Punchy's back with some more comics reviews, this week's highlights include an all-new Captain Marvel, shocking events at the Avengers Academy, Blue Beetle finally meeting Booster Gold and the Justice League being a bunch of assholes.
Wassup Homies! It's TWiP time! Hang loose etc. This is a damn big week, so I don't want to waste your time, it's the same deal as usual, good comics, good times and bad jokes.
Invincible Iron Man #521– The story jumps forward 6 months (which I’m sure will enrage some of the more continuity-minded readers out there, HOW THE HELL COULD IRON MAN HAVE BEEN AN AVENGER AT THE SAME TIME AS BEING A CAPTIVE OF THE MANDARIN FOR 6 GODDAMN MONTHS! Etc) but doesn’t drop the momentum at all, as the conflict between Tony Stark and the Mandarin continues. At the moment, it looks like Tony is completely beaten, he’s a captive, he’s being forced to build something for the Mandarin, and he can’t use his powers. It looks like what he’s being forced to build are ‘Titanomech’s which to me seem like the crazy robots Tony was hallucinating about way back in the ‘Disassembled’ arc. If so, that’s some very cool writing from Fraction, tying his whole run together expertly, he’s doing the same thing with Zeke Stane and Detroit Steel in this arc too. All of this Fraction/Larroca run is one epic story. But of course, even while it seems like Tony is completely beaten, he still has some aces up his sleeve, chief among them the new Iron Man, who continues to kick-ass in all of his short scenes. I find it interesting that not even Pepper knows that it’s Rhodey under the helmet, if Tony and Rhodey are being that secretive, I just have a strong feeling the plan will work. Also, General Babbage is dead! Hooray!
Captain Marvel #1– Carol Danvers has been one of my favourite Avengers characters ever since Kurt Busiek’s run, but she’s been just that, an Avenger, not someone I’ve been interested in following as a solo character. I read the previous Ms. Marvel series by Brian Reed for about 7 issues before dropping it, I just felt like the character wasn’t really up to carrying her own series, perhaps it was the name, who knows. But now the character has changed her name, along with her costume and her hairstyle, and on the basis of this issue, she’s much more interesting to me. This issue was very enjoyable, and while not a whole lot happened, it did an excellent job at establishing who Carol Danvers is, and what her new focus is going to be, on claiming one of the biggest names in comics for her own. Kelly-Sue DeConnick has impressed me on mini-series like Osborn, but this was a step-up. The dialogue was very strong, especially between Carol and Spider-Man, and we got more insight into who Carol is here than we have in hundreds of Avengers comics. I would recommend this book to fans of Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern, it’s about a fighter pilot hero who takes no nonsense, but Carol isn’t nearly as much of a douche as Hal Jordan is. The only real problem here is the art from Dexter Soy. It’s not bad per se, but it’s a pretty big tonal shift from the cover art provided by Ed McGuinness. You’re going from incredibly bright and cartoonish on the cover, to dark and moody on the insides, it’s jarring. But other than that, this was a very strong first issue, and one which any fans who are clamouring for more female representation in comics should love, it’s a female hero, not posed with her ass out, written by a female writer. It’s what we were told we need, so hopefully it will sell well and really elevate the new Captain Marvel to A-status.
Daredevil #15– Another excellent issue of Daredevil from Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, and even though this one is probably the darkest yet, it was still a thrill-ride. Daredevil is held captive in Latveria without his powers, and we spend most of the issue trapped inside his head as he comes to terms first with a life without his senses, and then with them coming back in strange new ways. This kind of story is hard to tell, but I think Waid and Samnee did a very good job at expressing the kind of horror that Daredevil is going through, effectively cutting from being very much inside his head not going on, to a viewpoint outside of him, seeing him flail about. I’m very interested to see what’s going to happen to Daredevil’s abilities now, is his sight coming back? That would be crazy. In the end, Daredevil manages to escape by getting a message out to the Avengers, and Iron Man comes to his rescue. Is it just me or did Iron Man’s involvement seem heavily reminiscent of the famous scene in ‘Born Again’ where the Avengers come in from the skies to stop Nuke? Even though Daredevil’s world is now a lot more connected to that side of the Marvel Universe, it still feels like an outside element.
Avengers Academy #33– One of my favourite movies, and I’m not just talking about kid’s movies or cartoons, but movies as a whole, is Brad Bird’s ‘The Iron Giant’, it’s a great film, and it never fails to make me cry buckets. This issue, which heavily focuses on Juston and his Sentinel, reminded me a lot of that movie, and whilst I wasn’t quite reduced to tears here, it was still an excellent comic and one with real emotional heft. The main story was the continuation of Phoenix-Emma trying to destroy the Sentinel, and the Avengers Academy fighting her off. I thought it was very interesting how this issue turned into somewhat of a character-focus on Quicksilver, and sort of redeemed him. He’s been a massive prick for so long that you kind of forget that he’s a hero, and seeing him, a mutant, save the ‘life’ of a Sentinel was a great moment, even if he was still trying to be mean. Timothy Green’s art was once again very good, although I did feel it was a bit on the nose that the Sentinel’s core-processor (or whatever) looked exactly like a heart, but then that may not have been his call. The issue ends on a shocking note, as Giant-Man and Tigra decide to close the Academy, I really like this, it means the crossover has had a real impact, and I really don’t know what to expect from the next few issues. Do we know if this book is continuing during Marvel NOW!? Could this be a devastating finale?
Fantastic Four #608– Despite wrapping it up in a lot of mystical mumbo-jumbo, this issue achieved something pretty simple, which was restoring T’Challa to his rightful place as Black Panther, but doing so without getting rid of Shuri, because, jeez, if that had happened, the WiR brigade would have come out in force once again. T’Challa is now the ‘King Of The City Of The Dead’ or some nonsense, but basically he has his powers back, and then some, because now he has the knowledge of all the previous Black Panthers in his head. There’s also now some kind of supernatural connection between him and Reed Richards, which I’m sure we’ll get to see play out in approximately 3 years. I found it interesting how this issue teased the events of Avengers Vs X-Men, with some kind of reverse foreshadowing. We already know that Wakanda is getting flooded due to the Phoenix, but Hickman has tied it in with his ongoing story. Interesting indeed, although I’m sure someone out there is pissed that a crossover intruded even this little bit onto this title.
Uncanny X-Men #16– The Phoenix Five take the fight to Mister Sinister, and in a real surprise, they get their butts whooped. It was a lot of fun seeing what kinds of warped versions of various X-Men and X-Related characters he could throw at Cyclops and the gang. I particularly liked the Kamikaze Gambits and the Krakoa Castle. There’s even explosive cows! And then there’s Madelyne Pryor. I will say that I was a bit annoyed that we didn’t get more of an emotional reaction from Cyclops to seeing a bunch of clones of his ex-wife, all he did was blast them to hell, but that may have been the Phoenix being in control and not caring. I wonder how many readers thought this issue was good, or how many were annoyed at the Phoenix Five being defeated so easily? In AvX they’ve been built up to be relatively unstoppable, but it wasn’t so here. Hmmmm. One thing I love is that at the end, the non-Phoenixed X-Men show up to save the day. Magneto and Storm have been the secret stars and surprisingly (in Magneto’s case at least) the secret consciences of this book, and I’m very excited to see them achieve what their cosmic teammates couldn’t. Daniel Acuna’s art was a love it or hate it as usual, I like it, but I beyond trying to turn around the haters, it just seems like one of those things.
X-Factor #240– A pretty interesting and experimental issue that explores Layla Miller and how her nebulous powers work. I liked it, but I’m not sure if I’m really that much clearer about Layla now than I was before. The use of different coloured panels was a very cool technique, but the fact that we don’t know how which of the multiple timelines actually happened is kind of a weakness. It doesn’t matter for the first one, because the outcome remains the same, but for the other ones, like the man who could either get shot, go home to his depressing apartment or strike rich, or more importantly, for M and Strong Guy, we don’t know what actually happened. I’m sure we’ll find out about M and Guido next issue, but it was a bit of a let-down. I appreciate the experimentation, but PAD didn’t stick the landing. Of course, it wouldn’t be an issue of X-Factor if there weren’t a bunch of mysterious teases, so now we’ve got a mysterious German redhead, and the promise of Madrox contracting some strange disease in the future. I may have to re-read this one actually, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher.
Avengers Vs X-Men #8(of 12)– The shit really hits the fan in this issue, as Phoenix-Namor attacks Wakanda and tears it up. The action sequences in this issue were excellent, Adam Kubert delivers some his best work in a while, and to me, this issue was reaching almost Walt Simonson-levels of bombast. The guy’s a Marvel (and X-Men) legend so it’s great to see him return to these characters. The events of this issue were epic really, and I think it was a good choice to have Namor be the Phoenix who snaps, he’s not exactly a hero at the best of times, so you don’t have the whole ‘out of character’ debate that you’d have if it was Cyclops leading the charge. Plus there’s the added element of him being a former Avenger. By the end of this issue, Namor gets depowered by the Scarlet Witch, and we’re down to a Phoenix Four, but they’re just even more powerful. Let’s hope that whatever the Avengers are planning in K’Un Lun works. It’s also very cool that Professor X is back in the mix and going against Scott, that should be a very interesting plotline.
The Secret Service #3(of 7)– More over-the-top spy shenanigans from Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. All of the plotlines move forward a little, as the operation of the villains gets wider and weirder. He’s no longer just kidnapping sci-fi actors, but now out-there scientists. I really hope the answer this mystery makes sense, because at the moment it just seems random. I find the struggles of Gary in Spy Training to be a lot of fun, Mark Millar is obviously having a blast playing with the James Bond tropes and it’s fun to see this stuff updated to a more realistic modern society, and to see the contrast between the upper class and people like Gary. I liked that Millar is both playing his Chavviness for a joke, but also showing that he does have worth. We shouldn’t judge people on appearance, which is important for a spy story really. Dave Gibbons’ art was excellent once again, he lends a sense of realism to a story that could wander into broad comedy too easily.
Supergirl #11– Another decent issue of Supergirl, there isn’t really that much to talk about when it comes to this book. It delivers solid, old-school super-heroics with strong artwork and not much else, which is no bad thing, you need old-school stuff to allow you to know when something is new-school. I did like the opening of this issue, with Supergirl flying all over the world, Green and Johnson are doing a very good job at making you really feel just how alien and alone Kara is right now. The villain, Nanotech was pretty cool, he used his powers in some interesting ways, and I’m rather torn on how this issue ended, I would have loved it if Kara had accidentally killed him, but I’m also glad this won’t be the last we see of him. Next issue will see Supergirl once again come face to face with Superman, should be good, that could be the kind of story where this book makes the jump from just existing to being exciting.
Wonder Woman #11– This issue really delivered on the action for me, we’re back on Earth, and the focus of the story is back onto Zola and her baby, and the prophecy that surrounds it. Basically what follows is a massive ruck between Wonder Woman, Hermes and Lennox against Apollo and Artemis. When the sun and the moon are teaming up against you, you know you’ve got it rough. Cliff Chiang really kicked-ass on the action sequences and it was very cool to see the least-powerful member of Diana’s team, Zola join in the fight too. In the end, Zola is captured and taken to Mount Olympus, where it looks like an even bigger battle is going to happen next time out. After 11 issues, I still can’t believe how much I’m enjoying a Wonder Woman title, Azzarello and Chiang have done the unthinkable and made the character cool and interesting. I can’t wait to see what happens next month, and I hope there are even more Kanye West references.
Blue Beetle #11– This ain’t your daddy’s Blue & Gold! Whereas the old Booster and Beetle were the best of buds (and even the Pre-Reboot Jaime got along with Booster), this issue features the two of them going at it, and I really think that Bedard nailed the character of Booster Gold here. Underneath all of the bluster and corporate shilling, he’s a very competent hero, and we saw that here as he pretended to want to help Blue Beetle in order to lure him into a trap because he knows all about The Reach because of that whole being-from-the-future thing he has. The Booster in JLI has kind of remained in idiot-mode, so it was good to see the more nuanced character we all came to love. I also liked seeing Jaime finally snap and stop taking all of the crap that the adult heroes have been shoving his way, I’m guessing it will be a little while before the Blue & Gold team is back together, but when it does, it will be more meaningful for these opening battles. Elsewhere, Jaime’s grandma shows up, and she’s a feisty latin stereotype, but more interestingly, she seems to know he’s Blue Beetle, how the heck? Was it that psychic who told her? And then at the end, Director Bones fucks up and turns Paco back into Blood Beetle. I was very surprised by that, I expected that Blood Beetle would be back eventually, but so soon? Hmmm…
Justice League #11– This issue featured the best example of the worst thing about this book, which was the JLA just being absolutely massive pricks to each other. I could buy it in the first arc, because they had all only just met, but this story is set 5 years on, they should be a lot chummier. I know that team-books thrive on a little bit of inter-team rivalry, like Wolverine and Cyclops hating one another, or Hawkeye deliberately trying to wind up Captain America, but this is just so incredibly blatant and unsubtle. They’ve been team-mates for 5 years but Wonder Woman will just flip out and beat the crap out of Green Lantern and Superman for trying to help her? They are acting more like the Teen Titans than the Justice League, and it’s bad writing and considering Johns managed to write team books with the likes of Black Adam and Hawkman in them causing trouble, I’m very disappointed in him, didn’t this guy used to know how to write nuanced characters? I’m sure he did. Maybe it’s just drawing for Jim Lee which makes a writer just stop even attempting subtlety. I did like the bit at the end with Cyborg possibly being dead or half-dead or something, which was interesting, but other than that… very disappointing. At least the Shazam! back-up was good, the afore-mentioned Black Adam is back, and Gary Frank is perhaps the perfect artist to draw him, just look at those eyebrows! Wow! And at the very end, Billy finally gets on that subway train and he’s going to meet the Wizard, I’ve got chills, I can’t wait to see how Johns re-interprets these iconic scenes.
Green Lantern Corps #11– Just when I thought I couldn’t hate those little blue twats anymore, we get repeated scenes of them just sitting back and letting the Alpha Lanterns and Green Lanterns knock seven bells out of each other. They are just cunts. But then so are the Alpha Lanterns. I did like that Tomasi tried to show that they aren’t all bad by having one of them (Varix? I think) express doubts about their heavy-handed approach, but I still hope that this arc ends with the Alphas all meeting grisly ends. Was anyone else a bit freaked out when John and Guy made a direct reference to ‘War Of The Green Lanterns’? I know that all of the Johns GL stuff is still in continuity, but it was weird to see something from before Flashpoint referenced so explicitly. I guess that just highlights the continuity-cluster-fuck that is DC these days. It doesn’t really bother me too much, but this still surprised me.
Hellblazer #293– John reluctantly begins his search for his missing nephew, but I wasn’t really feeling this issue, it felt like there was too much going on and the connections between them don’t really make sense. At least, they don’t make sense yet. I continue to love seeing Milligan bring in contemporary political and social issues and giving them a unique Hellblazer-twist, so it was great to see ‘Occupy’ show up here, I can just picture Constantine sniggering at their idealism. But how the heck did ‘Finnbar’ (who I’m guessing is Constantine’s nephew) get all the way from Ireland to London to get involved with the weird fairy or whatever it was that killed that poor kid? (Or to be more precise, didn’t kill, that was disturbing). It seemed like the two were connected, but I dunno. And what was with John suddenly getting jealous and beating up those guys? Was that magical influences? Or just inner stress? Hopefully the rest of this arc will answer all of my burning questions (and more) because this first issue was a little disparate for me.
The Unwritten #39– Tom Taylor continues to be absent from his own book, but Carey and Gross haven’t let up in telling awesome stories, as this issue was full of exciting incident and revelations. Plus there was a Unicorn! Danny confronts the head of the whack-job Church Of Tommy, and discovers just how he’s been managing to disappear all of those people… he’s got Pullman’s magic hand. We also find out that Filby used to work for the Cabal, alongside Pauly Bruckner, and was present when Pauly got sent into the world of fiction as a rabbit. This is what turned him into a worshipper of Wilson Taylor and the Tommy books. I really liked this revelation, it’s great how deep the back-story of this world goes, and the colouring style used in the flashbacks was brilliantly vivid. The mystery of Didge continues to fascinate as well, she gets word-dissolved by Pullman’s hand, but somehow she pulls herself back together. What the? How did she do that? Does she hold the key to bringing back Lizzie Hexam? We did get a little closer to Tom returning was Richie speaks to him on the phone, but the tension is killing me! What’s up with our hero?
Saga #5– Another delightfully idiosyncratic issue of Saga, this book is just so different from what you might expect from an epic sci-fi, and that’s what makes it work, the fact that it brings these crazy characters like a Robot Prince with a TV head and shows them as everyday people, doing everyday things like shitting. I must admit at being a little weirded out by BKV’s idea of ‘robots’. They can shit, they can fuck, they can get pregnant, what makes them robots? They seem pretty much human except for their TV heads. This issue shed more light on who Marko is as a person, by showing him succumb to violence against his better nature. I really liked how grateful he was to Alana for stopping him. In amongst the space madness, this is a very strong depiction of a marriage and relationship (not that I know that much about marriage, I’m basing everything I know on Mr and Mrs Coach from Friday Night Lights). The Will once again kicked ass a whole lot, and it’s great to see the ‘villains’ of this title given real depth. It’s the same for Prince Robot, we know about his family life now, so even when he’s being a dick and killing The Stalk, no questions asked, we still empathise with him a little. This is becoming a really rich world full of great characters, which is almost unheard of after only 5 issues.
So there you have it, a good week all in all. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to finally go and see The Dark Knight Rises.
What's that? My favourite comic this week? I'd say either Daredevil or Wonder Woman.