This week wasn't the strongest week in terms of releases. This probably had to do with the holiday weekend and what not. However, we did get four new series starting from Marvel, the penultimate issue of a major arch from DC, and the indies staying strong. So all in all, it was a better week than expected.
1. Avengers A.I. 001
This book definitely caught me by surprise. None of the team characters are exactly engaging, none of them really have any kind of hook or true appeal besides Hank Pym, who's a third stringer at best. (Sorry Victor Mancha. Loved you in Runaways, but you're not ready for the big leagues.)
Either way, the introduction of Monica Chang in the 616 universe as the SHIELD foil to Hank Pym's narcissism was pretty much perfect. I haven't expected much from Sam Humphries lately after the Uncanny X-Force relaunch, which has been mediocre at best. Instead, the balance between Monica & Hank, then Vision & Victor's sibling rivalry, followed by Doombot's comedic foil made for an incredibly enjoyable read.
The art from Andre Lima Araujo is also pretty astounding. It reminded me of a cleaner Adrian Alphona, with action sequences neatly spaced out, backgrounds during dialogue sequences smooth, and an amazing reveal on the final page. The series itself might not live up to this issue, but this was a memorable start.
2. Batman Incorporated 012
Grant Morrison can sometimes get lost in his own mystique, and that's mainly why this book is #2 rather than #1.
While the Batman Vs. The Heretic showdown actually happened across the majority of the book; the whole Man-Bat syrum subplot which was the cliffhanger of last issue was added as a b-side story at the end of the book, which rubbed me the wrong way. The book itself got lost in the dialogue away from the major battle where Morrison decided to introduce ANOTHER new character shrouded in mystery to Nightwing & Red Robin that we're supposed to wait however many issues for the reveal. Talk about an 'ugh' moment instead of 'oh, cool' just because it's Grant Morrison.
Batman Inc. has really been the on-deck Batman book compared to what's going on with Synder/Capullo's Bruce Wayne universe, but it just always makes me so frustrated when Chris Burnham gives in such beautiful work on a month to month basis in this book only for it to be muddled by Morrison's writing. Hopefully, with the conclusion of this Leviathan arch next issue, Batman Inc will finally give the main book a run for it's money.
3. Thief of Thieves 015
While I think Robert Kirkman is super annoying in The Walking Dead, after handing over the book-to-book writing to Andy Diggle; Thief of Thieves is a must-read on my pull list.
This issue kind of marks the beginning of the end in some sense for Redmond and his crew. The infamous Venice job mentioned from the very first issue of the series is finally underway, the issue itself is much more build-up and background to the actual robbery itself than any of the details.
While this is much more of an introductory issue than anything else, the book in the hands of Andy Diggle definitely feels like The Losers Pt. II a little bit during the crew dialogues, which is more than welcome and something I know other writers would have muddled. Shawn Martinbrough is strong as always on the art side, and this issue ups the ante with some subplots and side panels that make you wish you didn't have to wait another month to find out what happens next.
4. Thunderbolts 012
With both Daniel Way & Phil Noto taking a break after really redeeming this series with the 'Red Menace' storyline, Steve Dillon's return on this Punisher-centric issue written by Charles Soule is a nice change of pace for the series.
The plotline revolves around The Punisher hunting down Elektra's still-alive brother and making sure he's totally dead. The Punisher as a character/book has always thrived off of this first person narration, and this issue is no exception. It's a pretty basis storyline but Dillion's visuals add great detail to faces and the action sequences and give a nice secret that will eventually come to bite the team in the ass in the future. Thunderbolts still has a long ways to go, but this is a nice start for a comeback.
5. Five Weapons 005
Five Weapons isn't the easiest book to follow. Jimmie Robinson sometimes gets lost in his own dialogue and takes up maybe 5 more panels than he needs to to get a point across. I feel like that's allowed when someone is also drawing, inking and lettering an entire book, and especially when this is the conclusion of your own book.
Five Weapons put the high school drama on the side for a grand ending setting up another series to hit in 2014, which is okay in the big picture, but definitely takes some of the impact away from the book ending.
Either way, the characterization is still amazing, the art is absolutely gorgeous, and absolutely everything about the way the book ended was perfect even if it was a little long-winded. Hopefully when it becomes an ongoing series, it can keep up the high standards.