Friday, February 27, 2015

Cyclops v1: Starstruck TPB

There has got to be a limit to the “teenage X-Men” concept, right? I thought I’d tire of it in the All-New X-Men title, but strangely enough, I haven’t. But I am tiring of it here. It is not that I don’t like the ongoing adventures of teenage Scott Summers and his dad (Corsair). It is that I’d much rather see the “real” Cyclops having these moments to bond. This seems like such an odd exercise…

That said, this isn’t a bad comic. Corsair is such a fun character, it is hard to make him uninteresting. Even better, Greg Rucka tackles Corsair’s two largest problems head-on. First of all, how the heck are we supposed to root for this guy who never went back and checked in on the sons he left behind? Didn’t this guy have any sort of connection or conscience after his alien abduction? And second, isn’t Corsair supposed to be dead? It has been a long time, but I swear that Ed Brubaker killed him during his run on X-Men. But here he is, alive and well and leading the Starjammers once again. Both problems are addressed. The death issue isn’t an insurmountable one, and in Rucka’s hands, resurrection can lead to some interesting new character flaws.

This is almost strictly a sci-fi comic. Other than a few Marvel U trappings (brief appearances by the Starjammers, the use of a Badoon spaceship) this could be any father and son series set in outer space. It’s pretty interesting that my main complaint about this book (that it features a confusing past-era version of Scott Summers) is almost totally incidental to the actual plot. Of course, the relationship does color the interaction of the characters; this is Corsair’s second chance at fatherhood. A chance to do it right. But as for the actual plot, the characters’ history is not important at all.

Actually, my favorite thing about this series is the discovery of Russell Dauterman. His art is cartoony but still very kinetic and dramatic. The action is full-on comic book mayhem. I like his work better in the new Thor series, but man, he’s quite the discovery! He’s clearly good at drawing aliens and alien tech, which made him a natural fit for the odd world of Asgardia and Thor.

For me, this is an AVERAGE comic. I’ll keep reading it on the Marvel App, but it isn’t exactly one of my favorites. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Punisher v2: Border Crossing TPB

Man, the Punisher is such a clear, simple concept. I usually enjoy Punisher comics; he’s a character that almost every writer can write about for at least one story.

Some of Frank Castle’s most interesting stories are fish-out-of-water tales, and that’s sort of what Nathan Edmondson is doing in this current series. Relocating from New York to L.A., the Punisher is targeting a cartels rather than the mafia, leading to some interesting conflicts. Now, old foes like Electro are still very much a factor, but it is neat seeing Frank mix up his targets.

Putting Frank back in the jungle gets him a bit more in his comfort zone. When the Punisher faces off with a South American drug kingpin, it is mad action and ultra-violence. Most of the conflict is standard Punisher violence fantasy, but Edmondson mixes things up by teaming up the Punisher with some special forces operators. Punisher and the soldiers quickly establish a bond that proves very effective. Showing this connection between military service members is exciting and adds to Castle’s mysterious nobility. When Edmondson shows the lasting impact that the Punisher has on the two operators’ lives, it is even cooler. Punisher’s influence lives on…

Another aspect of the new setting is the ability to play Frank off new and interesting villains. Crossbones is a top-level Captain America villain, but he fits in perfectly to the Punisher’s world of grime and violence. Of course, Crossbones manages to pull out a temporary victory, but the appearance of Punisher’s old buddy Black Widow puts a stop to that.

This current Black Widow feels like a new character compared to the old shorthaired gal in the ‘90s. Unless I’m misremembering, I thought that Castle and the Widow hooked up in the olden days, but there is no chemistry between the two of them during this team up. That said, it could be that these are just two very damaged individuals incapable of showing that level of connection. Thinking about it, that’s a lot cooler of a way to think about it.

Mitchell Gerads' art is fantastic. The art is gritty, dark, and the ink almost drips off the page (like blood). I have no idea if Gerards can work in a “cleaner” style or not, but for this book, I don’t want him to do anything else. Frank’s executioner’s hood is definitely a mask, but in no way does it look like a super-hero mask. Make no mistake, this is an executioner’s hood. Crossbones, Black Widow, and Electro look a tad off-model from their standard Marvel designs, but that’s OK. They are slumming it in Frank’s world, they need to adapt to him.

This is a GOOD comic, and one of my favorite finds on the Marvel Unlimited app. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Magneto v1: Infamous TPB

I think Cullen Bunn is one of the most confusing writers currently working in comics. Some of his work is just average; I can’t get excited about it. But his work on his creator-owned Sixth Gun is excellent. I’m happy to say that this title shows Bunn’s strengths. This is a fantastic comic.

Seemingly drawing influence from the “Nazi-hunter” concept in X-Men First Class, this series follows Magneto as he hunts down threats to mutant kind all over the world. Now, Magneto is always sort of an angry guy, but he’s on a whole different level here. He is totally dedicated to eradicating threats to his people. This is the same character from Uncanny X-Men, but he’s much more compelling here on his own.

I absolutely love the way he overcomes his current power troubles purely through force of will. (Mags’ powers have been a bit iffy ever since Avengers vs. X-Men.) From sentinel nanotech to smaller and more targeted mutant racism, Magneto really gets things done. And I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t thrilling seeing him kill small-minded and evil humans. Magneto has never felt so much like the X-Men’s Punisher.

I know Kevin Walta’s work from his She-Hulk covers, but I had no idea he was this strong at sequential art. The action is top notch, but the facial expressions are tremendous too. I also love the way Walta shows Magneto using his powers. It is clearly a drain on him, but that doesn’t stop Magneto from using metal projectiles in aggressive, violent ways.

This is a GOOD comic. I don’t’ believe it will last a long time, but I’m really enjoying it while it lasts.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Movement v1: Class Warfare TPB

I had heard about this short-lived series, but I passed due to my fairly strict “no nu-52” policy. Even though I typically enjoy Gail Simone’s writing and I like Freddie Williams’ art, I think I made the right call. The Movement is not a super-hero comic. I think the closest I can come to describing the core concept is that it’s a combination of Occupy Wallstreet and Anonymous. These are young people banding together to change their corrupt home of Coral City. While one or two of them might be able to pass for super-heroes (including guest-star Rainmaker, from the old Gen 13 days), this is more about social change than heroics.

The trade splits the focus between hunting down a serial killer who leaves his victims in a pool of water and a pair of cops who abused their power (and had it caught on film). While both stories are compelling, I found the split between scenes lessened a few scenes. In one scene, my favorite team member, Katharsis, is in a huge battle with a bunch of corrupt cops. But the scene is constantly cutting away, robbing some of the emotion from the scene. Later, when the rodent-controlling Mouse actually confronts the serial killer, the scene again juxtaposes between the Movement HQ and Mouse’s battle. I get that this presentation are supposed to be raising the dramatic tension, but I found myself really bored by the more mundane halves of both scenes.

As for the team itself, it is OK. Mouse is very much a Gail Simone character. His quirks and odd nature make him the Ragdoll of the team. Katharisis is the only member who seems like a super-hero, so of course she’s my favorite (she’s the winged butt-kicker). I might have enjoyed Rainmaker having a larger role; a totally new cast of characters is already difficult to get into, but when they are all so… odd and different than normal super-heroes, that makes it even harder to be invested. Frankly, this cast and book seems like it would be a perfect fit in DC’s upcoming Divergence push, this is a very diverse cast.

I found it interesting that Freddie Williams’ sketches noted that Katharsis is the only team member who is supposed to look like a super-hero. Well done, Williams, because that’s by far my favorite design on the team. Williams is a strong illustrator and his exaggerated body language and facial expressions tell the story well. Even non-powered characters have a presence on the page. Again, I’ll show my bias; I prefer Williams doing straight-up super heroes.

This comic is FAIR. It is fine, but it is clearly working on a diversity agenda, both from a team standpoint and as a core concept. As I often say, that’s fine; there should be lots of types of comics out there. But this one isn’t my cup of tea. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Multiversity: Mastermen #1

What an open. I’m certain that I’ve never read a comic where the opening shot was Adolf Hitler reading a comic and crying on the toilet. Holy cow. That’s a statement!

We’ll lead off with the artwork, because it is pretty rare to see Jim Lee drawing a full comic these days, and I believe this is the first time Lee has worked with Grant Morrison. (Or am I forgetting a previous collaboration?) Lee does a nice job with the art, as always. His redesigns for the Nazi Justice League aren’t off-the wall creative, but they certainly get the point across. I particularly enjoyed the blonde and Aryan Wonder Woman. Most interesting to me is seeing Leatherwing, the evil Batman. Even that variant makes me miss seeing Lee’s dynamic Batman in action regularly.

Morrison comes out with a bit of nature vs. nurture here. The Nazis raised this alternate Superman into Overman; an evil tyrant. Yet as we see him age into adulthood, he clearly retains some of Superman’s inherent goodness. He has done some bad things and supported the wrong side, but it clearly weighs on his soul. It’s neat that Morrison loves Superman enough to write him like this.

As for the Freedom Fighters? Uncle Sam is more of a rebellious leader representing a forgotten America. The Human Bomb gets a few moments to shine. The rest of the team is reduced to one (admittedly cool) splash page. That’s OK, this is a book starring villains, where the heroes get the page count reserved for antagonists.

Should I be embarrassed that I think I finally understand the structure of these Morrison Multiversity books? Let’s start with the obvious; each issue shows us a glimpse of an alternate Earth, complete with its own set of super heroes. And again, it is obvious that at least one member of the Gentry will show up, sewing chaos and discord on that Earth. What is unclear to me is the role the multiple versions of Dr. Sivana serve. Is Sivana working for the Gentry? Do the Gentry work for him? Is Sivana incidental or integral to the greater Multiversity plot?

Now, for the first few issues, I was annoyed at the cliffhanger endings. In almost every case, the book ends with an apocalyptic scene clearly caused by the Gentry. SOS had the huge invasion. Justice League Me had the Superman robots turning on humanity. And this issue has the Nazi League satellite crashing into Metropolis as the world is tossed into chaos. Each issue ends at about the same point, with little to no resolution for that issue’s plot. I had hoped to see some sort of progression as we moved along, but I don’t’ think we are going to get it. Instead, I think the true conclusion will be in Multiversity #2 (much like the structure of Seven Soldiers). That leaves me with one big question: Will we even see these characters again at all? Will they play a part in Multiversity #2? Will we just follow President Superman and Nix Utoan? I’m curious.

So, like the other Multiversity issues, this is a glimpse of an interesting world with unique takes on the DCU’s heroes and villains. And just like every other issue of Multiversity, I am left wanting more. I want to know how the story ends.  

This is a FAIR comic; I just wish I had more of the story. Even when the set up is simpler than most of the other Multiversity titles, I’m still more interested in this than the new 52.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Superior Iron Man #1-3

Listen, I loved Superior Spider-Man as much as the next guy, but I find myself totally disengaged from the idea of seeing it all over again featuring Iron Man.

I was resistant to this relaunch for a few reasons. The main one is pretty shallow: I loved the black and gold Iron Man suit and I’m angry to see it already re-done with this silvery/white look. The dang suit looks like it is unfinished! At least add some red in there so we can get the Silver Centurion look back!

The second reason behind my trepidation for this title is the writer, Tom Taylor. I understand he’s written some DC books in recent years, but since my New 52 purge, I don’t read many DC books anymore. So he’s a totally unknown property for me at the moment.

After three issues, I think my initial assessment is correct. Taylor has some good ideas. Tony Stark is using Extremis as a body-morphing app to the city of San Francisco. The catch? He’s charging quite a bit for it. So much that people are forced to do just about anything to maintain their “perfect self” that Extremis brings about.

Needing a couple heroes to offset the still “Inverted” Iron Man (short version; Tony Stark turned evil in a recent Avengers storyline), Taylor enlists Daredevil and Pepper Potts. DD is living in San Francisco, so he makes sense as a low-powered but moral foil for Stark. Pepper seems to be more of the long-term hope for the book. Pepper is working with an older Iron Man suit to bring Tony back to himself.

If I were a betting man, this is a copy of Tony’s personality from years ago, and he’ll probably end up overwriting “modern” Tony. Long term, this will get him out of all those pesky New Avengers/Illuminati decisions and reset him as a Marvel Cinematic Universe-acting Iron Man. Synergy, people!

Taylor's strongest scene is actually with Daredevil rather than Iron Man. I'm not sure if that is good or bad, but the emotion in the scene as Matt Murdock's Extremis wears off is very moving. 

I’m not tremendously familiar with artist Yildray Cinar either. I’m not sure if it is his pencils or the inkers, but I’m getting a big Nelson vibe from the art (if you remember that other penciller). The characters are all sporting thick eyebrows and very strong facial expressions. The action is laid out nicely too, but man, some color on that suit would sure spice up this comic. I also like Cinar’s She-Hulk, too bad she has such a small part in the book.

This one is FAIR and getting put in the Marvel Unlimited category on my reading list. It is going to take a new suit of armor or a personality fix on Tony Stark to get me back monthly. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Wow! DC's Mini "Divergence" Relaunch

I have a familiar feeling this morning. You know that feeling when you think/hope something is going to happen; only to find out the opposite is true? Or if not the opposite, something quite different than what you’d wished for? That’s my feeling this morning.

After the brilliance of Grant Morrison’s Multiversity, I had high hopes. You had one of the premiere creators of our time putting out original but respectful versions of classic DC heroes. Heroes I wanted to read more about. Heroes that had tons of untapped potential because they felt new AND they felt like the DC characters I grew up loving. With DC Comics relaunching about half their line, surely we’d get an optimistic take on Shazam. Or maybe a book about the 90’s era JLA all grown up. How about the New Gods and Kamandi? These are some brilliant concepts in Morrison’s Multiversity!

Or maybe the hype about Convergence convinced DC Comics that there is a place for one, maybe two titles set in the “old” continuity. Why not have a few pandering books like Booster Gold, JLI, or Teen Titans for folks who feel a bit left out by the New 52? Now’s the time, right?


For those of you who are not up-to-the-minute with your comic news, DC is launching 24 new titles in a mini-overhaul of their publishing line. 

DC is indeed embracing change (which I do salute them for) but it is to turn in a direction I’m not really interested in. They are mini-relaunching with Divergence, where the stated goal is “to Batgirl” the DCU. To diversify the characters and concepts and target a different type of audience than their standard super hero comics. Listen, I think there should be comics for everyone, and I’m excited about some of the books they’ve announced. My problem, and it is clearly just me, is that I found the first of the Batgirl reboot incomprehensible.

Again, complaining personally, I’m losing Batman and Robin by Peter Tomasi and Aquaman by Jeff Parker. Justice League 3000 featuring the returned Blue Beetle and Booster Gold is at least getting relaunched as Justice League 3001. And of course, I’ll be buying Garth Ennis and John McCrea’s Section 8 mini-series. (I only read 4 DC comics these days, including Batman.)

There are a couple books with potential. Depending on the tone, my daughters might love Starfire. But if it is like Batgirl, it will still be inappropriate for kiddos. I’m not familiar enough with Rob Williams to know if his take on Martian Manhunter will feel right or not. Can Patrick Gleason write Robin, Son of Batman as well as Tomasi could? I don't want punk-rock Black Canary or other drastic re-imaginings. What will David Walker's Cyborg be like? Can I hope that Earth 2: Society is close to the old JSA? (Here is a complete list of the titles and creative teams.)

Perhaps my biggest issue with this relaunch is my lack of familiarity with most of the creators. There are tons of folks that will have to win me over. That’s instead of being instantly intrigued or excited if I saw some Morrison concepts in there. Or some 80’s and 90’s holdovers like we’re getting on the Convergence titles. Somehow most of the creators I'm really tuned in to have ended up at Valiant! 

Most importantly, will DC use this opportunity to raise the standard price of their books to $3.99?

In summary, my lack of familiarity with creators, suspicion about accessibility for my old sensibilities, and lack of exciting high concepts leaves me with very few books to add to my sublist. Between this and Secret War, I’m feeling pretty aged out of comics in general!

(Boo hoo. Woe is me, I know.)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Uncanny Avengers #1

I love the High Evolutionary. He’s so over the top ridiculous, such a perfect “comic book” villain his appearance almost guarantees that I will enjoy a comic. It certainly seems that Rick Remender imprinted on a lot of the same comics I did, so maybe we’ll get the Evolutionary War villain doing some neat stuff in this opening arc. (That said, my real hope is that the villain for this one is the Man-Beast, a tremendous and ridiculous older Thor and Spider-Man villain.)

Remender has used the Axis crossover as an excuse to totally reshuffle the Uncanny Avengers roster. Rogue (still using Wonder Man’s powers) and Scarlet Witch carryover from the previous series, the rest of the cast is new. Sam Wilson’s Captain America, Sabretooth, the Vision, Brother Voodoo, and Quicksilver round out this new lineup. That is sort of an odd line-up, and the team is lacking a true powerhouse, but the potential for drama is high. Divorced heroes, brothers and sisters, and replacements make up the team. There is real potential for sparks between these folks.

The other interesting thing is that unlike the last volume of Uncanny Avengers, this team hasn’t been brought together to serve a specific mandate. Rogue is worried about the missing Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, and she gathers the other heroes to make an attempt to track down her old teammate. I like this approach. It certainly seems like Rogue is overcompensating for how horrible she was to Scarlet Witch in the last volume, but frankly, that personality correction is more in line with the Rogue I know and love from years of X-books.

So the team ends up teleporting to Counter Earth, the world that orbits the sun directly opposite the Earth. This Counter Earth is populated by High Evolutionary’s ani-men, who show more personality in the opening few pages than they have since Quicksilver’s late 90’s series. This is going to be fun.

Daniel Acuna is in my top five for artists these days (and maybe top two). His character work is excellent. The costumes look fantastic. And the sensibility of the combat and panel layouts reminds me of Jack Kirby. Quicksilver’s new suit isn’t quite dynamic for me yet, but Acuna makes it work. And Rogue looks fantastic, as does the new Cap. Marvel really did a nice job with that new Cap suit, didn’t they? It almost always looks swell.

It isn’t surprising, considering how much I’ve loved Remender’s work for the last few years, but I’m in for as long as this volume of Uncanny Avengers lasts! 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Star Wars #1

I’m getting to this one a few weeks late, but as far as name brands go, it doesn’t get any bigger than Star Wars. So better late than never!

Jason Aaron does a great job making the tone of this comic feel like something right out of the film. He gets a big hand with the opening pages, though. I read this comic digitally, and the big “STAR WARS” title page is so reminiscent of the films that I practically heard John Williams’ score as the introductory scrawl started up on the next page.

The book is firmly planted in the post Episode IV era of Star Wars. So Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie are forming into a nice little crew, but they haven’t quite nailed down all the interactions yet. And Han is still trying to impress the Rebels while maintaining his tough guy attitude. I think Aaron’s Han has the clearest voice. Luke and Leia don’t suffer, but they aren’t quite as easy to recognize. (C3PO is close second as far as characterization. He’s perfect!)

That said, I love the leadership of Princess Leia here. She gives orders, changes them based on updated intel and priorities, and is generally presented as a pretty great rebel leader. Luke is still the rookie, but his Jedi-influenced heart (along with his upbringing on Tatooine) make him a likable, instantly heroic figure.

My biggest complaint isn’t even something that Jason Aaron can fix. Sound effects. While Chewie’s roar is perfect and R2-D2’s hoots and whistles are acceptable, I guess I hadn’t realized how integral the sound effects are to my experience in Star Wars. That snap-hiss of a lightsaber flicking on is so distinctive that having it missing on the printed page is a bit disconcerting.

The art? It looks like the characters walked straight out of the films. John Cassady keeps everyone distinctly on-model, but to be honest, that is the easy part. More impressive is his use of the costumes from the film. From Luke’s yellow jacket from the awards ceremony to the muted gray of the Imperial officers, everything looks perfect. The aliens are straight out of the cantina. And while it isn’t even an Easter egg, seeing Luke and Leia dressed up in the same disguise Lando uses in Return of the Jedi is just a fun little nod.

So this is a very GOOD comic. I’m not sure if I’ll be buying it monthly or reading it on Marvel Unlimited. I love Star Wars, but I’m not sure I love it enough to get this every month. We’ll see how tempted I am by the cover of issue 2!