UPDATE - Added Manhunter #32 review.
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Simone Bianchi
See that big #25 on the cover of this issue? That's meaningless. The entire issue pretty much ignores everything Whedon did with the exception of the introduction of Armor. There is no follow up to what just happened in Giant-Size Astonishing, there is no explanation as to why they are in San Francisco all of a sudden (assuming you haven't been reading anything except Astonishing), the characters sound completely different and the shift in focus of the book is drastic and comes out of nowhere when taken simply as "the next issue" of Astonishing X-Men. They really should have just restarted it with a new number one and / or title to differentiate Warren Ellis' run.
So, as someone who has dropped Uncanny X-Men and X-Men: Legacy and just about every other X-title post-Messiah Complex, it's kind of annoying to see the series shift so drastically and without any build up from the Whedon / Cassaday run, which just ended a month or so back.
Yes, I know they are moving to San Francisco and why they are moving there (or at least the general jist of it), but it doesn't mean we should start midstride with the team fully set up in a new base on the other side of the country with no explanation other than some offhand remark. The least they could have done was wait until Uncanny X-Men #500 came out so they could at least have had the new base and setting established properly.
So, ignoring all of that, how is the Ellis / Bianchi debut? Let's just say it's overly wordy, lacks the typical Ellis charm and doesn't know if it is trying to be an episode of Sienfeld or Star Trek.
On one hand, the team just talks about nothing, literally, for pages on end, whether it's Wolverine's sleeping habits or Armor's terrible name or just shooting the shit about whatever. On the other, Ellis jumps into some kind of murder mystery with a new breed of mutant involving a third chromosome (humans and mutants have two normally) and a trip around the world to some alien ship graveyard in Singapore to track the supposed killer.
It wasn't a bad issue, but it wasn't a good Astonishing X-Men issue or even a worthy follow up to Whedon and Cassaday's run. It was about as slow a burn as you can get and there wasn't a single memorable moment in the entire issue.
In regards to Bianchi's art, it was the same scratchy, over inked and muddied art that he had during his Wolverine arc with Jeph Loeb. If you're a fan of his style, it will be right up your alley, but I found it to be far too dark and expressionless compared to Cassaday's and it doesn't seem to fit the style or tone that Ellis is going for.
Verdict - Check It. I'm tempted to say Avoid It as nothing happens here. You could pick it up next issue and probably follow along with ease. I may be judging this too harshly. However, given the pedigree of this title and the quality of the new creative team, I expected far more than what was offered in this debut issue.
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea
Words cannot describe just how retarded this issue was. I consider myself a fairly well read individual and I can typically follow just about any comic or paperback story with relative ease.
That said, this...thing...didn't make a lick of sense. I think Dr Hurt pumped Batman full of drugs and dumped him in an alley in between what happened last issue and the start of this one. From there, Bruce walked around town with some imaginary friend, bought some drugs and then stitched up a new costume in an alley that looks like the Zur-En-Aarh Batman costume from the old Silver Age story that no one gave a crap about when it was originally published and no one outside of Grant Morrison has probably read since then. Oh, and Bat-Mite shows up at the end as Zur-En-Aarh Batman's sidekick.
We also saw the League of Villains hunting down Robin and Nightwing and find out Alfred was just beaten and tied up, not killed at the end of the last issue. Nightwing ended up getting taken out off panel, taken to Arkham or some other mental institute, pumped full of drugs and stuck in a padded cell while Robin was on the run from his pursuers.
Verdict - Avoid It. Seriously, this makes no sense, relies on Silver Age stories that have no place in current continuity with as little effort as Morrison has put into fleshing them out and does nothing to further the RIP storyline. At this point, I can't see how any amount of drugs or future issues could possibly make this story make any sense and it will most likely be retconned or forgotten the minute it ends.
Written by Marc Andreyko
Art by Michael Gaydos
As hard as it is to believe, this issue blows last month's excellent issue out of the water. I'm going to chalk that up to the fact that the last issue served as a primer and quick introduction to Manhunter and her supporting cast and, with that out of the way, Andreyko was able to just go all out this issue and deliver one hell of a great story.
I think the thing I liked most about this issue is that it felt like I was reading a double sized issue. No, this wasn't a wall of text or anything ridiculous like that. It just felt like every page was jam packed with story and the pacing and build up was perfect.
Whether it was the brief "fight" with Blue Beetle, the chat with La Dama, the disagreement with Bones or the numerous other plot developments, it just felt like I was reading a trade compared to the decompression filled stories other books have been offering up as of late.
It's hard to even pick a favourite scene in this issue, but I'm going to have to go with the perfect depiction (outside of the non-scarab speak) of Blue Beetle and Kate Spencer's interaction with young Jaime. The Darkstar tech in Manhunter's costume and the Blue Beetle's scarab taking offense to it was a nice touch. Even the follow up scene with La Dama was spot on and I loved how Kate jumps at the offer for a drink of the expensive scotch. It was just something you never see any other "hero" doing and was perfectly in line with Kate's character.
The Joker subplot is still going this issue and I'm starting to have doubts that it's actually the Joker involved. It seems too methodical and un-Joker-like to set up Dylon like this issue did and I'm thinking this might be something more than what we're being lead to believe.
The chat with Bones was another highlight for me. He and Kate have great chemistry together and I love the way their chat plays out back and forth and it looks like we'll be seeing Amanda Waller, of Checkmate and Suicide Squad fame, showing up soon based on references made at the end of their conversation.
Verdict - Must Read. It's a real treat to pick up and read a book as good as Manhunter. I can't stress how highly I recommend this title. Do yourself a favour and pick up these first two issues of the return of this book.
THE WALKING DEAD #50
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard
It was a pleasant surprise I found The Walking Dead waiting for me at the shop today as Diamond didn't have it listed in its tentative release list for this week and I didn't even hear anything about it coming out until I got to the shop.
It's hard to believe a "zombie book" made it through fifty issues, especially when you consider it's entirely in black and white. That's just a testament to how good this title is and I look forward to, hopefully, another fifty or more issues of this series.
This issue continued to follow Rick and his son, Carl, in the aftermath of the Woodbury attack on the prison and the subsequent deaths of well over half the supporting cast in this book. In fact, we haven't seen any other possible survivors, aside from Rick and Carl, since then.
As far as Walking Dead issues go, this was another breather issue as we deal with Rick being shot and Carl looking after him. Kirkman does an incredible job showing us the effect this zombie infested world has had on young Carl and the lengths he must go to cope with the loss of his mother, baby sister, everyone and thing he knows and the fact his father is sick and possibly dying right in front of him.
Add a couple of zombies to the mix and it looked like the young boy was at his breaking point, especially when his father starts moaning and he's ready to shoot his father when he believes he has turned into a zombie.
Verdict - Must Read. It's a true character piece and one of the best looks at how people, especially children, are dealing with this world gone mad in this series and a nice change of pace from the action oriented No One is Safe arc.