Saturday, June 30, 2012

Iron Age: Alpha and Omega

I never know how to review these oddball storylines. This series launched with an Alpha, ended with Omega, and had three issues in the middle. Rob Williams and Rebekah Isaacs handled the one-shots, while a variety of creative teams tackled the mini in the middle. I almost picked this up off the stands, but the mini was priced at $4.99. After reading the books, that seems to be because each issue basically has two full-length stories, but I didn’t know it at the time.

The concept is pretty easy: Tony Stark is kidnapped from a function and taken to the undersea base of Dr. Birch, a nobody villain who has obsessed over Tony for years. He’s got some knock-off Iron Man tech, but more importantly, he’s got a copy of Dr. Doom’s time platform. The first issue ends with Birch pulling a fighting-mad Dark Phoenix from the past and bothering her until she blows up the Earth. Stark manages to make it to the platform before the world ends, but now he’s on the run through time, teaming up with older versions of Marvel U mainstays to try and save the world.

Pretty decent high-concept, huh? Especially once you factor in that modern-Tony is now running around in the era that he spent wallowing in alcohol. It’s pretty easy for Stark to show up in public when the older version of him is passed out at home.

Stark has to travel through time, putting together a team of heroes and re-assembling the time-platform. There is some pre-destination involved, Birch knew that these folks would be around, but I’m fuzzy on exactly how that part worked. The team consists of Hank Pym, Captain Britain, Dazzler, Cyclops, Human Torch, Power Man, and Iron Fist. That’s a pretty great, eclectic line-up, I think; especially the way Williams picks and chooses which versions to put on display.

Isaacs does a nice job with the art. I loved the design of the undersea base. Her Iron Man is solid too, with an almost Keron Grant-vibe to some of the armor and robots. Dark Phoenix steals the show in the one-shots. Man, we do need Jean Grey back in the Marvel U.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Walking Dead #99

If you can believe it, this is the calm before the storm. Issue #98 was absolutely insane, and I trust that 100 is going to be off the rails too. So Robert Kirkman is giving us a moment to grieve our fallen cast member and to prepare for next issue’s devastation.

I mean, issue 50 was absolutely brutal; it totally shook up the status quo of the book. Of course, I’ve grown accustomed to our new cast over the past few years, so I’m still hoping that Kirkman isn’t about to clean house again.

After a nice service, Rick takes a small group out of the Community to head for the Hilltop. I’m a little alarmed based on who makes up this crew. Rick, Carl, Glenn, Maggie, Sophia, Michonne, and one more guy whose name I can’t remember is a pretty solid core cast IF Kirkman kills everyone in the Community next issue. I sure hope that’s not the case, but the potential is there.

I’d be much happier if Kirkman throws us a swerve, and the “Something to Fear” theme of the last few covers is actually our core cast laying the beatdown on Negan’s crew. I can hope, right?

Charlie Adlard does a wonderful job differentiating the core cast, but man, I need some names. I can’t remember 2/3 of the Community residents at this point. There were too many introduced at once, so while I can recognize them, I sure don’t know their names.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Winter Soldier #7

I guess Ed Brubaker doesn’t like RV’s! During the main set piece, Bucky refers to a mobile home as a rolling deathtrap, rolling death, and a piece of junk. Now admittedly, there is a bomb in the back, but only one of those three phrases comes up after he knows it!

This issue starts off with some nice, mood-establishing moments. Leo is still turning out to be the best antagonist in the series so far. Brubaker really plays up the relationship between Bucky and Black Widow, so I’m fairly certain things are going to go badly next month.

The main action on the RV is wonderful. Bucky comes off like a true hero, not just a super-spy, and it’s nice to see him handle the role. This is barely a super-hero comic, the action in this one wouldn’t be out of place on 24 or Fringe. This comic lets Brubaker play in the Marvel U sandbox, but still tell stories like Sleeper or Incognito. It’s a winning combo.

Michael Lark. Never have I seen an exploding RV look so beautiful. (You’d be surprised how often it comes up, actually.) Lark knocks it out of the park this issue. The mood, pacing, and direction are all top notch. He draws an assault on a moving RV and the action is always clearly established. There is no point in the shenanigans where I didn’t know what was going on. And the looks on the heroes faces during their moments of truth? Fantastic. Black Widow’s smile as she zips off on the bike and the satisfied smirk on Bucky as he lets go of the wheel, just great work.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Transformers: Autocracy #1

I was intrigued by IDW’s Autocracy project. Basically, the company is putting out a half-length Transformers comic every other week, but only charging 99 cents for it. Chris Metzen and Flint Dille are new names to me, but after taking a quick look at some preview pages, I decided I could shell out two or three bucks for the first couple issues.

It’s pretty good! The series takes place back on Cybertron, when Optimus Prime was still Orion Pax. Orion is an idealistic cop working for the status quo-loving Autobots. The Decepticons are basically anarchist freedom-fighters. It takes some getting used to seeing Orion/Optimus bully people around, but it does seem like his heart is in the right place. And while the Decepticons are trying to take down the Autobot ruling class, they definitely aren’t good guys. (Hot Rod is another freedom-fighter, though! And we know he ends up as a good guy.) It is a neat twist seeing our heroes supporting what is clearly an evil regime. Nothing her ruins the characters, but it adds a nice level of back-story.

The book keeps its focus squarely on Orion, but he does have a small squad of familiar faces surrounding him. Prowl, Iron Hide, Bumblebee, and Hound back up Orion on the ground, while Silverbolt soars overhead providing air-support. The Decepticons are all the regulars: Megatron, Starscream, Soundwave, and the tapes. Some Omega Supreme predecessors show up around issue 5 too.

I’m only halfway through, but I really like this format and delivery system. I’m much more likely to splurge on a 99 cent comic than a $3.99 one, and to be honest, these issues don’t feel that short. There are so many ads in the back of the IDW Transformers comics, this feels pretty close to the same length!

Livio Ramondelli handles the art, and he’s good. This has got that painted feel that some Transformers artists use, where things look almost European. I’d almost say it looks as if Gabrielle Del ‘Otto was drawing Cybertron, that’s the feel of the book. It’s always neat seeing the “old” Cybertron forms for the bots too. I do like the design of the current Prime; he’s suspicious right off the bat!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Avengers Assemble #4

I’m torn. I love the Guardians of the Galaxy, I really like Thanos, and I want to support Bendis when he writes a slam-bang action comic. But this is only decent; it’s not a fantastic example of a Guardians, Thanos, or action book.

Part of the problem is the artificial constraint of keeping the team exactly like the movie line-up. It just doesn’t make sense that the Avengers couldn’t call in a bit more help to protect the Ultimate Nullifier from the new Zodiac. Of course, the team already sounds like very, very similar dialogue-wise, so I’m not sure adding more characters is the right fix. I mean, Hawkeye serves absolutely no purpose in this book at all. Black Widow is just there to run around.

The Zodiac itself has a whole lot of potential, but I’m going to need to see some individual personalities from the members. In the old days, there were always two or three members who stood out from the rest, both in look and dialogue. This incarnation looks fantastic (designed by Mark Bagley, of course they do!) but they all sound exactly the same.

Bagley does a great job drawing the new Zodiac. The designs are clear and the cosmic nature of the powers shines through. He also does a great job with Thanos. He’s got a great, iconic look anyway, but watching Thanos dominate the Hulk really drives home his level of power. It’s pretty great seeing Hulk whup up on his teammates too.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Captain America & Hawkeye #629-632

I’ve been checking out the Sixth Gun trades from the library and really enjoying them. Then I spotted Cullen Bunn’s name on a bunch of Marvel books that I enjoy or want to check out, like Captain America, Wolverine, and Fearless featuring Valkyrie. So I figured it was time to buckle down and actually buy some of his books, rather than wait and get them from the library.

I’m also a sucker for team-up books. Marvel Two-in-One and Marvel Team-Up remain some of my favorite comics ever, so pairing up two cool heroes against a classic villain is always a recipe for success with me. Bunn’s run on this title actually picks up the classic Captain America numbering, so really, this is just picking up an old series I used to collect. (Of course, now I buy it digitally, but hey, wave of the future and all that.)

This is a plot-heavy escapade that honestly could have featured any two characters. Bunn brings out “classic” villain Stegron the dinosaur man in a new plot to bring back the age of dinos. Of course, to modernize things a bit, these dinosaurs are symbiote-influenced with some weird ties to the Dire Wraiths too. So basically, Stegron, Dire Wraiths, and symbiotes. So I’d say we’ve got our classic villains about locked. I would have appreciated a tad more focus on Stegron rather than generic dinos, but I appreciate that Bunn didn’t feel the need to kill the guy off at the end of the story.

Hawkeye is fully in his movie-jock role, rocking the shades and muscle shirt. He’s not quite as fun in this incarnation, although there are moments when the “real” Hawkeye shines through. Hawk has a line about not liking Spider-Man, and boy, I’m amazed at how amused I am with the little rivalry that’s sprung up between the two recently. It makes sense that not all heroes would get along, so this is a great relationship. Cap is muscle-y and brave, and gets to fight smart a bit too. There’s not a lot of real character-time, so the jury is still out on how well Bunn has his voice down.

The book also introduces a new scientist named Kash who is going to be a recurring thorn in Cap’s side. We know she gets along with villains and carries around tiny Pym-particle firearms, so she’s got some potential.

I’m still not a huge Alessandro Vitti fan. Everyone has these hulking bodies and furrowed brows. He’s much better on action scenes than dialogue; most of the conversations seem awkward. He’s pretty light on backgrounds, and sometimes the characters’ faces do odd things. That said, he does deliver during the action sequences, and I enjoy his dino-monsters too. I’m afraid we need to add him to the list of people who can’t draw Hawkeye’s muscle shirt. But really, Gabriel Hardman is the only artist who has been able to make that look good.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hulk Smash Avengers (part 2)

This is the wrap-up of the last two issues of Hulk Smash Avengers. It’s worth buying, but you can probably wait for a digital sale or half-price bin. These are evergreen books that will hold up whenever you read them. They can also be read in just about any order!

HSA #4 is probably my favorite book in the series. Jim McCann and Augustin Padilla show off the West Coast Avengers. I never appreciated the West Coast book enough as a kid, so now I love seeing this team put together. The team is Hawkeye, Mockingbird, Tigra, Wonder Man (Hollywood era), and the best Iron Man ever, the Silver Centurion Iron Man. The Hulk is in his Mr. Fixit grey phase, but he holds out pretty well against the WCA all the same. Padilla does a decent job, but man, it would have been great to see a more classic style artist on this book. I’m not sure why they didn’t try to ape the original art a bit more. This is worth it just to see the old team back together, and McCann has the best take on Hawkeye that I’ve read in years, so this is a great value.

HSA #5 is the modern-era Mighty Avengers by Fred Van Lente and Michael Avon Oeming. That’s Iron Man, Wonder Man, Ms. Marvel, Black Widow, and the Sentry. Again, I love this team, but boy do they feel like a product of their time and place. This is post-Civil War Iron Man, when everyone was treating him like a villain. It was entertaining at the time, but really annoying to read now. I do like the Mighty line-up (although where the heck is Wasp? We don’t see her much these days already!) Sentry smashes a lot, and I was pleased that Van Lente dodged any mention of Sentry’s eventual fate; he just seems like a big blonde hero. Black Widow is great, and Ms. Marvel is at her best in this era. (I still like her and Wonder Man as a couple, too bad that got broken up.) The Red Hulk plays a bit closer to his modern incarnation here; we know that he’s basically a good guy who likes pounding on heroes. I really like Oeming’s Avengers, its neat reading so many issues of Powers where he’s basically riffing on the classics, and then seeing him do such a good job on the real thing in books like this. This is probably the second-best of the Hulk Smash series.

Overall, this is a great little mini for fans of Marvel’s history. I’d rank them 4, 5, 3, 1, 2, but all are worth picking up.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Hulk Smash Avengers (part 1)

I like these high-concept minis starring characters as I grew up with them. (Well, some of these Avengers are the same as when I grew up; some obviously pre-date me by a bit!) With books like these, it really is fine to buy one issue and not buy the others, so I’m going to run through them individually in case folks were curious.

HSA #1 is by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz (with Sal Buscema). The lineup in this one is Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Giant-Man, Wasp, and Rick Jones. This is a brawl, plain and simple, although DeFalco fills every bit of panel space with heroes pontificating about their situations. It’s written in a very old-school style, but more for nostalgia than out of a mistrust of the artist (for that see any 80’s X-book!). I absolutely love the Frenz/Buscema combo, and this book has them rocking the Enchantress, Executioner, and Baron Zemo. Can’t miss for fans of classic material. Recommended.

HSA #2 is the work of Joe Casey and Max Fiumara. The roster is Cap, Wasp, Iron Man, Beast, and Hawkeye. I know this is going to brand me as a heretic, but I don’t care for Fiumara’s art. The elongated faces and noodle-y bodies just don’t do it for me. The story plays during the whole Henry Peter Gyrich era of the team when the government was deciding the line-up. Casey has some interesting stuff to say, but I’m afraid the art turned me off a bit. Not required reading.

HSA #3 by Roger Stern and Karl Moline is a weird one. The team is Captain Marvel, Iron Man, Hawkeye, She-Hulk, Thor, and Wasp. This is the Avengers team of my youth, and I really wanted to like this more than I did. The Hulk/Avengers scenes are all really well done, and it is fantastic seeing the Monica Rambeau CM again. She-Hulk belongs on the team too, and it’s great seeing this roster working together. But Stern uses an odd framing device with real creators John Buscema and Mark Gruenwald that took me out of the story. If you love 80’s Avengers, this is still worth checking out, but be warned its’ a tad odd.

To Be Continued (tomorrow!)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Invincible #92

This is shaping up to be another classic storyline for Invincible. With Mark Grayson suffering a partial power loss (he’s retained his super-strength, but loss his invulnerability), Bulletproof is still filling in as Invincible. It’s great seeing the core cast expanded, and I love the glimpse we get into BP’s family life. Robert Kirkman doesn’t give us the whole story all at once, but clearly BP maintains a pretty complicated out-of-costume existence.

With the upcoming Guardians of the Globe title, it makes sense that Kirkman shines the spotlight on his super-team. The next round of Squid invasion is quickly repelled by the assembled Guardians, but that’s the sideshow. Instead, the focus of the Guardians’ pages is on Robot and Monster Girl. We knew the two of them were trapped together in an alien dimension where time passes much, much faster. It seems the two of them were trapped there for 700 years, and they were together the whole time. Something happened between them that Robot is still angry over, but I can’t help but feel for Monster Girl. I love that Kirkman makes me care so much about these background characters. Ryan Ottley’s art is so perfect; the anguish on both characters’ faces is palpable. I’m a sucker for these tortured romance subplots! Get back together, kids!

Cory Walker actually draws the alien universe sequence, and he does a nice job. I have to say I prefer Ottley’s smoother lines at this point, but splitting the art really sells the parallel stories. Again, I’m shocked at how good Bulletproof looks in the Invincible suit. I’m fine with this status quo for a good long while (at least through issue 100, which will no doubt feature Mark’s triumphant return).

I can’t wait for the upcoming Guardians of the Globe title; let’s just hope Robot and Monster Girl make the cut!


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Avengers #27

So clearly I’m missing something. Why is the Avengers tie-in showing this story? The same material is covered in Secret Avengers, but not in exactly the same way. In fact, I’m having a hard time reconciling the two parallel stories. It just doesn’t seem to make sense.

Walt Simonson is still a fantastic artist, but I can’t help but feel that he’s missing the mark with Protector. This guy looks like a kid, and it’s a bit harder to hold a grudge against him when he looks so young and confused. Bendis’ odd choice to make Protector immediately regret his actions is weird too. I mean, Protector betrayed his team (either with Ms. Marvel or not, depending on which tie-in you read) and sent them hurtling towards a sun. So that would kill them. That’s a full on, murderous betrayal. I don’t care if he’s surprised that the Supreme Intelligence hates Earth. It’s a bit too late to ask for specifics, doofball.

I am pleased that the savage Beast who shows up in this one is once again the ape-beast. The Avengers office is clearly fine with Hank McCoy going back to his original look. The X-editors need to stop fighting it and do the same.

It’s just a strange situation. With Bendis writing some of the core AvX series, I would have thought that the core Avengers title would be a little more focused on the Earth-side situation. I mean, the space team is already starring in Secret Avengers. Why go to that well twice?


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fantastic Four #607

I never get to see Black Panther. Basically, I’ll at least try anything he appears in, since he’s relegated to guest-star status once again. I’m glad I decided to give this book a chance, because while Jonathan Hickman’s big ideas can sometimes disappoint, they don’t this time. Instead, his penchant for grand ideas and secret societies is adding a new level of mystery to Wakanda and a visually exciting new threat for the Panther to deal with. Factor in the FF, and this is a recipe for fun. (I always loved the old issues where the FF would visit Wakanda and be re-impressed every single time.)

This time, Reed Richards and the Future Foundation are certain that they have been summoned to help Wakanda overcome its lack of Vibranium. Instead, the Black Panther has kept the economy booming and he needs the FF’s help with a bunch of skeletons and zombies dressed like Egyptian deities. A simple misunderstanding!

(Note that I’m referring to T’Challa as Black Panther. His sister Shuri is technically the Panther right now, but she has no dialogue or role in this story so far. She’ll never be the Black Panther to me, anyway!)

Giuseppe Camuncoli has been a fave of mine since his Captain Atom series. I sure hope he gets to draw T’Challa in uniform some more next month. He does a nice job here, but I want the real costume! I like his square-jawed Reed Richards, and those white FF uniforms look fantastic.

If Hickman keeps this story focused on exploring cool corners of the Marvel U with sweet guest stars, I may be buying this book again!


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Batman & Robin #10

Peter Tomasi has to re-set the deck after an issue spent on Night of the Owls. He lost a bit of momentum there with that focus on Damian, so not a lot happens in this issue.

Bruce Wayne has commissioned a painting of his family, with Jason Todd notably absent. It’s too bad, with Damian hanging around and acting so badly, I have a hard time figuring what Jason did that means he can’t come back to the fold. That said, I always like it when Tomasi writes Nightwing, and he’s just as deft with the other Robins. Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, and Damian make for a heck of a family for Bruce. I find Tim Drake to be a bit whinier than I remember seeing him, which is a bit of a bummer. And I have absolutely no idea what’s going on in Teen Titans, so that reference was lost on me.

I do like the idea of Terminus’ gang of thugs. I think most of these guys are Tomasi creations, but I only remember a few of them for sure.

Patrick Gleason has a rough road here. Getting a bunch of black-haired, blue eyed guys to look different is tough, especially when the new 52 has them all within a few years of each other. I mean, can anyone pick out the difference between Red Robin and Damian? I sure can’t. Nightwing’s costume helps, but still. I do like the way Gleason integrates each villain’s origin with a close-up of his or her face. It’s a nice recap/introduction to obscure or new characters.


Monday, June 18, 2012

X-Men: Legacy #268

I’m of two minds on this issue. On the one hand, I really appreciate the character work Christos Gage does with Frenzy. She’s been around a lot of years and yet I know almost nothing about her. Gage gives her a motivating (if somewhat generic) back-story; really fleshing out the character and giving us a view into her mindset. It’s hard not to like her and even rationalize some of her choices in her mutant/human outlook. There aren’t any super-villains who need smashing, but Frenzy accomplishes a lot punching flatscans (humans).

On the other hand, this is billed as an Avengers vs. X-Men tie in, with the Phoenix Five prominently displayed on the cover. Only Cyclops appears, and that is darn brief. I guess the P5 are running around taking over the world, or stopping violence or something? I really have no idea what’s happening, I don’t think we’ve seen this global initiative in the core AvX title.

So that’s a bit of a problem. We’ve got a strong character piece in a global situation that sure seems like we should already know about it.

David Baldeon impresses me this month. I’m not usually a fan of his cartoonish style, but man, he’s got Frenzy down. She doesn’t walk anywhere. She either stops, storms, or crashes through every panel in this comic. She doesn’t walk around trees or rocks, she blasts through them. If Frenzy is like this, she may quickly become one of my favorite X-Men!


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Annihilators: Earthfall TPB

What a sad way for DnA’s classic run on cosmic Marvel to come to an end. This story probably could have been a great close, but unfortunately a poor choice of artist didn’t let that happen. I’ve enjoyed Tan Eng Huat’s art before, mostly on his Doom Patrol work. But he is not the right artist for straight-up, normal super-heroics. There is a disconnect here in his style versus the classic look necessary for DnA’s script. Faces end up smooshed. The battle scenes are hard to follow. There seems to be perspective problems in multiple panels (there are a few scenes where there are explosions in the background that seem to be the response to Gladiator’s punches in the foreground.) Again, I don’t want to be mean, because I have liked this artists work in other projects, but the clash of style caused such a disconnect that this was honestly a chore to read.

DnA deliver a story that serves as a nice capstone to their run involving the Universal Church of Truth AND the Magus. That’s a brilliant new concept AND a classic Marvel villain. But the Church ends up as a bunch of faceless, generic villains that don’t deserve to be on the same page as the Avengers or Annihilators.

I’m particularly interested in the interaction Quasar has with his old team as he tries to explain the galactic view he’s been forced to take. This is Wisconsin’s small-town hero operating on a galactic scale and telling Cap to keep things in perspective! I would have liked a bit more of that type of material, along with some more of Ikon’s fascination with Quasar. There was no time, though, because this book was running from explosion to explosion. I love action books, but I like it to look a bit prettier.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Incredible Hulks: Heart of the Monster TPB

I’m not sure what the deal is with Greg Pak’s last few trades. I know he’s heavily influenced by Bill Mantlo, but for me, this magic thing just isn’t working. I like my Hulk straight-forward and smashy, and mixing in all these mystical baddies and plots is just blurring the point of the character.

The crux of this story balances on the wishing well, a Las Vegas attraction that is granting warped wishes for the core cast. I’m unclear on who wished for what or how it affected the story, exactly, and that’s frustrating.

Now, are there elements I love? Absolutely. The friggin’ Bi-Beast is in this, and they call themselves “skull-brother!” That gets a rating boost right there. I would have liked a bit more from She-Hulk, since we don’t get to see Jennifer Walters much these days, but I think her panel time is already ceded to Red She-Hulk. I like her too, Betty Banner is way more interesting smashing folks and keeping up (or surpassing) the Hulk’s rage. Dr. Strange is wasted. I hate it when outside stories rob a character of his rightful gravitas, and Dr. Strange in street clothes is a prime example. I don’t care if he’s not the sorcerer supreme in some book I don’t read. Give him that cape and puffy shirt!

Paul Pelletier couldn’t have asked for a more perfect comic. For 2/3 of this trade, every page is filled with gigantic monsters trying to break each other. Heck, at one point Fin Fang Foom is shooting gamma missiles out of his mouth! His Umar is pretty fun too; it’s amusing seeing Hulk and Red She-Hulk cheat on each other with the Hulk’s rogue’s gallery like this. (Although I never quite understand how Tyrannus can be a threat on his own).

I almost wonder if the pacing might have been better reading this monthly. I felt like each issue had to lay out the wishing well rules (and that really didn’t make them any clearer). I loved Greg Pak’s run over all, it has been a great few years. But I do think it’s a wise move to let someone else come in and re-focus, bring the green Hulk back to the center of the book.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Green Lantern #10

C’mon, I dare you to read this comic and not have a good time. Geoff Johns delivers one of his patented masterpieces to wrap up the Indigo Tribe storyline. This one is just packed with sweet moments, from the horrific approach of the “freed” tribe to Black Hand’s choice. Black Hand is one guy that did NOT want to be rehabilitated. I like Hand’s potential at the close of the issue too. But I don’t think ANYONE is going to be surprised by that ending.

Hal Jordan comes across as a competent hero who doesn’t solve all his problems with his fists. Instead, he actually inspires Natromo, the Indigo Tribe Guardian. Hal Jordan acts like a hero! Sinestro acts like one too. As I’ve said, only in comics could I find myself pulling for Sinestro after all the crap he’s done. Darn it, I want to see him come out of this as a GL again. He and Hal make too good a combo to see them split up anytime soon.

This book is simply frantic. Doug Mahnke does a masterful job in building the rainy jungle setting. You can practically hear the freed Indigo’s shouting and shuffling as they catch up with our heroes. Mahnke delivers the “acting” in Indigo-1’s big moment too.

Books like this are the reason I have not given up on the New 52!


Thursday, June 14, 2012

AvX Vs #3

Wow, Colossus is really racking up the wins, isn’t he? I do find it interesting that we’re only on issue three, but Colossus and Thing are already making their second appearance in this title. I wonder why we didn’t get Colossus vs. Red Hulk? I don’t figure these wins even count for Piotr since he’s amped by Juggernaut’s powers. There’s a ready made excuse anyway, so why not pit him against Red Hulk? This first chapter is written by Jeph Loeb, I would have though he’d want more than two pages with Rulk.

Jeph Loeb does a great job with Thing’s dialogue, the constant alternating between smack-talk and concern is amusing. Colossus doesn’t say much during the battle, and his overriding thought seems to be concern at his Cyttorak-related powers. Makes sense, I suppose, but it’s hard not to root for the Thing when the fight is set up like this.

Ed McGuinness does a fantastic job with the fight. This is his arena, huge dudes beating the crap out of each other. The fight has some classic punches and the smaller panels are full of detailed battling too. This truly looks like a comic book brawl, so I loved it.

The second match features an odd pairing. Black Widow vs. Magik. Chris Yost has worked on both the Avengers and the X-Men, but I really would have thought that Black Widow would run away with the fight. It is a neat coincidence that they are both Russian. There’s not time to really play on that history with anything more than dialogue, but Yost at least touches on it.

Power-wise, Magik is an easy win, but popularity and fame clearly go to the Widow these days. Widow holds her own, but Magik must be getting some kind of push from the X-office. First she’s one of the Phoenix Five, now this. Interesting.

Terry Dodson draws great ladies, so of course the pencils here are wonderful. I like his Black Widow a bit more than Magik, but that might be due to my own character preference. Widow’s face is particularly great in that soul-sword scene (the dialogue is pretty amusing too).


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Batman #10


You gotta admit comic books are pretty dang funny. I mean, a long-lost evil brother? That has conveniently never been mentioned before? That’s soap opera territory, for certain. I don’t really have a problem with it, although I certainly don’t think that Scott Snyder had laid out enough clues about lil’ Thomas Wayne’s origin. (I will go back and check to see if the one hint in the dialogue is reflected in the art. I sure hope so.) These long-lost relatives always make me laugh, and it sure looks like Tommy is going to get his own series in the upcoming Talon book, but I’d think we’re going to need some redemption for the character. Unless this is another villain book, and if so, how is this one different from Deathstroke or Voodoo? Heck, Batman & Robin’s Damian could end up being VERY similar if the Scott Snyder isn’t careful. Ah well, this is a new Batman anyway, right?

Basically, as for the issue itself, I really feel like I missed a chapter or two. How did Batman get the clue about that rich lady at the start of the comic? Was that in Batman #9, or a tie-in that I didn’t read? It’s also a tad disappointing seeing Bats go from on the run to a nice boss fight. Taking down the Court wasn’t that tough after all, it seems. (Or more likely, the actual battle all took place in tie-ins that I don’t read!)

The Jarvis Pennyworth (hee hee) back-up is sort of a cheat, just there to show “yes, this is for real, Tommy Wayne exists!” Other than that, I’m not sure what we’re getting out of this back-up. Very strange.

Greg Capullo’s art continues to impress. I do really like Talon’s new suit, he’s got great potential to be a lasting Gotham bad guy. Batman continues to look imposing and powerful when rendered by Capullo’s pencils. I also liked the small glimpses we got of the depression-era penthouse in the opening pages.


Looks like I missed the point, and this Thomas Wayne is going to be the Nu52 Owlman rather than the Talon in the upcoming series. Whoops!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Avengers Academy #31

So the lesson learned in these last two issues is that Christos Gage needs to be writing Hercules more regularly. Herc simply steals the show in these two issues. I think I prefer him in this issue over last month, simply because I’m not reminded of his temporary loss of powers. I’m not sure Herc really belongs as an instructor for the Academy, but man, he’s a great guest lecturer, and I would be thrilled to see Gage write him again.

There’s a fun scene where Tigra takes on the mind-wiped Sebastian Shaw, and he comments about how tough she is. I appreciate that Gage is repeatedly having his villains comment on Tigra’s coolness, but eventually she’s got to show it on the page. I’m not saying she needs to beat up Dr. Doom, but maybe a win over Kraven the Hunter or some other B-tier villain would be better than having B-level guys say “yeah, she’s pretty good.”

Sebastian Shaw is another problem for me. I’m simply not interested in him as a mind-wiped, confused man. He’s a great, classic villain, and giving this blank dude two whole issues seems like too much. Especially since his actions this month make last month’s fighting meaningless.

Tom Grummett’s art cracks me up. I’ve always enjoyed his art, but there is a splash page in the open of the book with a teenage girl with a bare bottom. I mean, I don’t know who that blue girl is (Transonic, maybe?) but I swear she is not wearing any clothes. I can’t believe Marvel is OK with a naked teenage girl on the X-Men!

Plot-wise, this is about as thing a crossover as they come. There are some nice character moments (as always). Gage really knows the Marvel U, past and present. He’s got a great handle on his characters. But these constant ancillary tie-ins have got to stop!


Monday, June 11, 2012

Back-Issue Review: Uncanny X-Force #5.1

The fact that I’m so into comics should tell you that I have a hard time letting go of my childhood. When a comic features favorite villains FROM that childhood? Well, that’s when I get very happy about my four-color hobby.

Uncanny X-Force #5.1 is a free giveaway on the Marvel App. I’ve had it for awhile now, but finally cracked it open. Yee haw! My first Comic was Uncanny X-Men #205 featuring Lady Deathstrike and Cole, Macon, and Reese from the Hellfire Club. Rick Remender must have a soft spot for the same characters, because this issue is all about the Reavers, the cybernetic gang of baddies from the late 80’s early 90’s (a gang that features the four characters listed above).

It’s interesting watching the X-Force team interact during this issue. Wolverine and Psylocke (the British version) were core X-Men at the time, but Angel was busy over in X-Factor, so he doesn’t have quite the history that his teammates do. Fantomex and Deadpool don’t really need the history, neither gets a ton to do other than show up and look cool for a few seconds. Very quickly the story breaks down to Wolverine vs. Deathstrike and Angel and Psylocke vs. the Reavers. The Hellfire commandos factor in later, but they don’t seem to offer much of a challenge by themselves.

This is a hell of a fight between Wolvie and Lady Deathstrike. Her vicious plan is in character, but she seems to take a lot of pleasure in the straight-up gutting she brings to Wolverine. Remender even keeps her alive at the close of the issue; too much potential in her to take her off the board like the does the other Reavers. Of course, they are robots and cyborgs, so I’m not too worried about them being gone forever either.

Rafael Albuquerque is a DC talent, so I’m not used to seeing him draw Marvel characters. He does a nice job with the exaggerated features on Lady Deathstrike especially. (It probably helps that she looks so much like a vampire from American Vampire.) He does a nice job taking the original designs by Barry Windsor-Smith and Marc Silvestri and letting them stand, but putting his own blocky spin on them.

This is a fantastic value as a free comic. Heck, I would have paid for it!


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Baltimore: The Plague Ships TPB

Oh man, do I love the Mignola-verse of Dark Horse comics. I’m afraid I have absolutely no memory of Lord Baltimore, even though I think this is the second trade I’ve read starring the character. (Or am I confusing him with the Witchfinder character? I might be…)

Here’s the problem. I just don’t care about vampires. At all. They are so played out in mass media that even turning them into Nazis doesn’t greatly increase my interest. Now, turning them into big bat-monsters? Now that works. Any panel where the vamps are big furry monsters is OK by me. Fortunately, this trade has a slew of other threats too. Floating, Lovecraftian jelly-fish. Fungus-zombies (including deep-sea diving zombies)!!!

Vanessa is Baltimore’s new sidekick and a great POV for the reader. It certainly makes sense that she would be overwhelmed by the madness of Baltimore’s life, it’s just too bad it looks like even her brief association with him might prove troublesome.

I just saw an interview with Mike Mignola where he talks about his co-writers on the Dark Horse horror books. It seems he gives the germ of an idea, and leaves it to his co-writers to script and hammer out. That means that Christopher Golden handles the heavy lifting for Lord Baltimore. Golden sets some absolutely fantastic set pieces, many of which would look spectacular in a film. Can you imagine seeing Baltimore chasing a bunch of Nazi zombies onto a blimp in the middle of a lightning storm?

Ben Stenbeck has a habit of pulling his “camera” back and just drawing the outline of his characters. Sometimes the trick works, with hordes of monsters, zombies, or vampires. But I found it a bit distracting when he used it with his main characters. Seeing dialogue bubbles popping out of featureless faces is just a bit jarring. He does a wonderful job with the sunken zombies, though. The variety in costume, diving suit, and implement is a joy to examine. The sketches in the rear of the trade add a lot too, you can see the time that went into each design.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Secret Warriors v4: Last Ride of the Howling Commandos HC

Well this is interesting. I figured half the Howling Commandos have been dead for years anyway; they died for me when I read the excellent Nick Fury vs. Shield series in the late ‘80’s. Now Hickman is getting us back to that point with the elimination of a lot of the Commandos in this trade.

This book HEAVILY ties in to Siege, and any reader unfamiliar with that storyline is going to be lost. I don’t remember Norman Osborn being a big antagonist in this book, but Fury is clearly gunning for him in this collection. It’s fairly easy to breeze over these portions of the book.

The more interesting parts of the trade involve the Commandos and their strike on a Chinese Hydra outpost. Only two SHIELD agents make it out alive, as I can tell: Dum Dum Dugan and Jasper Sitwell. (Alexander Pierce makes it out before the final battle, along with his caterpillar team. He’s still looking cut!) Gabe Jones, Eric Koenig, and more all get chopped up by Gorgon and the forces of Hydra. As near as I can tell, most of the previously introduced Howling Commandos merc company gets wiped out in this collection. Add that to the Countess Allegra DeFontaine turning bad in the last trade and Clay Quartermain getting killed in Jeph Loeb’s Hulk, and SHIELD is rapidly running out of agents I know. (Jimmy Woo left long ago for Agents of Atlas, too.)

The art is by Alexadro Vitti, and he’s got a very recognizable style. This comic stars almost all men, and every one has a heavy brow and bushy eyebrows. He seems to like drawing low caps on his characters too. The art isn’t bad, but it seems like he’s trying to do a Stefano Caselli impression and isn’t quite hitting it.

I can appreciate Jonathan Hickman reminding everyone what a brilliant super-spy Fury is, but the melancholy tone of the collection keeps this from being a fun read.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Winter Soldier #6

This is the best issue of Winter Soldier so far. I’m not sure if that is because Ed Brubaker is back to the noir-ish world where Bucky works best or what, but I found myself way more interested in a new villain and opening moves than on Lucia Von Bardas’ plot from the opening arc.

Leonid is the last sleeper trained by Bucky Barnes to show up in the pages, but he’s clearly the most dangerous. Freed from his programming, he’s got a weird obsession with super-heroes in general and the Winter Soldier in particular. I’m not sure if “you should have woken me up better!” is much of a motivation for a villain to go after a hero, but this new guys is so interesting it’s fine with me. Leonid actually seems competent, and his actions at the close of the issue prove that he’s willing to do some awful things to achieve his goals.

I’m enjoying Bucky’s supporting cast more and more. Jasper Sitwell is a bit of a cold fish, but that puts him at nice odds with Black Widow. The Widow is a perfect partner for Bucky; as an ex-Soviet spy, she’s got all sorts of plot-relevant insight that pops up all the time. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Falcon show up, he and Bucky got along so well when Bucky Cap was on the scene.

Michael Lark’s moody art is perfect for the book. I think we could just rotate through old Gotham Central artists and we’d be in good shape. I do wish that more artists could capture that 70’s vibe on the Widow, though. She’s got such a great look, but it’s hard to show off in her limited panel time. And surely Leonid is going to get some kind of costume, right?


Thursday, June 7, 2012

AvX #5

So is it just me, or were Jonathan Hickman’s comments about AvX #4 a little strange? It seemed like he was disengaged from the core plot of the series when he said something like “only the editors know which book that happened in” about Hope getting a Blackbird and some beer for Logan. I wasn’t impressed with that issue at all, and now I’m wondering about Hickman’s excitement level for the issue. Matt Fraction seemed to get a lot more to do in issue 5.

Maybe it’s just me cheering for the underdog, but I find myself cheering for the X-Men, just because they are so frigging overmatched. They are totally the bad guys in this story; reasonable Captain America just wants to take Hope into custody while the X-Men are fighting for Cyclops’ baseless hunch. I’m glad they are sticking together, but how could anyone rationally support Cyclops’ argument?

I wonder how much freedom, if any, Fraction had in choosing his powered-up X-Men. (SPOILERS!) I mean, Cyke, White Queen, and Namor make sense, but Colossus and Magik are getting a ton of limelight in this thing, and I’ve got to think most civilians don’t know who they are. I’m not complaining, though, because getting the Phoenix Force grew back Colossus’ hair. He needed that!

And speaking of engagement, I love the way John Romita Jr’s art seems to go up and down in quality based on the script. Ed Brubaker’s issue three looked fantastic, and once again, this issue is very pretty. Gone are the blurry faces and the oddly shaped bodies (at least on the focus of the panel. There are a still a few background shots like that). The characters at the core of the scene always look great, especially crazy Cyclops.

I dug the designs for the PhoeniX-Men, especially Namor the shirtless wonder and Emma Frost’s tiny, tiny suit. I mean, her suit is literally the Phoenix logo covering her naughty bits and THAT’S ALL. Oh, she does have sleeve and boots. Cyke’s new mask is pretty dang sweet, I could get used to that for awhile too.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

American Vampire HC v2

It’s amazing what you can accomplish with a good protagonist.

Scott Snyder introduced us to Pearl Jones back in the first collection, but she spent almost all of that trade as a victim. I find her a lot more likable now that she’s out kicking butt with her vampire powers. Skinner Sweet is a great villain, but he was the star of the first trade, and I found him so distasteful I just wanted to see him suffer. Unfortunately, there were no heroes in that trade that seemed up to the task. Now Pearl seems to have some potential. Plus, we get some great new protagonists in Sherriff Cashel and Felicia Book. They may be a lot more “generic” in a vampire story (good-hearted cop and vamp-hunter) but they give me someone to cheer for.

I like where Snyder leaves Cashel at the end of the story, but I hope this isn’t the last we see of him. He’s a neat character and with his new burden, there is a lot of potential in following his journey. I know Felicia Book will stick around, and this is Pearl’s comic as much as Skinner’s.

It’s taking me some time to get used to liking a book about different vampires fighting each other, but I think I’m coming around. The clever use of the different breeds (including the titular “American Vampire”) is helping me bridge my distaste for the vampire genre. It’s amazing what actually caring about your characters can accomplish.

It’s also neat seeing how pervasive the vampire culture is into the world of this comic. Back-room drainings, business dealings, and hiding in plain sight are pretty much the only way this stuff would work. I’m glad there are some vamp hunters trying to keep things in check.

Rafael Albuquerque continues doing solid work. He doesn’t have the most realistic style, but there’s no doubting the mood on his pages. The heavy blacks and reds establish the tone from the cover to the last page.

I didn’t plan on continuing with this series, but I already had a pull request in at my library. I’m glad I decided to give the book another shot, it’s a lot more gripping than volume 1.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

X-Men Legacy #267

I love Rogue. I love She-Hulk. In fact, they may be my top two comic book ladies. So seeing the two of them go at it is pretty great. Especially with Rogue channeling She-Hulk’s powers!

Rogue beat the Avengers single-handedly in her first appearance, so it only makes sense that she’d tear up this smaller team now. Sure, she gets a little back up from the other X-Men, but for the most part, this is her show. (How cool was it seeing Gambit fight Moon Knight? I want more of that in the Versus title!) I figured Iron Man was a little too busy to appear in this book, but Gage makes the most of it. At this rate, Iron Man could show up in every title and you could just try to figure out which armor was the newest, and therefore, occupied.

It’s nice seeing Shadowcat show up and take some action. Since I read Wolverine & the X-Men in trade, I haven’t seen much of her in awhile. More importantly, this book is the catalyst that sends more big names over to the X-Men’s roster in AvX. Rogue, Gambit, Shadowcat, even Cannonball will be welcome additions.

Rafa Sandoval does not like to draw backgrounds. There are a lot of good fights in this, and they look great (She-Hulk vs. Rogue, people). He does have a habit of just going with a solid color in the background of almost every panel. Even if he does put in some other detail, it’s pretty simple. It also would have helped to put Shadowcat in her costume, I miss those blue puffy sleeves.


Monday, June 4, 2012

Green Lantern Corps #9

Can someone explain why Kyle Rayner isn’t listed with the GL’s who’ve lost their rings recently? I don’t read New Guardians, but I thought he was booted out of the corps too? After the events of this issue, I think that leaves Guy Gardner as the only “official” Earth man serving in the GL Corps. Who would have thought?

Peter Tomasi has been writing GL Corps for awhile now, and it shows. I’m really pleased that the corps has enough background members that I feel like I recognize a lot of the aliens showing up in crowd shots. Heck, I barely know who Vandor is, but I love seeing him jump to John Stewart’s defense. If he’s not careful, he’s going to become perfect to get killed in an upcoming story!

And boy, do I love the Alpha Lanterns. The GL Corps always walks that fine line of fascism, and the Alpha’s stroll right over it. They’re robotic jerks who seem to take a tad too much pleasure in functioning as GL internal affairs. Seeing how the rest of the corps responds to them is great too. The GLs may disagree on Stewart’s actions, but they seem pretty united in disliking the Alphas.

Fernando Pasarin is not an artist who takes shortcuts. There are a LOT of crowd scenes in this issue, and Pasarin always takes the time to fill in the panels with GLs. And recognizable GLs at that! I want to know more about some of these folks. A mummy Lantern? Tell me more! Brik, Hannu, and the other named Lanterns always stick out, but the level of detail here is tremendous.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Secret Avengers #27

Marvel’s accelerated publishing schedule is beginning to catch up with me. I picked up this comic to review it, but I was having a devil of a time remembering what happened. After opening it, I realized that I hadn’t read it yet; I was confusing it with the last issue of Avengers. Too many issues in one month dealing with the same story, people!

In any case, Rick Remender is still doing a great job with this title. War Machine gets a lot more to do in this issue, and Remender has a nice handle on his voice. Good old Jim Rhodes was knocked out when things weren’t half as bleak as they are when he wakes up. Thor also comes off like a leader here; we usually see Thor backing up Cap or Iron Man, but I really enjoy seeing him taking charge. He talks up Captain Britain to try and get his confidence back up, and takes charge when his team gets split up. The split works well; there are plenty of nice character moments for the entire roster (except Protector, but who cares?)

I’m curious who is behind this Kree manipulation. It sure looks like the Supreme Intelligence isn’t calling the shots. Too bad, I like that big brain. I’m also still unsure if this is the real Captain Marvel or not. He certainly has the memories, but how many times has Marvel teased us now?

I still love Renato Guedes’ “beautiful” take on an Avengers comic. Beast’s (in ape form) has painstakingly illustrated hair. Thor has a distinctive nose that keeps him from looking like Captain Britain. This looks like a romance comic or something, but man, when it’s time for Thor to smash someone’s head with a hammer, it looks pretty sweet too.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Daredevil #13

OK, so NOW Mark Waid is wrapping up the Omega Drive arc. I’ll admit I’m stumped on the pacing here, this story seemed like it was ready to wrap up two issues ago, but we got a date issue and a three-part mini-crossover before the whole thing finally got a bow on it.

This book is almost all fighting. After last issue’s date interlude (with a nice cliffhanger) it’s time for DD to pay up for taking the Omega Drive from all those mega crime organizations. (I also like the way the captions were correct in those last pages of issue 12, but we trusted the art, not DD’s thoughts.)

It makes sense that the story would close like this. DD is fighting above his weight class taking on all these bad guy organizations, so I don’t mind him calling on some of his many hero friends to get things back under control. Khoi Pham does a nice job telegraphing the eventual reveal in the early pages; there are definitely some layouts that don’t make sense until the reader realizes what is happening. Pham’s art is a bit too blocky and simple. If I wasn’t comparing it against the fantastic other artists we’ve seen on the series so far, it would be fine. But we’ve had some doozies, and I want them back.

I’m not sure what it is that Foggy found in Matt’s desk, but it sure seems that whatever it is, it will end up being the most important part of the issue. I’m putting my money on Bullseye’s head, but that’s more because I hope for a Deadwood-ian opportunity for Matt Murdock to deliver some great monologues. I hope it’s not as simple as the silly black DD costume.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Batman Annual #1

It does bother me, seeing that #1 up in the left-hand corner of the newest Batman Annual. But I suppose it goes with the territory these days, huh?

This book may be labeled as part of the Night of the Owls crossover, but that’s only because some of the characters mention that such a thing exists. Instead, Scott Snyder and co-writer James Tynon IV deliver one of my favorite types of Batman stories: the villain feature.

Mr. Freeze gets a little bit of a retcon here, but for the most part, this is Victor Fries as we know and love him. He’s got the cold gun and the burning love for a frozen woman; he just gets some additional childhood trauma on the side. I don’t really have a problem with the update to Fries’ romantic life; I don’t think it harms the character in any way to redefine his most important relationship.

I enjoy seeing Nightwing and Robin show up too. Their presence makes this feel even more like an “annual-worthy” event, it isn’t just a normal Batman vs. villain deal. I was surprised that Mr. Freeze beat the two of them so easily, but again, it did serve a greater story purpose. After all, would we have been suitably impressed by Batman’s bad-ass, heating-coil gloves if everyone had them?

I don’t recognize Jason Fabok’s art, but he has a style similar to Michael Janin’s over on JL Dark. Fabok is really good, delivering subtle shading and emotions when necessary, but able to crank up the action when called for too. The panel where Batman busts loose from the ice prison was fantastic. I would love to get my hands on an original page from this issue.