Sunday, September 30, 2012

Thunderbolts: Fear Itself TPB

Goodness, do I love Jeff Parker’s Thunderbolts.

I accidentally missed this trade, and I actually ran out to the comic store to pick it up, that’s how excited I was to see how the T’bolts got time lost!

Fear Itself was a bit unfocused. The core title had a bunch of weird themes and villains that never fit quite right together. But by keeping the focus on the T’bolts and their world, Parker doesn’t have that problem. The book opens with the Fear Hammer crashing into the Raft, the super-max prison the Thunderbolts call home. Juggernaut goes crazy and starts smashing stuff, and the walls come tumbling down. That leaves the large Thunderbolts cast dispersed all over the prison, trying to decide how they’ll handle this chance at freedom.

The Alpha team all do their jobs. Songbird, Fixer, Mach V, Ghost, Moonstone, and US Agent all immediately set to returning the prisoners to their cells. Some may be reluctant (Moonstone and Ghost), but they try to do the right thing. Former Alpha Crossbones gets to make it back into the world, too.

The Beta team is a bit craftier. Centurious, Satana, Shocker, Boomerang, Troll and Mr. Hyde take a lot more pleasure in beating the crap out of the inmates. Centurious is smart enough to take advantage of the chaos too.

The rest of the book involves the combined teams taking on the Juggernaut and some of Sin’s other monsters on the shores of Chicago. When things get too tough, the Betas decide they have had enough…

I absolutely love Parker’s characterization with these guys. Boomerang and Shocker are particular faves, as low-level thugs who know their place. They follow along in the wake of their betters and don’t seem to bummed at the role. Satana is a great addition; she serves as a powerhouse team member and a great plot-device to keep the story spinning.

I never dreamed I’d enjoy Kev Walker’s art this much. When I saw his original sketches, I was very concerned for this book. But he’s made this book his own and I love his take on Juggernaut, Songbird, and Mach V. Declan Shalvey keeps the tone consistent, and the handoff between the two artists is flawless. Who would have guessed that punk-rock Songbird could be this cool?


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fall 2012 Sublist Shakedown!

I’m trying really hard to still be excited about comic books. I’m not sure if it’s the state of the industry, the start of fantasy football season, or what, but I’m finding it tough to force myself out to the comic store during my lunch break on Wednesdays. Some weeks I come in a few days late, an inconceivable idea for most of my life.

My feelings on DC’s output are clear. As of this fall, I will be down to one DC comic a month, Peter Tomasi’s Green Lantern Corps. I also ordered that crazy online deal that gave you a year’s subscription to Green Lantern and Batman for about 10 bucks each, so those will be coming in the mail, but I assume they’ll be late. That will be it for my DC reviews from here on out. (Barring a re-set to the old DCU. I’m still holding out hope!)

Marvel NOW has me pretty excited. There are a lot of good-looking books, and I’m going to get a lot of them. But I can’t help but feel that the TWELVE issues of AvX has been too long. The momentum is gone from the book, and at this point I’m just waiting for the story to wrap up. The crossovers are mostly pointless, and it seems that only when the books return to their normally scheduled stories (for example, Secret Avengers) do things pick back up. Too many writers have been treading water waiting for AvX to conclude.

In Marvel NOW, I’ll be buying floppies of titles that come with digital download codes, and probably buying digital copies of $2.99 titles. 70 long boxes is enough!

I will continue purchasing the Transformers titles and Hypernaturals as they hit $1.99 digitally. Are people interested in reviews on these books if they are a month late? Maybe weekend posts?

Here’s the sublist for Fall 2012:

1. All-New X-Men

2. Avengers

3. Avenging Spider-Man

4. Batman Inc.* (until Morrison leaves)

5. Captain America

6. Daredevil

7. Fantastic Four*

8. FF*

9. Green Lantern Corps

10. Hawkeye

11. Hypernaturals*

12. Indestructible Hulk

13. Invincible

14. Iron Man

15. Red She-Hulk*

16. Thor

17. Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye*

18. Transformers: Robots in Disguise*

19. Uncanny Avengers

20. Walking Dead

21. Winter Soldier (till Brubaker leaves)

22. Wolverine & the X-Men

*Digital purchase

Friday, September 28, 2012

Secret Avengers #31

It’s like Rick Remender is trying to get me upset! I pride myself on knowing every minor character in the Marvel Universe, but I don’t know who that octopus guy is in the current Masters of Evil. But he keeps…showing…up! It drives me crazy every time I see the guy that I have no idea who he is? Is he from Force of Nature? Is he an old Sub-Mariner villain? Someone that Scourge killed? Who???? I can’t stay angry, though, because I spotted the Bi-Beast strolling down the street in one panel, and any comic with Bi-Beast is automatically twice as good.

The pickins are slim for the Secret Avengers. With Captain Britain and Giant Man busy dealing with Father’s weird robot army elsewhere, there really isn’t any backup for the main team in Bagalia. Venom and Ant-Man are the last two guys standing, and it’s just lucky that Ant-Man’s new compromised nature has him still towing the line. Black Widow does pop in to start a great fight against Hawkeye (on a moving passenger jet!), but most of the heavy lifting falls to Venom and Eric O’Grady.

I don’t remember the Secret Avengers having teleport tech. Did I blank on that? I mean, Black Widow popping right into a flying plane is pretty darn convenient!

I’m also quite pleased that Max Fury isn’t totally out of the picture yet. For an LMD copy, he’s an original villain and I hope he sticks around a bit longer.

I stand corrected on Matteo Scalera. I didn’t love his work at first because I was comparing it to Gabriel Hardman. That’s a rough spot, because I love Hardman’s work above most others these days. That said, Scalera is better than I gave him credit for. Black Widow looks fantastic. His Venom is consistent with that hero’s solo title, but still unique. And Scalera outdoes himself with Ant-Man. He looks great taking on those jets.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Avengers #30

See, I knew you could do it, Bendis! This is much more what I was hoping for with the Avengers tie-ins during AvX. Rather than re-telling stories already published in other titles, this issue has a plot of its own.

Mr. Negative and his Inner Demons are raiding a SHIELD storage facility to steal Sin’s Nazi power armor from Fear Itself. Mr. Negative makes numerous references to taking advantage of the chaos of AvX, so this does quality as a tie-in. Its fun seeing a villain from a different Marvel neighborhood show up in an Avengers title. Mr. Negative never really seems like too much of a problem, but it’s still a nice treat to see Hawkeye and Spider-Woman take him on.

I still don’t really understand the Hawkeye/Spider-Woman romance. The characters don’t seem like that natural a combination, but I suppose adding another heroine to Hawkeye’s conquest list is something. Spider-Woman comes off as a major whiner through this whole issue, only restraining herself on the last few pages. I remember Mockingbird and Hawk always having a relationship like this too, so what is it about Hawkeye that leads him into these couplings? Weird.

Spider-Woman is justifiably upset, since a bunch of SHIELD agents die at the start of the issue. A few seconds faster, and the Avengers could have saved them, so maybe Hawkeye’s use of jokes after so many casualties is a bit flip. It’s too bad Spider-Woman’s dialogue goes a tad too far, this is ALMOST an all-ages book I could let my daughter bring to school.

Walter Simonson turns in his best art on the series so far. Hawkeye’s terrible suit actually looks OK through most of the issue. I think part of the trick is making Hawk’s goggles seem more form-fitting, more like a mask than sunglasses. Simonson also does a nice job on Spider-Woman, she’s sleek and fast-looking, and her action sequences feel different from the other combatants.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Daredevil #18

Wow. I’ve always liked Mark Waid’s work, but he is truly outdoing himself on this title.

Once again, DD is the best book of the month. After all the chaos of the past storylines, I’d understand the need to quiet things down for awhile; instead Waid ratchets up the tension once again.

We’ve got an interesting case that Foggy just can’t resist. Foggy may not be a super hero, but the guy always does the right thing. I also love the throwaway line that he’s giving up a trip with his lady. Foggy often has ladies around, doesn’t he?

Meanwhile, Matt Murdock has a bit of a surprise himself. A long-missing character shows up in an inopportune moment, and DD is at a loss. I’m glad to see Foggy and Matt immediately needing each other, it gives a nice glimmer of hope that these best friends will be able to patch things up.

Clearly the new villain is doing something with holograms or hallucinations. My first guess is Mr. Fear, but that’s a bit obvious, isn’t it? I love the quick introduction and removal of a new mob faction. Waid does a great job establishing character and outlook in only a few panels.

And those panels are beautiful. Chris Samnee is excelling on this title. It’s gorgeous from start to finish. The pages are dark and moody, but DD still jumps off the page. DD is a bright spot in this world, and it keeps the situation from ever becoming depressing. DD has long been a depressing character, but Samnee’s exciting pencils keep this feeling like a swashbuckler story.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Generation Hope: Five Lights TPB

Now this is a title that no one demanded. I mean no insult to the creative team, but did anyone really want this book? It’s basically a new New Mutants title, but in the climate of Utopia and the imminent AvX, Hope’s little band seems like it doesn’t really belong anywhere. In this trade they are basically acting like a X-Men field team, when they really don’t belong in that role. It’s odd. Kieron Gillen does a lot with what he’s got, but still, an odd choice.

I must be getting old. I can barely remember the codenames for these new characters. The speedster (Gabriel) seems like a lot of fun and it has been awhile since we saw such a horndog on one of these teen teams. Someone needs to fill out that Beast Boy role! Teon is fun too, as a feral mutant who is Wolverine’d to the max. Now that he’s lost all his higher brain functions, he has an animalistic response for everything. Playing him off Wolverine is an obvious, but rewarding exercise.

The flying gal and the temperature gal don’t have as much to their personalities so far. Hope is clearly the child of Cable, and its fun seeing her demand her place at the X-Men’s table. But this book wouldn’t work without Cyclops, Wolverine, Rogue, and Emma Frost making this feel like an X-book.

The choice of antagonist doesn’t play out as expected, but I am amused that we can basically have a character from Akira join the X-Men. Kenji sprouts tentacles and flesh-tech merged limbs like they are going out of style. Not really a crowd-pleasing power, the guy clearly is going to turn bad. I didn’t like seeing Hope channeling his powers either. I think I can plainly state that flesh-warping powers are always gross, no matter who’s using them.

Salva Espin does a nice job with the youthful faces. His X-Men look a tad young, but he does a great job with Kenji’s gross-out power set. I’m also a tad unclear on exactly how young Idie is supposed to be. Is she really just 14? And Hope is 17 or 18? Those are some important years of teenager-hood!


Monday, September 24, 2012

Wolverine's Revenge TPB

Jason Aaron has put Wolverine through the ringer over the course of this series, and it’s been fun to watch. This was a particularly entertaining arc, as Wolverine tracks down the Red Right Hand. This is the evil crew that sent Wolvie’s soul to Hell and turned the X-Men against their teammate.

There’s something so fun about Aaron’s villains. Cannonfoot, Shadow Stalker, Fire Knives, and Saw Fist. You can’t beat those names! (Daken shows up too, but in a plotting capacity rather than a combat one.) Wolverine simply tears through these guys and its great seeing Wolvie talk smack and hurt the overmatched doofballs. Aaron does a nice job with a quick Hand storyline too. I know the character featured is a villain, but how can you not feel bad for her after the life she’s led?

Of course, there’s a twist, but I’m not going to ruin it. That twist leads to a two-issue epilogue of Logan punishing himself in the wild once again. This guy sure goes on a lot of quests to put himself through the ringer.

Renato Guedes handles the Red Right Hand issues. His design work for the new villains is solid, with Cannonfoot being an easy favorite. I also like the way Guedes gives the Red Right Hand’s infernal ally a sense of dread. Goran Sudzuka has a wonderful clean style. He has a whole bunch of hero headshots that look fantastic. He’s got an almost Jamie McKelvie-level of detail. Rogue looks fantastic. Captain America looks solid and heroic. Hulk looks more handsome than I usually picture him, but again, great work. Sudzuka needs a team-book stat! (Or does he already have one that I’m not aware of?)


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Green Lantern Corps #0

So this is really weirding me out. I can usually pretend that Green Lantern Corps is just chugging right along without the reboot, but that doesn’t work here.

I remember Guy Gardner being a “close second” when Hal Jordan was selected for his ring. If I remember correctly, didn’t Hal just get the nod because he was close to Abin Sur, and Guy was all the way in Baltimore?

Peter Tomasi keeps Guy’s Maryland ties, but as near as I can tell, Guy is just the second choice for the 2814 sector. Guy is a bit more of a rebel, and I don’t recall all the cop ties in his family, but it certainly works for the character. The best part of the issue is definitely when Guy creates his signature look. The villain is pretty generic, and I found the thugs on Earth to be a lot more interesting and threatening.

Tomasi’s death count is reasonable. A bunch of GLs die in the first few pages, and Guy’s brother loses his partner in a shootout. So that’s only a handful of deaths.

Fernando Pasarin does a nice job with the Earth-based work. We see so much cosmic stuff out of him; it’s interesting seeing thugs, cops, and regular horses instead of centaurs and crazy robots. Just one question: no bowl cut?


Saturday, September 22, 2012

X-Men Legacy #273

Here's a quick one for ya!

There isn’t much more to say about this one. I like Christos Gage’s writing. I like Rafa Sandoval’s art. I really like Rogue as a character.

But I don’t like seeing Rogue exiled to some random alien world dealing with a sci-fi plot that is not a great fit for the character and is really pointless in Marvel’s current world. I simply don’t get it.

I hope Gage has a chance to wrap this up a bit more before he leaves the title.

Pretty cover, though!


Friday, September 21, 2012

Avengers Academy #37

Christos Gage has to wrap things up in a hurry; fortunately he’s got a large enough cast to get everything done. This Final Exam storyline had a lot of plates spinning, and when they start to drop, it takes almost everyone in the book to do their part. (Including the return of a missing faculty-member.)

The Alchemist’s powers suddenly work a lot more effectively in combat, but he has to when taking on this many heroes. By far, the best use of his powers is when he turns X-23’s sweat into acid. Ouch! Enchantress focuses on White Tiger and Reptil, leaving the bulk of the team to deal with the Alchemist. Finesse gets a nice moment, and its one that I’m not sure I blame her for.

Tom Grummett’s clean, cartoony style is great for most comics, but the big moment with X-23 and Finesse taking down the Alchemist is a bit less dramatic than I’d expect. Or perhaps that’s just because I’ve read so many modern DC comics where the guy would be eviscerated! In any case, Grummett excels at drawing teen characters. Also, someone’s going to need to do something about Mettle’s eyes. He looks too ridiculous with those big round eyeballs in his metal head.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Walking Dead #102

Rick Grimes, you sneaky bastard.

Once again, Robert Kirkman has me excited for the next issue. Negan is a great new foil, and I sure hope that Rick hands out some revenge for what happened in issue 100. That said, this feels like a story that went on too long.

While Andrea didn’t experience the trauma of issue 100, the reader did. So having Rick spend pages re-describing what happened seems kind of pointless. We check in with quite a few of the supporting cast, including a few new faces. Michonne sure sounds like she needs a bit of a vacation, so perhaps Rick’s new attitude might be just what she needs. I love seeing Eugene so angry and hungry for revenge. He had a weird relationship with Abraham, but he’s obviously upset that his friend is dead. And if he can do what he says he can… if he can make bullets… hoo boy.

Charlie Adlard does a wonderful job with the cast’s faces. There are a lot of silent panels where the storytelling is purely in the art, and Adlard pulls it off. At the close of the issue, the anger in Andrea, Carl, and that other gal’s face is crystal clear. Yet Michonne looks accepting with a tinge of sadness. There is subtlety there that is extremely hard to nail in a drawing.

It says a lot that a disappointing issue of Walking Dead is still pretty darn good.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Captain America #636

Cullen Bunn impresses me with his overarching plot in this title. I had figured we were in for a string on unrelated plots, but clearly, there is an endgame here. Kashmir Vennema first showed up in the Hawkeye team-up, and she’s been a thorn in Cap’s side ever since. Now things get more complicated as we find out just how complicated Kashmir really is.

The book is filled with internal monologues, all from women calling themselves Kashmir Vennema. I’m still a tad unclear on whether these are alternate versions of the same person, or clones, or different women who have taken on one identity. In any case, it’s a cool idea that gives Cap and company some new challenges.

To further give this a sense of continuity, Cap is working with his partners from the last arcs. Hawkeye shows up for an interrogation, and Iron Man is giving technical support as Cap takes on the Kashmir’s current targets; the Secret Empire.

Black Widow is a force of nature in this (if nature shot bullets). She’s popping off alternate Kashmir’s pretty regularly. I suppose this could be the regular Widow, but I’m getting a vibe off her that makes me think this might be an alternate Earth version. Natasha isn’t quite this bloodthirsty.

Ah, Francesco Francavilla! I’ve missed your moody, action-packed artwork! After his revelatory work on Black Panther, I think I’m a life-long fan. Black Widow looks fantastic, Cap’s shield-work is great, and maybe, just maybe, Francavilla can handle Hawkeye’s current costume. My highest praise!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye #1-6

Transformers on Star Trek. That is what this title is about, plain and simple. I’m not sure if James Roberts pitched the book that way or not, but that’s what this book is all about. And guess what? It works!

I was sure I’d enjoy the “classic” title more than the clear spin-off, but here we are. It appreciate the dialogue and world building Barber is doing here, and while I like the sister title, this is the best Transformer book on the stands right now.

Hot Rod/Rodimus had big plans to go find some missing leaders of ancient Cybertron, but those plans were scrapped when the Lost Light ship blew up in Cybertron’s orbit. Now the crew is blasted to the far side of the galaxy, no closer to accomplishing their mission, AND all their comrades think they are dead.

I’ve seen some folks complain that everyone in this book is a smart-a$$, but that’s not entirely true. It’s more appropriate to say this is a true team book, and it’s going for a certain vibe. That cover is a good clue. This is a JLI-type book with snappy dialogue and personalities played for laughs. Ultra Magnus is a boring, by-the-book dork, and Red Alert is a paranoid maniac. Rodimus is overconfident; basically, he’s Ryker from Next Generation with his own ship. The problem is, it doesn’t seem like most of the Transformers on board really listen that much.

Almost every character with a speaking part gets a defining personality. Ratchet and his declining hand-dexterity. Rung as a psychiatrist with a bunch of insight, or even Pipes (or Blue Huffer as I knew him) and his love of getting to go on missions. This is a really strong comic with a stellar cast. The tone of the book changes from issue to issue. High adventure, Alien rip-offs, and even zombies all show up in the first six issues.

Nick Roche and Alex Milne stray a bit more from core designs, but that’s OK. Its got a big cast, and each character stands out. The main characters are Rodimus, Ultra Magnus, Ratchet, Drift, Rewind, Red Alert, Rung, Whirl (the ex-Wrecker), Cyclonus (yeah, that Cyclonus), Pipes, First Aid, and a dozen more. Plus the required cameos like Sea Spray, Cosmos, and Hound.

For those of us with too much nostalgia for our favorite childhood toys, this is the perfect book.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Transformers: Robots in Disguise #1-6

I knew I couldn’t resist catching up with the Transformers titles after the relaunch, and thanks to IDW knocking the price on digital copies to $1.99 after a month, I don’t have to. In the past few weeks, I’ve read a TON of Transformers comics, and as a result, I’m way more into the universe than I have been since I was 10.

Robots in Disguise follows a group of transformers as they attempt to re-populate and rebuild Cybertron. After Optimus Prime headed out for deep space (his presence was too closely tied to the war with the Decepticons), it’s time for Bumblebee to try and take charge. The problem is, all our favorite Decepticons are still on the planet too. While those ‘Cons might claim the war is over and they are done fighting, it sure doesn’t feel that way to Bumblebee’s crew.

Further complicating matters are the Nails. These are other Cybertronians who didn’t take a side in the war. Now that the dust has settled, they are back on Cybertron and want everything to go back to normal. But for both the Autobots and Decepticons, the Nails are cowards who didn’t choose a side. It’s a neat dynamic that lets characters play very different roles than what we remember from our childhood.

This is still the classic Transformers concept, just in a new status quo. The Autobots are still fighting the Decepticons, they are just doing it in space. While More Than Meets the Eye is Transformer stories in a new context, this is a classic-feeling book. John Barber is doing a nice job keeping the characters in line with how you feel they should act. Is it entirely original? No, but it is darn entertaining.

The prominent Transformers in the first six issues are Bumblebee, Wheeljack, Prowl, Iron Hide, Streetwise, Sideswipe, Blur, Silverbolt, Ratbat, Skywarp, Dirge, the Constructicons, and Prowl’s mystery helper. That’s not counting the assumed cameos like Warpath and others. Andrew Griffith has redesigned all these bots with new alt-forms so that we get the robots we know and love, but new vehicles that look suitably futuristic.

IDW seems to put their books on sale regularly. Follow me on Twitter @mrtimbotron and I’ll post when they have their next sale!


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Back Issue Review: JSA Classified #21-22

Don’t let me give you the wrong idea; not all the pre-nu52 books are winners. As I expand my collection of DC books (going in the wrong chronological direction), I’m sure to dig up some stinkers too. This two-parter isn’t very good, but at least it is pretty.

This takes place during the dubious era where Thanagar has been destroyed, and the Hawk-people have all relocated to Rann. Rann now looks like a big desert, with lots of rocks and hillsides, with no interesting flora or fauna. I’m not sure what led to the decision to destroy two different alien locales in the DCU, but that’s the status quo.

To make matters worse, Hawkman is now serving as a peacekeeper on Rann, where his unique look can’t really be as big a deal. He spends these two issues battling Starfire’s sister Blackfire, one of the big bads of this storyline. Her plot is actually resolved here, which is funny for a few reasons. First of all, I was reading a lot of the books that this story spun out of, and I never realized I didn’t finish it. I guess I must not have cared too much! Second, how funny is it that all these limiteds had to get wrapped up in two random issues of JSA Classified? Weird!

Walter Simonson writes and draws these two issues. So of course, they are full of dynamic pencils and great action. I would have liked a bit more diverse a setting, as too many panels consist of rocks, but Simonson does make the outcroppings look interesting. Maybe this was a story Simonson has been waiting to tell, but it sure feels like a last-minute wrap-up to an Infinite Crisis-era mess.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Hulk: Hulk of Arabia TPB

Jeff Parker continues to do no wrong. He’d already turned me on the Red Hulk, turning him from a character that enraged me on sight to one of my new favorites. Now you add it Machine Man? Well, I’m not made of stone here. Adding in one of my favorite Kirby creations, then writing him like this just made this book an easy sell.

Machine Man isn’t a complicated character, but he can be a fascinating one. I love seeing Red Hulk come around on the guy, starting with their common ground in military research. It’s also fantastic seeing Machine Man make his oddball predictions about comic book science, then take satisfaction when he’s correct. I’m thrilled that Aaron Stack will be appearing in the Red She-Hulk title in Marvel NOW.

Arabian Knight is pretty great too, especially with the redesign and focus that Christos Gage worked into the Union Jack series a few years ago. Now, we don’t get as much of the Knight as it seems at first, but man, it works. I actually went back and re-read a lot of dialogue in this collection after a big reveal, and it all totally works. Very nice work from Parker.

The last line-up of the Secret Avengers shows up too, and their use really highlights a thought I had after reading their series. War Machine, Valkyrie, Black Widow, Steve Rogers… this is a real Avengers team. Call them covert if you like, but missions like this (taking on the Red Hulk) make it hard to not rank them as a pretty great “standard” lineup for the Avengers.

In the end, this is a world-building storyline. The Marvel U needs some more locales in the Middle East, and I think there is a lot of potential in the new country established here. Red Hulk doesn’t actually accomplish a ton, but when we’ve got a new super-powered bad guy with regional influence, packing powers with ties to the Rigelians (of Recorder fame), that’s a can’t-miss with me.

Patrick Zircher nails it, as he always does. He gets to do some sweet mythical designs, like the Manticore and the Scorpion gal who show up here. Machine Man’s extendable arms, jet-powered head, and other silly powers don’t look silly when drawn this cool. I’m not a huge fan of Fortean’s huge Redeemer armor, it’s a bit too generic, but all the other super-details look great. I dig Sultan Magus’ design; he’s got a regal look that doesn’t offset his ability to get his hands dirty. I see long-term potential with the character.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Wolverine & the X-Men #16

Has Jason Aaron really stayed away from his new Hellfire Club since the Schism limited series? It’s shocking, but I’m glad that for once, I don’t seem to be missing a chapter in X-Men action.

Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo get to design some sweet new Sentinels. They only get a panel each, but I’d love to see the nano-Sentinel, the Tri-Sentinel, or the all-terrain model in action. The Phoenix Five put a quick stop to this, and that’s the only way that this book crosses over with AvX. This is clearly a case of Aaron setting up the book post-AvX; it’s a good thing I’m already on board. Let’s hope they collect this with an upcoming arc rather than with the AvX material.

Kade Kilgore is a despicable brat, and it’s going to be very exciting seeing him get knocked around by the X-Men.

Bachalo doesn’t get to draw many X-Men; it’s mostly the creepy kids in the Hellfire Club. He still gets to show off his mastery of mood and panel design with some clever flashbacks and action sequences, though.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

AvX #11

So if you’ve avoided this issue’s big spoiler so far, congratulations. I had it ruined for me when I heard that USA Today had a comic article in it, and then bam, spoiled! The real trick is always in the execution, though, so how did Marvel do? I’d say a touch better than OK.

The book opens with Captain America reaching out to the Hulk. In desperate need of more power to take on Cyclops and Emma Frost in their Phoenix –amped state, Cap is willing to enlist the Hulk. He’s got even more help coming when Rogue brings all of the X-Men over to the Avengers side. (Wisconsin represent!) Rogue is an interesting choice to be the mouthpiece for the Avengers, but since she’s on the upcoming Uncanny Avengers lineup, it makes sense. Havok and Cap shake hands (Havok is on the team, too), and Iceman is just hanging out shirtless.

Emma Frost and Cyclops are losing the battle against the Phoenix Force. Both are tempted by the chance to be the one, true host for all that power, but Cyclops takes the plunge when the combined hero army attacks. Olivier Coipel does a wonderful job with the action sequences, the panels are packed with cameos. Bendis gives Hawkeye, Storm, Magneto, Scarlet Witch, and Cap all a nice moment in the sun. Iceman comes on a bit too strong; I’m not sure Bobby Drake would be quite this cruel to his best friend. (Probably a hint of Bendis’ take on the X-Men in advance of his run.)

Part of the problem in a maxi-series like this is that it truly feels like a chaotic series of events. Other than perhaps Cyclops, there are no other characters anchoring the readers' experience. Hulk and Professor X had no role at the start of the series. Hope does not even appear in this issue. Scarlet Witch gets one page. It's odd, a lot has happened in this series, but I'd have a hard time saying it really hit any one character more than any other.

Finally, Cyclops is overtaken by the Phoenix Force and becomes a new Dark Phoenix. The moment that puts ol’ Cyke over the edge is when the kills a long-time ally and realizes he’s as far gone as Jean Grey. LAST CHANCE SPOILER SPACE

So I'm not tremendously broken up over Professor X getting pasted here. He didn't have a huge role in the X-books for years, and I'd think with his powers he can become a disembodied voice rattling around in somebody's head right away.

I certainly hope Cyclops is redeemable after this, but it’s going to be tough. I think Cyclops might have to be off the board for at least 5 years so we’re anxious for him to come back (call it he Scarlet Witch PR program). 


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Green Lantern #0

Man, I love origins that are such a clear snapshot of a specific period of time. Geoff Johns is not subtle here, with the opening page showing our new GL as a child on 9/11. Baz has had a fairly rough life, and it doesn’t get much worse than when he steals a car that came pre-loaded with a terrorist bomb.

I think it’s a bit ridiculous; that Baz would happen to choose to steal a van with a bomb. And he sure doesn’t seem very good, since he’s immediately captured by the cops. But it certainly makes for an intense, high-stakes origin. Most of the issue has no relation to the cosmic adventures of a Green Lantern. Instead, the focus is on Baz’s interrogation so that we can get some quick, solid background on the guy.

Only in the closing moments do we see the ring (possibly with an error) choose Baz to be the new 2814 GL. I sure hope that this title doesn’t start crossing over into the JLA title and with this new Amanda Waller. I’ve been carefully avoiding the rest of the DCU, so I don’t want to have it intrude on my one island of pre-reboot reading.

Doug Mahnke is great, as always. Mahnke makes an interesting choice in Baz’s opening action sequence. If the guy isn’t going to wear a ski-mask when he’s stealing a car, why would he wear one when he’s a GL? Baz doesn’t seem like a gun-nut either, but then we’ve got that hilarious cover telling us otherwise.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Avengers Academy #36

This is clearly a middle chapter of Christos Gage’s swan song on Avengers Academy. I can’t imagine this is going to be anyone’s first issue of the series.

Gage is moving the pieces back into place for the climax. At the start of this arc, he depowered the entire team, and took a lot of the characters away from their status quo. In this issue everyone starts re-setting back to their defaults. Hazmat gets her radiation back; Mettle loses all of his pretty new skin. Reptil and White Tiger each get a quick heart-to-heart with magical beings in their talismans that show where Gage planned to take the characters. (Maybe he’ll get the chance in an unannounced Marvel NOW book.)

The only character that moves forward, rather than catching up, is Striker. The Alchemist makes his powers go haywire, giving Striker some pretty vicious scars. He’s almost in Molecule Man territory. From the opening issue, Striker has seemed like the character most likely to turn bad. That’s why it was so neat seeing him do the right thing last issue. I fear that this disfigurement could push him back towards villainy. Gage has set this up nicely.

Andrea De Vito does a solid job once again. His Byrne-inspired pencils make these newcomers seem like classic Marvel mainstays. I absolutely love the sequence where Mettle gives up his new skin while making out with his lady. His skin actually looks like it pops off on that splash page! Quick question on Coat of Arms: are her magic items named and known from previous Marvel comics? De Vito draws the swords and shields in a pretty generic fashion, I didn’t recognize them.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Hawkeye #2

Now this is more what I was looking for in Hawkeye’s new book! It’s still got that smaller-crime feel from the first issue, but by including the Circus of Crime and a new Swordsman, it still feels like an Avengers book. If Matt Fraction can continue to balance the tone of the book like this, I will be a very happy reader.

The Circus of Crime doesn’t seem to be there in full (no Clown, for example), but the Ringmaster appears and gets to use his sweet hypno-hat. As expected, David Aja does a great job with any panels that feature the hypno-effect. I also liked the update of the Circus into a “fancy French” organization, and Hawkeye’s inability to understand (or maybe he just didn’t’ care). The use of silhouettes for most of the hits is a fun recurring trick. It does make it hard to tell just how seriously our heroes are maiming the villains, though.

This issue brings in Kate Bishop, the Hawkeye from the Young Avengers. I have a problem with her for a couple of reasons. First, it sure looks like she’s shooting and killing people quite a bit as she moves through the book. Heck, even if she just popped out the Ringmaster’s eyeballs that seems too extreme for an Avenger. Second, is there supposed to be flirting going on between Kate and Clint Barton? I mean, if she has a schoolgirl crush on him, I suppose that would be something new to comics, but if the feelings are reciprocated… eeew. That’s going to be a bit too uncomfortable.

Fraction changes the status quo for Hawkeye and gives the book a purpose here, too. The Circus of Crime was in the process of robbing the big crime bosses of New York (including the Kingpin, Tombstone, and others). Well, Hawkeye decides to make off with that money. So now he’s rich, and the biggest crime lords in NYC are after our favorite Avenger. Great high concept! Now I’m sold that this series has some legs!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Wolverine Annual #1 (2012)

When Alan Davis tells you he wants to write some comics featuring his pet characters wandering around Marvel’s New York City, you let him. That’s the moral of this totally random, but entertaining, three-part story. (I think Davis might even be tying into his Thor one-shot from a few years ago with those animal men. Would that make this a 4-part miniseries?)

We opened with the mysterious Vincent showing up and wreaking havoc on the Thing and Human Torch. Really, any character could have served; the important cog was Dr. Strange. Then, some of the more well-known Clandestine members teamed up with Dr. Strange and Daredevil to take on the Vincent-possessed Plastoid. Finally, we get the main Clandestine characters (along with Cuckoo and Dom from the DD Annual) alongside Wolverine. Again, just about any character could serve in Wolverine’s role, but Davis does a nice job making it seem like Wolvie is actually important to the story.

I really like the Clandestine. I have every appearance of the team, and Davis’ affection for his pet characters is clear. Dom is easily the most likable character for me, but I like the liquid-metal weaponry Sam uses too. The varied power sets and neat costumes make me long for more appearances of this weird family.

I also love the ambiguity in Vincent’s fate. Was he really a bad seed? Or did some creature from outside time really take on aspects of his personality. It’s neat that the family remains split, with no clear answer. Dr. Strange can’t help, and if the Sorcerer Supreme doesn’t know, then I don’t think anyone does.

Man, Davis is one of the top artists in the business. His Wolverine is short, but built like a tank. I wish we could have gotten the orange and brown suit; Davis always did the best version of that costume. And wow, how great is Dr. Strange. Seeing him like this in his “real” look and role, I can’t wait for that status quo to reset in more mainstream titles.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Wolverine & the X-Men #15

I’m sort of upset that I passed on Jason Aaron’s X-Men run for so long. This is a really strong title. There is a Claremontian-level of subplots going on here, including some relationship between Husk and Toad (gross!), this weird Brood kid, and Angel being a student and de-aged. What? I haven’t felt this lost in an X-book in years! That’s not even mentioning that Iceman and Shadowcat are going to go on a date? Huh?

I just started reading this title for AvX, so I’m admittedly way behind. But Aaron has some nice plots for us too. This new Warbird is one of my favorite new characters, and after Gladiator dismisses her here, I assume she’ll be sticking around the book full-time? She’ll be a nice addition. I also love Kid Gladiator, so I have to hope he’ll be back too. (Unless he’s going to factor in Bendis’ new Guardians title or something).

I love the merging of the two kid teams too, with Generation Hope enrolling in the Jean Grey Academy. It makes sense to put all these kids in one place again. I don’t know the Generation Hope folks at all (just checked out the trade, though) so any exposure has got to help.

And the high point of the book, picking up on Wolverine’s task for Iceman at the end of Schism. Wolvie wanted someone around to tell him when he was acting like a jerk, and it sure looks like Iceman is excelling in the role.

The art is a tad uneven. Some characters look great (Wolverine, Iceman), but others look a tad strange and off-model (Hope, Rachel Grey). In fact, upon close inspection, I think Jorge Molina is struggling with his female characters. Their heads are too rounded and they all look too young. Not awful, just a tad odd.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Guarding the Globe #1

So clearly, I’m a sucker for team books. From the first time I picked up an issue of Uncanny X-Men, I’ve always loved the value of a funny book packed with characters. The best part is, if you like the characters, then no matter what happens in that particular issue, you always want more. Robert Kirkman has created a well-rounded, fun team in his Guardians of the Globe, and I’m more than ready to shell out $2.99 to see the expansion of Kirkman’s universe.

The book focuses on Brit, and as one of the few members to carry his own series in the past, that makes sense. Then there is his robot pal Donald, Bulletproof/Invincible II, and the cast from Kirkman’s Capes series. Only a few of the folks in the lineup are new-ish, and they’ve been around since the Guardians’ last series.

I have to admit, I know nothing about Samson, Outrun, or Kaboomerang. Heck, Blind Tiger and the rest of the cast are just as mysterious. They’ve had a few lines of dialogue, but that’s it. It’s a great opportunity for Phil Hester to come in here and give these guys more personality. I am hoping he puts the spotlight more on Bulletproof, Robot, and Monster Girl, our more established Guardians, but I don’t mind new folks like Tiger getting some panel time too.

Hester takes an interesting tack, revealing that Brit’s young son has autism. This is an extremely sensitive subject for a lot of people (my family included). I imagine that someone involved in this book is drawing on personal experience; the dialogue seems pretty personal. If family is going to be one of Brit’s defining characteristics, I’m interested to see how it develops from here.

Todd Nauck isn’t my favorite artist when it comes to big, iconic characters. I don’t love his Spider-Man, or his Wolverine. However, when he’s drawing crowds of new heroes? No one does it better. His storytelling is clear and I dig his take on the Invincible costume. This is a solid debut. It’s not revolutionary or world-changing, but it is entertaining and packed with heroes.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

AvX Versus #5

This many issues in, the whole core concept for this series is starting to fall apart a bit. At the start of AvX, there were a lot of good chances for the individual members of both teams to break off and have some good battles. Now the interaction is a bit more forced.

I think the first part of the story takes place after Spidey’s break-out at Magik’s prison? If so, why did Hawkeye stay behind? He sort of seems like a bully, just sticking around to torment Angel for a bit before running off. Hawkeye’s roguish charm is what makes him so fun, but seeing him comment on how cute Psylocke is and then gut-shoot Angel? Those just make him seem like a jerk. I’m starting to wonder if I like Matt Fraction’s take on the character. Leinil Yu is another in the long list that can’t make Hawk’s new costume look good. It’s still terrible. I’m also behind in my Angel continuity. He’s got his metal wings while in human form now? And is he supposed to be younger or something? I’m confused.

The second half of the book is sad, if rushed. Black Panther and Storm never totally made sense to me as a couple; they were kind of thrown together. But then after Dwayne McDuffie’s great run on Fantastic Four, I found myself coming around to the concept. They did work as a new top couple in the Marvel U. Seems like that’s over now, as the events of AvX have split them apart. It’s too bad, because they are both so proud I can’t imagine either party ever really apologizing. Jason Aaron does a nice job with that idea with both characters’ internal monologues. If these two would speak about their feelings, they might have a chance together. But they are both too proud. I can't imagine this is the last word on the marriage, though. I'd figure this has to get more page time in something in Marvel NOW.  Tom Raney does a solid job with the artwork, but I’m not positive he’s quite the draw the other artists on this series have been.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Winter Soldier #9


I can’t get too angry at Winter Soldier after he pulls a boneheaded move this issue. I mean, how many times have we seen a brainwashed hero pull themselves back into control when confronted with the one they love? So of course ol’ Buck would think he’s got the stuff to bring Black Widow back into a capitalist frame of mind after their brief fight.

I love that whole sequence at the ballet. The choreography of the fight is perfect, and Buck’s comment about how strong the Widow is really amps up her threat level. Heck, every other peak human character is getting a boost; maybe the Widow needs one too!

It is going to be a bit disappointing when “Nick Fury” ends up being an LMD. How many robot doubles does that guy have? He must have insulted everyone he knows by just sending a double at this point. Jasper Sitwell may not be as lucky. He’s enough of a name that his death would matter, but no one is really going to miss him.

Michael Lark is doing great things. From the choreography I mentioned above to the sets. I’m not sure where he comes up with the details for these great scenes, but the atmosphere in this book is second-to-none. This book really looks like it is a practice run for the next cable drama.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Green Lantern Annual #1 (2012)

I’m almost surprised at just how evil Geoff Johns’ Guardians are, but then I remember that all it takes as an intergalactic yellow parasite and they can be fixed in two pages. That said, these guys are really bad news right now. Heck, they admit that they only invited Sinestro back into the core to sew dissent (too bad, I like him a lot more as the jerk GL than as a fear-villain). They also use Black Hand as their instrument in this one. That’s really bad! I can’t imagine Hal and Sinestro are actually dead; rather I’m sure their predicament at the close of the issue will lead to our new “extreme” GL, but it could be interesting. If Hal and Sinestro actually sit out for the Third Army arc, that will give some panel time to some other cast members. After all, if Hal will be the best Black Lantern around, he’s got to be dead again for awhile, right?

I’m fine with the new GL by the way, it’s a repeated draw for the GL brand to introduce new Earth lanterns and I think this new guy could have potential. Hal, Guy, John, Kyle, they’ve all worked out pretty well so far. They were missing a guy with a gun, ski mask, and tattoos, so this should work out nicely!

I remain amazed at the editing in the new52, though. Am I wrong, or did Hal and Sinestro actually deal with Black Hand back in GL #12. I’m not mis-rembering, am I? And to continue my pet peeve about pre-boot continuity, it’s clear that the Nekron/Blackest Night stuff still happened. But how? Gah!

Ethan Van Sciver doesn’t draw a lot of comics, but when he does, he delivers. This is a nice looking book, with interesting designs for the sealed-off Guardians. (Maybe that’s the out; we’ll get new Guardians rocking some chain mail or wizard outfits?) Van Sciver really outdoes himself with Black Hand. He’s never looked more dangerous than with his glowing eyeball hanging out of his head.

Why does Van Sciver not handle the introduction of the new Third Army villains? That seems like an odd choice. And do their hearts really turn a color and pop out of their pale chests? If so, congrats, Johns, you've outdone yourself again!


Monday, September 3, 2012

Back Issue Review: JLA Classified #10-15 (2005)

Now THIS is the Justice League! Confident, friendly, and super-powerful, this is what drew me to the DCU in the first place.

I’m sure I skipped this because of Warren Ellis’ habit of mean-spirited protagonists. I bet I didn’t want to see the JLA done that way. BUT, I must have forgotten how well Ellis can do straight-up super heroics too. There are some small hints of the too-cool-for-school heroes in the first two chapters of this arc, but after that? It’s the Justice League kicking butt and expressing cool confidence in their work.

The plot follows a story that drives people mad through an ancient creation that is meant to bring the devil into the world. Martian Manhunter’s people had stories of it, and the JLA is very concerned when it starts killing folks on Earth. Sure enough, the devil arrives, and he does have an issue or two where he knocks the JLA around pretty good. But you know it couldn’t last. Every single person on the team overcomes their personal obstacles. Either through intelligence (most of the League) or just good-hearted stubbornness (Kyle Rayner). (As an aside, stories like THIS are how Kyle Rayner became my favorite GL.)

The League is the big seven plus Oracle, and man, did I love Oracle in this role. She and Martian Manhunter have great roles as the coordinators of the league. It’s clear that Ellis has some affection for the character too; she’s pretty important. I’m not sure that Ellis loves Wally West or Kyle Rayner as much, but they get some cool stuff even with less page time.

The art by Butch Guice is a lot of fun too. Guice never seems comfortable with Kyle Rayner, though. He’s got some kind of armor that he wears through the whole arc. I’m not sure if that was a costuming choice or there is a story reason, but it was a bit off from Kyle’s regular look. Martian Manhunter looks a bit spookier than some artists draw him, but he looks cool in any case. Of course, Batman looks the best. That dark, tactical costume works really nicely with Guice’s style. The coloring sells the alien pages, too. They have a nice, Underworld Unleashed-style glow.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Back Issue Review: Wild Dog Special #1 (1989)

I’d say it’s official, I’m now collecting DC Comics backwards, going and picking up older stories that I missed the first time around. Seems to be more my speed these days!

I’ve never read the original Wild Dog series, but I’d heard good things, and let’s face it, he’s got a simple and effective design. As far as I can tell after reading this issue, Wild Dog is essentially a DCU Punisher. I really like the idea that four old college football teammates are all the main suspect to be Wild Dog, and this issue revels in the fact that those four are the main suspects, but only the reader knows for sure. Each of the characters definitely has the motivation to become a vigilante, so I imagine the original series teased out the reveal nicely.

Max Collins and Terry Beatty have created a comic that would make a great 80’s action movie. That’s not a complaint, since that would have been a timely comment when this was published! Each of the characters is rocking dated but accurate clothing, hairstyles, and speech patterns. I also appreciate the robbers’ use of rifles rather than submachine guns. It’s another nice note of authenticity for the setting. I also love the way Collins gives bystanders and people on the street thought bubbles. The deaths and combat are a lot more effective seeing what some of these people are thinking. (One sequence with a bank guard psyching up to confront the thieves is particularly sad.)

In the end, the bad guys are too easily tracked down and punished, and the mastermind villain is a bit too nice a guy for this to be a fantastic comic. But it’s a great sampler for the character. I’ll have to track down more Wild Dog.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Back Issue Review: Justice Society of America Special #1 (2010)

I remember this book coming out a couple years ago, but I know it tied in to the Magog series that I’d already dropped. But I saw it a few weeks ago in a dollar bin and Scott Kolins' art is worth at least that!

This is a pretty generic team-up book with a slight focus on Magog. There really isn’t enough time for most of the characters to get any development time at all. This is one big fight, with Magog and the JSA taking on Kingdom Come’s N.I.L.8 and the underlings of Gog. It’s full of one-liners and generic action talk. Kolins does a better job with some characters than others; his Magog is decent, and I liked his surly Wildcat. Power Girl gets to kick some butt, so that was nice to see again. Gog himself barely shows up, and his followers seem a lot more blatantly evil than he appeared in his original JSA storyline.

I will say it was nice seeing those fantastic old costumes again. Power Girl, Alan Scott, Jay Garrick, Wildcat, I could go on and on. I suppose it’s true what they say, all your old comics are still sitting there if you don’t like the new ones!

Kolins is a dynamic penciler. No one does super-heroes better. But this book looks rushed. There are very few backgrounds and many of the panels look choppy. Kolins’ later work on JSA was a lot prettier. Was this a fill-in issue, or was it a couple issues of Magog that got re-packaged for higher sales? Magog kind of walks off into the sunset at the close, did he show up again before the reboot?

Make no mistake; this is not a great comic. But it’s got good action and decent art, so it was well worth the buck I paid to pick it up.