Wednesday, October 31, 2012

BPRD Hell on Earth v4: Russia TPB

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Let’s celebrate with some fantastic horror comics, shall we?

I’ve long been on record with my love of the Dark Horse Mignola-verse, and that statement continues unchallenged. Mike Mignola and John Arcudi deliver another gut-punch of action and drama as they send Johann Krauss and Kate Corrigan. (Devon, the newest field agent gets some groundwork set for the next mini-series, including an interesting reveal about his past, but that’s only about 10 pages or so).

Kate and Johann are summoned to Russia to deal with another horrific situation. Infected citizens are turning into monsters and going berserk. Plus the dead have risen and are building some unnatural throne above an old mine. The Russian BPRD is on the case, but they can benefit from some good ol’ BPRD know-how. The head of the Russian’s Supernatural Service is Iosif, who we saw as a silent, mopey zombie back in Abe Sapien’s Abyssal Plain series. Iosif is a jolly, friendly zombie now, living in a seawater-filled diving suit. He’s a huge fan of both Corrigan and Johann, and in fact states that he and Johann are practically brothers due to their strange conditions. This guy is fantastic, and I hope he gets to stick around. We need more good monsters to make up for losing Hellboy, Roger, and the rest!

Johann is always so desperate for any connection; I loved seeing these two grow closer as the series wore on. Plus it is neat seeing the Russian commandos work with Johann and battle their way to the Cthullian monster in the mine. The commandos’ design is fantastic, and seeing them packing flamethrowers and acid sprayers made me like them; Mignola and Arcudi give the commandos an amazing amount of personality considering we only see those guys for a few pages!

The design work doesn’t stop with the commando designs. Johann gets a new suit (based on one of Iosef’s old suits). It looks a lot closer to the nice, combat-capable rig Johann sported in Hellboy 2. Maybe Johann will finally fit in on those field missions now! Abe Sapien spends this one in a coma, but he does seem to be recovering. The problem is, he’s a lot more lizard or fish-like than he was before; I just hope we can still get some of that great expression on his new, dangerous features.

Tyler Crook had massive shoes to fill, taking over for the fantastic Guy Davis. But he’s done it. The bonus materials show an artist who knows and respects the giants who’ve gone before, but Crook clearly stamps this material as his own. From the casual power in Iosef’s suit to the horrific “taking” of Johann’s commando team, this book is gorgeous and disturbing. As I’ve said before: best comic on the stands.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Captain America #638

Now this is how you do an alternate world story. I was kind of hard on the otherworld story in X-Men Legacy recently, and that’s because it was a totally unrelated sci-fi concept with no real tie to the Marvel Universe or the main character. In this one, while I didn’t realize it, this is a world with multiple ties to the Marvel Universe that I know and love. The Martian-style walkers from last month turn out to be Hydra walkers (maybe it was obvious and I just missed it?) Judging from the last page, this world has been overrun with Lizard-people, maybe a follow-up from the recent Shed storyline in Amazing Spider-Man? Kashmir Vennema has been around for awhile, tying into the beginning of Cullen Bunn’s run on the title. And by giving Cap a familiar partner to bounce ideas around with in Black Widow, the story feels more like it matters.

I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic stories, and this one has all the right ingredients. All I need now is a future/alternate version of the Avengers, and all my boxes will be checked. Judging from some of the upcoming covers I’ve seen, that seems like a pretty safe bet. And I think Black Knight is on the team!

I also love the hunter team that Kashmir is sending after Cap and the Widow. Long-absent villains like Porcupine and the Eel are rubbing shoulders with the always fantastic Ulik the Troll. I’ve said it before, but Bunn clearly likes the same comics I do.

Francesco Francavilla bounces back after last month’s issue. Of course, last month felt a bit like filler, so maybe Francavilla was waiting for more story to sink his teeth into. The red background is still present from last issue, but with a lot more action in the foreground, it’s actually more of a mood-setting choice than just a lack of backgrounds. And the action is terrific. The whole walker-hopping sequence is top notch.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Batman Inc. #4

Yee haw! Grant Morrison still writes comics that remind me what I love about the DCU. Batman/Matches Malone gathers up his Batman Incorporated allies for a major strike on the League of Assassins. The only really recognizable member (and real threat) is Merlyn the archer, but even he is no match for this many Batmen. Hood, El Gaucho, Nightwing, and more all show up for some sweet crowd scenes. Hood and El Gaucho actually get some time to themselves to banter and show off, as does Batwing. I’m glad Batwing handles such an important task; I like the idea of an armored bat-dude who uses a lot of tech.

Wingman’s secret wasn’t obvious to me, but that’s mostly because I selectively delete this character out of almost everything he appears in. I didn’t like him around in the real DCU that we still see in this title, and I sure don’t care about him in the DCnU. So while I appreciate the swerve, I wasn’t in love with it. I do like that Morrison is confusing his son Damien so much. That poor kid is going to be messed up forever from all the manipulations his parents put him through.

What can you say about Chris Burnham? Like a few other recent artists, he’s got a fantastic blend of famous artistic styles. His art just sings off the page during the combat scenes, with the Hood and Gaucho’s sequence stealing the show. Look at the different ways the Batmen move, with Wingman’s haughty, arrogant walk. Look at the detail in the panels, the books on the shelves in the background while the characters are duking it out in the foreground. This thing is just gorgeous.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Animal Man: The Hunt TPB

Wow. Vertigo lives! It lives in the DCnU in this title. Jeff Lemire is writing one sick, depressing story. Luckily, he’s got a plucky leading man and his family to center the story on, so even in the face of gore and horror; we’ve got clear heroes to cheer for.

Even better, Lemire never contradicts any of Buddy Baker’s past (that I know of), making this yet another example of a DCnU story that could have been told in the old continuity. I appreciate that the only tie-in other than an off-handed Justice League reference, is to Swamp Thing. Swampie never appears in this collection, but a lot of characters spend time talking about him. I know from reading the first six issues of that series that Alec Holland is in no way the savior the Bakers seem to hope he is. Too bad. I look forward to reading that meeting!

The Rot is so disgusting. Honestly, there almost aren’t words to explain how repulsive the bads are in this story. The three main hunters chasing the Bakers are gory, maggoty, drippy, and a bunch of other foul adjectives. There are some funny moments, like when the one hunter’s head briefly expands like a balloon, but hoo boy, this is revolting. Heck, the hunters are born bursting out of the distended stomachs of hippos in the San Diego zoo, so you know it’s going to be nasty.

Plot wise, we don’t know much more in issue five than we did in issue one, although we did see some great undead pet heroics. I’m also puzzled why the third hunter went along with Buddy’s wife and son, what was he hoping to gain? Even more, why did he leave Buddy’s cop friend alive for a bit, then just eat him? Getting his food to go?

Travel Foreman must have had some bones and sinew in his portfolio. If he didn’t, he certainly does now. The revulsion I felt while reading this book is directly tied to his detailed artwork, so he deserves all the credit for that. I often read comics while eating lunch, but I didn’t even want this on the same table as my food! (How’s that for a pull quote, DC?)


Saturday, October 27, 2012

SHIELD: Architects of Forever HC

Hardcover is definitely the preferred format for this series. I tried to read an issue in floppy, and I just wasn’t hooked. But when I got the collection from the library and all the pieces of Jonathan Hickman’s story fit so snugly together? This is a darn entertaining story.

My problem with reading issue 1 was that Leonid, our point of view character, is a bit of a cipher. There’s nothing there. He’s an impressionable kid led around in a big world of mad ideas where nothing makes sense. Unfortunately, the lack of sense led to a lack of drama and interest in my case. That’s how I was able to pass up the rest of the book. But when you can jump directly into the next issue, it becomes clear that while Leonid is important, he’s not the star.

No, this is a series taking the greatest philosophers and inventors of the past and making them into super-heroes. It’s a laughable concept until you see how well Hickman does in turning Leonardo Da Vinci into an ancient Iron Man or Isaac Newton into a scheming plotter. Basically, every famous man in history is tied to the Shield, a secret organization out to protect mankind. (Which is a problem, I think there is only one female in this whole book!) Famous people from the real past and the Marvel past (like Apocalypse in ancient Egypt) team up to take on classic Marvel baddies like Galactus and the Celestials. It’s a fun concept.

There are still some confusing things going on here. Hickman’s tendency to hop around in time makes for a confusing plot. I understand why he’s doing it; we are dealing with time travel after all. His pacing is insane, with Leonardo and Isaac’s war brewing in the span of a couple pages.

As for the art, Dustin Weaver deserves the accolades he’s received for this book. The character design is top notch. Newton’s villain-garb is fantastic; complete with a swooping helmet and aged-looking robe. Nostradamus has the look of a madman, but the transition from wise man to maniac on the page is tremendously effective and sad. The thought that went in to the Night Machine design is impressive too; with each detail thought out and planned (the slight bonus material expands on this nicely).

This book makes Hickman’s Avengers even more of a sure thing for me.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Hawkeye #3

Matt Fraction is awfully close to the ledge with his take on Hawkeye. There are enough “classic” elements to keep me coming back, this time with the use of Hawkeye’s awesome trick arrows. Now, Fraction sets them up as a joke, and everyone in the book is in on it, but Hawkeye has the same affection for those silly things as I do, so overall, the concept goes in the “win” column. I’m worried that the level of costume-mocking going on here might bode ill for the future, though.

Some of the other elements are not working for me. I don’t like the “chemistry” Hawkeye has with the teenaged Kate Bishop. It’s a tad too inappropriate and while I appreciate that Hawk is trying to dial it back, it’s still pretty skeevy.

I’m not sure Hawkeye has ever been a big car guy in the past; I always thought he was a motorcycle guy? That’s not a big deal, but giving Hawkeye a huge wad of cash to pay out for anything he desires does change the character a bit. I’m still undecided on the Russian mafia too. The tracksuits, the mini-coopers, they are almost a bit too silly to be taken seriously.

I still enjoy David Aja’s art, but darn if I didn’t wish he was drawing Hawkeye in his real costume. I know this is my problem; Hawkeye is clearly going to be Jeremy Renner-inspired for years to come. This is not my preferred version of the character. But if it’s my only choice, I’ll just have to deal.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Daredevil #19

Dang. Congrats to Mark Waid and the Marvel solicitations department for not giving away the swerve in this issue. I mean, it’s not like a Darth Vader is Luke’s father-level reveal, but still, I appreciate when companies can actually get a surprise out the door. The identity of DD’s current nemesis is a good one.

I’ve seen Waid state in some interviews that he likes the relationship between Matt Murdock and Hank Pym. It makes so much sense, the characters have a lot in common, and they do play well off each other. Murdock and Pym have another brief chance to bond this issue, and it really could end up as a neat pairing. Any hope of an in-costume team-up? Supporting your teammates is one thing, but I’m ready for them to banter while on a mission!

One of the most effective portions of this comic is Foggy Nelson’s crippling doubt about his best friend. From his drunken confession to Matt’s current ladyfriend to his concerned but cruel call to DD, Foggy is making things tough. When Matt Murdock actually decides not to swing across town, but instead to take the bus? What a sad statement for our hero.

Things look bad at the close, but I will never tire of seeing DD banter while knocking out thugs. It’s Daredevil’s natural state, and Waid handles it perfectly.

Well, Coyote is one weird, creepy dude. Chris Samnee has to sell the scene, and boy, does he ever. Daredevil is in a predicament I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a previous comic. Murdock has always had a good head on his shoulders, but I don’t see an easy way out of this. Plus, Coyote’s look is so unnatural and non-human… yuck. He almost gives you the creeps just looking at him! Great design!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Marvel Now Point One

This book is chock-full of intros, and it is actually a pretty solid value. If you want a chance to preview a lot of the 2nd-tier Marvel NOW books, you can’t do better than seeing the creative teams try to sell you on the ideas and concepts with a few pages.

Nick Fury and SHIELD: I’m intrigued by Nick Spencer and Luke Ross’ take. Ross has always been a solid artist, but this work is really impressive. It almost has a European flair to it; maybe it’s the inking, but with this creative team and the solid roster I’ve heard about, I may actually sample this book! Spencer hasn’t impressed me so far, but I think this preview has convinced me to try Secret Avengers #1.

Star-Lord and the Guardians of the Galaxy by Bendis and Steve McNiven has a long way to go. I LOVED DnA’s take on the Guardians, so I don’t see how I’m going to get over my annoyance at the restart to the series without them. I admit, this book is pretty, and putting Iron Man on the team is interesting. But I’m just not sure I can shell out $3.99 for a book that will make me wonder “what if my fave writers were still doing this?” every month. This is probably a library read for me.

Nova by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness has a similar issue. Again, I adored DnA’s take, and Richard Rider has been a favorite of mine for years. So I’m pretty certain I’m not the target audience for this book. Putting in Diamondhead as a nod to Rider’s past is a good move, but this Sam Alexander kid is just so young. This is the kind of book that makes me think “wow, I’ve been reading comics too long and I need to leave this for my kids!” And maybe that’s the trick. If this is $2.99 and my daughters want to see more of this kid, I may buy it for them.

Young Avengers by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have a new take on the YA where they are 18. That still makes me feel old, but man, this art can make me forget a lot of things. I’m not sure if I’ll be picking up this series or not, but wow, the book is going to be gorgeous. And using Miss America Chavez is brilliant too. She’s got a great look and belongs in the spotlight like this.

Ant-Man and the FF by Matt Fraction and Mike Allred is an easy sale. Allred’s art would make me pick this up alone, and with the line-up Fraction has put together, I was never going to pass this up. She-Hulk, Medusa, and Scott Lang? Done. Let’s just hope this is sane Fraction. He can go off the rails sometimes!

Forge and Uncanny X-Force by Dennis Hopeless and Gabriel Hernandez Walta is a near miss for me. I like Forge, I like Cable, and I’m intrigued by the high concept. But I’m not a big fan of Walta’s art. The tech looks good, but the characters do not look on-model enough for me. I would never in a million years have guessed that was Forge without the dialogue. With Salvador LaRocca on art, I think I’ll give issue 1 a chance.

Grade: Varied from Good to Average

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cyberforce #1

I don’t understand what is happening in this comic. Now I admit, I haven’t read Cyberforce for a very long time. Like everyone else, I read the series in the 90’s when Marc Silvestri first started it up. But that comic was very, very different than the one I just read. So this thing is clearly a reboot, then, right? With some similar names, and maybe a few nods to the original designs? Cause I’m not seeing a lot more connections to what I think of as “Cyberforce” when I read this comic.

Instead of a present-day actioner, Matt Hawkins is telling the tale of a futuristic world of have and have-nots. The main team is made up of different model cyborgs that are resisting the leadership of the elite. It seems this is some sort of post-apocalyptic scenario, but there are still news reports, cops, and other “normal” bits of the world holding on.

I found the narrative style to be a bit confusing. Having out-of-sequence panels with sequential narration, combined with an alternate future story and new characters? But those characters have familiar names? That’s a lot of new information to try and process all at once. I was an English major and I still couldn’t tell you exactly what’s happening here.

I’ve always liked Khoi Pham’s artwork. He tends to use scratchy lines, and those work well on all the rubble and destruction lying around in this future. The design work is lacking, in my opinion. The modern SHOC troops are in big, prong-y armor that just doesn’t seem too effective. The actual core cast look very similar too, I sometimes had a hard time picking out the different team members.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Batman #13

Wow. I’ll tell you one job I would not want: police officer in Gotham City. I mean, the opportunities for bribery seem to be really high, but the Joker kills a lot of cops every time he starts a new storyline. Heck, most of the villains get to do that!

I’m a little puzzled by the murder spree that opens this comic. The Joker has always been threatening, but I never figured he was the multiple neck-snapping type. Scott Snyder writes Joker as an extremely capable physical opponent. I suppose that will make him a bigger challenge for Bats, but seems like a pretty dramatic power upgrade for the character.

Snyder does a nice job establishing the “family” that is in danger for this arc. Nightwing, Red Robin, Damian, and Batgirl are all targets for Mr. J, so it makes sense that they are given some panel time. The focus remains squarely on Batman, since this is his solo title, but the stage is set. There is one more family member in a bit more danger at the close of the issue; we’ll see how that works out.

I didn’t find the back-up story to be necessary at all. That’s been the continuing trend since DC upped the price and added the feature. The main story has been good all along, but those second stories are the definition of page-fillers.

Greg Capullo is clearly having fun with the Clown Prince of Crime. That last page cliff-hanger is awful. I also like that on pages with the power cutting out, Capullo still draws a lot of the action for Gordon. It would be mighty easy to just layer some dialogue over black panels!

This is the big coming-out party for the Joker in the new 52, and this is the second line-wide crossover inspired by Scott Snyder’s Batman title. This is clearly the biggest mover and shaker in the DCnU line, and DC is wisely putting the focus on this title. I’ve got a lot of problems with the DC line as a whole these days, but I can’t find much fault with this book.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Punisher MAX: Frank TPB

It’s going to be tough for other trades to measure up; I’ve been reading some great stuff recently. Jason Aaron keeps the ball rolling with the next chapter of Punisher MAX. I think it is fairly safe to say this is a continuation of Garth Ennis’ magnificent run with the character. The problem is, I don’t see a way for this to end well for Frank. We knew the Punisher lost his happy ending a long time ago, but things are particularly bleak in this collection.

After his climactic battle with Bullseye, the Punisher is broken. He’s been arrested and is now in jail recovering from his wounds. But the inmates want their piece, and it doesn’t take long for them to start making a move on ol’ Frank Castle.

But of course, that’s the easy part. Aaron has a much more challenging narrative in the comparison of Frank’s new prison life and his return from Viet Nam. Both worlds are prisons, of course, one is just a bit more literal. The moments are captured perfectly. If Hollywood wants to try another Punisher movie, I recommend this story right here.

I believe Aaron is adding to the Punisher mythos with these details about Frank’s failed attempt to re-integrate after the war. Its painful watching Castle as a dead man trying to connect with his wife and children. The only emotion he’s got is anger when he finally gets to kill some people. The Punisher is a great revenge fantasy, but Aaron shows how deep the character can be.

Steve Dillon outdoes himself with the time-jumping contrast between the eras of Frank Castle’s life. It’s heavy-handed, but totally effective to see old Frank put in solitary while young Frank walks into his perfect suburban home. Gah, does it make me a sucker that a scene like that just breaks me up.

So sad. Frank never had a chance.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Criminal: Last of the Innocents TPB

Once again, Ed Brubaker is delivering fantastic noir tales that have a nice root in the world of comic books. This time, it’s through Archie-analog Riley, and the familiar yet jarring world he lives in.

I’m not sure what my reaction is supposed to be to comics like this. It probably says more about my sheltered life than anything else, but seeing Archie, Jughead, Veronica, and the rest of Riverdale’s cast put through this ringer sort of makes me sad! I don’t like thinking that Jughead/Freakout was always so hungry just because he had the munchies. (Full disclosure: I’ve never read an Archie comic; even so, I’m pretty sure that’s not in there.)

But this play on the familiar is what makes this story so shocking. On its own, Brubaker would have delivered another solid tale of crime and sin. By tying the roles to fallen icons from youth, everything just seems grimier. If Archie/Riley can fall this far, what in society is worth keeping? Heck, I think the big blonde cop is the only guy who seems to have his head on straight!

This story has only one touchpoint that I recognized, when Lawless shows up as an enforcer for a local mobster. So this is solidly in the world of Criminal.

Sean Phillips really skeeves up Riverdale. Every innocent action now has a dark underbelly, and the characters’ eyes give away their more adult motivations. And he does this while maintaining a great homage to Archie comics.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Red She-Hulk #58

Now this is an odd issue. I switched from trade to digital as the book refocused on Red She-Hulk. I like Betty Ross and Jeff Parker has been doing no wrong for me, so I figured I could switch pretty easily. I have to say, this isn’t quite as strong as I’d hoped.

The biggest problem is the lack of focus on Red She-Hulk. She’s in a lot of panels, but she’s basically a force of nature. I understand General Fortean, Captain America, and Machine Man a lot more than I do her. But it’s her name on the title and it is her we came to see, so using her as a confusing plot element doesn’t seem like the right fit. Listen, I love Cap and X-51, but I came here for the lead, you know? Not Fortean or his three new super-soldiers.

I’m also a tad disappointed in the first villain she faces. I get that Parker needed him to be bad enough to justify the extreme response, but I’d hoped to read this one with my daughter, and I’m not sure I’m up to explaining what this bad guy did. That’s probably on me, though. I mean, Red She-Hulk has always been violent, so I probably shouldn’t be sharing the book with an 8-year old.

Carlo Pagulayan turns in nice work, as always. I always appreciate his clean lines and his on-model characters. Red She-Hulk looks great, and I dig the look of the sci-fi weaponry employed by Fortean’s troops. I do hope we get a bit more spandex over the next few months. I want Red She-Hulk to face down some Marvel classics; I think Pagulayan would do a nice job with the U-Foes or someone like that.

There is definitely potential here, and I’ll be back next month. But I wonder if this would read better in trade.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wolverine & the X-Men #18

I like that cover. Cyclops does not appreciate horseplay, children!

Ouch. I just started reading this title with the AvX issues, but I plan on catching up. But I’m guessing from online reaction that the character that dies in this one is a fan-favorite? I mean, I would never trust the guy, knowing what I do about his background, but that’s still a rough call to have him go down like that. We may get lulled into a false sense of safety, but we must not forget that Jason Aaron is the man who wrote Scalped and Punisher MAX. This writer enjoys hurting us!

This issue tries to do a lot of things. It transitions from the closing hours of AvX to the conclusion, and it tries to re-focus on the Hellfire Club story that will continue next month. Kitty Pride and most of the teachers get to focus on AvX, while the students are being lined up by the Club. Seeing Idie change so drastically is upsetting, but I’m betting the big death this is a temporary thing. She’s got to get re-set to her normal self after this.

Husk has got some weirdness going on, but I’m confused by her in general these days. I suppose I’ll never come around that even the Generation X characters have grown up. But they are what? Two “classes” back for the X-Men now? Glob Herman is not going to make any friends with his actions, but I’m glad to see Quentin Quire fitting in so well. That’s probably a bit strong, but he might make a good X-Man someday!

Jorge Molina does nice work, almost making his work look like Nick Bradshaw at times. His Stepford Cuckoos in particular stand out as a strong take. And I’ll take any Doop I can get, especially if he’s going to keep pimping on Warbird. I wonder if she told Quicksilver about her regular buddy Doop?


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Secret Avengers #32

Rick Remender does a nice job with that classic problem: how to make a bad guy so powerful that it is a huge threat, but still one that the heroes can overcome? The clues have been there all along, but I still had no idea how Ant-Man and Venom were going to overcome the new, enormous Masters of Evil along with the subverted Avengers.

Black Widow makes a game of it, but she’s just overmatched by the Null-possessed Hawkeye and Octopus Man. (Seriously, has this guy been named yet?????) While the scene on the cover never actually happens and is in fact impossible, it is a great sequence as the two super-spies face off. It’s also neat seeing the jets line up on the possessed plane; it’s a good reminder that for all the heroes’ power, the military can still weigh in on these conflicts.

Meanwhile, Ant-Man and Venom are doing their best. When they have to face the Wrecking Crew and the U-Foes, their chances are not so good. There are a couple more scenes with Vengeance spouting off great dialogue too. Was he this entertaining back in the 90’s?

Remender’s enormous Masters of Evil line-up has been quite enjoyable, and I’d love to see some incarnation of it continue. Maybe get Baron Zemo around to give them some organization, maybe.

Eventually, Flash Thompson (clearly still a pet character for Remender) gets everything wrapped up thanks to some quick comic-book thinking, and the day is saved. The Avengers recover the different artifacts and the team is freed. Black Widow has the good sense to bring up some long-lasting suspicions about Ant-Man, but Hawkeye is not in the mood. Hawk isn’t usually this moody, but he’s oddly detached in the closing scenes. Captain Britain warns of another Descendant plot and Black Widow is worried about a spy, but Hawkeye just wants to go to sleep. Listen buddy, maybe it’s time to call in some reserves if taking a rest is more important than saving the world!

Matteo Scalera continues his solid work. His lines are still just a bit too scratchy for me. While it works well on folks like Venom or Taskmaster, it doesn’t work on everyone. The choreography for the plane battle is well-done; I enjoy the action-movie feel of the entire sequence.

Seriously, what is Octopus Man’s name?


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

AvX: Consequences #1

I’ve seen other reviewers who didn’t care for this, but as a Cyclops fan, I’m enjoying it. The issue is a bit light on action, instead, we see Kieron Gillen concentrate on cleaning up after his Extinction Team. I haven’t read his Uncanny X-Men run yet, but I appreciate that the characters are getting a send-off.

Cyclops is in a privately-run jail. The owners are out to prove that they can incarcerate mutants, and Cyke makes a pretty compelling test case. The poor guy spends most of the issue moping and getting knocked around, but I have hope. Really, the only out for Cyke is for him to really become the new Magneto, and I think I’m OK with that.

Magneto, Colossus, and Magik are all on the run, whereabouts unknown. I still don’t like Iron Man being part of a strike team to take down Magneto (he’s partnered up with Captain Marvel); surely there are other power-house characters to go up against the master of magnetism?

Namor is taking refuge in Atlantis. He could be set up in a more antagonistic role too; he does a morally dubious country at his disposal after all. Hope is hanging with the Avengers. Cap offers her a place on the team, but I’m sure he’s talking about his low-level team; you know, the one with Alex Summers leading it. Hope declines, opting instead for a normal life. In Marvel, that means she’d go to class with Richard Rider or take classes from Peter Parker, but I don’t’ think she’ll even get that chance. I imagine she’ll be on an X-Men team by lunchtime.

The only other item to note is the current status of the Black Panther/Storm marriage. It seems T’Challa is holding a grudge against all mutants. When Wolvie tries to come aid Wakanda, T’Challa sends them packing. Too bad. I never loved the marriage, but I hate it when couples get broken up.

Tom Raney is a capable artist, but he does better when he gets to draw costumes. There are a lot of civilians in this one, and while they are recognizable, I miss the suits. I do like the design and look of Cyclops’ ruby-quartz helmet.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Green Lantern #13

Geoff Johns is taking an interesting approach to the Third Army storyline. The horrific, assimilating baddies are still on the move and doing their thing, but most of the issue fills out the origin for Baz, our newest Earth Green Lantern.

I still find his complicated arrest story a bit too much be believed, but he certainly does seem like a nice guy at least. Giving him a solid family not only grounds the character with a strong supporting cast, it also sets up lots of potential murder victims in future storylines. (This is the new 52 after all!)

I think one of the more interesting segments in this chapter involve the contrasting, yelling directions Baz gets when Sinestro and Hal both try to prep their replacement. For someone not grounded in years of Green Lantern comics, this would all be a bit confusing.

So I’m trying to think back to Johns’ other stories. Certainly the Black Lanterns and Third Army both have that “fear of assimilation,” “we will become the enemy” type of situation. Would the Alpha Lanterns apply? Is this a modern affectation, or has Johns been using it for awhile? Surely Johns wants to use Eclipso!

Doug Mahnke turns in another solid effort. He almost makes it reasonable that Baz would be sporting that ski-mask on his costume, too. Not sure why you’d wear it if you have a pretty recognizable tattoo, though. I’ve seen enough cop shows to know that the police can make a pretty easy ID off of something like that.

As for the last page cliffhanger? Why? I was trying to pretend the reboot didn't happen, Johns! How am I going to do that if I have to look at this silly League?


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Thunderbolts: The Great Escape TPB

Wow, I’m really on a big Thunderbolts kick these days! It’s easy to see why, when I’ve got this many good comics stacked up to read. Thunderbolts has been truly blessed with great creators over the years, and Jeff Parker fits right in. There is one issue in this trade that has a little overview of most of the team’s incarnations, and the Parker-era after Siege works just as well as the rest.

The lineup here is getting expansive, but Parker doesn’t short anyone. (Except for poor Shocker, who kind of disappears and doesn’t travel through time with his buddies. Was he needed in Spider-Man?) In the present, Cage, Mach V, Songbird, and Ghost are trying to locate their time lost teammates. They get some sweet team-ups and opponents, including Valkyrie, Mr. Fear, and the Enforcers (!). Who would have thought Ghost would be working so effectively with the “man.”

In the past, Centurius, Fixer, Mr. Hyde, Moonstone, Troll, Satana, and Boomerang are getting the grand tour. They travel to WWII and meet with the Invaders in a tremendous team-up. Then they bounce even further back in time and get to re-stage Jack-the-Ripper’s murders. And now it looks like they will be going up against the Black Knight. (Not Dane Whitman, one of my personal favorites, but I like Sir Percy, too). I’m kind of surprised at my faves in this arc. Troll, Boomerang, and Centurius are stealing the show in my opinion. Satana fits in nicely in the book too; I wouldn’t have figured she would work so well.

Kev Walker and Declan Shalvey handle most of the art once again, and these guys have it down to a science. The WWII era costumes for the criminal T-bolts are absolutely tremendous. Moonstone and Satana’s are the best. Shalvey gets to draw a lot a lot of classic characters, and he does a tremendous job. I miss those old characters like Atlas, Jolt, and Meteorite. What happens in the next trade???


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Secret Warriors: Night HC

The stuff hits the fan in this volume of Secret Warriors. (It makes me laugh reading it; doesn’t this story already feel really old?)With Hydra and Leviathan battling it out with Nick Fury’s undercover teams, there is just a lot going on. I really do appreciate Hickman’s level of detail and dedication to the history of the Marvel U. But I’m totally swamped. Perhaps it is because I’m reading the trades with big gaps between, but I can’t remember who half these people are.

I’m still not happy about the Contessa turning out to be evil, but there’s still time for that to be reversed. Madame Hydra looks awesome with that giant octopus on her head, but I sort of liked Viper the way she was. Hickman’s take on Strucker is classic and right in line with the character’s history, and I really dig Gorgon’s use. Mark Millar can sometimes be over the top with his characters, so its fun seeing another writer keeping it consistent.

This collection features a bunch of deaths. The biggest is Phobos, Ares’ son and the team’s youngest member. It stinks, but Hickman gives us a nice goodbye for the character as he’s reunited with his father. And you know those gods never stay dead. JT James/Hellfire also gets it, but as we don’t get a body, I don’t believe he’s gone for a second. He shouldn’t be. While he made some terrible choices, his treatment at the hands of Nick Fury sure makes for a good potential villain. The other mass of death consists of Mikel Fury’s team. I appreciate that Hickman came up with an origin for all these guys, and then promptly gutted them. Again, I could see one or two possibly surviving (especially the siblings that can clone themselves!)

The collection features artists I’m not too familiar with. Mirko Colak, Alessandro Vitti, and David Marquez all do a decent job with the storytelling, but some of the characters seem off-model. Baron Strucker and Quake are barely recognizable, for instance. Vitti does solid work, but his style is very similar to Jim Calafiore, who can handle action a bit more clearly. I do really like Marquez’s facial expressions. His characters all seem unique, which makes their fate even more effective.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Avengers #31

OK, Bendis. You know I’m not always in sync with your writing. But dang, this issue does a lot of things to correct the course. The book opens with Wonder Man returning to Avengers Tower and trying to talk things out with Cap. There is certainly something going on with Simon Williams, but I love seeing the character try and do the right thing. And Cap’s reaction? Perfect! I half-expected Cap to just attack the guy, but instead, the two have a nice moment just trying to work things out.

And again, perfectly in character, Red Hulk just punches Wonder Man out of the blue. I giggled at that fight, though. Wondy mops the floor with Rulk. I hope this character restoration continues!

And the opening and closing pages? At first, I couldn’t get Hope out of my mind. I was thinking some crazy alternate future situation. But then, about halfway through, I figured it out. And that Avengers ID card confirms it. Bendis is going to fix another mess he made; the Wasp is coming back. Well done sir, I’m impressed!

The art is very solid. Brandon Peterson handles the Wasp chapters in the Innerverse (just make it the Microverse!) Mike Mayhew handles the sections in the regular Marvel U, and he does a great job. Wonder Man looks fantastic, and I absolutely love how he handles the wrestling match between Wonder Man and Rulk. I could see leverage and pressure being applied, a rare thing in comics that prefer super-punches (although this issue had this too!)


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Uncanny Avengers #1

Rick Remender continues pumping out solid, action-packed comic books. This time, he’s paired up with an A-list artist; I’d say this probably will be his biggest debut ever. It’s a good first impression, with lots of action, snappy dialogue, and an evil, evil villain.

It’s interesting that Marvel has refocused Captain America as the stern Dad of the Marvel U. Listen, I’m a huge Cap fan, he’s my favorite character, but he sure comes off as a sanctimonious jerk these days. Say what you will about Cyclops, but Cap should at least see where he was coming from. Instead, Cap calmly strolls in and recruits an X-Man to graduate to the big leagues. The mutants don’t pick their own poster child; instead, Dad-Cap decides that Havok makes the most sense to lead a new team. That takes a lot of nerve.

Havok is interesting. I’m having a hard time getting a vibe off him. He certainly seems mad at his brother, but that’s nothing new. I’m not sure he’d be quite so uncomfortable getting called up to the majors, but there is a certain amount of awkwardness that I like.

One of the stronger scenes is the Rogue vs. Scarlet Witch showdown. I hope Remender continues giving the wronged mutants a voice. Rogue has every right to be a bit miffed after AvX, so I’m firmly in her corner. Scarlet Witch is making excuses, and she takes a bit less responsibility than I would have expected. The new idea that Cyclops didn’t have mutants best interests at heart (voiced by multiple characters, including SW) is an interesting one. It should be proven false quickly, though.

Thor doesn’t have a lot to do, other than a few lines of dialogue and a wee bit of smashing. Wolverine just delivers a eulogy; pretty darn sedate for the hairy little scrapper.

John Cassady is fantastic, of course. I mean, he makes Avalanche look awesome. Avalanche! I do like that the unlettered preview pages made it seem like Cyke was the one getting lobotomized, but no, poor Avalanche is a pawn of the Red Skull. Is that Masque hanging out with the Skull or someone new? I like the design of the Skull’s new flunkies, there is a lot of potential there.

And Skull? You are one sick puppy.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest TPB

Is there a more consistent, entertaining book on the stands than Mike Mignola’s BPRD titles? I really don’t think so. Even the spin-offs from the spin-offs are excellent at this point, and honestly, if I could only follow one comic, I think BPRD might be it.

John Arcudi and Mike Mignola serve up more of the scariest monsters I can imagine in this trade, but they never short on the characterization either. Each of the stories collected stars Abe Sapien, he’s definitely the headliner. But the BPRD has a presence, and the locals fill out each chapter too. I like Sal, the new BPRD field agent that joins Abe on a couple of the missions. I think it’s important to have more names associated with those grunts that go out and get slaughtered on the missions with the main agents.

The collection has a nice variety of monsters, too. Ghosts, zombies, and Cthullian demons, every base is covered. I appreciate that the zombie story in particular is a lot more sedate and emotional than the average undead tale.

And Hellboy. Man, he barely shows up, but when he does, it is fantastic. One of my favorite tricks in storytelling is having an established bad-ass talk favorably about someone else. Having Hellboy talk up Abe just as Abe is taking care of business? Brilliant. I still have a hard time remember just how tough Abe can be. He’s a pretty suitable replacement for Hellboy.

As always, Dark Horse has a great line-up of artists. Peter Snejberg is most familiar for me, and he gets a fairly sedate tale that’s a lot more gross-out than horror. He handles it wonderfully, rupturing zombie bellies and all. James Harren is impressive in his tale as well. The horrific, Legend-style devil in the basement is a stop and stare moment, and the gross little creatures feeding on unconscious Abe really are almost cute while retaining their ickiness. Patric Reynolds does a nice job on his one-shot too; again, while there is action, Reynolds keeps the focus on the emotional toll of these battles with the horrific.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

AvX Versus #6

I’m annoyed that this is actually an entertaining comic. It’s $3.99, and really, it isn’t much more than a string of one-page confrontations between the Avengers and the X-Men.

Kieron Gillen and Jim Cheung get the most pages for Scarlet Witch vs. Hope, with an unexpected winner.

The rest of the book is just fun. Bendis has a silly scene with Cap vs. Cyclops. I love the science battle, with the nerds on each team trying to outsmart each other while they battle. Kathryn Immonen and Stuart Immonen seem to be having a good time on their one page. I wish we would have seen Havok vs. Cap for real, especially with this underdog outcome. Ed McGuinness gives a win to his pet character Domino. The silliest has got to be Jeph Loeb and Art Adams delivering Hawkeye’s AvX fantasy. Spider-Woman vs. hot X-Women. Ridiculous.

I wish the Jason Aaron and Ramon Perez fight was for real! Iceman vs. Iron Fist ends up being a pretty impressive fight. I’m not sure if Iceman can actually use his powers as he does here, but it’s pretty original. I appreciate any effort to get Iceman some respect.

And of course, Dan Slott can’t help giving Squirrel Girl and Pixie some great commentary on the first few issues of AvX Versus. Seriously. How the heck did Thing beat Namor UNDERWATER???

This thing is worth it for the art. Just gorgeous.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Avengers Academy #38

This issue is a perfect microcosm of Christos Gage’s series in general. It’s packed with perfect character moments where the true voices of the characters shine through. From Wolverine to Tigra to Doop, everyone sounds right. It’s a pleasure to get to see characters rub shoulders with folks they usually don’t. Hawkeye and Iceman? Of course they would get along! Mettle and Rockslide? Again, perfect. Gage is so good at nailing the voice of all these Marvel mainstays, I’m bummed we won’t get more of it in Marvel Now.

That said, this issue has all the weaknesses of the run too. In the amusing interaction between Wolverine and Giant Man, we see the series’ greatest weakness. Gage has the voices of the characters down, and they act appropriately. They make a sort of uneasy peace after Giant Man slammed Wolverine out of a plane in AvX. But I’m certain that Bendis and the other top dogs at Marvel have no idea about this interaction. Gage is once again picking up pieces that happened in “more important” books.

It’s too bad, because it is a great idea to have the two super-hero schools compete in a football game. Tom Grummett draws the heck out of it. I love Tigra’s electricity-inspired afro. X-23 may have lost the sports bra, but the long sleeves make a lot more sense.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Captain America #637

So that’s what’s up with all those Kashmir Vennemas. I figured the Black Widow we got last issue wasn’t “our” Natasha Romanov, and I was right. Kashmir is somehow capturing and selling heroes from alternate dimensions, and the Secret Empire in Marvel’s main universe is buying. I’m excited, based on that concept and some of the upcoming covers I’ve seen, I think Cap and Widow will be teaming up with cool, alternate versions of some of my faves.

Then things go south, the Kashmir brigade dumps their product and our heroes in a random dimension. Black Widow and Cap get along famously, of course (weren’t they an item back in the Avengers title for awhile?), and they should form a good core for a new team on this alternate Earth. It certainly looks like a War of the Worlds situation, and I have no complaints about that. If I’ve read a comic, that should mean that some of the awakened alternate heroes will choose to stay in this world and try to improve it at the close of this arc. We’ll see if I’m close!

Francesco Francavilla’s style is simple to the point of cartoony, and it’s a perfect fit for most comics. I can see how he wouldn’t be everyone’s favorite, but I love the simple lines, bright splashes of color, and heavy ink lines. This issue looks like a bit of a rush, there aren’t too many backgrounds, but at least the colorist covered it through a heavy use of red ink.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Invincible #95

So I’m just a tad fuzzy on something. I guess when Monster Girl switches into her monster body… it’s a fully-functioning male body? Cause she’s got a son, and she’s not the mother, you know what I mean? I’m reading that correctly, right?

Like all good couple fights, Robot and Monster Girl both bear some of the blame for their breakup. Now, I’m impressed they stayed together for centuries before hitting such a rough patch, but it is still sad. I do have hope that maybe they can work things out.

Most of this issue takes place in the Flaxan dimension. I like Robot’s sweet Thor-looking costume and beard, while MG gets some great alien-queen costumes too.

Ryan Ottley only gets a few pages at the close of the issue, but I like where the story is headed. Putting the Guardians of the Globe under Robot’s command should give the guy a confidence boost AND actually make victory possible.


Friday, October 5, 2012

AvX #12

Interesting! In an era when Marvel seems to have a hard time closing chapters, AvX actually ends with a pretty clear new status quo. Here’s the rundown.

The united X-Men and Avengers are all over the Earth battling the destruction caused by Phoenix. Cap leads a small team and tries to take on the new Dark Phoenix, Cyclops (as others have said, I predict some new action figures out of this). Jason Aaron gives us Cyclops apologists a nice moment where Scott Summers actually asks the Avengers to kill him; he realizes how he’s been dominated by the Phoenix force. That moment is fleeting, but it does give the character an out for future use.

Eventually, it’s down to Scarlet Witch and Hope. They were the stars in issue 0, and it’s up to them in the last issue. I think the story did meander a bit through this long, long series, but to give credit where it is due, the folks who opened the story also closed it. Hope even gets a moment to confront her destiny. The Phoenix force looks good on her! It can’t last, but she does one really nice thing. More Mutants! That’s right, House of M is finally undone and mutants are appearing in the Marvel U again. And that’s why Cyclops was right, and this was all worth it.

Cap has a quick after-battle conversation with Cyclops, and it is amusing seeing Cap so angry. Cyclops is sad at the cost, but happy at the outcome, and Cap just wants Cyclops to know he lost. Sorry Cap, I don’t think the X-Men see it that way. And while some of the X-Men are getting adopted by the Avengers and moved into the big leagues (Rogue, Havok, Cannonball, and Sunspot for sure), I guess the former Phoenix Five are in worse shape. Emma Frost and Namor are wanted for sure; it’s unclear if Colossus and Magik are in the same boat. Perhaps this is what the new X-Force series will focus on?

Adam Kubert does a great job on the art. He’s got a tall order with this many characters, this many fights, and all this destruction. But the action is always clear. Making Hope look enough like Jean, but still retain her own identity? That’s a tall order too, and Kubert delivers.

Oh, and one other note: the new Nova looks pretty cool and he’s obviously destined for his own series, but since he mentioned loving dubstep in his first appearance, I don’t think I’ll ever be won over.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Winter Soldier #11

A buddy book starring Hawkeye and Winter Soldier! What a concept! Ed Brubaker’s Hawkeye is still sarcastic, but he’s definitely a toned-down version. Winter Soldier has no time to ease up, making this a very tense team-up. It’s interesting; does Winter Soldier work well on his own? In this series, he’s gone from one team-up to another; Black Widow, Jasper Sitwell, and now Hawkeye. I think he works well in this context, as the brooding tough guy with someone else carrying the dialogue.

There is some nice AIM action as the two Avengers unload on the beekeepers. I love the volume of destruction these two guys bring down on this secret base.

On the other side, Leo and Black Widow make a pretty good team themselves. Giving them a techie to make cool equipment makes sense too. I’ve said Leo needs a more memorable costume. Having a personal inventor certainly makes that more likely.

Butch Guice almost pulls off the new Hawkeye costume. Instead of generic goggles or shades, he draws Hawk’s new eyewear as a clear version of his old mask. The corners point up, making this seem a lot closer to that classic look. The inks are a tad heavy, especially on characters’ eyes, but this book makes a great transition from spy to superhero.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

X-Men Legacy #274

Now that’s pretty funny. After two or three issues in that alien dimension, it gets a one-panel mention in this issue. That panel is actually recapping AvX!

Fortunately, Christos Gage gets to refocus the title on the bigger X-universe. Rogue and Magneto have a pretty complicated history, but that’s really unnecessary here. The focus is on the future, determining if this power couple is going to make a go of it. Personally, I’ve always much preferred Gambit and Rogue as a couple, Magneto’s just too old and creepy. Rogue doesn’t say as much here, but you know she’s thinking it.

Rogue and Magneto are dealing with a collapsed subway, where Magneto’s powers aren’t too useful under all that concrete and plastic. Rogue absorbs the specializations of a bunch of bystanders, and the two of them head down without super-strength or mastery of magnetism. It’s an interesting backdrop, allowing the couple to discuss their relationship in context with a dying commuter. I always enjoy more fighting than talking, but Gage does a nice job putting a bow on this relationship.

David Baldeon makes some interesting choices with the art. Magneto looks downright evil in a lot of these panels, especially in the moment after Rogue gives him his decision. Baldeon continues to draw kids better than adults, with everyone’s faces looking a tad too cartoony for me.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Batman Inc. #0

I love that Grant Morrison just gets to ignore the reboot. He stated as much at Morrisoncon over the weekend, and you can see its true here. The Club of Heroes, the Black Glove, everything that was in Batman’s history is still there.

Interestingly, this is co-plotted by Grant Morrison and regular artist Chris Burnham, with Frazer Irving providing his fantastic art. As is typical in Morrison’s current work, this issue hops locations and times to great effect. We already know who joins Batman’s big team, but with this flashback we actually see the invites. It’s a great glimpse into a lot of characters that don’t get a lot of screen time. I always enjoy Knight and Squire, and Man-of-Bats is just great. Making his a loquacious speaker just makes him cooler!

I also appreciate Morrison tying in the original support system utilized by Batman: trusty butler Alfred.

Frazer Irving’s moody artwork works in just about everything. He’s a great fit for the Bat family. There are a ton of characters in this, and they all look fantastic.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Wolverine & the X-Men #17

So this is a joke book, but that should be obvious to anyone picking it up. I’m not sure random, newer fans will get it, but for folks like me who enjoyed X-Statix, it’s great seeing Doop back in the spotlight.

Poor Doop. No one appreciates the efforts that little potato puts in to keeping the world safe for mutants. He sells his body, he fights crime, he plays roller derby with She-Hulk and Tigra. The guy’s world just never stops. You’ll have to forgive him for occasionally catching a few quick Z’s!

I have no doubt that Jason Aaron is using the real Doop translator for the little guy’s dialogue, but I still don’t have time to go back and look it up. (I never did back in the X-Statix days either.) As a kid, I used to love these random issues that made the X-Men feel a little more fun, a little more connected to the Marvel U. At $3.99 it’s not quite as funny, but Aaron is upholding an X-tradition long held by the Impossible Man, Mojo, and the X-Babies.

Seeing Mike Allred draw this book just makes me wish he did more mainstream heroes. Cannonball, Gambit, Cyclops, Warbird, they look tremendous! I can’t wait to see Allred draw She-Hulk in the upcoming FF title, his take on her is wonderful, too.