Tony Stark Iron Man #1
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Valerio Schiti
Writer Dan Slott doesn’t miss a beat, swinging off Amazing Spider-Man with a gorgeous, tear-jerking swan song of an issue (#801), closing a 10-year run and dropping the debut issue of Tony Stark Iron Man in the same week. Slott’s Tony Stark is firing on all cylinders, and the Iron Man suit has no less than three permutations in this issue. The story focuses on what amounts to a new Stark Industry recruit’s first day. Stark is Willy Wonka, the dreamer, the music maker, taking his new associate through a whirlwind tour of the facilities, which serves to introduce the readers to the major players of the title.
Valerio Schiti’s illustration is bright, fun and slightly cartoonish at the right moments, which is a great foil for the Tony Stark’s rapid-fire dialogue and self-indulgent levity. The fast-moving story is pure fun- the joy on a young boy’s face as he tells Tony “You’re Iron Man!” mirrors the kind of excitement a feel-good issue like this inspires. With the tug-of-war, massive events Marvel has been focusing on in recent memory (Civil War II, Secret Empire), a story focusing on everyone’s favorite rockstar futurist hits the same sweet spot as a cheesy club song from the mid-90s.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
As they approach their wedding, Batman and Catwoman have been off on adventures, settling old scores, solving crimes, taking names and kicking ass. Basically being the best power couple in all of comic books. Equal parts re-invention, tearful affirmation and stroll down memory lane, this Batman run is some of the best DC has turned out in years. It’s a delight to read. There’s always been an off-again, on-again game between the Bat and the Cat. They’ve always had chemistry, and it’s been the subject of multiple stories, graphic novels, and cinematic plotlines. One of the best was Jeph Loeb’s Hush, where the love story was grounded into a major part of the modern Batman canon, over 15 years ago.
As their nuptials loom, it was only a matter of time before Batman’s most jilted lover, the Joker, showed up. The two-part The Best Man arc concludes with issue #49, with Catwoman swinging in to rescue Batman after he once again indulges the Joker just a hair too much. This issue maintains the Joker as the hinge of Batman’s world, that slice of the Venn diagram where Catwoman and Batman first had common ground. Tom King’s writing is a tribute to the history and spirit of all the characters that create the mythos of The Bat. Mikel Janin’s absolutely magnetic close-work facial detail inter-played with wide-angle shot panels help create a poignant and powerful read. Even if DC decides to screw the wedding pooch a la Marvel’s recent, uh, event, this run has been amazing, and The Best Man is one of the best Batman tales ever told.
The Beef #5 of 5
Writer: Richard Starkings
Artist: Shaky Kane
Silly, shocking, stirring. The Beef is a bizarre mix of high art (those covers tho!), pulpy Golden Age low art, vegan evangelism, exploitation film, and the Toxic Avenger. It’s an incredibly self-aware book, almost too smart for its own good, with teaser lines like “Dairy Monsters and Super Creeps” adorning the cover. The protein-based puns are USDA grade-A-mazing. Richard Starkings’ creation soars through a number of timely political issues but manages to fit them all neatly around a fantastical yarn about an Everyman named Chuck (those puns tho!) who turns into an avenging, massive Hulk-like creature made up of beef.
With a special guest appearance from Ghandi and some literary references, The Beef seeks to educate and entertain. Shaky Kane’s art is unflinchingly heavy-handed, as is Starkings’ story, and the artistic callbacks it evokes belies the complexity of the book’s message. That this is a well-constructed, anti-factory farming treatise is not something the reader would get if they judged the book by the cover. Somehow, this meaty blend all comes together, educating while entertaining. A milkshake or a burger will never look the same, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.