Bookwyrm’s 10-Word Comic Reviews & Recs: All-Star Batman, East of West, Sex Criminals & More

Man, this whole “finding the gems” thing might be harder than I originally thought. I can’t even tell you how many comics I read this week before finding a handful that really struck gold. Don’t get me wrong — there were a lot of decent issues. There were even some that were pretty good. There were some that were fantastic, but I didn’t feel right reviewing them since I had already featured them in recent columns (ahem, GOD COUNTRY #3 — for the love of God go pick up the series and read it if you haven’t already). And then there were these five.

It took me damn near forever to find them (well, not really, but it sure did feel like it at first), but here are the books that really #RocktheRack this week:

ALL-STAR BATMAN #8
Publisher: DC
Story: Scott Snyder
Art: Giuseppi Camuncoli

What The Trades Say:
“Hats and Bats!” Underestimate the Mad Hatter at your own peril. Batman takes on one of his most dangerous and deranged foes in a mind-bending tale from the powerhouse creative team of writer Scott Snyder and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli!

What Bookwyrm Says:
Scott Snyder proves time and time again why he is not only one of the best BATMAN writers in recent memory, but possibly one of the best in the history of the character. I would recommend this one solely due to its complete and total badass-ness. This is the Batman I grew up with: an imposing presence both physically and mentally. One who breaks his villains’ spirits before breaking their bodies.

In this issue, Batman takes on the Mad Hatter for the umpteenth time, but this one feels a bit different. We get a taste of the history between the two, as well as a nice little what-if moment thrown in for good measure around Batman’s origins. Hatter’s speculating reminded me a lot of Neil Gaiman’s Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader? Anyone who knows me knows that a Gaiman comparison is a big deal.

This one proves that, though this column is becoming increasingly comprised of comics outside the Big Two, some of the mainstream titles have still got it. This one brings the goods.

Twitter-Ready 10-Word Review:
Snyder makes the Hatter a formidable opponent — that takes vision.

EAST OF WEST #32
Publisher: Image
Story: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Nick Dragotta

What The Trades Say:
The teenage Horsemen show the world just how grown-up they’ve gotten, but they still aren’t old enough to drive.

What Bookwyrm Says:
That trade summary up there? It has absolutely nothing to do with the issue in stores. Seriously, nothing. What it does have, however, are some really interesting character moments from President Badass McGunslinger.

For those unaware, EAST OF WEST is the story of an America that never pulled together after the Civil War (the real one, not that Iron Man vs. Cap nonsense). A comet strikes the country, causing an end to the fighting and a truce to be created between groups that eventually become the “Seven Nations of America.” Generations after, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse arrive to begin the End Times, and shenanigans ensue.

What did I like so much about this one? From it’s eye-plucking opening to it’s headshot conclusion, this one was a page-turner. Not only that, it was a page-returner. As I flipped through it, the art in particular kept forcing me to turn back pages for a second look. Both Dragotta’s pencils and Frank Martin’s color work deserve some serious accolades here. Add to that some grade-A storytelling from Hickman, and you’ve got a solid issue. I wish I had heard about this one sooner; I’ve got thirty-one issues of story to catch up on in the next few weeks before the next issue drops.

If you do read it, leave me a comment and let me know if I’m the only one who hears Sam Elliot’s voice whenever Archibald speaks.

Twitter-Ready 10-Word Review:
Sci-fi. Western. Alternate History. All my favorites, all in one.

MONSTERS UNLEASHED #5
Publisher: Marvel
Story: Cullen Bunn
Art: Adam Kubert

What The Trades Say:
THE FINAL CHAPTER! Up against odds that have never seemed so dire, Marvel heroes like CAPTAIN AMERICA, SPIDER-MAN and MEDUSA will have to lean on their newest and youngest ally to save the day. But what is imagination worth up against several tons of teeth, claws and rage? Well, one LEVIATHON is about to find out. KID KAIJU will have to dig deep into his newfound powers if he wants to save the day — and the Earth with it! The final chapter in an epic story that you won’t want to miss, as drawn by comics legend, ADAM KUBERT. Rated T+

What Bookwyrm Says:
Again with the caps, Marvel… geez. Anyway, this issue wraps up the MONSTERS UNLEASHED storyline, and it’s fun one. The whole series has been a Who’s Who of the Marvel Universe, and the final issue is no different. As the trade summary above indicates, we get representatives from the Avengers, the X-Men, S.H.I.E.L.D., the Inhumans… everyone’s been in this one at some point. And why wouldn’t they? It’s big f&*king monsters causing citywide destruction and mayhem. And damn, is it a hell of a ride.

I’m not going to reveal the big moment of this one. However, let’s just say that fans of Voltron and/or Power Rangers will love Kid Kaiju’s solution to how to defeat the Leviathon Mother. (And let me also just say — spelling “Leviathon” with an “O” is killing me. Seriously. It pains me to type it. The things I do for comics.)

Twitter-Ready 10-Word Review:
Cancel the apocalypse. Kid Kaiju’s notepad is serious (-ly fun) business.

INJECTION #11
Publisher: Image
Story: Warren Ellis
Art: Declan Shalvey

What The Trades Say:
NEW STORY ARC! Flensed human skeletons chained to the rocks of an archaeological site in Cornwall. The tentacles of FPI, reaching into the fabric of time. Brigid Roth of the Injection team, sent in by Maria Kilbride to separate data from legend, and accident from murder.

What Bookwyrm Says:
Now that’s how you start a story arc. Doing a little bit of research on INJECTION, this issue focuses on a character, Brigid Roth, who hasn’t been a series focus so far. However, after ten minutes and twenty-something pages, I have a pretty firm grasp of who she is, what she wants, and how she feels about the world around her. That’s solid writing, folks. I’ve always loved Warren Ellis, and this issue just reaffirms that.

We’ve got the start of a pretty solid mystery here, as the trade summary indicates. A skinned body is found chained to the base of a large rock, just one of several in a circular formation at a remote site in Cornwall. Brigid, an “informatics specialist”  is called in to investigate it. She discovers that not all is what it seems. Pretty typical detective story beats, but what makes it stand out is the character work. As I said earlier, through her interactions with the other characters — including what is shown but not said — you get a sense of who she is that goes beyond what you would normally get in an opening issue.

Much credit also goes to artist Declan Shalvey and colorist Jordie Bellaire for the atmosphere they create. The artwork in this issue is alternatively lively and muted, switching when the situation calls for it. The switch is effortless.

Twitter-Ready 10-Word Review:
Tight storytelling. Excellent character work. Ellis deserves his stellar reputation.

SEX CRIMINALS #17
Publisher: Image
Story: Matt Fraction
Art: Chip Zdarsky

What The Trades Say:
You think it’s hard being a sex criminal? Try being a sex cop for, like, an issue, give or take. ALSO THIS ISSUE: a special sequence guest-colored by a MYSTERY COLORIST whose name rhymes exactly with ‘ELIZABETH BREITWEISER.’

What Bookwyrm Says:
After you read this one, you might feel like you need a shower. A long, hot shower. Probably steamy. But with how well this book is written, once you start it, you have to finish it. (Why do I get the feeling it’s going to be impossible to avoid the innuendoes on this one?)

All sex jokes aside, one of the most intriguing things about this comic was how it delved into the mind of its central figure. The way it justified his particular (and peculiar) tastes almost bordered on logical. You understood him, even if you didn’t quite understand his actions or his motivations. He became a sympathetic character. Of course, he’s also a complete pervert. It takes talent to do both with the same character, and Fraction certainly has that.

I’m recommending this one because, pretty much the entire time you’re reading it, you’re saying to yourself, “Did that really just happen? Did I really just see what I thought I saw?” And the answer is yes, yes you did. And some part of you probably liked it. It’s not a part you would ever admit to having, but it’s there nonetheless. This comic is for that part in all of us. But definitely, definitely not for the kiddies.

Twitter-Ready 10-Word Review:
Couldn’t stop reading. Not sure what that says about me.

What can I say? It seems like this week was just an Image kind of week. When I first started reading comics, I didn’t deviate much from superheroes and the Big Two. But now that I’ve taken the plunge again, I’m more and more impressed by the books often relegated to the “Other Publishers” rack at the shop. It’s good stuff, and I wish I had found it sooner.

Regardless, that’s it for me, ladies and gentlemen. Until next time, let’s Make America Read Again. Seriously. It would save all of us so much trouble.

Ryan Haddock10 Posts

An award-winning author, avid reader, occasional roleplayer, and father to three young geeks-in-training, Ryan loves a good story in any medium — from books and movies to comics and video games. In addition to the above, he is also a dedicated Whovian, a superhero enthusiast, and a Browncoat who just can't seem to let it go. You can find him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

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