After the last two massive weeks of new comics, it was really nice to go into the shop and find only three new comics in my pull-file. I’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and all the best for 2014.
We all know the score these days – Image Comics launches a new series, everyone gets really excited about it, there’s some action on the after-market, and the world is just a little bit richer for it all. This has been going on for a while now – it was a trend even before Saga dropped. What I’ve liked best about this is the novelty of the books that have been appearing, and the quality of the creators involved.
This year, as the only book being published by Image this week, we get the first issue of a new collaboration between James Robinson, who is best known for his work on Starman at DC comics, and cartoonist extraordinaire, J. Bone, who has worked all over the place at different times.
This series is set in a tiny, dusty desert town. Right from the beginning, we are introduced to Tomas, a bit of a layabout who loves his town, loves getting high, and finds that life generally treats him pretty well. He has a big drugged-out heart-to-heart with a lizard while smoking up one day, and later, while under the influence, manages to convince himself that the town’s Sheriff is actually a lizard-man, or an alien, or something. Of course, this being comics, the cop is most definitely a lizard-man, and he comes after Tomas for knowing too much.
Most of this issue is given over to the typical first issue stuff – we get a real strong sense of place and character from this issue, and Robinson and Bone work very well together to establish that. Tomas’s ongoing narration lets us understand him perfectly, while Bone’s art makes the town a very familiar place. Robinson’s writing reminds me a little of his Leave It To Chance series, although this is a more ‘mature’ title.
I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where this series takes us. Robinson has been hit-or-miss in the years since Starman ended, but this series is different enough from that work that I get a real positive vibe off of it.
Avengers #24.NOW – I know not everyone would agree with me, but I really love the way that Jonathan Hickman has been writing the Avengers, and have appreciated the depths of planning and structure he’s brought to the book (making it the antithesis of Brian Michael Bendis’s tenure, which often felt slapped together). This issue has a visitor come from the future (because that’s not been happening enough in Marvel comics lately), to warn Tony Stark of a potential problem – namely a rogue planet that is barreling towards the Earth. The Avengers, of course, deal with the problem, but in a way very similar to how the X-Men solved a similar problem during Joss Whedon’s run. What I felt worked best about this comic was the way in which the characters interacted at the beginning of the story, enjoying a barbecue together and kicking back a little. If there’s one thing that’s been missing from Hickman’s work with this team, it’s the sense of family he brought to his Fantastic Four run. Esad Ribic gets the only cover credit for an artist, but he’s been joined by Salvador Larroca, Mike Deodato, and Butch Guice. As the launch to the All-New Marvel NOW! branding, this issue is pretty successful, and it sets up (I assume) the upcoming Avengers World series.
Origin II #1 – I think Marvel was very wise to release this as only one of two books on Christmas Eve, because I doubt I would have bought it had it come out on a regular, busy week. I’m not sure that there is any sort of clamoring for a return to Wolverine’s early years these days – even Captain America comments in the comic above that Logan is stretched a little thin at the present moment. This comic opens at a time when Logan has been living with a pack of wolves (although, I thought packs were not really nuclear families, as this one apparently is), and enjoying a people-less existence. When a polar bear wanders into his new family’s territory, Logan develops curiosity, and enters into a usual pattern of loss and regret. Adam Kubert’s art is always nice (although I don’t think the guy’s ever seen a deer), but I felt a little disappointed by Kieron Gillen’s writing here. Gillen has become Marvel’s go-to guy to make bad concepts and storylines work. He took the dreck of Fear Itself and, in Journey Into Mystery, spun it into gold. He took the forced and artificial Schism within the X-Men, and turned it into some of the best issues of Uncanny X-Men of the new century. Here, however, the Jungle Book style story just didn’t win me over. I’m not sure if subsequent issues of this series are going to be $4 or $5 like this one was, but I think I’m going to pass either way.
Avengers Assemble #21 – After reading last week’s issue 22, which starts Warren Ellis’s tenure on the book as co-writer, but doesn’t start a new storyline, I decided that I should track this comic down at a Boxing Day sale. In some ways, it’s a better comic, as Kelly Sue DeConnick brings Spider-Girl to Avengers Tower, and sets her off on the trail of some missing Inhuman cocoons.
Cataclysm #0.1 – Still building up to Cataclysm, Joshua Hale Fialkov gives us a solid one-off that features the Ultimate Vision. This was a character that wasn’t used to much effect in the Ultimate Universe, but Fialkov does a good job of building her up as she goes off to confront 616 Galactus.
Cataclysm: Ultimates #1 – This series has the Ultimates in its title, but it’s really about Nick Fury’s Commandos, who were introduced in Joshua Hale Fialkov’s run. They are mobilizing to stop the Gah Lak Tus followers, who are evolving and becoming a huge problem for the team. There’s a lot of chaos here, but nothing that is all that exciting.
Cataclysm: Ultimate X-Men #1 – In this Cataclysm tie-in, Joshua Hale Fialkov continues where Brian Wood left off (see below), having some X-Men searching Tian for survivors, before everyone gets sucked into some Galactus weirdness. This is not a bad issue, but it still suffers from some of what was wrong with Wood’s run.
Indestructible Hulk #14&15 – You know, I think I’m completely exhausted by time travel stories in the Marvel Universe right now. It’s been the main focus of Age of Ultron, All-New X-Men (and the whole Battle of the Atom), FF, Fantastic Four, Thor God of Thunder, Superior Spider-Man (when 2099 popped by), Age of Ultron, Indestructible Hulk, and soon, Avengers. I get it that ‘time is broken’, but there are other wells to dip into. These two issues, which have the Hulk trying to stop some time-based anarchists, gets especially tiresome, as Hulk returns to the accident that made him and becomes Hulk2.
Infinity: The Hunt #2&3 – Matt Kindt and Steven Sanders were given a fun little assignment for this utterly unnecessary Infinity tie-in – to pile a bunch of new and established teen characters into a situation where they have to fight nameless and motivation-less alien invaders. It’s nice to see some under-used characters again, and the art is nice, so the effervescence of this whole thing is totally acceptable.
Iron Man #18 – So now that Tony Stark has found his ‘brother’, the two of them are busy trying to save the world from itself. It looks like Kieron Gillen is addressing the question that occasionally comes up in comics – why don’t these people, with their great abilities or resources, try to actually fix the world instead of just saving it from alien invasions and bank robbers? Lots of antecedents come to mind – Squadron Supreme, The Authority, John Ostrander’s Firestorm, and it’s interesting to see how the Stark boys approach it. It’s nice to see Joe Bennett’s art on a higher-profile book, but this didn’t really feel like him at all.
Mars Attacks #9&10 – I found John Layman’s approach to the Mars Attacks comics to be a lot of fun. He manages to take a preposterous property, and inject the right amount of humour and character to make it all work. I guess IDW has decided to change their approach to this title, as all I’ve seen lately are crossovers with other properties that they license. Do people read those?
Superior Spider-Man Annual #1 – So I read this book, by Christos Gage and Javier Rodriguez, and I wonder why these two men are not among the biggest names in comics. Rodriguez is brilliant, with work that fits alongside Marcos Martin and Javier Pulido, and Gage has as good a handle on Spidey-Ock as Dan Slott. This was a very enjoyable comic.
Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #5-7 – These three issues contain a very good story by Chris Yost and Marco Checchetto, which has Spidey teaming up with new character Sun Girl, as well as his new Superior Six, a group of villains whose minds he is controlling to force them to do good. In this arc, Otto has to face up to the fact that he has been failing in his mission to show himself as superior to Peter Parker, precisely because of his willingness to cross moral lines. It’s a good character-based story, and Sun Girl looks like she has the potential to become an interesting character somewhere down the road.
Superior Spider-Man Team-Up Special #1 – The Arms of the Octopus story concludes here, and it continues to be as delightful as the first two chapters (in All-New X-Men and Indestructible Hulk Specials). Michael Dialynas handles the art on this installment, and it has the same feel established in the other books. Spidey and the Past X-Men team up to stop an angry scientist with gamma powers, and Octavius gets the chance to dispense wisdom and put-downs to the X-Men kids. This was a fun story from Mike Costa.
Ultimate Comics X-Men #32&33 – Brian Wood’s run with the Ultimate version of the X-Men ends well, but strangely. I haven’t understood Jean Grey’s portrayal in this comic at all, and it seems that Wood is determined to use her as a villain, and yet still give her a happy ending, and it doesn’t really work at all.
The Week in Manga:
The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Vol. 12 – Once again, a completely delightful volume with two longer stories. In the first, the group get involved in a strange scheme that utilizes a Second Life-like virtual world to help people pay off their debts before they die. The second story involves Japanese love dolls. What makes this a series I look forward to is the excellent character work by Eiji Otsuka; each new volume is kind of like returning to a favourite TV sitcom that hasn’t been on in a while. As always, the editor’s notes are just as entertaining as the comic.
The Week in Graphic Novels:
by Brandon Graham
I’ve been a big Brandon Graham fan since first learning about his work a little while after the first volume of King City came out. This book, Escalator, collects a number of his earlier comics stories, and it is pretty fantastic from cover to cover.
When I think of Graham’s work, I always think of strange and complicated futuristic cities, characters who just seem to get by living in the urban environment, and endless sight gags and puns. All of that is represented here, and the book makes me feel like I’m watching Graham figure out a number of things as a writer and an artist.
In one story, a writer is just trying to get some work done when interrupted by a demon or something, who is trying to take his soul. In another strip, a couple hang out on their balcony. In another story, a young artist and his friend tag trains.
There is definitely an autobiographical feel to much of this book. In one strip, young Graham is having a hard time making things work for himself, and can’t help but realize that while he’s climbing stairs to a friend’s walk-up that he’s crashing at, Moebius is probably dreaming of crystals.
This is a very enjoyable book, and a must-have for anyone who has enjoyed King City or Multiple Warheads (there is a MW short here too). If you only know Graham from his amazing writing on Prophet, this is still worth checking out, as you can connect the dots from that work to this.