Deadshirt is Reading: Batman Annual and New Avengers!

Deadshirt Is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers, and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on Big Two cape titles, creator-owned books, webcomics and more.

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Max Robinson is reading…

Batman Annual #1

Written by Tom King, Paul Dini, Scott Snyder, Ray Fawkes, Steve Orlando and Scott Wilson

Art by David Finch, Riley Rossmo, Neal Adams, Declan Shalvey and Bilquis Evely

Colored by Ivan Plascencia

DC Comics

“World’s greatest detective. Indeed.”

We’ve hit the start of December and, with Christmas and Hanukkah a scant handful of weeks away, DC delivered a pretty pleasant little Batman annual with stories set during the holiday season. The collection of five yuletide stories here is, unsurprisingly, kind of a mixed bag, but honestly as this kind of thing goes, it’s a pretty decent package. The installments from Orlando/Rossmo and Wilson/Evely are on their own pretty unremarkable, so I’ll instead focus on the three I found the most interesting.

Tom King and David Finch’s entry is by far the strongest, with a charming story centered on the origin of Ace, the Bat-Hound. King adds some cool ideas to the mythos here, like making Ace a dog that Alfred rehabilitates after being abused by The Joker in one of his unseen criminal schemes. David Finch is nobody’s favorite Batman artist, but his work over these pages is perfectly competent and gels nicely with the tone here.

Scott Snyder and Ray Fawkes’s entry with Declan Shalvey finds Batman with a rare moment of peace on an otherwise busy winter’s evening. This kind of Batman story is pretty common, and Snyder’s written at least a couple, but this is an undeniably pleasant read that doesn’t feel too saccharine. More than anything, it’s a lovely showcase for Shalvey.

The strangest entry here is the unlikely pairing of Paul Dini and comics great/flat Earth theorist Neal Adams on a Harley Quinn tale. Bringing in Dini to write this after he’s spent so much time away from the character he co-created is a cool idea, especially since Harley’s changed quite a bit over the last few years. By the same token, Adams is a defining Batman artist, and this handful of pages really reminds you that this guy is a master of the form. The story itself is…bizarre, with the implication that Harley Quinn’s influence is helping everyone to have a better holiday season? At the very least, an interesting example of how Harley Quinn’s become DC’s own personal Wolverine.

Robby Karol is reading…

New Avengers #18

Written by Al Ewing

Art by Carlos Barberi and Jesus Aburtov (Colors)

Lettered by Clayton Cowles

Marvel Comics

“Roberto da Costa was the greatest super villain of all time. And I’ve known a few.”

Al Ewing’s New Avengers has been one of the bright spots of post-Secret Wars Marvel for me. Despite being pulled into two big crossovers in its short run, it managed to make the best of the situation by focusing on the cast. And despite being an Avengers book with (the now-departed) Hawkeye as the closest thing to an A-lister, Ewing took advantage of his cast by turning it into a book where it was as fun to just hang out at their table in the food court as it was to watch them fight villains. Best of all, Ewing played with the odds and ends of the Marvel universe like a kid let loose in a fully-stocked toy store after hours, sprinkled with some of his own concepts, like Todd Ziller, American Kaiju.

Best of all was Ewing’s handling of Roberto da Costa, giving us a brave and generous young man who dangles a little closer to the edge of supervillainy than some people might be comfortable with. So, an issue focusing on his funeral, which would surely serve as a eulogy for the series, was going to be a sad prospect, even if some of the cast is coming back in Ewing’s USAvengers.

Of course, as Ewing’s work on Loki, Agent of Asgard should have taught me, he doesn’t like to do what people expect. I don’t want to spoil what happens in this issue, other than that there are jokes about the Bechdel test, well-deployed cameos from supporting casts from other books, an awesome fight scenes, sweet send-offs for multiple couples, and a hilarious use of various A.I.M. splinter groups.

If I haven’t mentioned much of the art, it’s because it’s a bit of a step down after six issues of Paco Medina. Barberi’s staging of the action is serviceable, but his faces are somewhat generic, flat, and inexpressive. And when the Squirrel Girl supporting cast and the New Mutants show up, he does a poor job of translating them to his style. To his credit, he does a great job with Warlock, along with glowing energy fields and high-tech combat armor, which are necessary in a book involving A.I.M. And he does nail the final splash page. Ultimately, you shouldn’t pick this up if you haven’t been reading ‘til now, for obvious reasons. But it’s a good capstone to the series and bodes well for USAvengers.

Thanks for reading about what we’re reading! We’ll be back next week with a slew of suggestions from across the comics spectrum. In the meantime, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter or on our Facebook Page!

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