Beware the Ides of August! Is that a thing? Is March the only month with an Ides? Answers on a postcard!
But don't beware this week's edition of TWiP which is full to the brim with great comics being lazily discussed. There's 4 Avengers books, 2 Green Lantern books and 3 X-Men books. Who says there's no variety in comics! Although to be fair, I am counting Avengers Vs X-Men #10 twice.
But there's also non-franchisey stuff, like Fatale, Saga, Saucer Country and a very special issue of Daredevil.
Amazing Spider-Man #691– ‘No Turning Back’ reaches it’s conclusion, and whilst it didn’t quite go to the dark place I was expecting it to as Spider-Man didn’t kill either the Lizard or Morbius, it was still an entertaining story and it took both Spidey and the Lizard in interesting new directions. This story seems to have hardened Spider-Man in some ways, he’s realized how naïve the ‘no-one dies’ mantra is, and his attitude towards Morbius is incredibly cold. I wonder how long this will last, I don’t want Spider-Man to stop being fun, but a few stories with him being serious would be cool, and a sign that the character is not as static as some would suggest. As for The Lizard, this final issue featured yet another new take on him, as he reaches his ‘final form’. I found it interesting that Slott was hinting that the character’s villainy came not from the Lizard side, as Lizards and Humans are not natural enemies, but from Connors himself, but he didn’t really go into any detail about it, perhaps something to revisit. In the end, the character ends up in a reversal of the rest of the arc, Connors’ human mind is inside the Lizard’s body, trapped. I’m sure that eventually the character will revert back to normal, but this story surprised me with the amount of depth and perspectives Slott used for the Lizard, he was never one of my favourite villains, but this story has given me a new appreciation for him. Of course, in the grand tapestry of Spider-Man, as one story ends, another begins, and the last few pages of this issue set up the next big story, we see what it is Kingpin is up to, and it’s also revealed that the original Hobgoblin never actually died way back at the start of ‘Big Time’, and is back as ‘Devil-Spider’. I must admit that Hobgoblin is one of those villains who I don’t get the fuss about, his heyday was before I was born, by the time I started reading comics, the original Norman Osborn Green Goblin was back, so Hobby means little to me. I like the Urich version though, so we shall see.
Captain Marvel #2– It turns out that this issue’s Rosie The Riveter cover homage is not just homage for the sake of it, as Captain Marvel accidentally travels back to WW2 and teams up with a bunch of female pilots from the era. I really liked this issue, it was an improvement over #1 and the character of Carol Danvers just gets more and more interesting to me thanks to DeConnick’s take on her. I loved her inner monologue when she started to realise that this was time-travel and that she couldn’t remember what the protocols for time-travel were. In a way, she’s coming across as an everyman (or everywoman) character who has these powers and mainly wants to use them for simple things like punching and flying, not getting involved in complicated time-travel. And that’s very much in evidence at the end of the issue when she decides to forget all about the butterflies or whatever and just fight the spaceships that show up. I wonder if this is part of an almost meta-attempt at bumping Captain Marvel up to the A-List of heroes, have her travel back in time and retroactively make her a golden age legend! I’m probably over-thinking it. Dexter Soy’s art is growing on me, although the contrast between his style and McGuinness’ covers is still jarring. This was another strong issue of a promising title, I’m very glad Avenging Spider-Man convinced me to check it out, and you should too.
Hulk #56– Rulk spends most of this issue lying on the ground half dead, but it’s nevertheless an entertaining story. In his attempt to take the fight to the Mayan Gods, Rulk gets half-absorbed and defeated. Luckily, Machine Man is still useful even as little spider-machine and can go sneaking around to find out the origins of these villains. It’s an interesting story that reveals that these Mayans got their powers from Terrigen Crystals, which makes them an off-shoot of the Inhumans. I’m a sucker for this kind of use of obscure Marvel Lore, and I just hope any ancient Mayan readers weren’t offended at Parker revealing their gods to be a sham! Even though they aren’t actually Gods, they are still a big threat to the world and the Red Hulk, so it’s going to be interesting to see what happens next time, things certainly look dire. With this title changing its name and title character, could we be seeing the death of Rulk? Nooooo! Dale Eaglesham once again does brilliantly on the art, I continue to love his panel layouts here, even when most of the issue is spent lying down, it looks great!
Daredevil #17– Michael Allred joins Mark Waid for an ‘Untold Tale of Daredevil’. Matt is moping around after Foggy discovering the remains of his father, and he reminisces back to a previous time the two of them fought, and how they patched things up. What follows is a hugely entertaining romp that features Daredevil fighting The Stilt-Man. Allred draws the hell out of this issue, he’s the perfect fit for the old-fashioned tone of this book, and I just had a big grin on my face the whole time. He even made Stilt-Man look good! Big props should also go out to colourist Laura Allred, who nailed the red and black nature of Daredevil’s costume, it hasn’t looked that good since Wally Wood and I don’t know why most colourists just make the costume straight up red. Of course, this issue was more than just Daredevil Vs Stilt-Man, it ended in a very poignant way as Foggy provides a method for Matt to see his father’s final, fateful Boxing Match, which was just a great moment. Waid makes sure to tease that there’s more to the story of Pasko and his invention, I really hope the Allred’s come back to do the next part of it. This was a great little palate cleanser after the darkness of last issue’s ending, a reminder of simpler times I guess, but really this one was all about the art, this book just looked superb.
Avengers #29– This AvX tie-in is one of those ‘between the panels’ type-deals, where we see something from a previous story from a new perspective and find out something we didn’t know before. This issue basically takes the events of Wolverine & The X-Men #12 and shows them not from the X-Men and Rachel Summers’ perspective, but from the Avengers’. Spider-Woman comes to the realisation that part of the reason the Avengers are getting their butts kicked is that the X-Men have telepaths, and therefore know what they are going to do before they do it. The solution: take out Rachel Summers. What follows is the same fight we saw in W&XM, drawn very well by the legend that is Walt Simonson, but with the added twist that the Avengers have got Charles Xavier onside. This is a shock, the founder of the X-Men, the X himself, fighting against his students. Even though at the end of things he erases everyone’s memories so they forget he was ever there, it was still powerful stuff, especially when married with the events of the most recent New Avengers (and the last page of this week’s AvX). Professor X looks to finally be back to taking centre-stage in the X-Men Universe, which probably means he’s about to die (again). Oh well.
Avengers Academy #35– With new of this title’s upcoming cancellation/planned ending with #39, reading this issue was bittersweet. On the one hand, it was another great issue which featured some fantastic character moments and exciting changes. On the other… I don’t want it to end! Waaaaah! Waaaaah! But at least it’s going out with a bang. The story here is basically the Avengers Academy rising up from being punked by Jeremy Briggs last time, and taking the fight to him to stop his ‘clean slate’. Several of our characters got great individual moments, like the revelation of White Tiger being addicted to the amulet, and Striker showing his acting chops to trick Enchantress into giving him the antidote. But the most powerful stuff here was between Mettle and Hazmat. Depowered, they are robbed of their chance to find happiness (and to fuck each other, reading between the lines) by Jeremy’s evil, and so take the antidote to fight him. Interestingly, whilst Hazmat gets her powers back straight away, Mettle is still depowered. I’m guessing he either will now have the ability to switch back and forth a la Colossus, or maybe he’s just stuck in human form. Andrea Di Vito provides the art for this issue, and I’ve been a big fan of his ever since Annihilation, his art is just good, clean, classic superhero stuff, and a great fit for this book. There’s only 4 issues left to go, I hope they all go for it like this one did.
Dark Avengers #179– Whilst I’ve been enjoying the two-timeline structure this series has been using for the last few issues, the adventures of the Thunderbolts and the Dark Avengers have felt a little bit disconnected. Not so anymore, as Parker reveals that the Judge Dreddesque dystopian future the Tbolts are in came about because of something the Dark Avengers get involved with in Sharzhad. This is very clever writing, as in one fell swoop, everything is now connected, and we’re given a reason to still be following the Thunderbolts even after the name change. One aspect I felt this issue did suffer a bit in was the art, as Declan Shalvey is replaced by Gabriel Hernandez Walta in the Dark Avengers segments. Walta is not a bad artist, but his style is a bit too similar to Walker’s which means the contrast between the two eras is not as stark and interesting. But I’m sure I’ll get used to it. I continue to be impressed by how well Jeff Parker is developing his huge cast, and how each character has had a nice little moment, I was particularly interested in what’s going on with Ragnarok here, he was hallucinating, which is worrying, an evil clone of Thor is one thing, but an evil insane clone of Thor is even worse! Also interesting was seeing Skaar’s human form, I’d almost forgotten he had one! Oops.
Uncanny X-Force #29– It was interesting reading this straight after Dark Avengers, kind of a dystopian future overload. That one was Judge Dredd, and this one is Minority Report. The main thrust of this issue was Psylocke trying, and failing to kill herself in order to prevent this future. The most interesting scene was the dream sequence where Psylocke is reunited with Warren. Not only was this well-written, but there’s a great ambiguity about it. Was it a genuine visit to the afterlife and a genuine return of the real Angel? Or was it just mental manipulation from the future Psylocke? Hmmmm. Also interesting was the interaction between Future Psylocke and Present Psylocke about their love for both Angel and the late, lamented Fantomex. What makes this even more interesting is the revelation that Future Psylocke is in a relationship with Future Wolverine, will that be coming up in the present? Remender of course provides some good comic relief from Deadpool, who hilariously rips into the Punisher, and even AoA Nightcrawler gets some nice deadpan stuff in. The fact that Remender has made Deadpool actually funny is made even better by the darkness of this title overall. I did enjoy this little detour into the future, but I do feel that it had interrupted the momentum of what had been going on before, we’d only just been introduced to the new Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants, and then we forget about them! Hopefully Remender can pick up the pace in #30, and we can get back to Daken, Kid Apocalypse and more.
X-Factor #242– Peter David continues his ticking-off of his various subplots in this issue, with not only the return of Wolfsbane’s kid, but also the return of Darwin. For some reason, Darwin is trying to kill the kid, I’m guessing it has something to do with that confusing issue where he was in a Western or whatever, but I scrubbed that from my mind so hopefully somebody else remembers. A bunch of other characters converge on this kid, including Vanora, who is the kid’s (his name is Tier) alternate-reality sister and of course, Rahne, Rictor and Shatterstar. I did find it amusing how PAD just skipped over that trio’s journey to this point, skipping over a lot of the interesting, stuff, that was a good gag. The best thing about this issue really was the role of Darwin, who is not only slightly crazy, but uses his powers in ever more interesting ways. This is an interesting story really, it’s a bunch of seemingly disconnected events that should add up to something cataclysmic. Let’s hope all of this does indeed come together.
Avengers Vs X-Men #10(of 12)– AvX is back in gear! After a few less than stellar instalments, this one was back to the brilliant summer event blockbuster feel of the first few, and was just great stuff. The main story was Cyclops, now with 4/5ths of the Phoenix Force, heading to K’Un Lun to try and get hope back. This was a really enjoyable fight, with some classic, ‘HOLY SHIT’ moments, in particular ‘How’s that for clobbering time?’ and then Hope flying in on a dragon and then stealing his power and then doing a ‘chaos punch’ and then and then and then and then… This story basically reduces me back to my childhood where I just sat back and enjoyed stuff without really thinking about it (insert ‘you don’t think about things now!’ joke here). Kubert’s art was awesome, and basically, this issue was event comics done right. I can’t wait for #11 and #12 to see just how explosive this ending can get.
Supergirl #12– The second meeting between Supergirl and Superman is a lot more civil than the first one, but no less interesting. Kal and Kara meet up at the Fortress Of Solitude, and a lot of intriguing stuff from Supergirl’s origin and past is teased. For some reason this version of the character was stuck orbiting the sun before she crash-landed on Earth. Not only does this explain why she had her superpowers straight away, but it also provides a mystery. Why was she orbiting the Sun? Who put her there? And whilst it looks like Supergirl herself won’t be finding that out anytime soon, we the readers will in #0, which for this title at least, is well-timed. After that pow-wow with her cousin, Kara heads off to the ocean to find the missing piece of her crashed spaceship, and on the way fights some freaky deep-sea eels. This fight was well-drawn by Asrar, and I continue to be impressed with the inner voice Green and Johnson have given Supergirl here, we as readers are right with her, feeling her doubt, really feeling her argument with herself, and it’s effective. In the end, the spaceship debris was a trap set by the villain of the book’s first arc, Simon Tycho. The fight with him in #13 should be fun, could Supergirl finally have an arch nemesis all to herself?
Wonder Woman #12– This issue wraps up the story Azzarello has been telling since #1, as Zola gives birth to her baby and the War for Olympus is resolved, and it’s not really in Wonder Woman’s favour. Hell, she basically loses the fight here, which is refreshing to see. Apollo is now King Of Olympus, Hera is depowered and mortal, and worst of all, Hermes turns traitor and steals Zola’s baby. At least Diana got to win the battle if not the war here, as she kicks Artemis’ backside. Chiang really got to cut loose in this issue with some fantastic action scenes, both that aforementioned fight and before that the scene where Wonder Woman flies to Zola’s rescue, which was just classic superheroism at it’s finest. This was a great culmination to the big story, and I can’t wait to see where Azzarello is going with this, especially with the last page reveal about what this was all leading to… the birth of the New Gods! We see Orion, we see a Boom Tube, it’s a fucking brilliant moment. Of course, there are unanswered questions about what all this means, is Zola’s baby Highfather? Is it Darkseid? How does this story jive with the events of Justice League? That story took place 5 years before this one but Darkseid and Apokolips were very much in evidence. I hope DC don’t fuck this up too much, these characters have been off the table since Final Crisis, and whilst I trust Azzarello to do justice to Kirby here, I’m worried. But I am still more excited than I am worried, if this creative team can make me, of all people like Wonder Woman, then I’m sure they can do some kick-ass Fourth World stuff.
Green Lantern #12– Hal and Sinestro face off against an army of zombies, but it’s not as much fun as it sounds, because this issue is firmly in ‘crossover set-up’ mode. We are given a massive heaping of foreshadowing about what’s coming up, and Johns basically spells outright what is going to happen in each GL book during the event. This is done in a pretty ham-fisted way, as the cunting Guardians gloat and plot and generally act like evil shits. That said, I am intrigued by the idea of Hal Jordan being the ‘greatest Black Lantern’, if only because that means he’s going to die, heck, he may already be dead by the end of this issue. So yeah, this issue was kind of a waste, just get to the crossover and gun-toting Green Lantern already! At least we got to see some zombies get incinerated, that was cool. The artwork in this issue was a little bit of a mish-mash too, Guedes and Calafiore are both decent artists, but their styles are very different, and didn’t really mesh for me.
Blue Beetle #12– It’s time for Blue Beetle Vs Blood Beetle round two! It’s a classic showdown between Red and Blue, between former friends, and it was a fight that ended in a way that actually surprised me. I wasn’t surprised that Jaime won and that Paco was cured, no no, I was surprised by how the fight was resolved by Jaime changing the way the bugsuit thinks, and how he is having the reverse effect on it. A scarab is supposed to take a host and make it evil, part of the reach, but Jaime is teaching the Scarab to be good, to be human. I’m sure it’s going to be slow progress, but it was interesting stuff, and I’m excited to see it play out. It may be a little on the nose and bible-bashy for the Scarab to learn it’s lessons from Jesus, but I guess Blue Beetle is one of comics’ most prominent Hispanic and catholic heroes, so it makes sense. The artwork from Ig Guara continues to be very strong, and I’m looking forward to Jaime’s New York excursion to come to an end so that the book can get back to being more like what we expect from a Jaime Reyes title. I wonder if we’ll see that Peacemaker dude show up? Maybe he’s been replaced by Jaime’s Grandma! She’s the sensational character find of 2012, she should be the new Red Tornado.
Green Lantern Corps #12– Jesus Christ, people who complain about superhero comics being too dark and violent should not read this issue. In a comic about space policemen with magic rings, we see a character kill all of his allies and then shoot himself in the head. This is grim stuff. But I suppose this is what Tomasi’s take on the Green Lantern Corps has always been, they aren’t so much a police force, but an army, and therefore the stakes and levels of violence are upped. But still, this went to a dark place I’m not sure Green Lantern really should. I mean, it’s not even enjoyable anymore; at least Black Lanterns were fun! This was just depressing. Add to that another scene much like the one in this week’s issue of Green Lantern where the Guardians speechify, this was not a good issue of GLC. Let’s hope the zero issue and it’s Guy Gardner origin will be more fun.
The Shade #11(of 12)– Shade takes on the Celestial Pharoahs in an issue that is appropriately trippy. The combination of Frazier Irving’s art and the mental stuff that happens gave this issue a really weird, out there fell, and it worked very well. I found it interesting that Robinson basically used this issue as a meditation on immortality. Both Shade and the Pharoahs are immortal, and Shade has been given a first hand view at how that can lead someone down the wrong path. I also liked how they were defeated by a method borrowed from The Inquisitor in the last story, and how the Dreamtime played a part. At first it seemed like each 3-parter was separate, but Robinson was playing a very clever long game. Now all that’s left for the final issue is for us to finally, properly see the Shade’s origin. As a big Starman fan, I am hugely fucking excited about this, please don’t be a let-down, please. Oh yes, and it was also fun to see some of DC’s UK-based heroes like Knight and Squire. Was Beaumont a new character? It seemed like I should know who he is, but I have no idea.
Hellblazer #294– The story of John’s search for his long-lost nephew got a lot more interesting in this issue, although it still seems to me like there are a few too many disconnected parts to the story. There’s John and Epiphany themselves, the mysterious Finn, the killer (who may be Finn) and the Goat-Headed faeries or whatever they are. I’m sure they will all be linked by the end, but at the moment, a little disconnected, like the bit where Epiphany just wandered off by herself and met some weird ghost. It gave Milligan a chance to comment on the Irish economy, but is it anything to with the rest of what’s going on? Or what?. The best scenes in this issue were John flashing into his sister’s memories, just really powerful moments. OK, I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a guess as to the answer of this mystery. The killer is not Cheryl’s son, but the Nurse who took him’s other son. He was somehow corrupted by having a Constantine as an adopted brother. I may be wrong, but it’s my hunch.
Saucer Country #6– This issue seemed to me like Cornell’s mission statement for this series. He’s going to take all of the random UFO mythology that’s out there, and explore it, order it, and turn it into a really exciting story that aims to be the definitive fiction on Flying Saucers. Maybe that’s a bit high-minded, but I just loved seeing him bring in stuff from real supposed UFO sightings, and tying it in with elements from films and TV shows to make a crazy whole. And yet it still feels like we’re only just scratching the surface. After an only OK opening arc, this issue is the one that really sold me on this book, you could just feel Cornell’s passion for this subject seeping through every page, and I can’t wait to find out more about the UFOs and what his take on the ‘truth’ is. Cornell’s Knight & Squire co-conspirator Jimmy Broxton provided the art for this one, and he did a very good job, especially as he had to draw things from all sorts of different timeframes and loads of different types of alien. This was the best issue of Saucer Country so far, so bring on #7!
Fatale #7– I’m really digging the setting for this second Fatale storyline. My favourite Criminal stories were set in the 1970s, and Brubaker is hitting it out of the park again with this take on the down and dirty Hollywood of that period. It’s interesting that this issue mentioned Charles Manson. There were rumours of all sorts of occult shit going in Hollywood in the 60s and 70s, and it looks like Brubaker is telling a story where it was all very real, which should be very cool. I also really like Miles as a protagonist, he’s a washed-up actor with a smack problem, but he’s still acting heroic. He’s a classic flawed neo-noir hero, and I’m not just saying that because he looks like Teeg Lawless. The connections between this arc and the first one became even clearer with this issue, as we see the new body of Bishop aka Hansel aka Hank Raines’ son all grown up, and he’s a very scary dude indeed. I think the fact that Fatale jumped forward to the 70s in this arc has really made evident how special the book can be. Before, it was just a slightly lesser Criminal with supernatural elements off to the side, but now… we can see it’s going to be a true epic. And with every interview Brubaker does revealing that the story is getting longer and longer… calling it epic is not mere hyperbole. And before I forget, here’s the entirely unnecessary sentence about how awesome and perfect for this kind of comic Sean Phillips is, but then, everybody already knows that.
Saga #6– The first arc of Saga ends with what may be the series’ defining image so far, that of the Rocketship. It’s not like any Rocketship you may have seen before. It grew out of the ground, and it’s made of wood and it’s goddamn awesome. The ship is emblematic of everything that’s so good about Saga. It’s Brian K Vaughan’s amazing imagination coming up with something really weird, and then Fiona Staples drawing it perfectly. From Hazel’s narration it looks like this ship is going to be home for Marko and Alana and Hazel for the foreseeable future, so it had to look good, and thankfully, it did. This issue also once again featured good moments from outside the main family, as both Prince Robot IV and The Will got important scenes. The Will especially is becoming a very fascinating character, and he looks like being the title’s breakout star. It makes sense, he’s bad-ass, and he’s a lot deeper than you’d expect. Then at the end, Marko’s parents show up. It’s very fun how BKV is kind of filtering familial and parental stories through his mad science-fiction universe. I’m sure most parents have to deal with troublesome in-laws, and now we’ll see those problems writ large, only with magic and intergalactic war. The 2-month wait for #7 will be a long one, but it just gives me time to re-read these first 6 and force each and every one of you to get the trade when it comes out. You won’t regret it.
Aaaaand.... breathe. That was pretty good wasn't it? My favourite comic this week was either Daredevil or Saga, just so you know.
Make sure you join me next week for a look at a massive anniversary issue of Amazing Spider-Man, some brand new Rocketeer and some other stuff that I can't remember off the top of my head, I think Superman is out? I dunno.
Written or Contributed by Niam Suggitt
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