Sunday, March 31, 2013

Astonishing X-Men: Monstrous TPB

I’m not sure what I expect from Daniel Way these days, but I’m pleasantly surprised by this trade. Any story that features Fin Fang Foom, Marvel’s Monster Island, and Mentallo has got to be at least “Fair!” Factor in some artwork from fantastic pencillers like Jason Pearson and Nick Bradshaw? That makes this thing a can’t miss. No matter what the story is, you know it will be pretty.

The story ends up being pretty simple. Escorting Armor to a family funeral, the X-Men get roped into aiding Roxxon Oil as they fend off a horde of monsters. Mentallo takes over Monster Island and uses his brute force-based telepathy to control the simple beasts that live there. This gives Wolverine some nice moments to stick up for the savage beasts. The set-up also allows Cyclops and Wolverine to show their different approaches in mentoring new X-Men like Armor. Other than that, this is a simple story that lets the art shine. Any team of X-Men could have starred in this story and it would have read just as well.

So the story is average, but we came for the art!

Jason Pearson. Man, why is this guy not doing more books? His ladies may be top-heavy, but the acting on the faces is great. His Wolverine is short and squat and built like a tank. Mentallo looks on-model but modern, and the monsters are exciting. For a story this full of rubble, there is a fair amount of backgrounds in the panels too.

Nick Bradshaw has become one of my favorites. I don’t know if this is his first Marvel work, but it is wonderful. There is even more detail in Bradshaw’s pages than in Pearson’s. Bradshaw really is a fusion of Jack Kirby and Arthur Adams, and that comes through strongly in these pages.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Lobster Johnson and the Burning Hand TPB

Man, I simply can’t believe the batting average that Mike Mignola has going in his Hellboy universe. Lobster Johnson has gone from oddball, ghostly guest-star to headlining his own mini-series. And he belongs here! Even with the very minimal details we get on the guy, there plot and conflicts are strong enough to make this a thrilling read. Factor in the amazing art from Tonci Zonjic, and this is another thrilling collection.

I’m not sure how the work is divided up between Mignola and John Arcudi, but I love the tiny bits of background we get in this one. We know the Black Flame pretty well, but I certainly never expected to see him used as a mob enforcer. I suppose that’s only fair, though, because Lobster Johnson seems to have some amazing abilities going on too.

That brings up an interesting point, though. We know nothing about the man behind the mask, including his abilities. He seems to rely on his network of operatives, each one filling a required niche or sidekick stereotype. (It’s a good thing Lobster has so many; vigilanty-ing is a dangerous business!) Does Lobster actually get hit with all those bullets? Is he wearing a vest? Is he supernaturally protected? I literally have no idea, and it doesn’t even matter.

Even with the vaguely-defined powers he exhibits, Lobster has a real challenge on his hands. Gangsters with guns, strange foreign assassins, and basements full of zombies make for some good antagonists. Heck, the book opens with glowing Indians scalping policeman! As I read through one great set piece after another, I thought what a great movie this would make. Whoever scripted this thing really lays down a great rising action and climax. The world seems like a great place to visit too, complete with dynamic dames and plucky local cops.

The whole thing wouldn’t be quite as wonderful without Zonjic’s art. He’s got a really simple, almost animated-looking style. The details are fantastic (I loved reading the bonus materials to see him updating the look of Lobster’s gun for accuracy.) I’d absolutely love to buy a page from this series, but I don’t think I can afford it. That page where Lobster goes into the wrong basement? That ranks as one of my favorite scenes in a long time.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Daredevil #24

The solicitation for this issue suggests that Matt Murdock might give up being Daredevil because of Foggy’s cancer. That never really raises its head as an option, but I love that the chaos and scrambling in Matt Murdock’s life is once again affecting his time as Daredevil. I think Spider-Man is the only other character in comics who has as much drama out of the costume as he does in it.

Mark Waid is showing us that there is a method to the madness that has plagued the series so far. Coyote, Klaw, and the other villains who have showed up so far are all connected. We see the mastermind, attended by a female silhouette, as he is locked into a sensory-depravation suit. I’m not sure which villain has a situation this close to Daredevil’s, but I’m confident Waid will have found someone good. It might be a new villain, but I’m betting on the re-imagining and elevation of an old character.

The fight this issue is pretty brief, when Matt Murdock has to fight off a crowd of sensory-enhanced dogs. These beasts are related to the mutated humans DD fought last month, but the animals are a lot easier to take out. Hank Pym shows up for cleanup duty, and he also chimes in with a diagnosis for Foggy’s condition too.

Waid write Pym as a scientist first and hero second Combined with Chris Samnee’s take on the Giant Man costume, and Pym really seems out of place as a hero. He just doesn’t have the body language to carry himself in the same class as Daredevil. That said, I sure hope Waid isn’t writing Pym in that Ultron spin-off just to kill him.

Samnee’s art is once again fantastic. The book would have been light on combat without the dog attack, and Samnee wisely shows Murdock’s lawyer clothes tearing away, revealing the DD costume underneath. Samnee handles the emotional scenes well too, showing off his versatility and strength in storytelling. Again, I’m not sure I love his baggy-suited Giant Man, but I do appreciate the effort to give him a different look than other characters.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

New Avengers #5

Until the final page of this issue, this comic is all talking. The story of cosmic destruction and universal balance could literally star any scientist type characters. Iron Man doesn’t need his armor until the last page.

I mean, I know New Avengers is going to have a more cerebral tone than Avengers, but man! Terrax the Tamer is in this issue, and he spends pages and pages talking! Terrax! Best of all, it isn’t even really Terrax; rather it is an alternate reality version of the character.

Hickman seems to have a great grasp on the core cast. I dig the way he writes Black Panther as an ever-ready bad ass. Tony Stark has that right level of arrogance, and Reed Richards thinks he’s the boss even in a room full of leaders. Dr. Strange’s mystic tomes and interactions with Wong seem dead on also.

But the whole alternate Earth conflict, complete with ominous Galactus in the distance is so abstract. There is no villain in the book so far, so all of this is just sort of happening. As I said in yesterday’s review, I might just be a simpleton, but I don’t come to comics for man vs. nature battles. I want a villain! I’m sure Hickman has one, but we should know more about Black Swan and her motivations than we do right now. I think it is a question of pacing more than anything else, perhaps in a trade these answers will come out right away.

Steve Epting draws such cool looking super-heroes, it makes me sad that they spend so much time talking. It seems obvious to me; Tony Stark in space is not as cool as Iron Man in space. Thankfully, T’Challa is rocking his Black Panther costume all the time, so there is always one cool costume hanging around. Dr. Strange wears his a lot too, actually. I like Epting’s Beast more than the version in the X-books; he’s got a bit more of the class ape-face.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Avengers #8

When the characters in your comic are actually stating how confusing the dialogue is? That’s usually a bad sign.

Jonathan Hickman’s worst traits are coming out to play in this series once again. It’s odd, because clearly Hickman is very popular, but I find his more cerebral, abstract plots to be disappointing.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of entertaining elements in this issue. When the new Starbrand first appears, Captain America approaches the kid in a kind fashion, and Cap’s confidence shines off the page. He really is looking out for this kid and trying to defuse the situation. Hulk acts perfectly in character to just smash, and he and Captain Marvel have a great team-up moment when she fast-pitches him from space. It is also enjoyable seeing another super-powered foe able to take on the Avengers’ toughest members. Iron Man’s armor looks pretty beat up for most of the issue. So Hickman does have a good fight in here!

But man! Every time Nightmask opens his mouth, the book screeches to a halt. There is way too much explanation about the universal system, the broken cycle, the meaning of this and that. I don’t think I’m an idiot (maybe I’m wrong) but it seems like a bunch of circular nonsense. I honestly had to make myself go back and read the dialogue to see if I was missing something. Nope, just vague ominous comments that don’t really mean anything.

Dustin Weaver’s art is a lot of fun. He does a fantastic job on Captain Marvel, both helmeted and un-helmeted. This might be the best I’ve seen her look in any comic. (As an aside, I’d sure like to collect CM’s solo book, but that art is awful.) Weaver’s art is character-heavy, even in combat scenes. CM and the Hulk’s nice moment in space. Cap’s confidence, Star Brand’s confusion and petulance. They all jump off the page. I’d love to see more fights like this!

I just need to accept this is the Avengers. Flashes of great action and violence with long stretches of pseudo-science dialogue.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Captain America #5

I’m still not convinced this was the right way to kick off a new Captain America series. I’m seeing the falling sales numbers and the negative reviews online, and it just bums me out. I love that Rick Remender has embraced the madness of Jack Kirby’s run on Captain America. He’s introduced some great new characters in Ian and Jet Black, and Cap’s fighting spirit is on display every issue. Heck, next month’s cover has me excited to see Cap fighting back!

But I’m not sure it is a good idea to spend 5 issues in an insane alternate reality with only two or maybe three recognizably human characters. The Phlox of whatever they are called are just too inhuman to be relatable, and that hurts the drama of the current storyline. It is hard to believe that this story will really “count” in any meaningful way. At most, we’ll get a redesigned Arnim Zola and Jet Black back in the Marvel U. I suppose Ian could make it out somehow, but man, that would be one big parallel with Batman and Damian, wouldn’t it?

I like that Jet Black is showing some signs of a conscience. With no actual Big Barda appearing in comics, I suppose I’ll take a copy in the Marvel Universe!

John Romita Jr.’s art is always fun; take a look at that panel where Zola’s gross copy slops out of Cap’s chest cavity! But this arc lets him indulge in his most insane monster-drawing, and that means that once again, things look a bit too far out. You have to be a real fan of his style to pore over 20 pages of insane monsters.


Monday, March 25, 2013

All-New X-Men #9 & Uncanny X-Men #3

It took about 5 issues for me to warm up to this book, but I’ve finally caught up with the rest of the industry. I still say the problem is that the first 5 issues were spoiled in online interviews. Since then, Bendis is really doing a good job as the caretaker of the X-franchise.

I never would have imagined that it would be young Angel that came out doubting the Beast, but at least someone is calling out the X-Men for turning on Scott Summers. Cyclops might be a bit confrontational, but I’m not sure he’s doing anything wrong. He’s doing exactly what he has been since he formed the mutant nation of Utopia; he’s trying to protect his species. Seeing Angel come doubting into Beast’s lab was a great moment. For all his intelligence and planning, the modern day Beast is a bit of a drama bomb.

Also as expected, Magneto isn’t quite as duplicitous as he seemed. In fact, he’s probably more so. I’m glad Bendis decided to keep Mags loyal for a couple of reasons. First of all, until some more X-Men join Cyclops’ Xavier Academy, he needs every “name” character he can get on his side. Losing even one really weakens his position as a foil for Wolverine’s posse. Second, it adds yet another layer of dysfunction and drama onto Cyclops’ squad. For a team with only four members, they have a lot to bicker about.

All-New features Mystique and Sabretooth breaking out Lady Mastermind, yet another strong move. We can only watch the mirroring factions of X-Men posture and grumble at each other for so long. Eventually, we need a team of villainous mutants to be the antagonists, and I’d say Mystique’s team is looking pretty strong. Add in a couple of bricks and they’ll be in good shape. Shape-shifting and illusions are a bit redundant as far as powers, but I like both characters enough to see the potential on this team.

The art in Bendis’ X-corner is an accomplishment too. Chris Bachalo’s heavily stylized pencils can sometimes be hard to follow, but there is no doubt they are fun. His Hulk in particular is quite fun. I did notice some differences in posture and position while the Avengers were supposedly locked in time, but that’s a small complaint.

Stuart Immonen’s triumphant return to the X-Men is striking too. I complain about un-earned splash pages, but Immonen’s page of horrors? Wow. Lady Mastermind’s powers are going to be a pleasure to see if Immonen continues to show them this effectively.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Metal Men 100 Page Spectacular #1

What a joy it is that some creators are able to come back and deliver the same quality that they did in the past. I held off on reading this collection for a long time; I was worried that Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire wouldn’t be able to recreate the joy found in their old JLI comics. (Even though they have come back and done it at least twice before.) It turns out I shouldn’t have been worried.

I’m not a huge Metal Men fan. I like the look, but I really can’t get into the generic personalities. But that’s not a problem here. Giffen and DeMatteis write this thing like a sitcom, with easily approachable and likeable personalities for each member of the team. Gold is the big-headed leader; I got a real Booster Gold vibe from him. Platinum is great as the lovesick leading lady, but that’s because she’s annoyed at her feelings and wonders if she’s been programmed to be so silly. Copper is the only addition to the team, but she provides a great recurring joke for the length of the series. Her affections for Gold just make her situation even more amusing. Mercury is a jerk and Tin is a wimp, as expected. Iron and Lead are the straight ‘bots, they don’t get a ton to do.

Doc Magnus comes off in a manner pretty similar to Reed Richards. He’s an absent-minded professor who means well, but doesn’t think a lot of anyone around him. Forcing Doc to interact with people in suburban Chicago is a brilliant idea and actually gives the “normal” people the upper hand.

This collection barely has villains, but the antagonists are Douglas: Robot Hunter, the Clique, and Giganta (who loses her top). So yeah, the danger doesn’t exactly keep you coming back. The witty banter does!
Kevin Maguire is so good. I don’t know how I’m not buying his World’s Finest series. Every single character exhibits his fantastic “acting” and facial expressions. I forgot how good Maguire is at action, too; his insane level of detail works nicely in “standard” stories too.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Avenging Spider-Man #18

How fun is it seeing this proactive Spider-Man? Otto Octavius might be a better Spidey than Peter Parker.

When Electro returns to New York after being blasted away by Thor, Doc Spidey is immediately on the scene. Not only that, but Otto tracks down Thor to warn him about the return. Christopher Yost does a great job showing Otto stay ahead of every move Electro makes. He knows where Electro goes for help, he knows the plan, and he tries to head it off every chance he gets.

Yost’s Thor is a bit of an oaf. Thor can always take himself too seriously, and his dismissive attitude towards Spidey is abrasive. I like thinking that Peter Parker would have just rolled with it and made a quip, but Doc Spidey is offended and grumpy. Thor doesn’t have to do much besides survive some lightning strikes, but he does come off as a noble hero looking out for everyone else.

Really, this book couldn’t fail. It has Doc Spidey, Thor, Electro, and AIM. That’s certainly enough classic Marvel elements to keep me happy. The story is slight fun; it won’t leave a lasting impression, but it certainly holds up as a strong Marvel team-up.

Marco Checchetto draws in the same style as Gabriel Del Otto. Sometimes that means the action isn’t quite as “fun” as I’d like in my Marvel comics. Electro is sporting his tattooed face look rather than his great mask. Thor’s current costume doesn’t have the same flair as some of the more Kirby-esque designs. That said, Checchetto’s Spider-Man and AIM agents look tremendous. I love the textured feel of the Superior Spider-Man costume throughout the issue.


Friday, March 22, 2013

Fearless Defenders #2

I really want to love this comic, but so far it is only OK. (It does sport one of my favorite covers ever, though!)

Cullen Bunn is on new ground here, populating an all-female team book one heroine at a time. For me, that’s not the right call because I’m not a huge fan of either of the leads. Valkyrie is a bit of a cipher and I liked Misty Knight best as “Control” in Heroes for Hire. They just don’t draw me into the book. I am a fan of Mirage, but she actually gets taken out in the opening pages of this issue. I was bummed that she was taken out by normal dudes! This is the leader of the New Mutants!

I’m leaving out the other supporting player, Dr. Annabelle Riggs. I like her doting on Valkyrie and Val’s obliviousness to her affections, but again, she’s just not a riveting enough character to bring me back.
The first issue was missing a real foil for the team, and Bunn starts to resolve that problem here. Mr. Raven is the contractor who succeeds in dropping Mirage and with a name like that he could end up as a good villain. Caroline Le Fey has a good name and I appreciate her businesslike approach to villainy. But the only way we know these people’s names is because they are called out in descriptive text boxes. No one knows enough about what is going on to use anyone’s name in conversation. It’s a tad frustrating.

The book is coming together, I’m intrigued by Marvel’s Hippolyta joining next issue, and if Bunn really does fill the team with more lady heroes, I will have to stick around. Wasp, Tigra, or She-Hulk would all keep me coming back for more. But I can’t help but think the book would be moving a bit quicker if the team was already formed.

Will Sliney’s art is still a bit raw, but he’s getting better. Too often it looks like heads are pasted on over necks, not attached. Characters are often contorted around in unnatural ways. His body language is the strongest part of his art; you can tell characters apart by how they hold themselves. I also like the Hippolyta design.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thor: God of Thunder #6

It is weird that Jason Aaron would have two books ship in the same week, and they’d both be villain-background pieces. What are the odds? We got Dog’s history in Wolverine & the X-Men, and this issue is all about Gorr the God Butcher.

Aaron taps into classic feelings of confusion about religion to make Gorr a lot more relatable than Dog. Gorr has a horrible life on his unnamed world. Pretty much everyone around him dies as they scrabble through their lives on an unforgiving planet. I liked the small touches like the “cave apples” and “salt worms” that give the world an alien but still familiar feel. (At first I thought the salt worm was a flower with a face!)

It is easy to identify with Gorr’s sense of betrayal, and it is hard to fault him when he takes revenge on the gods who fell right in front of him. Of course, it seems to me that the evil, dark-armored one may have passed on a weapon that made Gorr more evil than angry.

The story flashes ahead, not quite to the far future of the current storyline, but closer. We see Volstagg as a pale shadow of his former self. He’s starving after working in the mines to build something for Gorr. He points out something to Gorr that has been obvious to the reader for some time: by becoming an immortal god-killer, Gorr is now a god himself, isn’t he?

Butch Guice steps in on art this month, and it is amazing how much human emotion he’s able to get out of those alien faces. Gorr’s family looks so close to human that it is heartbreaking watching them suffer. I found the scene with the transforming sword a little bit hard to follow, but clearly the space god’s sword transforms into a more era-appropriate weapon for Gorr; a sharp stone. Now it seems to turn into whatever he needs.

I like to imagine those fallen “gods” might be a space knight and a dire wraith, but I’m probably over-thinking it!


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Secret Avengers #2

I thought the first issue of this book was OK, but not spectacular. I wasn’t planning on getting issue #2. But then they put Taskmaster on the cover. And when I flipped through the book, I saw Crossfire. I also saw one of my favorite Avengers popping up in an unexpected role. So yeah, this book has enough Marvel history in it to definitely get my attention.

Nick Spencer spends a lot of time in this issue setting things up. I still haven’t read the founding of AIM Island, but I love the concept. It’s not that different from the old Cobra Island idea, is it? Especially after this issue where we see the ruling elite that will be running the place. In addition to the current Scientist Supreme, we’ve got Mentallo, Superia, Black Widow II, and more. That’s a pretty great utilization of some obscure Marvel characters! Sold!

On the hero side, Nick Fury Jr. is trying to get Taskmaster out of jail. Tasky just had a run-in with a serpent-crown type artifact that has made him quite unpopular in villain circles, so Fury has to get him out as quickly as possible. Fury is aided by Agent Coulsen, Black Widow, and Hawkeye, as we established last month. There is one more hero who shows up as a member of the team, and man, if she’s in the book full time, I may just add this to my sublist. With Taskmaster joining up too, this line-up is getting rock solid.

I think I’ve seen Hulk in some upcoming issues, though, right? I don’t think he fits in as well. I worry the green goliath’s overpowered presence will change the feel of this spy caper comic.

Luke Ross’ art continues to impress me. When the surprise Avenger shows up, she looks like David Lopez just finished drawing her and that is a big compliment. Ross also does a great job with the crowd scenes featuring B-list Marvel villains. Ross has been around for a long time, and he really is a chameleon. He can draw in any style.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Age of Ultron #2

Bendis uses a lot of pages in this issue to show us Black Widow and Moon Knight trying to get by on the West Coast. It is a useful exercise, because it shows the reader that Ultron’s dominance is at least nationwide, if not bigger. I also like the odd pairing of the Widow and Moon Knight. I can’t think of a ton of interactions between the two of them, but they make sense together. I also like the use of an old SHIELD HQ in a barbershop. Why mess with the classics?

The rest of the book shows us the New York faction of heroes as they try to come up with a plan to take out Ultron. Quicksilver, Monica Rambea/Photon, and a few other heroes show up this month, so the ranks are growing. Plus Cap seems to be getting his head back in the game. This mix of X-Men and Avengers could make for a very fun team.

So things are moving, but not very fast. We don’t know a lot more after this issue than we did last month. Books like this show how easy it is to make a four or six part story last ten issues!

Bryan Hitch’s widescreen style is sure stunning and dramatic, but it doesn’t make for dense reads. I think this took me just a few minutes to get through. Hitch is a master artist, make no mistake, but I don’t find myself in awe over any of the characters except for Cap. Captain America looks fantastic when he finally gets his head straight. I know the heroes are supposed to be beaten down, but that defeated body language doesn’t’ exactly equate to excitement.

Bleeding Cool has leaked that a big “guest” will be appearing in the final issue of Age of Ultron. The obvious choice is that Marvel Man is finally making his debut in the official continuity. But to be honest, how many people even know the character? I certainly don’t. My other guesses are ROM (which would make me pretty happy) or Joe Quesada’s creation Ash (I don’t know that guy at all).

The only other option I can think of is that a Disney property could be crossing over. Can anyone think of a Disney character who would make a big impact in Marvel? Buzz Lightyear? John Carter? Boba Fett?


Monday, March 18, 2013

Walking Dead #108

This comic already asks you to suspend your disbelief about zombies and overcoming grievous bodily injury. This issue, Robert Kirkman is going to ask you to go a bit farther. You need to accept that a guy can have a pet tiger that walks around and obeys what he says. If you are OK with that, then you are going the dig this issue. Cause King Ezekiel has a tiger.

Kirkman continues lining everything up for the big confrontation that has been building in the series for months. Negan continues to be a jerk to his underlings; he beats them at ping pong then boasts about how he’s going to hook up with his stolen women. The guy is plain unlikable, but you have to respect that he doesn’t hide just how cruel he really is. He might be treating his people too badly, based on this issue, but again, I’m not sure I buy the issue’s cliffhanger quite yet.

Charlie Adlard has to stretch his muscles this month. Lots of different locations and storylines get a check in. We see Michonne and Carl team up against some zombies. It felt a lot like a scene from the TV show, so much so that I even felt like the characters resembled their on-screen counterparts. That’s probably me projecting.

The Community’s resident bonehead, Spencer, is taking time to pray about his upcoming choice. I have no doubt he’s planning no killing Rick. He’s been jealous ever since Andrea decided she preferred Rick over him. I was also surprised to see Father Gabriel still alive. I was sure he was dead!

The bulk of the issue shows Rick and Jesus as they gain an audience with Ezekiel. He’s not taking Negan’s protection racket lying down either. I loved the whole tone of the meeting; Ezekiel feels he has the situation so well in hand that Rick’s info is honestly all he needs. Rick has to repeatedly offer to help in the upcoming battle. It’s nice to see someone who might actually be a competent good guy!

Ezekiel’s design is a lot of fun too. He’s got a sweet star shirt, a feather in his dreads, and a wicked cane. Hail to the king!


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye #13

PRICE REDUCED-REVIEW! ($1.99 on Comixology)

Man, this is one complicated comic. At least James Roberts is keeping his core cast fairly limited; but it has taken me 13 issues and a trip to an online wiki to feel like I really know these guys.

Rodimus is off screen for most of the issue, leaving the spotlight on the other “core crew” of the Lost Light. Finally getting some downtime on a vacation planet, the ‘bots have to send in holo-avatars of themselves in advance to make sure they are allowed in different locales. The cover shows Skids, Ultra Magnus, Rung, Rewind, and Swerve’s avatars, each a pretty effective human representation for each.

Of the group, I find myself liking Swerve more and more each issue. I didn’t connect with him at first, but now I find myself amused at his antics. Ultra Magnus as the Batman-like straight man works well too. Rung’s alter ego is wearing a “Mary Sue” nametag. I’m not sure I ever realized that Roberts had inserted himself into the Autobots through Rung, but I appreciate that he is giving himself the tag. Who wouldn’t want to hang out with your favorite childhood toys? Roberts is clearly living the dream.

One thing that’s intriguing about this book is the budding relationships between the characters. Chromedome and Rewind have been established as a couple, but Rodimus and Drift, along with Tailgate and Cyclonus all seem to be some manner of partners too. I suppose that makes sense in a series where there is only one female, but it is definitely a new element.

I think things will get darker next issue, so I appreciate the time spent with the characters relaxing. Guido Guidi sticks with the book’s cartoony tone, but it fits these characters better than any others in comics, I’d say. Guidi gets the core cast I’ve mentioned, plus a couple shots of Blaster and Rodimus as cameos. When do we get more Hound and Trailbreaker?


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Wonder Woman v1: Blood HC

Oof! I’m sitting in on a panel about Wonder Woman today going along with PBS’ documentary on the character. I plan on talking about the character from a fan perspective, so I wanted to be fairly caught up on her comic. I read issue 1 when the new 52 launched; I was dismayed at the level of blood and gore in the book, and saddened by the fact that it didn’t “feel” like Wonder Woman.

After reading the first trade, those first impressions were right on, but I’m not as upset about it. This is NOT a comic I can let my kids see. They are young comic fans, 8 and 5 years old. There is no way I can let them read a hard-R comic featuring decapitations and immolations. Wonder Woman is the #1 female character in comics, a role model and inspirational figure. But man, this book is not for the casual fan.
Instead, Brian Azzarello is presenting his take on the Greek pantheon. The gods are all here in new and interesting designs. Thanks to artist Cliff Chiang, the new costumes and looks are stunning. I think Hera is my favorite, walking around nude except for a peacock headdress. 

But War, Apollo, and Mercury all show up and look great. The Amazons have retained their classic look, with Hippolyta rocking a bit more warrior-like look than I remember. I love her armor, too. I’ve barely scratched the surface of players in this comic, so one thing should be clear; this is an ensemble book. Wonder Woman is the lead, but she is not the star.

Azzarello is also changing the “clay child” origin too, tying in Wonder Woman’s past much more directly to Greek myths. It’s a bit of a bummer, seeing another piece of classic comic lore go by the wayside. It’s almost like that origin is too silly and “unrealistic” for the grimmer new 52. I’m pleased that Diana doesn’t let this change her outlook too much; she’s still the same powerful woman as always, her world is just a lot darker.

In the end, I recognize this as a pretty compelling story. Azzarello has a nice, complicated plot with lots of players, intrigue, and betrayals. The problem is, that’s not what I look for in my Wonder Woman comic. Over the years, there have been very few iterations of the character I enjoyed. This simply adds to the pile of misses. For me, the character seems to work best in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon.

Fair (bumped up by the art)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Wolverine & the X-Men #26

This issue suffers by comparison to the other recent books in this series. Jason Aaron’s mad take on the X-Men has been one of my favorite comics for months now, so when we get an issue that is merely entertaining rather than brilliant? I’m going to be a bit tougher of a grader.

This issue focuses on Wolverine’s half-brother Dog, introduced in the terrible Origin limited series. I don’t have a problem with the idea of an evil brother; it’s a staple in fiction. But when Sabretooth is already out there in so similar a role, it’s tough not to compare Dog to the more established villain.

Dog’s past is entertaining and sad, there is no doubt. It is easy to see why he turned out to be such a jerk. I even like that Dog articulates every villain’s belief: he’s the hero in this story, Wolverine is the villain.
The problem is, in order to make Dog a legitimate threat to Wolverine, Aaron has to equip him with all sorts of neat futuristic weaponry. It just doesn’t work for me. Dog’s look doesn’t lend itself to future weapons, the incongruous match of future tech and old-timey clothes make for a confusing villain. His powers don’t match the look, basically. I’m still anxious to see how the brothers resolve this confrontation; I just don’t care for Dog as much as I could.

Ramon Perez is very impressive once again this month. His art switches back and forth between the pastel-style of Wolverine’s “Origin” series and the more modern look he established last month. I love his cartoony style when drawing Wolverine. Logan’s eyes are particularly expressive. I will say the backgrounds are lacking, but the dynamic foreground action during the fight distracts from the lack of setting.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Iron Man #7

I’m afraid Kieron Gillen’s Iron Man has moved from the top of the stack to the bottom. I loved the module-based approach that the series started out with, but now that Iron Man is in space in a silly new armor? I’m just not feeling the armored Avenger these days.

That said? This book pretty much wins me back. Gillen uses a Rigellian Recorder who shows up at JUST the right moment to help out Tony Stark with his whole “GodKiller” trial. I found the timing to be a bit suspicious and nothing that happens later in the issue has changed my mind. I know Gillen loves evil robots, so I think this 451 guy might not have Stark’s best interests in mind.

Then you’ve got a twist on the old “trial by combat” theme. The hero is always the underdog, right? Facing down horrific, overpowered champions from beyond? Well Gillen flips it. Stark is accused by a peaceful race championed by hobbyists. They have no chance against a Cap-trained Avenger!

And wow, I’m stunned at the next champion. This guy hasn’t been in a comic for years and years, and now he has popped up two weeks in a row. Death’s Head, people! How many readers under 30 even know who this guy is? I’m happy to see him; his crazy cadence and imposing design always make him a neat supporting character.

This is one of the best turnarounds I've read in a comic. I had almost no interest in Space Iron Man last month, and here I am excited for the next issue. 

I bet I like this issue more because of the lack of space armor too. That early black and gold armor had me excited, but this sunburst? Bleh! Greg Land is never my favorite artist, but I thought he was doing a good job with the action sequences early in the series. Land doesn’t get to put Stark in the armor for the action scenes, but there is plenty of hand-to-hand combat. The backgrounds are almost non-existent, and the Recorder’s redesign is a bit mundane, but the action is clear enough. And I have to mention Land’s favorite trick. In a flashback, we see Hope and Scarlet Witch defeat the Phoenix. And Hope is butt is naked, but painted green. 


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Avengers #7

Ugh. Cap's new helmet is awful!

I think Jonathan Hickman’s take on the Avengers might be the most cerebral approach I’ve seen. I find myself absolutely loving some of the issues, but then there are issues where I finish the book and I feel like I didn’t quite get my $3.99 worth.

This issue contains two recap/title pages and 5 pages featuring alien strangeness. That only leaves about 15 pages for the actual Avengers, but they aren’t even the focus of most of those pages. Instead, we are seeing potential matches with the Star Brand. Now Hickman’s little trick with the Star Brand is a pretty good one, and it sets things up nicely for next issue, but the cost is an issue where the Avengers don’t do a whole lot. I’m sure this type of thing reads much better in trade, but when I’m anxiously awaiting an Avengers fix, this doesn’t quite scratch the itch.

Dustin Weaver is back on art, and I remain impressed. He is one of the few artists who really sold me on the current Captain Marvel costume; his Carol Danvers looks like a daring leader type (which is how she’s supposed to look). There are a fair amount of panels with no background, but then the detail in others is wonderful, so that’s a wash. I’m not sold on the Nightmask redesign yet either. A bit too post-modern for my sensibilities. I like that collar on the original design!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Superior Spider-Man #5

It is hard to believe, but I think Dan Slott is actually getting better with this Superior Spider-Man thing. The moral dilemmas are getting more permanent and the stark contrast between Otto-Spidey and Peter Parker are really showing off the best of both characters. Otto is going to start doing serious, permanent damage to Spider-Man’s reputation as a hero. But that’s not all. Ol’ Otto always enjoyed chowing down, and he’s now eating mass quantities while possessing a slim spider-tuned body. Peter might come back to a middle aged body squeezed into the spandex!

Otto’s totally different approach to life is refreshing too. The costume is the same, but the somewhat laid back approach to super-heroing is so different, it is weird! This is clearly a different guy in the suit! Otto puts equal focus on personal development as the hero business, and he is quickly removing the need to stay on patrol. Sure, he’s blurring the line about too much power vs. keeping an eye on his city, but there is no doubting he’s a lot more efficient than Peter Parker. This set-up of a watchful, overlord Spider-Man would make him a good city-level villain should Slott and Marvel go in that direction.

I’m deliberately avoiding talking about the showdown with Massacre. Slott does an absolutely fantastic job showing how Otto’s arrival on the scene differs from Peter’s. The reader can see what Otto is doing, but Peter is frantic when he thinks Otto isn’t taking the situation seriously. And then the old moral dilemma about rehabilitation. Why let a known murderer go free when you know he will kill again? I can’t be sure what Otto-Spidey actually does here, but either way, I don’t think it is going to be good for Spidey or Peter’s reputation.

I continue to appreciate Giuseppe Camuncoli’s bulked-up Spider-Man. Giving Otto that extra heft makes him seem even more like a new character. I like the new Empire State tutor, but I’m not sure Camuncoli has quite mastered drawing a little person yet. She looks a bit too child-like, but her clothes and facial expressions do a good job showing her true age.


Monday, March 11, 2013

All-New X-Men #8

Angel! Action! Avengers!

This is one of the best issues of All-New X-Men so far. By finally giving Warren Worthington (in both of his incarnations) the spotlight, Bendis answers a lot of questions. Current Angel seems to be pretty darn powerful, content, and an eager super-hero. When Hydra attacks Avengers Mansion, Angel darts in and starts taking out bad guys. He’s having a great time doing it, too. I do wonder how much this Angel really remembers, he occasionally makes comments that lead me to believe he might remember more than he’s letting on.

Young Angel has always been one of the more reluctant time-lost X-Men. He does his best to keep up with his energetic older self, but it is too much for the kid. He wants to go home and he’s desperate to get there. I really like how that problem is resolved. I never predicted Bendis would take this particular character in the direction he does here. Judging from the faces of all the other cast members, I don’t know if they saw it coming either!

Bendis has expressed his happiness at writing Kitty Pryde and Iceman as a couple and that shines through here. Their banter while filling in the blanks for Captain America and Beast’s discussion is quite amusing. The Avengers don’t have much more than an extended cameo with no real conflict. Cap trusts Beast enough to keep anything from getting violent.

David Marquez’ art continues to be a delight. His facial expressions sell the scenes between the different Angels from start to finish. (Old Angel might need a haircut, though.) I’m not sold on this version of Beast yet, but I’m holding out hope that he can just grow his signature haircut back and look a bit more normal. Marquez also sticks the landing in the closing scene. His Jean Grey looks young but determined, and I find myself enjoying Jean’s 60’s style hair and costume.

I still say that some of the young X-Men AND some of the experienced X-Men need to join up with Cyclops’ Xavier School. I don’t really see any seeds planted in the group yet. Could Bendis be planning to move Jean Grey there? I will admit it seems Bendis has this book heading in a very interesting direction.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Action Comics HC 1

This was far and away the most impressive of the new 52 debuts. Honestly, Grant Morrison's "man of the people" take on Superman was one of the best premiere issues I've ever read. Seeing Superman running and leaping through Metropolis, taking it to the fatcats while sticking up for the working man? That's my kind of Superman! Unfortunately, that take really only lasts about two issues before things got out of whack and the new 52 reared its ugly head. 

To make matters worse, DC had to correct the order of the issues in the collection. Instead or the normal publishing order, DC presents Action Comics issues 1-4, 7-8, then 5-6. I thought this seemed to read a bit more clearly than my first few floppies did. Honestly, if DC felt the need to do this in the collection, how much of a mess must this have been monthly? 

Anyway, there is a lot of good stuff in this collection. Even though I've got my problems with the new 52 (and I've stated them exhaustively before), seeing Morrison's mad ideas and new take on dialogue is still entertaining. Brainiac is reborn as the Collector, gathering bottled cities in mint condition and trying to gather the last Kryptonian. Lex Luthor is an overconfident business man out to protect our planet from an invasive species. Clark Kent is an investigative journalist fighting for the little man with a very interesting source giving him the inside track. 

Morrison has been using his new grunt-dialogue in Batman for awhile, and it works nicely here in Superman too. There are a ton of "Nnng." And "Rrgh"'s going on, every time anyone struggles. It's a neat contrivance, adding a layer of realism to the word bubbles. As long as it doesn't get overused, I'm a fan. 

Regarding the new 52? I don't like the new Metallo origin. I despise the new Superman costume/armor. I don't like the redesigns of classic Superman villains. Steel looks ridiculous, why would you mess with the classic? I'm not sure I like Steel being a contemporary of Superman either. Too many good stories and origins are wiped out with the reboot. Sure, the Legion of Super-Heroes story generally still works, but we just saw it written by Geoff Johns a few years ago. The best parts of this collection; the mad ideas, the dialogue, the re-telling of the origin; they all could have worked in the old DCU. 
And the art? It is a mess. Multiple artists fly on and off the pages. I assume it was to meet deadlines but Rags Morales' art starts out spectacular and ends with a rushed whimper. Brad Walker has to come and draw the big splash page featuring the terrible armor. Brent Anderson is drawing all the non-Superman pages, alternating multiple times an issue. I actually like all those artists (and Andy Kubert, who does the Legion story), but man, it is tremendously jarring seeing them bounce around from page to page. At this point, I'm almost used to the art fluctuating issue-by-issue; page by page takes me right out of the book. 


Saturday, March 9, 2013

BPRD: The Devil's Engine & The Long Death TPB

Is everyone tired of me raving about BPRD yet? I hope not, because every time I read a trade, I’m reminded that this is one of my favorite books on the stands. What is even more amazing is that while I like the main characters in this trade, none of my favorites are here. Abe Sapien and Hellboy are gone, and I like everywoman Kate Corrigan. Johan and Andrew Devon are the leads in this collection, and they do just fine carrying the load. Mike Mignola and John Arcudi can make anyone the lead now; that is how riveting this overarching plot has become. 

The Devil’s Engine follows Devon and the psychic Fenix as they attempt to get out of the American Southwest. That’s it. They don’t actually get anywhere; they don’t even interact with that many other characters. This is simply a study in how hard it is to get by in the new monster-filled world of the BPRD. With planes attracting too much attention, everyone travels by train or car. But those aren’t safe either, with earthquakes and gigantic bat-monsters complicating things. Devon gets to show off some of his special agent “Defense” training, even though he always focused more on the “Research.” Fenix’s powers are frustrating for Devon, but it’s a nice touch because that frustration carries through to the reader. What good are special powers if they don’t actually help you that much?

I also love the ongoing developments at Zinco. While the CEO seems like a nice guy, he’s obsessed with bringing back the Black Flame, a dangerous villain from earlier collections. While he never seems threatening, the obvious terror in his associates hints at an interesting dark side. He’s turning out to be a strong villain.
Tyler Crook clearly studied Guy Davis’ body of work with the BPRD. It’s not that everything looks exactly the same, but the tone, of the action, the clothes, the faces; everything looks like it inhabits the same world as when Davis did his wonderful work on the series.

The Long Death gives Johann even more time in the spotlight. He’s really carrying the series these days. It is a good thing he got his new tough-guy body from Russia or he wouldn’t be much of an action lead. This story finally resolves the Captain Daimo/Wendigo subplot that has gone on for years. I’m a tad saddened because I know I’m forgetting important history in this conflict, I am certain the story is even sadder and more dramatic than I realize.

That said, James Harren makes sure that the action keeps the story pumping. This thing is full of terrible, horrific monsters and they all make an impression. How anyone could stay in the BPRD after seeing the Jaguar beast staring into your campsite I’ll never know. Harren is a bit cartoony, which works better with Johann and the monsters than it does with the humans. There is never any doubt about the emotion the characters display, but sometimes the faces are a bit too much. But man, that action. Top notch monster fights, people! Doesn’t everyone want to see an undead moose fight a jaguar god?


Friday, March 8, 2013

Age of Ultron #1

I will never complain about Hawkeye being the star of a Marvel crossover! I certainly wasn’t expecting Clint Barton to have a major role in an Ultron-themed event, but I’m not complaining. The book really focuses on the archer as he infiltrates a villain HQ in order to rescue his teammate Spider-Man.

First of all, this isn’t just a normal hero situation. There is a massive dome over New York City that seems to be run by Ultron. There are drone-versions of the villain soaring around seeking out fallen heroes. The streets are in ruins, there are almost no civilians visible, and the villains seem pretty confident they can buy Ultron’s indulgence by selling him Avengers. So yeah, things are downright apocalyptic. I’m not sure if this is just the situation in the city or if the entire world has been taken over. From a narrative standpoint, it probably makes more sense to have Ultron totally triumphant. We shall see.

That would explain why Hawkeye is this desperate. Bendis has always written Hawkeye as ready to kill, but he’s downright bloodthirsty in this. Hawk regularly punctures heads and necks as he kills his way to the Owl and Hammerhead. The only way I can justify that is if it really is do-or-die time, and that Hawkeye has very little left to lose. I can’t be sure, but it sure looks like Spider-Man is the Peter Parker version, not Dock Ock. I’m fine with that; if this story is going to hold up as an evergreen trade for Marvel, it needs to feature the default Spider-Man. (I just wish it had Hawkeye in his real suit!)

Things are so dire for our heroes that Hawkeye and Spider-Man have a hard time gaining access to the heroes’ secret base in Central Park. I spotted Luke Cage, She-Hulk, Iron Man, Emma Frost, the Thing, Wolverine, Beast, Invisible Woman, and Captain America amongst the living. Not all of those guys seem like they are still in the fight though. Only about half of them seem to have the physical and mental fortitude to keep fighting. (I won’t spoil who is still standing tall.)

There is no sign of the characters I most closely associate with Ultron (and no Ultron himself, either). Hank Pym, Wasp, and Vision are all absent. I’m curious to see how Bendis uses them after recently bringing back the Wasp. I do have one prediction; the solicits say Wolverine and Invisible Woman are going back in time to change the past. Wolvie is going back to kill Hank Pym before he creates Ultron. Set your watch on it! There is a reason Pym is absent from all the Marvel Now titles. And I’ve never seen Bendis have too much affection for the character.

Bryan Hitch returns to Marvel with his widescreen style. The rubble is detailed, the action is expansive. Even though I don’t like Hawkeye killing, Hitch makes it look great. I also hate the costume, but again, Hitch designed it, so I’m not surprised to see it. I’d love to see this tougher She-Hulk get a lot of panel time; Hitch has really roughed her up.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Young Avengers #2

Here’s another issue where I enjoyed the second issue more than the first. Kieron Gillen intrigued me with the premiere, but there was a lot of unrelated action going down and a ton of characters doing it. 

This issue wisely focuses on the great climax from issue 1; Hulkling’s returned momster. By keeping the focus on Wiccan and Hulkling, I really got worried for the characters and their upsetting situation. 

Thanks to Loki, I think things could end up OK, but wow, everything sure looked bleak for a few pages! (As an aside, how interesting is it that the Avengers in the mansion were the Uncanny Avengers?)

So the evil mom has not been resolved, but clearly she’s got some decent powers. Either there is some reality shifting happening, or she is one powerful mind-controller. She controls the reactions of both the Avengers and random folks on the street, so she’s pretty souped up.

One of my favorite parts of the issue is the way Gillen writes Hulkling and Wiccan. Gillen remembers that these guys are Avengers fan boys, so they definitely have some suspicions when dealing with Thor’s evil brother. I’m excited to see Laufey (the movie version) appear on the printed page, but I hope he’s not around too long. If I start thinking about it too much, I start to really want Tom Hiddleston’s Loki to be in the Marvel U, not this kid version of the character.

Jamie McKelvie doesn’t have the wondering, jarring layouts from last issue; he just has solid, beautiful regular pages. Because of the way he shows Wiccan’s powers operating, with the words showing up like a normal comic’s sound effects, it is neat that there is no SFX for regular fighting. That’s fine with me. I can provide the “SPLUFF” sound effect when Hulkling splatters his Mom all over the kitchen!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hawkeye #8

Issues like this remind me that I’m wired wrong. I absolutely loved this issue, and yet I'll be in the minority. The last few months of time-jumping, more unconventional issues have been decent, but this was my favorite issue of Hawkeye since he fought the Ringmaster.

What makes this comic so good is that it really felt like we are seeing Hawkeye on his off hours. Hawkeye might be a world-beating Avenger, but Clint Barton makes some really poor decisions. Penny has clearly got Clint wrapped around her finger, and he can’t see it. While I would have loved to see more from Hawkeye’s Avenging exes, they come off perfectly in their cameo. What is even more amazing about the scene is that Penny isn’t intimidated by Black Widow, Spider-Woman, or Mockingbird. That takes some nerve to waltz in and kiss Clint in front of them.

Clint may not be a heist guy, but this has 70’s heist movie all over it. The ladies are all dressed in fantastic looking retro-outfits, with the Avengers wearing dresses that harken back to their costumes. (Spider-Woman’s is the most creative, but I like Mockingbird’s look best.) David Aja is outdoing himself, finally this feels like the successor to Iron Fist (and that’s not just because of a clever call out in the comic).

I’m hoping the cliffhanger at the close of the book means we are in for a bit more of a standard super-hero story that maintains the indie sensibilities we love. This issue’s weird brilliance is inset covers to fake comics, all featuring redhead protagonists who resemble Penny. The one-page covers are remarkably effective at building a past for the gal, even though we clearly can’t trust that they are true. I’m not sure if she’s told the truth about anything so far!


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Batman Inc. #8


Man. When Grant Morrison gets to tell his story all the way through, with a solid artist, there is no one better.

I’ve read that Morrison promised to leave the Bat-universe as he found it. That means no Damian, no Batman Inc. (I assume) and everything back to normal. I respect that, but I’m going to miss Damian Wayne a lot. Unlike a lot of my comic-reading friends, I loved Damian from the start. I found his poor attitude hilarious, and I was fascinated by the relationship Damian formed with Dick Grayson. Seeing the two of them function as Batman & Robin was a joy.

I think Morrison found it that way too. Damian has one hell of a send-off in this issue; he saves pretty much all the other Robins, he fights off crowds of bad guys, and he even gets a moment with Grayson. It’s a nice, quiet moment between explosions where the two of them get to acknowledge how much fun they had working together as the caped crusaders. Perhaps Damian is a bit mushier than normal, but it is totally worth it to see the two buds charge into the maelstrom together one last time. A wonderful, touching scene; it is my favorite in the comic.

But the death scene is great too. Rendered in unbelievable detail by Chris Burnham, Robin goes down fighting. His bulky brother (who still reminds me of Bane) is a tough opponent, and the two of them shred each other attempting to win. During the whole conflict, however, Damian is being shot with arrows and bullets. By the time the fight is wrapping up, Damian is bloodied, tattered, and spitting blood. Burnham does a great job making Damian still look like a kid too, making his death all the more tragic.

I find it to be a fascinating decision that Damian’s “goodbye” is with Nightwing, not with Batman. Bruce Wayne will never have the chance to say goodbye to his son. Damian’s mother, Talia Al Ghul/Leviathan? She could have saved Damian or at least said goodbye. She does neither.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Uncanny Avengers #4

I love the Uncanny Avengers. I love the villain, the art, the characters, the new ways Rick Remender can play all these folks off each other. There is a ton to like in Marvel’s new flagship title.

This issue actually has the team sort of come together. Instead of weird pairings, more and more characters start to actually join up and form a team. Remender gives us some fantastic pairings that feel really new. The Marvel U is an old place, so it is tough to see new character interactions, but this issue is full of them. Havok and Captain America, Havok and Scarlet Witch, Scarlet Witch vs. Thor. It’s got a ton of new combos. But Remender still delivers what we want, a Captain America vs. the Red Skull conflict; it’s worked for decades, and it is still effective.

There are a bunch of weird moments tossed in during Red Skull’s America bashing. Anything that can call back to Days of Future Past and mock reality TV is OK by me. As with all offensive tirades, there are just a few bits of truth mixed in to the Skull’s rant about America’s decline. That is why the Skull is an A-list villain. And that is why is so very sweet when the Marvel heroes get to knock him down.

John Cassady’s art is stunning. The Thor/Scarlet Witch conflict plays out like a heavyweight showdown, although I’m not sure that’s exactly how the Witch’s powers work. Poor Havok’s lumpy face makes him look ridiculous through the entire issue, but when it is time for him to deliver a speech, it just makes him look dedicated. And wow, it is weird seeing Thor look so much like a villain… he’s got a look that could make the switch, you know? I’d say I love all the new designs except for Cap’s new combat armor. Everything else looks like a modernized version of classic costumes. And soon we get Wasp, Sunfire, and Wonder Man!


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Uncanny X-Men by Kieron Gillen TPB

I’m trying to place what it is I like about Kieron Gillen’s writing. He’s really impressed me on his recent X-books and Iron Man. I think it is that he’s taken over as the unofficial clean-up man for Marvel. For a long time it was Christos Gage who wrote the “missing chapters” to clean up after the big name writers. Now it seems Gillen is the guy riding in to deal with messes like the Dreaming Celestial and the new world of Uncanny X-Force.

The first trade collects issues 1-4, all dealing with the Dreaming Celestial and Mr. Sinister. (Wisely, Gillen has done away with the “Mr.”) Sinister is a lot more playful and amusing in this incarnation, prone to monologues and long villainous explanations of his plans. Emma Frost and other characters call him out on this numerous times, and it is a fun turn for the long-time mastermind.

Cyclops’ Extinction Team is equal parts deterrent and corrective action for the world. Seeing Cyclops, Magneto, Emma Frost, Magik, Colossus, Danger, and Storm all together is pretty intimidating. Hope is on the team too, and she more than holds her own.

Gillen’s dialogue is what makes the whole thing work. Storm’s imperious nature is played occasionally for laughs, but she works best as the moral compass of the team. When she asks which team members have been considered villains, and Cyclops dares to not raise his hand? Great moment.

And this is a book filled with them. Gillen writes Hope as a young lady quite impressed with Namor’s physical charms. She makes numerous references to his body parts and how handsome he is, and Namor eats it up. I don’t get a skeevy vibe from the Sub-Mariner, but he definitely likes that she noticed. And Magneto. Gillen's Magneto might be the best character in the book. Gillen maximizes each and every line for haughtiness, confidence, and power. Fantastic.

Like Claremont’s classic X-work, Gillen is laying the seeds for later stories too. Danger is marginalized a bit as a mobile communications station, but again, it’s directly addressed in the script, so I’m sure there is a method to the madness. As a big Colossus fan, I’d like a bit more with Piotr and Magik, but again, I think there’s a long-form story going on.

I’m not a huge Greg Land fan, but I have to admit he’s a good fit for this title. He can draw beautiful people behaving badly, and really, that’s all this book is! Hope looks a bit too much like a super-model, but hey, she’s on the big X-Men team now, that must be a natural development too. My biggest complaint is bad Colossus. It just doesn’t work!