A Break from Batman: reviews of Aquaman Vol.1, Swamp Thing Vol.1, and more

Let’s take a step out of our comfort zone and see what other great comics are out there!

A few weeks back I received a package in the mail from DC. I hadn’t requested any new graphic novels at all, I mean I was still up to my neck in No Man’s Land and Knightfall books at the time so I was very surprised to be getting more of anything. Was it going to be that new World’s Finest collection? What about the latest Batman: Brave & the Bold TPB? Maybe it could be the third Knightfall volume that’s coming in September? I opened the package and was absolutely gobsmacked. DC had sent me Swamp Thing and Aquaman graphic novels.

What was I supposed to do with this? The site is called Batman-News, not Batman-Swamp-Thing-and-Aquaman-News! But then again, many readers have shown interest in branching out into other comics and I’m always giving suggestions in the comments section of my articles. So what would it hurt to do a once-per-month segment on the most notable comics that are not Batman? I don’t want to detract from our main theme here. The last thing I want to do is turn Batman-News.com into the History Channel (Ancient Aliens and Pawn Star marathons every weekend? Seriously?) of superhero fan sites. But I think doing one article a month in an effort to expand everyone’s horizons could only be a good thing. And I also don’t think there’s anything else quite like this out there for Batman fans. Sure when you buy a comic on Amazon or something a widget will pop up saying “If you liked ___, you may also want to try ____.” but that’s very cold, calculating, and impersonal. You’re here because you really, really like Batman and that means that we both have something in common. I can tell you what some of the best books were that I read and you and other Batman readers just like you and me can recommend even more books in the comments section at the bottom of the page and together we can get more people excited about reading!

To do this, we at Batman-News have to know there is a demand for such an article before I make it a point to start a once-per-month segment. Batman-News has never strayed from talking about the caped crusader before, even if it is for a single article once every 30 days or so, so you can imagine our hesitation. So please tweet, re-tweet, Facebook like, Google-plusify, Instagramabob, and whatever else you can do to spread the word so we know that you guys want to take a break from time to time to talk about even more comics!

And with that said, let’s take a break from Batman…

Swamp Thing Vol.1: Raise Them Bones

I knew nothing about Swamp Thing except what I learned from the B-movie starring the dad from Twin Peaks. That’s always been the extent of my knowledge about the character so naturally I never cared anything about reading the comics. I’ve heard Alan Moore’s run on the series is phenomenal (as is everything Moore touches–if you’ve not read the Joker tale The Killing Joke it’s kind of hard to take you seriously as a Batman fan) but even with his name behind it my interest in the character has never been strong enough to give Swampy a chance. That is until the New 52 started last September. With a flashy #1 on the cover and Scott Snyder, author of American Vampire and Batman (Batman even makes a cameo in the book’s opening chapter! Did you think we were taking this break cold-turkey?), writing it I gave the series a shot. I love it.

Swamp Thing is creepy, beautiful, and totally epic. Even though I knew next to nothing about Doctor Alec Holland and his whole death/resurrection still doesn’t make complete sense to me I was able to follow the story fine, get attached to the characters, and be absolutely captivated by what was happening. Yanick Paquette  (who you’ll recall from Batman Inc. Vol. 1)does the bulk of the artwork here which is absolutely stunning (and often times disturbing) and I especially love the way the book’s pages have no gutters—the panels are separated by vines, branches, and roots. Paquette and colorist Faibairn (who colors Grant Morrison’s Batman Inc.) make a great looking horror book and this is definitely a horror book. If rotting monsters with baby faces and zombies with backwards heads is just the break you need from superheroes on rooftops then Swamp Thing is a can’t miss. The only downside (other than it didn’t get a sexy hardcover) to this TPB is that Swamp Thing’s story is too big for such a small novel. By the time you’re done with Raise Them Bones, the real battle is only just beginning. The book collects issues 1-7 but even now in its 12th issue Swamp Thing’s war is far from over and for readers who check out TPBs only, the wait might be too much to bear because Vol.2 won’t be released until April, 2013!

SCORE: 8.5/10                      Swamp Thing Vol.1 is worth taking a break from Batman


Aquaman Vol.1: The Trench

It’s hard to find two series more different than Aquaman and Swamp Thing and I don’t just mean because one is water and the other is plants. Swamp Thing is a reluctant hero that the world knows little to anything at all about while Aquaman is something much different than what you see in any other comic right now: a willing hero who is desperately trying to be taken seriously in a world that sees him as a joke. A lot of Aquaman purists (apparently they exist) were upset that the New 52 version of Aquaman lives in a world where he’s a laughing stock but I think it works. It makes the series unique.  He’s still a great hero and a strong character only he lives in a world that reflects our mainstream society’s view of Aquaman. The people in this world see him as a lame superhero who protects and communicates with fish. The Trench is an underdog story. You read it and you’ll really like Aquaman and hate how nobody gives the guy any respect and that makes his triumphs all the more satisfying. Before the Geoff John’s take I thought that the best way to approach Aquaman was the John Dimaggio (he does the voice for Bender on Futurama, Jake the Dog on Adventure Time and…the Joker in Under the Red Hood. I blew somebody’s mind with one of those facts I’m sure) Batman: The Brave & the Bold version but this works beautifully. Not only has Geoff Johns and the art team of Ivan Reis, Rod Reis, and Joe Prado revitalized Aquaman but they put they made it into a top 10 book! I think you’re going to love this bright, colorful adventure about a hero trying to save a world that doesn’t respect him. And reading about a character who doesn’t get the respect they deserve is a major break from what you see in Batman! The Trench‘s only real drawback is the lack of a compelling villain. Aquaman’s enemy here is a race of critters that just want to eat people and that’s not terribly exciting but the book does set up many of the elements that will come into play in volume #2. As a reader of the follow-up arc in the monthly issues I can say that the next story after this is absolutely amazing and if I ever do a review of it I might just give it a 10/10. This is an incredibly fun read and one of the best surprises of the New 52. Look for this book in your local comic shop this Wednesday in glorious hardcover. And yes, this collects the entire Trench saga.

SCORE: 8/10                         Aquaman Vol.1 is worth taking a break from Batman

So you see I plan to use this article to review a couple of graphic novels but I’m also going to talk about the best looking and most entertaining monthly comics  that I had a chance to read. So without further ado…

Here are the best comics I read this month that made it worth taking a break from Batman…

Saga #6

New-Reader Friendliness: Low

Genre: Science-Fantasy

Think Star Wars but with funnier jokes and a lot more cursing, nudity, and gore. And I don’t mean to make it sound like an ultra-mature and gritty title, it’s not. It’s a very imaginative book full of humor and adventure but it ain’t for kids. If you haven’t been reading Saga then don’t bother buying this. Instead, wait until October and buy the TPB which will go on sale for $9.99. And that’s not a typo. It’ll really be that cheap.

Daredevil #17

New-Reader Friendliness: High

Genre: Superhero

I used to make fun of Daredevil. I even went so far as, when playing the video game Marvel Ultimate Alliance at a friend’s house and being forced to play as the character, I would fire attacks in the wrong direction or make the character punch trash cans and trees while everyone else was battling that level’s boss. I saw him as Marvel’s lame attempt at a Batman character sans wealth, gadgets, and butler (they gave those attributes to Tony Stark). But then I gave this new Daredevil series (with great artists and a story by Mark Waid, writer of Kingdom Come and Tower of Babel, two great Batman/JL stories) a shot. I was wrong about it. This, at least Mark Waid’s version, doesn’t read like a Batman knock-off at all. There hasn’t been a bad issue yet and now Daredevil is my favorite superhero comic and yes, I’m counting Batman comics as well. That should be enough of an endorsement right there. This new Daredevil series has ran only a few issues longer than the New 52 Bat-titles but this hero has fought more crime in unique and exciting ways than Batman has and he’s done more detective work than Batman has. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Issue #17 features plenty of recap so new readers should get caught up on what’s happened before and the story itself is a flashback to the beginning of Daredevil’s career. Give it a shot, I did and I couldn’t be happier.

The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom #1

New-Reader Friendliness: Low

Genre: Adventure

I wasn’t sure if I should categorize this as a Superhero book or not. I’d say Rocketeer is as much a superhero as Indiana Jones is and that’s exactly the kind of tone that this book has. And other than the modern era, most folks–including myself–would love a Batman ongoing that takes place in the 1940s but it’s not going to happen anytime soon. So to satisfy your desire for a hero who fights Nazis or gangsters with fedoras and Tommy guns the Rocketeer is pretty darn cool. However, if you’re totally unfamiliar with the character you might be a bit lost. A few months back publisher IDW brought together some of the best writers and artists in the business to squeeze as many great Rocketeer stories as they could in four issues. It was terrific and so now they’re back with another series that’ll be a complete story rather than a collection of shorter tales (this time by Mark Waid and artist Chris Samnee, who have both worked on Daredevil which is already on this list). So if you didn’t read the 4 issue mini-series or you haven’t seen the 1991 film you’ll be a bit lost. Just know that The Rocketeer has a hot Betty Page look-alike girlfriend and he likes to fly around in a jet pack and occasionally intervene in WWII.

Sweet Tooth #36

New-Reader Friendliness: Low

Genre: I honestly don’t know how I’d describe it

This might be my favorite comic book but the thing that sucks about recommending it is that new readers would be cheating themselves by jumping on now. It’s a finite story with loads of surprises and it’ll wrap in December. It’s also almost impossible to describe and do the material justice. Here’s my attempt: it’s a violent post-apocalyptic world decimated by plague, the main character is a little boy with antlers, and it will make you laugh and cry. If you like Animal Man then know that this is written by the same man, Jeff Lemire, and it’s drawn by him as well. You may have seen his art already in Legends of The Dark Knight #1. If you want to give Sweet Tooth a shot, go pick up the first TPB.

Spider-Men #4

New-Reader Friendliness: Medium

Genre: Superhero

Here’s another book that’s hard to recommend because you definitely need to check out issues 1-3 first. And don’t worry about whether or not you’ve read enough issues of Ultimate Spider-Man, everything is explained. As long as you know the Spider-Man basics, you’ll be comfortable. This is a beautiful book with a lot of heart and one that I think every Spider-Man fan should read. It’s about Peter Parker getting warped to the Marvel Ultimate Universe, a timeline in which their Peter Parker has not only been outed as the webslinger, he’s also dead. Ultimate Spider-Man #13 is a must-read as well, but has no bearing on what’s going on in Spider-Men. It’s just another really great book and it’s fairly new-reader friendly as well.

Swamp Thing #12 & Animal Man #12

New-Reader Friendliness: Medium

Genre: Horror

It used to be that you could read Swamp Thing without reading Animal Man…it’s just that nobody in their right mind would recommend such a thing. Now it’s a necessity to read these two books together. Part I of the Rot World saga begins in Animal Man #12 and part II continues in Swamp Thing #12. A recap in Animal Man’s opening pages makes this an alright jumping on point for new readers but you’re missing out on quite a bit of cool, creepy stuff if you don’t go back for the previous installments.

Aquaman #12

 New-Reader Friendliness: Low

Genre: Superhero

I’ve raved enough about Aquaman in this article already. This series gets even better after The Trench and that the latest saga is nearing it’s explosive conclusion that sadly won’t come until October due to ZERO month.

So there you have it. I can’t read everything but those books are the ones that I read and loved. Now it’s your turn to write in the comments section below what books you read this month that you think everyone should check out. And if you liked this article, be sure to share it so we can do this again next month!