Christmas is coming and you know what that means: time for Santa to start popping up in comics with machine guns or bare-knuckle boxing your favorite superheroes.

A lot of comics came out this week that have strong followings, two new Marvel NOW! series begin and DC Comics adds two more issues to their main Before Watchmen stories. A lot to go through! So scroll down and see what we’ve picked for the best books worth your 10 dollars.

Quote of the Week:

Clownclownclownclownclown — That’s always been the misconception! I mean, have I ever made you laugh without a little help–or a pharmaceutical push? I don’t think so!”

- The Joker in Batman and Robin #15


Before Watchmen: Rorschach #3 (of 4) (DC Comics)


So far this title has been all art and not much substance. Sadly this issue could have been titled, “Rorschach Plans on a Date” because about all that happens plot wise. The rest is our buddy punching dudes.


Lee Barmejo can do no wrong.

And then this happened:


It’s known Taxi Driver inspired the sets in the Watchmen movie…but Travis Bickle?

I’d love to say this comic is a rousing and much needed story, but sadly it reads like filler. Not much is being said and clearly the bud of story allowed was to explain why Rorschach is a street urchin. Visit for the art, but pass on the story.

Budget: $10.00 – $0.00 = $10.00


Cable and the X-Force #1 (Marvel Comics)


You’d hope the first issue in a series would let you know what it’s going to be about besides Cable and Hope loving each other. We knew that. The series still deserves a look for another few issues, but as a single issue buy on a budget it can’t cut it. Check out the more in depth review posted earlier today here.

Budget: $10.00 – $0.00 = $10.00


Avengers Arena #1 (Marvel Comics)


Consider the villain of this story is Arcade and his success rate is 0%. It was a smart move by writer Dennis Hopeless to have Arcade convey that himself. Sly little meta-nods of self-awareness are always fun when done right, aren’t they kids?


What good is 100 dollars in Murder World?

This issue is going to remind you of Battle Royale in more than one way, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. That said Arcade does make reference to a series of books, so maybe this is Marvel’s attempt to cater to that crowd.


Duh… is it Harry Potter? Me not know.

There’s some clues here that Arcade is operating with powers he shouldn’t and maybe everything going on isn’t actually real.


Looney Tunes powers I say I say!

Each hero has a life bar similar to a video game. Me thinks this is all inside a videogame and there are no real deaths. That’d defeat the purpose Arcade lays out, but then again he was never a trustworthy fellow.


4 areas makes me think the heroes will band together into killing teams.

The fact that Hazmat’s energy bar drops a bar yet is perfectly fine seems to suggest they are playing inside a game and none of it is real.


Something fishy is going on here.

This issue sets up a story we’ve seen too much, but due to the potentially non lethal game going on could mean interesting things to come psychologically for the heroes. At the very least artist Kev Walker brings his A game. This may not be an award winning series, but its potential may be more than a Vs. series. And hell it’s only $2.99!

Budget: $10.00 – $2.99 = $7.01

Six comics this week were either close to the mark or downright failures. Either way they can’t justifiably fit into a 10 dollar budget. Hellraiser has his ways.

(Don’t forget to click any links as they direct you to more pictures!)

Sadly plot holes kill an otherwise interesting story in Batgirl #12. It’s starting to become clear Joker’s plan might be to drive Batman’s colleagues to do something rash. So rash Batman will distance them from himself and give Joker what he wants. Just a hunch. Anyway…we get to see Joker in rollerskates! This issue slogs along as Joker wields a gun, Batgirl is stupidly powerless even though she’s faced worse odds, and then up and leaves her mother with Joker! Joker’s ramblings aren’t so great, and the backstory that reveals Joker has been planning his wedding with Batgirl for years is less chilling and more convoluted. Blah.

If you’re looking for Spider-Man look elsewhere as he only appears in a single panel. Amazing Spider-Man #699.1 should have been titled Morbius #0 as it’s more of an intro to his new ongoing series. We learn he didn’t win the Nobel Prize fighting his rare blood disease but did it with a childhood friend. This makes the character more tragic and slightly more interesting (he may be gay too but it’s not very clear) but it’s more of a ho-hum affair than anything. The drama that is his blood disease really isn’t any more interesting than a scientists with a hope and nothing more.

If you’re interested in the ramblings of a god check out Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #3 (of 4). I enjoyed the first issue which introduced the idea of the Dr. Manhattan and his relationship with time and boxes, but things have rambled on too long. It’s as if he was told he had to fill 4 issues and only had an idea that’d last 2. There’s some trippy stuff going on and his ultimate solution is a little perplexing. Disappointed turn for this little series.

Marvel Universe vs. Avengers #3 (of 4) is a nice little series, but the ramblings of Hawkeye can only go so far. The world has turned into raving cannibals, and the only man who can stop it is Dr. Doom. There’s a funny panel with Deadpool, but his use in the story is perplexing. Note that this isn’t part of the Zombie Marvel universe but a continuation (I believe) of the Marvel Universe vs. The Punisher miniseries.

The story is just now getting good in Point of Impact #3 and the art continues to be exceptional. This little nail biter could have been stronger with more connected dots earlier because it’s only till this issue you realize how interesting things are getting. As a collected edition this should be on your radar.

Consider how many great new series have come out of Image I was very surprised how confusing and poor Change #1 (of 4) was. Maybe I’m at fault here, but I don’t know what the hell is going on in this book.


This isn’t going to be good.


Bloodshot #6 (Valiant Entertainment)


If you like all out action this issue is for you. There isn’t much you’ll need to know about the plot aside from the hero breaking into a facility. Oh also, he has nanites for skin and can heal really fast.


Now that’s just awesome.

As far as the story goes not much progresses here, but again this is an action flick first.


Ouch!


Now that’s just brutal.

Since this is all action you’re going to want to at least flip through this before reading it. That also means it’s a fast read. Incredible to look at, but on a budget does not fit the bill.

Budget: $7.01- $0.00 = $7.01


Fantastic Four Vol. 2 #2 (Marvel Comics)


We’re three issues into this story (since FF #1 is essentially a continuation of Fantastic Four #1) and I’m bored as hell. Once again the Fantastic Four explain to everyone they’ll be gone for 4 minutes and need replacements. If they were so certain it’d be four minutes why go to all the trouble?! Now that we’ve spent 3 issues covering them preparing to leave for four minutes I’m starting to wonder if they always knew they’d be gone for much longer. Maybe it’s due to the first issue covering things so well, but we’re 2 issues in and we’re treading water here.


The strongest panel in the book. Undertones of jealousy!

Writer Matt Fraction does have a handle on the characters however. You still get a sense they are family and they are relaxed around each other. I just don’t know why the simple plot element of the characters leaving needed 3 issues.


Moron!


Is that Moon-Boy and Devil Dinosaur? Did Mr. Fantastic not even know this?


Pretty sure there weren’t any dinosaurs 2.6 million years ago…

The issue is drawn well and the characters are true to form, but overall it’s a boring and waterlogged issue.

Budget: $7.01- $0.00 = $7.01


Batman #15 (DC Comics)


I wasn’t in love with the last issue mostly because it was very heavy handed in the dialogue department. I wished it’d show and not tell so much. This issue does some great things with the story and also drives home just how powerful Joker can be psychologically.


If this eye stuff is real you’re in for some lessons on top of entertainment!

The issue bookends incredibly well by introducing the reader to the master interrogator’s knowledge of eye movement as emotional tell. I won’t ruin it, but by issues end it’ll change how you feel about Joker.


Bad dreams

Of course Batman’s cohorts find out about Joker knowing their identities. Or does he? Bruce doesn’t seem to think so, but doesn’t do much besides arguing with Batgirl and the Robins that he is right because he said so. How Bruce doesn’t realize Joker probably planned on dividing them is anyone’s guess.


Just shut up. Batman is always right!


Sweet blimp!

All of this sprouts from unease created by Joker. The fact that it was such a subtle thing that could drive the bat-family apart is genius whether Joker intended it or not.


That is just evil.

The backup story reveals Joker’s plan runs pretty deep using guards and The Riddler. Using the backup for this plot element is a genius way to create some interest for the next issue but also maximize entertainment on every page. So often DC seems to use the backups as filler to get the $3.99 price tag.

Budget: $7.01- $3.99 = $3.02


Iron Man Vol. 5 #4 (Marvel Comics)


I haven’t been the biggest fan of the new creative team or the direction of Iron Man of late, but I’m willing to stick it out until it finds its identity. The art by Greg Land has been okay, although it’s pretty clear his usual fan aggravating work is on display.


Now that you mention it you look like all the girls Greg Land draws.


Note his head at top and at bottom. That suit got a turtle functionality?


How dare you! Tolkien is a god!

Nothing seems to be changed and the character isn’t going anywhere new. We’re 4 issues into this new “direction” and I haven’t the slightest why it should be considered anything better than guest writer issues. When the story is so unexceptional and you’re getting it double shipped (an issue each of the last 2 weeks!) it’s growing tiring fast.

Budget: $3.02- $0.00 = $3.02


The Hollows #1 (of 4) (IDW)


Oh cool, The Maxx artist is back. That can’t suck, can it? Maybe not.


Fly man with bat wings. Fly!


These guys don’t look like fun.

I’m not sure what I’m supposed to feel from this book. The dirty style of the art gives this book a darker tone, yet the characters and story seem light.


Now that is one horizon.

I want to like this book as there’s an idea or two in here that deserve to be heard. Not until next issue will we really know what it’s trying to be.

Budget: $3.02- $0.00 = $3.02


Scarlet Spider #12 (Marvel Comics)


This series has been up and down over its first year, but it has a lot of promise. The supporting cast is different enough to be interesting and the Houston location is just odd enough to deliver different sorts of stories. So far most of its stories are mini arcs that haven’t allowed for a building of very complex stories. This issue falls into the one and done bin.


Why can’t Santa be nicer in comics?


Sweet page.

Kaine is down for the count in most this issue and his supporting cast has to attempt to make due. The opportunity to build them is great.


Oh that Scarlet Spider. He sure is a toughy.

The only problem with the series that I can see is this hero is willing to break bones and even kill, yet his personality is too nice. His supporting cast all know this, which takes the edge off the character. The lesson learned by issue’s end is he has friends and they look out for him. Good enough. Now give him a fight worth fighting.

Budget: $3.02- $0.00 = $3.02


Archer & Armstrong (2012- ) #5 (Valiant Entertainment)


Clayton Henry and Pere Perez are not drawing this issue and it is abundantly clear from page one. Nothing against Emanuela Lupacchino but Henry’s detailed work is sorely missed. It doesn’t help the story seems to lumber along in introducing Archer’s long lost brother.


Jesus M. Crowe!

The issue reads more like a pit stop than a continuation of the story which is unfortunate. One of this series strengths has been the thrilling non stop action.


At least we get one definition this issue.

Maybe it’s due to the story seemingly coming out of left field or because of its execution but it doesn’t read so well. By issue’s end you’ll be happy its over.

Budget: $3.02- $0.00 = $3.02


X-Treme X-Men Vol. 2 #7.1 (Marvel Comics)


X-Men fans should note this series is crossing over into normal continuity. Anyone unfamiliar with this series: strap in, it’s a wild ride. Dazzler has joined up with some inter-dimensional mutants to kill off every Xavier they can find. That includes giant whale Xaviers. Yeah that’s not a joke.


What do you mean this issue wasn’t made on drugs?

Dazzler doesn’t seem to realize she’s in her own universe however, which is both sad and tragic.


Morons!

Aside from some sweet Brood action this issue is more of the same in this series. A bit too weird for every reader, a little too hard to grasp for anyone unfamiliar, but still fun.


Blast em!

Budget: $3.02- $0.00 = $3.02


Batman and Robin #15 (DC Comics)


This issue is good for two main reasons. One is you’ll get a better idea of what Joker is doing and possibly what his real plan is. The other reason is that the art by Patrick Gleason is phenomenal.


Now that is one sexy scene.


Time to throw up.

Just when you thought Joker’s skin/mask wasn’t gross enough this issue brings it to a whole new level. The way Joker plays with his mask is grotesque and delightfully disturbing. I found myself wondering how he’ll ever get his face back when he’s stretching out the skin so much.


Joker’s face/mask hasn’t looked so gross.

Writer Patrick Gleason nails Joker’s dialogue and in most cases I imagined its inflection something reminiscent of Heath Ledger’s joker. It’s scary in its chaotic madness.


Sure is a jealous bugger

By issues end you’ll have a new respect for Joker. Something about his jealousy of Robin and his frustration with Batman not devoting every inch of himself to Joker shines through here. Scott Snyder’s Batman has this, but the emotional side is clearer here, like an open nerve.


The funnyman knows all about fear these days.

Budget: $3.02 – $0.00 = $3.02


Conan the Barbarian #11 (Dark Horse)


I don’t think a writer has gotten inside Conan the Barbarian’s head more than Brian Wood. The character actually thinks and feels outside of drinking and killing which is a rare thing. This issue puts Conan in a difficult spot, between love and life which shouldn’t be missed. Conan fan or no this is a good read.

A plague has taken many of his shipmates lives and now his lover, and queen, Belit has fallen sick. He goes to shore to find someone who can help.


Yeah that can’t be good.


Time to fight!

The art by Declan Shalvey is poetic and perfect for this stories. Conan is not in a good mood, but he’s depressed and it shows in every panel. He may have to leave the one good thing he ever found and it’s not an easy choice.


Not today friend!

This is a very human story and it doesn’t necessarily require Conan to be enjoyed. The fact that Conan is facing this issue though magnifies the problem with feeling powerless. For once in a long time Conan is human and not some superhero. A rare thing..

Budget: $3.02 – $2.99 = $.03

Three cents over and a happy three issues to tide you over. That’s a major win, especially considering a lot of tepid storytelling this week. Until next week!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=599265661 Dawn McCoy

    Dude, I love it when a review makes it painfully clear the reviewer didn’t read the actual comic. There’s two pages of Morbius and his fiance’ being all lovey-dovey on each other. He is not gay.

    • http://www.facebook.com/nosocialize David Brooke

      Don’t hate on the gays.