Tom Strong 24 (March 2004)

Tom Strong #24

What did I just read? Hogan’s back writing again and he does a decent enough job scripting, but the plotting is a disaster.

It starts okay–Tom Strong’s ex-girlfriend (from the thirties) turns out to be a cryogenically preserved ice person and he’s trying to help her. So he brings her home. One might think it would lead to all sorts of interesting scenes between his wife and the ex-girlfriend, maybe Tesla and the ex-girlfriend but no… nothing. Hogan knows he should be doing that story because he hurries through a scene between Dhalua and the ex.

Instead, he sets up some possible future story. Not an important one, because he also doesn’t show how the ex-girlfriend’s reappearance has affected Tom (other than him trying to help her); there’s simply no weight to the story. It ought to weight six tons.

The art is gorgeous but the story is insincerely executed.

B- 

CREDITS

Snow Queen; writer, Peter Hogan; penciller, Chris Sprouse; inkers, Karl Story and John Dell; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Kristy Quinn and Scott Dunbier; publisher, America’s Best Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 100 (November 2006)

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Eh.

So Gwen Stacy is Carnage. Yippee.

And Aunt May is pretty nasty. Bendis doesn’t redeem her much, even if she has been through a lot apparently. She hasn’t been lying to Peter his whole life, just the last few years.

It’s an interesting thing, making Aunt May unlikable. Has anyone else tried that gimmick before? Bendis gives her a heart attack at the end though, so she’ll eventually be forgiven.

And Peter Parker’s dad is an awful character. Not a bad guy, but a simpleton. Not at all believable as a genius. Bendis tries to insert this genetic engineering cold war between the CIA and SHIELD into the series and it’s just silly.

The art is so haphazard I thought they were using different pencillers. Dell goes overboard on Bagley, Drew Hennessy goes under. The result’s incredibly disjointed

Poor Spider-Man doesn’t even appear in his hundredth issue.

CREDITS

Clone Saga, Part Four; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inkers, John Dell and Drew Hennessy; colorist, Justin Ponsor; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, John Barber and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 99 (October 2006)

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I’m not sure Bendis actually does good writing this issue but he sure does go out on a high point. He establishes Aunt May as a super villain. She’s been lying to Peter his whole life. She’s a bad guy.

Wow.

Bendis will never stick with it. It’s too much.

There’s some good stuff with Peter and the Gwen clone. The stuff with Aunt May kind of ruins it, since Bendis has this big confession scene from Peter and there’s absolutely no payoff for it.

It’s sort of a catch–22. If he backs out of these revelations, he’s being cheap. If he doesn’t stick with them, he’s being cheap. Bendis has become so disingenuous with the series, it’s hard to “trust” him not to be as sensational as possible.

The Gwen stuff almost makes up for it. There’s decent “move the story along” scenes with the Fantastic Four too.

CREDITS

Clone Saga, Part Three; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inkers, John Dell and Drew Hennessy; colorist, Justin Ponsor; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, John Barber and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 98 (October 2006)

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Bendis should have done more with the Fantastic Four this issue. They’re really funny. The stuff with Peter calling himself “baby” in his internal monologue? Makes me hope he’s a clone not the regular character but I think it’s more just Bendis laziness.

There’s another big fight scene this issue; Peter fights some black costumed redhead with spider powers who doesn’t identify herself. It’s a bad fight scene. Then Gwen comes back and she’s confused. Then there’s another Peter clone, apparently.

Maybe it’s Eddie Brock. Not sure how much I care, as it’s clear Bendis doesn’t care.

I’m trying to think of what else goes on this issue. A great cameo from Nick Fury? A strange scene between Peter and Mary Jane’ mom; I don’t think she’s shown up before this arc. At least not enough for her to be memorable.

Bendis has lost his focus on Peter in Ultimate.

CREDITS

Clone Saga, Part Two; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inkers, John Dell and Drew Hennessy; colorist, Justin Ponsor; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, John Barber and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 97 (September 2006)

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Okay, great, John Dell has help from John Sibal and together they don’t ink Bagley well. I couldn’t even tell the guy in the Scorpion outfit was a Peter Parker clone. He just looked way too bland.

Otherwise, the issue’s okay. Bendis is doing his rushing thing to get rid of Kitty Pryde, just like he rushed breaking up Mary Jane and Peter. Contriving stuff for the villains is fine, but now he’s contriving the regular cast’s arcs and it’s getting painful at times.

For instance, why is Mary Jane so buddy buddy with Peter all of a sudden. Bendis even accelerates it more this issue.

And Peter’s callousness when it comes to Kitty is a surprise. He never acted callous before with Mary Jane, so what’s the point of this new romance? Sales bump from crossovers?

Oddly, the lengthy, meticulous action sequence is the best thing in the comic.

CREDITS

Clone Saga, Part One; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inkers, John Dell and John Sibal; colorist, Richard Isanove; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, John Barber and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 96 (August 2006)

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First off my apologizes to Jimmy Palmiotti… his inks weren’t screwing up Bagley’s pencils last issue. This issue makes it clear John Dell–who is solo, so no confusion–really shouldn’t be inking Bagley or Ultimate Spider-Man. He ruins the tone at times.

The issue concludes the Morbius adventure, but it’s pretty slight. Ben Urich is in danger of becoming a vampire, Peter tries to save him, running into good guy vampire Morbius. Lots of fight scenes, lots of vampire nonsense.

Bendis can’t sell the vampire nonsense and he tries really hard. It becomes desperate at some point. And Bagley–regardless of an inker–does a terrible job on Morbius. One shouldn’t want to snicker whenever a guest star appears on page.

The incident gives Bendis an opportunity to develop Peter and Mary Jane’s new relationship, which is a good thing… though he skips explaining her change of heart.

CREDITS

Morbius, Part Two; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inker, John Dell; colorist, Justin Ponsor; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, John Barber, Nicole Boose and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 95 (July 2006)

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I’m sure Bendis and Jimmy Palmiotti are buddies but come on… no one could think Palmiotti is a good inker for Bagley. I thought Dell was weak, but Palmiotti is something else. You have these pleasant Bagley high school panels and Palmiotti makes them dreary. And the hands… don’t get me started on the hands.

Otherwise, it’s a pretty darn good issue. Peter has a friend fight with Mary Jane, he talks to Kitty on the phone (with Storm offering hilarious audio commentary) and works at the Bugle. Bendis writes the Bugle stuff rather well, it’s too bad he doesn’t use it more.

But this arc is the Morbius one and dang if he doesn’t go for disturbing. The vampires aren’t cute, they’re evil and scary. For the first time–maybe ever–I was worried about Peter’s safety. It’s bad stuff going on.

Maybe I wrote off Bendis’s ambitions early.

CREDITS

Morbius, Part One; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inkers, John Dell and Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Richard Isanove; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, John Barber, Nicole Boose and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 94 (July 2006)

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So the whole story with the island and the X-Men and Ultimate Deadpool is just to set up a payoff of Aunt May having a boyfriend and spending the night with him?

This issue’s got some good moments. Bendis doesn’t use the TV narrative device too much (of course, when he does, it’s awful). He even writes a really good action sequence for Kitty when she needs to kick some butt.

But, who cares? Four issues and two things get established. Peter and Kitty aren’t breaking up, which she worried about in the first issue, and Aunt May has a gentleman friend. Seems like the perfect kind of thing Bendis could have juxtaposed in a single issue or maybe a good two parter.

Instead, Bendis went for sensationalism, aiming about as high as an episode of “Knight Rider”. I said before he’s running on empty; this issue confirms it.

CREDITS

Deadpool, Part Four; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inkers, John Dell and Mark Morales; colorist, Justin Ponsor; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, John Barber, Nicole Wiley Boose and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 92 (May 2006)

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Did Ditko start the thing where Spidey squints and his eyes change size? They overdo it today (and have since the late eighties) but there’s a little of it here and it works. He works rather well as a guest star. Bendis has a lot of fun writing Peter play off other superheroes.

And by guest star, I mean Bendis has basically given this issue to the Ultimate X-Men and allowed Spidey to guest. I suppose there are a couple things making it more his issue, but no… he’s guesting in his own comic.

It’s a mildly entertaining comic too. He’s on this island, fighting bad cyborg guys, running into X-Men. So for every new bad guy, there are more good guys to fight them. Dumb fun.

It’s like a video game, actually. Maybe Bendis originally wrote it for one.

Bendis’s ambition for the series, however, is kaput.

CREDITS

Deadpool, Part Two; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inkers, John Dell and Mark McKenna; colorists, Laura Martin and Richard Isanove; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, John Barber, Nicole Boose and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 91 (May 2006)

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Bendis writes first person exposition rounded rectangles–there’s just no good description for them like word balloons–for Kitty Pryde. She’s Peter’s girlfriend, after all, and she guest stars in about half the issue. Probably more.

Oh, wait, Bendis never wrote those rectangles for Mary Jane. It’s a good issue and all, though the front is a lot better than the back, which has nothing of interest except maybe May going on a date, but it reveals something about Bendis as a writer.

He was always using Mary Jane as an unknowable side character, ever ready to use her for plot twists. Kitty, on the other hand, is an honest to goodness knowable side character. It makes her immediately more likable. I had to force myself to remember Mary Jane is part of the book.

And Peter having a superhero team-up? Awesome.

I didn’t even mind Dell’s inks here.

CREDITS

Deadpool, Part One; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inker, John Dell; colorist, Justin Ponsor; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, John Barber, Nicole Wiley Boose and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 90 (April 2006)

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Dell’s back on inks. There aren’t as many close ups so it doesn’t get too bad, but it’s not great. The faces are too sharp.

It’s mostly an action issue, with cuts to Nick Fury and Tony Stark talking in exposition to explain the comic to the reader.

Ultimate Vulture is a waste of time, just a way for Bendis to introduce Ultimate Tinkerer, who’s probably a waste of time too.

Silver Sable’s team isn’t in it as much, which is both good and bad. Good because Bendis wrote them so poorly, but bad because it means he’s got no dedication to making his plot flow. He jumps from character to character, only briefly pausing on Peter (who’s in the middle of it all).

Actually, it reads more like Peter’s guest starring in The Ultimates than leading his own title.

It’s not terrible, just not any good. Bendis’s struggling again.

CREDITS

Silver Sable, Part Five; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inker, John Dell; colorist, Justin Posner; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, John Barber, Nicole Wiley Boose and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 88 (February 2006)

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I think John Dell took over inking. It has his name on the cover but not the interior credits, but the art looks totally different. There’s a long scene with May ranting about how much she hates Spider-Man (weak scene for her) and she looks totally different.

As for the rest of the story, the end’s a little funny–once again, Peter only gets in trouble because he’s irrationally dumb; he’s supposed to be a genius, yet he falls for an obvious trick. But before he gets in trouble, it’s funny.

Silver Sable is still a terrible character.

Kitty, however, is getting more amusing. She’s a knowing confidant for Peter, a sympathetic ear with experience. Bendis only has her in the issue for a bit, but she’s definitely starting to feel like a regular cast member.

It’s on the low end of okay.

Terrible, trite and ugly Ultimate Vision.

CREDITS

Silver Sable, Part Three; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inker, John Dell; colorist, Justin Ponsor. Ultimate Vision, Visions, Part Five of Six; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, John Romita Jr.; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, June Chung. Letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, John Barber, Nicole Wiley and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Superior Spider-Man 13 (September 2013)

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It’s weird how Slott let Gage handle the script on this arc. It’s got some of the biggest changes to Superior since it started–a new page in Otto’s relationship with Jonah, a secret base (and lab) for Spider-Man–one would’ve thought Slott would want to be more hands on with it all.

The issue’s pretty good, with some nice moves for the Lizard. Hopefully he sticks around, even though he wouldn’t really be good with Otto.

Sadly, even though the issue moves well, there’s nothing memorable. The villains each have their own problems, but who cares? They were never interesting in the first place. Just the Green Goblin movie version–visually speaking–of familiar (and not familiar) characters.

The stuff with Otto and the main villain is a little tired though. Besides Otto revealing himself in the Spider Slayer’s finale moments… it’s the same as the previous showdowns.

CREDITS

No Escape, Part Three: The Slayer The Slain; writers, Dan Slott and Christos Gage; penciller, Giuseppe Camuncoli; inkers, John Dell and Terry Pallot; colorist, Antonio Fabela; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor, Ellie Pyle and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Superior Spider-Man 12 (August 2013)

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Gage (and the plotting Slott) put Otto in an interesting place. Given the standard superhero trope of having to save one person or another, Otto apparently goes from the villain himself instead of bothering to save anyone.

Apparently, as it’s the hard cliffhanger.

Otherwise, some of the issue goes to Jameson, who decides to hunt down the Spider Slayer himself. Making Jonah sympathetic always seems impossible but then one remembers the dead wife.

There’s a fun scene with Otto and the Spider Slayer rambling about their master plans. Having a hero who goes on and on about it is pretty fun–especially since Otto gets called on it–but it really just distracts from the issue’s lack of content. Nicely, sure, but obviously.

And Gage gets to write an Otto who doesn’t have the best plan too. He doesn’t have everything planned out. It’s a good read, only too fast.

CREDITS

No Escape, Part Two: Lockdown; writers, Dan Slott and Christos Gage; penciller, Giuseppe Camuncoli; inkers, John Dell and Terry Pallot; colorist, Antonio Fabela; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor, Ellie Pyle and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Superior Spider-Man 11 (August 2013)

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Giuseppe Camuncoli and John Dell make Otto look so positively condescending it’s wonderful. He only has a couple scenes outside his Spider-Man adventures, one with Anna and then one with his boss. I didn’t pay attention to the credits so I didn’t realize it was Christos Gage scripting from a Slott script; a lot more makes sense now.

Gage spends a lot of time writing maniacal Otto narration, which is always fun, and also goes far in establishing the revised ground situation since Ghost Peter is gone. Also gone are Peter’s supporting cast members. This issue–save Jameson–is just Otto.

Except, of course, the villains. There are lots of them and they’re really dumb looking. It feels very early nineties once the Spider Slayer gets his armor on.

As usual, the best stuff is Otto’s personal journey. The action is simply the cost of getting that peculiar story.

CREDITS

No Escape, Part One: A Lock For Every Key; writers, Dan Slott and Christos Gage; penciller, Giuseppe Camuncoli; inker, John Dell; colorist, Edgar Delgado; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor, Ellie Pyle and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Superior Spider-Man 5 (May 2013)

Superior Spider Man Vol 1 5

I guess I didn’t realize it before, but “Brand New Day” Peter Parker is supposed to be unbelievably good looking. Otto lucked out in the bod department, apparently.

This issue features a really nice scene where Otto has dinner with his “tutor,” a very charming woman who happens to be a little person. Ghost Peter never says it, but there’s a definitely implication he’d never give her the time of day whereas Otto’s able to see past it.

Otto’s also able to see the benefit of coordinating with others (shouldn’t Peter have learned a little of that practice in The Avengers). Slott’s definitely developing Otto’s character in unexpected, thoughtful ways. Even the ending, which implies Otto’s megalomania hasn’t gone away he’s just using it for the greater good.

And who’s Otto to determine the greater good? Slott’s establishes him as the ideal choice as it’s a conscious effort.

Excellent issue.

CREDITS

Emotional Triggers; writer, Dan Slott; penciller, Giuseppe Camuncoli; inkers, John Dell and Camuncoli; colorists, Edgar Delgado and Antonio Fabella; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Ellie Pyle and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Superior Spider-Man 4 (April 2013)

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Well, I’ll eat my rotten onions right off–I miss Stegman. Giuseppe Camuncoli takes over on pencils (John Dell on inks) and it’s not a good move. There are lots of regular people scenes this issue and Camuncoli draws them like it’s an absurdist comedy. He also draws Spider-Man in Batman postures, which works out, but, wow… Not nice art.

The issue skips a head a few weeks from the last with Otto having to deal with a psychopath who Peter let get away. The psychopath is spree killing and Otto vows to stop him. Even Ghost Peter is a little taken aback at what his decision has wrought (which would be Batman’s every day given how violent his villains get).

On the “normal” side, Otto goes back to school for his doctorate. Or Peter’s doctorate.

Slott does a great job writing; shame the art isn’t up to snuff.

CREDITS

The Aggressive Approach; writer, Dan Slott; penciller, Giuseppe Camuncoli; inker, John Dell; colorist, Edgar Delgado; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Ellie Pyle and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 62 (September 2004)

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I don’t even think Peter shows up in this issue. Mary and Gwen get a good scene together, something Bendis’s two month fast forward makes problematic. It’s hard to believe they haven’t seen each other in that amount of time… not with Peter giving Gwen a message for Mary Jane.

But anyway, it’s a good scene. Bagley’s action might be a little boring and his horror is nothing special, but he’s good at the expressions Bendis needs to make the scenes work.

Besides that scene though, the issue’s nothing special. Ultimate Carnage shows up and appears to be some kind of Peter Parker clone. It wrecks havoc. It kills people. It kills major supporting players.

As for that major death (maybe the series’s first), Bendis fumbles. Maybe intentionally. He doesn’t give the scene time to resonate with the reader, ending the issue instead.

His handling makes it hard to care.

CREDITS

Carnage, Part Three of Five; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inkers, Scott Hanna and John Dell; colorist, Jonathan D. Smith; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Nick Lowe and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Huntress 6 (May 2012)

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Dell might be back, but there’s a certain laziness to the art this issue. To doesn’t care about perspective during a chase scene–or body proportions–and apparently Dell doesn’t care enough to fix them. But the art is generally better, if not at the series’s peak.

Unfortunately, Levitz’s writing doesn’t improve any this issue. Once again, Huntress can defeat all, but there’s one development. Huntress infers she works with the NSA and the way she trades barbs with the bad guy–she did kill the bad guy last issue, which makes no sense since she was non-lethal with all the flunkies–Levitz seems to be doing a masked, female James Bond.

Then there’s the ending. Another unexciting chase sequence ends with Power Girl, in her civilian outfit, popping in to give Helena a lift.

I think Levitz expects readers to be excited. I can’t believe they’re even conscious.

Huntress 4 (March 2012)

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So Levitz ended the previous issue with an ominous cliffhanger, then this issue just has Helena kicking ass. She doesn’t even face a tough adversary. She just kicks butt over and butt.

It’s almost like Levitz thinks he can get away with dumb female characterization for Helena by making her unstoppable.

There’s another cat reference this issue too, but no bat ones. It would work more amusingly if Helena’s parentage was established. As hints or cute details, it fails.

About the only other thing I remember about the issue is a very seventies or eighties homage page from To with Huntress silhouetted above Helena. The page has a nice, retro touch, something the book doesn’t usually have. Levitz’s attempts at being tough and realistic all fail, given the lovely Italian settings. Huntress is as grim and gritty as Mamma Mia!.

Luckily, the series–and my reading ordeal–is almost over.

Huntress 3 (February 2012)

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Helena likes cats. Get it? Because she might be Catwoman’s daughter. Got to keep the reader guessing, because it adds texture to such a thoughtful series. Levitz also introduces the bad guys–evil Muslim oil barons who sell dissidents daughters into slavery.

I was a little surprised there aren’t any good Muslims to offset the bad guys, but then I remembered the New 52 isn’t about rounded writing, it’s about being cheap.

Other developments this issue? Helena, in her first person narration, thinks of herself as “mama,” as in, “come to mama.” I wonder if Levitz even wrote Huntress. There’s enough stupidity in the narration–not downright badness, but just dumb choices–to suggest some intern wrote it and Levitz put his name on it.

I’m finally a little more onboard with To, however. He’s on the third issue and he and Dell aren’t declining.

Too bad the writing’s plummeting.

Huntress 2 (January 2012)

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So the comic is about Helena–still no last name, still no personality, I’ll bet Huntress was definitely either a pre-New 52 book or before they decided to do Earth 2–breaking up a human trafficking ring.

And the cover tagline instructs the reader to objectify Huntress.

DC is such a classy joint.

The issue is more of the same. Helena in Italy fighting mobsters. If it’s possible, Levitz actually writes her with less personality than in the first issue. If it were any other writer, one might assume he or she was doing it for the paycheck. Levitz isn’t even introduced in providing informative informational about human trafficking. I guess his Helena narration isn’t terrible….

It’s just lame.

To and Dell’s art continues to be okay, but indistinct. There’s nothing gripping about anything in Huntress, not the art, not the writing.

Levitz doesn’t even bother with a cliffhanger.

Huntress 1 (December 2011)

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I’m utterly confused. Is this Earth 2? Is the Huntress Batman and Catwoman’s daughter again? If so, why’s she going after the mob in Italy? The mob vigilante Huntress was a post-Crisis thing, right?

Like most of Paul Levitz’s modern work, he never establishes why anyone should be reading Huntress. Levitz wrote some great pre-Crisis Huntress thirty years ago, but there’s no hook in this first issue. There’s also no brain fodder to keep up interest.

Instead Levitz establishes a modern, realistic setting (Arab Spring mentions) and a bunch of sexist guys. Maybe because Helena doesn’t have a last name yet, it’s hard to get much personality out of her, but come on….

This issue feels like it was written before the New 52 and slightly rejiggered. Marcus To and John Dell’s art isn’t bad; it’s slick and without personality, but not bad.

It’s boring, like the writing.

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