia to enjoy. Incredibly, Lim’s work hasn’t aged and still looks completely modern. Unlike other artists from decades past, his panels are just as smooth and expressive as they always were.
In a strange way, I feel like this title would work extremely well for people who have no knowledge of the character and are still wondering what all the fuss was about at the end of Avengers. All the rehashing will probably bore longtime fans of the character, but it’s a pretty cool thrill to see Starlin writing Thanos again. Thankfully we won’t have to wait too long to see him write the Mad Titan, as August sees Starlin penning The Infinity Revelation.
C.O.W.L. #1 (Image Comics)
Former Nightwing scribe Kyle Higgins enters the creator-owned comic world with C.O.W.L.! Short for the “Chicago Organized Workers League”, the series, featuring art by Rod Reis, focuses on a group of super-powered individuals in the late 1950’s who protect the city of Chicago from any and all threats. However, the group is entering different and strange times, and with their success rate being so high, how long will it be until the city no longer needs C.O.W.L.?
I wasn’t too sure what to think of this book when I first opened it, but by the end of the issue I was really intrigued. Higgins and co-writer Alec Siegel have created a cool Watchmen meets Mad Men style comic book here, and I loved the way that many of the “heroes” in C.O.W.L. are only in it for the overtime that they can get for staying past their shifts. There’s a lot of set up in this issue, which does hurt the narrative a little bit, but I by the end you have a pretty clear sense of what the world is and who are cast of heroes are.
Like the narrative, Rod Reis’ art grew on me as well. The opening pages of the book depict the members of C.O.W.L. taking out a deranged super villain, and the art is muddy and pretty much all over the place. However, as the book went on, I found Reis’ painted style to actually start to look pretty neat, especially in the seedier places that the story takes us. Some of his characters look a little strange in motion, but it seems like Reis has the talent to grow and just needs a little more practice.
C.O.W.L. was definitely a surprise for me, and the more I think about it, the more I like it. It’s got a cool premise and a very distinct look. Judging by Kyle Higgins’ afterword, you can tell that he’s very excited to be able to put this book out, and I’ll be back next month to see what else he’s got in store for the members of C.O.W.L.
Nightwing #30 (DC Comics)
After a delay almost as long as Forever Evil, Nightwing is back in his final issue. However, Nightwing #30 feels less like the final issue of a series and more like a set up for Dick Grayson’s new title, Grayson. This issue is an entire set up for the upcoming series where he becomes a James Bond-like super agent, and unfortunately it doesn’t get me that excited for the new direction in Dick’s life.
Tim Seeley and Tom King, the writers behind the upcoming Grayson series, write Nightwing #30. Much of the issue feels like the two writers are checking off different exposition boxes so that they don’t have to explain everything in Grayson #1. They set up the villainous shadow group Spyral, reestablish Bruce and Dick’s relationship, and then set Dick off on his own as an undercover vigilante. Many sections of the book are blown through, and none really have time to breath. However, the section that suffers the worst is the part that should be the most compelling: Bruce convincing Dick that he has to go underground and infiltrate the mysterious Spyral group, whom Batman believes is trying to get private info on heroes. Set up during one of their sparring matches, the entire conversation has you thinking that Dick will tell Bruce that he’s not going to go along with his plan. Hell, for the most part, almost everything Dick Grayson says to Bruce is “no”. But then, in the last page of the act, Dick is suddenly on board with the idea. I can get that maybe he realized that Batman is right (when isn’t he), but his sudden change of heart comes out of nowhere.
There’s three different artists handling this book: Javier Garron draws “Act One”, Jorge Lucas draws “Act Two”, and Mikel Janin draws “Act Three”. Garron and Janin’s artwork is pretty similar, and for the most part is pretty good, but Jorge Lucas’s second “act” looks really out of place. The sparring match between Batman and Nightwing gets pretty brutal, and while Lucas does a great job showing how beat up the two are getting, it doesn’t mesh well with the rest of the book….much like how Dick Grayson suddenly becoming a super spy doesn’t totally mesh will with the DC Universe. While I’m still giving Grayson a shot out of curiosity, Nightwing #30 doesn’t fill me with a lot of hope that it’ll be good.