Thursday, December 31, 2015

12 Days of X-Mas: Uncanny X-Men #325 (1995)

Maybe it is because this is an anniversary issue, but I actually remember this issue from my first read! It isn't that great of a comic, so I'm not sure why it stuck in my head. Perhaps it is due to the first appearance of Marrow, modern classic that she is.

One striking thought about Marrow is that she has gotten quite cleaned up over the years. Joe Madureira's Marrow is a lot uglier, with bad skin and bone spurs sticking out all over her body. In the modern era, Marrow is a lot more of a looker. I'm not opposed to the change, especially since she joined the X-Men.

Mad's kinetic artwork is always exciting, even if the proportions and perspective don't always match up. But that's OK, because this is hyper four-color action in the mighty Marvel manner. To this day, I don't think there is anyone who draws a better Beast than Joe Mad.

Scott Lobdell opens hte issue with that old X-Men chestnut; the inter-team baseball game. I'm not going to lie, it is pretty nice seeing the team like this again. Cyclops pitching, M at bat, Beast playing catcher, it just has a sense of family and fun that has been missing from the X-Men for a long, long time. Seriously, when was the last time that the X-books felt fun? Schism was dark, but I think it goes much further. M-Day was rough. That is going back a long, long time for a depressing era of mutant comics.

The modern darkness is even more striking because the characters in this book are constantly talking about how bad things are. Colossus returns after abandoning the team (and he's in a truly awful costume to make things worse). Wolverine is still rocking bone claws and a savage attitude. Cyclops? He's still the cool leader wearing a sleeveless hooded sweatshirt and ball cap. As a Colossus fan, I have to admit this is a very dark time for the character. He was hooking up with Callisto for heaven's sake! Domino is a pretty massive improvement!

The Gene Nation are never a huge threat in this issue. Vessel, Sack, and the other gross bozos are basically fodder for the X-team as Marrow takes on Storm. Marrow has attached a detonator to her heart, so if Storm fails to kill her, a bunch of humans will get blown up. It is kind of surprising seeing Storm just do what needs to be done and kill Marrow. (Of course, we know that this death doesn't stick for long.)

Lobdell does a nice job leveraging Storm and Wolverine's friendship as Storm deals with what she's done. These two characters have had a strong relationship for many years, something I didn't really remember.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

12 Days of X-Mas: Uncanny X-Men #324 (1995)

If you like action, then this one is for you, True Believers!

Not even the average art of Roger Cruz can dampen the mood when Sack and Vessel take on Cannonball, Wolverine, Beast, and Storm. And to be honest, I'm being a tad harsh. While the art isn't great, Cruz does a nice job on Beast, Cannonball, and the two villains. Wolverine looks a little too crazy for me (his mask would help) and Storm's sudden morphing into street clothes confused me for half the issue.

And Psylocke's psychic battle armor? Atrocious and weird. How could a metal suit cling that tightly to her butt?

Vessel's powers are a bill ill-defined; he can absorb the souls or psychic and physical power from those he kills. With 33 kills at a nearby nightclub, he's got enough in the tank to make it tough on Wolvie, Beast, and Storm. I do like bad guys that just take a big pounding, though. There is nothing too complicated in taking down the villain, just lots of punches, slashes, and lightning bolts.

Cannonball takes on Sack one on one in an enjoyable little fight that shows off the coolness of the "invulnerable while blasting" aspect of Cannonball's powers. That's always been one of the coolest powers in the comics and seeing it work against a weird possession villain is a neat twist.

The two villains reveal themselves as part of the Gene Nation, a group with ties to the Morlocks. Storm doesn't know exactly how that fits in with her memories of the underground mutant community, but I seem to remember this story introducing Marrow and bringing back a certain overpowered Russian mutant too. We'll see if I'm right in the upcoming issues.

The mysterious Gambit subplot isn't doing anything for me, just because whatever it is that Psylocke is looking for probably isn't that big a deal; I don't remember anything that affects the character these days. The Iceman and Rogue road trip is still weird too. Rogue is struggling to deal with a kiss with Gambit where she absorbed his memories, but again, Gambit just doesn't have enough interesting backstory to justify two subplots.

But the subplots don't take too many pages and most of the issue is straight-up action. I always appreciate that.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

12 Days of X-Mas: Uncanny X-Men #323 (1995)

The hardest part about these reviews is finding the dang issue number on the front of the comic. Seriously, take a look at that cover and try to find it. Aargh!

This issue has pencils by a guy who I think could go places. Some dude named Bryan Hitch. How crazy is the run of artists on this title so far. It certainly isn't hurting matters having top notch artists working on all these old books. Many of them are still favorites of mine today.

Hitch does a decent job with the issue. He clearly enjoys drawing Rogue as she spends the entire issue in a tiny top and cut off jean shorts while road tripping with Iceman. Rogue maximizes every opportunity to stretch out and show off her outfit. Something tell me that it isn't doing anything for Iceman... (One small note, the previous issue described their road trip as being "ON THE RUN" and that really overstates the stakes of a flat tire.)

I don't love Hitch's design for Storm, a more regal-looking suit with a weird topknot. But the rest of the X-Men look good, I especially enjoyed the over-the-top hallucination of Emma Frost plaguing poor Iceman.

Back at the mansion, Archangel and Psylocke are flirting it up in the Danger Room (making sure to show off Psylocke's tiny swimsuit) while Cannonball takes care of the lobotomized Sabretooth. One thing that is clear from re-reading these issues is that everything is crossing over. Marvel clearly didn't think there were a lot of people reading this book but not X-Men or Wolverine. the plots are picked up and continued and cliff-hangered into and out of all the different books. Crazy.

I love Cannonball's early days on the X-Men. He was a refreshing voice and his attitude made older characters like Wolverine feel more dangerous. Cannonball had that generic costume too, which made him feel even more like a recent graduate to the X-Men. He is a great reader identification character.

The foils for this one are the now simple Sabretooth (who you just know is gonna be trouble) and the hilariously named Sack and Vessel. Sack looks like a wet glob around a skeleton who can slime into folks and control them while Vessel seems to be muscular. You've got to love mid-90's code names, huh?

Decent action, subplots, and nice art. I have to admit I'm enjoying this year's X-Mas!


Monday, December 28, 2015

12 Days of X-Mas: Uncanny X-Men #322 (1995)

Age of Apocalypse? Skipped it. We're back here with Uncanny X-Men after that whole hullaballoo wrapped up, with the start of a "modern classic" with Onslaught!

This issue is full of one of my favorite X-Men tropes, where the team is just sitting around waiting to be attacked. It would be better if they were in the mansion waiting, but I'll take what I can get.

The issue opens with Archangel (still with blue skin and blonde mullet) meeting up with his former love interest Charlotte, a cop who shows him a horrible new crime committed by a mutant on some human kids at a club. I'm more interested in the use of Warren Worthington's past as a plot device. The guy has had so many girlfriends he could probably launch a series just dealing with their issues. It's worth noting that Scott Lobdell does a nice job playing up the anti-mutant racism that is such a calling card of the X-Men. Most of the cops can't stand seeing Archangel at the crime scene, and one actually takes a shot at him!

Elsewhere, Beast and Bishop are leaving Pulp Fiction when the Juggernaut comes sailing down the street and crashes at their feet. Joined by Psylocke, the three X-Men actually do pretty well taking on the greatly weakened Juggernaut. I appreciated the constant commentary from Beast about how the three of them wouldn't even have a shot had Juggsy not been on his last legs. And who hurt Cain Marko this badly? Onslaught of course.

There is also an interlude with Wolverine, Storm, and Siryn, but all that did was make me wish that Siryn had spent some more time on the main X-Men roster taking her Dad's spot. Wouldn't it have been neat seeing her taking Banshee's spot on some pin-up style pages? Did that happen and I'm just not remembering it?

Tom Grummett provides the artwork and I have to say I loved it. The bright colors, the classic Beast and classic Juggernaut were a joy. I loved Siryn's look so much it actually made me want to see more of her. And I loved that Storm's walk in the rain would have been totally exploitative if drawn by a different artist (all she was wearing was a wet white dress). Grummet, Epting, and Garney, what a great run of talent on this book. Even early in their careers they are doing better work than a lot of modern X-artists.

I find myself really enjoying these back issues. Is it because they are actually decent or is it because I read them long ago and they imprinted on my impressionable mind?


Sunday, December 27, 2015

12 Days of X-Mas: Uncanny X-Men #321 (1995)

Uhhhh.... there is some weird stuff in this one, folks.

This is part 3 of Legion Quest, so Scott Lobdell (plot) and Mark Waid (script) certainly have to deal with some mid-chapter nonsense for about half the book. The X-Men have teamed up with the Sh'iar to build a whacko device to send Cable's "astral self" to the past. This gives Cyclops, Rogue, Gambit, Beast, Jean Grey, Archangel, and Cable a chance to talk tough. This amused me since essentially only two X-Men were necessary for the scene. Jean Grey had to boost her powers and Cable had to go back in time. Maybe you could argue Beast helped build the gigantic time-phone, but other than that? Just grimacing and promises from the rest of the team.

In the past, the team is trapped in Israel, robbed of their memories. This is convenient since it means that Iceman, Bishop, Storm, and Psylocke haven't actually accomplished anything since we last saw them. By the end of the issue, Cable reminds them that they have a job to do (save the world, of course) but any actual conflict is going to be saved for part 4 in another title.

I did enjoy seeing Professor X and Magneto bonding in their younger days. This story is set shortly after they became friends, so the bonds are just starting, but the two guys clearly respect each other. I always thought this was a fascinating relationship and I enjoyed Marvel spending so much time expanding on it over the years. Clearly lots of people feel that way since the current X-Men movie franchise is built on the Charles/Erik bromance.

Remember when I said Legion wasn't very likable last issue? Then used his powers to go back in time? Well, in this one he uses his powers to impersonate his father and start kissing his mother. I can't really see what this accomplishes regarding his greater plot. I also can't figure out how far we are supposed to think Legion got with his emotionally disturbed parent. Either way... ewwww. Between this and the Ms. Marvel baby thing in Avengers 200 and Power Girl's pregnancy in the '90s, I really start to worry about the mental health of the comic book community.

Ron Garney provides the pencils for this one and much like Steve Epting a few issues ago, you can see how skilled this guy is. Sure, Archangel and Cyclops are built like tanks rather than their normal body shape. Rogue's eyes also take up more than a third of her face. But man, Beast is rocking a sweet mullet and Gambit looks TOUGH. Best of all, the action choreography of the opening bar fight is well done, including some nice facial expressions on all the combatants.

Fair (but almost Good)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

12 Days of X-Mas: Uncanny X-Men #320 (1995)

I'm having a hard time remembering exactly how the rosters were working for the X-Men around these issues. I thought it was still X-Men Blue and X-Men Gold teams, but the groups have been all mixed up for both issues. Were we already in the era of no set rosters?

In any case, this issue stars Storm, Jean Grey, Iceman, Bishop, and Psylocke as they travel to Israel to take on Legion in Legion Quest part 1. I'm not sure why the X-Men would only send a small team to take on god-level mutant, but that is neither here nor there.

This is a marked improvement over the previous issue. Scott Lobdell gets a dialogue assist from Mark Waid, so of course the quality is going to bump up some. Unfortunately, some unclear artwork and a very non-linear story don't make for a good mix.

Roger Cruz is not bound by the normal rules of comic book storytelling, so odd-shaped panels bounce the reader's eye all over the place. There are arrows to help you find the next panel in some cases, but not all. Then there are some pages that go across two pages and some that don't, all in all, this is a very hard issue to read.

I forgot how much I used to like Jean Grey. As a noted hater of telepaths, that takes something for me to admit. But her competence as team co-leader, her immense power levels, and that sweet pouch-filled '90s outfit make her a pretty neat character. Teen Jean just can't cut it when compared with the original.

Bishop does little more than scream, Iceman and Psyclocke are window dressing. Jean Grey manages to take on Legion for a few pages, but most of the issue is Legion showing off his new power levels. He takes Storm on a little time jaunt to show that he can now go back in time. I really like that the X-Men have basically given up by page one, leaving the entire battle in the hands of Storm. Storm is powerful, of course, but I never dreamed she'd be the character best equipped to take on Legion.

David Haller/Legion comes off as a whiny kid, as he always does. There is often a kindness to his character too, but in this issue he doesn't exhibit much to sympathize with. He's pretty cruel when he taunts Storm with a chance to change traumas in her past. C'mon David, why go through that just to upset Storm?


Friday, December 25, 2015

12 Days of X-Mas: Uncanny X-Men #319 (1994)


I've been a little hard on the X-Men for a few years now. Hating on Bendis and now accusing Marvel of burying the team to put the shine on the Inhumans. Just last week I wrote about how poor I found the new flagship book to be in the X-line. But now, it is time for my annual 12 Days of X-Mas. We know Grant Morrison's run was sublime. We know Chuck Austen's run made readers' eyes bleed. So let's pick an era that gets less attention. Let's look at the mid-1990's.

In the glory days of 1994, were the X-Men comics as good as I remember?

Randomly starting with issue 319, it seems I may have been off. This is clearly one of the "rest" issues between big storylines (I believe Phalanx Covenant had just wrapped up and Age of Apocalypse was about to begin.)

This issue only follows a few of the X-Men, and each story is more boring than the last. Iceman and Rogue get the most page time, but they spend it all moping. This is firmly in the time when I was certain that Iceman was about to come out as a gay man (it just took another 21 years). The heavy-handed, purple prose from writer Scott Lobdell makes it clear that there was a new direction for the character on the way. And since the issue focused on Bobby Drake's difficult relationship with his parents and Bobby's trouble with relationships, it seems like this was right in line with 1994 thinking on the subject.  Rogue is a supportive friend here, with little of the fire that has made her into one of my favorite characters. Steve Epting does a wonderful job with her, though. Even in street clothes she looks fantastic.

Archangel (rocking blue skin and a blonde mullet) and Psylocke are getting together in the second storyline. And again, the dialogue is painful. The two talk about whether they should pursue their mutual attraction or if it is too complicated in the X-Men's world. I always liked these two together.

The last storyline sets up Age of Apocalypse, with Professor X's son Legion showing up in an ominous dream, threatening about how the world would be better had Professor X and Magneto not split the mutants over the last decades. I suppose this counts as some sort of action, but really, it is a dream, so I can't count it.

What a waste of Steve Epting's talents. He's the guest penciller here, and knowing how good he was even in 1994, I wish he had been able to show off his skills on some good villains or at least our core cast in uniform.

One last question: how do Archangel's wings work? That cover has me confused!


Friday, December 18, 2015

New Avengers #1-3

This one was off to a slow start, but Al Ewing has made up for a slow premiere issue with a couple nice follow-ups.

First of all, I appreciate how quickly the team dispatched their first adversary, the Ultimate Universe's Maker. I'm not a fan of the core concept (Evil Reed) so I don't usually enjoy his appearances. Calling him Maker and giving him the silly helmet only help a bit.

The second round of antagonists seem a bit more fun. A cult of mixed-heritage Kree and Skrulls are either new friends or new enemies for our heroes, it is too early to tell which. Either way, I was surprised at how much my daughters enjoyed the silliness surrounding Hulkling's role as the group's savior. Ewing is doing a nice job getting my kiddos to appreciate the former Young Avenger. They also liked Power Man poking holes in Wiccan's code name. It doesn't take a lot, just a little hook to get them interested in new characters.

The sell was a lot easier on the rest of the cast. My gals loved Mighty Avengers over the past few years, so Power Man and White Tiger are already solidly in the "cool" column for them. Squirrel Girl? Well, they are obsessed with her, so she's a huge win. Songbird has a place in their hearts from the old Ultimate Alliance 2 video game. They (like their Dad) prefer the "real" Hawkeye over his current movie counterpart though. They also don't seem very drawn to Sunspot. Hopefully Roberto can use some powers soon? Most of my affection for Sunspot goes back to the Cannonball days where they loved Magnum PI, so it would be great to see Roberto do a little more in the field (his powers are so wonderfully visual).

And I will point out that I love the idea of a Cthullu-esque villain from a former iteration of the universe as the first ongoing foil for the team. Maybe Ewing could throw in a magic-based guest star or two in upcoming issues.

Gerardo Sandoval's art rubbed us the wrong way at first, specifically with how crazy his Squirrel Girl looks. But by issue 2? The whole fam had bought in to the kinetic, frenetically paced artwork. Sandoval's art is a tad too cartoony for me, but my daughters love it.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Extraordinary X-Men #1-3

The highs and lows of Marvel's relaunch, summed up in one title.

Jeff Lemire has done some pretty good work, but I don't think his X-Men run is off to a good start. The lineup is an odd one, having to substitute in Old Man Logan and Teen Jean since the originals are dead. That alone throws off the familiar feel of the X-Men.

My bigger problem is the status quo of the new X-Haven. I think I would have preferred the X-Men heading off to another planet like the early rumors reported. Instead, (SPOILERS) the X-Men have relocated to Limbo, along with a ton of mutants. I don't know if every mutant is there or not, due to the 8-month jump hitting all the Marvel books.

The odd Limbo status quo is bad enough, but making things worse, this series fails my first issue test. If there is not a villain with "character" then your series doesn't have much to say. That is, when the book opens up with endless pages of faceless, generic bad guys, then there isn't much of a reason to come back to a title. Three issues in, and the team is still fighting generic Limbo demons. When stuck facing such boring foes, Iceman, Storm, Forge, and the rest of the Limbo team feel boring too.


There were brief moments of excitement for my daughters and I in issue 2 when Colossus and Magik face off with Mister Sinister. Lemire does a better job with the Piotr and Illyana than he does with any other character in the book. Unfortunately, there just isn't enough of them on the page.

You know who else isn't on the page and is supposedly dead? The most interesting X-character of the past few years. That kills my interest too.

Humberto Ramos continues to fill each page with dynamic pencils and great action. The character design is fine, although I'm not a huge fan of Jean Grey's new suit or Colossus' beard. He does a much better job with Storm and Iceman. They have a more classic feel. Ramos' Mister Sinister is suitably threatening too, but again, he's only one page.

This is looking like my first drop of All-New Marvel.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Daredevil #1

Listen, it isn't that I don't like Blindspot, DD's new protege. He's got a great hook after only one issue (along with a nice power set.)

But man, tell me you weren't intrigued back when we all thought that was Gambit on the cover! Imagine a book covering that team-up every month. Charles Soule created a great high concept by accident.

Nope, this book has an entirely different core concept. Clearly inspired by the Daredevil show on Netflix (Matt Murdock looks just like Charle Cox), this has a much darker tone than Mark Waid's recently wrapped run. Matt is now an assistant D.A., focused on putting people away rather than running their defense. And somehow his secret identity is back in the box. No one knows Matt is Daredevil except for his old buddy Foggy. And Foggy isn't happy about it.

I like Soule's new villain, the Ten Fingered Man. Ten fingers on each hand, that is! And some sort of obsession with fingers that passes on to his followers. The guy seems creepy and dark, already perfect for an upcoming Netflix season.

Ron Garney has been around a long time and I've always appreciated his art. It is pretty amazing seeing him transform himself once again. The noir-style art is sharp and detailed. There is an almost Scott McDaniel-ish sense of motion in Daredevil's action scenes. Oh, and there are only three colors in use. Black, white, and red. Everything is some shade or combination of these colors. It is a neat choice.

I miss Mark Waid's Daredevil. I loved the bright art and Matt Murdock's sunnier attitude. I liked the supporting cast and the positive attitude. That's not to say I don't like this new relaunch. I have faith that Soule will do a good job (as he always does). But man. I miss Waid and Samnee's Daredevil.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Vision #1-2

I had absolutely no plans to pick up this comic. I don't know Tom King's work. While I like Gabriel Walta's artwork, that wasn't enough to get me to try out this issue. Not with my sublist already ballooning.

But you know, there were so many positive reviews that I figured I could dish out another 4 bucks for issue one. Plus, it is set in my old hometown of Arlington, VA. Surely that's worth giving a book a try!

And now I have another book to buy every month.

Tom King is approaching this differently than any other book on the stands. While the story focuses on the lives of the Vision, his wife, and children, the book is tremendously gloomy. Thanks to an omniscient narrator, we already know that the Vision's attempts to lead a normal life are doomed. Something awful is going to happen. We don't know what it is, but we know it is coming. And watching Vision's experiment/dream fail is already fascinating.

King's Vision is cold, but not cruel. This is a different take than the one we normally see, but it works. Vision's family is struggling to fit into a world they clearly don't belong in, and may not even want. School and neighborhood living are big challenges when you are green robots.

King seems to have a handle on the Vision's extensive ties to the Marvel Universe too. Grim Reaper shows up in issue 1 in a pretty climactic way. (Is there any charcter who exits series like this more than the Reaper? I mean, the guy has a bad track record...) I am really holding out hope that Wonder Man makes an appearance soon. With the ominous vibe permeating this book, I'm curious to see how Simon Williams would fit into his "brother's" world.

Walta's art is pitch-perfect for the book. The art is grounded, as it should be for an urban horror title. But those super-heroic elements necessary to place the book in the Marvel Universe are perfect. We don't see Vision saving the world, but this is clearly the same character who does that in other titles. Walta's greatest strength might be the "acting" of his characters. Their faces are so expressive, I think the book would work with no words.

This book probably won't be long for the publishing world, but man, pick this up while you can.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Captain America: Sam Wilson #1-3

Time for another of my absolute favorites from the Marvel relaunch.

Nick Spencer wow'ed me with Superior Foes of Spider-Man. He maintained that respect with his great work on Ant-Man. With his work on this title, he's graduated to must-read for me.

I've always been a fan of the Falcon, but even I'm impressed at how well Sam Wilson fills the role of Captain America. He's got the look down, with the shield fitting in much better with the wings than I ever thought it would. Most of all, Sam's idealism and hope are contagious. The same things that motivated the character as a community organizer make him a fantastic Captain America.

Spencer is cheating a bit too. I mean, including classic Captain America elements like Dr. Karl Malus, the Power Broker, and D-Man? And CAPWOLF??? CAPWOLF!

C'mon, that is like shooting fish in a barrel! And the biggest reveal, the one at the end of issue 3? I mean, the only way it could be better is if we were getting a return of the greatest snake of all! Spencer is balancing all these elements so deftly I'm confident he could handle that return too.

And Misty Knight works perfectly as Cap's new partner. Having her and D-Man as Cap's support team is brilliant; a blend of classic elements with new characters that make wonderful sense.

Daniel Acuna has been a favorite of mine since his work on Eternals. His style blends Jack Kirby and Alex Ross, making him one of my absolute top artists. The design on the returning characters is wonderful (Look at Misty on that cover!) D-Man looks tremendous! Best of all, Cap's costume looks classic under Acuna's pencil.

For those who haven't heard, there is a bit of controversy about just how liberal Sam Wilson is acting in the Cap role. Fox News, among others, have been pretty insulted by some of Spencer's content too. I suppose I could see the offense if I were of a different political mindset. But for me? If Sam Wilson keeps this up, he could end up my favorite Captain America.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Amazing Spider-Man #1-3

Dan Slott has been writing Spider-Man comics for a long time. And while I faded out a bit during the One More Day era, I have to say I’ve loved everything since Superior Spider-Man a few years ago. Once again, Slott has a new, fresh take on Spider-Man that is different than everything we’ve seen before but that still remains true to the Peter Parker we know and love.

Peter has finally used his brain to get himself rich. Parker Industries is doing big things in the world, and while he isn’t Tony Stark (yet) he’s doing pretty well for himself. Peter has employees, friends, family, and plenty of other supporting characters that should give plenty of opportunities for upcoming stories.

Best of all, Spider-Man almost has a super-team. Spider-Man has been on team books in the past, but he’s rarely the financier and driver behind the story. In this incarnation of the title, Spidey has Mockingbird as a SHIELD liaison and Clash as an employee struggling to give up his costumed identity. Best of all, Hobie Brown, the Prowler, is on the payroll too. The Prowler fits in the book perfectly as both a partner for super-heroics and as a straight man for Spidey’s buffoonery. It never hurts to see the Human Torch either, and playing him against a “friend rival” in Harry Osborne is a great move too. There were multiple times while reading these comics where my daughters and I laughed out loud.

In addition to the high concept and the guest-stars working perfectly, Slott is using one of the best “classic” villain teams in the Marvel U: The Zodiac. Sure, it is a new incarnation, but man, they are already a great team. The Zodiac is presented as a real threat with a large, well-financed organization and a cadre of super-villains at the top. And Slott is knocking their characterization out of the park. He is able to give bosses and flunkies alike delightful personalities in only a few lines of dialogue.

Giuseppe Camuncoli is an artist well-accustomed to Spider-Man, and he shows it. The new Spidey design is just a bit off from the classic look, so I accepted the new look with no reservations. The Zodiac designs are instantly recognizable and striking. I also like the design of the fleet of Spider-based vehicles and gear that Peter is able to show off these days. In fact, on those gorgeous Alex Ross covers, the new costume looks nearly as good as the original!


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Invincible Iron Man #1-3

Bendis always writes a good jerk, so it is not surprising that he’s doing a nice job with Tony Stark. Even in New Avengers, the billionaire was a good fit for Bendis’ talky habits. This title is pretty much the definition of a Bendis book. A thoughtful protagonist who spends more time talking than actually doing things. The use of classic guest-stars (Dr. Strange) and villains (Dr. Doom and Madame Masque) acting in out-of character ways is expected at this point too. The pacing is tremendously slow, again, as is the norm in Bendis’ super-hero work.

In fact, there hasn’t really been a whole lot of story traction accomplished in the first three issues of the book. Iron Man fought Madame Masque once or twice. Talked to Dr. Doom. Talked to Dr. Strange. Went on a date. Not really a whole heck of a lot of plot movement that I’ve been able to discern. And the oddest part is that somehow Marvel decided there was TOO MUCH story for just one Iron Man title. There is a second Bendis Iron Man title on the way. So weird!

And again, just as you’d expect, Bendis’ Iron Man features a fantastic artist that makes all of those weaknesses I listed above seem a whole lot more palatable. David Marquez’ clean-lined art is gorgeous. His Madame Masque redesign is new and dynamic, yet still checks all the required boxes for the character’s visual design. The new Iron Man armor is future-facing and original. I don’t love it as much I did the black and gold suit from the Kieron Gillen’s relaunch, but this is leagues better than the white armor from the Superior run. This series might be slow and verbose, but it sure is gorgeous.

I'm sticking with it for now, mostly for the art, but I'm also holding out that Bendis will ramp up the action too. 


Monday, December 7, 2015

Black Knight #1

After having a very small comic list for most of the summer and fall thanks to Marvel’s Secret Wars and the ongoing New 52 from DC, I haven’t had much to say for awhile.

Now that we are in the midst of the all-new Marvel relaunch, there is a lot more for me to weigh in on. A couple months in, let’s take a look at Marvel’s new output.

You don’t understand how badly I want this to be fantastic. Black Knight/Dane Whitman has been one of my favorite characters for decades. He was a central Avenger during my formative years, so he will always hold a place in my comic-reading heart. I was concerned with the launch of this book because while Frank Tieri is a solid writer, he’s not one of my favorites. That said, he’s clearly a fan of the character. So I had hope.

It turns out the measured hope I was holding out was pretty appropriate. Black Knight is stuck in Weirdworld, a fantastic high-fantasy or sci-fi setting. He’s already the leader of a group of somewhat heroic new characters yet he’s on the outs with his former allies in the Avengers. We don’t know exactly how either of those things happened, but we do know that Dane is struggling with the curse of the ebony blade. The curse is a long-standing part of the character and I like the use of the original Black Knight, Sir Percy, as an observer and witness warning Dane about the dangers he’s facing. So I’m OK with the high concepts in use here.

But man, the supporting characters (whose names I can’t even remember) are pretty bland. I also worry that exiling Dane to Weirdworld will take away a lot of the Avengers-based interactions that I loved about the character. As a watered down Game of Thrones lead, I don’t know that the Black Knight is interesting enough to anchor his own title.

Luca Pizzari is clearly going more for the fantasy feel. This doesn’t look or feel too much like the super-hero Black Knight that I prefer. That isn’t to say the art is bad, it is just a bit muddier than the stuff I prefer. I do like the more fantasy-based design for the title character, I just wish there was a way to show off the old John Buscema look too.

This is clearly not the Black Knight comic I’d prefer, but it isn't bad. Gonna keep giving it a shot!