Inside Pulse » Age of Apocalypse A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Sun, 01 Feb 2015 09:30:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Inside Pulse no A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Inside Pulse » Age of Apocalypse Were Money No Object – the January Previews Edition with Dark Horse, DC, Image, Marvel & Oni Wed, 09 Jan 2013 16:00:12 +0000 Time to look through Previews and see what goodies are coming our way in March!

Dark Horse

Following up on the events of BPRD 1948 is a new mini-series, BPRD Vampire, which I’m very excited for, because of the involvement of two of my favourite artists – Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon!  Granted, this isn’t going to be as brilliant as their Daytrippers, but I’m always happy to see their art.

Mike Mignola is launching a brand new series this month as well, Sledgehammer 44, with John Arcudi and Jason Latour.  It looks like this is an Iron Man in WWII kind of story, and since Mignola’s more bizarre projects are usually his most entertaining, I’ll be checking it out.  The guy really has become his own little industry though – he has four books being published by Dark Horse this month.

Despite learning that they are going to be losing the Star Wars license, Dark Horse is continuing to put out some of the best-looking titles in the franchise of all time.  In addition to Brian Wood’s Star Wars series, Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman are picking up some of the strands of John Ostrander and Jan Duursema’s excellent Star Wars Legacy with a new on-going title that features the great great granddaughter of Han Solo.  I love the work that Bechko and Hardman have been doing at Boom on Planet of the Apes, and Hardman is drawing this, so I’m all over it, at least until Marvel takes it away…


I’m a little curious to see what Birds of Prey under Jim Zubkavich is going to be like.  His Skullkickers is an excellent, fun read, but he’d have to take a very different approach for a title like this.  Lately, I’ve noticed that working for DC has sanitized the writing of other independent writers I admire (Joshua Hale Fialkov and Matt Kindt come to mind), so perhaps I’d do better to just ignore this.

The same sense of caution informs my considering of Constantine, the New 52-ified version of Hellblazer.  Now, it’s been a few years since I’ve read Hellblazer regularly (Peter Milligan’s run wasn’t doing it for me, but I can see why it got so much acclaim), and I have been enjoying John’s appearances in Justice League Dark, but I’m worried that centring a book on Constantine, without letting him be the uncensored evil bastard we love, will just not work.  Robert Venditti has impressed on both The Surrogates and X-O Manowar, but neither of those books feel like this one, so I’m going to wait and see.

Phantom Stranger #6 is co-written by JM DeMatteis, and drawn by Gene Ha and Zander Cannon.  That sounds like an instant buy, except for the fact that Dan Didio is still the other writer on this comic.  Tempting, but not really.

I think it’s pretty amazing that the Rotworld storyline has run for eighteen issues in both Animal Man and Swamp Thing.  It’s rare that a storyline be stretched out beyond a single trade these days, and that the story was not wildly decompressed is a testament to both Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder.  Both of these runs are going to be looked back on fondly, which is not really the case for a lot of New 52 books.

The trade for Punk Rock Jesus is being solicited this month.  Get it – it’s amazing.

I’m a little hesitant to get Time Warp #1, the new Vertigo quarterly anthology.  The Ghosts one didn’t do much for me, and I don’t like that they are serializing stories like the Dead Boy Detectives in these books, but with work by Kindt, Simone, Lemire, Albuquerque, Perker, and Culbard, I know I won’t be able to pass it up.


I’m always happy to hear about another Jonathan Hickman series, so East of West has me excited, although with Secret so far behind schedule, and his Marvel books coming out almost every week, I do worry about how often this book will see publication.  Still, it’s Hickman and his FF collaborator Nick Dragotta working on a book that is some kind of future Western about the four horsemen of the Apocalypse trying to kill the President.  I can’t wait.

Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray sounds pretty interesting.  It’s about a treasure hunter who has been possessed by five ‘literary ghosts’.  From the preview pages, I can identify Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, and perhaps Merlin?  It’s a cool concept, although how much cooler would it have been if the ghosts were real literary figures, such as Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, and I don’t know, Gertrude Stein?  Oh wait, that’s Ann Nocenti’s Kid Eternity run…

Joe Casey has a new series called Sex.  Sold.  I don’t even need to read the solicitation.  I just know that it’s going to be hella late before long.

Hey look, Rob Liefeld has taken over Bloodstrike and Youngblood now that he’s not working at DC.  We should start a pool on when they actually come out.  We could start a pool on how much they suck, but who would bet against that?  I’m just glad he’s not touching Glory or Prophet, but I feel badly for my Nexus brethren who have been enjoying these other two titles.  Anyone remember the last time he took Youngblood back from a much more talented writer?  He added Obama to the team, and then stopped publishing the book entirely.


We’ve known that Age of Ultron has been in the planning/developing stage for a few years now, right?  The cover to issue one shows Captain America in his old uniform.  I’m wondering if this book is going to fit into continuity very well, even with the tie-in issues affecting titles like the Fantastic Four and Superior Spider-Man.  I really feel like sitting this event out, as I doubt it will impact the Marvel books I’m enjoying most right now.

Alan Davis drawing the new Wolverine series is tempting, but for my money, Wolverine is a $3 title, not a $4 one.  I’m going to pass.

I think it’s funny that Marvel is still soliciting Uncanny Avengers every month.  That means that for it to meet its March 6 sale date, issues 3-5 will have to come out first, which would have to be almost bi-weekly.  With John Cassaday art?  Maybe it’s time for a skip month?

The X-Termination cross-over will be spread across X-Treme X-Men, Age of Apocalypse, and Astonishing X-Men.  This is exactly the kind of cross-over I like the most – one that doesn’t include a single title that I buy.

I was right on the cusp of dropping Wolverine and the X-Men, but seeing that the two issues solicited this month are drawn by Ramon Perez, I’m going to stick around for a bit.  I find I have less and less interest in the stories in this comic though, so I figure these may be the last ones I buy.

The solicitation for Powers: Bureau #3 says that the book is “back on track!  Guaranteed to ship!”  Note though, they don’t say guaranteed to ship on time.  So it’s coming, but who knows when?  I used to love Powers, but I doubt I’m going to get the first issue of this latest renumbering (the fourth?).  I’ll just get the trade in a few years, after the first four or five issues have come out.

Oni Press

Cullen Bunn has a new series with Joëlle Jones called Helheim.  It looks to be a Viking horror story.  Having seen what Bunn can do with a Western horror story like The Sixth Gun, I’m definitely on board for this.

So, what would you buy, Were Money No Object?

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Retro Review: The Amazing X-Men #4 by Fabian Nicieza and Adam Kubert Sat, 03 Nov 2012 12:00:39 +0000

Retro Review 4:  The Amazing X-Men #4

Published by Marvel Comics

Written by Fabian Nicieza

Art by Adam Kubert

This series was a real doozy.  I remember my head spinning at all of the changes.  This didn’t feel like just another alternate universe or a What If? Story because the entire line of X-books were temporarily replaced.  Exciting times! Charles Xavier was murdered in the past by Legion who meant for Magneto to be his target.  Magneto gathers a team of mutants called the X-Men in remembrance of his old friend in order to battle Apocalypse who saw an opening after Xavier’s death.  It is the Age of Apocalypse.

The Plot

This issue begins with the Madri preparing to sacrifice Bishop because he possesses knowledge that could threaten Apocalypse’s rein.  However, before they can complete their task Storm makes the save while Quicksilver and Banshee are sneaking into the “Consecrated Temple,” which is located in Quebec.  They find the individual responsible for the Madri and it is Jamie Madrox, the drooling, diaper wearing Multiple Man.  In the meantime, Rogue, Morph, Blink, Iceman, Sabretooth, and Wildchild are in Westchester County looking for any trace of her child.  They find Colossus, Shadowcat, and Illyana instead who tell them that they were able to find Illyana, but at the cost of their students (from the book Generation Next).  Blink then endures some survivor’s guilt and then Rogue and a couple others go to the old Morlock tunnels to find Gambit, Jubilee, Dazzler, Exodus and someone else (Lila Cheney perhaps?) who do not have Charles with them (in issue #3 Nanny was originally charged with protecting him when Apocalypse approached).  Back in Quebec, Bishop and Storm are struggling against the Madri.  At the same time, Quicksilver and Banshee are attacked by Abyss.  Banshee confronts his fears and violently attacks Abyss and sacrifices his life in the process (a way cooler death than the one in the regular X-verse).  Immediately afterwards Jamie asks if they need Bishop to complete their task of defeating Apocalypse.  Quicksilver replies yay thus leaving Jamie to say nay to living (they didn’t actually use these words).  Much to the dismay of Quicksilver, Jamie sacrifices himself in order to shut down the Madri and to get back at Apocalypse for abusing him so badly.  Back at the Xavier Estate, Rogue has just finished beating up on Gambit for letting Guido (Strong Guy) take her son even though he tells her that it was the only way (I believe this happened in Gambit and the X-ternals).  Nightcrawler then appears with Destiny and Quicksilver and co. arrive right afterwards.  All of them are together and state that they need to regain a piece of the M’Kraan Crystal, rescue Charles and Magneto, and then defeat Apocalypse.

The Breakdown

I remember liking Adam Kubert’s art during this series, but at the time I was really into the art in Astonishing X-Men (Joe Madureira).  Re-reading this I have gained more appreciation for Kubert’s art in this comic.  I really enjoyed the relationship between Quicksilver and Banshee.  Actually maybe the word friendship would’ve been better to describe it.  These two characters had virtually no interaction in the regular X-verse, but they were close friends here.  This is one example of why this series was so intriguing because they really took advantage of using a clean slate.  Yes, they had heroes turned villains and vice versa, but they also let different characters have the spotlight and forged different relationships.  All of it seemed so fresh.  The image of Jamie in all of his…the opposite of glory…was startling at the time and was still weird to see because he has more of a prominent role today.  I liked the effect of Shadowcat phasing when Rogue was trying to console her about her students.  She was so cold and battle-hardened in this reality.  It was also weird seeing Morph being so serious when he was tending to Blink after finding out her classmates died (in Astonishing he was a one-liner machine).  I really enjoyed how Banshee cut loose on Abyss because he was so afraid of him.  It was established in the second issue that Banshee was relieved he didn’t have to face Abyss when Quicksilver went to confront him.  It was refreshing to see some of the heroes not being or acting completely “heroic” in the face or chaos.  Often characters remain brave or they show courage in the worst of circumstances, but here we see Colossus unhinged, Shadowcat emotionally dead, and Banshee almost cowardly in his thinking.  Holy crap, the ads brought back some serious memories, Heroes Unlimited (rpg), X-Men Chef Boyardee, and X-Men Nerds! The ‘90s weren’t always that bad.  I remember wanting the Age of Apocalypse titles to run for six issues instead of just four.  This was such a good series.


As per usual with the ‘90s, the art was flashy, which came at the expense of consistency sometimes.  One problem I had with Bishop was that he didn’t really look like an older version of himself in this reality.  He was bald now and that was about it.  I actually don’t mind the PG era of comics with relation to language (they didn’t use the “a” word in comics, etc.); however, when Quicksilver was verbally attacking Abyss he called him one of “Apocalypse’s boot-lickers.”  He is staring at the face of uncertainty and possibly death and he uses that to insult Abyss.  He didn’t necessarily have to swear at him, but even calling him a loser would’ve been more effective.  At least he didn’t refer to himself as a hero and Abyss as a zero I guess.

Rating:  8/10 (at time when originally read 10/10)

The Age of Apocalypse was indeed something unique for its time and the ending of the entire series was perfect.  I’m so glad that Marvel respected the material and did not mess around with such a memorable story.  They resisted the temptation of a cash grab and therefore, did not tarnish this story and ruin it by unnecessarily revisiting it.  Thank god they didn’t go all Marvel on it and repeatedly beat the horse until it was not only dead, but so that it reincarnated itself multiple times only to be beaten to death after each rebirth…only then to become pounded into horse meat to be served at a greasy fast food restaurant and then crapped out afterwards.  Yeah, thankfully we didn’t have to endure that.×120.jpg

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The Weekly Round-Up #136 With The Massive, American Vampire, Bad Medicine, Chew, Conan & More Mon, 16 Jul 2012 14:00:08 +0000 Warning:  There is no discussion of San Diego in this article; a rarity on comics websites this week, I know.

Best Comic of the Week:

The Massive #2

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Kristian Donaldson

Glancing at this cover while flipping through my pile of new comics this week, I caught myself thinking, “Oh good, a new DMZ.”  It’s an easy enough mistake to make, what with John Paul Leon’s cover showing a ruined city, but in many ways, The Massive has already surpassed Brian Wood’s earlier vision of a broken future by providing a much more complete, global and fully realized look into a future that is even more broken than the one that Matty Roth ran around in for five years.

This second issue of The Massive continues to detail some of the results of The Crash, the term that Wood has given to a series of ecological catastrophes, which have restructured the globe, and affected every person living on the Earth.  It continues to follow the crew of The Kapital, the only ship remaining to the Ninth Wave, a direct action environmental group, through stories set in two different time periods.

The present-day sequence (well, story time present-day, as it all happens in the near future) has the crew of the Kapital continuing to evade pirates off the coast of Kamchatka, while searching for their missing sister ship The Massive.  They pick up on that larger ship’s signal again, and even make radio contact with it, but all is not as it seems.  As well, Mary, one of the book’s main characters, has not returned from her mission last issue to draw off some of the pirates.  Ship’s captain Callum Israel, and his right-hand man Mag are concerned, and find themselves in a few tough places.

Interspersed between this story and scenes showing what happened during the crash are scenes set in Hong Kong shortly after the Crash.  Most of the city is under water, but the inhabitants built a new port out of recycled and repurposed junk, and when the Kapital arrives looking for refuelling and resupplying, it’s not long before Callum and Mary find themselves in trouble with the locals.

This book is very compelling reading.  There is a wealth of material that Wood is fitting into each issue, as he manages to satisfy my need for background while not sacrificing space to tell an exciting story.  Kristian Donaldson’s work is excellent, as always, and colourist Dave Stewart does a fine job of dividing the different strands of the story through their own colour palette.

This is one of the best new series to debut in a year that has already had a number of fantastic debuts.  This is a great time to be reading independent comics.

Other Notable Comics:

American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #2

Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Dustin Nguyen

I don’t understand why Dustin Nguyen does not get more recognition, or have a higher profile among comics artists.  This guy’s work is amazing.  In this issue, he’s called upon to show the history of the prime Carpathian vampire, Dracula, for all intents and purposes, and over a series of pages, Nguyen shows us watercolour paintings, imitation woodblock prints, engravings, and maps.  The collage effect works very well, and underscores how versatile he is as an artist.  Later, he cuts loose on a splash page that would have made an amazing cover image.

This issue is mostly spent exploring Dracula’s history.  Agent Hobbes is filling in Felicia Book on the dangerous vampire’s story, and lets her (and us) know about his ability to mentally control any other Carpathian vamp or their offspring (including, perhaps, an American vampire).  While this happens, the people who took Dracula arrive at a rendez-vous with some a pair of Soviets, although the American who confronted Hobbes in the first issue have other plans.

This is a successful mini-series, adding to the American Vampire story.  Scott Snyder and Nguyen work very well together, although I still find it difficult to accept that Gus, who looks and acts like a ten-year old, is supposed to be fifteen.

Bad Medicine #3

Written by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir
Art by Christopher Mitten

Bad Medicine uses this issue to establish the future and direction of this new series.  The first two issues introduced a number of characters with varying backgrounds – a New York detective, a disgraced doctor who has travelled the world learning about alternative healing, and two CDC doctors, one nice and enthusiastic, the other crusty – and had them work together on a case involving an invisible man.

With this issue, a reason is given for this group to get back together when a werewolf is shot and killed in Maine, before turning into a young man who appears normal.  There is evidence of some sort of virus in the man’s system, and so this group, more or less under the control of Dr. Horne, is dispatched to investigate.

They are led to a very small town, which seems like a very strange place, in that way that small towns are always strange places in these types of comics.  The plot might be a little predictable in this comic, but the writers excel at strong character work, and that’s what makes this a successful comic.  Dr. Horne is a difficult character to pull off – his guilt at having caused a patient’s death has led to him spending six years talking to her, and she has taught him about his weaknesses and limitations.  Dr. Teague, the crusty CDC doctor, is very similar to him, and for that reason, he seems to dislike him the most.

I think it’s interesting that the last issue ended with scenes set somewhere in Brazil (I believe – I don’t have the book in front of me), and I thought they were setting up the next storyline.  I guess that story will be addressed after this werewolf one.  This book is following a very TV-friendly pattern, but it’s working for me.

Chew: Secret Agent Poyo #1

Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory

Poyo is a gamecock from an island in the South Pacific, who first appeared in Chew when main character Tony Chu was in that part of the world looking to rescue his brother from a cibopathic vampire.  There was something about Poyo, who was unstoppable, that resonated with readers, and so the character returned, enhanced with cybernetics, and as an agent of the USDA.

Now, Poyo finally gets his own one-shot, and it’s about as strange and over-the-top as you can expect.  Poyo is sent to England to assist in an investigation involving a twisted scientist who specializes in ranapuliva, or the raining of frogs from the sky.  He’s using his knowledge to terrorize England Dr. Evil style, with the threat of dropping all sorts of farm animals on downtown London.

It’s a silly plot, but it works for this book.  As is often the case with Chew, Rob Guillory peppers each page with little sight gags and amusing moments.  Tony Chu’s former partner, and Poyo’s new partner Colby has a cameo, but for the most part, this story exists outside of the Chew continuity.

There are some great pin-ups as well, by artists such as Ben Templesmith, Joe Eisma, and Jim Mahfood.  This is good stuff.

Conan the Barbarian #6

Written by Brian Wood
Art by James Harren

Among the many things that I like about Brian Wood’s new Conan series is that so far, each arc has only been three issues long.  This is pretty refreshing in an era where most mainstream comics only manage to tell one or two stories a year, and where two or three issues can pass with very little taking place.  It gives me confidence that there’s always going to be something new happening in this series, and I like that the artists rotate so quickly – it gives me a chance to see different interpretations of this character, who I’ve ignored for so long.

This issue has Conan escaping the city of Messantia, after Belit arranged his opportunity to avoid the gallows.  Now, because of the actions of Belit and her crew of pirates, the entire city is in chaos, and Conan is racing, with the old shaman N’Yaga, to return to the Tigress, Belit’s vessel.

This issue is full of action from start to finish, yet Wood also finds the space to have Conan examine the choices that he is making – to become a pirate who fights without honour, all for the love of a woman.

James Harren’s art is spectacular in this comic.  His fight scenes are vibrant and kinetic, and he’s just as good at showing the depth of emotion that exists between Conan and Belit.  This is a great series.

Dracula World Order: The Beginning

Written by Ian Brill
Art by Tonci Zonjic, Rahsan Ekedal, Declan Shalvey, and Gabriel Hardman

Were it not for a mention on Bleeding Cool, I would have completely missed this comic.  Ian Brill self-published and distributed this one-shot, following Sam Humphries model for the brilliant (and very late) Sacrifice, and this book was shipped to only some comics stores in North America.  I like supporting people who do their own thing outside of the Diamond system, and when I saw the list of artists involved in this project, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to pass up on this book.

Dracula World Order is a science-fiction vampire story (because we all know that the world needs more vampire stories) which shares a great deal of similarities with the work that Victor Gischler just did with Marvel’s take on Dracula in the Curse of the Mutants storyline.  In this book, Dracula has co-opted the language of the Occupy movement, and has elevated the richest one percent of the world to vampire status, recognizing their ability to herd and control the 99% into a more efficient system of slave labour and food sources.

There is nothing left to oppose the most powerful vampire, except for his son Alexandru.  The book is split into four chapters (each drawn by a different artist).  Three of those chapters follow Alexandru’s journey to gather allies in his fight against his father, including a seasoned vampire hunter, and a Vietnamese snake lady.  The second chapter is used to share Alexandru’s backstory.

This is a very attractive book, but I would expect nothing less from those artists.  The story is clear and engaging, if perhaps a little familiar.  The book ends on a cliff-hanger, and Brill writes in his afterword that he doesn’t know when it will continue.  That’s a little annoying, but not unfamiliar with independent self-published books.  I wouldn’t be too surprised to see this title popping up on Kickstarter soon.

The Li’l Depressed Boy #12

Written by S. Steven Struble
Art by Sina Grace

I’ve written before about how I was growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of forward momentum in The Li’l Depressed Boy, and so I was rather pleased to read this issue and find that things more or less do happen in it.

The LDB has been getting used to his new job at the movie theatre, and has been enjoying the attentions of the kind and lovely female manager, Spike.  In this issue, he flirts with her a little, and then has a conversation about her with his friend Drew, who encourages him to ask her out.

This book is still not moving terribly quickly – there are five whole pages devoted to LDB waiting for Spike to drive him somewhere, but it is starting to feel a little more like there is a plan in place for this comic.

This title is always charming, but I have decided to stop pre-ordering it, because of the lack of content.  That gives the creators a few issues (since it’s pretty behind schedule) to make some changes, or to get me to change my mind.

Planetoid #2

by Ken Garing

I’m really enjoying this new series.  In the first issue, main character Silas crashed onto a strange planetoid in the territory of the Ono Mao, an alien race that does not get along well with humans.  Silas spent most of the issue scouting the planetoid, which is covered with the wreckage of many ships, and the remains of an abandoned mining operation.

Eventually he met another person, who in this issue accompanies him to The Slab, a large expanse of metal where people live.  When attempting to scavenge a recently-downed ship, Silas meets Onica and Ebo.  She is a human who has grown up on the planetoid, while he is a member of the Ono Mao slave caste.  Silas, and we as readers, learn more about how things work on the planetoid, including the dangers of the sentry robots taken over by the Ono Mao for their own purposes.

Garing is setting this series up to be similar to books like Conan, but set on an alien planet.  There are few advantages to technology, although it covers every page.  Silas helps a larger group of settlers, and we get a good sense of where this book is headed.

Garing’s art is awesome.  I’ve always been drawn to the post-Industrial look, and I love the splash pages that show the wasted landscape.  This is a good book for people who are enjoying Prophet, or who want a darker type of science fiction than what we usually see on the comic store stands.  Recommended.

Punk Rock Jesus #1

by Sean Murphy

Here is one comic that ended up being nothing like what I expected (and surpassed all of those expectations).  When I know that I’m going to buy a comic, and a comic by Sean Murphy is something I’m going to buy, I don’t read solicitations, and I don’t look at preview pages, short of just glancing at the art.  I prefer to be surprised, and to enter the project only with the expectations raised by the creators’ previous work.  Still, you can’t help but have preconceived notions, and there’s nothing about the cover to this first issue that told me this would be a story about cloning, reality TV, and the IRA.

When this comic opens, it’s twenty-five years ago (well, twenty-five years ago from the standpoint of 2019), and young Thomas McKael is having a nice meal with his family.  Suddenly, there are people outside the house, there’s some shooting, and Thomas is stuffed in a closet with a gun, and told to shoot at anyone who tries to open the door.  This night ends with both his parents dead.

We then jump up twenty-five years, to learn that a corporation called Ophis has arranged to have DNA belonging to Jesus Christ (taken from the Shroud of Turin) cloned, and to inseminate a woman (a virgin, naturally) so that she can give birth to a new Christ.  This is the basis of their new reality TV show, of course.  They’ve hired a gifted scientist who is working on fixing the world’s ecological problems to take care of this for them, but they’ve also interfered with her work, insisting that she change the messiah’s DNA to give him blue eyes, bringing his appearance into line with their childhood illustrated bibles.

Thomas McKael shows up as the head of security for Ophis, who know about his checkered past as an IRA terrorist and wanted man.  There is a level of brutality to this group, best shown when the woman chosen to play Mary also gives birth to an unexpected female twin.

Murphy’s previous solo work, Off-Road, was more of a light comedy and so I didn’t expect this to be such a serious science-fiction story, but I welcome it.  I also welcome Vertigo’s decision to publish this in black and white.  Part of me suspects that it could just be a cost-saving move, but it works well with Murphy’s detailed art.  This book is not at all what I expected, but I’m very pleased with what I’m seeing, and I’m definitely sticking with it.

Revival #1

Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Mike Norton

The fact that I picked this comic up is a tribute to the ability of Free Comic Book Day to generate sales, even a couple of months after the event.  Revival had a short preview in Image’s FCBD anthology, showing a police officer who was present when a dead woman woke up at a morgue.  There wasn’t a lot there, but it was enough to catch my interest.

In this first issue, writer Tim Seeley takes his time in getting around to sharing just what’s been going on with the ‘revivalists’.  We know that on a certain day, the dead reawakened, and we are given evidence that this phenomenon has continued afterwards.  We don’t know yet how recent the deceased had to be to qualify, or if the affected rural Wisconsin communities are suddenly awash in great great grandparents.  We do know that the area has been quarantined, which has led to some frayed tempers and strange conflicts.

Slowly, we are introduced to Dana Cypress, the police officer from the preview.  She is given a new task by her father, who is also the Sheriff, to be on the Revitalized Citizen Arbitration Team, keeping track of the revived people.  On her way to a call involving a genetically modified horse (do zorses really exist?), she runs in to her sister, who looks like she’s going to kill herself by jumping off a bridge.  She accompanies her, and things go pretty bad at the zorse farm.  Like Walking Dead bad, except that people don’t stay dead.

This book is being billed as ‘rural noir’, and that label is as good as any for it.  Seeley has a good handle on the community, from the way in which people indulge the old Hollywood actor, to the casual racism of the Sheriff (implied in his case) and the horse farmers (who don’t trust their Hmong neighbour).  Mike Norton is always great, so the book looks very good.  I think this is well worth checking out.

Saucer Country #5

Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Ryan Kelly

Well I’ve been pretty intrigued by Saucer Country since it began, I had one concern with the book that I didn’t even realize until I read this issue, as Paul Cornell put that problem to bed.  Basically, the series is about Arcadia Alvarado, the Governor of New Mexico, and her campaign for President of the United States.  Just before declaring her intention to run, Arcadia and her ex-husband were abducted by aliens, giving her a new purpose for running (she is convinced that the aliends pose a threat to the country, and that she is the only person who will be able to use her office to stop them).

My problem was that Arcadia was being portrayed as someone to whom things happened, not as someone who took charge.  I know that every Presidential candidate has to give up a certain level of control to her handlers, advisers, and security personnel, but I also imagine that they are the ones driving the car, and I didn’t really see Arcadia in that role.

That changes with this issue, as she pulls of an impressive feat while being hypnotized by a disreputable therapist who had already caused her ex-husband to change his story while under his influence.  The hypnosis session gives us our best look at what actually happened to Arcadia and Michael, but that doesn’t mean that the therapist, who had already broken his non-disclosure agreement before even treating her, got what he wanted.

Cornell has been keeping this pretty mysterious in this comic.  We do know that there are at least two groups with an active interest in alien visitation, but neither of their goals are clear yet.  Ryan Kelly is the perfect artist for a book like this, and his collaboration with Cornell feels very smooth.  This is an interesting comic.

The Walking Dead #100

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn

Well, we knew going in that this was going to be a brutal issue.  Anniversary issues never end well for Rick and his crew (go back and read issues 50 and 75 if you need some proof of that), and when the cover (granted, one of many covers for this issue) shows Rick standing over a field of dead characters from the previous 99 issues…  Let’s just say that subtle foreshadowing has never been a strength in this series.

I doubt it’s much of a spoiler to say that someone important dies in this comic.  I’m not going to say who, but I will say that it’s a character I’ve grown very fond of, and who I’m going to miss, as will everyone else in the Community, assuming they survive having to deal with Negan and his crew.

As the issue opens, Andrea is patrolling the walls of the Community, having been left in charge by Rick when he led a small group to try to receive aid from the Hilltop, the community they have just entered into a trade relationship with.  Rick’s leaving had seemed really stupid, and sure enough, we know that Negan has people staking out the Community, and making plans to attack at dawn.

Rick, meanwhile, has misjudged the distance to the Hilltop, and has to spend the night on the road.  This leads to a scene with a little too much unsubtle foreshadowing for my liking, as Rick has a couple of heart-felt conversations with a couple of close friends, which only heightened my sense that one of them wouldn’t make to issue 101.

Later, a large contingent of Negan’s Saviors attacks, taking the small group prisoner.  That’s when we meet Negan, and learn that he makes the Governor look sane and reasonable.  This is a pretty harsh issue, and Kirkman drops enough F-bombs that soldiers and convicts might begin to feel uncomfortable.  Things really don’t look good for Rick and the other survivors of Negan’s visit, as Kirkman changes the tone of the book for the foreseeable future.

This issue is a bit of an odd duck.  Sure, it’s remarkable that an independent series reaches such a milestone issue in this day and age, and that it’s poised to be the top-selling comic of July, if the numbers reported on-line are to be believed.  Kirkman has really led the way in championing the creator-owned comic, and we’ve reached a point where the best comics on the stands are being made by people with real ownership of their content, which is a beautiful thing.  My problem is that this issue, and the last one, both feel a little forced.  Rick is operating without his usual caution and forethought, and I can not believe that Andrea wouldn’t be perched in her tower watching for Negan’s people.  These two mistakes are costing the characters dearly, and they are making the story feel less thought-out and realistic than I’m used to.

Still, this is a book that is able to force a real sense of dread on me (especially with some of the creepy twisted things that Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn had to show us this month – and show us so well), and for that, I love it.

Quick Takes:

Batman #11 – We finally come to the conclusion of the almost year-long Court of Owls story, as Bruce fights Lincoln March in a battle that stretches credulity numerous times (unless, of course, Batman can survive falling from a jet and crashing into the very building that March is hanging out in).  There’s a lot of talk towards the end, but Scott Snyder does bring the issue to a close in a satisfactory way, downplaying some of the retcon excesses of the last issue, and putting the Bat-Family in the right place for things to move forward.

Batman and Robin #11 – The scene between Damian and Jason Todd is excellent, but the rest of the issue, which involves this guy Terminus having a group of strange minions start branding all citizens of Gotham with a bat-symbol is just strange and pretty disjointed.  I’m not too clear on who any of this villains are, and that makes the story kind of weak.

Bloodshot #1 – It’s another Valiant revival, and writer Duane Swierczynski does a good job of establishing the title character as a sort of Weapon X – constantly being mindwiped and lied to by his military handlers.  There is a ‘bad guy’ introduced, who shares some truths with Bloodshot, but it’s not clear just who he is.  I didn’t like Swierczynski’s work on Iron Fist a couple of years ago, but I do like what he’s doing here.  I’m not sure how I feel about the art though.  The imaginary, or implanted, scenes feature the highly burnished art that always makes me think of Ariel Olivetti and Ben Oliver, which I’m not a fan of.  The ‘real’ scenes are more traditional pencils in a bit of a post-Neal Adams style.  I’m not sure who is doing what – Manuel Garcia and Arturo Lozzi are credited as artists, but neither section looks like the Garcia I’m used to.  I liked this enough that I will probably give the next issue a try.

Dancer #3 – Nathan Edmondson and Nic Klein’s series about a retired operative who is now having to hunt down his younger, better clone, continues to chug along quite well with some nice action sequences set in European public squares.  It’s a good read, although I can’t shake the feeling that it’s a treatment for a movie as much as it is a comic.  I wish Klein would use some of the cool visual tricks that he did in Viking.

Dark Avengers #177 – Two issues into the retitled series, and I’m still coming back, but that’s because the only thing that’s changed about this title is the title itself.  This is still Jeff Parker, Kev Walker, and Declan Shalvey sharing the adventures of the Thunderbolts every 2-4 weeks.  Sure, there’s a sub-plot involving the new team going to the alien city in Northern Africa that Parker introduced in Hulk a few months back, but most of this comic is concerned with the time-lost team fighting Dr. Doom and trying to make it back home.

Defenders #8 – Reading this issue, it struck me that one could easily swap out the characters that make up the Defenders with other characters with similar powersets, and the book would read exactly the same.  Perhaps Iron Fist is needed for the connection to the Immortal Weapons, but even that doesn’t seem all that intrinsic to the story.  Matt Fraction is giving us pure plotting here, in a story that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  On the up side, the art is by Jamie McKelvie, but it doesn’t really look like his work…

Demon Knights #11 – If you have a comic that is set in some sort of post-Arthurian time (the timeline for this book has been pretty difficult to pin down), then the reveal of the villain behind this latest cannot possibly be a surprise.  She’s been around the Marvel Universe for years, and is a public domain character, so her appearance here was expected for a while.  This is a decent issue, as the group make their way closer to Avalon, and get a new ally.

Frankenstein Agent of SHADE #11 – This is Matt Kindt’s second issue, and I think he’s figured out what this book was missing before he came along.  Frankenstein himself has not been developed at all as a character, and so that’s what Kindt is working on a little, as he has him and Nina explore Leviathan – a gigantic living retirement community for the SHADE set.  Everything is pretty off the wall here, and I’m finding it hard to care much about what’s going on, but I’ll give Kindt a few issues to settle in before I decide whether or not I’m staying with the book.  This is definitely not as good as Kindt’s Mind MGMT, but maybe he’ll be able to pull it together.

Harbinger #2 – I continue to be impressed with the relaunch of this old Valiant title.  Joshua Dysart has the book working in the opposite direction of the original – where it had Peter Stanchek and his friends escaping from Toyo Harada’s evil corporation, this one has him turning to Harada for help.  Is that because we look more fondly on big corporations in 2012 than we did in the 90s?  I doubt it, so there must be some other reason.  Khari Evans’s art is great, and Dysart is really building these characters well.

New Mutants #45 – This issue is better than the last, but with the news that Marvel is cancelling this book in October, I guess there’s nothing more to say.  I wonder if they are relaunching something with these characters, or just letting them rest.  I still think there’s a place for a ‘New X-Men’ style book among all the other X-Books, but would rather see something more like what Kyle, Yost, and Skottie Young were doing a couple years back.  I think that moving Illyana to the ‘Extinction Team’ proves that these characters can grow up and hold their own on the main squads.

The Shade #10 – Shade’s descendent has him captive, and that means he and his companion get to talk their way through most of this issue, before Shade gets to make his move.  This is a solid issue, although an artist like Frazer Irving is rather wasted on pages of dialogue.

Spider-Men #3 – The Spider-Men of the 616 and the Ultimate universes fight Mysterio together, and then Peter takes off to track down his own life in the Ultimate Universe.  I suppose it’s interesting, but having never read Ultimate Spider-Man before Miles Morales came on the scene, I guess I’m almost as confused as Peter is.  Still, this is a more focused and story-driven Brian Michael Bendis, and Sara Pichelli’s work is always a treat (even if a few pages look a little rushed).

Suicide Squad #11 - Where things were starting to tighten up, this comic is becoming a bit of a mess again.  Frustrated with the idea that she has a traitor on the Squad, Amanda Waller doubles their numbers and sends them on another mission.  Immediately all the new members are killed (easier than having to give them names, I guess), and the usual crew find themselves in a village full of Ancient Mayans who have never had contact with the modern world.  But they’re on the coast of the Yucatan.  I feel like Adam Glass is barely trying.  I’m starting to think that my loyalty to this title is being stretched to the point where it’s time to drop this book.  If I can drop a treasured title like Legion of Super-Heroes, I should be able to do it to my other all-time favourite DC property, Suicide Squad.

Swamp Thing #11 – There’s not a whole lot happening in each individual issue of this series lately, but with art by people like Marco Rudy, I don’t care all that much, because things are just so pretty.  Anton Arcane is back (as are his Un-Men), and they attack Abby and Swamp Thing.  There’s fighting, a child-like Parliament of the Trees, and an appearance by another super-hero who has been having his own issues with the Rot of late.

Uncanny X-Force #27 – After a couple of meandering issues, Rick Remender refocuses on what this series does best, in this new issue that appears to have killed off two of my favourite mutants (both of whom better not be dead) as the new Brotherhood snatches Genesis from his classmates, and Fantomex fights alone against the Shadow King and that skinless dude.  There’s some very nice Phil Noto art, and a good pace throughout.  The stuff with EVA is a little confusing though…

Wolverine and the X-Men #13 – When this series started, I wondered when we would get some of the backstory on some of the new characters, such as Kid Gladiator and Warbird.  Well, it’s taken thirteen issues, but we finally learn something about the young warrior who showed up at the Jean Grey school to protect the son of the Shi’ar Emperor.  This is really all pretty standard fare though, as the Shi’ar engage the Phoenix Five, and neither Wolverine nor the Avengers make an appearance (I normally wouldn’t care about that, but Wolverine’s name is in the title, and the cross-over is called Avengers Vs. X-Men, not Shi’ar Vs. X-Men).  I appreciate that Jason Aaron is trying to do something interesting with what is clearly an editorially-mandated connection to the summer’s ‘Big Event’, but it’s not very satisfying.

Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:

Avengers Assemble #5

Avenging Spider-Man #9

Before Watchmen:  Minutemen #2

Bulletproof Coffin Disinterred #6

New Avengers #28

Ultimate Comics X-Men #14

Bargain Comics:

Age of Apocalypse #2 - A lot more character work is needed if this dark alternate reality series is going to have much of a chance.  The only character that seems like an individual is Jean Grey, but since this is supposed to be a comic about the group of humans fighting mutant rule, that’s not a good thing.  I do like Roberto De La Torre’s art though.

Avengers #26 – It’s been a little hard to reconcile just how and where all of the tie-ins to Avengers Vs. X-Men fit together.  I believe this issue came out before some of the Secret Avengers comics that it follows, storywise, but since I didn’t read it until now, it all more or less fit together.  Bendis has suddenly remembered that Noh-Varr is on the team, and so devotes most of this issue to his exploits in trying to stop the Phoenix force from reaching the Earth.  Stuff actually happens, and because Bendis is joined by Walter Simonson, the book feels much more like an old-school action book.  Simonson’s stuff looks great here (it wasn’t so good on the previous issue), as the large-scale cosmic realm is where he excels.  It’s a thrill seeing him draw Thor.

Avengers Assemble #1 – For a completely pointless third (really, fifth or sixth, but I’m just counting the Bendis books) Avengers title, this is a lot better than I’d expected it to be.  Of course, Bendis is writing for the droves of people who started buying comics again because of the movie (and what makes up a drove these days?  10 people?  30?), so he’s actually crammed a lot more into the comic than he usually would.  Mark Bagley’s art didn’t bother me quite as much as it usually does, but I did wonder why two of the new Zodiac guys look exactly like Quicksilver…

Captain America #11-13 – It feels like his title is moving back to being on track, as Ed Brubaker brings back a few of the old 80s/early 90s Captain America standards (Diamondback, Scourge, Henry Gyrich), making this arc a bit of a love letter to Mark Gruenwald’s Cap.  I wish Marvel would clarify just what organization it is that Cap runs – they go out of their way to avoid calling it SHIELD, yet we have Dum Dum Dugan in a key role as a secret agent.  I don’t understand the mystery.  Anyway, these issues were almost good enough to make me regret having dropped this title – if this book were $3 an issue and never double-shipped, I’d be buying it.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Guerillas Vol. 2

by Brahm Revel

Brahm Revel’s Guerillas first began life as a series at Image in 2008, where four double-length issues were published within nine months, before Revel decided to move the project to Oni Press.  Then, in late 2010, the first three issues were reprinted in the black-and-white trade size that Oni often uses (bigger than a digest, smaller than a standard comic page).  And then there was nothing, until this week, when the second volume, comprising of the previously printed fourth issue, and the never before seen fifth and sixth issues, came out.

When Guerillas first hit the scene, I was immediately impressed and taken away by it.  The series is set during the Vietnam War, and it involves a group of chimpanzees who have been trained to be soldiers.  They are fierce fighters, and in their unit, have adopted the same command structure and various duties as the humans they are emulating.  The problem is, this unit has gotten loose, and are on their own mission through the jungles of Vietnam.

Guerillas is also the story of John Francis Clayton, a clueless private who was the only survivor of his first firefight.  Clayton has been adopted by the chimps, and he is accompanying them through the jungle.  This series is also about Dr. Kurt Heisler, the German who trained the chimps, and who is travelling with a group of American soldiers to look for them.  Heisler has brought his first project, the baboon Adolf, who is helping them to track the chimps.

This volume opens with the chimps assaulting a Viet Cong village, which they utterly destroy.  They begin to follow some escaping VC into a tunnel system, which eventually leads them to a fight so big that they take casualties for the first time.  Meanwhile, the soldiers that are following them link up with another group, and are ambushed by a large number of Vietnamese.  Adolf, meanwhile, snaps, and starts killing just about anyone he comes across.

Revel has done an incredible job on this book.  His art is great – he makes uniformed chimps firing rocket launchers believable, and he also excels at having his human and non-human characters display emotion.  His writing is also very sharp – Clayton is an interesting character; the coward who is determined to do the right thing and help his new friends.

I’ve long been a fan of Vietnam War fiction, and can count this among my favourites.  I hope the wait is not another two years before the final volume is published.

One Soul

by Ray Fawkes

One Soul, Ray Fawkes graphic novel which was released last year, just might be the most successful experimental comic I’ve ever read.  Fawkes has designed the book so that each page maintains a tight nine-panel grid.  Each pair of facing pages then consists of eighteen panels.  Each one of those eighteen panels tells one piece of eighteen different stories, all of which begin with the first moments of life for the character narrating them.  Each of these stories is told in first person, without any dialogue, and the position of each character’s panel does not move.

Right there, I know I’ve turned a fair number of people off, but I found this book to be utterly fascinating, if sometimes frustrating.  The eighteen people represent a variety of different eras, settings, and social strata.  One is from a pre-agrarian society, another is a vestal virgin in a Greek temple.  One raises silkworms in China, while another tends sheep, and another sees to plague victims in Europe.  There is an American Revolutionary and an African slave, a chorus girl and a thief.  Many of the characters are soldiers or warriors, but in different wars.

Fawkes has arranged their stories so that themes overlap and coincide, and so that their narratives interweave with one another, even though they never meet.  While they all begin life at the same time, they don’t all end it that way, and so some panels become blacked out before others, although Fawkes still provides the dead with a voice, and an opportunity to question their fates. This is a very philosophical piece of work, as eventually all of them have to accept their mortality and their place in the universe.

I suppose it’s possible to read each story separately by only reading one panel per page, but I liked the challenge of having to keep all of the different stories straight in my head while also looking for commonalities between them.

Fawkes’s minimalist pencils remind me of Keith Giffen’s a little, but that could just be because of the use of the grid.  This is a very thoughtful and provoking piece of work, and it’s a little hard to believe that it was done by the same person who wrote The Apocalipstix

The Underwater Welder

by Jeff Lemire

The introduction to Jeff Lemire’s new original graphic novel, written by Damon Lindelof, talks about the similarities between this book and The Twilight Zone.  Personally, I find that to be a little facile, because while there are definite points of comparison on the surface, I don’t think that the Zone ever got so deeply into the mind of the characters that it featured as Lemire does here.

Setting aside Lemire’s more commercial work at DC (Superboy, The Atom, Animal Man, Frankenstein, and now Justice League Dark), it’s easy to see a clear progression from his earlier (and still best) Essex County, through The Nobody and Sweet Tooth, to this piece of work (in fact, Gus and the two main characters in those other books have a bit of a cameo here, although its easily missed).

The Underwater Welder is about Jack, a man on the cusp of fatherhood who has never been able to reconcile with his own father’s disappearance when he was ten years old.  His father used to dive for treasure and salvage in the area around Tigg’s Bay, a small fictional town on the Atlantic in Nova Scotia, and Jack has always felt connected to the sea because of this fact.  After leaving town to go to university, he felt the need to come back, bringing his pregnant wife with him, and getting work as an underwater welder on the oil rig that is just a half-hour’s boat ride away.  Being under the water makes him feel close to his father, and he’s always happiest when completely alone.

This is beginning to cause some strain on his relationship with his wife, who is not from the area and doesn’t know anybody.  On a more or less routine dive, Jack experiences some strange things – he hears voices, and comes across a familiar pocket watch.  He comes to on the surface, and is sent home pending some medical tests.  This sends him into a bit of a spin, as he no longer feels sure of what exactly happened to him, and feels a growing compulsion to both return to the deeps, and to connect with his father.  It is here that the Twilight Zone comparison is most apt, especially when everybody else in town disappears, but this remains an intensely personal book, as Lemire dives ever deeper into Jack’s psyche and his wounds.

Lemire has often played around in terms of layout and design in his work on Sweet Tooth, and here he does similar things, having Jack morph into his younger self and his father at different places, and in one case, sit down and have a conversation with himself.  It’s the type of thing that only works in comics, and Lemire does it very well.

His art looks thinner than it has in his other black and white books, being much closer to what he’s done on Sweet Tooth, and different scenes are shaded very differently.  The look of the book is such an integral part of the story, and Lemire demonstrates a very tight control over what is shown, and how the different approaches inform the story.

This is one of the best new graphic novels to be released this year.  Lemire remains a very exciting creator to watch, and I like that while he is becoming increasingly better known for corporate ‘for hire’ work, he is also able to find the time and freedom to put together something as personal and insightful as this book.  Highly recommended.

Album of the Week:

Ryat – Totem   This is the album of the summer, if you are in the mood for some Flying Lotus meets Portishead kind of spacey, ethereal left-field electronic music.  Highly recommended.

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Were Money No Object – The May Previews Edition With DC, Image, Marvel, Dog Year & Fantagraphics Thu, 10 May 2012 12:00:05 +0000 Maybe it’s just my mood, but I didn’t find a whole lot in this month’s Previews that got my blood flowing.  Still, here are a few random observations or musings that crossed my mind while arranging my pull-list for July.


I didn’t find much to say going through the DC solicitations this month – since they are focusing on launching replacement New 52 titles in waves, we go months without anything new to discuss.  I am curious about The Judas Coin, an original hardcover that features Batman and a number of DC’s historical characters, by Walter Simonson, a writer/artist I adored as a kid.  $23 for 96 pages is out of my price range though…

I love the concept behind National Comics, a new series of done-in-one stories featuring a variety of second- or third-string characters.  This issue updates Kid Eternity, in a story written by Jeff Lemire and drawn by Cully Hamner.  That’s a no-brainer for me – I respect both creators, and I loved Ann Nocenti’s Kid Eternity Vertigo comic.  Unfortunately, none of the upcoming issues that were mentioned in the press about this new series interest me in the least; maybe by the fourth issue, they’ll draw me back.

I never cared for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe as a kid, but the fact that the new licensed mini-series is being written by James Robinson does catch my eye.  I’m probably going to trade-wait this one though, and see how the reviews are.

A new Vertigo mini-series by Sean Murphy called Punk Rock Jesus?  Sold – I’m not even going to read what it’s about.


There are a couple of big events happening at Image this month.  The Walking Dead hits issue 100, which is cause for trepidation, as Robert Kirkman has a habit of killing off important characters in anniversary issues.  Also, one of the most popular characters from the Chew cast gets his own one-shot in Chew: Secret Agent Poyo.  That should be awesome.

A number of the new Image series or one-shots debuting in July don’t really interest me, mostly because there is an over-reliance on the work of Tim Seeley, Kurtis Wiebe, and Riley Rossmo, who all seem to be churning out a great amount of stuff lately, but who haven’t really impressed me much (okay, I loved Rossmo on Proof, but not on anything since).


Marvel’s solicitations are not exciting me much either this month.  I’m confused by the fact that many of the titles that have been tying in to Avengers Vs. X-Men are going back to their regularly scheduled programming this month – at least in books like Secret Avengers and X-Men Legacy, which is always awkward, as these stories are taking place after that series ends, but will have to hide whatever ‘nothing will ever be the same again’ tricks show up at the end.  The problem is, there have been rumors that Marvel is going to use AvsX to make some lasting changes to their whole line, similar to what DC did after Flashpoint.  See the problem?

Normally, the thought of Alan Davis doing a Fantastic Four Annual would pique my interest, but since it seems he’s trying to relaunch ClanDestine off the back of it, and it’s part of a series of annuals this summer, I think I’m going to pass.  $5 is too much for something like that.

I will take a chance on Captain Marvel #1, since it’s written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, and because I’ve always kind of liked Carol Danvers.  I’m glad Marvel didn’t decide to price this at $4, as that would have been a deal breaker.  Could they be learning?

I want to drop Defenders, but Marvel keeps playing dirty tricks, such as getting Jamie McKelvie to draw it, that keeps me coming back.

Is Space Punisher a real thing?  I ask because April Fool’s Day was a month ago, and this seems more like the type of announcement you’d hear then.

In case Age of Apocalypse didn’t provide enough alternate-reality X-Men for you, we now also have X-Treme X-Men.  Does Marvel really think there is enough of a market for all of this?  Why not bring back Mutant X (the comic, not the show) too?

Jeph Loeb is writing Wolverine again, starting with issue 310.  This means that I can move this title off my ‘bargain buy’ list, to my ‘never buy’ list.  Is anyone excited about this?

I want to believe that the newest relaunch of Powers, Powers FBI is going to actually come out regularly, but I’ve lost all faith in Brian Michael Bendis’s creator-owned projects.  I’m probably going to get this when it comes out on the stands, but I’m not going to pre-order it (especially since there are two more issues of Powers that will have to come out in the next two months for this to arrive on time).

Discounting one Millarworld title, I am pre-ordering twenty-three Marvel comics in July, but they represent only seventeen titles.  Were Marvel not constantly double-shipping so much, I probably would also be reading X-Men Legacy, Dark Avengers, Venom, Captain America and Iron Man, Hulk, Punisher, and Age of Apocalypse.  In other words, Marvel, your policies are costing you sales, not gaining them.  Also, were they $3 instead of $4, I’d be pre-ordering Avengers Vs. X-Men, Avengers, New Avengers, Avengers Assemble, Ultimate Comics X-Men, Amazing Spider-Man, Avenging Spider-Man, Spider-Men, Captain America, Astonishing X-Men, X-Men, and Fury Max.  Just saying…

Dog Year Entertainment

Sometimes it’s hard to find good comics in the independent publishers section of Previews, but my eye just happened to land on Foster, a new series written by Flash co-writer Brian Buccellato, and drawn by Noel Tuazon, of Tumor fame.  This sounds like a gritty cross between Lone Wolf and Cub and Arvid Nelson’s Zero Killer.  It seems worth checking out.


It’s always good to learn that a new issue of Tales Designed to Thrizzle is coming out.  Michael Kupperman is a mad genius.

So, what would you buy in July Were Money No Object?

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The Weekly Round-Up #118 Mon, 12 Mar 2012 18:00:41 +0000 I apologize for the lateness of my column this week.  I was out of town.

Best Comic of the Week:

The Manhattan Projects #1

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Nick Pitarra

I’m not even sure where to begin with this new series by the brilliant Jonathan Hickman.  I am very happy to see Hickman make a more solid return to independent, creator-owned comics, after his recent announcements that he will be leaving the Fantastic Four and Ultimate Comics Ultimates in the coming months.  The Manhattan Projects, with his The Red Wing collaborator Nick Pitarra, is (I believe) an on-going series that is like nothing he has written before (although it is easy to see his slept-on Transhuman as a direct precursor).

The concept behind this series is that the famous wartime Manhattan Project, which created the first atomic bomb, was in fact only the surface of the much larger Manhattan Projects, which investigated any number of strange scientific applications that could be used for weapons.  This issue opens with the acceptance of Dr. Robert Oppenheimer into the Projects.

He is given a tour of the facility that houses the Projects by the unnamed General in charge of things, right before it is attacked by Japanese robots coming through a gate that was lobbed into the facility.  While all of this is happening, we are given flashbacks detailing the life of Dr. Oppenheimer, and his twin brother Joseph.  It’s hard to discuss this part of the issue without giving away a couple of surprises, and so I won’t, except to say that I found it very enjoyable.

I will say that Hickman’s writing in this series more closely resembles something written by Joe Casey or Matt Fraction than his usual well-orchestrated and plotted projects, which always contain a sense of great order to them.  Here, there is a sense of improvisation and maniacal oneupmanship, as he attempts to outdo himself with ever more crazy ideas and dialogue.  Here are a couple quotes that help demonstrate the timbre of this series:

“This is America… everyone gets a gun.”
“A Red Torii.  No doubt Zen-powered by Death Buddhists.”

Pitarra matches the writing with the correct level of insanity in the artwork.  His work is looser than it was in The Red Wing, with a little bit of a Rick Geary flavour to his faces – especially Oppenheimer’s.  This is a very visually interesting book, as he has to design retro-futuristic scientific devices, which is always a fun exercise.

I’m very intrigued to see where this series is headed.  If you have been enjoying Hickman’s Marvel work, here’s your chance to get in on the ground floor of something more satisfying.

Other Notable Comics:

Fairest #1

Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Phil Jimenez and Andy Lanning

Okay, I understand the math behind this new series, but I have a couple of problems with its execution.  Fables, this spin-off’s parent title, is Vertigo’s best selling series, and has been for some years now.  It makes financial sense to branch out into a new aspect of Bill Willingham’s fictional multiverse, based on the notion that everyone who ever starred in a fairy tale is a living creature in some realm.  Spin-offs of this series that came previously, such as Jack of Fables and the Cinderella minis, did quite well for themselves.

Also desirable is the notion of constructing a new series specifically around the women of Fables.  Comics are always criticized for not giving enough of a voice to strong female characters, and Willingham’s world has those in abundance (Snow White, Cinderella, Rose Red, Frau Totenkinder, etc.).

The problems with this book though are clear.  To begin with, I’ve felt that Willingham’s approach to Fables has been floundering for some time now.  Since the defeat of the Empire (issue 75?), the parent book has wandered and meandered all over the place.  It regained some steam for the Mister Dark saga, but with that having ended recently, it has felt like there is no real plan for the book.  Story elements are introduced and then abandoned for a while, and everyone (except regular artist Mark Buckingham, who is not given enough credit for his brilliance) appear to be going through the motions.  It doesn’t seem like the right time to bring a new series about…

My second problem is that, in this story, only one of two female characters speak at all, and that’s not until the very last page.  I get it that the entire plot of the book revolves around waking up Sleeping Beauty, but still, featuring the main female character as nothing more than a plot device does not make this a book about strong females.

Instead, the stars of the book are Ali Baba and a small bottle imp that he frees in the very beginning of the comic.  Together, they track down the goblin army that had spirited Sleeping Beauty (and one other sleeping beauty) away from the Imperial City before burning it down.  Ali Baba is in turn being tracked by a revenge-minded soldier from the Emperor’s wooden army.

In other words, this reads no differently from the issue of Fables that began the story in the first place.  There’s nothing about this book aside from Phil Jimenez’s lovely art to set it apart from the regular Fables title, a mistake that was not made with either Jack of Fables or Cinderella.  Now, this series is going to be made of arcs featuring different creative teams, so there is still a lot of potential for these problems to be fixed.  My point is that I feel this was a title born out of financial need more than creative vision.

Fatale #3

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips

There are a couple of things about this comic that made me happy.  To begin at the end, in the text piece at the back of the book, Ed Brubaker discusses the planned length of the series.  Previously, I’d expected this to be a five or six-issue limited series, like Brubaker and Phillip’s recent work with Criminal or Incognito.  Instead, the current plan is to have this comic run for at least fifteen issues, making it the longest thing they’ve done together since Sleeper.  I see this as very good news, as I was having a bit of a hard time grasping the scope of this comic, as I felt things were perhaps moving a little slow for a six-issue story.  Now, I recognize that they are only just getting started.

The other thing that I liked about this comic is that about half of it continued the modern-day part of the story that the series began with.  Nicolas Lash, more or less recovered from his injuries, returns to the house his godfather left him, but doesn’t find any more clues as to Jo’s identity or intent.  He also rebuffs an offer to have his godfather’s lost novel published, and instead begins to research some of the events that happened to him before he started writing.

This returns us to the past, as Hank and Jo go on a little trip, conveniently happening at the same time that Hank’s wife is murdered (off panel).  Hank starts to learn a little more about Jo, as she takes him to the house where she ‘died the first time’, and they meet someone who was present at that event.  Brubaker is really stepping up the mystery in this series, and I’m starting to get a better understanding of where this is all going.

In the text piece he also discusses the success of this series, as both issues prior to this one have sold out at Diamond, and are selling better than anything the creators have ever done together before this.  It really is an exciting time for independent comics I feel, and I am pleased to see that creators I respect and admire a great deal are receiving greater success.

Hell Yeah #1

Written by Joe Keatinge
Art by Andre Szymanowicz

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a resurgence of the ‘superhero utopia’ genre of comics – books like Halcyon, Last of the Greats, and The Mighty, and I started to think that we didn’t need any more, but Joe Keatinge, who has recently made a splash with his new take on the Rob Liefeld property Glory, is approaching it all from a different direction.

In this series, super powered individuals first appeared during the Gulf War, rescuing a captured US soldier, before going on to end that conflict, and introduce great changes to the world, ushering a period of peace and prosperity.

It appears that this comic is centred on Benjamin Day, the son of that rescued soldier, who attends a university for powered individuals (many people now develop abilities at puberty), but is constantly under threat of expulsion for fighting, both on and off campus.  Most of this issue is used to develop Ben, who is a bit of a childish jerk, and to establish the status quo of his world.

Keatinge also drops numerous hints that things are not as they seem.  There is the mystery of the barcode tattoo that appeared on Ben’s neck around the same time as his abilities developed.  The identity of his mother is hidden from us, with the suggestion that Ben’s parents have been lying to him for years.  Also, at the end of the comic, there is the appearance of three people who have been looking for him, for reasons we don’t know.  All of this has managed to create a sense of intrigue around this comic, and so while it doesn’t exactly scream out ingenuity, there is enough here to keep me interested.

Andre Szymanowicz, who I only know from Elephantmen, does some very good work here. He is very talented at revealing character through facial expressions, and gives the book a nice look.

iZombie #23

Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Michael Allred

It’s all about convergences this month.  Xitulu, an elder god previously worshiped by a South American tribe before the Spanish contacted them, is about to return to Earth, and Galatea, the Bride of Frankenstein-looking woman who has been lurking around this book for months is hoping to hasten him along.

This brings just about every character in the book (except for the grandfather chimp and Dixie the diner owner) up onto a mountain to either help Galatea or stop her.  The Fossor Corporation has joined up with the Dead Presidents, but they are held up by Koschei, the Frankenstein-like monster who works for a Russian brain in a coffee maker.  Amon has brought Scott along to help him, although that would involve a rather involuntary sacrifice on Scott’s part.  The Phantasm, the ghostly crimefighter currently inhabiting the body of Scott’s would-be boyfriend shows up, and much chaos ensues.

Gwen, meanwhile, finally begins to make some decisions for herself.  This book feels like it’s moving towards a climax, and I’m wondering how much is going to be left in this run.  Roberson has slowly moved away from the book’s original aesthetic (hipster monsters), but the series continues to be pretty interesting, and beautifully illustrated by Michael Allred.

Sacrifice #3

Written by Sam Humphries
Art by Dalton Rose

I feel very fortunate to shop at one of the few stores across North America that sell Sam Humphries’s self-published and self-distributed mini-series Sacrifice.

This is a very compelling story about a man who has somehow traveled back to the time of the Aztecs just prior to the invasion of the Spanish.  It’s not clear yet if Hector has really moved back in time or is simply imagining everything that has been happening while lying in a hospital bed after suffering an epileptic fit.  What is clear is that some time has passed since the last issue, and Hector has been on the run with Malintzin, the leader of a rebel army.

Malin is a fearsome warrior, but we learn in this issue that Moctezuma’s best warrior, Tlahuicole, is actually her brother, who had been captured when her people lost a battle to the Aztec forces.  Now, as a certain holy festival approaches, Tlahuicole wants Hector, the last trained priest of Quetzalcoatl to be the one who kills him, thereby ensuring another year of prosperity and safety for all the Aztecs.

This is a very cool comic, both in the depth of its research and presentation of Aztec culture, and in the strong visuals that Dalton Rose uses to tell the story.  I appreciate that Humphries is breaking ground in many different ways with this comic.

Sweet Tooth #31

by Jeff Lemire

Once again, Sweet Tooth does not disappoint.  Jeff Lemire is constantly finding new challenges for Gus and his group of traveling companions.

When this issue opens, Gus has been kidnapped by Dr. Singh, who has become obsessed with going to Alaska to solve the mystery of Gus’s birth (or creation).  Mr. Jeppard has been taken prisoner by some wild backwoods type, who has a small hybrid in a birdcage.  This guy thinks he knows Jeppard from somewhere (and it’s not from his hockey career).  The rest of the gang are being held captive by Walter, the man who lives in the dam where they have been staying lately.  Of course, his name is not Walter, and he’s a total psychopath who seems to have a particular interest in Becky.

This series often carries with it a certain level of menace, and like some of the better plotlines in The Walking Dead, it’s when the characters begin to feel safest that things go seriously wrong.

Jeff Lemire has become one of the most feted writers in DC’s New 52 stable, yet I don’t hear much love for this series from anyone beyond its already devoted fans.  Anyone who is enjoying Animal Man should be checking this out.

Quick Takes:

Action Comics #7 - Everything in this issue takes place seconds after the events of issue 4, with no recap or explanation of what’s going on.  Superman flies (for the first time) into space to confront the Collector, and try to recover the now shrunken inhabitants of Metropolis.  He learns about the existence of the bottled city of Kandor, his Kryptonian heritage, and about the existence of indestructible armor, all while Lex Luthor argues with the collector over a somehow-still working cellphone within the shrunken city.  It’s a good enough comic, but it’s still Morrison-lite, and the Steel back-up by Sholly Fisch and Brad Walker is just tacked-on.

Age of Apocalypse #1 – I care nothing about the Age of Apocalypse, and have never read the original event that started this whole parallel world where mutants are on top and working to exterminate humans.  The more recent appearances of characters from this world didn’t do a whole lot to excite me in Uncanny X-Force, either, although I did once have a strong liking of Nate Grey.  Anyway, I do like David Lapham and Roberto De La Torre, so I thought I should check this out.  It’s not bad, in the way that the future scenes in Terminator aren’t bad, and I do like that kind of thing.  Lapham spends most of the issue setting things up, so I don’t feel like I have a good handle on where this series is going to go.  I’m not sure how much I care though…

Animal Man #7 – Nothing feels more right for this title than having Steve Pugh back drawing Buddy Baker and his family.  Instantly, it feels like the focus of the story has shifted to Pugh’s strengths – the interactions between Buddy, Ellen, her mother, and the two kids.  That’s what’s always set Animal Man apart – the exploration of his domestic life as a superhero, and Pugh shows it beautifully.  Lemire’s story has been interesting, but last issue was more or less a fill-in, and while this one doesn’t do much to advance the plot (aside from a weird dream of the future that has cameos by John Constantine and Swamp Thing), it is probably the most satisfying issue of this series to date.

Avengers Academy #27 - While I’m very pleased to see the return of the Runaways to comics, I feel like Christos Gage was trying to cram a little too much into this issue.  There’s very little in the way of an introduction to readers unfamiliar with Brian K. Vaughan’s lasting contribution to the Marvel Universe.  I’d dropped the title towards the end, so had no idea where these characters were left, and little here helped me with that.  Basically, the team is looking for Old Lace, the future dinosaur they ran with, and for some very complicated reason, they need Reptil and Giant Man’s help.  There is some good character work, and some decent art by Karl Moline and Jim Fern (an odd combination).

Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #9 – I’m beginning to think that Allan Heinberg is the new Jeph Loeb, as he casually kills off a couple of characters (one of whom a strong female character, because of course there are too many of those in comics), and then goes about dismantling the team he created in a way that neither makes sense within the context of the story, nor matches with the personalities of almost any of the characters involved.  This series, which has taken years to finish, has been a continuity nightmare from the beginning, and has left a sour taste in my mouth, while also giving me one more reason to not bother with Avengers Vs. X-Men.  It’s a shame too – the first Young Avengers series was brilliant.  Jim Cheung’s art is lovely, but that’s not enough…

Defenders #4 – Basically, this is a Dr. Strange solo issue, which has him dealing with some of the consequences of his recent one-night stand, when a two-bit street magician thinks he’s figured out a way to con the good Doctor.  Michael Lark draws this issue, which looks quite nice, but really, four issues in, I have no idea why this series exists…

Green Arrow #7I’ve never been a Green Arrow fan, but I’ve long held new writer Ann Nocenti in high regard.  Her Daredevil broke new ground in terms of introducing environmental concerns to comics, as well as creating such interesting characters as Bullet (whatever happened to him) and Typhoid Mary.  Her Kid Eternity was one of my favourite Vertigo series in the early 90s.  I’ve been unimpressed with DC’s return to the 90s approach to the New 52, but in this case it worked.  This is a bizarre issue, as a set of triplets with the ability to manufacture weapons seduce Oliver Queen into traveling to Canada with them (which of course looks like the Fortress of Solitude, because that’s how things are here) so they can capture him for reasons unknown.  It’s a weird issue, but I trust Nocenti enough to give her a few issues to impress me.  The art, by Harvey Tolibao is perhaps a little too busy, as it’s sometimes hard to follow.  This is by no means a brilliant comic, but I’ll stick with it for a little while to see where it’s going.

Hulk #49 – When I bought Jeff Parker’s first issue of Hulk, immediately after Jeph Loeb left the title, I never expected to stick with it, but for a while there, I really found myself enjoying it.  Lately, however, I’ve felt like Parker has been limited by what can effectively be done with this character.  This issue is a perfect example – for some reason the Eternals have been using Red Hulk as their exemplar for all superhumans, as they argue for the umpteenth time the extent to which they want to be involved in human affairs.  Naturally, this leads to a punch-up between Hulk and Ikkaris.  Yawn.  I really do like Parker’s writing, but I don’t feel like this book is going anywhere, and I’m actively trying to cull my pull-list, so peace out Hulk.

Men of War #7This is more like what I was expecting from this comic all along (and perhaps, if that’s what they’d given us all along, the book wouldn’t be getting cancelled next month).  There are two stories here, but I bought it for the first one, a James Robinson and Phil Winslade tale about a British SAS soldier who goes off on a revenge mission of his own in Afghanistan.  Winslade painted the story in soft pastels, which at times contrasted too strongly with the subject matter, but made the poppy fields very pretty.  It’s good stuff.  The second story, by JT Krul and Scott Kolins is much better than I expected, about a soldier who is having trouble finding his feet after returning to the US after his time in Iraq.  I do love me a good war story, although it’s strange how war comics always focus on individual action, when any successful military campaign depends on the coordinated actions of many.

Stormwatch #7 – I immediately lost interest in this title when Paul Cornell left (was removed?), but since Peter Milligan is going to be taking it over, I thought I’d give Paul Jenkins’s fill-in arc a try.  Jenkins has become DC’s go-to guy when they need some mediocre comics, and with this, he preserves his record.  I don’t know what happened to him – his Inhumans and Revelations were terrific, but now his work is just not that interesting.  The story, about some gravity mining creatures from another dimension doesn’t make a lot of sense, and some of the characterizations feel off.  The big question is whether or not the completist in me will force me to buy the next issue, of if I’ll just hold off to try out Milligan’s first issue.  I really wish Cornell hadn’t left this book.

Swamp Thing #7 – It’s only taken seven months, but we finally get to see Alec Holland make the change into the title character (is that a spoiler?  it had to happen eventually), as The Rot continues its assault on the Parliament of Trees.  This is a good issue, with some terrific art by Yanick Paquette, whose page layouts remind me more and more of JH Williams.  One of the best of the New 52 continues to impress…

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #8Another satisfying issue of Ultimate Spider-Man, drawn by original series artist Sara Pichelli.  I continue to really like Miles Morales as a character, and enjoy watching him confront a series of incredibly lame Spider-Villains.  The one thing that troubles me about this series though is that Miles is always seen carrying his backpack – I’ve never seen kids do that.  He’s in a school for bright kids; you’d think he’d have figured out what the shoulder straps are for.

Uncanny X-Men #8 – Once again, this book belongs to Hope and Namor who, when written by Kieron Gillen, positively electrify the page.  The rest of the issue is very good too – the Tabula Rasa stuff is wrapped up nicely, with an issue that has the Extinction Team working to achieve solutions that are not quite so violent as they usually do.  I’m really enjoying this title (even with the Greg Land art), and hope that Avengers Vs. X-Men doesn’t screw things up too much…

Villains For Hire #4 – A nice solid ending to an underappreciated series.  We learn just what Misty’s been up to with her villainous operation, and everything makes sense by the end of the book.

Winter Soldier #3 – The best Captain America book that Marvel is publishing (and soon to be the only one I’ll be reading) continues to provide a nice blend of spy and superhero comics, as James and the Black Widow figure out Von Bardas’s plan, and infiltrate Dr. Doom’s castle to put a stop to her.  I personally feel like this is one of the better-looking books Marvel is publishing as well, as Guice continues to do some very cool things with layout and design, and Bettie Breitweiser colours the hell out of this thing.

Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:

Amazing Spider-Man #681

Rachel Rising #6

Stitched #3

Wolverine and the X-Men: Alpha and Omega #3

Wolverine #302

X-Men #26

Bargain Comics:

Magneto: Not A Hero #1 – I originally passed on this mini-series because I figured it would be rather standard stuff, and it appears that I was right.  I like Skottie Young’s feel for dialogue, and his grasp of characters like Magneto, Emma Frost, and Tony Stark, but think that this whole thing would have been a whole lot more exciting were it also drawn by Young, and were he allowed to cut loose.  And really, how great could a comic with Joseph, Magneto’s clone, really be?

The Week in Manga:

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Vol. 2

Written by Eiji Otsuka
Art by Housui Yamazaki

The second volume of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is quite different from the first.  Where the first one introduced the characters and the concept of a group of Buddhist students who have opened a business to help lost and unclaimed corpses find peace over the course of a number of short stories, this book contains a book-length story.

Basically, the group has been having a hard time finding paying clients for their service, which makes sense since to be their client, one must be dead.  They advertise on the internet, and quickly become embroiled in a plot by a rival organization, called Nire Ceremony.  What they do is revive the corpses of murderers, and then let the families of their victims have at them with knives.

Ao, the boss of the Kurosagi Service is contacted by her sister when they learn that the man who murdered their parents and sister has been executed.  Through strange circumstances, the KCDS has the man’s corpse, but they deliver it to Nire Ceremony.  Later, they discover that Ao’s sister’s fiance has some secrets of his own that are connected to everything that is going on.

What follows is a pretty densely plotted horror story, which hinges on some pretty unbelievable coincidences and some very strange concepts, but is overall a very compelling and readable story.  Otsuka is doing a good job developing these characters, and I appreciated the longer story in this volume.

Album of the Week:

Georgia Anne Muldrow – Owed To Mama Rickie

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Two Guys Talking About Comics: Avengers Academy #27 And Age Of Apocalypse #1 Sat, 10 Mar 2012 03:00:21 +0000

    Hey! 2 Guys Time!


Welcome back everyone! Sorry for the lack of last week, but Fifth Weeks are the comic version of seasonal depression.


Today, we’re Marvelites.


There was some good out of Marvel, as well as one of the worst pieces of trash I’ve picked up since Fear Itself.


Oh god, just get it out of the way.


Marvel shat on the Young Avengers as a concept just like they have so many other potential goldmines.

Well, I don’t know how many others…


The recent attempt at Spider-Girl, for one.


That was a gold mine?


I said potential.
But really, my issue here is that the Young Avengers debuted after House of M, and they were red hot, and they did that thirteen issue first run, and then poof, nothing. There’s a YA Presents mini by various creative teams, which was good, and Stature and Vision joined Slott’s Mighty Avengers, and there were some bad team ups with the Runaways, but really, Marvel back burnered them immediately so Heinberg could come back and do his follow up story.


So his followup story finally arrives and…he kills a few characters, gives the team an emo break up, has the gay kids get engaged, and then lets us know that Wanda Maximoff has been running around the Marvel Universe since about the time of Fear Itself and nobody knew because this mini took two years to do nine issues.


This should have been given to someone else ages ago.


They could have let anyone handle it and turned it into something special, but instead they let it sit until nobody cared, then they promoted the hell out of the follow up, and then….we get this.
The book offended me as a reader. They literally blamed everything bad Wanda ever did on Dr. Doom.


Seems like a usual terrible retcon.


There were more death threats from Cyclops in this mini than I’ve seen across all of the X title since he took over the X-Men.

I wish Cyclops wasn’t even in it.


He literally tells Wanda he won’t kill her because she’s going to create another House of M and he wants to kill her after she does that.
And Captain America is all “Once an Avengers always an Avengers! Come home!”

What the hell.


When…even Bendis would have had Steve slap cuffs on her.
Quite literally the only remotely decent thing about the series is that Scott Lang isn’t dead anymore.
But his daughter is, and that outweighs his rez, so it doesn’t help the book not be fucking terrible at all.


Let’s move on to Marvel’s good teen book.


Thank you, I needed this segue.

What happened this month?


The Runaways showed up at the home of the Avengers Academy looking to find a way to a dinosaur dimension to save Old Lace, we get a superhero misunderstanding fight, we get reminded that the Runaways don’t trust adults and…we get reminded that they’re right not to.


Ha, well, no, in fairness, Molly and the other girl should probably have a real home.


I don’t think Klara could stand a real home, they took her out of a ridiculous pedo marriage in the early 20th century. She’d probably think foster dad expected sexual favors.


Which means she needs counseling, as well.


Those two REALLY need actual homes and adults and guidance, and I’ve been saying as much since Runaways was still its own book.


So Pym and Tigra are being kind of dick-ish, but are also totally correct.


Bingo. They’re being responsible adults. Which also means that they took enough time to realize that so long as Nico, Chase, and company can find them…those two little girls are always going to be on the run.
The Runaway lifestyle makes more sense for them, they’re older, they’re self reliant, they’ve been to high school, they aren’t completely destroyed by being runaways.


Makes sense.  The Old Lace plot is really just a way to get them to the point where they have a showdown about the littleuns.


Yup. Though it was so nice to see Old Lace again.
There was some real gold in the issue though, I loved Molly talking about costumed people always trying to give her homes and schools, and how Wolverine is always a part of these teams.

It was nice to see the Runaways, which was clearly the selling point of the issue given how much they were focussed on.
The Wolverine line is my moment of the week.


It’s a toss up for me, that was awesome, but I also loved Victor gushing about the White Tiger and then she just gives Reptil the dirty look for being such a bad latin hero.
“So I’m Mexican and I liked Captain America! Sue me!”

I love Reptil – he’s my favorite in this book.


My favorite is Finesse, but she was a non-factor here this issue.
I loved Nico and Hazmat.


They paired the right members of both teams, for sure.


I would be absolutely fine with Karolina coming in full time to date Julie Power.


I’d be fine with Runaways as regular guest stars.


I could live with that.


Hopefully, with a spinoff eventually!


Just so long as it doesn’t turn into the crap that was Runaways volume 3.

Give it to Gage.


Gage could do it.


Obviously since he’s writing them so well here.   Any final Runaways thoughts?


I’m so happy nobody bothered to explain how Chase came back after quitting the team and getting run over by a truck.


I didn’t read Vol 3. It’s better to pretend it didn’t exist.


The only reason I acknowledge it is because that’s where Old Lace ‘died’ too.


Sigh. Rating?


I’m going with my heart here, the book wasn’t perfect, but so far it’s been the single most enjoyable thing I’ve read this week. I’m giving it a 9.


I’ll go with an 8. Very good, if not overly memorable.  Lots of fun moments and characterization.


The Runaways didn’t suck for the first time since BKV quit writing them.


I liked a bit of Whedon’s run, but mostly agree


Whedon had good ideas and characterization, but the story wa
s just….it never clicked.


Fair enough. Speaking of not clicking… Age of Apocalypse began!

Did they really need to depower Jean and Sabretooth? Couldn’t they have just nerfed Jean down and left Creed alone?


Did they really need to make it about a bunch of humans I don’t care about? This has nothing to do with Age of Apocalypse.  It’s just a generic dystopian future.


I was excited for this, and now I don’t care nearly as much.
I’m going to give it an arc to see how it starts, but there will be no immediate pull lists or long term hopes for this book.


I don’t care about this book. I like Lapham, but…no.


I’m giving him the first arc just because he’s Lapham, but this book needs to find a real focus fast. Because human freedom fighters with no chance doesn’t lend itself to anything longterm. Especially when they’ve made it clear that the world will always go to hell.


And more, they picked humans I have no sympathy for in Marvel.  Apparently if some mutants are evil, that makes these racists all right?

I understand the whole “Enemy of my enemy” thing, and evil here being good there, or whatever, but they chose straight up horrible monsters from the Marvel universe and said “heroes”!
This isn’t like Alexander Luthor of Earth 3 fighting the Crime Syndicate.


I know and agree.  What a mess. And they just got me interested with that excellent AoA X-Force arc only to use none of those characters.


Did they really need to kill everyone and then depower Jean and Creed?


They kill everyone in AoA so often that I just don’t care anymore.


Like, Scott being in next issue intrigues me because I like AoA Scott, but I’m still bitter over the fact that they killed 90% of the X-Men off panel.


It’s weak. and Scott died in the original AoA. Sigh.


He shouldn’t have, bad writing had him die via Havok.

It was supposed to, originally, suggest genetic differences between them and our version, but meh.


Yeah, but there was a scene in Factor X where they cancelled each other out, and later again in Sinister Bloodlines.


Was there in Factor X? I don’t recall that. And Sinister Bloodlines came later.


It’s been a while since I read Factor X, I could be wrong, and I do know that Sinister Bloodlines came later…but I do enjoy that one shot.
I think the Age of Apocalypse exists better in the happy memories of awesome times.
…and Exiles.


Agreed. So I’m giving this a 4 and dropping it.


I’m giving it a
4 and sticking it out for 3 issues, most likely while regretting them.
But you know what? I’d rather read it again than pick up Childrens Crusade again.


Ha goodnight everybody!

Catch you all in a day or two for DC!×120.png

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The Weekly Round-Up #109 With Sacrifice, Cyclops, Fatale, iZombie & More Mon, 09 Jan 2012 15:00:37 +0000 Best Comic of the Week:

Sacrifice #1

Written by Sam Humphries
Art by Dalton Rose

I really do shop at one of the best comic stores in North America.  They were one of the handful of stores to sell this comic, which most shops got a couple of weeks ago.  Since we are in Canada, and our shop chose the least expensive shipping method (so they could make money selling the comic at cover price – a crazy notion, no?), it only arrived in time for sale this week, and despite the fact that first prints of this comic are commanding high prices on Ebay, they continued to sell it at cover price.  Decent people.

Anyway, this self-published comic comes from the writer of Our Love is Real, which was one of the biggest surprise comics of 2011, in terms of both its shocking subject matter (people have sex with animals, vegetables, and minerals, but not each other) and its limited press run.  Now Humphries is doing the same thing all over again, but this time with a six-issue mini-series.

Sacrifice opens as Hector escapes from a hospital, and then goes for lunch at a crappy taco joint.  Suddenly, he is transported back into the time of the Aztecs, just prior to the arrival of the Spanish.  He is found by a group of Aztecs, who plan on sacrificing him before they see the intricate tattoo on his back.  They decide they need to take him to Tenochtitlan (modern-day Mexico City) for an audience with Emperor Moctezuma.  Hector becomes the focus of a theological debate between the men who found him, supporters of the god Quetzalcoatl, while the Emperor’s adviser supports Huitzilopotchli.

As the story progresses, we learn a few more things.  Hector is epileptic, and has always had a strong interest in the Aztec and their fate at Spanish hands.  Is he really traveling through time, or are these visions merely the product of his disease, a la Joan of Arc and Louis Riel?

Dalton Rose’s art is very good.  I see a few influences in his work – Paul Pope, European comics, Michael Allred, and the style of the cartoon King of the Hill all mash together in his art.  The book, coloured by Pete Toms, looks vibrant and bold, with bright backgrounds.

I’m very pleased that I’ve got the opportunity to collect this series without having to wait for a trade.  These are some very talented people making this comic, and I hope that this fiercely independent approach to doing business is successful for Humphries.

Other Notable Comics:

Cyclops #8

Written by Matz
Art by Gaël de Meyere

I guess there aren’t a lot of ways that this series could have ended – even in today’s world, let alone the future, it is very difficult to go up against a corporation and get a favourable outcome.  Our hero, Douglas Pistoia and his friends have exposed Multicorps as war criminals, and are on the run when the issue opens.

This issue sags a little, as do many action movies as they get closer and closer to their conclusions; so much time has been spent setting up the big finale that it can’t really live up to expectations.  This ending feels a little rushed in a few ways – we see Doug’s wife’s reaction to the big climax, but not how it affects all of his fans, nor the woman who was manipulating him earlier.  As a reader, I feel a little robbed of an emotional connection with the conclusion.

Still, this has been a very well-executed comic, which has a few things to say about the celebrity and realty TV-focused world we live in today.  The book lost some real steam when original artist Luc Jacamon left the book, and while Gaël de Meyere did a good job, he just wasn’t as skilled.  I wonder, now that this is over, if Archaia is going to continue publishing Matz and Jacamon’s The Killer.

Fatale #1

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, especially when working together, are two of the most lauded and respected creators making comics these days.  Their work on Sleeper, Incognito, and the sublime Criminal has received tons of praise over the last ten years or so, and deservedly so.

I’m not sure what caused them to publish Fatale through Image Comics instead of Marvel’s Icon imprint, which is where their last two collaborations were released.  It doesn’t matter though, as aside from the logo on the cover, the design and feel of this book is no different from Criminal or Incognito, down to the essay by Jess Nevins at the back of the issue.

Where Criminal was begun as an homage to the crime pulps that preceded comics, and Incognito was the same for adventure pulps, Fatale is their horror book (although it reads like a crime series).  This first issue begins at a funeral for a mystery writer.  His godson and executor meets a beautiful young woman whose grandmother knew the writer.  Later, the godson is at the old man’s secluded house when some thugs with guns show up.  The girl is there too, and she helps him escape, although as they flee, they get in a car accident.

At that point, I started to get a sense of what I expected the series to be – a mystery surrounding the old writer’s unpublished first novel.  That’s not going to be the case though, as the rest of the book is set back in the 1950s.  There is a reporter (with the same last name as the writer in the introduction) who is interested in a woman who has the same name as the girl at the funeral (or is she the same girl – there is a suggestion that Josephine doesn’t age).  There is also a corrupt cop who keeps her as a mistress, and some business involving a cult that was slaughtered in their home.

There’s not much to go on with this first issue.  Brubaker is taking his time setting up the story and characters, preferring in this case to dump us into the deep end and let us make our own connections as the story goes.  There is definitely enough to grab the reader’s interest, and Phillips’s art is lovely – moody and evocative of the atmosphere and time period.  It’s good stuff.

iZombie #21

Written by Chris Roberson
Art by J. Bone

I was pretty surprised to find that Michael Allred hadn’t drawn this issue of iZombie, and that the art was instead provided by a talented artist from my hometown – J. Bone.  I’ve been familiar with Bone’s work for years, but haven’t read much of his output (I’ve stayed away from the DC ‘all-ages’ work that he is best known for).  I love the work that Allred does on this title, but also found the change of pace to be welcome.  This is the second issue of this series handled by a guest artist; I hope that everything is going okay for Mr. Allred, and that he’s just taking a well-earned month or two off.

Anyway, this series definitely feels like it’s moving towards a conclusion, as various long-running plotlines begin to converge even more than they have lately.  Gwen, our zombie protagonist, is in the custody of the Dead Presidents, and she surprises them by informing them that Galatea is active in the area.  This leads the Presidents to track her down, but not before coming face to face with Horatio and his group of monster killers from the Fossor Corporation, who also appear to be working with Amon.  As I said, plots are colliding all over the place.

There’s more in this book too – Gwen tries to enjoy a brain smoothie, Ellie gets to dance, and Scott has a chat with a leopard.  Bone’s art gives the story a lighter, more cartoon-ish atmosphere than Allred’s work, and it doesn’t always fit with the subject matter, but this is a fine looking comic.

The Li’l Depressed Boy #8

Written by S. Steven Struble
Art by Sina Grace

I’m wondering if it’s not time to start switching to reading this book in trade.  I like The Li’l Depressed Boy, but I’m getting a little frustrated with how little actually happens in each issue of this comic.

Case in point:  this month, LDB and Drew make their way home from the concert they spent like 3 issues going to.  They have breakfast and car trouble, and talk a little bit about the Jazz situation (should LDB tell her how he feels, or just avoid her?).  LDB finds Jazz sitting on his step; they don’t really say anything, and then he goes to bed.

While I continue to find this comic very charming and to have an allure of its own, I think I need a little more going on to keep me coming back month after month.

On the plus side, the Jamie McKelvie cover is lovely.

Sweet Tooth #29

by Jeff Lemire

It’s been a while since we’ve last seen Gus, Mr. Jeppard, or the other cast members of this series.  For the last three months, we’ve been given a story set in Alaska almost one hundred years ago (with guest artist Matt Kindt) which has helped establish a little more of an historical connection between what we know of Gus’s world and the past.

Now, Jeff Lemire is back to drawing the book (I do love his art), and we get to find out what has been happening with all of our favourite characters.  It seems that about a month has passed in story time, with Jeppard camping out on his own while waiting for Gus to recover from his injuries and rejoin him with Dr. Singh so they can continue their travels north.

During this time, Lucy has been getting sicker, and keeping it from everyone.  Also, Johnny has been reading the records of Project Evergreen, the group that built the dam facility where everyone has been staying.  The revelations he discovers coincide a little too neatly with the information that Jeppard uncovers when he goes to steal a vehicle from Haggarty’s camp.  There is no real surprise in learning that Walter, the man in the dam has been lying to everyone, but I’m very interested in seeing how this is going to play out.

Sweet Tooth has been a very strong monthly comic from Vertigo for a couple of years now, and I like that the quality is not letting up.

Quick Takes:

Action Comics #5Finally, the new Action Comics feels like it’s being written by Grant Morrison.  I was prepared to drop this title if this issue didn’t satisfy, and I’m pleased to say that it did.  Andy Kubert comes along for this month, as Morrison gives us the story of the spacecraft that brought young Kal-El to Earth, and explains the weird multi-legged ‘alien’ we saw a couple of issues back in Gen. Lane’s base.  Most interesting though are the hints of the Anti-Superman Army and the appearance of the founding Legion at the end of the issue; I’m a huge Legion fan, but have not liked how they’ve been treated the last few years.  This has me excited.  As for the back-up story by Sholly Fisch and Chriscross?  All it does is explain things that we’ve already pieced together from reading the main story; I’d be much happier with this title if it was of a regular length and price.

Animal Man #5 – Another terrific issue of Animal Man, as Buddy and his family fight the last of the Hunters, and the Rot is let loose in the world.  This title is moving closer to a tie-in with Swamp Thing, which I think is a good thing, since I’m already reading both books.  Travel Foreman gains an inker this month (Jeff Huet) who helps him rein in some of his stranger visual quirks, saving the real weirdness for places that need it, and helping the rest of the book look more realistic.  Of course, it’s the last four pages that I love the most, as Steve Pugh returns to the Baker clan.  His run on Animal Man is one of my favourite ever, and it’s great to see him here.  I’d forgotten that the readers knew Ellen’s mother previously, but when I saw her drawn by Pugh, I recognized her immediately, and then remembered how much I liked her as a character.  I know he’s not going to be the permanent artist on this title, but I can hope, right?

Avengers Academy #24So is there some kind of rule that states that teen comics must at some point be drawn by Tom Grummett?  The man is a master of the art form, but still, after having his name so closely related to the Teen Titans for so long, it’s kind of odd that he’s now the regular artist on this book.  Future/Evil Reptil spends most of this issue feeding his teammates to Hybrid, and we get to learn a little about the new White Tiger.  As always, this is a remarkably well-written comic (Christos Gage really is excellent), and it has a lot more content than most Marvel comics.

Avengers Annual #1 – So after many months, we get the conclusion to the big fight between Wonder Man’s group of reject Avengers and the real team.  This is a decent issue in so far as it’s interesting to see how the different members of the team react to having one of their own turn against them, but this comic raises huge continuity issues.  To begin with, this is supposed to take place before Fear Itself, which we know happens before Avengers Children’s Crusade, and yet in that book, Wonder Man is friends with the Avengers again, whereas here, he’s portrayed as having irreconcilable differences.  Is this also supposed to lead into Avengers Vs. X-Men?  This stuff is too confusing, and didn’t really need to be published.

Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes #3 – Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko’s story of corruption in Ape government just keeps getting better and better.  Retired General Aleron begins to organize some resistance from prison as Councilor Tenebris moves his plans forward.  Most interesting is the depiction of Dr. Zaius, a character from the original movie, as a more noble character than what we see later.  Hardman’s art is great, and the plot is filled with tension.  This is a great mini-series.

Defenders #2Matt Fraction is going for something like a Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League or Ellis Nextwave feel on this book, and it’s starting to grow on me.  I kind of didn’t catch the whole deal with Prestor John, but I thought the interplay between Dr. Strange and She-Hulk (should I call her Red She-Hulk) to be pretty amusing.  And, with the Dodson’s handling the art, this book is lovely.  I’m just not sure that this line-up has legs part the initial arc.

Graveyard of Empires #3 – It’s been a while since the second issue came out, so it took me a little while to get up to speed on a lot of these characters (there are a lot in this book), but I found myself really enjoying this ‘zombies in Afghanistan’ comic.  The Americans are stuck in their base with some local civilians as groups of undead (dating back to the Russian war in the 80s) surround them, leading just about everybody to take some drastic measures.  Mark Sable is writing a pretty complicated story, and Paul Azaceta’s atmospheric, Tommy Lee Edwards-like art works very well with it.

Hulk #47 – I feel myself getting a little bored with Red Hulk.  Jeff Parker has him go back to chasing after Zero/One, the villain whose story ran through a number of issues over the last year.  There is some family drama interjected when Betty, the Red She-Hulk comes to talk to her father, but instead gets into a fight, but that doesn’t do much to pique my interests either.  Sadly, even the continued presence of Machine Man leaves me a little cold.  Part of the problem is that Gabriel Hardman didn’t draw this issue.  Elena Casagrande is a fine artist (except for the fact that she draws She-Hulk with more hair than Medusa), but Hardman makes this series click with me.

Iron Man 2.0 #12 – This series never really had much of a chance in today’s market.  To begin with, the title was a little misleading in not making it clear that this comic was about War Machine (except for the Fear Itself issues, which were really about the Immortal Weapons, perplexingly).  Secondly, this was a book starring a black man, and we all know how much Marvel hates those.  Thirdly, Nick Spencer’s long-form story got interrupted by Fear Itself, and never recovered its steam, especially when Ariel Olivetti became the regular artist; his look is very wrong for the type of story that Spencer was telling.  This final issue feels rushed, as the writing is spread between two people and the art among four.  Oh well, it had its moments.

Mudman #2I’m finding that I’m really enjoying Paul Grist’s new series.  Most of this second issue runs concurrent with the first, introducing us to the people in the strange abandoned house, and establishing that they don’t have anything to do with the weird costume in the attic that Mudman ends up wearing.  Grist uses this issue to develop his setting a little more, and it’s an amusing, enjoyable book.  If you liked the first year of Invincible, or if you enjoyed Phil Hester’s Firebreather, you’d probably find something here you’d enjoy.

Stormwatch #5 – This title got off to a slow start, but now I’m finding myself enjoying it a great deal.  This issue has some great interactions between the team members as the Stormwatch Shadow Cabinet appoints a new leader, and Midnighter and Harry Tanner get into a fight.  A lot is revealed about all of the characters this issue, and then there is a surprise ending that calls into question how many of them will even be around next month.  Which brings me to the downside of this comic – we already know that DC has removed Paul Cornell from the book, making me doubt I’m going to stick with it.  They are clearly positioning this book to be a central part of the DCnU, tying in to Superman and Grifter, but if that is just going to be the product of editorial mandate, I doubt that I’m all that interested.  I hope Miguel Sepulveda’s going to stick around – I like how this book looks.

Swamp Thing #5 – Swamp Thing is one great comic.  Alec and Abby have a confrontation with William, as The Rot makes its way to the Parliament of Trees.  One thing that has made this comic work so well is that Alec Holland isn’t actually the Swamp Thing, and I kind of hope he never makes that transition, as I find this much more interesting.  Yannick Paquette returns to the art this issue, and things look great (although I loved Marco Ruby’s work last issue).

Thunderbolts #168While Jeff Parker’s Hulk left me cold this week, I really liked the newest issue of Thunderbolts, which focused on the non-criminal members of the team for a change.  Luke Cage is tracking down villains that escaped from the Raft in Fear Itself, and runs across Mister Fear, who promptly gasses him, leading to a lengthy dream-like sequence.  While this is going one, Songbird and Mach-V have to meet with their government overseers, and that more or less works the way things always work when government oversight is involved.  The art for this issue is by Matt Southworth, who was brilliant on Greg Rucka’s Stumptown series.  Southworth’s art is vastly different from the style usually used in this book, and it looks great.  He has some JH Williams-style layouts when Cage is all gassed up; my only complaint is that the colouring made it hard to tell what was in Luke’s mind, and what was happening at the Raft.

Uncanny X-Force #19.1 – Really, this is Age of Apocalypse #0.1, as Marvel tries to build an audience for their new series set in that alternate world that is much loved by many comics fans, although I’m not one of them.  Most of this issue is used killing off any remaining ‘good’ mutants in that world, so that the new series can start off as bleakly as possible.  It’s not a bad issue, but it’s not really my thing.  I think it’s odd that they don’t use the new series’s regular creative team.  I’m not interested in picking it up, but I do like both David Lapham and Roberto Dela Torre, so I may give it a try.

Uncanny X-Men #4I always saw the Phalanx as a good example of 90s comics nonsense.  I think it was one of the arcs during Scott Lobdell’s tenure on this title where the X-Men fought the Phalanx (were there ugly hologram covers?) that finally convinced me to drop the X-titles for about five years.  Anyway, Kieron Gillen proves what a great writer he is (once again) by spending most of this issue personalizing one member of the Phalanx, who was experimented on by Mr. Sinister for years, before being left for dead.  We’re more than half-way into the issue before the X-Men even show up, and I think that unconventional approach worked really well here.  Brandon Peterson’s art is nice, too.

Villains for Hire #2 – It really is a shame that there are only two issues left in Abnett and Lanning’s Misty Knight series, and that there are no signs of more to come.  When not interfered with by a cross-over, like so much of Heroes for Hire was, that series, and this follow-up, can be very very good.  Purple Man is becoming increasingly frustrated with the fact that a rival organization is using his MO, and he figures out that it’s Misty pulling the strings.  What makes this issue more interesting is that Paladin figures it out at the same time, and Misty’s way of dealing with him is pretty unexpected.  Renato Arlem is doing some very nice work here.

Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:

Ferals #1

John Byrne’s Cold War #4

Star Trek Legion of Super-Heroes #4

Wolverine and the X-Men: Alpha and Omega #1

X-Men #23

Bargain Comics:

Amazing Spider-Man #672-675 - I really enjoy reading Spider-Man in chunks like this.  Dan Slott has done such a good job with this title, that I’m considering adding it back to my regular pull-list.  The only thing that’s stopping me is that it’s bi-weekly and $4.  Anyway, in these issues, Spider-Island wraps up, Peter’s girlfriend figures out that he’s Spider-Man and leaves him, and the Vulture shows up with a group of emo minions.  The writing on this book is really sharp, and I love the combination of Giuseppe Camuncoli’s pencils with Klaus Janson’s inks.  Both artists are usually very distinct, but put together like this, their look is very different, and I like it.

Legion: Secret Origins #1&2 –  I’ve mentioned many times on this site how much I love the Legion, but more and more I’m convinced that that really refers to a relationship long over.  This latest mini-series is designed to retell the Legion’s origin (again), presumably clarifying its place in the New 52.  Two issues in, and not much has happened.  I appreciate that the focus isn’t all on the original three team members and RJ Brande, but the main plot, which has to do with Brainiac 5 and Phantom Girl investigating a massacre on an alien world, doesn’t make a lot of sense yet, and isn’t all that interesting.  As to the suggestion that a secret council of three people really run the United Planets?  It seems like a silly retcon that doesn’t add much to the story.  I also think it’s interesting how everyone is staying mum on the influence that Superman had on the Legion, since there have been many suggestions that the Legion is our pre-Flashpoint one, and traveling down that road will lead to all sorts of continuity issues.  On the positive side, I’ve always liked how Chris Batista draws the Legion.

Ultimate Comics Hawkeye #1-4 - This mini-series took until its third issue to start to feel like it’s really a Jonathan Hickman comic, but when it got there, it got to be very good.  A group of manufactured powered beings are taking over the SEAR – the South East Asian Region, and Hawkeye is more or less alone in trying to stop them, at least until the Hulk and three nameless and undeveloped mutants are sent in.  Like I said, the first half of this series isn’t much, but it ends very well, with suggestions as to what is going to come later in Hickman’s run on Ultimates.

Ultimate Spider-Man #1-5 – I’ve never read any of Brian Michael Bendis’s Ultimate Spider-Man comics before this.  Over the course of this year, I’ve found myself losing faith and interest in Bendis’s work, as his creator-owned books like Powers and Scarlet have disappeared, his Moon Knight has been underwhelming, and his Avengers books have become ever-more decompressed parodies of themselves.  His new, Miles Morales Spider-Man though, has received positive reviews all over the place, and I thought it was time to check it out.  It’s everything Bendis’s other work isn’t.  It’s well-thought out, and very thoughtful, as Miles is portrayed as an intelligent, sensitive kid who is not exactly given to Peter Parker’s guilt-ridden hand-wringing.  Sara Pichelli is drawing the hell out of this book, and while not a lot has happened so far, there are enough quiet moments of pure characterization that I’ve started to really like Miles, and to care about what happens to him.  I’m trying to cut back on my pull-list this year, but I think I may have to add this title.

Wolverine #12-18I like Wolverine.  I like Jason Aaron.  You would think this matching would work well, but it kind of doesn’t.  These seven issues cover three storylines.  The Red Right Hand one is ridiculous.  A group of people who have had their lives ruined by Wolvie gather together in a Wolverine Revenge Squad and get their revenge by having him slaughter a group of lame villains (who are connected to him in a way that is supposed to be a surprise) and then drink poisoned Kool-Aid, with the hope that it will bother him.  It does, so he spends a couple of issues being feral in Northern Canada again (I liked seeing Goran Sudzuku drawing a comic again; that’s the best I can say about those issues).  Then, all the melodrama out of his system, Aaron has Logan get involved in a drug running operation under San Francisco’s Chinatown that involves dragons, underground caverns, and guest appearances by Ken Hale (the ape guy from Agents of Atlas) and Fat Cobra, the Immortal Weapon.  This arc is written in the same ‘fun style’ as Wolverine and the X-Men, and it works better, although I have no idea why Short Round from the second Indiana Jones movie is running around here.  In all, these are okay to bad comics, and definitely the weakest output I’ve seen from Aaron.

The Week in Manga:

Pluto: Urasawa X Tezuka Vol. 4

by Naoki Urasawa after Osamu Tezuka, with Takashi Nagasaki

I’m glad that I made good use of Boxing Day sales to track down the remaining volumes in this series, because I find that each new volume I read ramps up the level of tension and my interest in this series.

Pluto is a re-make of a classic Osamu Tezuka Astro Boy story (which I’ve never read), although told in a longer, much more complex way.  In this fourth volume, we get a few more hints as to the identity of the person or robot who has been killing the world’s most powerful robots, and any humans involved in the Bora Survey Group.  The Survey Group had examined the country of Persia for Robots of Mass Destruction, and while they didn’t find any, the United States of Thracia had used them as a smokescreen for starting the 39th Central Asian War.

I think what I admire most about this series is the political backdrop that Urasawa sets it against.  There is an easy comparison between the 39th War and the American invasion of Iraq, except for the fact that WMDs didn’t later begin to advocate for their own rights and a place of equality within human society as robots have.  That aspect of the story is explored a little more here, as the anti-robot organization that businessman Adolf Haas is a part of has decided they don’t need him anymore, and he ends up with main character Gesicht protecting him (despite the fact that Gesicht is dealing with the Pluto case – a weak story device, or proof of conspiracy?).

A lot happens in this volume, particularly to Atom, the boy robot we in the West know as Astro Boy.  Also, Epsilon, the pacifist robot is forced to take action, and Gesicht has to cancel his trip to Japan.

This really is a terrific series, and Urasawa has a lot of balls in the air at any given time.  I look forward to reading the second half of this run.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Catwoman: Crooked Little Town

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Brad Rader, Cameron Stewart, Rick Burchett, Michael Avon Oeming, and Mike Manley

I don’t often buy trades of superhero comics.  If I am interested, I usually buy them as they come out, or in cases where I’ve missed a particularly good run, I’ll pick up back issues at sales or in used bookstores.  Ed Brubaker’s run on Catwoman is something that completely slipped past me about a decade ago, and clearly came at a time when neither he, nor any of the artists he worked with, had developed names for themselves.  Looking at the cover of Crooked Little Town, the second collection of his run with this character, it is almost impossible to find the writer’s name, or the name of any of the artists.  I guess that says a lot about how much Brubaker’s fame has grown in a little under ten year’s time.

Anyway, this trade collects one longer story, and a few shorter ones about Selina’s new approach to life as the guardian of the East End of Gotham City.  She is not afraid to take on the mob, and spends most of the book hunting down some crooked cops with the help of private eye Slam Bradley.  The story is nicely written, and shows the more tender side of Selina when her young friend Holly gets hurt.  Also, there was an extended cameo by Detective Crispus Allen, who was my favourite character in Gotham Central, which was probably the best comic DC published in the 2000s (and should have been resurrected for the New 52).

The art in this volume is very consistent.  Brad Rader is a very good artist, yet I’m not sure if he’s done anything since this book.  I definitely don’t remember seeing his name anywhere else.  His style fits nicely with that of artists like Cameron Stewart (who inks him here), Darwyn Cooke, and Michael Avon Oeming.  I picked up two more of Brubaker’s Catwoman trades when I got this one; I’m looking forward to reading them.

The Finder Library Vol. 2

by Carla Speed McNeil

Finder has been my favourite comic book discovery of 2011.  Carla Speed McNeil’s series has been around for years, but was completely under my radar until Dark Horse began collecting the series in the Finder Library series, serializing new adventures of main character Jaeger in their new Dark Horse Presents monthly anthology comic, and published the new graphic novel Voice.

Finder has been described as ‘aboriginal science fiction’, and I suppose that description works as well as any other.  The series is mostly set in the great domed city of Anvard, where millions of people live in the cramped, multi-layered, complicated society run by clans and strict social stratification that can even dictate how much artificial sunlight is pumped into a neighbourhood.  The world of Anvard is deliciously complex, and McNeil revels in constructing stories that help to expose new facets of the society, while also provide an emotional wallop.

This second volume of the Finder Library collects sixteen issues of the comic, plus whatever additional material McNeil chose to toss in (this volume does not feel as formally structured as the first).  It contains four stories: ‘Dream Sequence’, ‘Mystery Date’, ‘The Rescuers’, and ‘Five Crazy Women’, each very different in tone and content.

‘Dream Sequence’ is about Magri White, a prodigy who has constructed and maintains a complete virtual reality in his own mind.  Thousands of people jack into his reality, called Elsewhere, and enjoy walking around in his memories in the thousands of structures he has created.  Since childhood, Magri had been under the care of a corporation that has made billions off of Elsewhere.  The problem is that now a monster is loose in that world, and visitors are getting injured in reality.  This story is very surrealistic, and completely brilliant.  I found myself getting very wrapped up in Magri’s environment, and McNeil does an amazing job of showing his frustration and decent into near-madness.

‘Mystery Date’ is a stark contrast to this story.  It stars Vary, a young girl who grew up as a form of ritualized temple prostitute in her home village, and who has come to Anvar for an education.  She ends up getting involved in a strange triangle with an emotionally distant professor who wears complex prosthetic legs, and his colleague, a Laeske.  Laeske are bird-lizard creatures about the size of horses, who are often as intelligent as a person.  This is a bizarre story, a romantic comedy in a completely bizarre setting, and it works very well.

‘The Rescuers’ is the first story in this book to feature Jaeger in a prominent role.  He is living with a group of Ascians, his adopted people, in a large dome within the dome of Anvard, that is owned by the Baron Manavelin.  The Ascians have been allowed to camp on the Baron’s property, and work as servants in his estate.  One night, during an elaborate party, the Baron’s infant child is kidnapped.  What follows is a form of noir detective story, as Jaeger begins to assist the rather useless local police (despite the Baron’s wealth, his home is in a relatively backwards part of Anvard, and so only sub-clan police are employed there).  This was a particularly effective look into McNeil’s world, and it wore the influence of the Lindbergh kidnapping on its sleeve.

The final story, ‘Five Crazy Women’ focuses on Jaeger and the relationships he has with the women of Anvard.  Being a drifter, and moving in and out of the city, Jaeger has few possessions and no home.  Whenever he turns up in the city for a while, he usually calls up one of his many women.  He has some difficulty finding anyone when this story opens, and so he has to find some new ‘friends’ to take him in, finding only some real nutcases.  This is a fun story, and it reveals more about Jaeger and his way of living.

Taken as a whole, Finder is incredible.  McNeil provides detailed notes in the back (forty pages of notes for 600 pages of comics), which is something I’m always a sucker for.  The depth in her work is pretty much unmatched in comics today – the only comparison I can think of is Neil Gaiman’s Sandman for complexity and magnetic appeal.  I suppose an easier comparison would be to Frank Herbert’s Dune, or perhaps Lord of the Rings, if it wasn’t so boring.  I really loved immersing myself in McNeil’s world, and am thankful that she is continuing to publish Jaeger’s stories in DHP; I just hope that another long-form story like Voice will be coming our way soon.

As a sidebar to this, I would love to see McNeil write (and draw) Wolverine at Marvel.  Jaeger and Logan are very similar, living according to complicated codes and usually being the most noble savages in the room.  It would be a very interesting take on the character, and I think she would excel at it.

The 14th Dalai Lama

by Tetsu Saiwai

A friend suggested that I read The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography and I’m glad I did.  I’ve always had a passing interest in Tenzin Gyatso and the struggle of his people, and I was familiar with his story, but I’d never read a biography of him before now.

Tetsu Saiwai’s manga begins with the death of the previous Dalai Lama, and the search for his resurrected spirit.  Once he was recognized as the new Dalai Lama, Gyatso was moved to Lhasa where he began a life of study.  Unfortunately, world events did not allow the young Dalai Lama time to ease into his role, as at the age of fifteen, he had to begin to deal with the expansionism of neighbouring China, which was undergoing the Cultural Revolution, and set its eyes on Tibet.

This book follows the Dalai Lama through a period of attempting to appease and work with Mao’s China, until the sad realization that were he to stay in Lhasa, he would surely be held prisoner or killed.  He and a small group of family and advisers escape to India, where they continue to act as the legal government of Tibet, although they have no say over what has happened at home.

The book covers its material quickly (it didn’t take very long to read this), but with enough detail that the reader can walk away from this book with a good understanding of what has happened.  Saiwai tells his story simply, but very effectively.  This is a good place to start a study of the current, post-anti-Olympics demonstrations in Tibet, and raises the question of what will happen to Tibetans, and Buddhism in general, when the aging Gyatso passes.

A History of Violence

Written by John Wagner
Art by Vince Locke

It’s pretty much impossible for a comics fan to have read everything.  I saw this recent Vertigo Crime reprinting of the old Paradox Press title A History of Violenceand was more than a little surprised to realize I’d never read it before (nor had I seen the moviedirected by David Cronenberg, despite the fact that I went through a huge Cronenberg phase back in my university days).  I figured it was time to address this – for the book at least, if not the movie.

This is a pretty decent book.  I was a big fan of John Wagner’s work on Batman (written with Alan Grant), and have long recognized Vince Locke as having an important place in edgy, intelligent comics.

The book opens in some small town, where a couple of petty crooks decide to hold up Tom McKenna’s diner, not expecting McKenna to fight back.  When it’s all over, McKenna finds himself a local hero, with his story even making national news.  And this leads to some problems, since McKenna has been living under an assumed name for twenty years, and has been hiding from the mob.

It’s not long before a trio of mob enforcers come sniffing around, and McKenna has to confront his past, and tell his wife and children about how he used to live his life.  The family drama stuff is handled very nicely, and it’s easy to see why this book was chosen for film adaptation; it has all the pacing of a good Hollywood thriller.

Locke’s work is nice, but much looser than I would have expected.  Much of the book looks like Guy Davis penciled it without an inker.  This approach works for most of it, but there are a few scenes where things could have been a little clearer.

Album of the Week:

El Rego et ses Commandos

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Uncanny X-Force #19.1 by Rick Remender and Billy Tan Fri, 06 Jan 2012 19:00:18 +0000

Uncanny X-Force #19.1

Written by Rick Remender
Art by Billy Tan

Let’s get this out of the way: I’ve been covering and endorsing Marvel’s .1 issue initiative for quite some time. They’re intended as jumping on points for titles. Most have been good, with a few missteps. This is a massive misstep. It borders on false advertising. You will not be caught up with X-Force, nor do they even make an appearance. This book is trying to sell you on the new Age of Apocalypse series coming to comic racks and digital reader screens near you.

Sure, Uncanny X-Force did a neat little crossover with the Age of Apocalypse, but I have to say, I’m tired of the Age of Apocalypse. I lived it, grew up with it. I thought the X-Men really were gone/cancelled. I thought it was a radical new status quo. I was very sad Generation X became Generation Next. I was thirteen, and lived my comics as they hit the rack, not solicitations, and even Wizard didn’t tell me it was temporary.

It had cool ideas, cool characters. Amazing re-imaginings. It also was one of the first massive crossovers I read that actually stood alone in each series, while still contributing to an overall story. It didn’t read like a crossover or cash out. It was an epic. It had a vague ending.

Various AoA characters popped up over the years. Blink, Victor Creed, Morph all had runs in Exiles. It was nice to know fragments of that universe lived on. There’s such a thing as revealing too much, though, and ten years later when Marvel revisited the AoA, they really overdid it. Forcing in things like an AoA Xorn, the rest of the Guthries, X-23, and Psylocke (that one really gets me, she was never even a factor in all of the AoA lore, and now she’s some shadow ninja secret agent?). Sinister lived, The Phoenix had to be referenced. At least Cloak and Dagger had a bad-ass appearance. Not lying, all through X-Universe, since Spidey was dead, Daredevil was a tool, and they made Gwen a bad-ass, I was wondering where Tandy and Ty were.

Where was I? Oh, so AoA was revisited and milked. Which brought it to the forefront again. More little fragments cameod here and there.

It was easy to ignore until Rick Remender came on Uncanny X-Force. X-Force under Craig and Kyle Yost was amazing. Talk about revisiting a concept and reworking it for the modern era; they took the old Rob Liefeld militant strike team, put all the characters we used to dream about being a fit for it on it, with some new blood (X-23 and Elixir), and made them…well, a militant strike team. And it even had a better purpose than just a cool cyborg with a penchant for guns, this team gave Xavier’s dream a dark side, gave Scott Summers his long lost cajones, and put Domino back on top of the charts. All with a running story that would circle back to the whole X-Franchise.

That arc ended, and a new X-Force was born with a new lineup, penned by Remender. And he got it. His lineup changes and updates fit the book almost better than the original’s. Some of the missions they undertook were ridiculous as only Mighty Marvel Manners allow. And then he brought it all to an early peak by returning us to the Age of Apocalypse.

I have to admit it was pretty amazing. Characters like Creed, Nightcrawler, Jean, and One Handed Logan are fun to see when written well. And he did. But then the story took a disturbing tone, for me. A longtime fan of the AoA and it’s universe and characters. If the tenth year revisit rubbed me wrong by showing us the closure, Remender doubled that by showing us the universe and Apocalypse himself live on.

Don’t get me wrong, cool concept. For the actual X-Men universe. The AoA reality paid it’s dues, it was nuked, Xorn’d, characters had comeuppance and endings. Nope. The world keeps turning and the Uncanny X-Force bore witness to it. I was very glad when we closed the door on this chapter, by the end.

Except we didn’t. Uncanny X-Force 19.1 is essentially a throwback to the 90s in multiple parts.

First off, this isn’t X-Force 19.1 It’s Age of Apocalypse #0. Because that’s necessary. Yeah, it says it on the cover, I know. But this is clearly one of those “set up the first issue, wait isn’t that the first issue’s job?” issues.

Secondly, we return to the Age of Apocalypse. Except this is the Age of Weapon X Apocalypse. Sorry, if that’s a spoiler for you, I don’t know what to say. Apocalypse lives on through Weapon X. That’s just the 90s in itself.

Thirdly, yeah, it’s AoA, so bring on the hopelessness, the grit, and violence. A 90s staple. This issue is just a mood killer. The original AoA was, obviously, apocaylptic, but even through all the loss (Generation Next, sniff. And Kitty…) and depravity (Beast, Sugar Man) there was hope. And towards the end we knew even though this universe was being pissed on, they had a fighting chance.

Ten years later, we learned things were on the upswing, but that the evil lived on. It was a passing shadow.

Now we learn it’s all for naught, they are doomed to live in a terrible, dystopian, Wildstormian reality. Lover are enemies. Children are crushed to death. Everyone is dirty and has beards. It’s not that I don’t like it, I’m just very sad and fed up for these characters I’ve seen battle it out for fifteen or so years. It’s not even cyclical like other comics, it’s just dark for the sake of dark.

Now, I trust Remender. He is not a bad writer. Please don’t think I’m saying so, Rick. But my task is to read this issue and review it. So now that we’re all brought up to speed…

Not the best jumping on point. The issue really needs the reader to be aware of all of the above, which it doesn’t. Because coming into it like this is entire confusion for new readers, which seems to defeat the point of a “jump on” issue.

The book opens in Japan, one of the other last bastions of humanity. The X-Men are there, regrouping and counting their latest losses. They are there because their leader Magneto was promised hope.

Hope ends up being his daughter Wanda. Of sorts. This is actually a really cool touch. If you’re not familiar with the AoA, Wanda was killed by the son of Apocalypse before the X-Men really established themselves. She’s even wearing the nifty red and gold outfit from the old Chronicles of the Age of Apocalypse #1 that all the X-Men wore. Points for that throwback.

Now give them back, because Wanda’s hope is that she can use her ill-defined powers to…brace yourself…erase the mutant gene. No more mutants.

Thankfully, more than myself were irritated by that turn of events. Magneto is pretty ticked they’ve been experimenting on Wanda. Apocalypse X is pretty ticked that this wrecks his whole superior race scheme. A fracas ensues.

“No more mutants.”

Two X-Men die. The rest flee. They are without their powers (or so we are led to believe).

Age of Apocalypse #1 hits stands March 7th. Looks to be about the Purifiers (depowered X-Men in tow) taking a stand against Apocalypse and his legions.

It’s an interesting premise, actually. I just feel the set up is wrong. Key characters die off within quick pages. Battles barely last a few panels. It comes across very condensed and rushed.

The dialogue and story are great, but it’s all crushed in, too much too fast.

This becomes apparent in the art as well, with crowded panel layouts, and hard to follow scene jumps. Tan’s art is very chaotic and gritty, which fits the script, but with everything packed together in 22 pages, it doesn’t give the reader time to take it all in.

Alternately, that’s a plus, because the book itself is a wild, lore-packed, fast paced ride. I can accept that.

But it comes across as clumsy if an introductory sales pitch is truly the intent.

I’m going to hold off judgement until March 7th. Just as this issue makes no sense as a jumping on point, since it’s got so much coming off of X-Force, I don’t want to comment on Remender’s characterizations and plots just yet. It’s too soon, and too colored by his X-Force launching point. I want to see if Age of Apocalypse stands on it’s own, and since this issue is essentially Age of Apocalypse #0, I’ll wait until I can read it in context of AoA #1.

But the bottom line I can tell you today is that this book is not worth the cover price unless you’re a diehard Uncanny X-Force fan curious to see where the AoA Remender crafted is going to spin out.

I do want to see more of Solar Powered Hulk, though.

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The Gold Standard: Top 10 Marvel Books Of 2011 Thu, 05 Jan 2012 06:31:23 +0000 10. X-Factor

You’d think that after all of these years Peter David may have hit a slump with X-Factor, but really, it never happened. The book may not be some overly important fixture of the Marvel Universe, something that all events spin out of and into, but really, that’s half the charm. Aside from a few X-crossovers over the years Peter David has been given complete freedom with a list of underutilized characters that deserve it. I mean, Layla Miller is still around and interesting and there are times I completely forgot that Bendis originally pissed her out for House of M. PAD has done some fantastic stuff on this book, and this year he’s really out done himself. Eighteen issues since the first week of January last year, including a point one issue. We’ve seen Spider-Man, Thor, Pip the Troll working for X-Factor, the birth of Rahne’s child, Rictor and Shatterstar, and hey, the year ended with what I like to call “The Many Deaths of Jamie Madrox”. It’s been pulled into Regenesis to start this year, which means Havok and Polaris are coming back home, but I imagine this book is going to have another fantastic and under the radar year this year.


9. X-23

Marvel’s last solo female title, not counting Ghost Rider (because really, I don’t care about Ghost Rider and given how many people overlooked that gender swap I imagine that it’s not just me). It’s last issue was supposed to be hitting stores this week, but Marvel sprung to let Laura have one last issue to say goodbye in March. While this book hasn’t been the most spectacular thing ever written, write Marjorie Liu did successfully spend the last year giving a literal clone of Wolverine a personality and character that made her feel like she belonged in the expanded Marvel Universe. Not to knock X, but really, this book is what made her into the kind of character I’m happy to see around. She’s not just a teenage girl with claws any more (on the other end of the spectrum, Daken’s book really made him an even worse character in my eyes by accenting his negatives). X-23 has been a fun book to pick up once or twice a month, and while I’m sad to see it ending, I’m very happy to see Marjorie Liu move on to Astonishing X-Men along with the supporting cast of this book.


8. X-Men Legacy

Mike Carey managed to slide under the radar for years with his run on X-Men Legacy. I mean, his run wrapped up last week and is currently the second longest run on X-Men by a writer snuggled in between Chris Claremont and Scott Lobdell, but his character driven Rogue lead title hasn’t been something Marvel has pushed to readers. This year started off slightly different, as Carey tried his hands at an X-Men tradition known as the alternate reality event, and while Age of X may not have been the Age of Apocalypse, it was a really intriguing take on the characters…and it led to Carey using the most toxic of toxic X characters with great success. I’m talking, of course, about Legion. He made Professor X’s son into a dynamic and viable character. Hell, let’s get back to what really works here, he took Rogue, refined her powers, and made her into not only a strong character, but one who can lead. He gave the kids a place to shine when the only focus elsewhere was on Hope and her Lights. December of 2011 marks the end of an epic run, and 2011 was a great year to cap off with.


7. Secret Warriors

It was a sad day when this title ended earlier this year, really, I still miss it every month. Hickman crafted a must read book with Nick Fury and a cast of super powered secret agents, one where we found out the true origins of SHIELD and Hydra. This year was the final arc, Wheels Within Wheels, and Hickman pulled out all the stops. Things we thought we knew for decades were erased, and Nick Fury and Baron Strucker had their last ever confrontation. Hell, he even tied in his SHIELD book that stars Da Vinci by having the Renaissance Man meet a younger Fury in his early spy days. This was also the book where Daisy Johnson came into her own, and this matters because all things seem to point to her profile being elevated in 2012. The book may have wrapped half way through the year, but it still ranks amongst Marvels best.


6. Avengers Academy

2011 saw me give up Avengers and New Avengers, and while I did enjoy Warren Ellis’s run on Secret Avengers…it wasn’t enough to get it on the list. Avengers Academy is the crown jewel of the Avengers franchise right now, it may not have the marquee characters, but it does have easily the best character work and structure of any of the books right now. Not to mention the premise of kids not being trained to be Avengers, but being held off the inevitable super villain path that is creeping ever closer to them thanks to the things that Norman Osborn did to them when he was in control. Gage has fleshed out these kids, not to mention their instructors, and the cast is just perfect. Easily the best non-Skrull Hank Pym work in years (previously I would have said Slott’s work with him in Initiative, but hey, Skrull). It’s a book about damaged goods trying to be better people, regardless of how hard it may be at times. Something I think a lot of people can relate to.


5. Uncanny X-Men

This one is a bit of a cheat, as I’m including both the recently relaunched three issues (as of writing this, probably four by the time this post goes up) as well as everything else that Kieron Gillen has done this year, not to mention a pre-Fear Itself Matt Fraction still kicking all kinds of ass. The book truly was the core of the entire X franchise this year, despite all of the other titles on the market, and it felt like it. All the big names, big time stories, tons of things going on, and it worked. We had Kitty and Colossus unable to touch or even talk without a telepath, mutant powers in a drug, a return of Breakworld, and who could forget the new Juggernaut? It was a banner year for the X-Men even before the Schism left Cyclops with his new Extinction Team to fight Mr. Sinister and Celestials. Wolverine and the X-Men might get the hype, but this is still the banner title for all things X-Men, and with Kieron Gillen at the helm it’s proven to be in more than capable hands.


4. FF

The year began with Jonathan Hickman killing the Human Torch and ending the Fantastic Four, quickly replacing it with the white and black of the Future Foundation. What’s come since has been more of the superb work that has made him into one of the most prolific writers in the history of the franchise. Sure, there was a lull during his return of Black Bolt, but really, everything he has done for the past few years has just built more and more on top of itself. His work with the FF has been nothing short of the fantastic that the name would imply, the Evil Reed’s have made for great villains, and I adore his work with the kids. The fact that the year is ending with the return of Johnny Storm and the Fantastic Four would be good enough, but the fact that Hickman will continue to right the kids in FF every month as well? Or how about the fact that Spider-Man has been a completely natural fit? Oooh, how about the promise of Galactus to open up 2012? Hickman is doing everything right, and his run is really, truly, fantastic.


3. Daredevil

Who knew that the trick to making Daredevil must read again was making him fun again? After years of finding success in the grimdark runs of Brian Bendis, Ed Brubaker, and to an extent, Andy Diggle, Daredevil was pretty much completely toxic. He had been outed as Matt Murdock, been the Kingpin of Hell’s Kitchen, gone to jail, been the leader of a cult of ninja assassins, and been possessed, essentially, by Parallax. It was a decade of people trying to see who could make Matt’s life the worst when they were done, and when Shadowland ended and Daredevil was ready to be Reborn I was completely done. Then they announced Mark Waid would be writing it, and that Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera would be sharing art duties, and I couldn’t resist the first issue. What’s followed is, quite frankly, the best seven issues of Daredevil that I’ve read since…well, possibly ever. Not to knock everyone who has come before, but what Mark Waid is doing here is putting the fun back in the book. He’s a lawyer by day and swashbuckling vigilante by night and it works. He’s created clever ways to work around Matt’s now public identity, and really, the book is gorgeous. Whenever I saw Martin or Rivera on Spider-Man I’d always wonder why neither was on Daredevil, really, first thought anytime I saw them. They both have incredible styles that are really perfect for this book. It’s a gem, a real must read.


2. Uncanny X-Force

When this first launched I was of mixed feelings. Sure, I really did like the Craig Kyle and Chris Yost run of X-Force, but I didn’t really see why it needed a relaunch or the Uncanny adjective. Then at some point in the beginning of this year I quit caring about those things and recognized that Rick Remender was turning in some of the best X work in years. He made Apocalypse important again, did a return to the Age of Apocalypse that didn’t feel like a cash in, and is the cause of the new series launch, and most importantly? He made Psylocke matter again for the first time since before she died. Not to mention that the Dark Angel Saga was freaking awesome, and made this title the kind of thing I don’t mind seeing Marvel ship out multiple times in a month. I’m so glad that the year didn’t end with him finishing his run on the book, and that I can look forward to even more in 2012.


1. Amazing Spider-Man

When the year started Dan Slott had really just taken over Spider-Man full time, the book was supposed to be hitting twice a month instead of three times, and “Big Time” had replaced “Brand New Day”. I didn’t get on board right off the bat, after all, my Spider-Ban hadn’t really gone away. Then something changed. Spider-Man is part of the FF, Spider-Man teams up with the Avengers Academy kids, oh, and then the Jackal came back and gave New York Spider-Powers. Why was this the year of the Spider for me? Because I went from having not read Spider-Man in years to it being one of my favorite books period. In one year. Spider-Island reinvigorated the franchise for me by reminding me of what made Spidey so much fun in the first place. I don’t care if he’s married anymore, I just want Peter Parker to be a strong and dynamic character in his own right, and really, right now? He is. He’s the best solo character at Marvel right now, and it just gets better every month. Dan Slott has done something simply amazing.

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Review: Marvel Point One Thu, 10 Nov 2011 00:30:21 +0000 When you’re writing (blogging/reviewing), you generally come up with a format… a template for where you are going to put in specific information. To a degree, it’s no different than entering information in a survey, just with longer answers.

But, there are works that cause the flow to completely blow up in your face. And Marvel Point One is one of those works. So, we are going to break this down a little different. So, bear with me here.

Marvel Point One

Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $6.99
Review: Digital Copy from Comixology

Okay, the basics. Marvel Point One is a collection of six introductions to future Marvel series and one connecting story arc that may also lead to a plot point. So each group needs to be evaluated as well as the overall story arc.

The series is very reminiscent of DC’s Brave New World collection that was released after the Infinite Crisis series. Though that series was sold for $1.00 and Marvel is making you spend close to $6.00 for their version of the same.

Behold the Watcher

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Javier Pulido

This is the overall story arc of Marvel Point One. Two members of the group called The Unseen decide to sneak into The Watcher’s home while The Watcher is in a state of rest. Their goal is to capture information from the past, present, future, and alternative universes. They escape before he wakes up, and return to their base to plan the death of The Watcher, and thereby obtain his secrets.

This is mostly some filler work that could be explained in a single panel of a comic book. It’s very reminiscent of those stories that get attached to clip shows so it isn’t just a bunch of clips (Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Shades of Gray being the most blatant). The story doesn’t have to be good, it just has to exist.

The other issue is that we aren’t told what comic book series is going to include the attempted murder of The Watcher, and I am unaware of any future Brubaker series where this might be included.

I didn’t like this too much, despite being a Brubaker fan. I think he works best when there is some realism in his projects: Captain America, Criminal, Gotham Central). And the art is average.

Nova: Harbinger

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciller: Ed McGuinness

Basic story, Nova is trying to save Terrax and the people on his planet. Of course Terrax fights Nova instead, and Nova flies away as the entire planet is engulfed in the energy of the Phoenix (the white phoenix force).

Have you ever met one of those people who are trying too hard in their 40s or 50s to still be cool to the kids? Well, sometimes creative people fall into the same trap, and Jeph Loeb (or someone on the editing team) is forcing this book into this territory. This is AWFUL! And I can perfectly demonstrate this in a single scene:

Okay, for those of you who don’t want to zoom in that close. Nova says “All those people… I… Epic Fail…” So billions of people are destroyed by the Phoenix Force, and all Nova has to say about it is “Epic Fail?” This is EMBARASSING to see on a page!!!!!!! Comic books should be written for kids in their teens, and using their language. But you use that language for situations that they understand!

Drawing Nova in a Japanese anime style bothers me as a long term fan, but that’s fine. Nova can be written for 12 year olds who like that style, and don’t care about his 30 year history. Fine. But to write a character this way is a discredit to comic books everywhere.

Age of Apocalypse: The Myth of Man

Writer: David Lapham
Artist: Roberto De La Torre

In a war-torn alternate reality (in the future potentially) Homo Superior has completely wiped out the Homo Sapiens race, and a mutant father is putting his son to bed explaining to him how the mutants have cast the evil humans away. After his son falls asleep, the man (Krakken) is visited by the Red Prophet (William Striker). Prophet kills him for the atrocities he committed during the war, where he put “Humans” into ovens to kill them. At the end Prophet gathers the rest of his tea

This is a very interesting twist. It’s at least interesting to yank the moral superiority out from underneath the X-Men and the Mutants. In the X-Men comics some of the humans are so blatantly racist/anti-mutant that you start to believe that only the “Humans” can be ignorant. So I really appreciate Lapham’s take here. And collecting a group of humans who are all mutant opponents in the regular universe is a nice touch. The art has that solid gritty feel to it, and really gave the issue a gritty feel, which I like.

My only problem is that don’t we all have alternative mutant universe fatigue at this point in time? I mean there are hundreds of alternate futures and alternate universes. I haven’t consistently read the X-Men since the late 90s, and I have no clue if this is one of the existing alternate universes, or some alternate future, or some weird pocket universe. It gets too confusing.

But still it was clever and well-executed.

Scarlet Spider: The Scarlet Thread

Writer: Chris Yost
Penciller: Ryan Stegman

Following the events of Spider Island, Kaine (the ‘failed’ clone of Peter Parker) is trying to get out of the country, heading toward Mexico. In Charlotte, North Carolina he hears a disturbance of a bank robbery. He gets on a bus to go to Houston, Texas, but once on has a change of heart and decides to stop the bank robbery. Apparently some changes in Kaine have made his thoughts more like Peter’s. He dons his Scarlett Spider mask, and thwarts the bank robbers leaving them in a ball of webbing for the police to pick up, as he continues to head south.

I’m not sure how sympathetic a character like Kaine is in 2011. Maybe there’s a large audience who is clamoring for someone with Spider-Man powers to operate in a non-Spider-Man environment? To me, I don’t see the draw or the pull of this book.

This was a perfectly fine comic book. Decently written with an introduction story that works, even if we cannot see where it all is going. The art could be better, as Stegman employs a minimalist style, that sometimes is beneficial, but other times is too cartoony (and apparently he likes to draw open mouths)

All in all, it’s a fine effort of a comic book that I don’t ever see me purchasing. But, that’s a preference and not a value judgment.

Coldmoon & Dragonfire: Yin and Yang

Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Salvador Larroca

Zaoxing (Dragonfire) and Wanxia (Coldmoon) are twin siblings who are kept in a lab but separated since birth by Taiji Corp. Both have powers of molecular manipulation, one heat and the other cold (I’ll leave it to you to figure it out). They are lied to about each other’s existence. Eventually they sense each other, and break free of their containment. The two of them are more powerful together than they were when separated. Six months later, they are free, and help the Avengers to take down some Taiji robot creatures, and the Avengers wonder about their motivations.

Interesting concept that has been done before, but always can be expanded upon. Two siblings who have powers separately, but in contact with each other can potentially cause greater damage. I haven’t seen it in a while, so I’m actually giving credit for that.

But…One having fire powers, the other having ice powers? Really? I mean that’s something I would have thought up when I was 12 years old creating characters in a notebook. I understand how you want them to be opposites, but come on; can’t we do better in 2011 than fire and ice?

(Then again, maybe we’ve run out of super powers. We’ve apparently run out of new ideas for movie scripts, so why not super powers. )

And these are teenagers in their late teens, do we have to show as much skin as humanly possible. Bare chested boy and a tube top for the girl.

The art is decent enough, but really gets sloppy in some parts. If I had to guess, Larocca was told to do a rush job.

But the real crime is I have no idea where I can see these two characters? I mean by the cast list, I’m guessing the Avengers book. But otherwise, I don’t know when to expect these two characters to show up.

Doctor Strange: The Shaman of Greenwich Village

Writer: Matt Fraction
Penciller: Terry Dodson

Doctor Strange is wandering through Greenwich Village and comes across Notebook Joe an interesting vagrant who is actively capturing the history of Greenwich Village as he sees it. Strange helps Joe return to the place where he is staying, with an artist named Abby who tells him that Joe never sleeps. Strange enters his dreams after finding that all of Joe’s notebooks are gibberish. Joe emerges from the dream and throws himself in front of a subway train while Strange sees visions of his future before returning home.

And it’s the 2011 version of trying to make Doctor Strange more interesting! What fun.

It seems like they are trying to make Doctor Strange a bit more of an American version of John Constantine, when I have seen him be more of a mysterious aloof citizen in the past, but it’s a decent take on him. But still, the Doctor just leaving Abby telling her that Joe had jumped in front of a train was extremely callous. There was no urgency for Doctor Strange to leave, but he just up and left anyway.

The story is fairly pedestrian, and you don’t really get a sense of what possessed Notebook Joe, and what the thing was with the strange shape. I guess I’m interested enough, but I think the team could have done a better job at trying to pull us into the story. Something disturbs Doctor Strange, and yet gives us no disturbing images or ideas. Seems rather weak all things considered.

The art is pretty average if not below average in my opinion. For me Dodson’s art is never as clean or sharp as it should be given the subject matter. I like sharp images or expressionism. Blurs and simplified faces don’t really work for me.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller: Bryan Hitch

A short glimpse into the future where Ultron has taken over Manhattan and is hunting down Spider-Man and Hawkeye. Two other characters tried to pay off Ultron, but the Ultron robot army destroys the building where they are holed up anyway, and Hawkeye and Spider-Man go to try to find others who can help them resist Ultron.

This seemed pretty good, but was too short. I’m guessing this is a futuristic tale, but how it will tie in to the existing Avengers storyline, I’m not really sure.

The art is nice and crisp, and there’s a unique technique where the artist has blurred the image to make it seem like there a sonic vibration that is affecting the characters.

I couldn’t tell who the other character was supposed to be. I’m guessing if he was important as someone other than just a citizen that they would be named, but it still seemed a bit sloppy, as I don’t know if he was friends with Hawkeye, or where Spider-Man came from, or anything.

I like Bendis’s writing and I like his take on the The Avengers, but this was too short and too little content to have any clue where it fits in with the overall story.

Overall Impressions

To me this is a real mixed bag of quality all around. And I really am bothered that Marvel would sell this at $5.95. This is one of those titles that Marvel should have eaten some of the costs, with the idea that it will pull in new readers. Even at the going Marvel price of $3.99 this might have seemed like a bargain, but as it stands it reminds me of one of the huge, poorly drawn, secret origins books that DC used to put out in the 90s that had six pages of story that were integral to the next storyline.

To me I wouldn’t waste my money on this collection. None of them provided crucial content or information for an upcoming series. I would be you can enjoy all of the new series without these teasers. Added to that the AWFUL writing on Nova: Harbinger and the lackluster art make this a waste of money.

This is a typical Marvel move, hype a preview book as a must read, charge twice as much for the content, and give sub-standard output. (Don’t get me wrong, DC does plenty of stupid things, but this is very Marvel typical). I feel like I’m reading annuals from the 1980s again.


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