Niam Suggitt reviews this week's comics, including Superman Unchained, Amazing X-Men, East Of West, Forever Evil, Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Action Comics and more.
Hi there! Yep, it’s time for another one of my trusty comics reviews column. I’m feeling a bit under the weather at the moment, so I’ll keep this short. It’s a good week, there’s a couple of exciting new series, like Amazing X-Men and Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand, along with an exciting new creative team for Action Comics, the final issue of Captain Marvel and the beginning of a new era for Iron Man.
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Iron Man #18– After blowing everyone’s minds last issue with the twin revelations that a) Tony Stark was adopted and b) he has a brother, Arno Stark, Kieron Gillen continues to do the unexpected in the pages of Iron Man by flashing forward 30 years into the future and showing us just what the Stark Brothers might have planned.
In this future, Tony and Arno have built giant ‘Space Elevators’ that allow for humanity to start living above an Earth that looks pretty dystopian and a bit like Blade Runner, with loads of Pyramids around. Gillen goes all hard sci-fi on our asses and there’s some rather incomprehensible techno-babble (but in a book like Iron Man, incomprehensible techno-babble is a good thing) and get a nice look at the relationship between Tony and Arno. But of course, everything goes to shit, as H.E.L.E.N., a helper robot that the Starks built that looks kind of like a female 451 malfunctions, goes evil, and turns the whole future into shit. Even a bunch of Stark ‘Ghost’ drones, Iron Man suits flown by the consciousnesses of Tony, Arno, Pepper and the dead in this future Rhodey are unable to stop the Space Elevators crashing to the ground, billions of people dying, and the Stark brothers being executed for their crimes.
So yeah, this is a pretty grim future, and it’s meant to be, as what it really is, is a projection created by Arno, to show Tony what bad things would happen if they tried to use artificial intelligence to save the world, it would lead to something like H.E.L.E.N. and that would cause disaster. The Starks have all of these grand plans, but they need to be careful. Arno says they should avoid using A.I., but Tony has the dead body of 451, and he wants to use it. It’s going to be interesting to see this argument play out, and to see just how foolish Tony’s decision will be. I also think it would be cool for this book to crossover with Avengers A.I., as they both seem to be dealing with similar ideas here. I wonder what Hank Pym and his team would be able to do with 451? And, this is shallow, but I also think Gillen would write an awesome Doombot.
But Tony and Arno don’t just argue here, as Tony has built a device that allows Arno to communicate telepathically, and so avoid having to type out everything. In the flash-forward, Arno could walk and talk perfectly fine, so it looks this is the first step in that happening. At first, I thought that Gillen’s use of the flash-forward here was a bit misplaced, as it seemed like he was avoiding confronting the life-changing events of issue 17, but luckily, towards the end we see that all is not right with Tony Stark. Whilst in conversation with Arno, he gets an Avengers alert (to go fight Cyclops’ X-Men), but rather than go himself, he just sends an A.I. controlled suit, because he wants to stay in his lab. We also learn that he’s avoiding talking about being adopted, and finding his real parents. We saw this kind of behaviour from Tony Stark in the Iron Man 3 film, and it’s always cool when that version of the character (the best version really) rubs off onto the comics. Tony has been really rocked by the events of this last year, and he’s changing as a character, his aims are no longer just punching people, he wants to change the world, and here, he declares he wants to change how we live, to change the city, and asks, who can stop him and his brother?
Well, Gillen quickly provides an answer… the fucking Mandarin! But wait, isn’t he dead? Well, yeah, but his rings aren’t. In this issue, one of them approaches a woman (who seems to be based on the semi-famous blogger Laurie Penny) and asks her how what is threatening the world and how she would save it. Her answers point at Tony Stark and capitalism basically, and the ring accepts her and gives her some powers. It’s basically evil Green Lantern (Gillen even slips in a mention of ‘will’) and it should be interesting to see this kind of threat go up against Tony, especially because there are 9 more Mandarin rings out there.
This was a strong issue of the next era of Iron Man, the effects of the last arc are very much felt, but Gillen is not wallowing in it, he’s moving forward in massive strides, and things are changing. The art from Joe Bennett was also a good fit, his style is reminiscent of Eaglesham and Pagulayan, so it provides a good sense of continuity. Plus, that amazing Art-Decoey title page… that was cool.
Captain Marvel #17– After a longer than normal break between issues, it’s the final issue of this current run of Captain Marvel, and whilst I did enjoy a lot about this issue, I don’t think it really earned it’s big message, that Captain Marvel is this amazing hero that everyone in New York loves and wants to be. It seems like the real world reputation and large fanbase this book has dictated this story, not what’s actually happened inside the pages. The cover, which features Kelly Sue DeConnick and a bunch of other real-life creators and editors (and also Pizza Dog) would seem to indicate that. Yes, in the real world, the success of this book and it’s large female fanbase has been a great thing, but I kind of feel like, to people within the Marvel Universe… Captain Marvel is just another Avenger. Maybe I’m just not seeing something, and perhaps I didn’t read the end of ‘Enemy Within’ correctly, but still, to me, this felt very self-congratulatory for no real reason.
But that said, there was some good stuff in this issue for sure, especially with the introduction of a new, Lex Luthor style arch-nemesis for Cap, and the fact that DeConnick did a much better job here than in the Infinity tie-ins at showing Carol Danvers’ current mental state. The basic story here is that Captain Marvel is being given the key to the city for her heroism, and this pisses off Grace Valentine, a Randian, Objectivist business-woman who is visiting New York to write an article and promote her app, but is blown off by the magazine who hired her because apparently, people don’t want her individualist philosophy, they want to be inspired by heroes like Captain Marvel. At every turn, Grace I disrespected in favour of Captain Marvel, and in anger, and jealousy, she attacks the key presentation ceremony with some hacked drones. Cap easily defeats them, but it leaves the door open for Grace to return and become, as I said, the Lex to Carol’s Superman. The parallels are very clear, and I think it’s a good idea. With Yon-Rogg dead, Captain Marvel needs a new nemesisi, and whilst Grace’s descent into villainy is a little too fast, later issues could flesh it out a lot more.
In amongst all this, there are scenes of Carol interacting with her supporting cast, helping out little kids and just being inspiring and stuff. We also get more info on how fucked up her memories are, and the best scene with that is when she kisses Frank. I think the ‘Infinity’ story really messed up DeConnick’s plans really, because Hickman has had her act like nothing’s wrong in his books, but now, she is able to really explore what it would be like to have your brain rebooted, and it’s very interesting indeed.
I think my favourite thing about this issue was the solution for Carol Danvers’ housing situation. During her acceptance speech, she asks for help in finding an apartment, and J.Jonah Jameson gives her some, revealing that her new home will be… the head of the Statue Of Liberty! Which is just… crazy and awesome and so comic-booky, I love it, and it does give an actual in-universe reason for why Captain Marvel is being seen as an A-Lister and an inspiration for women, she’s living inside the most iconic woman in the world’s head!
The issue ends with Carol and Kit inside the head, with a sweet moment, and then the first, mysterious appearance of the new Ms. Marvel, who as we all know is getting her own book next year, and is a Muslim-American teenage girl. Just like this overall book, I do think that this scene is a bit unearned, and once more, the real world impact of this book seeping in, but I will hold off judgement until Ms. Marvel is actually out.
Overall, this was a solid ending to a good series, and I’m excited for the book to return with a new #1 and for DeConnick to continue this story. Ultimately, I don’t mind that this book got a little meta, I’d just like to see Captain Marvel get this level of respect for what she does in the stories, not for outside influences, it’s sort of similar to my issues with Young Avengers, just not as bad, DeConnick is not nearly as blatant with her fanservice. The artwork, from Filipe Andrade was good, great to have him back and whilst his style is atypical for superheroes, I think it works for a book that’s so female-oriented and atypical in many other ways.
Mighty Avengers #3– This issue marks the end of the first arc of this book, and also the first time the team actually gets together as a whole (and even then, Falcon and She-Hulk are absent) and is a hell of a lot of fun. Al Ewing has managed to effectively tell the story of a superhero team being created on the fly, as well as use as a crossover properly, and give us a good glimpse at who every character is.
This issue begins with a flashback that brings Power Man and White Tiger back into the mix, and shows us a lot more about these characters. Ewing fills us in on White Tiger’s back-story and how her brother was White Tiger before her, and we also learn that Power Man isn’t just a brash jerk, and that he has hidden depths. Then of course, Thanos’ invasion begins and shit is on. Back in the present. Shuma-Gorath is bursting out of the ground and ready to destroy the world. The Avengers are shocked, and unable to work out what to do. Luckily, Blue Marvel smashes through Shuma-Gorath’s eyeball and saves Luke Cage from imminent death.
The involvement of Shuma-Gorath is interesting here not only because he’s a terrifying Lovecraftian horror, but also because Spider-Hero, of all people knows a lot about him and how to stop him. Spider-Hero tells everyone else that what Blue Marvel smashed was just the physical manifestion, and that they also need to fight the astral version to win. Now, the true identity of who Spider-Hero is has been revealed online, but I don’t really want to spoil it, but the fact that he knows so much about magic and the horror side of the Marvel Universe is really interesting, appropriate for who he is, and, if I didn’t already know, it would have me going even crazier with speculation and confusion. To defeat Shuma-Gorath, the Avengers need to save Spectrum from whatever it was that Proxima Midnight did to her, and luckily, Blue Marvel’s powers allow him to do just that, and even better, thanks to him, Spectrum is now even more powerful than ever before. The nature of Blue Marvel’s powers is fascinating to me, I guess I’ll have to track down his initial mini-series.
The fight continues, and gets even worse as Shuma-Gorath starts possessing ordinary people and making tentacles come out of their mouths, which is… eww. To make things even more difficult, Ebony Maw manipulates Doctor Strange into casting a protection spell over the monster. I really love the scale of the threat Ewing has set up here, and what makes it even better is how he writes his way out of it, and how the team defeats Shuma Gorath in both physical and astral forms. The astral form is defeated by Power Man and White Tiger, as he channels his ‘Chi’ into her and allows her to transform into the Tiger God and attack him astrally, this was a great scene, and I think it’s where Greg Land actually came into his own. This is some crazy shit, but his photo-realistic art sold it well.
After this astral version is defeated, it’s fairly easy for Spectrum to beat the physical form. In the aftermath of the battle, Kat Grant asks Spectrum if this is a new team of Avengers, and she initially says no, but Luke Cage interrupts and says, yep, he’s putting the ‘Assemble’ out there and this is a new team.
This was a very enjoyable story, Ewing writes all of these characters really well, and there was a great sense of urgency to the whole thing, with these events taking place in about half an hour. I’m excited to see where this book goes, and hopefully to see Ewing establish what this group is about and for outside of an ad hoc, crisis situation. There are way too many Avengers books and this team needs a real reason to exist, I trust Ewing to come up with a good one. Although ‘because Luke Cage says so’ might just be good enough on it’s own.
Amazing X-Men #1– With ‘Battle Of The Atom’ over and done with it, it’s time for the X-Men books to move forwards, and the way they’ve always done that is to launch a new #1. I’m loving the X-titles at the moment, but I’m already reading 4 ongoings, plus Cable And X-Force and Uncanny Avengers, which is basically an X-book, so, despite my positivity, I needed a good reason to pick this one up.
Luckily, there’s 2 good reasons, the first is that Jason Aaron is writing this, and he’s not only one of the best writers in comics today, but his other X-book has been fantastic from the very beginning. The other is that this first arc of this title is set to feature the resurrection of my all-time favourite X-Men character, Nightcrawler. I try and be an adult and follow creators instead of characters, but come on, it’s Nightcrawler, he’s the best, and hey, I’m following the creator too! Oh shit, there’s a third reason actually, and that’s Ed McGuinness on art, who is always awesome. So yes, whilst there are too many X-Men books, and really, this could have probably been an arc in Wolverine & The X-Men, I still very much enjoyed this opening issue and look forward to the rest of this story.
The issue begins in Heaven, with the white robed Nightcrawler we’ve seen before in the pages of Aaron’s X-Men sat on the edge of a cliff, staring out into nowhere. A fellow dead person tries to convince Nightcrawler to stop moping about being dead and enjoy Heaven like the rest of them, but before he’s able to, a bunch of demon pirates show up and attack. The fight between Nightcrawler and these pirates was a lot of fun, especially as it put a smile back on the character’s face, and an even bigger one on mine. I’ve missed the blue elf, and that panel of him grabbing those swords was probably my moment of the week. Kurt defeats the pirates, but then, the man behind them shows up, and yep, it’s his dad, Azazel, also dressed up as a pirate and with a bunch of evil red Bamfs alongside him. Nightcrawler and Azazel fight, but Azazel gets away, leaving Kurt alone in Heaven with a single red Bamf. I think what’s best about these scenes is that Jason Aaron is making a lot of the terrible retcons made about Nightcrawler work. The initial story by Chuck Austen that introduced Azazel, ‘The Draco’ is notorious for being one of the worst X-Men stories ever, and here, Aaron starts to make these concepts work, and it may be just as simple as making Azazel a pirate.
The story then switches to Earth, where Angelic Jones, AKA Firestar is about to start her first day teaching at the Jean Grey School, and she immediately walks into chaos. Everyone has their own shit going on, and it’s the usual chaos we see in the pages of W&XM. I think it’s a great idea to introduce Firestar into this book, as she is a mutant, but she’s never been an X-Man before, and it does provides something new. Firestar soon finds something to do however, as once again, the Bamfs have messed with the Beast’s lab (in particular his coffee machine) and she and Beast try and track them down. What they find is… a mysterious portal that the Bamfs seem to have either made or come out of. Beast assembles a team to look at it, including Warbird, Iceman, Angel, Storm, Wolverine, Northstar and Rachel Grey. This is a pretty random grouping of X-Men, but it works, and I especially liked the hints of romance between Iceman and Firestar. Obviously this is playing off of ‘Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends’ but do these two have an established relationship in the comics? I don’t know, but anyway, the love-triangle with those two an Warbird should be cool. The portal starts fritzing, some evil Red Bamfs come out, and uh-oh, Wolverine and Northstar get sucked through it and into Heaven, where they come across… Azazel and his demon pirate ship, and Wolverine gets an indication that his best friend may still be alive.
I really enjoyed this first issue, Aaron delivered the same level of quality as he does with his other X-Men book, provided a good entry-point character for new readers in Firestar, the art from McGuinness was his usual excellent quality, and really, as a Nightcrawler fan, him coming back just makes me happy, especially when the focus of the story is Piratical and right up his street.
Yes, this book isn’t really necessary, but it’s very good, and that’s all you can ask for. Two Jason Aaron X-Men books is better than one, and given that I’ve noticed a lot of people are annoyed at the focus of W&XM being the kids, this should be perfect for them.
Daredevil: Dark Nights #6(of 8)– Jimmy Palmiotti and Thony Silas take over the reigns for the third and final ‘Dark Nights’ story, that takes Daredevil away from Hell’s Kitchen and to the sunnier climes of Miami.
The plot here is pretty simple, Daredevil is travelling to Miami along with a SHIELD agent to protect a witness to a murder. Whilst there, he bumps into Misty Knight at poolside, who is investigating the same crime organisation that the witness is set to testify against. In Miami, the witness is kidnapped by members of The Tarantula gang, the SHIELD agent is killed, and it’s up to Daredevil and Misty to rescue him from Cuba. So, whilst it is basic, Palmiotti makes things very enjoyable, mostly because of the back and forth, flirtatious banter between Matt and Misty. I’m not sure if those two have hooked up before in the comics, but given Daredevil’s man-whore nature, I wouldn’t be surprised, and they make a good fit as a team.
It’s always fun to see Daredevil out of his element, and taking him to Miami works really well, and allows for that flirtatious, sexy feel throughout the whole book. I’m not sure how I feel about the scene where Daredevil shuts up a screaming, naked female bystander by kissing her. On the one hand, it was emblematic of his care-free, jumping into things attitude, but on the other, I’m sure some readers would find it offensive.
Thony Silas’ artwork was very strong, reminding me a bit of Scott McDaniel, but a bit smoother. He also knows how to draw women in bikinis, which for a story set in Miami, is of the utmost importance, I don’t think Misty Knight has ever looked better! This was a fun issue of what looks like being a very enjoyable story, if you’re a fan of Fearless Defenders, check this out, it’s got the best character from that book in it, and it’s not trying nearly as hard.
Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand #1(of 5)– Around this time last year, I dropped all of the Ultimate books except for Ultimate Spider-Man. The imprint is in a bit of a bad way, and even though I don’t think it’s ending at all, it does need shaking up, and I think this is the event to do it. And if this is the end, then it’s coming from the same men who started it all off way back in the year 2000, Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley, which is very fitting.
From this first issue, it doesn’t look like I’ve been missing much by not reading The Ultimates and Ultimate X-Men, as the X-Men don’t even appear, and The Ultimates don’t look too different at all (apart from Thor’s costume). The main focus here is on Miles Morales, and even then, he doesn’t do much, as the plot here is really very simple. Basically, Miles and Ganke are walking down the street, with Miles trying to explain to Ganke about the time he saw Galactus in the sky (from Age Of Ultron #10). Ganke is confused, but then, out of nowhere, Galactus shows up, and destroys New Jersey. Yep, just like that, New Jersey is gone.
Miles suits up, but he is of course way over-matched, and can’t even get close to Galactus. SHIELD are also unsuccessful, and even The Ultimates are unable to do anything. Iron Man tries to find out just who this big, purple dude is, and discovers that he’s not from this Universe, and that he wants to destroy the Earth. The end!
So, whilst not much happens in this issue, it does do a good job at bringing the huge threat of Galactus into the mix, and showing just how outmatched the Ultimate Universe heroes are. They aren’t as powerful as the Marvel Universe versions as it is, and their version of the man who defeated Galactus, Reed Richards, is dead and/or crazy. I think the best thing about this issue is that you have no idea where this story is going to go, Galactus has already destroyed New Jersey, what else can he do? Could I be wrong and will the Ultimate Universe actually come to an end? I have no idea.
Mark Bagley is one of those artists who is so distinctive and iconic that you know exactly what you’re getting, and he delivers that here, although I did think his work look better here than in recent Fantastic Fours. It was also great to see him draw Miles and Ganke, and for him to put his spin on the new Ultimate Spider-Man, as he’s the man behind the original.
This was a solid first issue, even though not much really happened (man, that sounds like I just hate New Jersey), we’ve seen what Galactus is capable of, time for the Ultimates to show what they are made of.
Fantomex MAX #2(of 4)– After being really rather disappointed with the first issue of this series, I thought this second chapter was a big improvement. I still don’t think Shawn Crystal’s artwork is the best fit, but the story was a lot more focused, and it seemed like, apart from one or two scenes, that Hope wasn’t trying so hard to earn his ‘MAX’ rating by being shocking.
The issue begins with Fantomex and EVA deep underwater, heading towards a secret, hidden base at the bottom of the Marianas trench. The reason they are there is because the villainous ‘Grover Lane’ group have sent Fantomex down there to retrieve a key. It turns out that, in 2025, a huge meteorite will crash into the Earth, destroying all of Europe and generally causing chaos. To stop this, 7 powerful nations got together to build a force-field, that can only be activated by all 7 nations using their key at the same time. Grover Lane want to use this force-field for nefarious means, but to do so, they need an 8th, master key that the designer of the force-field keeps for himself at the bottom of the ocean. If Fantomex wants Agent Flemyng to live, he’ll get that key for Grover Lane.
So he does, fighting a Kraken to get in, and having a very enjoyable conversation with a hologram of the inventor. We got to see the ‘Greatest Thief In History’ meet the ‘Greatest Inventor In History’, which was great stuff. I’m actually really liking the world that Hope has created here, it’s clearly not at Marvel Universe full of superheroes, instead, it’s more like the inspiration behind Fantomex, Diabolik’s world, where he’s the only masked person around, and world famous. I’d like to see more stories set in this universe actually, it’s certainly different. Just as Fantomex is about to find the key, the hologram of the inventor enacts a failsafe, filling his base with water, and letting the Kraken in again, and the issue ends with it about to eat Fantomex, oh dear oh dear.
The strangest scene in this issue involved Agent Flemyng being beaten up by the female Grover Lane agent, and it looked like she was about to be raped. This is the only example of Hope trying too hard to shock I think, but it is a little bit interesting to see a lesbian rape scene, and I wonder, will fans who hate rape scenes in comics have a different view on this because it’s two women, rather than a man? I suppose since it’s written by a man, people will have the same hatred for it as they do the scene in Kick-Ass 2, but it’s an interesting concept, and one that shows how rape is not just a male power thing, or misogynistic. Plus, it certainly gives the Grover Lane agent a different hook as a villain, especially since the two male agents are a bit bland.
As I said, I still don’t feel that Crystal’s cartoonish art is best suited to a MAX comic, but it’s by no means bad, and I still love the use of Benday dots. This was an improvement over #1 by a lot, let’s hope that Hope (heh) can keep up the upward trajectory, and that by the end, this is something special.
Superman Unchained #4– Is it just me or has it been ages since the last issue of this book? Since like, before Villain’s Month? I dunno. Anyway, it’s good to have it back and to have actually good Superman comics on the shelves. In this issue, Scott Snyder moves all of his various subplots forward very nicely indeed, and even starts to tie some of them together, showing that this really is one, big masterplan.
Let’s start with the man on the cover of this issue, the one and only Lex Luthor. He’s still obsessed with origami for no real reason, but his main role in this issue is to torture Jimmy Olsen, talk about how he thinks Superman will die, and who he think will kill him, and in the end, reveal that it will be Jimmy who kills his Pal, as Lex’s torture is going to turn him into some kind of monster. Jimmy Olsen transforming into something monstrous is one those iconic Superman things, so it’s going to be cool to see that done here, in a more realistic (if you can call anything in Superman realistic), more modern way. I like the way Snyder is writing Lex, although, as I said, the origami thing is kind of strange.
As for Superman himself, he’s in Tokyo, fighting against some evil, Russian robots (that can fire bullets that harm Superman) that are being controlled by The Ascension, alongside Wraith. These were some great action scenes, the kind of stuff where Jim Lee’s art really comes into his own, and Snyder also made sure they served a purpose. This was not just mindless punching, Wraith was demonstrating to Superman new ways for him to use his powers (like blinking when using heat-vision to fire in bursts, or even a sonic boom) and showing how much further he can go, and maybe even trying to recruit him to the US Military? If only so he doesn’t have to kill him. Wraith continues to be a fascinating new character, and there’s still a lot of mystery about him and his past, Superman asks him where he’s from, but we don’t get an answer. My guess is… he’s actually just from Earth, and that the army experimented on him. Wraith and Superman defeat The Ascension, but then, before they can do anything else, Clark gets a call from Perry White, telling him that Lois is missing after her plane crashed.
Lois’ plot in this issue was probably the most interesting part, she talks to the weird, eyeless guy with the magic crystal, who tells her that he used to be in The Ascension, and that this shard of crystal is really powerful and really important, and that it’s worse than Kryptonite, which is, you know, strong words. This mystery man gives Lois the shard, but before they can get to safety, he is hit by an Ambulance (that has no driver) and Lois is captured by the Ascension. The back-up story, with excellent, moody art from Dustin Nguyen reveals the big twist behind this story, that The Ascension are the creations of none other than Lois’ father, General Lane. This changes a lot of this story around, is Lane still controlling them? Or have they gone rogue? Why did he have them attack Wraith and Superman? So many questions that I can’t wait to see answered, and there’s even more when you factor in how Lex seemed aware of what’s been going on, is he in on this plan? Oh man.
This was another strong issue of this title, it was very action-heavy for sure, but when you have Jim Lee on pencils, that’s what’s best for business. Each plot is becoming clearer now, and as I said, the revelations about The Ascension turn everything on it’s head and raise a hell of a lot of questions, it’s just a shame it might be a while before we get any answers. Come on Jim, draw faster!
Action Comics #25– After suffering through months of torturous fill-ins and crossovers with books I don’t read, Action Comics finally gets a new, permanent creative team, and even though this is technically a crossover issue, it really has nothing at all to do with Zero Year, and instead, it’s a highly enjoyable comic, the best issue of this title since Morrison left and a good sign that Pak and Kuder understand the character and an exciting promise of what’s to come.
Given that this is a Zero Year tie-in, it takes place in the past, in the early days of Superman. So, he can’t fly, is a bit cocky and wears the t-shirt and jeans combo. It’s Morrison Action Supes basically, and given that I love that take on the character, it’s great to have it back. Pak actually uses the first page to introduce his take on Superman’s first girlfriend, Lana Lang, who, and correct me if I’m wrong about this, hasn’t really appeared much in the New 52, if at all. Lana leaves Smallville and Clark behind because she has ‘things to do’ in the world, and so does Clark. What he does is become Superman, and fight some White Supremacists. This opening action scene was a lot of fun, as it showcased what Superman was like at this time in his life, that he can only jump really high and not fly, and that he is not really the boy scout we know and love just yet, we see this when he actually laughs at one of the White Supremacists he’s beaten up. Now, before you run off and start crying about how DC have made Superman a jerk, it’s crucial to note that Pak is aware that he was acting like a jerk, and in the next scene, has Clark realise that he shouldn’t have done that. This is Superman before he really became Superman, and it’s cool to see Pak writing him in the process of maturing.
After Clark realises he shouldn’t be punching down, the Zero Year tie-in kicks in, as Clark hears that a Storm that is about to hit the East Coast, and since Gotham City has been left powerless by what The Riddler did in Batman #24, it’s in big trouble. Clark decides that he needs to do more with his powers than just beat people up, so he jumps onto the wing of a plane and heads out to see, in an attempt to stop the storm before it can hit Gotham. It turns out that Lana Lang’s travels have taken her to a Cargo Ship that is sailing just off the coast of Gotham and has been caught in the storm, and Pak does a very good job at using narration from both Lana and Superman to show how similar they are in their thought ant their attempts to either stop the storm or pilot the ship away from danger. Once again, Superman’s initial cockiness doesn’t work out, as he fails to stop the storm, but then, more urgent help is needed, and he manages to secretly save the ship, alongside Lana’s more conventional methods. I like Pak’s take on Lana Lang a lot, she seems like a real, tough southern gal, and her similarities to Clark and her general behaviour do a good job of showing, not telling how important the community of Smallville was in shaping Superman. I’m interested in seeing how much of a role she’ll play in this run.
In the end, Superman ends up on shore, having saved Lana and the rest of the ship, and whilst he’s disappointed that he wasn’t strong enough, he did his best, and I think learned a lesson. This was a very strong first issue for Pak, he’s shown in Batman/Superman that he knows how to write this character well, and that continued here, I liked his take on Lana and whilst we still haven’t really seen him write a present-day Superman, the back-up story, which showed Clark listening in to the problems of the city on his lunch-break and surreptitiously helping was a good start.
Aaron Kuder’s artwork was also fantastic, I liked his work when I first saw it on GL: New Guardians, and he’s already improved a lot here. His cartoonish style works for Superman, and he gives the action sequences a real sense of motion and impact. I particularly liked the page where Superman leaps up into the air and smashes a Nazi Robot, and how one of the panels was in the shape of the ‘S’ shield, very cool indeed. I also liked Scott McDaniel’s work on the back-up, he’s always solid in his own, idiosyncratic way. I hope this team can stick together for a nice long while, this title should be one of DC’s best, not a clearinghouse for bits and bobs, and this is a good start.
Batman/Superman #5 – With all of that Earth-2 silliness over and done with, this book moves into the present-day DCU, and into a pretty fun story that somehow manages to use both Toymaster and Mongul and have it make sense.
The issue begins with Batman fighting Metallo, because Superman is busy stopping a meteor from crashing into the Earth. Both characters easily dispatch these threats, but the real meat is once again Pak’s inner narration for both characters, and how that fleshes out their relationship, which is very good stuff, and shows how well Pak can make these icons feel human and relatable. Although I’m sure some fans will dislike Superman saying he enjoys ‘trolling’ Batman. Batman leaves Superman to deal with Metallo, but before he can do anything, Metallo just vanishes. It turns out this wasn’t the real Metallo, just a virtual copy created by the Toymaster’s new video game system. Even he doesn’t seem aware that this video game is actually happening in the real world, and he’s being tricked by Agnes, the game-designer.
The thing I was most confused by in this issue was the scene where the dust from the Meteor falls to Earth and seems to infect people, including Batman, by raising everyone’s heartbeat. Was this Mongul’s doing as well?
Because yep, the evil ‘video game’ is a ploy by Mongul to take over the world. Toymaster does another test, where he and 3 others (including Jimmy Olsen) control a duplicate of Nightwing that fights the real Batman. Batman manages to bust in and confront Toymaster, who realises what’s gone wrong, but then, Mongul shows up. I’m not sure how I feel about the idea that Mongul saw that so many Earth-people spend so much time playing war-based video games. On the one hand, it’s pretty clever, but we have seen it before and it does seem a bit beneath Mongul. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if next issue revealed that Mongul wasn’t real either, and that Agnes is the real villain. Mongul’s laser beams certainly have real impact though, as the issue ends with him blasting them at Batman, who at the last minute, requests for help from Superman.
The art for this book was pretty strange actually. I’m not a huge fan of Brett Booth, and while he’s no Jae Lee, he is decent, however, I really don’t get why this issue was told in landscape format. There was no real reason to do it, so it just seems unnecessary. It was only on the first 3 pages, which split down the middle, that it really worked for me. When you do a gimmick like this, it has to serve a greater purpose I think, and here, it just made holding the comic a bit of a hassle. But apart from that, this was a decent comic, I really like how Pak writes both characters, and now that it’s set in a Universe I know, it’s even better.
Green Lantern #25– With the events of ‘Lights Out’ still reverberating, it’s time for the new era of Green Lantern to begin, and it begins with Hal Jordan being kind an asshole. Plus ca change, huh? I may have warmed up to Hal in recent times, but it was good to see he still has that dickhead inside of him.
Now that the GL Corps is aware of the existence of ‘the emotional reservoir’ some of them believe they should stop using the rings. Hal tries to talk them out of it, but fails, and then he issues a new Primary Objective for the Corps, that they need to start policing the use of the emotional spectrum, and cracking down on ‘unauthorized ring bearers’, which Carol Ferris easily interprets as ‘any one who isn’t a Green Lantern’. Carol flies off to tell the Star Sapphires about Hal’s new plans, leaving him to stew. I think the biggest and best change to this book under Venditti has been that he knows when Hal Jordan is acting in the wrong, whereas with Johns, Hal was an infallible bad-ass. Here, when Hal says ‘women, why’s it have to always be about them’ and the other Lanterns laugh at him, you see that really well, that you’re meant to view Hal as a bit of an idiot. I don’t mind Hal being a jerk, as long as the writers are cognizant of it, and Venditti is.
After discussing his new plans with John and Kilowog, Hal and the big pink dude fly off to try and get a win for the Corps by bringing in Prixiam Nol-Anj, the Star Sapphire criminal who escaped from Oa. What follows is a very fun ‘Space Western’ type story, where Hal and Kilowog head into a space-saloon and pick a fight with some of Prixiam’s Clann in order to draw her out. She shows up, there’s an entertaining fight (especially the Kilowog stuff, it’s good to see his history and character be explored a bit more, and for him not just to stand around) but in the end, we see the true extent of her love for her Clann, as she sends out ‘Love Tethers’ to every member of it, and pulls them to her, surrounding our heroes with 100s of enemies.
I think this was a strong issue, Venditti is continuing to move the Green Lantern world forward in interesting ways, and he’s also not afraid to have Hal Jordan make stupid or questionable decisions. The action scenes were well done, and Billy Tan’s art continues to really suit this type of comic. I also think it’s cool how events from the arc before ‘Lights Out’ haven’t been forgotten, and that the crossover feels like part of a continuum, and not something separate that causes subplots to be dropped. Plus, Kilowog got in on the action!
Swamp Thing #25– After last week’s excellent Annual, the battle between Swamp Thing and Seeder/Jason Woodrue over who gets to be the Avatar Of The Green takes place in this issue, and not only is it an epic confrontation, but it also ends in a shocking way.
It’s difficult to know how to write this review, because most of this issue was just a big fight, and it would be really boring for me and you to just give a blow-by-blow account of what happened. Basically, it was an awesome fight, Swamp Thing went to the Moon, and in the end, it all came down to whether or not Alec Holland was willing to sacrifice his humanity to win. In the annual, the original Swamp Thing told Alec that, if he didn’t want to do something he thought was against his nature, he could just say no, and that’s exactly what he does here. He has Seeder at his mercy, with his foot against his neck, and with the Green screaming at him to kill Seeder. Alec refuses, not willing to compromise, and as such… he loses the battle. The Green removes his power, and gives it to Seeder.
Yep, Swamp Thing lost, which is certainly not how I saw this going. Of course, Alec Holland isn’t truly gone, not yet, as he will live on inside The Green with all of the other former avatars, so obviously he’ll be back eventually, but this was a great, surprising ending to a very enjoyable issue.
I’m loving Charles Soule’s run and now that he’s done this, I’m even more excited for what’s next. What kind of Avatar will Woodrue be, and what catastrophic effects will that have on the world? This book is always moving forward in exciting new ways, and this is the best change yet.
Jesus Saiz’s artwork contributed a lot to how good this issue is, he was asked to draw a lot of strange, impossible stuff in this battle, and he pulls it off perfectly to deliver an epic, beautiful comic. Even though I’ve written a lot less than normal about Swamp Thing #25, I think it’s my favourite comic this week. Short and sweet!
Forever Evil #3(of 7)– DC’s latest crossover continues to be an enjoyable series, the only real problem with it is that it’s coming out at the same time as Infinity, which has raised the superhero event to another level, and this just feels like old news, albeit pretty good old news.
This issue opens with the long-awaited explanation of what happened to the Justice Leagues when the Crime Syndicate attacked, and like all good reveals, it seems obvious in retrospect. It turns out that Deathstorm attacked Firestorm, causing him to trap all of the other heroes (except Batman, Catwoman and Cyborg) inside of him. This explains why Jason Rusch appeared so shiftily and in Prison Scrubs in Justice League Of America #8, because the prison was his and Ronnie’s doing. All of this is being explained to Cyborg’s dad and T.O. Morrow by Batman and Catwoman, as they try to save Cyborg. It’s in this scene that Batman discovers what’s happened to Nightwing, that he’s been ‘outed’, and I have to say, I was a little bit disappointed with his very understated reaction. I know Batman is a pretty taciturn guy, but this revelation should be changing his entire world, hopefully a bigger reaction is forthcoming, perhaps when he and Lex Luthor come to blows next issue.
Lex’s role in this issue is to start putting together his team of villains who are resisting the Syndicate, and I think the way this group comes together is done pretty well, especially as it works in a couple of the tie-ins effectively. Lex and Bizarro are in some Metropolis Rubble, attempting to access a Lexcorp satellite (that the CSA couldn’t hack into) so they can see what their enemies are up to. It takes a while for Lex to get Bizarro to do his bidding, but eventually, he sees what Ultraman is doing, and that’s fighting Black Adam, as we saw in the last issue of Justice League. This fight was pretty great and hardcore, but it was a bit too short, plus, am I the only one who’s bored of every fight between a Superman-type and a Captain Marvel-type repeating what happened in Kingdom Come? Yes, blasting him with lightning is cool, we get it. Ultraman is too powerful for Black Adam, he smushes his jaw and throws him into the sea, but he notices he’s bleeding and needs some Kryptonite to heal himself. Lex is still watching though, and notices that Ultraman is avoiding the sun, so it looks like Lex is onto his big weakness.
The story then moves to Central City and Flash’s Rogues, who are refusing to obey Deathstorm and Power Ring’s order to destroy Central City. I think the Rogues are incredibly overrated personally, but I do like their unique ‘honourable villains’ schtick, and it makes a lot of sense for them to oppose the CSA, so I’ll forgive them just this once. Power Ring flips out and attacks, and in the battle, Deathstorm notices that the Rogues have had their DNA changed so that their powers are part of them, and he removes that from Captain Cold. I had no idea that their powers had changed, because I don’t read Flash, but I think it’s a good move to give him back his Gun and not have him actually be superpowered. The Rogues try to make their escape through Mirror Masters’ well, mirror but Deathstorm smashes it, trapping all of the Rogues inside the Mirrorverse except for Cold. Luckily, Cold has ended up in Metropolis, and right near Lex and Bizarro, which is pretty convenient I guess, but hey, this is comics.
Lex gets Bizarro to heat up the sea, which forces out Black Manta, who has the unconscious Black Adam in his grasp. Manta explains the reasons why he’s going up against the Syndicate, which are that, because they killed the only reason he was still alive (Aquaman, and his desire to kill him himself), he hates them and wants to take away their reason for living. It’s all explained better in his Villain’s Month one-shot, which was one of the best of all of those books, but basically, Black Manta is a bad-ass, and it’s awesome to see him get a prominent role here. Captain Cold reveals himself, says that he wants to take down the CSA too, and Lex’s new group is formed.
This issue was mainly moving things into places and setting up the main characters, but it was all well-written and featured some exciting, crossover-appropriate scenes. David Finch’s art continues to be solid, and I am really enjoying how this event does feel different at the same time as being a traditional Johns-style story. The fact that the villains are the heroes is making it seem more fresh than it would otherwise. I just hope it doesn’t all come down to the Justice League coming back and beating everyone.
Trillium #4(of 8)– Things get even weirder in this issue of Trillium, as more and more characters start time-travelling, which leads to pretty shocking, explosive results.
With some of the future space-ships bursting out of the top of the Pyramid, lasers are flying everywhere, causing chaos. Some of the Atabithian Aliens help William and Nika get out of the way, but William’s brother Clayton is trapped in the future, where he is apprehended by Pohl. It turns out the Atabithians are able to speak with the strange tribes-people, and did anyone else get the sense that they were mating with each other? Nika says all of the Atabithians are female, and I didn’t see any women tribes-people, so my guess is, yup, they’re totally doing it. The tribes-people show Nika and William a strange, ancient carving, which seems to show how the Pyramids are linked throughout time. They struggle to understand it, and at the same time, Pohl is struggling to interrogate Clayton, as they can’t understand each other’s language. Pohl puts a gun to his head, and at that moment, the time-travel gets even freakier, as Clayton’s consciousness appears to switch places with Nika, so he can talk to his brother, and she can try and explain things to Pohl.
Unfortunately, even after finding a way to translate Clayton, Pohl isn’t any more reasonable, and once they’ve got enough of the Trillium flowers on board, she blows up the Future-Temple, which spells bad news… for everyone. Nika starts freaking out back in the past, and as William tries to comfort her, a strange white light engulfs them, and I dunno… destroys the Universe? Is that what happened? Man, there’s still half of this story to go, and Lemire just blew up existence.
This series is fucking mental, and I’m loving it, I have no idea what’s going to happen next, and that, combined with Lemire’s unique, innovative art (there’s nothing too experimental in this issue, but it’s still great), makes this a must-read. My only real problem with this title is that so much of it is in incomprehensible alien-language, but I guess that’s kind of the point, basically, this issue was mental, and it was great.
East Of West #7– Much like how last issue explained who and what the Texas Rangers are in this strange universe, with this issue, Jonathan Hickman is slowly revealing more and more about the fascinating back-story, and it’s great to see. I love this setting and all of it’s mysteries, but finding out some answers, especially to questions I wasn’t even asking is even better.
I’ll get the short scene featuring Death out of the way with first, as he and his two companions are still searching for his son. They come to a lake, which he wakes up and talks to. I’m guessing the sea-spirits are real in the world of East Of West? I dunno? Death says he’s here to see ‘The Lady’ whoever that is, and he and his gang head through a secret door and down a massive spiral staircase. Whilst I am glad that Hickman is delving into a lot of back-story at the moment, I do think he could probably do a better job at keeping the main plot going alongside it, Death didn’t even show up in the last issue, and here, he has 4 pages.
But really, when the back-story is so good, it’s a small complaint. The real meat of this issue is the explanation of who Ezra Orion is, and what his relationship is with the Horsemen. Ezra is the member of the council who called up the tentacle monster to attack Bel Solomon with, but now it’s merged with him and is causing him great pain. The Horseman are there with him, and trying to work out what to do with him. Hickman flashes back to tell us that, for a long time, Pilgrims would head to the site of the Armistice, to pray and worship, But every time they came, they would mysteriously disappear. What made them disappear was the Horsemen, who would kill them all brutally. In the aftermath of one of these massacres, one of the Horsemen (the blue one, I’m not sure what her name is) finds a baby, and rather than kill it, she adopts it and raises it, teaching it about the Message.
This baby is of course, Ezra Orion. Throughout the issue, at various points, Ezra is asked by his mother ‘are you an agent of the end times? Are you what the message demands?’ and each time he says no, he can do more. It is Ezra who built the large citadel at Armistice, with the purpose of stopping Pilgrims from coming to the site. I wonder why it’s so important for the Horsemen to keep people away from the Armistice site? That’s an intriguing mystery for sure, and probably a central one. Back in the present, Ezra is begging his mother (who is now a small boy, which is… weird) to chop his arm off and remove the lovecraftian horror on his arm, even finally saying that ‘yes’ to his mother’s question. But she refuses, telling him he’ll wear it until he dies, and that being bonded to a monster like this was always his destiny, which is fucked up.
This was a very enjoyable, creepy issue that did a fantastic job at making a character like Orion, who had previously just been a background player, into someone tragic, and fascinating. This is a huge world, and with each issue, Hickman peels back another layer and makes it even more interesting. Nick Dragotta’s art was once again beautiful, nobody does better landscapes than him a the moment, and I feel I should also give high praise to Frank Martin’s colours, particularly in the flashbacks. This is just good-looking comic, not much else to say.
Fatale #18– Ed Brubaker got the idea for Fatale from having rats (or some other kind of vermin) in the wall, and got the idea for a crime story with horror elements creeping in from the sides, and I think this issue is perhaps the best expression of this idea. Throughout this whole issue, there’s a creepy sense of unease, as Jo/Jane’s abilities manipulate everyone without them knowing it, and even without her knowing it.
The opening few pages, told from the point of view of Darcy, who, as a woman, is the only person living in the house who’s not under Jo’s spell, are brilliant, as she’s the only one who can see how crazy all of her friends are acting. When they discover Skip’s corpse, they don’t call the cops, and they all take Jo, a stranger’s, side over Skips. Instead, they hide the body in the basement and plot a way to make him disappear. I love how Darcy was going slightly hysterical at all of her friends, how only she could see how weird this was. That’s the thing about horror, everything’s normal, except that one thing and it’s terrifying. Jon even goes so far as to slam a cleaver into Skip’s head so she won’t call the cops. All the men have been driven to extremes by Jo, and it’s here that you see how a supernatural femme fatale just works, how her presence has turned these stoner losers into doomed Noir characters.
In the aftermath of this fevered opening scene, Tom decides to play his new song to the rest of this band. Because this song was inspired by Jo, it seems to have some kind of supernatural properties, as it causes both Lance and Jo to have flashbacks. Lance sees his past, and there’s some dark stuff in there, I’m guessing his dad killed himself. But more importantly, Jo gets a glimpse of her past, and learns some of her nature. She immediately rushes to a mirror and draws a strange, somewhat vaginal symbol on it in lipstick, and this protects her, blocking Sommerset/Bishop from finding out where she is.
After this, it’s finally time for the band to record their new music video, with Jo as a dancer, and when she does, it has catastrophic results. The other people in the video, are put into a sexual frenzy, and a sort of orgy/fight breaks out. Think the ‘Take My Hand’ scene from Walk Hard, but creepy and not played for laughs. Jo’s dancing reaches beyond just the room she’s in, as Sommerset is able to sense her again, and Wulf, the psycho cop is driven to murdering a prostitute he’s in the middle of arresting, without even realising it. Sommerset reaches through the astral plane or some shit, and ‘touches’ Jo, and this causes her to stop, and see the damage she’s wrought. Her memories properly return now, as she sees images of both Miles and Walt from previous arcs, and even… her child? Or her as a child and her mother? Hmm. Jo runs off into the night, but in the meantime, the band have more problems, as one of the extras in the video has been killed in the fight/orgy, and the cops are on their way.
This was another fantastic issue of a fantastic comic, especially because, for the first time in a long time, Sean Phillips burst away from the grid, and delivered some bigger, splashier pages, that really got across the impact of these flashback/memory scenes. Phillips is just a master, and in this issue he did everything, managing to make Jo and the orgy she caused be both sexy, and scary at the same time. Next issue is the final chapter of this story, and I can’t wait to see just how fucked up it can get.
So there you have it. My favourite this week was, as I said, Swamp Thing #25, but I also thoroughly enjoyed Fatale and Amazing X-Men.
Be here next week for yet another bumper-sized issue of Batman, the penultimate Avengers Arena, more Superman/Wonder Woman and 3 different Spider-Man related titles. It’s a superior, cataclysmic week of foes!
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Written or Contributed by Niam Suggitt
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