Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Secret Avengers #19

I'm still just tickled that there is an Avengers title out there that feels so right. Bendis loves the dialogue and relationships, but Warren Ellis is writing an Avengers comic where crap gets done!

This issue features Steve Rogers, Moon Knight (in a suit), Black Widow, and Sharon Carter. It's pretty great, because while this is still an Avengers comic with big baddies like elder gods, it works just as well as a drug-bust comic. The street-level heroes are all packing knockout guns and blasting their way around; it's pretty entertaining.

The high point of the issue has to be Steve Rogers' street fight. It's light on dialogue, but man, these amped up drug-dealers are a real threat. Steve is sporting a shiner for the rest of the issue after taking out just one of these guys. From that point on, it's K-O gun time! Moon Knight gets some sweet undercover action in his white suit too. More heroes need a formal-wear version of their costumes!

Michael Lark is a chameleon. This looks street-level and gritty, as it needs to, the big moments all get to shine. That double page knockout in the middle works because it is so jarring from the rest of the story.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Avengers Solo #2

You'd think ol' Hawkeye was fighting Spidey by the looks of that cover! I suppose there is some overlap with the Trapster's powers, though.

I'm enjoying Jen Van Meter's Hawkeye story as it moves into the second chapter. This is the definition of a plot-based story, you could plug in any hero to this story and it would work equally well; there are no real "Hawkeye" elements that make this a personal mission for him. That said, Van Meter writes Hawkeye as a competent and powerful hero who is out to do the right thing. The thugs are a tad generic, but you can't fault this book on action. There is a ton going on, including more super-villain goodness from Trapster. I hope another baddie shows up next issue, or that the bandaged gal turns out to be a real villain. (I would have guessed Moonstone, except that she's busy elsewhere.)

Roger Robinson draws a fantastic Hawkeye. There are a ton of really strong pages with great action shots. I got sketch from Robinson years ago, and I asked for Hawkeye then because I thought he'd do a great job. He did then and he's doing a bang-up job now.


Monday, November 28, 2011

The Torch TPB

Head on over to the Collected Editions blog for my guest-review of The Torch TPB.

Here's a hint: It was good!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Marvel Zombies 5 HC

I like Fred Van Lente's writing. Heck, I even liked Marvel Zombies 3 that he wrote. But what is the point of this story? It's a random sampling of alternate universes where different forms of the zombie virus have taken hold (all named after famous directors, amusingly enough).

The problem is that this story can't decide if it wants to take the story seriously or if it is a joke. Machine Man and Howard the Duck? How are we supposed to take that seriously? And the original Black Knight's world is overrun with Deadites from Army of Darkness?

The last story is mighty confusing too, a more "realistic?" take on the zombie story? I'm not sure what the point was, but the whole thing comes off a bit oddly.

The art is a mix of decent creators, but my confusion at the tone of the story kept me from getting too wrapped up.



Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fall of the New Mutants TPB

Zeb Wells continues to churn out good, classic-feeling stories that acknowledge the rich history of the Marvel U without bogging them down in continuity. If you liked Inferno or the original New Mutants at all, you will dig this series. If you like super-heroes taking on mutant soldiers? Yeah, you'll like this a lot too.

Back during Inferno, Maddie Pryor used a bunch of mutant babies to bring about the end of the world. When it didn't happen, the US Government took those kids and set about turning them into weapons. In what is clearly a horrible choice, but logical in comic book-thinking, the government set up a base in Limbo to raise and train the kids. This gives Wells a chance to indulge in some classic sci-fi elements. The sped-up aging of Limbo; the horrific grafts of demonic transplants; and some absolutely killer designs for weird new limbo monsters. This is great stuff, and the design work of these bad guys is wonderful. Every one looks like they could star as the big bad on his or her own.

The "babies" as they're called have some sick personalities, but getting raised in Limbo would probably do that to you. Wells has examined the outlook of the New Mutants before, but seeing them contrasted against this other group makes a lot of sense. Sure, Cannonball used them poorly during Necrosha and Second Coming, but he never got close to using them as badly as the soldiers do the Inferno kids. Cannonball cares about his crew too much and takes his responsibility too seriously to ever think of his crew as resources. (Especially now that he and a teammate seem to be acting upon some long-theorized feelings for each other.)

Part of what makes the New Mutants work is how well the characters know each other (and we know them). Sunspot is going to be a cad, even when decked out with a sword and armor. Magma is noble. Magik is scheming and plotting. Wells keeps everyone in character so well. This is almost fan-fiction, except that it's handled so well.

Leonard Kirk is a fantastic artist and he's a great fit for this book. As I said, his design work on the Limbo demons is wonderful. There are some little frog-guys that just tickled me, and the vision-enhancing creatures that clamp their fists under their human host's jaw? Horrifying and cool at the same time.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Secret Avengers #18

I'm a few weeks late, but since I decided to pick up the upcoming Rick Remender-era of Secret Avengers, I've gone back to get Warren Ellis' run too. I'm glad I did.

If you liked Planetary but thought it was missing that Marvel something, then this is the title for you. The secret societies and snappy dialogue are all there, but now we've got Shang-Chi, Steve Rogers, and Sharon Carter taking care of business.

This issue features a Secret Avengers strike team out to destroy a group of terrorists before they can use a slice of reality to create a big bomb. It's pretty generic, but it gives David Aja a chance to show off some Escher-related combat on a satellite. Seriously, the plot is secondary in this thing, this is all about space-fu.

Ellis does have time to fit in some of his patented mad ideas. Arnim Zola 4.2.3 is so logical an idea, I'm puzzled how it hasn't come up before. Of course there would be old copies of Zola's personality still puttering around in old combat suits! Why not?

There are also a few nice moments with Shang-Chi questioning his role (and responsibilities) on an Avengers team. I'm not sure I totally buy Steve Rogers' explanation and rationalization at the end, after all, he did just use Shang to brutally incapacitate a lot of people. But hey, Rogers gives a good enough reason, one that Shang can probably use to justify sticking around. It probably would wear on you permanently hurting people like that, so the questioning works.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Avengers Academy #22

Let's all give thanks for low-selling fanboy titles like Avengers Academy. I hope it can survive the current Marvel cancellation purge!

I get the feeling that Christos Gage has been looking forward to this issue's big showdown for a long time. It had to happen, Quicksilver and Magneto. With the Academy relocating to California, the timing couldn't be better. (Check out the battling logos on the cover: "Shattered Heroes" on top and "Regenesis" on the bottom. Go for those sales!)

While the conflict between the two groups is a little forced, I loved seeing folks like Whiz Kid (remember him?) caught in the middle. He's a mutant, but enrolled in Avengers Academy. Which side will he choose? And if there was any doubt about Gage writing Hawkeye well, check out the archer's reasoning of why White Queen is still evil: her outfit! This while Hawk is on a team with Tigra. (White Queen has some wonderful advice for Tigra too. What lucky students they must have.)

It is nice seeing Finesse throw her support behind Quicksilver. She's long been fascinated by Magneto and villains in general, so this switch to Quicksilver gives me hope that maybe she's going to be a hero after all. What a turnaround considering her history and actions so far.

I also really like Hank Pym's awkwardness around the other heroes. He's a neat hero, but man, Cyclops shoots down just about everything he says. Pym isn't quite enough of a tyrant to fit in with Scott Summers these days.

Sean Chen is a fantastic artist, I've sung his praises for years. I'm sad to see him go, but Tom Grummett will be another great "classic" replacement. That said, if Sean Chen can't make the current Hawkeye look work, then it is time to go back to the drawing board. Those purple sunglasses are plain awful. Why would Marvel move away from a classic design like Hawks' in order to get some synergy with a movie that's still six months away! Yuck!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Green Lantern Corps #3

Just to prove I'm not anti-DC overall, we've got Green Lantern Corps #3.

Peter Tomasi has put together an intriguing, stand-alone story that doesn't contradict the history of the DCU, it just adds another chapter. Admittedly, that's one gory chapter, but this issue is not quite as messy as the first two.

You know things have gone badly when Guy Gardner is willing to call back to Oa for some help. Salaak is suitably surprised, but there is just no way he can get reinforcements out to Guy and John Stewart in time. Enter Plot Device Lantern, a teleporter who strains and grits his way through some plot-necessary teleports, but at least he pays a reasonable price for it. And I do like the random feel of the GL who don't quite make it out in time. Tomasi has cultivated enough of a personality on our new Lanterns that I don't want to see any of them get pasted.

I like the idea that a souped-up willpower can withstand a Green Lantern ring. Does it make sense? Not really, but that's my kind of pseudo-science.

Geraldo Borges has some big shoes to fill, artistically, but he does a nice job. He's got that DC house style down pretty well, and he delivers on the multiple crowd scenes the story requires. The backgrounds are a bit sparse, there's a bunch of empty green panels, but the story explains much of that away nicely.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Justice League #3

At the end of the day, I'm just not down with the Ultimate DCU.

Look, I get it. Geoff Johns and Jim Lee have made the League 10x cooler and 100x more extreme than ever before. Wonder Woman is chopping dudes to shreds. Superman is taking pleasure in knocking parademons' heads off. Aquaman has mutton chops and an attitude.

But man, the parademons look too much like daemonites from mid-90s WildCATS comics. Those collars just aren't doing it for me. I don't like Hal Jordan calling "dibs" when he first spots Wonder Woman. This reads like a mighty attempt to make "not your Dad's Justice League, kids!" The problem is, I'm the Dad! I liked Superman as the no-kill leader of heroes. I liked Wally West growing into his role as the new Flash. I liked Kyle Rayner as a competent third-generation hero.

This comic has 22 pages of totally extreme goodness, not a bad ratio in today's environment. There are a ton of splash pages, but Jim Lee makes them look like awesome pin-ups or posters, so I can't complain about that.

The real problem is that I just haven't connected with the new DCU at all. So I think this is my last JL issue. Avengers is going on the sublist.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Avengers #19

It pains me to admit this, but the newest issue of Avengers was actually pretty decent. Bendis does these types of issues well; there is no fighting, but we get a long of interpersonal interaction as Captain America puts the new team together.

I admit to being a tad disappointed that Black Panther isn’t rejoining the team, especially since his solo book just got cancelled. (Don’t get me started on all the recent Marvel cancellations!) However, adding Storm is a brilliant move. She’s a powerhouse, so she fits right in as a great replacement for Thor, and she’s of course well-acquainted with Wolverine (I loved their casual greeting.) What I’m really excited about is all of the new interaction that Storm can have with all these new characters. She’s a gorgeous queen, mutant, and superhero; she’s going to shake the team up nicely.

Bendis hits another high spot with his return for the Vision. This isn’t Kid Vision from Young Avengers, this is the real deal. And Viz is in a weird spot, he can appreciate his friends being happy to see him, but for him, he just got taken out during Disassembled. He’s missed everything since. What a great new POV character for the team!

I haven’t read enough about Quake to know how she’ll fit in on the team, for now I can just declare that I want her to get a real costume.

Daniel Acuna’s art is still wonderful. That giant mural of the old Avengers team is fantastic, and his Storm is striking. I think he draws Red Hulk smaller than I imagined, more athletic than muscular. Vision looks sleek and classic.

I’m going to keep getting either Avengers or Justice League. Let’s see who wins the week.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thunderbolts: Violent Rejection TPB

With this trade, Jeff Parker just became a "must-read" author for me.

I've got a stack of trades up to my knees, so I accidentally grabbed the wrong Thunderbolts trade. I skipped Shadowland and came straight to this one. I wanted to put it down and read them in order, but I found myself so immediately wrapped up in this story, I couldn't go back.

Parker has picked up the Thunderbolts/Suicide Squad concept and is now adding to the genre with every story. This trade is chock full of super-hero goodness. An alternate-reality Superman (Hyperion) joins the team to fight off gigantic Godzilla-based monsters. Dr. Strange shows up to help Luke Cage get some magic might on the team by strong-arming Satana. Best of all, the whole "back-up squad" idea gets a nice push as Songbird and Fixer put together a new group of villains to be ready to step up to the prime time group.

Really, the list of characters involved is all I need to be sold on this comic. Cage, USAgent, Mach V, Songbird, Fixer, Juggernaut, Moonstone, Ghost, Troll, Shocker, Mr. Hyde, Boomerang, I could go on and on. And Man-Thing! If he's not one of the best 70's characters ever, I don't know who is (especially the way Parker writes him). If you love the Marvel universe, this comic is for you.

As you'd expect, in addition to the greater plot-lines like lost Teutonic castles and monsters, the interpersonal stuff is wonderful too. Moonstone is plotting and scheming. USAgent intimidates everyone he talks to. Cage is walking that line between inspiring and forcing his team to be heroes. This is great stuff.

Kev Walker and Declan Shalvey share artistic duties, and they nail it. Walker's art is always striking, but he does a better job than I remember with the interpersonal stuff too; I love the scene when Satana tries to seduce her new teammates. (There is a well-placed word balloon to keep Moonstone's introduction from getting too titillating.)


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Walking Dead #91 & Walking Dead on AMC

What can I say? You know it’s great. I know it’s great. There may not be many zombies, but Robert Kirkman packs another issue full of interpersonal conflict and maneuvering that keeps me riveted.

I did love the bit with the aged scotch. It would be a crime to share it with folks who wouldn’t even appreciate it!

I will say one thing: That mysterious figure from the last page? Gotta be Darryl, the best character from the show who never appeared in the comic. It’s called “synergy” people!


As for the TV show, I think the episode on November 13th was the best one this year. Maybe it’s because the cast knew that Michael Rooker was hanging around, so they had to be on their best behavior, but everyone was great. Even Lori was believable and didn’t sound embarrassed to deliver her lines!

I am super-ticked at Andrea though. In a world of zombies where gunshots will draw the roamers, you CANNOT shoot a single zombie with a high-powered rifle, especially when you’ve got four or five dudes already running up to it. That was a dangerous shot to make even if she was skilled, and we know she’s not. She took that shot to make a pouty statement, and could easily have hit her friends. Frankly, with all her whining and now this stupid move, I’m not going to cry if she gets eaten.

On the flipside, I love Maggie on the show. She’s a lot more timid in the comic, but I like this aggressive character on the show. She’s leading Glen around and it’s fun to see. Shane is going dark again too, which is fine with me. He and Darryl could be internal threats right soon. (I hope Darryl can throw off his brother’s influence, he’s got redeemed hero written all over him.)


Friday, November 18, 2011

Batman & Robin #3

While my interest in the greater DCnU is waning, the books that have continued right along are still great. Peter Tomasi is writing some of the best Alfred moments I’ve ever read, with the butler acting every bit the ex-spy he is. Damian may think he’s pretty smart, but Alfred’s been around the block a time or two, himself.

I love the personal vendetta motivating Batman’s newest nemesis. Plus, he seems pretty darn formidable, taking out both Bats and Robin in a few quick pages. Tomasi shows off his skills again with the riveting closing pages; I never figured an abandoned drive-in as a spooky place, but it seems downright surreal at the close of this issue.

This book has the DCnU staple of tons of splash pages, but Patrick Gleason makes it work. Batman’s big arrival about halfway through the book is striking and impressive, actually meeting the requirements for a good splash page. It’s odd that an appropriate use of splashes would impress me so much, but it’s one of the major failings of the relaunch so far. And look at Nobody’s design! That alien-looking head with those eyes, he’s a character to strike some fear into the hearts of do-gooders.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Black Panther #525

Man, the Marvel street books are some of the most riveting on the stands right now. David Liss delivers yet another brilliant comic, again showing how skilled the Panther is, but he doesn’t short-change the villains either. BP is on the run for most of this comic, dragging along a wounded Wakandan citizen (who still calls him “king” in a nice touch). Things are tough enough while BP is facing down a crew of Hand ninjas, but they’re just the warm-up.

The two ladies on the cover do show up; Lady Bullseye is tough enough on her own, but when Typhoid Mary shows up, BP is overwhelmed. Liss has another brilliant touch when describing Mary’s powers as “Telekinesis. Pyrokinesis. Craziness.” That’s about right, isn’t it? Mary’s days on the Avengers Initiative never seemed so far away!

Shawn Martinbrough does a fantastic job keeping the art consistent. I was worried when Franco Francavilla moved on to another title, but it seems things are in good hands. Martinbrough has delivered some fantastic pencils over the years and it looks like Black Panther is going to be just fine.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Green Lantern #3

I have to give Geoff Johns credit; while I’m losing interest in the rest of the DCnU, Green Lantern is chugging right along. It’s probably the simple fact that this book is just continuing on as if the reboot never happened. It’s not a coincidence that I’m dropping all the non-GL and non-Batman titles on my list.

I still find it laughable that Sinestro is even partially a good guy, but that’s what makes comics so great. I love seeing Sinestro show off his mastery of the ring. It must have been annoying for Sinestro to lose to Hal so many times over the years when he still knows so much more about being a GL than Hal does.

I’m also interested in the development of the Sinestro Corps. Will any of the members of that evil group side with their charismatic leader over the vague motivation of “causing fear?” I don’t think there are too many well-developed yellow lantern, but it’s a neat idea that Johns plants this issue.

Doug Mahnke was born to draw Green Lantern. His strong jawlines and piercing eyes are perfect for a hero like Hal, and try and tell me that Sinestro doesn’t look heroic too. This book is beautiful.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Avenging Spider-Man #1

Can I just call this book Marvel Team-Up? Thanks!

So, I know this is a $3.99 title, but man, I have a hard time saying “no” to a team-up book. And I couldn’t this time either. I’ll weigh in on the digital thing too; I HATE the $3.99 price point, but a digital copy for that extra buck? That’s real value and it convinced me to pick this up.

Zeb Wells has always had a nice voice for Spidey, and that shows up again here. Spidey is a hard-luck loser who is lucky to be on the Avengers, even if none of them really want to hang out with him or give him a ride home. (How many heroes have that problem?)

What impressed me even more was Wells’ dialogue for J. Jonah Jameson. JJJ is fantastic in this book. He’s making hilarious comments in every mad situation he finds himself in. He almost copes as well as Spidey!

There isn’t a ton of development or dialogue with the Red Hulk, but visually, he pops nicely. Joe Mad’s art has a nice element of nostalgia for me, so seeing Spidey and Rulk running around is pretty exciting. There are a heck of a lot of splashes in this, but with 22 pages, there is still enough dialogue to make the book take a few minutes to read.

So yeah. I love Marvel Team-Up/Avenging Spider-Man.


Monday, November 14, 2011

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth TPB

Dang. Is there a better book on the stands than BPRD? I freaking love this comic. Mike Mignola and John Arcudi have created such a fascinating world, I can't get enough of it.

The world is in a rough spot. Some gigantic spore creature created a bunch of monsters in California, there's a volcano in Texas, and in Canada, entire towns are disappearing. This trade focuses on the Canadian diappearances, and it's a great, focused story about how the Earth is slowly giving way to chaos. While there are plenty of scenes for Kate Corrigan and the other folks back at HQ, the stars of this book are Abe Sapien and Capt. Daimio. It's been a long time since we saw the good Captain, but he's still out there doing his part to protect humanity. He just does it out in the woods like some sort of survivalist. These two men of action are a great team; it's been a long time since Mignola had two field agents who worked this well together (Hellboy had this relationship with both Abe and Roger the homunculus). The scene where the tentacle-beast chases the two of them through town while they empty AK-47's at him was thrilling.

As for Johann Kraus, he is getting harder and harder to like. The guy clearly blames Daimio for destroying his gigantic muscle-bod, and he's having a hard time thinking about anything besides getting it back. I understand Johann has had a hard couple of years now, but he's supposed to be a senior BPRD agent, and seeing him off in a daze all the time is unsettling. I am enjoying the developing suspicion he holds for Panya, the ancient mummy-woman.

One of the things Mignola and Arcudi do best is fill in the gaps around the stars of the book. Along with Devon, who has been around for a few books now, there are a couple more human field agents that really have the potential to add to the book. I loved the closing 8-page story with Carla. The world is crazy and she just put down a 60-foot monster, but she just wants to get home to her three-year-old. The world would go on, you know?

Guy Davis' art is simply amazing. That crazy pellican-monkey that's running around BPRD HQ is one of the silliest things I've ever seen, and yet I'm certain there is emotion in those weird eyes. The greenhouse, full of genetic mutations is another bright spot; when that gigantic hammerhead shark/gorilla hybrid comes out of the trees, who isn't tickled? One of my favorite Davis designs has always been his insane-looking Wendigo, Darryl. He shows up a few times in this, and man, that is one crazy beast-man!

I love it. What a fantastic comic.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wolverine: The Reckoning TPB

Now hold on. Are you telling me that this was how this story was supposed to end? Daniel Way wrote a 50-issue Wolverine series all about dealing with Wolvie's son and how the two of them would take out Romulus. Romulus, of course, was the terrible new proto-Wolverine created by Jeph Loeb. Romulus is bigger, faster, tougher and meaner than Wolvie or Daken. We learned he doesn't like samurai swords, Canadian experiments, and traveling by train. We learned that he (like most of the Marvel U) can brainwash Wild Child. We saw that he can manipulate everyone around him and that he wanted Wolverine to be the new leader of the "feral guy pack." (I honestly don't know what else to call it.)

And Wolverine beats him by having teammate Cloak just trap him in the darkforce dimension. Easy. Done. I usually avoid spoilers, but this is so silly and odd that I almost can't consider it a spoiler. I simply don't understand how they decided to do this. I read this series from the library, and thank goodness I did. If I bought this series, it would have gotten pulled and put in my used bookstore box immediately after reading this issue.

Wow. Resolving a 50-issue plot with a guest-star doing the dirty work.

Daken ends up in pretty much the same place he started too. And over-sexed, manipulative psycho out to get ahead and prove he's tougher than his Dad. I actually like Daken, he's a new type of character and there is a lot that writers can do with him that they can't with Wolvie. Daken's book has a lot of potential.

Cloak just picks drops him off.

The art is fine, I guess. Will Conrad and Scot Eaton handled the last few storylines in this book, and they are both good storytellers (I do prefer Eaton's hulking figures a bit more than Conrad's.) But man.

Romulus is just sitting in the darkforce dimension. Just sitting there. Done.



Saturday, November 12, 2011

Incognito: Bad Influences TPB

Can we just call this Sleeper Season Three? Seriously, I had an extremely hard time keeping this separate from the masterful series that Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips put together for Wildstorm a few years ago. (Actually, Sleeper is probably one of the saddest casualties of the Wildstorm reboot.)

I don't mean this as a critique, rather, it's a high compliment. I'm as riveted by Zack Overkill as I was about Holden back in the day. Brubaker writes scumbags, but he sure does make them likeable.

It's hard to go into specifics about this one; it's really quite tied to the original Incognito series and doesn't really wrap up on its own. There is some clear planning going on to set up a third Incognito series. Poor Zack is in a tough spot as this series ends, and I'm not certain that multiple people haven't maneuvered him exactly where they want him. Did those explosions Simon Slaughter set up ever get explained? Or what exactly he was doing with the time travel. I assume some of it was setting up Zack, but I think there's got to be more to it.

The supporting characters are once again a strength for this creative team. Brilliant concepts and perfect character design bring Zoe Zeppelin, King Midas, and more to life. I can't even remember the second-banana's name, the guy who is always giving Zack a hard time, but with his robotic eye and arm, you KNOW he's got some cool story that Brubaker is just waiting to tell.

Don't sleep on this one, Brubaker and Phillips have turned into one of the best collaborations in comics. We should enjoy it ever chance we get.


Friday, November 11, 2011


There has got to be something wrong with me. When so many of the DCnU's titles have been totally boring me, I still love OMAC. I love the cheesy titles, I love the lack of characterization in the main character. He's basically a techno-Hulk, and it is so much fun watching this bull wreck the china shop of DC's spy organizations.

We see more of Checkmate this month, and of course Max Lord is still maneuvering around the edges of the plot. I enjoyed Dan DiDio and Keith Giffen's attempt to create more mad ideas in the Kirby vein. The little strike team that tries to take out OMAC is a tad generic, but they certainly are fun.

The Psi-Fi Man would be revolting if he was drawn realitically, but in Giffen's Kirby-style, he just looks hilarious. That gigantic brain is pretty great, even if I generally don't care for mental-powered bad guys.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Marvel Point One

Whew, it's a good thing the page count is so high for this thing. $5.99 is ridiculously expensive for one comic. Fortunately, there is a lot of content here, and the idea of a sampler of Marvels' upcoming big stories is a nice idea. I don't think it is always leading me to pick things up though.

The lead story is pretty interesting, with two folks in space-suits sneaking into the Watcher's lair and rifling through his most recent events. The Watcher's ability to see alternate reality and times makes this review a bit confusing, but it holds together nicely as a framing sequence for a preview book.

That's not Richard Rider Nova in the opening story, right? It seems like a preview for Jeph Loeb's upcoming Cable vs. the Avengers series. I sure hope isn't for a Nova book, because if that is Rider, he seems a lot younger and less competent than he was when we last saw him. (And no way is Terrax going to stay dead.)

Scarlet Spider looks like it could be interesting, but I'm totally puzzled why Marvel would set up Kaine as the new Scarlet rather than the far more popular (and less scarred) Ben Reilly. The book looks like it has potential, but I probably won't be picking it up right off the bat.

Coldmoon and Dragonfire (dang, another lost name I can't use in my writing!) have potential, but those costumes aren't going to do it for me. There is always room for another evil corporation in the Marvel U.

I'm intrigued by a group of humans fighting off the mutants that hate and fear them, which seems to be the concept that we'll see in the upcoming Age of Apocalypse series. I think Donald Pierce as an even remotely good guy is ridiculous, but it sure seems like they are supposed to be the protagonists. Weird, but could be fun.

Matt Fraction is going to write one hell of a Dr. Strange in the new Defenders book. This oughtta be good.

I have a bit of a hard time figuring out exactly what's going on in those Ultron vs. the world pages from Bryan Hitch. Ultron's already won? Most of the heroes are dead? I guess that story is some sort of future deal? Isn't it a bit early to go back to an alternate future well after Avengers 1-6?

In summary, this is a decent glimpse at the Marvel U with solid art and a story that won't win any awards, but is a decent promo. I'm a bit surprised that not even one of the stories grabbed me enough that I MUST get out there and purchase the series being promoted.

I guess I need to wait for the preview book featuring Daredevil, Black Panther, Secret Avengers, Villains for Hire, and Avengers Academy.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Avengers Academy #21

Nicely played, Marvel! Someone not paying attention could very well pick this up thinking it is a first issue. Not that it is a bad thing, particularly when Christos Gage works so hard to make this a great jumping-on point for new folks.

With the team relocating to the Avengers West compound, it makes sense to shake things up. I wasn't expecting this level of change, though. We've got at least one more instructor added to series regulars Giant Man, Tigra, and Quicksilver, and this new guy makes a whole lot of sense. It sure doesn't hurt that he's one of my top two heroes in the Marvel U. I can't wait to see Christos Gage write more of this character.

There are changes in the student body too, with Lightspeed and White Tiger joining the group. I love the idea of these two ladies in the cast; Lightspeed in particular is going to be a great contrast. She's pretty, powerful, and well-adjusted, pretty much the opposite of Finesse and Hazmat. Yeah, they're not going to get along. White Tiger has a great core concept, and if Gage plays her right, she could be a lot of fun, but her pay-it-forward attitude might be hard to keep from grating on characters and readers alike (too soon to tell right now, obviously).

The big shocker involves the apparent murder (not buying it) of one of the Avengers faculty, followed immediately by another reveal. The second one in particular really rewards long-time readers. Gage is clearly going for a "Thunderbolts" level reveal, and it might work out. I'll have a better feel on that next month.

Sean Chen is awesome. I love his classic pencils, and seeing him draw these hero-crowd shots is a treat. Was that Whiz Kid from X-Terminators I saw flying around? Impossible!


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Villains for Hire #0.1

After the entertaining Heroes for Hire v1 TPB, I decided I couldn't wait for the new Villains for Hire relaunch. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have proven to be some of the most consistent writers I follow, so this was a no-brainer for me to pick up, especially when I saw that $2.99 price tag.

Folks looking for the actual start of the villain-themed series might be in for a surprise, as DnA spend most of the issue showing readers how this whole "for hire" thing works. We see Misty Knight dispatch Silver Sable (and her butt), Black Panther, Paladin, and Daimon Hellstrom out on a mission.

In addition to the heroes, DnA include a few more references to the established Marvel U in a great new Stilt-Man and one of my faves from the Mark Gruenwald era of Captain America. Factor in some nice use of the Mole Man's moloids and this book feels like a modern twist on some classic Marvel ideas. My kind of book.

I do wish we could have seen a bit more of the new set up, including more of those villains shown on the cover. I want some Speed Demon action!

I mention Sable's butt because artist Renato Arlem seems to take much joy in showing her flying around with some might tight pants on. His storytelling is actually pretty strong, the Stilt-Man fights are great, and he actually makes it seem like that silly idea could have some legs.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Action Comics #3

Gene Ha is a fantastic, talented artist, but I just can't make myself care about yet another version of Krypton. Maybe it was a mistake to read Secret Origin and New Krypton so recently, but after all that stuff, none of Morrison's new ideas feel "real." In fact, I'm having that problem with the whole relaunch. I'm probably just showing my age, but I'm now more invested in the Brave & the Bold cartoon than I am in the DCU.

Grant Morrison still has a great eye for the dramatic. I love the raid on underground reporter Clark Kent's apartment; it makes sense that powerful men would have a problem with this Kansas kid stirring up so much trouble. And the land-lady development is a bit surprising too. It's neat seeing that when an underground hero like Superman starts challenging powerful men, they'd dedicate their non-physical weapons against him. How can Supes overcome the media and bought-off folks on the street? I'm not sure I buy that this could happen so fast, but it's still a neat idea.

Is this green-robot force a new Brainiac? That's the only thing that makes sense to me, but again, doesn't this feel a lot like New Krypton and Secret Origin? I did like seeing the new origin for Metallo, but I still prefer John Byrne's Terminator design.

Rags Morales' art seems a bit rushed this time, with faces a bit less defined than we normally see from him. Gene Ha's art is gorgeous, as I said.

I'll tell you what, canned interviews is not going to cut it for extra content. I refuse to pay $3.99 for 20 pages of story (with three or for splashes). Because of those prices, I'm going to be switching this to a digital purchase when DC has their 99cent sales online.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Justice League International #3

Sometimes reading DC comics really makes me appreciate Marvel Comics. And that's not a good thing for the reboot.

Dan DiDio may have stated that folks weren't supposed to write for the trade, but I'm pretty sure that Dan Jurgens' story in JLI is going to need some humdinger closing chapters to turn out nicely. This issue has way too many pages dedicated to the UN admins who put the group together; I appreciate the need to use them as an info dump, but man, they are not really compelling.

I'm also at a loss at the level of you're OK, Booster!" that goes on in this comic. Jurgens is constantly having cool characters like Batman talking about what a great leader Booster is, but we are not seeing it in the comic. In fact, Batman doesn't fit in too well with this team at all. We've got a thrill-seeker (Fire), media darlings (Booster & Godiva), and a jerk (Guy Gardner). August General, Ice, Vixen, and probably Rocket Red seem to have more heroic goals, but man, that's a rough ratio. There are some cool ideas mixed in, especially the idea that August General's skin looks like that funky armor. That's a big reboot change, right?

Aaron Lopresti's art has always lent itself to strong super-heroics, the problem is that I don't find the mysterious giants compelling and the generic villain doesn't impress me as much as Grayven or other B-level guys.

This is getting one more issue.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Guarding the Globe #6

Has it been four months already? Actually, I don't know how long its been since issue #5, but I do know I barely remember where that issue left off. It took me three or four pages to try and recall what was happening and who the bad guy on the first page was.

The pacing in this series is mighty weird. We spent a lot of time learning about characters that didn't have an impact in the climax this issue, and barely any time with folks who had pretty important parts. Le Bruiser is a joke, but if you are going to raze his hometown, maybe we should know a tad more about him? And Japandroid has a pretty great moment all to herself; it's a comic-book moment if there ever was one, and it is a great idea, but I don't feel like I know this little robot at all.

Even the more established guys like Bulletproof and Samson don't have much more than a line or two of dialogue. I also found it laughable that Brit took out the main villain by taking off his hat. I mean, I understand leaving some stuff for a sequel, but Robert Kirkman and Benito Cereno make some odd choices here.

Speaking of the first page, it sure looks like that much was completed by Ransom Getty, the detail-oriented artist who did such a nice job on the series so far. Kris Anka does an OK job filling in for the rest of the issue, but the pencils are a lot looser and more cartoony. I don't think Getty is the fastest guy around, but I wish we could have seen his version of this final conflict.

I still dug the chance to spend more time in the Invincible universe, but this series started better than it finished.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Stormwatch #3

And it's time for month #3 of the DCnU. It's amusing to me that three months in, I can't even really decide if I'm enjoying most of the new books or not. Some are hits, some are not, and some are in the middle. Stormwatch is definitely a title I was really excited about, but now that it has arrived, it is only OK.

My biggest problem is this: can my affection for the Martian Manhunter make me pick up a book I probably wouldn't buy otherwise? Paul Cornell does a good job with J'onn; he's powerful and smart, and actually should be in the hunt to lead the team. But there are a whole lot of pages dedicated to the rest of this pretty large cast, and not many of them strike my fancy. As long as Midnighter is rocking that ridiculous spike-beard, I can't take him seriously. T-shirt-wearing Apollo feels too much like Action Comics Superman. I like Harry Tanner, but only if he's going to be a villain (that sure seems to be the way he's acting). Hawksmoor, Jenny Quantum and the rest are suffering the same as J'onn, sort of shunted to smaller appearances. (I did find the whole idea of city-avatars intriguing. That's certainly new!)

So three issues in, I'm more excited to read this comic hoping for more Manhunter pages that I probably just need to admit won't be coming. It's not a bad comic, but it's not what I hoped for, either.

Miguel Sepulveda's art is starting to look more and more photo-referenced. There were numerous backgrounds in this one that looked like they were drawn over a digital picture to give the panels background. It's not bad, but again, not exactly my style.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Unwritten v3: Dead Man's Knock

I've made no secret that I love Mike Carey's work. His X-Men comics are a wonderful reminder of what I loved about comics during my childhood, and his concepts always feel unique. That said, his work on the Unwritten has to be some of the best storytelling I've ever seen in comics.

Carey doesn't take it easy on the reader. This is a story that KNOWS it is a story, so the reader can't take anything for granted. You always have to keep in mind tropes and manipulations that Carey or the protagonists might be pulling. Which parts of the story are real? Well, none of it of course, but Carey actually admits this and lets the reader define a lot of what is happening. This is most clearly laid out in the Lizzie Hexam origin issue, a choose-your-own-adventure type story with multiple endings. If you aren't careful, Lizzie doesn't end up joining up with Tommy Taylor, she ends up drugged into a stupor in a mental hospital. Choose wisely! (I'll briefly mention that depending on the path you take, quite a few odd occurrences from earlier in the series get explained.)

The main plot moves along nicely too, with Wilson Taylor, Tommy's Dad, finally making his on-panel appearance. Wilson clearly has some sort of destiny in mind for Tommy, but Tommy isn't ready for it. And it doesn't seem like Wilson's got a lot more chances to make this work. This trade shows the big release of the 14th Tommy Taylor novel and all the wonderful maneuvering Wilson and his friends have done to take down the cabal that secretly runs the world.

In such a word-heavy and convoluted story, Peter Gross's art would be easy to overlook. But don't. It's his panel layouts and rapid reality changes that make this story work, and he does a fantastic job leading the reader through multiple worlds and perceptions of reality.

The concepts are unclear and challenging, but if you've got the time and interest, this is an intensely rewarding series.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Avengers: Solo #1

I may not be a big fan of the core Avengers titles these days, but luckily there are still some Avengers comics for old-school fans like me. Avengers Academy and this book are right up my alley.

Jen Van Meter writes Hawkeye in a bit more of a noir setting than I'm used to, but after his costume-less days dealing with normal folks, it's not so much of a stretch. Especially when Van Meter includes not one, not two, but three costumed villains to go after Hawkeye. Trace is new and Chance is classic, so the bases are covered right off the bat. The last surprise villain is not a typical Hawkeye foe, but I think their abilities should match up for a good throw-down.

Again, this is clearly a mystery that any hero could get thrown into, but Van Meter is doing a great job handling Hawkeye in this plot-based story.

Roger Robinson handles the art, and he's been a favorite of mine for years. The art is stunning, I just wish he could get more pages of Hawkeye in uniform!

The Avengers Academy back-up from Jim McCann and Clayton Henry is strong too, making this the rare worthwhile $3.99 purchase.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Daredevil #5

So five issues in, we know Mark Waid is going to dazzle us with great new uses of DD's powers (check), an interesting sub-plot with Matt's new client (check), and stunning art (thanks to Marcos Martin, check).

What I wasn't expecting was a corporate middle manager to actually be a likeable character. I wasn't expecting one of my favorite new villains in years. I mean, this guy is a cross between Bane and Booster Gold; Bruiser may be a bit of a silly name, but that luchadore mask can overcome just about any faults! And best of all, judging from Bruiser's hit list, this guy might be around for awhile. Heck, when we first see him, he's beating the snot out of Ox of the Enforcers. That's starting fairly high up the food chain! And again, I love DD's little comments during the fight, most especially when he "can't bridge out" of a wrestling hold. Awesome!

Martin's just another star in what is the best art team in comics. This book looks incredible each and every month. Somehow, Daredevil has become my favorite comic!