The Pull List Comic Reviews: ‘Daredevil’, ‘Astonishing X-Men’, ‘Batman and Robin’ and More

Welcome to the new The Pull List Comic Reviews! We’ve expanded our weekly offering of comic reviews to a whopping 10 issues each week, so kick back, enjoy and let us know what caught your eye this week! Also, the prerequisite WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.

PULL OF THE WEEK:

dd501Daredevil #501 – Marvel Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Andy Diggle Artist: Roberto De La Torre
Score: 9.5

Following the events of Daredevil #500 and the Dark Reign – The List: Daredevil one-shot, Matt Murdock is now in control of The Hand. But what he doesn’t know is that other players are moving their chess pieces into position, and Matt doesn’t like surprises. Meanwhile, Foggy and Dakota try to figure out what Matt’s up to over a box of doughnuts.

Writer Andy Diggle has really amped up the playing field for Daredevil and his little corner of the Marvel Universe, so much so that you might not recognize your favorite horned-hero once you get to the end of this issue. Diggle has managed to dramatically shift the title character into new, uncharted territory, and admittedly it’s a great ride. Sacrifices aside, this is definitely not your daddy’s Daredevil

I think one of the keys to making a Daredevil story great is the choice of artist. Many artists have come and gone with a few making significant contributions to the character – Frank Miller, Bill Sienkiewicz, David Mack and Alex Maleev come to mind – so it’s no wonder that artist Roberto De La Torre fits right in with some really beautiful work. This could be the run that puts him firmly in the public’s eye.

Overall, a near-perfect issue that’s also suited for newcomers to jump on board. Even if you missed the aforementioned issues leading into this new arc, do yourself a favor and enjoy what most people will be talking about this week.

OTHER PULLS:

Astonishing X-Men #31 – Marvel Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Warren Ellis Artist: Phil Jimenez
Score: 9.0

When S.W.O.R.D. Agent Abigail Brand has a run-in with The Brood, narrowly escapes and is on a collision course for San Francisco, who’re you going to call? That’s right, the Astonishing X-Men! Naturally, Abby’s boyfriend Beast jumps at the rescue mission to save his sweety, but what really raises eyebrows here is the return of Laurie Collins, also known as Wallflower. Not all is how it seems, however…

Superstar writer Warren Ellis has proven that he’s not perfect, if the last arc is any indication. He’s not a superstar for the hell of it, though, as he bounces back in a big way with this first installment. Full of action and those X-Men moments we know and love, this issue’s got everything we could possibly want. But how does new-to-the-title artist Phil Jimenez compare to the previous arc’s Simone Bianchi? It’s a step up, no question about that. Jimenez’ art is dynamic in every sense of the word, which makes it a no-brainer for this title, especially if Ellis continues to make this story as fun as the first chapter was.

Batman and Robin #5 – DC Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Grant Morrion Artist: Philip Tan
Score: 8.5

Batman and Robin? Meet Red Hood and Scarlet. I bet you have a lot in common, so I’ll just leave you four to get to know each other a little more… Of course, if I were actually there, I’d be dead by now, because the proverbial poop hits the fan in this issue. Not only does the Dysfunctional Duo rock the Dynamic Duo’s world, but public support for a harsher stance against crime is starting to rise… and if that wasn’t bad enough, the Flamingo has just ridden into town.

The twists and turns continue to come from writer Grant Morrison, who obviously has a good handle on Dick and Damian. Their constant dialogue is the perfect compliment to what is going on around them at all times, and really, this Flamingo character is downright creepy. Artist Philip Tan continues to put his stamp on this series. Previous artist Frank Quitely cannot be measured up to, but thankfully Tan doesn’t try to, either.

Instead, he’s producing great Philip Tan pages that I think stand right alongside the first three issues of this title. Do not drop this title because of the artist change, you’ll miss out and then be grumpy, and no one likes grumpy comic readers.

Batman: Unseen #1 (of 5) – DC Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Doug Moench Artist: Kelley Jones
Score: 7.5

Let’s see here… we have a classic Bruce Wayne-as-Batman tale revolving around the Invisible Man and a slew of other villains, all with a distinct horror feel to it. And you’re not reading this because…? Allow me to paint the picture for you: think of a big, schlocky, over-the-top B-movie and throw Batman into it. There you go.

Both writer Doug Moench and artist Kelley Jones are no strangers to the Batman mythos. Each has had some notable contributions to the character of the years, some within continuity, some on the outside looking in. Moench really takes the reigns from writer Steve Niles and his last Batman project – the Batman: Gotham After Midnight maxi-series – and continues on the same path mixing things that go bump in the night with the Dark Detective’s earlier missteps, which is only magnified thanks to Jones’ macabre-influenced vision.

If you’re a fan of the dark, exaggerated tone that Jones brings to the plate, then this is one mini-series you won’t want to pass up.

drz3Dark Reign: Zodiac #3 (of 3) – Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Joe Casey Artist: Nathan Fox
Score: 6.5

There’s a new baddie in town, and his name is Zodiac. I can hear you already… “Who?” If chaos was embodied, he’d wear a suit with a black bag-like-thing over his head, and he’d call himself Zodiac. Not worried? I’d say anyone who’s crossed paths with him would be… if they were still alive, that is. Making matters worse, he knows everything. Not only does he pull a fast one on Norman Osborn, but he’s also privy to all of the Cabal’s plans.

Unfortunately, this fresh character’s exploits dropped a few notches in my eyes when the stage became as big as New York. Writer Joe Casey had spun two great issues of how dangerous this character can be with awesomely dirty art from Nathan Fox, but once superheroes got involved it quickly ceased to fit, leaving us with people scratching their heads at what happened – both characters and readers alike. Still, keep an eye out for Zodiac; he’s not nearly done yet.

Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #1 – Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Rick Remender Artist: Jefte Palo
Score: 8.5

Despite Stephen Strange’s constant warnings, the new Sorcerer Supreme – Jericho Drumm, also known as Doctor Voodoo – is setting out to save the world while juggling his day job of healing people in New Orleans. With the Eye of Agamotto in his possession, Doc Voodoo also becomes a giant target for anyone craving more power, so what happens when Dr. Doom comes calling? Put it this way, he’s not on a house call…

I went into this expecting “meh” – never really was a fan of Dr. Strange – but came out of it with “whoa.” Not bothering with too much set up, writer Rick Remender simply grabs you by the collar and takes you on a journey, even if said journey was only a few moments here and there. The newest “Avenger” happens to keep a full dance card with the likes of Dormammu and Vic (Doom lets me call him Vic) while letting people know he may be new to this role, but he’s no slouch either. Artist Jefte Palo has a pretty nice style that’s a mixture of sketchy and dynamic, which really works here. Run out and pick this up before it sells out.

Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! #6 (of 6) – DC Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Matthew Sturges Artist: Freddie Williams II
Score: 7.0

Mike Miller is, and always has been, a loser. Even his other identity, the Human Flame, elicits more groans than cries of panic. That was then, however, and this is now. See, Mikey has got his stuff all torque’d up to the point that Green Lantern (John Stewart), Firestorm and Red Tornado have to deal with him, and they’re not winning… not by a longshot…

Of all the Final Crisis Aftermath mini-series, this one shines the brightest. Writer Matthew Sturges has taken a despicable, vile maggot like Miller and turned him into the villain we all cheer for, because he feels real which is testament to Sturges’ writing. Having said that, the writing suffers a little here. Artist Freddie Williams II also applies his consistently solid pencils to the series, but unlike the other issues, this one drops a bit.

I’m thinking it was the constant drawing of fire and loose ending that ultimately led to this sub-par issue from these two creators. Regardless, I’d recommend this mini-series when it gets collected.

Haunt #1 – Image Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Robert Kirkman Artists: Greg Capullo & Ryan Ottley
Co-created by Robert Kirkman & Todd McFarlane
Score: 8.0

Meet the Kilgore brothers. Daniel is a priest and Kurt is a mercenary. Cut and dry, no? NO. See, Kurt’s dead and his ghost visits his sainted brother, who also happens to like hookers and is a self-centered jerk. Don’t forget about that crazy symbiote-like stuff that comes spewing out Daniel when the going gets tough… which he didn’t get from a hooker, miraculously.

As far as debut issues goes, Haunt is pretty good. Quick, to the point with the right amount of questions left over for the next issue, co-creators Robert Kirkman and Todd McFarlane show they know what they’re doing. Spawn mainstay Greg Capullo provided the layouts, which are always spot on, with Ryan Ottley providing the pencils and McFarlane inking, culminating in some recognizable but not too-familiar pages that look great. With pre-orders shooting through the roof, this is one series that could get hot real fast, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

tb35The Boys #35 – Dynamite Entertainment – $2.99 US
Writer: Garth Ennis Artist: Darick Robertson
Score: 7.5

The Boys has been an intriguing collection of scenarios and characters that beg to be dissected, so I’m sure you’re as excited as I am to find out Mother’s Milk’s origin. Heart-to-hearts don’t happen that often in this universe, but Hughie gets more than he bargained for when Mother’s Milk tells him where he came from. Remember: you can’t un-see anything.

In their own typical way, writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick Robertson spin an origin tale that’s one-part hilarious, one-part shocking and two-parts sad, leaving the reader in the same position as Hughie: bewildered. But with each origin story that comes along in this series, the creators pile on more and more sympathy for The Boys themselves, leaving the reader to decide if they are justified in their violence and stance. In a nutshell this issue is but another stitch in the tapestry Ennis and Robertson are creating.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #3 – Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Artist: David Lafuente
Score: 8.0

There’s a whole bunch of one-on-ones in this issue: Pete and MJ, Johnny Storm and Aunt May, Pete and Sue Storm, Mysterio and Spidey, and more… In fact, by the time the issue ends there’s a new status quo where one of the Fantastic Four are involved, not to mention Mysterio, who Spidey effectively pisses off to a whole new level. In other words, you don’t get a reprieve thanks to some goofy tidal wave, so buck up!

He’s making this look too easy, and by “he” I’m referring to writer Brian Michael Bendis. Skillfully playing with these characters like a marionette, Bendis has begun to plant the seeds for “the next chapter” in Peter Parker’s life, and we can almost guarantee that it won’t be fun. Not for Pete, at least. It was this issue that I saw artist David Lafuente’s art shift, just a little. While the first two issues were spectacular, this one seemed more anime-influenced than the others, which distracted me somewhat.

Not sure if that’s really the case of if I’m just seeing it now, but in any case it’s still really good. This will sell out as well if sales on the first two issues are to be heeded, so grab it while you can.

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