Comic Impact! Look! Comics from 4 different publishers this week! Let’s jump right in, no dilly dally.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #20 by Andrew Chambliss, Karl Moline, and Andy Owens [Dark Horse]
Look at this, 2 months in a row. This says a lot about this current series for anyone who’s been following this column. I love the Buffy Universe and its character and it was always frustrating when the series wasn’t staying true to itself or it swerved away from the things that I loved about it, mainly the interaction between Buffy, Xander, and Willow. Now this issue focuses mostly on Xander and him dealing with trying to figure out a way to save Dawn. This is also the last issue before the final story arc that leads to the end of season 9.
The reason that I loved this issue is because Xander is my favorite character from the Buffy world. This issue focuses on him and his time as a character in the series. The issue is a character study on Xander but not a character study in the way someone focuses on a character and shows you what he’s about but it’s an introspective on the character from the viewpoint of the character himself. I wouldn’t say he’s self analyzing himself and his actions (or sometimes lack thereof) but he’s looking at his past and knowing that’s he’s been through a lot but most of the time he was saved by either Willow or Buffy or by sheer luck. (Think of this as a sort of sequel to the Zeppo, except more serious than funny.) He hasn’t saved himself because of the skills he has and he also hasn’t saved anyone because of the lack of skill or sometimes inaction. As the character grew from the pilot episode to the current issue he’s been trapped in this whirlwind of magic and vampires and demons and all he’s wanted to do is help. Maybe not from the beginning, he had a thing for Buffy, but even despite his crush he could have run away from that and never have been part of it, but he didn’t. Xander stayed because I believe that he is a good person and like he says in the comic he wants to make a difference. Sometimes though, that’s just out of the hands of someone who is just human. Not saying being a human is bad but when you’re part of a trio and one of them is a Slayer and the other a witch, and you’re just human, what can you really do in a demonic crisis?
Xander talks about all the death he’s seen in his life Tara, Anya, Renee, Giles, and a whole bunch of others, he’s says he’s watched them die and that’s all he does is watch until something pushes you over the limit and it makes you do more than watch. This whole inner monologue was played over after Twilight/Angel killed Giles and Xander was about to kill Angel once and for all before Buffy stops him and the scene end with him saying that he has to do something so he doesn’t feel so useless. But it’s not him who finishes the sentence, it’s Buffy. Which to me a major tell in the way the Buffy sees Xander. I don’t think she meant to say that word exactly, I would have gone with helpless, but sometimes in high stress situations truth comes out and you don’t even realize it. It’s why after season 8 Xander decided that the best thing for him was to get away from this kind of life and settle down with Dawn. I think all the characters from Buffy have suffered through a lot of crap in their lives but I feel that Xander’s the only one constantly getting that crap thrown at him, on top of the feeling useless and no powers thing. He lost Renee almost immediately after confessing to liking her and starting a relationship. He was happy with Dawn and living life but after magic was cast off earth even if you didn’t see it right away this situation with Dawn was only a matter of time.
In the issue Xander is given a shot at not watching but actually doing something to fix everything because from talking to Buffy he knows that there’s nothing they can do. Willow returns in this issue as well and she talks with Buffy and Willow tells her that there’s nothing she can do either. Xander doesn’t know about Willow and it doesn’t matter. This opportunity that is thrust upon Xander is a big deal because if not executed correctly there’s a chance that Buffy will find out because the deal means teaming up with her enemies. Now this crossroads will have a lot of repercussions because it looks like Xander is going to be taking a darker road to save the woman he loves but for the first time he’s acting in self interest. Though one could make the argument that he’s trying to keep Dawn alive, and he is, but it’s also a selfish decision because he doesn’t even care what Buffy thinks. All I know is that Xander is doing this out of anger and doing anything out of anger doesn’t yield good results. I guess we will see where this last arc takes us; I for one will be very excited to see the Scoobies reunited and Xander take some action.
Hawkeye #9 by Matt Fraction, David Aja, Matt Hollingsworth [Marvel]
Hawkeye is a comic book. It costs me $2.99 every month it comes out. It’s the only comic that I buy that gives me something unique and different every month. It’s tells full stories with creative plotting and art. It is a comic that is worth more than what I actually pay. Not that I want to pay more. I’m just saying that whenever I read this I’m amazed by how much story Matt Fraction squeezes into this comic of 20 pages. 20!
The issue opens up continuing the story of the red head from last issue, the one who shot someone and asked Clint for help but couldn’t help her so now she’s on the run. The whole issue then becomes how Clint deals with all the women in his life, first the Black Widow, who he calls the Work Wife. The second part of the issue deals with Bobbi (Mockingbird) who he calls the Ex-Wife. She’s just visits him so that he could sign divorce papers. She also beats up some Bros. The next part of the issue is focused on Kate who is just Kate. The last story focuses on Jessica who is the Friend-Girl. She comes over to break it off with Clint.
The way he refers to each of the women in his life tells a lot about that the character thinks about them. Kate is just Kate. To me that says he doesn’t see her as anything except herself, which is just another person who trains with him, basically, a little sister. Bobbi is pretty easy to figure out, that’s his ex-wife, that’s pretty much the extent of that relationship. Jessica’s is the Friend-Girl which is explained in her part as the girl he was having a fun time with except that Jessica didn’t see it that way. So she breaks up with him now. The one that I thought was the best way to capture the meaning of a relationship was Black Widow’s who he considers the Work Wife. I’ve heard this term before and it makes perfect sense for their relationship. I think that Widow is the only woman, maybe besides Kate, that he can truly relate to and talk about things without the confines and complications of a relationship. I back that up with the fact that out of the 4 women focused in this issue, Widow is the only one that doesn’t share a scene with him. Looking into Clint’s relationship with these women was really interesting because we got to know him better. I’m getting to know this character better in one of Marvel’s best comics. But this issue also has a really heartbreaking final 2 pages that made me really sad.
Age of Ultron #5 by Brian Michael Bendis, Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary, and Paul Mounts
Boy oh boy shit is hitting the fan and taking turns and decisions that I didn’t see coming. I have to say that I’m enjoying the hell out of Age of Ultron. With each issue building on the issue before it and finally getting into meat of the mission for the characters but the one thing I’m enjoying the most about this crossover is that it’s wrapped in so much mystery. I’ve asked the questions the last time I reviewed an issue so I won’t ask them again. I just want to reiterate to you how much I am enjoying this series, and I wasn’t one of those guys that was burned out on events. (Event fatigue.) My problems with the events at Marvel extend to the marketing of certain things or plot points. Some plot points in Fear Itself where turned into this huge marketing thing where you where suppose to guess who these chosen warriors where and then it kind of turned out to not be that important. Or the biggest problem with these events and the marketing is that by the time we were half way through the series we already past the light at the end of the tunnel. This event leads into this initiative which leads into this event into that reign which leads to this event and to that age. I like that Marvel is keeping stuff a secret this go around. It makes things more exciting.
This issue sets up the next 5 issues, which is the rest of the series and makes for the artist switch half way in between. I have to say that I have admired Bryan Hitch’s art through all this. He has shown the major scale that this event has had in the world of the Marvel Universe. The remaining team of heroes finally meets up with Nick Fury. They talk to him to decide a course of action, that action being that Fury will take a team of heroes to the future to try and destroy Ultron. Nick takes Captain America, Iron Man, Invisible Woman, Red-Hulk, Black Widow, Quicksilver, and Quake to the future to stop Ultron. This leaves the rest of the heroes in Fury’s secret Savage Land base as a last line of defense in case something goes wrong. And that’s pretty much it. Oh! Right! Except that Wolverine is going to use the time machine that Fury just used but instead of going to the future to help he’s going to go back to the past to kill Hank Pym so that Ultron would never be created in the first place. If Doc Brown was in that room the loudest GREAT SCOTT! You’d ever hear would be uttered. The consequences of his actions could be catastrophic. Shit would get real heavy. So that’s what is set up as we go into these last 5 issues. It’s going to be a race to see who completes their mission first. Also, just because Wolverine says he’s going to do something doesn’t mean it’s actually going to happen and if it does and he does kill Hank Pym, what’s to say that it happens next issue? As much as I am enjoying this series, it has been a pretty slow ride to get to this point, so you never know.
Batman #19 by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and Danny Miki [DC]
So I think that after what some may call a brilliant and amazing Joker story in Death of the Family and then the literal death of a family member in Damien whatever Snyder was going to be bringing us next in his Batman ongoing might be a little smaller in scale. But no, it’s really not. He’s taking issue 19 and 20 to tell us a pretty freaky Clayface story. Yeah, I’m kind of spoiling that early but it’s not the big of a reveal in the issue anyway. Batman figures it out almost halfway through, and the issue ends with a confrontation between them.
Like I said though this issue and the next are going to be smaller in scale because the next story arc we’re getting is called Zero Year and it will tell us the origin of Batman in the new 52 DCU and it will be 11 issues long, another year where we get a Batman epic. I mention all this for a specific reason. At the start of the issue it looks like Bruce Wayne is robbing a bank and killing people. He tries to make an escape but not before being talked to by Commissioner Gordon and Gordon mentions that they’ve been friends since before even the Zero Year. That’s the thing that stuck with me through this whole issue. What the fuck does that mean? I mean I knew that we were going to get a Batman origin story for the new DCU and I thought that Zero Year was just a clever title for the story, like Year One. But Gordon mentioning it like that to me it seems that this is going to be an event of some sort and it has me really curious as to what we’re going to be getting from this series for the next year. Mostly though, I just want to know what the fuck that means.
It doesn’t take away from the issue at all though. I’ve always liked Clayface stories but for some reason I always forget about him when it comes to Batman’s Rogue Gallery. I’ll be honest, I’ve never read Clayface comic stories before, so my only knowledge comes from the Animated Series which I think told some amazing Clayface stories making him a sympathetic character rather than just a monster. So far we don’t know the reasons why Clayface is doing the things he’s doing in this book but I’m sure we’ll find out why in the next.
I do have to mention the pack up in this issue which was fucking great. I didn’t know that Alex Maleev was going to keep drawing some backups for this comic and I think it’s great but to also draw Superman as well is pretty awesome. I like that this is the start of the Batman/Superman friendship. It’s not what we’re use to but at the same time it is. Tynion has been killing it for awhile on these backups telling great stories in a very limited page count. Worth checking out for the backup story alone I think.
Saga #12 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples [Image]
Ah Saga. Well this comic book went caused some controversy and headaches last week for a bunch of people in the comic book industry, but that’s neither here nor there. Meaning I will not be talking about it here as there is no reason to do so. I’m here to talk comics and in this section, more specifically Saga.
The last issue of Saga, number 11 felt like a great way to end the current arc. It left us at a very emotional point in our journey with these characters and with one issue left before the creative team takes a break in publishing the series I was left no idea what this issue could be about as it relates to the series. Not in the sense that I didn’t know what was going to happen but what would be a reason to start a new arc right before taking a few months off to catch up on the series. What we got was catching up with characters that we haven’t seen in awhile and at the same building towards the next arc of the series with a great cliffhanger for once it finally returns.
We got some war background from the point of view of Prince Robot IV and how he got injured during a battle. We also get to see what’s at stake for the character and what keeps him motivated in the pursuit of our main characters. We finally get to meet the author of the book Alana was reading. D. Oswalt Heist and the Prince Robot IV has a conversation about the book, war, and the toll it takes on people. Heist reveals that his son fought during the war but died, and later reveals that his son died because he killed himself. This leads to a confrontation with guns and Heist ends up shot in the knee while Prince Robot tells him to kill him, going as far as revealing a weakness in the form of a that old war wound we saw him get at the beginning of the issue putting Heist in a position to kill the Prince Robot so he doesn’t have to do it himself. But it doesn’t go that way. Prince Robot thinks that Alana and Marko will be coming to visit Heist for some reason and he’s going to wait until they show up, but as is revealed in the last page Alana, Marko, and the rest of the group are already at Heist’s house and in hiding.
We knew from the beginning that war was going to be a big part of this series. There are some issues that Vaughan likes to use in his comics and this is one of them. The war issue will be a bigger part of this series than any of his other series but the whole suicide by someone else that Prince Robot is trying to get is very reminiscent of the character of Alter from Y the Last Man. I couldn’t help but think of her in that scene. We all know what happened to Alter; she faded into obscurity after she didn’t complete her mission. What’s going to happen to the Prince Robot? I don’t know but I know that right now he has more purpose and more to lose than Alter ever did; we know this for a fact. As far as the last page goes, well, there hasn’t been an issue solicited for Saga for May, June, or July so it’s going to be a long wait for the next one and I’m looking forward to reading it