Thursday, February 28, 2013

Superior Spider-Man #4

I think this is my favorite issue of Superior Spider-Man so far. 

A lot of it has to do with the art. I like Ryan Stegman’s work, but his lean Spidey doesn’t seem threatening enough in this current story. Giuseppe Camuncoli draws a bulkier Spidey; a Spidey who actually intimidates on the page. When you see him go up against the White Rabbit or the folks at Horizon labs, you see why they are scared, now. This doesn’t feel like Spider-Man. The added bit with Octo-Peter wearing Doc Ock style goggles really drives the point home, too. Well played!

And how great is it that “slacker” Peter Parker was never able to get his doctorate, but with Doc Ock steering, he’s finally going to finish his coursework. It’s hard to argue that for as much as Ock is messing up Pete’s life; he may be doing some improvements too. Peter Parker may be becoming a bit of a mad scientist with human trials and a robotic assistant, but there is no denying he’s also pretty darn productive right now.

But honestly, my favorite thing in this issue is seeing Sha Shan doing physical therapy with Aunt May. I have not seen that character in years. Is Flash Thompson around? I want to see the two of them interact again! Dare I dream that Dan Slott will continue mining old Spectacular Spider-Man back issues for characters? Tarantula? Cloak & Dagger?


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Daredevil #23

Mark Waid takes a break from the super-villain action to give us a character-centered piece. Much like best friends Foggy Nelson and Matt Murdock, the reader has to spend the issue killing time waiting for Foggy’s diagnosis.

It’s a nice break, seeing these two characters hang out during a rough time. They have so much history on the printed page; it is nice seeing them actually support each other. The mini-swerve on the last page is well-handled too. I think it might be neat if DD ends up needing more help than Foggy does through all of this.

Waid still keeps the overall plot moving too. Someone is trying to re-create the exact situation that created DD and it turns out that’s not too good for all the test subjects. I can’t wait to see who Waid has as the mastermind here. At this point, I don’t even know if we can disregard Stilt-Man…

Raise your hand if you knew Chris Samnee would be this good. This is simply stunning artwork. The storytelling and action is crystal clear, the background is always chock-full of detail, and the acting is moving. Samnee is a perfect fit on this title.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Captain America #4

Let me boast for a moment. I read comics to my two daughters all the time, and since they are getting their comics filtered through me, they are exposed to weird characters and books that aren’t usually the top draw. I know that I’m doing the right thing, because when my five-year-old saw the cover to Captain America #4, she said “Is that Big Barda?” So not only does my daughter know who Barda is, but that means that John Romita Jr’s attempt to design a Kirby-esque character certainly succeeded.

I give Rick Remender and Marvel a lot of credit. This isn’t exactly a guarantee for sales. Since the relaunch, Cap has been exiled to another dimension, aged 11 years, and grown an Arnim Zola faceplate in his chest. The story is self-contained and new-reader friendly, but man, this isn’t a book someone would pick up off the street and “get.”

So yeah, Cap is looking mighty haggard after 11 years and constant fighting against Zola’s influence on his psyche. I like the addition of Cap’s Mom to his mythos. I don’t think I’ve seen much of her before; now she’s the one who instilled Cap with his sense of honor and moral fortitude.

It will also be interesting seeing if Ian ends up being added to Cap’s supporting cast. (How weird is it that Captain America and Batman both got crazy artificial sons recently.) Jet Black has the look to go places too; that Kirby design totally works. I still think that this is going to all be wiped out in an alternate world or something, but I hope Jet Black makes it back to the Marvel U.

Man, John Romita Jr. I love his monsters; he’s been drawing fantastic creatures for decades now. He’s the perfect artist for this. He can deliver the period stuff too, the 1930’s materials is dramatic and effective. I won’t lie, I’m looking forward to seeing JRJR do some more straightforward super-heroics, but for now, seeing Arnim Zola’s monsters will do.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Uncanny X-Men #1

I lasted a week before I gave in. I had planned on passing on this one since I’m not a huge fan of Bendis’ pacing. But the leaded “traitor” and the chance to see Cyclops as a hero convinced me.

Unfortunately, the issue is narrated by Magneto. And he is not a believer in Cyclops these days. Magneto’s powers are messed up, Cyke killed Professor X, and Cyclops won’t take the time to get himself retrained with his new power set. But I’m not buying it. Magneto is either playing a long con and still loyal to Cyclops, or he’s being manipulated by Professor X’s brainwaves or something. At least, that’s what I’m hoping. I’ve loved the Magneto and Cyclops relationship; I bet Bendis isn’t going to tear it down easily.

I do like the way Bendis is putting together the new Uncanny X-Men. We’ve got Magneto plus four of the Phoenix 5. The only guy missing is Colossus, and I actually would like to see him show up here. I think the team needs some more support from the other X-Men, but I understand that is coming. For now, it is pretty cool seeing some of the new mutants buying in to Cyclops’ vision for mutantkind. I also love that the new mutants call him “Professor.”

I wasn’t sold on Cyclops’ new costume, but Chris Bachalo sells it. Cyclops looks awesome, especially on his propaganda-style pages where we see him as a champion of mutant equality. Bachalo has a habit of drawing his women way too young, and he does it again here. Emma Frost doesn’t really look like herself, although I do dig her costume. Magik looks closer to the right age, and I dig the gigantic sword! Let’s add in a couple more “classic” X-Men or crazier costumes on the new mutants, and this book will be all set.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Heroes for Hire: Fear Itself TPB

Oh man, why are Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning out of Marvel? After totally recreating and revitalizing Marvel cosmic, they were doing a great job on Heroes for Hire, too. When was the last time Silver Sable, Gargoyle, or Paladin got this much love. Heck, I even liked Elektra as she was written here! DnA have a great, funny take on Spider-Man too, it’s too bad his appearance couldn’t raise sales enough to keep this book from being cancelled. 

Far and away, the breakout character for me in Heroes for Hire is Misty Knight. I have read a lot of her adventures, at this point, but I’ve never liked the character as much as I do in this collection. She’s funny, smart, and when things get tough, she can go kick butt, too. She even gets Spidey’s nerd references! 

DnA clearly have a lot of affection for Paladin. The professional hero is a bit of a sad sack through this entire trade, but that does make for compelling comics. It’s really neat seeing the constantly self-doubting Spider-Man held up as the paragon of heroics, while Paladin is unable to even compete in his shadow. 

And who are all these heroes fighting? In the core story, it’s Batroc the Leaper. One of my all-time favorites. And he gets the respect he deserves in this trade. While everyone makes fun of him, Batroc kicks the crap out of just about everyone he goes up against. Tying this B-level villain to the ongoing crimes from earlier in this series raises the stakes nicely. 

There are a few issues of Fear Itself plugged in the middle, but a different artist and the forced nature of the story forces the collection off target. The book can’t help but lose focus when it is dealing with random destruction and new villains rather than the long-simmering subplots that open and close the book. 

The art in this collection is a bit of a mixed bag. That hurts the overall consistency too. Brad Walker’s art is fantastic. His Spidey has a bit of a big head, but Silver Sable, Paladin, Misty Knight, Moon Knight, they all look great. Walker gets to draw a real A-lister at the conclusion, too. I’d love to see him tackle that character more too. Tim Seeley helps out with this story, and his art fits pretty seamlessly into Walker’s. They work fine together.

Kyle Hotz draws the Fear Itself issues. Hotz’s work is a lot more cartoony than anything else in this collection. It is a bit jarring seeing the tonal shift in the artwork. The distraction is by the subject matter. Hotz is drawing mass destruction and chaos. Hotz draws a lot of horror, and he’s good at it. 

I’ll miss this book!


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Red Hulk: Haunted TPB

This is an odd collection. I’d been loving a lot of Jeff Parker’s ongoing stories with Rulk, and I enjoyed about half of this collection, but then it takes an odd turn. 

The first half of the trade deals with another battle with Zero/One, the crazy scientist lady who achieved her origin a few issues ago. Only now she’s created a huge artificial island, an army of zombies, and a squad of crazy sea-creatures. That’s in addition to her personal super-villain Black Fog. I’m still blurry on exactly what she’s going to accomplish, except for “mad science,” but that’s a good place to start. Rulk, Machine Man, and Red She-Hulk all team up to take on her forces. It’s an impressive battle. 

Then I lost interest for a bit as the focus switched to the supernatural. It seems Rulk picked up some sort of ghostly tormentor, and he seeks out Dr. Strange to help deal with the haunting. The story never quite fits right for me. I don’t care for the Forgiven at all, who needs good guy vampires? And the Legion of Monsters doesn’t seem like a good fit for the title either. And heck, I’m still annoyed that the secret villain ever turned bad in the first place, so I didn’t care for his reveal either. I’m not saying Parker doesn’t fill this part of the book with some good lines and strong interactions, but my lack of interest in the main plot dulled my appreciation a bit. 

Carlo Pagualyan handles most of the art, so everything looks clean and heroic. His strong lines are a perfect fit for the violent world of the Hulk. He even does a nice job on the many monsters that show up. It seems to me he enjoys drawing Machine Man, because X-51’s panels are always full of fun, rube Goldberg-ian devices. I do have to say I don’t care for Dr. Strange’s current costume. Why would you mess with a classic like that?


Friday, February 22, 2013

Avengers #6

After the strangely abbreviated three-issue arc against Ex Nihilo, Jonathan Hickman has gone back to introduce us to his new Avengers. After seeing three, I have to rank them Smasher, Hyperion, Captain Universe. Captain Universe has an absolutely tragic origin that goes a long way towards making the character relatable, but in the end, she’s too powerful. I can’t really connect to a character that is talking about the start of the universe and refers to herself as the “mother” of creation. How is any villain ever going to challenge the team while she’s on it?

And it stinks, because the tragedy facing the current Captain is awful and a great seed for future stories. I even like the way the Captain Universe presence is sort of protecting Tamara from her own past. It just makes for a slow-paced issue.

I am warming up to Hickman’s portrayal of Cannonball and Sunspot. They haven’t done much, but seeing them bristle after dealing with the Superior Spider-Man is a great moment. I also love Ock’s amazement at the lack of respect Spider-Man gets with the Avengers. When Peter gets back, he better get mending fences.

Adam Kubert delivers another beautiful issue. The Universe-based stuff is hard to pull off, but he does it. He also imbues Tamara with a great sense of brokenness, a clear necessity for the character. He does fail to make Cannonball and Sunspot’s new costumes work, though. Someone needs to fix those fast!

The big cliffhanger is the lead in to the New Universe stuff that’s been rumored for a few months. I never really followed much of the New Universe. I’ve read DP7, but at the time, the only book I actually collected was Spitfire and the Troubleshooters! Something tells me those folks won’t be showing up!


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Batman #17


I have to give it to Scott Snyder. The pressure to kill off a bat-family member must have been intense. The modern era of DC is defined by its willingness to kill off characters to make a story feel important. With a story called “Death of the Family,” the comics-reading world was justifiably worried for Nightwing, Red Robin, Red Hood, Batgirl, and Robin.

It turns out that while the entire Bat Family is put through the mill with some unpleasant experiences, they all survive. Even Alfred, my personal pick to be the casualty in this story. Instead, the Joker sticks to some good, old-fashioned psychological torture, including a pretty mean trick on all of Bats’ sidekicks. It is a horrific scene, and very effective at showing how sick the Joker is. After the absolutely sick stuff last issue, though, this does come off as tame. That’s the problem with the constant escalation of violence; it takes more and more to shock the reader.

The reason this closing chapter works is because while there is some great combat and violence, the story hinges on the relationship between Batman and Joker. Joker’s love for Batman has been central to this story, and Batman does seem to at least understand the connection. He knows Joker pretty well at this point. I still think Batman needs to pull the plug and kill Joker; the guy has done too much awful stuff. But at least Snyder has some decent reasoning (based on fear!) for why Batman has never put the Joker down.

Greg Capullo never gets to draw the “real” Joker. This entire story has featured the over-the-top, faceless version of the character. The Joker’s face stapled on his skull goes too far outside believability for me. In the flashbacks, Joker is sporting the Heath Ledger scars from Dark Knight. Again, very effective in the film, but not the “real” Joker to me. It would have been cool to see Capullo do something with the classic purple jester look. Those climax pages in the cave are fantastic; Batman’s got a glint in his eye that promises a super-beat down for Joker. Part of reading vigilante comics is the catharsis of revenge, and Capullo delivers with Batman’s powerful punches to the Joker.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Thunderbolts: Like Lightning TPB

As an original Thunderbolt fan, I'm absolutely tickled by this cover. It was my desktop wallpaper for months. We live in a great era of comics, where long-time pros like Mark Bagley can come back and do a modern cover for a book he made famous 20 years ago. (Is it actually 20 years? It's gotta be close, I have my Tbolt theories written out in the border of my old college notebooks!)

Jeff Parker has been spinning yarns about the Tbolts for years now, and he's been telling a fairly simple time travel story for awhile. The team of villains featured on the cover (Fixer, Ghost, Centurius, Moonstone, Mr. Hyde, Satanna, Troll and Boomerang) have been forced to travel back in time after escaping from the Raft in the present. This trade opens with them in medieval times facing down the original Black Knight and King Arthur's court.

It's a great conflict, not just because of Kev Walker's imposing Black Knight. I love seeing characters like Troll and Boomerang be so dangerous and effective when they are not facing ultra-powerful opponents. As a Black Knight (Dane Whitman) fan, I'm OK with the original going down easily to Boomer, I just don't want to see the modern version punked out so easily. I also really enjoy seeing Satanna try and face down Merlin. Merlin's characterization in comics is wildly inconsistent, but Parker's version is a wise mage trying to stave off the fall of Camelot. I like that most of the Tbolts want it to hold up too, but of course, they mess up everything they touch.

The second half (after a nice little Songbird character piece) deals with the cover. Merlin has sent the team in the right direction, into the early 90's when the Thunderbolts first formed. Of the original team, only Fixer and Moonstone are still around, which limits the neat contrasts a bit. Parker gets to do the two best, though. The Techno-era Fixer is disgusted at his law-abiding, boring future self, while Meteorite is delighted when she meets the future Moonstone. She is unchanged and unrepentant; not all the Thunderbolts have learned something!

Fixer makes some bad choices that sets off some no-no's of time travel, leading to some cosmic and undefined threats. But these chapters aren't about the cosmic correction of time, instead it is about seeing the characters face each other and deal with the situation.Background characters like Mr. Hyde, Troll and Centurious come dangerously close to stealing the show, and that's not a complaint.

Declan Shalvey doesn't really have a Bagley-ish style, so instead of the current team adjusting to look like a retro comic, the original T-bolts all look bulky and modern. That's OK, the cover is enough to scratch my nostalgia itch.

I think the book re-titles to Dark Avengers after this. I'm still on board, but man, I'm going to miss the Thunderbolts.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Walking Dead #107 and Walking Dead on AMC

The Comic:
I love it. Once again, Kirkman plays with our expectations and has Negan actually act like a sane guy, for once. I also wonder if he’s starting to realize just who he’s messing with in Rick. I mean, Rick surely gets some good licks in during their couple-page fight. Negan comes out on top, but he better realize that Rick is one angry man who usually gets his revenge.

This is a good issue because we’re starting to see the cracks in Negan’s armor. He has fewer men than he’s let on, he’s got basically no weapons, and he actually has to be reasonable or else he’d face a revolt from those under his thumb. Combining that with the Community’s new discovery, I think Rick’s guys might have a chance. Gunpowder and bullets go a long way…

I really like that so many of the other folks in the Community are getting some panel time. The problem is, I seem to be incapable of remembering anyone’s name. I’m always like “Abraham’s girlfriend” or Abraham’s ex-girlfriend” or “weird scientist guy.” I’m not sure if this even needs to be fixed; the book is plenty dramatic and fascinating even with a lack of truly defined second-tier characters. I still care if they live or die, but man; I need them to call each other by name when they first appear in an issue!

Charlie Adlard continues to deliver brutally effective artwork. The fast-moving fight is fascinating for the wild feeling that fills it. Negan is totally surprised, and the constantly switching momentum really drives that home. My favorite panel, though, is a silly one. When Carl steps out with his hat off, there is a ridiculous looking guy with a gold chain that just cracks me up. He looks so smug. Let’s kill that guy too, Rick!


The Show (Minor Spoilers)

Ugh! Tyreese has done nothing since he got there! Are you kidding me? He is everyone’s favorite character in the comic, and eagerly anticipated on the show. So now he just sits there until he’s dismissed by crazy Rick? What the heck?

And Rick. Oh man. The show has extrapolated crazy phone talk to an amazing degree. Honestly, I don’t think Rick would ever be able to take over as group leader again. He is fully insane, and has endangered the group while wandering around after his friend. Ridiculous.

I can’t get a read on the Governor, either. The guy’s dialogue is written totally differently than his actions. That would be one thing, but you can’t be too subtle on TV, you know? It is like the actor doesn’t know how to play the guy. Is he actually somewhat apologetic? Is he simply hiding his insane side? It’s too hard to tell, and I’m afraid it is weakening a fantastic villain.

Basically, I’m worried the show is changing the comic too much. I’m not sure if the rumored split between Robert Kirkman and the show runner Glen Mazzara are over content or what, but I can understand why Kirkman might be interested in re-focusing the show a bit closer to the comic.

That said, Sunday’s episode did deliver some decent action after the snoozefest on Feb 9th.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Secret Avengers #1

So this was my random, impulse buy of the week. It was either this or Uncanny X-Men, and I'm afraid I've got all the slow pacing I can handle over in All-New, so I decided to stick with my beloved Avengers franchise. I haven't exactly loved anything I've read from Nick Spencer so far, but I have to admit, I'm impressed with this first issue.

I'm not sure if the plan is to keep the cast at this level or not, but I really enjoyed seeing the ground-level focus of this team. Hawkeye, Black Widow, Nick Fury Jr. Agent Coulson, and Maria Hill are the protagonists, and I really don't think the cast needs to expand any further. (Incidentally, why the heck is Quake listed as the head of SHIELD? Surely Hill is way more qualified now?)

The book opens with a bang, with Hawkeye bleeding out on a rooftop with no memory how he got there. An interesting Eurotrash villain spends a few pages trying to get Hawk to talk, but it's no use. This sequence was notable for two things; 1. Hawkeye acknowledges that a lot of people prefer his old costume. 2. I love that the increasing levels of interrogation send the book further and further into super-hero standards. First you've got beatings, then drugs, then psychics, then darkforce monsters. Of course, what else would you do?

There is a large element of mystery in the book, because Hawkeye and Black Widow's motivation for joining the team is redacted. I like that, because just like their experiences are being tampered with, so are the readers'. We know more than the leads, but not everything. I'm a little worried about Fury, Hill, and Coulson coming off like bad guys, but that might be worth the risk. The drama wouldn't be as effective if Spencer didn't do such a good job making both Avengers very likable. Black Widow really does work best in this type of story.

Luke Ross does a great job. He's been around a long time, but his style has developed and evolved a lot over the years. This is a lot smoother and bubblier than his older work, and it works well with the story. Widow looks fabulous, and the design on the Euro-sorcerer is strong too. I wish I could get behind the Super Soldier costume on Nick Fury Jr., but I'm not sure it looks quite right. Maybe I just need more time to  get used to it!


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Superior Spider-Man #3

Does it make anyone else feel a bit dirty when they hop on these bandwagon titles? I was years behind on Spider-Man, and yet I hopped right back in when Doc Ock took over as the webslinger. I haven't read Spidey regularly since he joined the FF in his white costume. I meant to keep up, and I'm sure I'll get the trades, but I switched back to floppies because I wanted to be streets ahead with Marvel's most-talked about title.

Dan Slott is telling an interesting tale. Doc Ock is "driving" Spider-Man's body, but Peter Parker can subtly influence what Ock does. New wrinkles are coming out every issue. This time we learn that just like Ock has access to all of Spidey's memories, Peter Parker can go snooping around in Doctor Octopus' past too. This has got to lead to a new level of understanding between the two, right? Or will familiarity breed contempt?

Ock does seem to have a few legitimate soft spots. This issue we find out about his compassion for kids. It is an interesting development; I'm curious if this is more of Peter's influence making Ock more thoughtful, or if Ock would always have been this offended?

Again, Slott is in some fairly uncharted territory here. Imagine if Firestorm's components hated each other and weren't aware of each other's presence, and you are close to what's going on in this book.

It's hard to read this book and not talk about Ryan Stegman's art. He has scratched up his work with some nice cross-hatching, but his cartoony roots are still showing up. He's inspired by J. Scott Campbell, right? It seems pretty clear when he draws the ladies.

The Vulture's newest underlings really are younger than is acceptable, but Stegman draws them like toddlers! I don't mind, it makes for a more dramatic turn for Doc Spidey. I sort of miss the more classic look for the Vulture. The slimming black suit isn't as dynamic as the green, winged look. I'm hoping the next classic villain is in more old-timey duds.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

All-New X-Men #7

I remain torn on this title specifically, and Bendis’ work in general. Like always, I enjoy some of the moments between his leads. Cyclops and Wolverine has some interesting back and forth, and I really dig the original X-Men’s attempt to find their place at the Jean Grey Academy. Seeing Iceman and Kitty Pryde face each other down over pushups is a nice little scene!

BUT. Numerous pages of this issue are spent watching Cyclops go to a bank and open a safe deposit box. We see him taking money out of the box. We see how some of the different employees feel about it. We see a whole page of him getting out (with some interesting help.) The pacing is just so far from what I hope for in a $3.99 book!

I really like the way Bendis uses Mystique here. She lies to young Cyclops, but she sprinkles in enough half-truths to make things really confusing. I also appreciate she’s the only one sticking up for old Cyclops’ mind-controlled actions in AvX. Cyke is still a hero, darn it!

And the art! David Marquez draws everyone looking young, but he’s really good! I want to see him drawing more “comic-booky” things! Here we are, 7 issues into this series and I don’t feel like the book has expanded too far from what it was in issue 1. The young X-Men have bounced into the future. They haven’t fought anyone, but they are sort of deciding to stay. Why? What are they hoping to do, exactly? Unclear. 7 issues is a long time for this stuff to be unresolved.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Avengers Assemble Annual #1

It makes me sad that this is the last “clean-up” job Christos Gage has assigned for Marvel at the moment. He’s been a favorite of mine for years. Few people are as good as Gage at wandering around the Marvel U explaining away uncharacteristic actions and editing gaps. (In fact, I think Kieron Gillen is the only current writer who comes close.)

This annual focuses on Vision and his lack of use in any of the core Avengers titles in Marvel Now. Viz had a big return at the start of AvX, but he’s nowhere to be found on the current teams. Gage explains that by playing Vision up against the Sunturion, a great, obscure Iron Man villain with his own personal identification issues. This is classic storytelling, comparing and contrasting your lead against a guy in similar circumstances who makes different choices. While Captain Marvel, Iron Man, Giant Man and Quicksilver appear, they are all there to accent the focus on Vision. Gage uses Quicksilver the most effectively, not surprising after he wrote him so well in Avengers Academy.

But even that clean-up isn’t enough for Gage. He also explains how the Avengers let the Vision’s robotic body sit in a box for years after Scarlet Witch destroyed him in Avengers Disassembled. Giant Man and Iron Man explain away their inaction with different reasons, but both work effectively at giving the Avengers an out on why they would sort of forget about their friend during the Bendis era of Avengers.

Man, thinking about it, it really bums me out that Gage doesn’t have any Marvel work coming up. He does important work, Marvel! You need to get him on a supporting X-book, STAT!

Tomm Coker handles the art, and he’s looking a lot more computer-y than he used to. He’s got a very Renato Arlem-look going on. That’s not a bad thing; I really like his Captain Marvel (especially her helmet) and his black-and-gold Iron Man. I sort of wish he’d left the original Sunturion design alone, cause that was a great-looking Bob Layton costume, but the new one is fine too.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Secret Avengers #37

I really like Rick Remender’s Hawkeye. That’s the main thing I come away with after Remender’s run on this title; his no-killing Hawkeye seems clearly informed by the classic West Coast Avengers I read as a kid. I missed this version of the character. Hawk’s anguish about putting down the Descendants is exactly what a good Avenger should struggle with.

A lot of the team members get a moment or two to shine in this conclusion. Venom, Valkyrie, and Black Widow aren’t headliners, but they get to recap some stuff and we see how they helped. Captain Britain is another character who really seems to fit in as an Avenger now. Remender leaves the Black Ant/Eric O’Grady in a nice spot, too. The character is still out there and later writers are going to have a lot of freedom in developing him further.

One issue I have with the conclusion is how a few of the core characters feel a bit forced in. Hank Pym has been popping in and out of the story for months now, and once again, after a pretty sweet one-page appearance, he’s out of the book. I assume he’s fine and will morph back his normal self, but when we last see him, he’s a pretty gross cyborg. I also don’t know if I was as touched by the original Human Torch’s appearance as I should have been. The guy hasn’t been around in so long, I don’t think it hit me like Remender intended.

Matteo Scalera has really grown on me since his first issue. His scratchy style works well for mass combat and destruction, a good skill in comic book art. His Hawkeye has improved by leaps and bounds too. After seeing his Master Mold and Beast, I’d be curious to see him drawing some more X-Men. What is he moving on to after this?


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

New Avengers #3

It is going to be hard to talk about this issue of New Avengers without mentioning a pretty big spoiler. I have a definite opinion on the “big” event of the issue, including the callback to Identity Crisis and my problems with heroes acting like this. I’m not sure I agree with Jonathan Hickman that out of all the “leader” types in the Marvel U, only Cap is a straight arrow.

Plenty of other stuff happens leading up to the big moment. Beast is recruited into the Illuminati, taking the place of the deceased Professor X. Beast is a good fit, and he adds some nice color to the panels. His redesign is not that jarring when drawn by Steve Epting.

Black Panther is still a mover and shaker in this title, but this is a lot more of an ensemble book than the first issue. I hoped for more of a focus on T’Challa, but perhaps that is not meant to be. I can hope though; Epting’s Panther is a revelation, and I’d love to see him in more action!

Action is a key point for me in a lot of Hickman’s stories. It seems like Hickman has a fair amount of action, but it never has the same weight as in other comics. I mean, this issue has a reformed Infinity Gauntlet repel the invasion of an alternate Earth. That’s big time! But it feels like it just sort of happens in a detached way, something I’ve found in other Hickman work.

Epting brings a lot of style to the proceedings, but I think the clinical approach of the leads is wasting his talents. Sooner or later, Epting needs to be able to cut loose and draw some people punching.

But that shocking ending kept me thinking about this book for awhile. That deserves a bump in the rating.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fearless Defenders #1

I had very high hopes for this book after really enjoying a lot of Cullen Bunn’s other recent work. After reading the first issue, I’m not sure quite where I stand yet. I like Misty Knight and Valkyrie, I’m just not sure I like them together. The oddball pairing is a focus of the issue, but it is really jarring, the two of them do not seem like they would work together well.

A bigger problem is that while I definitely understand why Val would be at the core of this book, right now Misty is just hanging around for a paycheck. (She is the operator of Heroes for Hire, so it makes sense.) The problem is, money isn’t a great motivation for what is essentially a partner/buddy book.

I have one more concern about this premiere issue. I’ve long said that a first issue that features ninjas or robots doesn’t have a strong antagonist. In recent years, I’ve added zombies to the list. So, when Misty and Val team up to fight off a horde of Asgardian undead, I’m worried. A new launch like this is really defined by its villains, and right now, I’m not seeing one.

Bunn has earned a few issues based on his other work, so I’ll be back. But I’m a tad worried!

I’m unfamiliar with the artist, Will Sliney. He looks new, with some panels looking great and some having a bit of an odd perspective on some faces and joints occasionally being a bit oddly placed. It’s not a distraction, though, and his work on the core characters is consistent. He also does a nice job with continuity between panels, so the storytelling is strong too.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Transformers: Robots in Disguise #7-13

So I’m coming in quite late on this thing, but I really need to start reviewing some of my favorite comics. I buy the IDW Transformers books after the digital price drop to $1.99, so I’m a tad behind, that’s why I haven’t been reviewing them. That’s a mistake, though, because these books are quite good. I think I’ll have to start posting reviews anyway!


John Barber’s title is the one that focuses on Bumblebee’s attempt to rebuild Cybertron. Over the course of the first 12 issues, we’ve seen Bee stumble and fail, as the Decepticons and others work against him. One of the more interesting aspects of the last few issues has been Prowl’s loyalties. He’s had Arcee working as his private assassin since issue 1, but now things are getting even more confusing.

Prowl seems to really hate the Decepticons, but that belies a pretty shocking splash page in issue 13. Over the past few months, Prowl and Arcee killed Soundwave, Shockwave, the Constructicons, the Insecticons, and all the tapes (and even more). It’s been bloody! So imagine my surprise when all those guys show up in a splash page, alive, WITH Prowl. And Prowl has a beaten Wheeljack at gunpoint. That’s not good at all. Prowl is one of my faves, so I’m really hoping he’s not turning Decepticon.

Of course, the Decepticons might be losing a member too. A bunch of the issues have had Starscream in a major role, and he’s actually working with Bumblebee and the Autobots to bring peace to Cybertron. Now, of course he’s doing it to consolidate his own power and to scheme his way to the top, but man, it sure seems at least possible that Starscream could end up switching sides too. Unbelievable!

So that’s the core plot, but there are plenty of cameo moments for old favorites. Sideswipe, Bluestreak, Jetfire, Blur, Skylynx, Warpath, and more are cameo-level through much of the book. Wheeljack and Iron Hide have more starring roles. The main Decepticons are off-panel during their “deaths,” but it is worth it for that reveal!

Andrew Griffith’s art is interesting. The characters are all recognizable as their old “toyetic” selves, but they are all bulked up with extra guns and details. I’ve heard these might be in line with newer toys, but I’m not sure. All I know is look at Prowl on that cover and you’ll know if the art style works for you. I think the ‘bots look awesome, and Griffith draws a lot of robotic violence to keep the tempo high.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Wolverine: Goodbye Chinatown TPB

So why does Gorilla Man show up and team up with Wolverine in fighting the Atlas villain Jade Claw? Because it seems like fun, that’s why. I understand that Jason Aaron had set up Wolverine as a boss in San Francisco’s Chinatown, but I certainly never expected Wolverine to get involved in the Agents of Atlas’ business.

Aaron pulls a huge tone shift in this story. He’s always got mad, fun ideas, but all those stories about possession and dead relatives were a bit of a downer. Letting Wolverine team up with a kung-fu master, a smart-talking street kid, and Gorilla Man certainly makes the point that this is a bit more fun. And in case it wasn’t clear enough, here comes the Immortal Weapon Fat Cobra (and all he talks about is how hungry he is!)

Aaron outdoes himself with Jade Claw’s villain banter. Her dialogue is full of some of the most petty, villainous actions I’ve ever read. It’s a good thing this story is so light-hearted, cause a real villain doing these things would be upsetting! Heck, she orders some flunky to swallow his own tongue!

Aaron has a habit of making up insane, awesome new villains (see recent creation Cannonfoot). While I appreciate seeing Razorfist again, the villain who steals the show in this collection is Soulstriker. I know his name because he and his teammates helpfully introduce themselves when they attack our heroes. Soulstriker has the ability to punch through flesh and pummel you directly in the soul. Wonderful. That’s the type of mad idea that keeps me coming back to comics.

I think Ron Garney is having a good time drawing this stuff, too. He gets the aforementioned heroes and villains, AND he gets to draw gigantic Chinese dragons. And those dragons puke in the course of the story. Now how is that not fun? I didn’t mention the kung-fu master totally looks like a 70’s master too, making him even cooler. Garney’s art used to have a bit more detail; his faces have gotten a tad sketchy. But what he lacks in linework he more than doubles in kinetic action. This book has a lot of butt-kicking going on.