by Chuck Moore
Now with Comic-Con behind me, it's time I get back to running with the Rapid Fire content talking about a few things I've read recently. If you look at the release dates of some of these I'm covering today, I am trailing a little behind the current issues, but these were four I wanted to discuss so they made the column. Today, it's two Marvel and two DC as we go from the croc to the hammer in four easy steps...
Joker's Asylum II - Killer Croc #1
Released - June 23, 2009
This issue was a complete surprise for me. Out of the six Joker's Asylum II one-shots, I've now read a total of four (Harley, Clayface, Hatter and Croc with Ivy and the Riddler still to go). These Asylum tales have a nice history of being strong done-in-one stories and this crop has proven, so far, to offer no exceptions to that rule.
I chose to write about this issue as it honestly stood out from the others. For me, this merited attention as I wasn't looking forward to reading it. For me, this man/monster more often than not comes across as pure brutal rage and power, but the stories often ring thin. This time out, I could not have been more wrong as there was an engaging story and an ending that had real emotional resonance for me. Well played DC, well played.
Without giving too much away, the start of the issue is shockingly brutal as Croc self-mutilates himself to escape. While healing he is taken in by a crooked couple who befriend the beast. Croc dawns a suit but doesn't have much to say. When he does, you will feel every word. This story is shocking, heartwarming and a pleasant surprise I sincerely recommend. The fact that Joker introduces and closes each tale only adds to the fun.
Black Widow #1-4
Released - April 29 to July 21, 2010
Many new series I've read recently have surprised me, but few so much as Marvel's latest Black Widow ongoing. I honestly forced myself to try the #1 issue as I've been a bit lukewarm to the character over the years. To my surprise, I didn't get up from my seat until I turned the final page of issue #4 and LOVED every moment.
There is a mystery afoot that fits Widow like a glove as it involves the possibility that she has been a spy her entire time in the Marvel U. Can it be true? Say it isn't so! She gets around, has that questionable history and, as the issues progress, it's an engaging hook grabbing your attention.
For the first time in a long time, I feel like I'm getting to know Black Widow as a character and really appreciate the potential for her series. As she is discussed by others within the story (Iron Man, Wolverine, Cap) that point really hits home as those individuals paint a nice picture of how much of a cornerstone of the Marvel U she has been over the past few decades (as her debut was way back in 1964... that fact surprised me as I didn't know she had been around that long).
This series has it all... near non-stop action, espionage of the first order, character growth and background, side characters you immediately find likable (Black Rose especially), moments that will honestly make you squirm in your seat (surgery!) and a story that leaves you craving the next issue every time. I was blown away and this is now a series that will be near the top of my read pile every month.
If you're looking for that cold war, James Bond, action-adventure, Bourne Identity cool... this will satisfy that need nicely.
Green Arrow #1
Released - June 23, 2010
I was really looking forward to this issue. The idea of Star City gaining it's very own little Sherwood Forest-styled area was cool. When word came down that DC is making it a new fixture at the heart of the DCU, the story appealed to me to no end.
As you know, Green Arrow has gone a bit rouge these days and he's become an edgier character harkening back to an almost "Long Bow Hunter" feel to his tale. He's more unpredictable, more willing to do what is needed, a bit more of an anti-hero and I like it. That said, there was one part of this issue that bothered me just a little. I was thrown by how quickly the victim, running for her life at the start of the issue, becomes the calm confident of Arrow. Honestly, she is near brutalized by her antagonists, then sees those individuals saved by a barrage of arrows literally taking off the nose of one of her attackers. How she can turn on a dime and have a level headed, sounding board styled conversation with our hero felt a little too abrupt. She's the tool to provide us with Oliver Queen's (aka Green Arrow's) take on the world, but it could have been handled better.
Okay, back to the love... The new villain, Isabel Rochev, is great. We have an individual clouded in mystery who has a historical associate with Oliver's father and is now head of Queen Industries. Solid start with room to grow! She's also visually interesting.
The fact that this new forest has a direct tie to Brightest Day and is somehow a port of that whole mystery is another big win. It appears individuals are being drawn to the forest, may be made powerless upon their arrival and there are hints that this Robin Hood may soon get a band of Merry Men (and Women) to set up shop in the forest. Pretty interesting.
Overall, there's a lot to love here. I say try it!
Released - June 30, 2009
Thor. Yet again, another character that I only recently warmed up to enough to seek out the series and become a regular reader. The most recent series (before returning to the original issue count) pulled me in and made me enjoy this hammer wielding warrior more than ever before as the Asgardian style of these stories was tempered with a touch of humanity.
Sitting across a table at Mid-Ohio-Con a few years back, John Wilson got me started reading Thor once again and it was him I turned to yesterday for his take on the seeming new direction of this issue. We were in agreement that, if you've been enjoying this series up to this point, you might feel like this new story arc is a pretty abrupt change. Things jump into a new direction and little knowledge of the previous story is required here.
In the issue, we've stepped away from the more human elements of the series. The town in which Asgard is based and the individuals from that side of this story are all but gone. They are replaced by pure Asgardian storytelling as aspects of Hell are raising up to overthrow Valhalla and Thor must come to the rescue. Undead witch warriors and a brutal moment or two propel the story and I found myself enjoying the read.
In the past, the full pantheon of characters within the series were featured and at times Thor has almost felt like a background character. Here, that feel is gone as Thor is front and center. I can't yet tell if I enjoy the change, but I will keep checking back as the story itself was engaging to me. Try it and let us know what you think.
I'm literally about two longboxs behind where I would like to be reading-wise. It's time to crank through a few titles and I'll be back with more RFR's as I move through that mix.
Chuck Moore (firstname.lastname@example.org) / Creator of Comic Related
What's my story? I grew up in southern Ohio. I owned seven comic shops in the 80's. I moved to Kentucky. I ran a radio station and did an alternative music show in the 90's. I traveled and did press work for the unlimited hydroplane racing series and with ESPN in the 00's. As the current decade heads toward its close, I stopped traveling a bit, bought a farm and started a comic book web site. That's it in a nutshell.
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