Monday, April 30, 2012

Amazing Spider-Man: Big Time TPB

Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely thrilled to see Dan Slott turn the webslinger’s life in a positive direction. We’ve seen Peter Parker suffering enough, for awhile, so it’s nice seeing him employed, dating, and well-supplied with web fluid.

I sort of wish the art was a little less cartoony, Humberto Ramos was toning down the wildness. The action sequences work well with the exaggerated style that Ramos employs, but the quieter character moments all seem a tad off because of his distinctive style. It’s hard getting a bead on some of the characters when their eyes are this huge! There is one scene in particular where it looks like Kingpin’s tiny head is pasted onto an enormous body.

Back to the story. As I said in some of my earlier Spidey reviews, I’m not sold on Carlie Cooper. So far, she just doesn’t hold a candle to MJ or some of the other dominant ladies that Spidey has hooked up with in the past. And I understand why he’s trying to move on, but when you’re out partnering with the Black Cat, it must be tough to come home to Carlie. I do really like the Cat’s new motivation; trying to angle her way onto the Avengers is silly, but not totally unreasonable. (It seems she is no longer pursuing that goal in her recent Daredevil appearances.)

Slott spends some time playing up Spidey’s current Avengers status too. When Doc Ock and the Secret Six make a move, the Avengers show up to help Spider-Man save New York. It’s neat seeing the senior Avengers taking up Spidey’s side, while some of the others express a lot of doubt that a goofball like Spidey could contribute mentally. There’s only a glimpse of it, but I love this new rivalry Spidey has going with Hawkeye; such a great idea.

I’m intrigued by the reappearance of Scorpion at the close of the issue, but it is partially because of the tighter art. I know Stefano Caselli does some Spidey work with Slott, so I’m looking forward to seeing that in the next trade.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Sixth Gun v2: Crossroads TPB

I was only mildly interested in the first trade of this series, but it seems absence made my heart grow fonder, because I really enjoyed this collection.

Cullen Bunn seems to be a real up-and-comer, I know I’m picking up his Captain America & Hawkeye run that starts next month. Before he made his way to Marvel, he told the story of the Old West, complete with haunted guns. This is a strong little story, with nice ties to the first plotline, but the whole thing feels a lot… roomier. The first story jumped right into apocalyptic possibilities and the big bad, and I don’t blame anyone. Bunn didn’t know how long he’d have to tell his story. Now that the initial threats have been… put off, I love the chance to see more of the main characters.

Drake is a pretty strong lead; he’s a good gunfighter, but his craftiness and quick-thinking are probably more important. The other lead, Rebecca, gets a bit of mistreatment this time as she falls for a man of questionable character, but I love her reaction. She’s ticked off and right back in the thick of things at the close of the book. One of the problems with the first trade was the lack of supporting characters. Bunn addresses that here, the book is full of interesting friends and enemies with long-term potential. (The evil monsters are pretty sweet too.)

Brian Hurtt’s art is deceptively simple. It’s definitely cartoony, and that keeps a lot of the violence from being too upsetting. He can also handle the mood, though. I love the scene with Drake paddling across a swamp, and he feels the “bump” as the first of some mega-gators show up to make things difficult.

This book is a great example of a writer and artist getting better with experience.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Incredible Hulks: Savage TPB

I’m a tad disappointed in the ending of Greg Pak’s great run on Incredible Hulk. I loved so much of it, but here at the end it seems like the focus that made the first issues so strong has faded a bit.

I’m not sure if it is the dilution of the “Hulk” concept into so many people or what, but the book feels too crowded. The first half of the trade has the Hulk, Skaar, and his Warbound head off to the Savage Land to confront Miek the Unhived. The bug-man from Planet Hulk is bigger, stronger, and crazier than ever, plus he’s got more changes going on too. Ka-Zar and Zabu are hanging around, of course, but I feel like the guy is fighting for page time with too many other characters.

I like Ka-Zar, but I almost wonder if seeing the Warbound deal with Miek might have been a tad more dramatic. The other odd thing is how friendly Ka-Zar is with Hulk. I don’t remember these two being so chummy, but I have faith in Pak’s research skills, so he’s probably playing it accurately.

There is some nice gross-out stuff with the bugs that Miek controls, and Dale Eaglesham does a nice job. I would have liked to have seen him draw some of the She-Hulks. His Ka-Zar is fantastic, but I felt like he never quite mastered Korg’s odd blocky face. The rest of the Warbound look good, but Korg’s face is a bit of a distraction.

The second half of the trade mines more history when the Hulk teams up with one of Hercules’ old girlfriends against Tyrannus and Red She-Hulk. Betty Ross is just being difficult, of course, but that’s what makes her so loveable these days. (I don’t remember the Greek historian at all, but this has got to be pretty obscure stuff, right?) Tyrannus is always an amusing villain, and I enjoyed Pak’s take on his leadership style. He’s yet another baddie who wanted to do a “good” job.

I never quite bought in to the Hulk as a spy idea (it’s sort of a joke anyway), but seeing Hulk and Red She-Hulk work together makes up for it. Tom Grummett does a decent job on the art, but it seems a bit looser than his normal style. Maybe he rushed on some pages? I really enjoyed his take on the religious Knights of Rome, they had a fun, comic-y appearance that set them just above fodder level. He draws a nice bulky helmet for Tyrannus, too.

I’m hoping the final trade Heart of the Monster has a bit more of the emotional impact that Pak brought in other storylines.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Punisher #10

Oh Punisher, you silly goose. You really don’t want to have friends, do you?

Daredevil, Spidey, Punisher, and Lady Punisher all teamed-up last issue to end the threat of the Omega Drive. It seems the super-computer is just too dangerous to keep in circulation, because all the bad guy groups want it to use against each other. Of course, Punisher wants it too, because it makes for a nice list of people he wants to kill.

Greg Rucka does a nice job showing his Punishers playing along. All the rubber bullets and buckshot in the world won’t save someone from being shot in the eye. I found it interesting that Team Punisher was so cold and methodical for the entire issue, except for the moment when Cole breaks and wants to get some revenge for her husband. DD tries to get through to her; make her realize that revenge doesn’t help anyone, but I think it’s too late. Once the Punisher makes you a skull vest, you’re path is pretty much set, right? At least until she’s eventually killed to make Punisher get even angrier in a year or two.

I do like the cliffhanger of Punisher’s possible betrayal, but I’m not buying it. I still think this is part of the plan to end the hunt for the Omega Drive. This story probably didn’t need to be expanded out into three different protagonist books; I would have liked to see DD handle this whole thing on his own.

Rucka does do a nice job with Spidey’s constant needling of Frank Castle. He must just despise working with the patter-filled web-slinger.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Marvel Zombies 4 #1-4

The Midnight Sons vs. the Night Shift. Wow. That’s got to be a pretty small target audience for Fred Van Lente, huh? He still pulls it off, it’s great seeing all these spooky characters interact. The problem is this series is too much a product of its specific time. The zombie craze intersecting with the Dark Reign phase makes for a book that feels like it is well forgotten at this point. I mean, these are B (or C) listers anyway, but tying them to dated stories just makes the book feel more trivial.

That said, I’m pretty happy to see Black Talon used again. Zombie Deadpool head is one of my least favorite characters of the past few years, but Van Lente does a nice job with his dialogue. Has Van Lente done much with the real Deadpool? He’d certainly be a good fit, he’s got the crazy banter down. In the end, this is yet another in the long string of Marvel Zombie books, the biggest advantage here is that we spend a little more time with ARMOR, the inter-dimensional defense force that featured in Marvel Zombies 3. So there is some continuity. But really, the market was so flooded with this stuff that I don’t know if the story continued, or if “Headpool” just ended up doing silly things in Rob Liefeld’s Deadpool Corps.

I’ll probably never find out!

Kev Walker is an interesting choice for artist in this. His monsters are all top notch, but his faces still tend to be oddly angular and puffy. He’s definitely not a “girly” artist so there are some wasted opportunities with Jennifer Kale, but I loved his Son of Satan. When will Daimon Hellstrom bring back his sweet collared cape???


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Green Lantern Corps #8

Oh John Stewart, for a (retconned) rules-loving soldier, you certainly do find yourself in a fair bit of trouble.

Peter Tomasi goes back to the Alpha Lanterns, a concept that has repeatedly shown how screwed up the Guardians are right now. These former B-list Lanterns are upgraded to become robotic Internal Affairs, and they haughtily decide that it’s time to bring in John Stewart for killing a fellow Lantern a few issues ago. I can’t imagine that John’s friends will stand for it, but he seems pretty resigned these days.

Guy Gardner is blessed with some excitement too, as the Guardians promote him. Again, this is just another exhibit that the Guardians are up to no good; they want their loosest cannon out there stirring up trouble. Surely Guy is going to make newer and bigger problems for the Corps? I can’t believe this promotion is in anyone’s best interests.

The toppling Sinestro Corps battery and bar fight are just an excuse for some action pages. This issue is all about plot movement.

Fernando Pasarin does a nice job on the artwork. His Alpha Lanterns look really close to the classic look for these characters, but the Manhunter influence is strong. In particular, I’m a bit shocked at how “natural” a robotic centaur looks. I never thought I’d see a robotic centaur, but here he is.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Batman #8

Wow, there is no rest for the wicked here. Bruce Wayne has been through the ringer the past few months, and things pick right up again here. Alfred is trying to encourage Bats to get some rest, but Bruce is spending his time brooding over a scale model of Gotham City (much like the one he battled through a few issues ago). He’s understandably upset to find out that the city has been guided and manipulated by the mysterious Court of Owls for quite some time.

And while the Court doesn’t know Batman’s secret identity, they seem to realize Bruce Wayne is pretty physically fit. Last issue closed with a horde of Talons waking up and setting out to assassinate Gotham’s best and brightest. Well, four of them are assigned to take out Bruce Wayne. For not knowing he’s Batman, they sure do respect the guy!

Greg Capullo eases a lot of my fears about this crossover right off the bat. The Talons all have different, unique designs that should keep them from becoming a faceless horde of ninjas. I was concerned the Talon would lose their edge when more appeared, but by having many generations of Talons appear at once, we’ve got instant reasoning for just about any variable in design and character a creator could desire.

The back-up is entirely unnecessary. As near as I can tell, the entire point is to SHOW that Alfred called in the Bat-family, rather than just having him declare his plan in the core story. At least I’m getting something for the extra buck, but man, surely the back-up material can be a little bit more essential.

As for the crossover, it is going to work better than I thought. Scott Snyder should be able to maintain control of his story in the core title, but the endless iterations of Talons out there are unified enough to sponsor a crossover, but with the potential to be used in almost any fashion. I’ll only follow the core book, but as crossovers go, this isn’t bad.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Avengers #25

I bet there are going to be some angry people picking up this issue. This is not a tie-in to Avengers vs. X-Men. The cover makes it look like Cyclops is taking a shot at Cap, but in fact, those are generic AIM energy beams.

This is almost entirely a follow-up to the last HAMMER arc, with only one page connected to AvX. Worse, the only connection to AvX is the silly-named Protector, the former Captain Mar-Vell who’s been in the background for the past few months.

Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing the Avengers score another win. Especially with Cap being so worn down being the “man.” (Which in itself is a great observation from Thor, a bit of a rebel himself.) I would have liked a bit more interaction from some of the minor team members.

The main development there is Iron Man noticing that Hawkeye and Spider-Woman are now making out every chance they get (just like in issue 24.1 last month). I feel bad for the new lovebirds, surely an Avengers salary could pay for an apartment or even a hotel room so they don’t need to grope each other in the Avengers’ training room. Plus, what happened to Mockingbird? Was there a breakup I missed?

The big news for this issue is Walt Simonson. His dynamic, blocky work is as cool as ever. He skimps on backgrounds some of the time, but is it ever worth it. Red Hulk? Iron Man? THOR? I’m tickled to see his take on their current costumes. His civilian clothing has a bit of a dated look (look at Jessica Drew’s hair) but man, he can still bring it. I also love the seen with the head of AIM addressing her troops while sitting in front of a green screen. Very practical.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

BPRD: Hell on Earth: Gods and Monsters TPB

Dark Horse comics deserves some praise for replacing Guy Davis and not leaving me crying over it. I have absolutely loved Davis’ work on this series over the past few years. His design work on the creatures of Hellboy’s world has been amazing, and that ability is on display here again. The world is ending, but it is ending slowly. And with enough talk shows and sterile reports, I’m not sure the BPRD can even recognize it coming.

Abe Sapien has become a true man of action; he just doesn’t have the same aura of invincibility that Hellboy always did. He handles all the same situations (often in the same ways) but I’m always more concerned for Abe. Turns out there may have been a good reason for that worry.

The second half of the trade explores the more mundane madness of the BPRD, as Liz Sherman finds out more about the trailer park where she’s made her new life. It turns out that those good ol’ boys (and gals) aren’t so good after all.

Tyler Crook gets his chance to work with Mike Mignola and John Arcudi on this storyline, and his work is stunning. Working off some great design work from Ryan Sook, I’m really impressed with Crook’s work. He balances the odd story-elements so well, everything has a great texture to it. Trailer-park cultists? Sure that makes sense, if they look this realistic and well-though out.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Batman & Robin #8

Ok, Peter Tomasi, I was OK with the longer plot in this title, but now you are pushing it. This is an entire issue dealing with the “fallout” from the Nobody storyline. The problem is, I’m not sure the story quite deserves it.

Sure, Damian killed that guy, and he and Bats are pretty beat up, but there is a lot of sitting around Wayne Manor philosophizing. I understand the need to decompress after such a violent issue as last month’s but that means the Nobody storyline has now gone 8 issues. That’s a lot.

I’m pleased to see Batman making such an attempt to bond with his sociopath son. Damian has all the required elements to become a monster, but maybe, just maybe Batman and Alfred can turn him to a better path. Bats is awfully lovey-dovey in this, so it’s a bit weird seeing him as the same Batman appearing in Scott Snyder’s core title. BUT, that means this feels more like the “continuing” adventures of the Batman I’ve read about for years.

I love Patrick Gleason’s artwork, but I was befuddled by the escape from Nobody’s yacht. The batplane blasts out backwards, then what exactly happens? Does some sort of plane-shell blast away, or something else? The action in that panel is pretty hard to read. Gleason makes up for it with another great bat-signal moment though. Nice closing page.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Walking Dead #96

So Rick and his crew are essentially becoming an army of mercenaries? Wow. I must confess, I did not see that coming.

But Rick is right, the main thing the Community brings to an alliance is their ability to kick ass. And the leader of Hilltop better watch out, if Rick’s history is any indication, he’ll be in charge of their new alliance in a matter of days. Heck, the most competent and “fight-y” member of the Hilltop group is already well on his way to joining Rick.

I shouldn’t get my hopes up, I know Robert Kirkman is getting my hopes all set just to dash them in issue 100. Rick and his guys really think the Hilltop is the answer, that this next step is all they need to start rebuilding their lives. Heck no, people are gonna die in another five issues.

We learn a lot about the core cast in this one. Carl is his father’s son, making the offer to wipe out Hilltop’s problems before Rick can vocalize it. Andrea’s tough exterior and Michonne’s pessimistic approach. I’m happy Rick can still see the glass half full, even if the reader knows that the glass is probably broken and about to be slashed in Rick’s face. Kirkman is still weaving a great tale, 96 issues in.

I love that opening moment when the Hilltop guys try to get Rick to lower his gun. Charlie Adlard stages the panels perfectly, with Rick sizing up the folks around him, then calmly telling them no. Rick’s not rude, he’s not obnoxious, but he controls every place he walks in to, and this is no different. Fantastic storytelling.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

AvX #2

Wow. Jason Aaron loves laying out the cheese in this one. This is chock-full of panels, trying to set up the X-Men/Avenger conflicts as something out of legend. Sometimes the captions work (like keeping count of concussions in the conflict) but some don’t (like constantly pointing out how far away punches are audible). I really want to like this story.

Everyone online says the story is review-proof, and it really is. If you want to see the biggest names in the Marvel U fight each other, and I assume you do, then this book delivers! There are tons of great fights in this issue.
  • Red Hulk vs. Colossus
  • Iron Man vs. White Queen
  • Quicksilver vs. Magneto
  • Black Panther vs. Storm
  • Cage & Thing vs. Namor (underwater)
  • And best of all: Captain America vs. Cyclops.

The problem is that many of the best X-Men are not here. Rogue, Iceman, Gambit, Cannonball, and more are all off at the Westchester academy, and if they don’t show up, the battles are going to seem awfully one-sided. Warpath and Magik just don’t carry the same street cred as Angel or Deadpool.

Let’s face it, Wolverine needs to be with the X-Men here, they need the power to stay competitive. I’m still holding out hope that those guys show up here soon. The other place where the story is lacking is in the actual conflict. The X-Men and Cyclops just don’t have a leg to stand on. Cap is being reasonable, and he’s trying to protect everyone on Earth. I understand Cyclops bristling at turning Hope over, but clearly that’s the correct and moral choice. I hope the writers can come up with some way to muddy the waters soon.

John Romita Jr. turns in another solid effort. There are some very odd panels (Red Hulk’s back-of-head punch to Colossus for one) and choices, but nothing too distracting. I also get the impression that JRJR likes drawing Spidey and Wolverine more than the other characters who show up in this comic.

I’m curious if Scarlet Witch is going to appear in the mini-series or in a tie-in. I do think that was her hanging out with Quicksilver for a moment. I’m still enjoying this, because I like seeing top names fight each other. But I’m going to need a bit more plot soon, or this is going to feel mighty long at 8 issues or whatever it is. For now, the fights are enough for a rating of


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Avenging Spider-Man #6

I haven’t been tremendously amped up to read the Omega Effect crossover, even though I love the seeds planted in Mark Waid’s Daredevil. This opening chapter has shared writing credits between Waid and Greg Rucka, and they do a nice job.

This is clearly a Spider-Man story; he’s the star. I sort of forgot when I picked it up that this isn’t a Daredevil comic, but the writers do a good job bringing the focus back right away. While Punisher and Daredevil are more organically involved in the quest for the Omega Drive, Spider-Man gets shoe-horned in a bit more artificially. It seems Mr. Fantastic needs someone to try and retrieve the unique drive from Daredevil, and Mr. F knows that Spidey is one of the Devil’s only friends. Poof! Now Spider-Man is in the story!

The high points are definitely the interactions between the title characters. Punisher (and his new partner Cole), DD, and Spidey have a long history, and its amusing seeing them fall right back into those patterns (with some added commentary from DD about Cole’s shampoo). Heck, I won’t be surprised if DD is hitting on Punisher’s partner by the end of the arc.

Marco Chechetto does a nice job with the heroes, but he gets screwed on the villains. Is there any group that gets set up as patsies more than the Hand? Readers of this blog know my ninja-rule: One ninja is powerful; but the more ninjas that show up, the weaker they become. This issue is yet another example of that. These guys are barely a distraction, more a source for Spidey banter than anything else.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Secret Avengers #25

Whoops, was that supposed to be a big reveal that Ant-Man has been taken over by the Descendants? If so, it seems a tad obvious. I’m fine with it, because the other characters don’t know about their mole, but it wasn’t exactly a shocking reveal to the reader. Still lots of potential for later storylines, though.

It’s interesting that Rick Remender is writing about this city of evolving robots. That concept, along with the whole “sleeper” idea (humanoid robots out there interbreeding with humans) is remarkably similar to a series I’m reading. The Ware Tetralogy by Rudy Rucker has got a lot of similarities to the whole Grandfather/secret underground city vibe. Is it a case of zeitgeist that I’m reading both of these at the same time, or what? That said, Remender’s individual robots are pretty unique, especially the one who births tiny versions of her opponents out of eggs on her back!

Remender does some interesting trimming of the core cast too. Venom finally shows up, and boy, is Flash Thompson a smarty pants. He’s cracking jokes and generally pretty damn confident on his first unapproved Avengers mission. I did like seeing Val’s annoyance at him slowly increase. So he’s on, but the original Human Torch seems to be out for awhile, as he sustains enough damage to be put in suspended animation for awhile. And of course, Ant-Man Eric O’Grady is still around too, he’s just not himself anymore. This is a pretty killer line-up.

Gabriel Hardman kicks butt once again, with his gritty, dark style a perfect match for the title. I look forward to seeing him draw some more “classic” villains, as the robotic Descendants don’t really feature enough variance or color to really pop for me. Based on how good the Deathlok-Avengers look, I think Hardman will excel when he gets more villains too.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Green Lantern #8

I must admit, I’m looking forward to finding out more about the enigmatic Indigo Tribe. Indigo-1 has shown brief glimpses of her real personality, but how great is that closing page when we see just how sick the Tribe used to be before they learned compassion? These guys have the potential to fall back into being some sweet-looking villains at any time. What a fun concept!

Most of the issue consists of Hal Jordan trying to outsmart the lobotomized Black Hand, and then zipping around the enormous Indigo City. Hal is about as smart as a brain-dead villain, so his escape doesn’t go smoothly. He eventually finds some sort of tie to Abin Sur, although I’m not sure I’m too keen on the idea. Did every single aspect of the Green Lantern Corps all originate from the same couple guys? Sometimes Geoff Johns’ scripts make it feel that way.

Doug Mahnke does another great job, especially on the splash page I mentioned (see, that is how you use a splash!) A nice moment of dramatic impact made more stunning by it’s size. Take a lesson, DCnU!


Sunday, April 15, 2012

X-Men: Schism HC

Man, I don't understand why Marvel is losing the market share battle when they are putting out solid, entertaining titles like this. Jason Aaron does a fantastic job revitalizing the X-Men franchise here, bringing the last few years of X-stories to their logical conclusion. (Heck, not really conclusion, there is no way this will be permanent.)

Cyclops has become a real hard a$$. He used to be my favorite X-Man back in the day, but since he started hanging out with super-villains and running the X-Men like an army, he has been tougher to like. Wolverine is always cool, but there is definitely the opportunity to overdose on his awesomeness (much like Snake Eyes from GI Joe).

The Schism story doesn't feel that different from a normal X-Men storyline. Quentin Quire makes a great return and stirs things up, then some tough-talking kids form a new Hellfire club and attack Utopia. Through all these stories, Cyclops is seething about the continued use of Sentinels across the globe, and he wants to put a stop to their use. Wolverine is more concerned that the younger X-Men aren't getting a chance to grow up; instead they're just fresh meat in Cyclops' mutant army.

It's a tough debate. I see where Cyclops is coming from. If the X-Men can't defend themselves, what good is it to let kids have childhoods? But now that I have kids, I think Wolverine's side makes a bit more sense to me. Basically, let the adult X-Men handle the dirty work, give the students a chance to try for a normal life for as long as they can.

The closing chapter breaks down who goes where. Like the rest of the collection, it is filled with great character moments. Wolverine goes to Iceman first, because he considers Iceman his opposite. White Queen doesn't automatically fall in behind Cyclops. I'm confused on a couple of folks; why does Gambit head to the school? Would the New Mutants really head off and leave Cyclops? And most important, could someone remind me where Professor X is?

The art throughout is stunning. This is a most-wanted list of pencillers, so it's not surprising that every issue looks wonderful. Alan Davis may be my favorite artist, and he gets the juiciest chapter, the actual fight between Cyclops and Wolverine. Adam Kubert, Carlos Pacheco, and Daniel Acuna all knock it out of the park.

Frank Cho needs to do more interior work! Look at this alternate cover!

X-Fans, get caught up here.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Captain America: The Trial of Captain America TPB

(Note: Whoops, posted my Cap reviews in the wrong order!)

Sin is one messed up lady. I’m clearly way behind, since I’ve already read (and reviewed Fear Itself), and that makes the stakes in this storyline already seem antiquated. Sin doesn’t really try to do a whole lot in this entire trade, because her BIG plan is going to unfold in Fear Itself. This story is basically her just killing time until it’s summer event season. Ed Brubaker gets to keep her busy just messing with Bucky.

I do like the inclusion of Master Man, especially in his current incarnation. He’s not a smart guy, but he’s crafty, and he seems good enough at what he does to be dang dangerous. He sure didn’t have a problem taking out Black Widow and Falcon.

Brubaker keeps a tie to older Cap continuity with the return of Bernie Rosenthal, Cap’s old neighbor and love interest. There’s no spark between them evident in this collection, but that’s OK. Steve Rogers is fully in Nick Fury mode. He serves the purposes of the story, but I’d much rather see him in the lead. I’m finding that while I like Winter Soldier/Bucky/NuCap, I’m nowhere near as invested in him as I am in Rogers.

One aspect of the NuCap era that is really interesting to me is Bucky’s supporting cast. The immediate and powerful partnership with Black Widow makes sense, but I really like the way Falcon and Bucky hit it off too. The two guys didn’t really know each other, but they sure fit well as partners with Rogers off juggling checkbooks.

Butch Guice is solid, and his long-standing relationship with Brubaker is one of the stronger collaborations in comics. Guice seems to relish the chance to draw the Black Widow; her graceful dancing through combat is always well done.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Captain America: Prisoner of War TPB

So it certainly seems I should have read this issue before starting up on the Winter Soldier series. I’m also regretting buying Winter Soldier in floppy, since I was reading Bucky Cap’s adventures in trade format, I’ve got a media switch halfway through the story!

Time must have been short in this storyline, because the story is split up between three artists, with each one handling a different character. Butch Guice is “the” artist for the Winter Soldier, so his stuff looked on-model and dramatic, as always.

I loved Mike Deodato’s take on the Russian gulag too. He gets to draw Ursa Major throwing down with Bucky in some fantastic fight sequences. (It’s weird how Bucky’s specialty seems to be fighting animals, isn’t it?)

Chris Samnee works on the Black Widow and Sharon Carter segments, and those are fun little spy adventures that show off the skills of two characters often relegated to support status. Black Widow in particular kicks a whole lot of butt in her storyline.

It couldn’t have been easy for Ed Brubaker to populate his Russian gulag with good old Marvel villains. All those Cold War era dudes got killed at the end of their storylines, so of the named villains, two are “surprisingly” alive. I’m not complaining that Titanium Man and Unicorn are both still kicking. Unicorn in particular has a ton of potential in the modern Marvel U. I hope someone makes use of him.

There have been so many Crimson Dynamos that at this point, I can’t even figure out who wore what. Having an old Dynamo makes perfect sense in the prison too, and I can’t imagine many people have a flowchart of who wore which armor in which time. As for the Wolfspiders, I love the idea of expanding the KGB’s Black Widow program to make some more baddies. Great move.

This book spends a lot of time in Bucky’s head. Brubaker writes him the same way he writes the leads in Criminal and Incognito. Bucky is a neat character, but this story really drives home that he is not Captain America. As Nick Fury says, he picked up the mantle just to keep everyone else from doing it. We all know Steve Rogers needs to be back in the suit.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Chaos War: Incredible Hulks

Hmm. I’m sort of torn on this trade because while I appreciate Greg Pak bringing in Marlo, Doc Samson, and more supporting Hulk characters, I think he really loses focus because of the Chaos War crossover. Chaos War in general never exactly made sense to me, and the confused nature of that series spills over here. I never quite understood the rules for resurrections, who is controlling who, and how much freewill the resurrectees actually have. That can lead to some real oddness in books that lean heavily on the concept like this one. The epilogue to the story is a rushed battle on New Olympus that doesn’t help matters. The Hulk vs. Zeus might seem like a cool fight, but it just doesn’t work for me. (I do like the designs for the new pantheon of gods, though!)

Marlo has been a forgotten character for the past few years, so I’m really excited to see her getting some panel time. It’s also neat that she and Rick seem to be married still. (Being married to A-Bomb must be worse than dating the Hulk, wouldn’t you think?) Pak once again draws on good, classic stories when he references Marlo’s ties to Death (the Marvel entity). It makes sense.

As for the resurrected characters, boy, do I wish they could stick around. Zom comes back, taking over Dr. Strange, but he’s backed up by the Abomination. I LOVE Emil Blonsky, he’s such a visually striking character, I really wish he could have stuck around. I mean, he’s fighting like 6 Hulks in this story and he never seems out of his element, and his history ties in so nicely to the rest of the Hulk universe!

Doc Samson gets a little return too, and boy, I’m bummed that guy is gone. I loved John Byrne’s take on him back in the day, and I’ve had a fondness for him ever since. Surely he deserves better than to stay dead from a nonsensical Jeph Loeb plot?

I’m also worried that I’m starting to like Betty Ross as Red She-Hulk more than Jennifer Walters. Jen has been relegated to the background for too long, and Red She-Hulk’s craziness makes her awfully likeable. Who doesn’t want to see some reckless brick smashing everything around her?

And who does smashing better than Paul Pelletier? From a purely artistic standpoint, this thing is a pleasure. Pelletier draws some of the best Hulks I’ve ever seen, and his facial expressions on Hulk are wonderful. He also loves drawing his heroes puking after getting big hits, a wonderful habit! I would have liked to see Jennifer Walters get a bit more exposure, I’m sure he would have nailed it!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Young Avengers: The Children's Crusade HC

Well that really did not go down the way I thought it would. I’ve been following the Young Avengers in their sporadic appearances for the past few years, and they are a pretty fun crew. I find a few of the characters to be really likable, while most are a bit too whiny for me. That said, I still like the adventures that Allan Heinberg concocts for the team, and it is neat seeing the grumpy teen personalities rub shoulders with the rest of the Marvel U.

This time, Heinberg is straight-on addressing Bendis’ Avengers Disassembled. I’m amazed at the level of retconning Heinberg gets away with. SPOILERS AHEAD! Let’s deal with the returns first. The Scarlet Witch is back in action, solo, after Dr. Doom reveals that he played a role in Wanda’s insanity during Disassembled. I’m not sure I buy it, but I love the element of doubt and the sliver of defense the Witch now has. The character’s actions haven’t been erased, but as Cyclops says, she certainly has the chance to try and redeem herself. (And how great was Rogue telling Scarlet Witch that everyone would chill out later anyway. Good ol’ Rogue.)

Next, Scott Lang is back. Really? I mean, I always liked the character, he’s such a down-to-Earth hero, he’s almost unique. But did he really have such a fan following that his death needed to be reversed? I’m happy, all of Bendis’ kills are now reversed. Ant-Man, Vision, and Jack of Hearts are all back in the Marvel U. Now let’s get Wasp back and finish it off!

Iron Lad also comes back to rejoin his old team. The problem is, during his time away, he’s become MORE like his future self of Kang the Conqueror, not less. This holds up for the length of the book until he kills Young Vision at the end of the story. Wow. Of course, with the real Vision back, who needs Young Vision?

So the deaths. I’m not surprised at Iron Lad’s victim, but Dr. Doom’s? Cassie Lang was far and away my favorite Young Avenger, so I’m sad to see this character go. I think there are still some escape hatches for her, but right now, pencil me in as bummed out that this great legacy character is off the stage.

The rest of the team ends up in some interesting places. Speed might just end up a solo hero. Hawkette and Patriot both retire. And I’m fuzzy on what Wiccan and Hulking will do. In any case, it seems this story wraps up the Young Avengers for now, and I think that’s OK.

Jim Cheung’s art dazzles as always. He excels with younger characters, so the Young Avengers are the best looking characters in the book. He gets to draw a TON of characters, though, and I loved his take on all sorts of Marvel C-listers. Wonder Man, Rictor, Jamie Madrox, they all look great. After seeing his Rogue and Colossus, I want to see him draw some more X-books!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Spider-Man: Origin of the Species TPB

It seems this is the palate-cleanser before the Spider-books got their re-direction under Dan Slott. I like the greatest hits approach that Mark Waid uses in tossing all the “gauntleted” villains against Spidey, but in the end, this story is just OK.

Lilly Hollister and the Green Goblin are having a baby, and Doc Ock wants it. When he puts out a bounty, pretty much every villain used during the Brand New Day run shows up to try and claim the prize. The story is fun, it’s great seeing Peter Parker put through his paces as he takes on so many villains, but the book feels crowded. Too many villains and not enough pages means that every villain used in this thing (with only a few exceptions) feels neglected. The Rhino and the Shocker feel like nobodies when the Lizard and Doc Ock are looming on the next page. Folks like the new Vulture don’t even rate that much. I do like seeing Tombstone getting so much use these days, he’s a great villain and Waid really utilizes his power and menace well.

There’s a lot of page time setting Harry Osborn out into the world and lining up Carlie Cooper to be Peter Parker’s new main squeeze. Carlie hasn’t won me over yet, because darn it, I still think MJ is the best match for Spider-Man. It’s going to take more than this to get me to change my mind.

Paul Azaceta’s art has a loose quality that works well on the chaotic pages. He’s not the best at faces, so sometimes the civilian scenes are a bit off, but he’s great at gritty takes on super-characters. He’s a good fit for the Marvel U.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Spider-Man: The Grim Hunt

When you’re going to undo a classic story, it helps to try and make the next chapter feel important. I can certainly understand the desire to get the original Kraven the Hunter back on the scene in the Spider-books, but dangit, JM DeMatteis’ swan song for the character was perfect. Kraven’s Last Hunt holds up as one of the strongest Spidey stories ever, and it isn’t worth undoing it just to get the character back.

It seems the Kraven family (with a lot more people in it than I ever remembered) have been working hard to resurrect their papa, and it pays off with the blood of some spiders during this story. Kraven returns, but he’s mad about it, and for some reason he seems to think he’s immortal.

My problem with Joe Kelly’s dark storyline is that I never bought in to the whole Spider vs. the Hunter angle. The mystical balance just doesn’t make sense. No one is going to miss the Mattie Franklin Spider-Girl, but really, her death in this story is really pointless. This story feels like one of those where I’m OK with the resolution (Kraven’s back and his family is off the stage), but I’m not that interested in the journey.

I’m not a fan of making Julia Carpenter the new Madame Webb, either. That makes absolutely no sense. I wonder how long that will last? It’s odd, I love Kelly’s details like the resurrected Ezekiel and the use of the Chameleon, but the plot doesn’t do it for me at all.

Michael Lark’s art is sufficiently moody for the dark storyline. I love his take on Julia Carpenter. I also like the differences in how he draws Kaine and Spidey. But really, he’s not the best fit for Spider-Man, I’d much rather see him doing a more street-level story.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Daredevil #10

Mark Waid does a good job schooling his readers this issue. I think most of us, like DD, probably underestimated the Mole Man’s fighting ability. While I don’t remember Moley ever being a staff-wielding duelist, it certainly makes for an exciting climax when DD has to make the subterranean one pay for his body-snatching.

Mole Man has enough pathos in this issue to qualify as an honorary Spider-Man villain. (Isn’t it weird how all Spidey’s villains are so deep?) Mole Man’s grave desecration is motivated by his odd desire to see a woman who was kind to him one last time. It’s creepy, it’s sick, and it’s sad. Daredevil realizes all this, and still seems to sort of enjoy beating the snot out of him.

For me, the most interesting part of the issue is the resolution of DD’s relationship with the Black Cat. She seems to really like the guy (again, poor Spidey). She also mentions how good he is with his fingers, a definite commentary on the implied… activities of the couple last month.

I’m going to miss Paolo Rivera’s pencils (he is the artist departing this book, right?) The simple style combined with the radar-enhanced panels makes for a wonderful experience in this book.


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Avenging Spider-Man #5

I love Marvel Team-Up style books! Spidey is still hanging with the Avengers, and the Serpent Society-based story from last issue even gets a bit more room to breathe. But this book isn’t really about seeing the Avengers take on the society (although I do enjoy Leinil Yu’s take on it). This is a book about Spider-Man looking for a kindred spirit. Zeb Wells hits a goldmine with the idea that young dreamer Steve Rogers isn’t so different than Peter Parker.

Parker runs with this idea, hoping that the intimidating team leader is really just another dork at heart. I love Spidey trying to convince Cap how similar they are, as Cap repeatedly tries to re-focus on the mission at hand. I know that ending is cheesy, but dang if I didn’t appreciate Wells bringing the two popular characters together for a brief moment of friendship. Who cares if the rest of the team likes making fun of poor Spidey, he’s got a friend on the team now! (Incidentally, I love the idea of making Hawkeye a smart ass foil for Spider-Man. They’re similar enough to each other that it is believable they’d rub each other the wrong way.)

Leinil Francis Yu’s art is wonderful. He must have missed the memo that Hawkeye is in a stupid new suit, so Hawk is wearing his old, cool one while the new togs are at the cleaner. Yu does a nice job giving the different Avengers different body types too; these don’t look like the same two people in a ton of different costumes.


Friday, April 6, 2012


Well, that’s over, huh? I hate to admit it, but I was never reading OMAC to find out more about Kevin Kho or Max Lord. I know they are central characters, but I was much more intrigued seeing what crazy concepts OMAC would smash every month.

This month delivers a couple new concepts, and the really abbreviated wrap-up of the Brother Eye plotline. It seems Max Lord was smarter than everyone figured, and he does succeed in taking out Brother Eye. As one last gesture of defiance, Brother Eye sets up Kevin/OMAC with a new status quo. He can no longer switch back and forth between Hulk and human form, now he’s OMAC all the time, but he retains his normal personality.

That’s not exactly an improvement. I liked Kho as the new “Buddy Blank” host, a sort of generic guy who got taken out. In fact, the internal monologue got to be too much for me even in this one issue. I stopped reading Kevin’s thought boxes about halfway through the book and just focused on action. Dan DiDio channeled some good Kirby vibes in this series, but dialogue was never the strong point.

Keith Giffen delivers more entertaining visuals. OMAC has a great look, and I think he’s going to look really good standing up there with the JLI (along with Batwing? Did he just join?)

In any case, this is the last issue of OMAC, and I’m replacing it on my sublist with AvX.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Avengers Academy #28

What a fun idea, to put the Runaways trade dress on the border of this issue. It makes sense, too, there has to be a fair amount of Runaways fans desperate for some appearances from the team. It’s pretty hard to get regular doses of the characters these days.

I think Christos Gage knows that, because I feel like he skewed a bit towards the Runaways in this storyline. Certainly most of the students in the Academy took a backseat, leaving Giant Man and Tigra as the main Avengers with speaking roles. I’m OK with that, I don’t get enough of those two anyway, but it did seem odd hearing so much from supposed guest stars.

The actual plot in this is pretty thin. The teams return to the present after rescuing Chase’s pet raptor Old Lace; then it’s time to decide what to do about the younger Runaways. Nico whips out a spell that lets the heroes see each others’ points of view, and while nice, I’m not sure it added a lot to anyone’s character. I like that both teams split up and just return to their status quo, too. Let’s face it, we all knew Molly wasn’t going to join the Academy and leave her team.

It does give me a weird feeling, reading Christos Gage’s entertaining Marvel comics. It almost feels like fan fiction, with his characters responding and adding to the current goings on in the Marvel U. But I can’t remember the last time anything in Avengers Academy actually affected anything outside its own pages. It’s clear that Gage is responding to storylines masterminded by Bendis, Jason Aaron, and other big names. I actually enjoy Gage’s work more, in most cases, so it sort of stinks seeing him try to make lemonade out of the lemons of the bigger Marvel storylines.

Karl Moline’s artwork is a lot more rushed that last month. The faces are stretched and at times the figures seem unfinished. The story is clear, but very sketchy.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Avengers vs. X-Men #1

Not too bad. Like a true #1, Bendis doesn’t really make much reference back to last week’s AvX #0. It seems the important stuff we need to know for this story will all be dealt out in this book. The book opens with some competent heroics as the Avengers stop a plane from crashing into NYC. Sure, the Empire State building gets some major damage, but Iron Man, Thor, and Ms. Marvel make for a pretty powerful team when it comes to averting a disaster (Spidey helps a bit too).

The crash is caused by the returning Phoenix force, and with it the kid-Nova I’ve been hearing about. I’ll miss Richard Rider, but if he’s actually dead, I guess I’m OK with a replacement. (Hawkeye actually mentions that he thought Rich was dead.) Meanwhile on Utopia, Cyclops is in full jerk mode as he forces Hope to continue her training. Cyke is the voice of the franchise here, so I’m hoping Bendis can reign it in a bit over the net few issues, because right now Cyclops is a maniac. Even his own team seems to be doubting the rigor of his training right now. I love the brief moment Cyclops and Cap share before they start smashing each other.

Again, Cap comes off as a lot more reasonable, but maybe that’s just my take on it. I absolutely love the grin on Namor’s face when he knows the two of them are about to fight. I really think the Sub-Mariner is looking forward to this fight.

The assembled Avengers are going to be tough to beat, especially if Wolverine’s group of X-Men don’t show up to help. I don’t see a way the Utopia-based mutants have any sort of chance against the heavy hitters I mentioned above PLUS the Red Hulk, Giant Man, Black Panther, and more.

John Romita Jr.’s art is always dynamic, and once again, he makes the story work. The story feels important as we see the Avengers leaders briefing the president. JRJR can’t save Hawkeye’s terrible costume, and I think we need to add Colossus’ new Juggernaut look to the ill-advised column. That is NOT what Colossus should be fighting in when he has two or three more classic looks. JRJR’s faces seemed a tad lopsided at times, especially Magneto and White Queen. But again, he does a great job with Namor.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spider-Man: Gauntlet: Shed TPB

Hoo boy, this is a tough one. I really hate it when writers kill off long-time supporting characters, but I can sort of see where Zeb Wells was going here. I’ve never read a story from the Lizard’s point of view that made so much sense to me. I love the territorial, jealous, angry persona that is just constantly clawing for release from Doc Connors’ mind. (Not sure I see the need for an Army Reserve doctor ret-con for Connors, but I guess it doesn’t hurt.) Wells masterfully builds the tension through the caption boxes as Connors is worn down by his reptilian alter-ego. Horrifying. Spider-Man eventually gets drawn into the story, but it’s pretty rough once he does. He has to deal with Billy Connor’s death, and immediately hunt down the killer, too. What a punch in the gut for every character involved in this thing. I love the Lizard’s new powers; the ability to make humans give in to their primitive sides is skeevy, creepy, and scary all in one. Wells does a great job with the Lizard’s takedown too. Spidey has to use Connor’s serum and some psychological warfare to defeat the Lizard. It is fascinating seeing the Lizard’s realization of what humans have accomplished. Suddenly, the Lizard realizes he needs clothes. Suddenly, the Lizard realizes that airplanes aren’t birds, but technological accomplishments. It’s neat seeing Connors’ influence start wearing on the Lizard, reversing their long-time situation. Chris Bachalo was born to draw this story. I might not like the weird hair that his new Lizard design is sporting, but I LOVE the scales and lizards that dominate every page. Bachalo’s borders are always busy and mood-building, but this is a new high for him. Those lizards hanging out of the borders are wonderful. Emma Rios handles some of the Parker interpersonal scenes. Her style still isn’t my favorite, but I much prefer her handling drama rather than action. Good

Monday, April 2, 2012

Secret Avengers #24

So it looks like Eric O’Grady really died at the end of the last issue, huh? Now, it sure looks like there are a bunch of dead folks up and about throughout this book, so I’m guessing Rick Remender’s new Deathloks might just have a quick turnaround in the resurrection department. (It is dang frustrating seeing Wasp in this cyborg form. Just bring back the real character! Kids know her from the cartoon, man!)

Remender has stated that he’s putting the group through some dysfunctional moments, and those are on display here. Upon arrival to the robotic city of The Core, the team is scattered. There’s no unified approach that I could see, and the team really doesn’t get along. Hawkeye doesn’t try to rally the troops. Captain Britain and Jim Hammond can’t stand each other. Beast is disappointed in Hawkeye. The only two members who seem to be up to business as usual are Valkyrie and Black Widow. The two of them have clear goals, plans, and work well together. It’s neat seeing the team before it gels.

I’m getting a particular kick out of Captain Britain. He’s been around awhile already, yet he’s having to prove his bonafides all over again. This is a great take on the character.

Gabriel Hardman continues to impress me. While I wish the line-troops of the robotic Descendants were a bit more unique or easy to recognize, I absolutely love his takes on the classics. Emperor Doombot. Ultimate Vision, a Machine Man knock-off, these ‘bots all look fantastic. Great work.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Walking Dead Season 2 & Walking Dead #95

It’s going to be hard to talk about the newest issue of Walking Dead with the TV series going so well.

Robert Kirkman doesn’t exactly rush the plot along, the first few pages of this issue must have had Jesus as Rick to trust him three or four times. But it makes sense, eventually, Rick can’t be in control of the situation. And it doesn’t really last anyways. The Hilltop community has got its own problems, and when violence breaks out at the Hilltop, who do you think is at the center? That’s right, a very nonplussed Rick Grimes. I honestly don’t think he cares that he just unleashed some ultra violence on someone he doesn’t know, it’s just another day at the office. I think Rick may have killed himself into a higher job. Another strong effort from Kirkman.

Now on to the show. I had been complaining about the lack of plot movement and general lack of momentum that made this the most frustrating show on television. Herschel’s farm has been a storytelling morass that led to the characters wandering around and accomplishing nothing.

With the second half of S2, those problems have been addressed. Every single episode has included action moments and rational dialogue. Even Lori has made coherent arguments an actual human might make. Shane’s gorilla-school of acting led to the natural pay-off, and while some folks are still making horrible choices (T-Dog’s lack of a 3-point turn). I loved the Randall debate, and I’ve been enjoying discussing that moral quandary with my friends.

Rick is finally the compelling, deciding character he is in the comics. By externalizing his moral dilemmas with Shane, Rick was reduced to a sad lump. Rather than commanding and motivating the group, it seems all he could do was worry about Carl. Now Rick is making decisions and laying down the law; a great development for Season 2.

Andrea is another character greatly benefiting from the change in writing staff. She had been pretty hard to like with her poor decision-making and moping. Now she’s thinking and rational, plus killing off a horde almost single-handedly!

Comic – Good
TV Show – Excellent