Best Comic of the Week:
All-New Captain America #1 – I wasn’t too sure what to expect with the first issue of All-New Captain America, which has Sam Wilson taking on Steve Roger’s position in the Marvel Universe, supported by Steve’s adopted son Ian as the All-New Nomad. Rick Remender’s tenure on the last Cap series started off poorly, got good, and then fell apart towards the end. This, however, was a very good first issue. Pretty much the entire issue is taken up with Sam attacking a Hydra base, looking to extract a friendly agent, and to stop a doomsday device. The set-up is perfect for a number of reasons. It gives Remender a chance to explore Sam’s feelings about this new role, and it gives artist Stuart Immonen a chance to really cut loose with action scenes. There’s a great mixing of humour with action, and a sense of real excitement to this comic. I’ve always liked Sam, and felt that he’s always been under-utilized in the Marvel Universe, so I am happy to see him star in his own title, even if he is likely to stay under the shadow of Steve Rogers for the whole thing. I was curious to see how a character with wings attached to the lengths of his forearms would be able to also wear Cap’s shield, but it looks like Immonen has figured out a work-around that makes it believable. I particularly pleased to see that the way Remender portrays Sam here is so different to how he’s showing him in Axis, where he’s become a jerk thanks to the Scarlet Witch.
Alex + Ada #10 – Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn’s sci-fi romance comic takes a turn this issue, as Alex and Ada are reunited after Ada, the illegally sentient robot, tried to strike out on her own. This series is sensitive and well-thought out, and very compelling. It’s one of the best written comics out there today, and the art is always very fine.
Archer & Armstrong: The One Percent #1 – I was a little surprised to see that Ray Fawkes wrote this one-shot instead of Fred Van Lente (Fawkes is everywhere these days, isn’t he?), and even more surprised to see that the comic was drawn by Joe Eisma, the artist of the always good Morning Glories (which is way behind schedule). This is a fun look at the next generation of the group of uber-rich who basically rule the world. A scion of the organization decides to make his own move for power, and while it’s not as bitingly satirical as Van Lente’s previous portrayals of the group, it does have its moments.
Avengers & X-Men: Axis #5 – The extent of the ‘inversion’ is explored in more detail with this issue, as we confirm that the heroes who had been on Genosha have become evil, while the villains present at the same time have become good (and, aside from Magneto, absent from the storyline). Spider-Man and Nova provide a bit of humour and some point-of-view perspective, while Terry and Rachel Dodson give the art a much cleaner look than we’ve seen so far in this event. I’m still not very impressed with what I’ve been seeing here, but at least this issue is a little more fun than the last one.
Batgirl #36 – I decided to give the new hipster Batgirl another try, and this issue impressed me much more than the new creative team’s first one. With Brandon Fletcher and Cameron Stewart writing, the book feels very different from everything else being put out at DC right now. There are times when I feel like the writers are working a little too hard to be ‘of the moment’, but that adds a sense of charm to the book. Artist Babbs Tarr, drawing over Stewart’s breakdowns, is the true star of this book though, as she has a great style that really matches the type of story the writers are telling. This issue has Barbara facing off against a couple of girls who have stolen prototype motorcycles, and are acting out the roles of a pair of villains from a female Astro-boy style manga cartoon Barbara watched as a child. It’s all connected to whoever has been texting her claiming to be Batgirl. We also get to know a few new characters who are added to the cast of the book, as the writers balance time between superheroics and twenty-something drama. I think I might be sticking around with this title, especially if it stays as good as this issue.
Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #2 – I really can’t believe that Marvel is publishing a comic this odd. Ales Kot’s writing on this book is closer to his earlier Image stuff than it is anything he has written at Marvel, and artist Marco Rudy has achieved a new level of comics art. In fact, the only time I can think of an artist’s work as being such a departure for a character was when Bill Sienkiewicz took over on New Mutants, and caused people to completely reevaluate the title. The story has Bucky sneaking into Asgardia, so he can confront the older, evil version of Loki, while the trickster god takes him through a very strange journey involving Frost Giants and frozen wolves. This book is stunningly gorgeous, and while the story (and faux-Shakespearian dialogue) might be a little hard to follow, it doesn’t matter, because the art is transformative. I’ve been saying for a long time that Rudy was going to be a big deal, but I’ll admit to being surprised at just how amazing his painted art is here. I love this title, even though I hate the Original Sin-forced concept of Nick Fury as galactic protector, and of Bucky taking his place. The art really transcends the strangeness of the story concept. I can’t wait for the next issue.
Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #1 – There was a lot to like about Al Ewing’s first Mighty Avengers series, which featured a very diverse group of heroes working (supposedly) on behalf of the common person. The series featured terrific character-based writing and development, and had a lot of promise. The problems with it were that Greg Land was the series artist, that it got tied in to every minor and major Marvel event out there, and that the characters never actually got around to fulfilling any part of their public service mission. Now that title has been relaunched with Falcon/Cap as the central character (most likely as a way to increase sales), and with an actual good artist (Luke Ross). The problems continue though – despite some lip-service to the team’s mission, they don’t actually solve problems for the community, and this issue ties in to Axis. Falcon Cap flies around injuring bad guys, while Luke Cage tells off Spider-Man for things that happened when Doc Ock was in his body. Ka-Zar’s brother attacks a board meeting of the corporate bad guy the last series introduced, so they can rob for the poor (apparently he was on Genosha when the inversion thing happened), and a few of the Mighty Avengers stand around in the background, while the vast majority of the team is absent from the first issue of their new series. I don’t see how this comic is going to attract or keep many new readers, and that’s a real shame, because now that Ewing is paired with a good artist, this series could be fantastic. There is a real place for a team of street-level heroes in the Marvel Universe, and Ewing has had a great handle on all of them. I really want this book to succeed, yet even I am not interested in reading the next issue. I’ve already pre-ordered it, so I’m going to get it, but I can’t wait for this Axis nonsense to end, and this book to actually begin. It’s funny that while I wasn’t that chuffed about getting All-New Captain America, and was pretty excited about reading this title, the result was that I liked that comic so much more. Inversion, I guess.
Copperhead #3 – I think I’m pretty much hooked on Jay Faerber and Scott Godlewski’s sci-fi Western series. This issue has the Sheriff expose her dislike for artificial humans some more (even when they save her son), and continue to investigate the massacre of an alien family. Faerber has stepped back from the world building of the first two issues to make this one more about plot, and it’s a decision that works pretty well, as it was definitely time for some forward momentum in the story. I’m definitely on-board this title now, and look forward to seeing where it takes us.
Dark Ages #4 – Dan Abnett and INJ Culbard really impressed me with their mini-series The Last Deadwardians, so I was more than happy to pre-order this mini-series, which started off a little rough, but got to be pretty good by the end. Imagine an alien invasion taking place in the Middle Ages, with only the head of a benign robot around to help people mount their defense. The ending is maybe not as final as I would have expected, but this ended up being a very enjoyable issue.
Drifter #1 – Based on the strength of their series Viking, I figured I should take a chance on Drifter, the new comic from writer Ivan Brandon and artist Nic Klein. This story is about a pilot whose ship crashes onto a planet, where he quickly encounters alien and then human life. The alien looks like it’s trying to help him, but the first human he encounters shoots him. He doesn’t die though, and wakes up in a very rough, and pretty hostile, town. Brandon creates a sense of the mysterious about this guy’s situation, and the reader is left to wonder what all is going on. Klein’s work looks terrific, especially compared to his recent run on Captain America, which looked rushed. The comic reads like a bit of a combination of recent Image series Storm Dogs and Planetoid, and fits nicely within the recent resurgence of good science fiction comics. I’m going to stick with this one.
The Fade Out #3 – Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are working to expand their story, and this issue focuses on Maya, the actress poised to replace the one who was killed before the first issue of the series. As we get to see more of the characters involved in Brubaker’s Hollywood, we learn (to no great surprise) that they are all a little twisted. These two creators excel at character depth and development, and so this story quickly becomes pretty gripping, even when it’s featuring people who are mostly new to us.
Hero Comics 2014 – Rounding out Benefit Anthology season is this year’s issue of Hero Comics, the proceeds of which goes to the Hero Initiative. This is the organization that supports comics professionals who have hit hard times, which usually means helping out with medical bills. There are some nice short stories in this issue, including a Maxx one by Sam Kieth, and a Sable one by Mike Grell. My favourite story was by Kurt and Danny Busiek (his daughter) with art by Gene Ha, which celebrates difference and online creativity. What I always find most touching about this book is the various one-page strips by creators who have been helped by the Hero Initiative, especially the stories by Stan Goldberg (written and drawn before his passing) and Joe Phillips. This is a very important cause, so I urge you to go pick up a copy of this comic, or to donate to the organization.
Justice League United #6 – It’s only been a week since the JLU Annual started this storyline, which has Byth’s superpowered followers taking on the combined League and the Legion of Superheroes to get their hands on Ultra, the Multi-alien. It’s nice to read a solid old-school team-up book like this, which comes complete with a splash page ringed by head-shots of the major players. Jeff Lemire’s finally found the right groove for this title.
The Kitchen #1 – I haven’t been too enthused about any of the new series coming out of Vertigo lately, at least until this one came along. The Kitchen, written by Ollie Masters, is an HBO-worthy story about three Irish American women in 1970s New York who try to take over for their gangster husbands when they get sent to jail. Kathy, the wife of the leader of the gang, such as it is, continues to collect on her husband’s protection racket, and soon gets the other wives involved as well, assuming that they can get by on their husbands’ names alone. Of course, that’s not entirely the case. Ming Doyle is drawing this book, and that is the main reason why I’d decided to preorder it. There is something vaguely Gary Erskine-ish about the women’s faces in some scenes, and I love her gritty take on New York City, at one of its historic low points. This is a mini-series with a lot of potential, and I’m pleased to see something like it coming from Vertigo again.
The Life After #5 – Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo’s strange series about the afterlife gets a little weirder, as Jude and Ernest Hemingway face the consequences of Jude’s actions. We learn what happened to the woman from the first issue, and see our heroes face off against a demon. Good stuff.
Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #7 – Miles and the resurrected Peter Parker finish off their fight with Norman Osborn in this issue, which turns out to be pretty great. David Marquez handles the action in this comic wonderfully, and things stay pretty exciting throughout, with a real sense of occasion given to the issue throughout. Brian Michael Bendis finally shifts the focus back on Miles, during the fight, and in two epilogues, both of which set up interesting stories to come. I really didn’t expect the thing about Miles’s girlfriend…
MPH #4 – Mark Millar’s take on super speedsters is getting close to its ending, as we learn a little more about where the pills that cause super speed come from, and as the Runners experience a few snags in their sense of purpose. I’ve liked the way Millar has weaved a bit of a social justice theme into this series, as we see the consequences of America’s vast inequality, once super powers are added to the mix.
Outcast by Kirkman and Azaceta #5 – This book is getting steadily more intense, as our heroes go visit a man in prison who may be possessed, to find that their preconceptions around how this stuff works are probably wrong. I like how Robert Kirkman has set up this series, and I find that each new issue is making me ever more interested, now that Kirkman has established these characters and made me care about what happens to them. I like the feeling that there is a large plan (and presumably an end-date) for this series, and am really enjoying Azaceta’s art on this book.
She-Hulk #10 – I remained pretty bummed out about the fact that this title is being cancelled soon, but I’ve resolved to squeeze every bit of enjoyment out of it that I can before it’s gone. That’s pretty easy to do, as Charles Soule and Javier Pulido are really killing it on this comic. This issue brings us to the jury verdict in the wrongful death case brought against Captain America, and like the best legal dramas, it has saved a few surprises for the end of the comic. If you haven’t been reading this comic, go get caught up before it’s too late. It’s delightful.
Unity #12 – One year after this series began, Matt Kindt is finally officially putting this team together, complete with press conferences, and promises of transparency (while hiding the fact that their base is the Armor Hunter’s gigantic robot that destroyed Mexico City, and while possibly hiding Ninjak’s existence). A new team member is introduced (she will be familiar to readers of Harbinger), and a new threat, in the form of The United, a team put together by countries such as North Korea, Iran, and Mexico. These new characters would fit as well in Kindt’s Mind MGMT as they do in a Valiant book, and that gives this title a slightly more indie feel, which I always enjoy. Things are really looking up for this book, which seems to be positioning itself as the flagship Valiant title.
The Walking Dead #134 – Two things are notable about this issue of The Walking Dead, especially after the relative quiet of the last bunch of issues. First, Robert Kirkman teaches me something I never thought I’d believe, that Jesus can really kick ass. The second notable thing is that Kirkman is messing with Carl again, and that always upsets me. Big things are happening in this title again, as Jesus fights off the Whisperers, and Carl and Sophia get attacked by the two bullies we met a couple of issues ago, proving once again that not everyone who has survived the zombie apocalypse deserved to. I always love this title, and am usually just as happy with an issue where nothing violent happens as I am with one as bloody as this issue. That said, it was time for an issue like this, to remind the readers that they can never tell where this book is headed.
Wytches #2 – Scott Snyder and Jock move this series into ever creepier territory with this second issue. We don’t learn much, but instead get the feeling that whatever these ‘wytches’ are, they’ve been after the Rook family for a while. This is a very dark title, and I love the way the creators are ramping up the suspense. I do have a thing about growths and protuberances though, so I’m not sure I can handle this title for much longer if they are going to foreign tissue growing out of the main characters’ necks. That’s a step too far for me.
Comics I Would Have Bought if Comics Weren’t So Expensive:
Axis Hobgoblin #2
Batman Eternal #32
Brides of Helheim #2
Captain Marvel #9
Death of Wolverine Logan Legacy #4
FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics #15
Grindhouse Drive In Bleed Out #1
Guardians 3000 #2
Savage Hulk #6
Silver Surfer #7
Superior Iron Man #1
Wilds End #3
Black Widow #9 & The Punisher #9 – I like little cross-overs like this, where buying either half of the story is not strictly necessary, but helps to enrich your understanding of the larger story. Truly, the story is a pretty simple: Black Widow lands on a ship in the middle of the ocean looking for some information, and when Crossbones is diverted to stop her, he’s still transporting The Punisher, who of course gets free. I like seeing the same story from two perspectives, and when the story is drawn by artists like Phil Noto and Mitch Gerads, I’m going to love looking at it. Both of these series are pretty decent, but I think I prefer Nathan Edmondson’s work on The Punisher; his Black Widow doesn’t have enough character work for me.
Captain Marvel #7&8 – I liked the first arc of this series better than any of the work Kelly Sue DeConnick has done yet with Carol Danvers, but this little two-part story helps underscore some of the things I don’t like about her writing. She picks up on a joke from the first arc, that Rocket Raccoon believes her cat to be a Flerken, a rare race of egg-laying alien with access to pocket dimensions, and then it turns out that this is exactly what her cat is. There is no explanation as to how that could be the case (the cat has been with her since at least the first issue of the previous volume of the series), and so while the story is cute and light-hearted, it’s a little silly and pointless, especially since I have no idea who the aliens that attacked her ship are, or what they wanted with the Flerken. I much prefered the more serious tone and pacing of the previous arc. The art by guest artist Marcio Takara is pretty nice though.
Edge of Spider-Verse #3 – I picked this issue up because I like Dustin Weaver’s art, and was curious to see how his design of a Spider-Man who has as much similarity with Tony Stark as Peter Parker would work. The truth is, Weaver’s writing needs a little more work, as there is a whole lot of exposition thrown at us, for a story that ultimately is not all that different from what we’re used to reading. The book looked good, but if this were the first issue of a series starring Aaron Aikman, I wouldn’t be coming back for more.
Guardians 3000 #1 – I remember liking Jim Valentino’s run with the original Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel’s counterpoint to the Legion of Super-Heroes, and was curious to see what the far future looked like in this new series, especially since it is written by Dan Abnett, one half of the best cosmic comic writing team of the last twenty years. Generally speaking, I was pretty disappointed. Not a lot was done to establish (or re-establish) the characters, as we were thrown into a battle with some steroided-up Badoon, and most of the main characters die (it’s a time loop thing). Knowing these characters, but not having read about them in years, I was a little lost. I can’t imagine how confused a brand new reader would be, and that’s before you start talking about Starhawk’s gender-switching. The artist, Rafa Sandoval, brought me right back to the worst excesses of the 90s. I feel like the story could be interesting, but between my issues with the art, and the strange pacing, I might not be back to find out.
Iron Man Special #1 & Nova Special #1 – These Specials, along with the Uncanny X-Men one that I read a while ago, make up the ‘No End in Sight’ mini-crossover. This story, written by Sean Ryan, has the junior members of the Uncanny team working to rescue Cyclops from the great villain Monark Starstalker, in a slightly confusing story that involves cameos by Deaths Head, the manipulating of Tony Stark, the infiltration of SWORD, and the hapless good intentions of Nova. Ryan has a good handle on these characters, and the art in these two issues is very nice. I especially like Rahmat Handoko’s work on the Iron Man chapter, and hope to see more from him soon.
Legendary Star-Lord #1 – In their quest to wring every cent out of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, Marvel launched this title, which portrays Peter Quill as looking a lot like his movie version, and as more bumbling and funny than he is usually portrayed. Sam Humphries, the series writer, has shown through his independent work to be a very creative and original voice in comics, but none of that has transferred to his Marvel work. Paco Medina is not an artist whose work I enjoy, as every comic he’s ever drawn feels like it is finished in less than three minutes of reading. Humphries shows Quill flirting with Kitty Pryde holographically while he’s captured by the Badoon, all part of an elaborate plan to steal a gem. Strangely, this comic makes reference to Quill’s father having left his position as ruler of the Spartax, but this contradicts what’s going on in Captain Marvel’s series. I don’t see much reason to come back to this title to give it another chance.
Original Sin Annual #1 – This one-shot that explores the history of Woodrow McCord, Nick Fury’s predecessor as ‘man on the wall’ beats that Game of Thrones-derived metaphor over the reader’s head way too many times. It also continues to expose what I see as the biggest flaw in this notion that one person has been protecting the Earth from extra-terrestrial or extra-dimensional threat, which is that one man could not do this job without an extensive intelligence network, which doesn’t seem to be there. Anyway, so far as an outer-space conspiracy story goes, this one works just fine, with some nice artwork by newcomer (I presume) Enis Cisic.
The Week in Manga:
20th Century Boys Vol. 18 – Naoki Urasawa’s incredible series continues to amaze, as he possibly shows the return of a central character to the book, and as Kanna and Otcho reconnect, before being taken captive by the Friend’s right-hand man. The deeper I get into this series, the more impressed I am by Urasawa’s plot construction. I think it’s safe to say that Jonathan Hickman has read this title in its entirety.
Tags: all-new captain america, Batgirl, The Weekly Round-Up