Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Reviews Might Be Sparse...

Comics aren't high on my list of interests at the moment. Sorry gang! I'm sure I'll have some thoughts soon!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Marvel’s Secret Wars to Combine Ultimate and Main Marvel Universes

So basically the comics-based internet blew up with this news yesterday. Marvel’s folks are being intentionally vague on whether or not this is a real reboot or just an excuse to pull the best concepts from the Ultimate universe into mainstream Marvel.

My first thought is to laugh at how similar this is to DC’s Convergence event in April. What are the odds that both major publishers would put out events dealing with the minutiae of their continuity and alternate timelines? It truly boggles the mind. When you need a degree in comic book history to comprehend a new comic, which is usually a problem.

My second thought is that I won’t be buying Secret Wars. I might skip all the crossovers, depending on the creators involved. My main problem is that Secret Wars is spinning out of Jonathan Hickman’s excruciating run on Avengers and New Avengers. I’ve seen a lot of posts on message boards along the lines of “Hickman has done a good job so far, so I trust him to do this right.” Well, my experience has been the opposite. I’ve dropped all the core Avengers books over the last few years, so hearing that the entire Marvel U will come from the same architect? That’s a good reason to drop titles for me.

And what comes after the Secret Wars wraps up? Battleworld might be an amalgamation of all these different Marvel events, but the company is clearly using this as a chance to clean up their continuity. I’m thinking more Zero Hour than Crisis, but it will be interesting to see.

I think we can guarantee that Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man will make his way into the mainstream Marvel Universe. I expect more characters to follow in the footsteps of Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Toro and suddenly become Inhumans. Marvel is going to use this chance to re-categorize a lot of mutants and X-characters into Inhumans. (For those that don’t know, Fox owns the movie rights to X-Men and mutant characters, while Marvel owns the rights to the Inhumans.)

Will Marvel bring over other Ultimate characters? I'd think so. But having two Kitty Prydes or yet another Hulk doesn't seem like the best idea. 

For the post-Battleworld “All-New Marvel Now,” I think we’ll see a ton of new #1s in the fall when Marvel tries to replicate the launch of the New 52. For that relaunch, I’m taking much more of a “wait and see” approach. It’s going to come down to creators and which continuity sticks and what doesn’t. I don’t have much interest in seeing Marvel’s continuity discarded or drastically altered. I know what I did when DC did that for the New 52.

TLDR version: I’m skipping Secret Wars and the associated books. I’m waiting to see what the relaunch of Marvel looks like after that. But I dropped all my DC books; I’m mentally preparing to do the same with Marvel if this is a real reboot.

Doomsday.1 #1-4

When these issues popped up in a dollar bin at my local comic shop, I figured I’d peruse John Byrne’s recent work for IDW. Like most other comic book readers, I’m a huge fan of Byrne’s super-hero work over the years. It’s hard not to see his versions of many Marvel and DC mainstays as the definitive version. In fact, many of my current favorite artists are those that have a distinctive Byrne influence.

From what I understand, this is a relaunch of a concept Byrne had years ago about a solar flare that kills most life on Earth. After watching the devastation from orbit, the residents of an international space station return to the Earth in a desperate attempt to survive. The core group plays like a well-rounded action movie cast; everyone is pretty heroic, but there is enough variance in approach and outlook to pick out favorites.

The story follows the astronauts as they travel around the Americas, but Byrne does have other characters play important roles too. It is common in these disaster type stories to see glimpses of folks around the Earth as the world ends. Instead of making these random people, the folks we see at the start of the emergency are all folks who show up in later chapters. The circumstances for each are very, very different, but it is a neat idea to show pretty much the entire cast in the opening issue. From antagonist to ally, most of the people who appear in the story were there from the start.

The story itself is a tad on the generic side, especially if you’ve read a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction like I have. The escaped prisoners. The submarine crew who dove to avoid the dangerous environment, even the holy man who rediscovers his faith. These are classic tropes of the apocalypse.

All these years later, and Byrne still has the ability to tell a crackerjack story. The backgrounds are well established. The action is well set and choreographed. The characters are all pretty easy to remember and each one has a unique enough personality. Even after four issues, I don’t remember all the characters names, but I’m very clear on the outlook, personality, and look of the survivors of the international space station.

I’m not going to lie; I would prefer to see Byrne drawing brightly colored spandex heroes from the big two. His commission work shows that he’s still got the touch. In the meantime, this is a FAIR way to check out Byrne’s sequential work. If you’re like me, though, reading this will just make you want to go read some Superman and Fantastic Four comics. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1

Oh my goodness. I’m glad my store recommended this book. Not just for me, but for my daughters. They went absolutely bananas (or maybe they went nuts?) when we read this book together. They were laughing out loud reading the Squirrel Girl theme song. They adored Doreen Green’s smack talk. They are in love with Tippy Toe. I’m not sure if Marvel realizes what a fantastic introductory comic they have here.

Ryan North has done nice stuff with Adventure Time, but he seamlessly transitions into the Marvel U with a smart, quirky, and truly funny take on Squirrel Girl. He knows his stuff, deftly dodging the continuity heavy explanations around his first villain, the convoluted Kraven. I’m a life-long comic reader and I no longer understand what Kraven’s deal is, thank goodness I don’t need to know in order to enjoy this comic.

In addition to Kraven, North has the crowd-pleasing Deadpool trading cards giving extra insight and commentary about guest-stars and villains. For my gals, this humorous insight is invaluable extra information! (I’m not sure I love the extra info in the orange text at the bottom of the page. The jokes weren’t as tight and sometimes ended the page on an anti-climactic note.)

Erica Henderson’s art? Another home run for this book. She captures the fun and quirky joy of being Squirrel Girl on page one. The art is cartoony and non-flattering to our star, at least by modern comic book standards. And that is the PERFECT choice for this book. Squirrel Girl is about being powerful, empowered, and loving life. It doesn’t matter if Doreen is drawn like Lady Death or not. I can’t wait to see future guest stars. I was laughing at the Giganto trading card; I think Henderson needs to start drawing as many Marvel monsters as possible!

I really, really hope that comic book fanboys can look at this art and see it for what it is. I don’t have a lot of faith in us, to be honest. Most of us older fanboys want our comic book ladies looking a certain way, and the art in this book doesn’t hit that target. I’m convinced that is what killed the fantastic She-Hulk series that was just cancelled, so I really hope that this EXCELLENT debut doesn’t suffer the same fate. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Ant-Man #1

It is amazing the way comics require characters to go through radical changes, usually totally ignoring previous continuity and characterizations, in order to meet the criteria of a new series or requirement.

Nick Spencer doesn’t have an easy job here. He’s writing the new adventures of Scott Lang; Ant-Man, but Spencer has to set some new ground rules. Scott Lang is now a bit of a screw-up. He’s always been an ex-con, but he’s struggling a lot more here than he was in his last appearances in FF. Lang has still done all of the things we remember, but he’s much more of a sad sack; a perennial loser who sleeps in a run-down apartment on a bare mattress.

His daughter Cassie? Instead of being the confident 2nd-generation hero Stature, she’s a normal high school student. She’s very comfortable with her Dad’s powers, but her mother isn’t. Lang’s ex-wife has the biggest role I’ve seen in any comic so far as she tries to keep Cassie clear from her loser of a Dad.

So these are some pretty big changes! That said, this is a really good comic. Every reader is going to start rooting for Scott Lang to succeed from page one forward. Cassie is a cool gal and a great friend to her Dad. Ant-Man’s powers are neat, useful, and handy. It may have taken a slew of changes to make it work, but the high concept for Ant-Man’s new series sure seems like a winner to me.

Spencer fills out the first issue with some established Marvel characters to make sure we see Ant-Man from a few different perspectives. Victor Mancha (from Runaways), Prodigy (from Young Avengers), and best of all, the new Beetle (from Superior Foes of Spider-Man) are all competing with Lang to be Iron Man’s new head of security. The different personalities and outlooks are a great glimpse into the many levels of the Marvel U. The interaction between these characters really gives me hope that Spencer might be picking up the same tone as he established in Superior Foes.

And as a Hank Pym fan, I’m pleased that Lang seems to be nothing but kind towards his mentor and benefactor. I don’t want to see Pym thrown under the bus in any more new stories!

Marvel has been a bit risky with the art on some of their new launches recently. Fortunately, Ant-Man’s art is top notch from the start. Ramon Rosanas has a style that reminds me of Chris Samnee’s fantastic work on Daredevil. The new Ant-Man suit is a modern-update on the original, classic look. Rather than skewing too heavily towards a “realistic” or Marvel cinematic look, Lang’s costume looks wonderfully “comic book” based. Rosanas’ style is wonderfully modern while still giving all the characters a classic Marvel flair.

The Pym references along with the recap of Lang’s history as Ant-Man gives me high hopes that Spencer knows this character’s place in Marvel history. I think we’re in for a treat. This is a GOOD new series. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Multiversity: Thunderworld #1

Once again, Multiversity and Grant Morrison deliver a comic that I wish I could be reading every month. Let’s face it; each and every issue of Multiversity has given us a book superior to many of the monthly comics published by DC comics every month. But while many of the Multiversity issues have been good, a lot of my enjoyment has been conditional. There have been some big issues that kept me from loving the issue as-is. With Thunderworld, I have no such problems.

Morrison’s Captain Marvel is a smart and dynamic hero in a world full of excitement. Morrison dodges the gritty, modern sensibilities that Geoff Johns emphasized in his modern reboot. Instead, Morrison embraces the joy, optimism, and excitement that happens when a little boy, his sister, and his friend transform into the world’s mightiest mortals.

Focusing on the Sivana Family rather than Black Adam, Morrison leaves plenty of concepts un-mined for future follow-ups (that I can only dream about). The alliance of Sinvanas from multiple dimensions is handled so well that I found myself amused and spooked while reading the same panel. It is hard to laugh at the spooky, murderous Sivana who seems obsessed with Mary Marvel after only a glimpse. (That is probably the New 52 Sivana. Seems about right, doesn’t it?)

Cameron Stewart’s bright artwork works perfectly with the classic tone of the story. Stewart gets to really show off when the villains of the monster society show up. Mr. Mind, Sobek, and more show up looking threatening, but at the same time each of them could have just stepped from a well-drawn Saturday morning cartoon. I’m also tremendously pleased with the backgrounds. Stewart makes Fawcett City and the Rock of Eternity feel like fantastic places I want to visit. The locations almost steal the show from the tremendous figure work!

This is another GOOD issue that just reminds me that I used to love DC comics. Can I hope that after Convergence we might get some new monthlies set on these alternate Earths? I really want to read about these characters again. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Avengers: Endless Wartime HC

This is perfectly fine for what it is. This is a somber Warren Ellis super-hero comic. With a serious tone, an introspective feel, and a very close to the movie sense of continuity. And it is perfectly fine. I liked the Arctic Harriers as odd mixes between Earth science and Asgardian magic. I especially like the way Ellis pulled the reveal of the strange creatures in the very opening of the book.

I was less enamored with his take on the Avengers. Part of that is due to his tendency to go with movie personalities for some of the main characters. But then, Hawkeye is reduced to a bumbling oaf for the entire book, so the MCU’s take isn’t necessarily the definitive one throughout the book. (Plus, Captain Marvel and Wolverine both appear here while neither has been in the Marvel movies yet.)

This is a one-shot story, but the pacing makes it clear that it shouldn’t be more. Many pages are used with the team in transit from one location to another rather than actually doing things. And while Ellis really tries to imbue the Arctic Harriers with some semblance of a personality, the lack of a true thinking, feeling antagonist keeps my interest lowered too. In my comics, I like to really look forward to the villains getting what they deserve, but I never felt very emotionally involved in the outcome of this conflict.
Mike McKone’s art is beautiful, as always. I love his use of the black and gold Iron Man armor (an armor that I’m already missing in the newer comics). I also like the cool confidence that Carol Danvers exhibits in every panel. She feels like almost an equal to Captain America, which is saying something for a team that loves Cap as much as the Avengers do.

This is a FAIR Avengers story. It wouldn’t be the first I’d recommend for folks who want a great taste of what the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes can offer, but it is a fine supplemental tale told for the movie-watching “civilian” audience.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Green Lantern: New Guardians v3: Love and Death TPB

Whoof. This thing was an absolute bear to get through. It doesn’t help that it seems to have three entirely separate storylines combined into one collection. Let’s handle them individually.

First, we follow Kyle Rayner as the attempts to master all the colors of the DCU as he becomes a White Lantern. This had some interesting artwork from Aaron Kuder, and I liked that Tony Bedard used Atrocitus and Star Sapphire’s as such strong mentors for Kyle. I don’t know how that fits in with old 52 timelines. But this seems to be a pretty newly-minted Kyle appearing in this book.

The second phase of the collection is the weakest. It’s the First Lantern tempting the New Guardians with alternate timelines and lives they could have led. The art is wildly inconsistent through this section, with Carol Ferris’ sections being so tonally different that I found myself skipping some pages. Part of the problem is that the big threat from the Third Army must have been resolved somewhere else. Instead of seeing how the ever-increasing mass of zombies got stopped, the story just sort of hops to a totally different conclusion.

The final third of the collection feels like another chapter in Geoff Johns’ long-time GL opus. It gives each corps a moment or two, and most importantly establishes Hal Jordan as the best Green Lantern ever. Johns has made his feelings on that score very clear, so at least the consistency is nice. The First Lantern is so powerful that the frenetic final battle is essentially a bunch of surprise reveals that he dispatches shortly after arrival. The strongest moments in this storyline don’t come from the First Lantern or any other recurring villain. Instead, it is the fallen Sinestro who captures the best two moments during the closing moments. First, when Sinestro states his feelings on Hal Jordan, it is a nice connection between longstanding rivals and foes. The second, I won’t give away, but maybe Geoff Johns does have a bit of a heart after all.

Aaron Kuder and Doug Mahnke provide the strongest art throughout the book, with Mahnke’s looking more polished and ready for prime time. I’ve seen Kuder’s recent stuff, and he’s much better now than in these earlier works.

This is a FAIR comic that could have been much better if it was more focused and only collected the necessary chapters of the GL storyline. Who said trade paperbacks had to include every issue?

Monday, January 5, 2015

12 Days of X-Mas: X-Force #102

In our 12th Day of X-Mas, we are looking at the “Revolution” era of X-Force. Revolution was a neat idea. Warren Ellis and a writer sharing his sensibilities took over some of the lower-selling X-Books like X-Force and X-Man. In this case, Ian Edgington is along to do the scripting.

Ellis goes back to his creation Pete Wisdom to bring some direction and snark to the title. No longer a generally mutant-interest book, Wisdom’s new focus is cleaning up the world’s “secret histories, alternative truths, and crimes against humanity.” A discerning reader could probably find some early version of Planetary, Global Frequency, and other Ellis works in this version of X-Force.

The team includes a bomber-jacket wearing Cannonball (who looks a lot beefier than I remember), a dark-clad Warpath, and a midriff-baring Meltdown (who I believe is dating Wisdom? There is chemistry there, at least). The only member who looks like an actual super-hero is Bedlam, sporting a red shirt with a distinctive X on it.
Whilce Portacio is a well-respected artist whose style meshes well with this high concept. With such a science-fiction/horror feel for the X-book, Portacio is able to show off his strength with moody scenes and concepts. X-Force doesn’t look so much like super-heroes, but they look like post-modern television stars, which was probably the point.

I don’t like this as an X-Force comic. I like my Marvel heroes bright and spandexed. Ellis’ penchant to make his characters dangerously cool with bad attitudes has gotten a bit old now, but it was still pretty “revolutionary” when this came out. And I like the core concept behind the book. More than anything else, giving the team a clear goal and reason for existing makes this a GOOD comic and one worth checking out.

I hope you enjoyed the 12 Days of X-Mas! X-Force really had a wild time over the years, with some absolutely fantastic artwork. There is one era I’m purposely avoiding, but that’s because I plan to cover it when I look at a different series during a different holiday. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

12 Days of X-Mas: X-Force #82

In the continuing saga of great artists, this issue of X-Force features future superstar Jimmy Cheung. This is a pretty neat glimpse at his early work because unlike some of the other artists we’ve seen so far, Cheung already has his style pretty well established. He’s not perfect, things can look a bit too cartoony, but man, he’s already quite good.

John Francis Moore has the team setting up shop in San Francisco with a pretty reduced lineup. Dani Moonstar, Siryn, Warpath, Meltdown (formerly Boom Boom), and Sunspot make up the team at the start of the issue. I had totally forgotten that Sunspot and Boomer were dating. The pairing is no odder than the one with Cannonball, although dating two best friends is always an interesting choice for new drama.

Another forgotten (to me) character makes his debut in this issue. Jesse Aaronson (later known as Bedlam) shows up asking the team to help out their former mentor Domino. (Both Bedlam and Domino will end up filling out this era’s roster by the close of the issue.) This all sets up with a new villain called the Gryphon along with a strange new Marvel science-villain organization. Thanks to some sharp character design from Cheung, even the low-level guards and flunkies are pretty interesting and unique looking. I’m not sure I buy the threat-level they pose to the team, but the look pretty good in their slimmed down, Mandroid-ish armor. (In a great twist, there is no psyche-shielding on the power suits, so Moonstar just drops each of them with one hit.)

I’m not a huge fan of the “team uniform” look, because it takes away so much of the visual flair of super-hero comics. Sunspot can make out just fine in a uniform, but Warpath and Siryn lose so much of their unique palette and contrast on each page.

This is another FAIR issue of X-Force. This is something of a trend at this point. Moore does a nice job giving each character a voice (and making Siryn an effective leader) but there is nothing ground-breaking here. That will have to wait for tomorrow’s issue. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

12 Days of X-Mas: X-Force #70

Check out the nice turnaround from the last issue I reviewed. About thirty issues ago, the team was rededicated to its mission and bidding farewell to founding member Cannonball. Now, with John Francis Moore writing, it is time for another split. Fortunately, Adam Pollina is still around on pencils, although I think he’s getting quite a bit of help from his inkers at this point.

With Zero Tolerance wrapping up, Cable has decided it is time for the team to go underground to continue their mission. The only problem is? He never cleared that idea with the team. So instead of the young mutants taking on new identities and sticking with Cable, instead they strike out on their own. I enjoyed seeing Cable take the news so well; he realizes that the adult soldiers he raised can make their own decisions.

So Cable’s out. But so are some other regulars. Domino is dealing with some pretty brutal treatment from the Zero Tolerance camp, so she needs some time on her own. Worst of all, Ozymandius shows up claiming Caliban for Apocalypse. Cable would have stood up for his teammate, but I guess Ozymandius is sporting some powerful telepathy himself. After slipping Cable a mental mickey, no one even knows Caliban in in trouble. Warpath is trapped in a weird cartoony world with the Vanisher. I can’t really remember what the heck is going on with that weirdness.

Pollina really shows off his skills with the Warpath and Vanisher stuff. The sudden alterations between cartoon-like dogs and savage creatures is jarring, but due to Pollina’s excellent stage-setting, it looks continuous too. Some of the pages look like Pollina spent a good amount of time making folks look great. But other moments… I can’t even recognize Pollina’s art. Siryn is a great example of this; she looks spot-on and charming for most of the issue, but suddenly she loses detail towards the end of the issue. Very strange.

I like where this book is taking the team, and the characters are all developing nicely. But the lack of a clear conflict (including the odd non-confrontation with Cable) keeps this from becoming a really strong comic. FAIR it is.

Friday, January 2, 2015

12 Days of X-Mas: X-Force #44

With issue 44, we’re in the Jeph Loeb and Adam Pollina era of the team. As I will continue to say as I do these reviews, I’m absolutely floored at the level of artistic talent that transitioned through this book. Any editor would dream of a bullpen of artists coming through.

Adam Pollina’s superstar status isn’t quite earned in this debut issue. The characters are all a bit on the cartoony side, and there are times when the anatomy shifts a tad. But the seeds are here. The top-notch facial expressions. The unique takes on costumes and civilian clothes. He also uses geometric shapes to fill in panel backgrounds, which Liefeld did for a short while back in issue #1. It’s a neat effect, one I’d like to see used more today. Pollina doesn’t shy away from making his male characters just as attractive as his women. (I just read on Wikipedia that Pollina worked for an adult comics publisher before Marvel, so I guess I see how that happened!)

I also love his big, dopey Caliban. This is my favorite take on the character for sure.

Jeph Loeb’s story picks up with the team hanging out at the X-Mansion as Cable and Cyclops debate what to do with the team. I like the respect the team holds for Cyclops. These days, Scott Summers is so close to a villain that I find myself remembering his old status fondly. Loeb has the characters all doubting themselves quite a bit. They are definitely in the “student” aspect of their personalities, totally going along with Cable and Domino’s leadership.

It is pretty fun, considering how established the X-Force roster is after 44 issues. There has been a fair amount of turnover, but the core of the New Mutants team is still here. Cable, Domino, Warpath, Sunspot, Rictor, Shatterstar, and Boom Boom are all still hanging around. Sabretooth is in his mindless animal state, kept safely locked away in the Danger Room. So basically, the issue is all talking, with the team debating what Cable is going to do with them. In the end, it is pretty much status quo with one big change; Cannonball is off to join the X-Men. The cover gives it away a little bit, but that’s OK. I remember thinking it was a big deal when Sam Guthrie made the grade to full X-status. Now that he’s an Avenger, it is crazy seeing how far the character has come.

I’m pretty intrigued to see what was going on in the next issues, though! The issue ends with Siryn (mouth clamped, of course) being taken into a mental institution. I don’t remember what happens there at all!

This is a pretty GOOD comic, covering an interesting era in X-history. The best part? Pollina’s fantastic Sunspot! 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

12 Days of X-Mas: X-Force #32

Happy New Year!

The Younghunt. Oof. Fabian Nicieza has written some fantastic comics over the years, but there are some mighty iffy concepts out there too. It doesn’t help that the villains teaming up to partake in the hunt are a pretty weak mix. Sienna Blaze, Shinobi Shaw, Trevor Fitzroy, and Graydon Creed are not grade-A villains. Mostly (now) forgotten second-generation villains that didn’t end up having much staying power, it is hard to take them seriously. The only other hunters in the issue are rocking absolutely awful 90’s looks. Fenris, the neat brother/sister villain team, are clearly the coolest villains in the issue. But they look bad.

For the first part of a crossover with the New Warriors, there isn’t a whole lot of Warrior goodness happening. Justice is hanging out with Shinobi Shaw and making overtures towards joining the Hellfire Club, but it is all a cover. Dwayne Taylor shows up too, but I don’t think any character ever refers to him as his Night Thrasher identity. It took me a moment to remember who he was!

Its too bad, the idea of hunting down former members of the New Mutants and Hellions is a strong one. I had almost forgotten that Firestar was a former Hellion. I’m tempted to read more of the crossover to see if she has any nice moments with Warpath or any of the other mutant-focused characters.

Again, as the first part of a crossover, why oh why would we have to spend so much time on the boring Guthrie farm? There has never been a good reason to spend a lot of time with Cannonball’s generic family. Even seeing early-days Husk doesn’t help if she’s acting this silly and doe-eyed. I was amused to see Cannonball and Boom Boom frolicking around at the ol’ swimmin’ hole, though. Their relationship is something else that I had totally forgotten about.

I’m also curious to see what is happening in the next X-Force issue I read. With most of the team really starting to mature, I am not sure Cable is really a necessary part of the team. His obscure future talk and fatherly advice are unnecessary at this point. I want more Rictor. I want more Shatterstar. I want more Siryn. I don’t need to hear Cable talking about responsibility and his lost son from the future!

How lucky was this book artist-wise? From Rob Liefeld to Greg Capullo to Tony Daniel? Daniel’s art isn’t my cup of tea, but there is no doubt he’s got dynamic pencils. Every gal looks super hot and every guy has the same face and long hair, but the directing in the action sequences is fun. I do wish I had read one of his issues that didn’t spend so much time talking on a farm.

This one is only FAIR. I can’t give a comic that spends most of its time whining on a farm a top rating.