Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Luke Ross
Wow, I can't believe how much I enjoyed this issue. While the Bucky and Black Widow relationship rings false to me, everything else was spot on. Hell, I actually like Batroc the Leaper now. I didn't think that was even possible.
As I had hoped, there was some nice meshing of flashbacks to WWII intermingled with the present day story. These are excellent additions to the story and I loved Brubaker's use of them in the earlier parts of the series, as well as over in his Immortal Iron Fist run. The way he weaves them into the tapestry of each character's history is seamless and, as I read them, it feels like these new additions / retcons are fact and happened and he is merely retelling them when it couldn't be further from the truth. To me, that's a sign of flawless writing and I look forward to seeing more of these in the future.
As I mentioned, this issue also saw Bucky and Black Widow in an overly playful relationship that rang hollow to me. I just don't see Black Widow prancing around the apartment in nothing but a blanket and dotting over Bucky in this manner. Especially when you consider how little interaction, of which we've seen Bucky fighting her over Cap's shield more than actually conversing with her. I'm not opposed to these two characters getting together, but it feels like we've skipped a few steps along the way.
After the extended scene with Black Widow, Bucky goes out to clear his head and picks up a report of a break-in at a United Nations Research Facility. Here, we are introduced to Batroc the Leaper, who Luke Ross somehow managed to look awesome, despite Batroc's orange and purple "costume", if that gaudy thing is what passes for a costume these days.
The entire fight between Bucky and Batroc just goes to show that there are no bad characters, only bad writers. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm looking forward to seeing more of Batroc the Leaper and the writing here actually made me believe that he's a credible threat to Captain America.
While there is no clear winner between the two combatants, Batroc and his goons manage to escape with whatever information they stole and we see him delivering it to a Chinese (I think it's supposed to be Japanese to go with the WWII flashback, but Batroc says he doesn't understand Chinese when the mystery man starts speaking another language) man, who, at first, seems disinterested in the Captain America fight until he sees an image of Bucky, sans costume, and realizes it is the Winter Soldier. At this, he states his boss will be most pleased with the new information and we're still left wondering if this will be a new villain or someone from the past we should know.
Verdict - Must Read. While most Captain America issues come away with a Must Read verdict, I think I enjoyed this issue more than any other in recent months, just on the strength of the Batroc portrayal and the fact Brubaker did an excellent job setting up this new storyarc.
FINAL CRISIS: SUBMIT
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Matthew Clark and Norm Rapmund
As good as Final Crisis #4 was this week, it should have been labelled with a, "Read Final Crisis: Submit first.", sticker. While I don't think this tie-in is absolutely essential to read or understand FC #4, it goes a long way to explaining what the heck was going on with Black Lightning and the Tattooed Man.
However, while FC #4 was a great read and as much as I think Submit should be read as a companion piece, I don't think Submit comes anywhere close to being as good as FC #4. I think the reasons behind this stem from how simple and straight forward this issue reads.
It's almost like any one of the numerous Secret Invasion tie-ins in that it fails to address the very thing the tie-in was setup to expand upon - in this case, the "circuit" Black Lightning gives the Tattooed Man - and, instead of devoting an entire one-shot to this rather straight forward 'hero meets anti-hero and butt heads before reaching an understanding' story, they could have simply condensed it all into an extra page or two of story in Final Crisis #4 and it would have been just as good.
Regarding this whole Metron circuit deal that the Tattooed Man showed up with out of nowhere in FC #4 with, it is revealed in this issue that Black Lightning had the pattern stitched into his glove for some, as yet (or maybe I'm forgetting something from previous issues of FC) unexplained, reason and, when things look bad, he makes the Tattooed Man memorize the circuit and tells him to safeguard it for the other heroes. This leads to the Tattooed Man turning said circuit into a tattoo on his body and hiding it in plain sight until we see him again in Final Crisis #4.
The rest of the issue consisted of Black Lightning and Tattooed Man butting heads and disagreeing at every turn as they try to escape the Justifiers. When they finally reach an agreement, the Tattooed Man's son, who TM has raised to hate super-heroes, decides to shoot Black Lightning, thinking he's fighting with his father when the two were having a spirited discussion. It was a random ending that causes Black Lightning to be captured and turned into a Justifier and I think I liked it better, as I had read FC #4 prior to reading Submit, when I didn't know how Black Lightning was turned into a Justifier.
Verdict - Check It. While I think it's safe to avoid this if you are short on cash, it is actually one of the few Final Crisis tie-ins that actually impacts the main storyline and, while I didn't overly enjoy the story, it does explain a lot about what happened with Black Lightning and the Tattoo Man's circuit tattoo seems like it will be important to the storyline, making this worth checking out at the very least.
NEW AVENGERS #46
Written by Brian Bendis
Art by Billy Tan
While this doesn't overly impact the main storyline in any way, we are finally treated to a Secret Invasion tie-that delivered something of value to the reader.
Told completely from the point of view of the Hood and his army of villains, we are shown the events following the fight with the New Avengers and witness the Skrull's attempt at infiltrating this new super powered team and how it goes horribly wrong.
As SHIELD began interrogating Madame Masque, the Hood quickly snuck in to bust her out and, in the process, killed all but one of her SHIELD guards. Before killing the final one, Masque tells him to turn around and we see that all the SHIELD guards were, in fact, Skrulls. Hood takes the remaining Skrull guard back to his hideout to show to the other villains and we see a rather predictable, "Bendis speak", set of reactions from most of the villains, as if every one of their canned responses was cribbed from a Bendis interview.
Thankfully, Bendis doesn't dwell on the whole, "who do I trust?", nonsense again and it quickly turns into an entertaining interrogation scene as they take the Skrull apart, piece by piece, before he can take no more and finally tells them what they want to know. It's nothing new to the reader, but it was interesting seeing the villains take on the Skrull invasion plans and their methods of dealing with the threat of infiltration.
Finally, the best part of the issue and what will most likely be a major plot point in the future, is the revelation of just what demon is contained within the Hood's cloak - none other than Dormammu, himself. There's bound to be controversy surrounding this choice, as the Hood has never shown the kind of power that would warrant the demon being the Dreadlord Dormammu nor does it mesh with the demon form we saw Parker Robbins kill to obtain the cloak in the first place. I'm tempted to say Bendis may have chosen the most recognizable demonic entity due to lack of other choices or just to have a big reveal.
However, while I'm not sure I agree with the logistics behind it being Dormammu, it's hard not to be impressed by that final splash page reveal and I don't hate this choice either.
Verdict - Check It. I actually enjoyed reading the issue and, while another 'fill in the blanks' tie-in by Bendis, it actually gave us something new and intersting to chew on, whereas other tie-ins read like an entire issue devoted to being told being what the heroes had for breakfast before Skrulls replaced them. The reveal at the end has lots of storytelling promise and it will be interesting to see what part, if any, it plays in Secret Invasion's conclusion or the post-SI world.
SUPERMAN: NEW KRYPTON SPECIAL #1
Written by Geoff Johns, James Robinson and Sterling Gates
Art by Gary Frank and Jon Sibal, Renato Guedes and Wilson Magalháes, and Pete Woods
For a one-shot special that is supposed to setup a major event, this read more like an issue of Action Comics and Superman mashed together than a cohesive introduction / jumping on point. I'd imagine you're enjoyment of the issue, on the whole, will stem from your enjoyment of each of those two titles.
Personally, I love the current Action Comics while, after reading a few issues of Robinson's run, it's safe to say I'm not a fan of the current Superman title. As such, I'm a little torn over this issue in terms of how much I enjoyed it.
In fact, considering this is the first part of the New Krypton storyline, I found it odd that the Kyrptonian centric parts of this issue were the weakest ones, by far. When compared to the funeral for Jonathan Kent and Johns and Frank's powerful portrayal of Superman's grief opening the issue, almost everything after that was destined to pale in comparison, but the Kryptonian parts, specifically, were fairly weak and did nothing for me for whatever reason.
For reference, everything dealing the Kryptonians and Kandor boils down to Superman talking to Supergirl's parents, laying the seeds for the obvious difference of opinions between Kryptonians as Humans and someone punching a whale with their new super powers. Yes, someone punches a whale.
Thankfully, while those parts were fairly boring, both in the lackluster art that accompanied them and in the writing, the Johns and Frank penned funeral was just so good, it's hard to complain about anything else that came with such a powerful and moving short story. Frank's artwork during Superman's dream of what he wanted to do to Brainiac (hint: pound him into green paste) was some of the finest storytelling from both a writing and art standpoint that I've seen in a long time. Great stuff that stood head and shoulders above everything else in the issue.
With the influx of Kryptonians and Superman dealing with his father's funeral, that left some time to introduce the villains of the piece in the form of Lex Luthor, who was recruited by the mystery man from Robinson's Superman arc, revealed here as Lois Lane's supposedly dead father.
I'm not sure how I feel about such a casual resurrection nor his villainous turn, but the introduction of Lex to the mix should fun, if only to see his reaction to an entire city of Supermen.
Verdict - Must Read. While I don't think the entire issue warrants a Must Read, I'm giving it one on the strength of the Johns / Frank part of the book and Superman's dealing with his grief over his father's death. The problems with the rest of the book stem from the rather slow opening for a major event and how it seems to have throttled down from the Action Comics Brainiac story that preceeded it.