This Week’s Winners

It’s been too long since I’ve done one of these, but here’s the best new comics I read this week.

Star Wars: Blood Ties #4

It’s a week of endings, as Kevin Smith’s run on Green Hornet finishes, as do Batman Beyond and the great Ghost Projekt from Oni Press. I realised last month when two of writer Tom Taylor’s Star Wars issues came out on the same day (Blood Ties and Invasion) how good a scribe he actually is. Of course I (and many others) already knew that, but the diversity and consistency with which Taylor approaches the material is impressive. Star Wars at its best has always managed to successfully blend epic life or death adventures with more light-hearted cheekiness. While Invasion centres more on the serious side of things this entertaining mini-series is all about the cool, “oh yeah!” moments that made me recall the thrilling escapism of the original trilogy. Both Invasion and Blood Ties could almost be written by two different people; both of them good. However, Taylor is just one man with the seeming ability to switch writing brains with skill. This final issue of Blood Ties is hung upon a resonant question spoken on the first page, ie, “How do you make a dead man proud?” With Boba Fett getting to know his travelling companion/hostage/bounty, Connor Freeman and the link the two men share even more, this has been a series with cheeky action and dramatic dialogue, and even humour at the expense of the ever dwindling “league” of bounty hunters (now just one angry man). With Chris Scalf’s exquisite renderings adding much visual panche, this is like old-school Star Wars with a sense of fun and menace and it helped me forget the mediocre Force Unleashed II game. You can see Scalf at work here.

Batwoman #0

This was worth the wait, even though this long-promised series doesn’t actually start until February. This primer is a solid intro to the latest spandex wearer in the Bat family. Told solely, and well, through narration this issue is only 16 pages long with a 4 page sketchbook by writer/artist J.H Williams III, who showed fans what he could do with the character in Batwoman’s run in Detective Comics. With co-writer Haden Blackman, Williams forges a sharp, focused story which gives the reader all the info they’ll need on the red-haired crime fighter, as Batman tails her to confirm her identity as Kate Kane. With dynamic action scenes and an absolutely luscious visual style rarely seen in spandex books, this is a must get. Amy Reeder’s more cartoony artwork runs parallel to the Batwoman sequence with a look at Kane’s civilian life. Williams never lets this story telling device get out of control and it’s fluid and easy to grasp all the way. Plus, he throws in some dynamic page layouts that remind us of the power a comics page can reveal.

Uncanny X-Men #530

I’m not a regular reader of this series, and haven’t read the issues before this, but it was fairly accessible and filled with intriguing ideas. Part 1 of the aptly named Quarantine arc by Matt Fraction and Greg Land, it tells of a virus working its way through the mutant population of the island Utopia. Meanwhile an uneasy team consisting of Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde and Fantomex have captured Frost’s former mentor Sebastian Shaw. Two other parallel tales tell of an Asian mutant in what looks like a patriotic gymnast’s outfit using words like, “collective,” “comrade” and “capitalist,” as he scares Chinatown into doing things his way and a new drug that allows humans to become powerful mutants, with a nice payoff at the end showing 5 new versions of the founding X-Men. Fraction’s streamlined plot and Land’s realistic pencils combine for a dramatic and dangerous story.

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