Welcome to another edition of TWIP! The weekly comics column in which I give my thoughts on each and every book I read in any given week. It’s a simple formula, but it works. After last week’s slightly shorter column, we are back in full force this time. There’s new Fatale, new Iron Man, new Wonder Woman, an Avengers/Captain Marvel crossover begins and we see what the future has in store for Wolverine & The X-Men!
As always, you can click the links next to each review to head to the Outhouse forum discussion, it’s social! Web 3.0 bitches!
Iron Man #10– The stuff Kieron Gillen is revealing about Tony Stark’s origin really is messing with my head, my mind and my brain. This story is just crazy, and I can tell it’s only going to get crazier. We’re still out in space with Tony and 451, but the bulk of this story is set in the past, with Tony’s parents. It’s revealed that there’s something terribly wrong with the baby growing inside of Maria Stark, so good old Howard desperately searches for something to save his unborn child. We see him consult far and wide, from the High Evolutionary to the Seven Cities of Heaven, and appeal to characters who I assume are Nathaniel Richards and Mister Sinister, but I’m not sure. When all else fails, he is approached by Rollo, a classic ‘grey’ alien like Roger from American Dad, about pulling off a heist in a Casino run by alien gangsters. It must be said that Dale Eaglesham draws an awesome grey, along with everything else, but his grey… yeah, full of personality but still an alien. This is all incredibly cool stuff to me, we’re in a time-period that’s not often explored in the Marvel Universe, the period in-between WW2 and the arrival of the Fantastic Four, and Gillen makes good use of stuff from this time-period, like the grey Aliens and a plot reminiscent of Ocean’s 11, which was of course, originally a Rat-Pack movie. This may not explicitly be the 1950s, but it feels like it. Howard Stark’s group isn’t as large as 11 though, he only has 7, but it’s full of characters we’re familiar with, such as Jimmy Woo, Dum Dum Dugan and the man who would be Rulk, Thunderbolt Ross. There’s also two female characters, ‘The Bear’ and Nessa The Kitten, who I’m not familiar with, are they new creations? Or classic Atlas Comics characters I’m just unaware of? Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the item this group is breaking into the Casino for is… 451! Which is, as I’ve said before, crazy. The Stark Seven pull of a very enjoyable heist, very much in the classic heist-movie vein (only with aliens and robots), and in the end, Howard asks 451 with help delivering the baby. This issue is brilliant in two ways, firstly, it’s a very exciting adventure caper in it’s own right, but the way it ties in with Iron Man and Marvel history is very interesting indeed. What exactly is wrong with the foetus that will become Tony Stark? How will 451 save him? If you’re into Iron Man, you really need to be reading this arc, Tony Stark is barely in it and it’s still awesome!
Nova #4– Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness continue to bring the goods when it comes to Nova, I’m really enjoying this book and with each issue I’m liking Sam Alexander more and more. He just comes off like a real kid, and reacts to things like a real kid would. His reference points for the crazy situation he’s in are video-games and Star Wars, and you can tell he’s having a lot of fun. Too many superheroes these days are grim and depressing, so it’s cool to see someone enjoying themselves whilst shooting up alien space-ships. Of course, that enjoyment is somewhat short-lived, as Sam runs fist-first into the true villain of this story… Titus! Titus is the Nova Corps member who looks like a giant white tiger who we saw working with Sam’s dad in previous issues as a Super Nova. After Jesse Alexander left his squadron to return to Earth to see the birth of his son, The Chitauri attacked Titus (it’s still weird to see them in a comic), losing an arm and an eye. He then decided to betray the Nova Corps and work with the freaky little bug things. Titus and the Chitauri are now in possession of an Ultimate Nullifier (oh yeah, holy shit, yeah) and Titus claims that he killed Sam’s dad last week. It looks like there’s going to be an epic fight in the final issue of this storyline between Titus and Sam, and I can’t wait. There is a little bit of a problem in that we know that Sam will survive this fight as all of this is taking place before AvX, but still, it should be good, and McGuinness is sure to draw the heck out of it. I also wonder if Sam’s dad really is dead? I hope not. I think the best thing about this book is that it’s making all of this outer-space stuff seem special, The Watcher seems more important, the Ultimate Nullifier feels significant, it’s not just one in a smorgasbord of doomsday weapons. The very act of space-travel should be something awe-inspiring, and Nova gets that.
Gambit #12– I caught up with this title last week, and I’ve found it to be a very enjoyable series that explores the dark underbelly of the Marvel Universe in some very interesting ways. I think the best issue so far was the one where Gambit visits the Club With No Name, but this issue may be up there, as James Asmus wraps up the big Joelle story in a very interesting way. The main focus of this story is Gambit and Rogue chasing after Joelle and Tombstone, trying to save Joelle and find out whether or not the mysterious Zero Compound is a weapon of mass destruction or not. This is a propulsive action issue, with Gambit and Tombstone’s fight taking in helicopters, jetpacks, cars and more. In the end, it turns out that the Zero Compound is definitely a bad thing, especially since it kills some cute little bunny-rabbits. After Tombstone is defeated, Joelle uses the Compound to commit suicide, but there’s still a lot of mysteries left surrounding her. How did she become immortal? Will she come back? And perhaps most importantly, how will this death effect Gambit? I think the strongest aspect of this title is how Asmus writes Remy LaBeau, he’s a different kind of superhero (and not really a hero at all) and he always acts differently from the norm, but always consistent to his character. I particularly liked how in this issue he kissed the ground when he survived a jetpack explosion. The biggest problem this book has had however continues here, as the artwork is inconsistent. Pencilling comes from Clay Mann, Dexter Soy and Leonard Kirk. All of these three guys are great artists, but I don’t think they gel well together, and it’s jarring to go from one to the next. I hope in future we can get an issue drawn by just one dude. But that’s a small complaint, the story here is very good and I’m excited to see where Asmus is going to take it, it’s been a non-stop ride for 12 issues, what’s next? Joelle is dead, Fence is dead, and Gambit still doesn’t know what to do with his life. Heck, maybe he should join the Avengers!
Avengers: The Enemy Within One-Shot - This was basically an issue of Captain Marvel, and whilst I’m not quite sure this story deserves a crossover, this was a good comic and a good starting off-point. And besides, it’s very cool that Captain Marvel is at the heart of an Avengers event, she’s A-List now! The story opens with Captain Marvel and Spider-Woman searching for Grandma Rose, one of Cap’s supporting cast who has gone missing. I really enjoyed the dialogue in this scene, the way Spider-Woman kept joking around and needling with Cap was very enjoyable, I really like their relationship, it feels like a real friendship. Of course, we as readers know that this disappearance of Rose is down to Yonn-Rogg, and he has more up his sleeves, as Captain Marvel and Spider-Woman are attacked by ‘The Grapplers’ a team of lady wrestlers who became super-villains. I assume this is from Marvel Two-In-One or something. This is a fun fight, especially as it focuses on Carol’s inability to fly and on the lesion in her brain. It’s clear that Yon-Rogg really has a great master-plan going on. And then, Captain Marvel and Thor team-up to fight some dinosaurs! It’s as goofy fun as it sounds, and I really liked DeConnick’s use of Thor here, it was surprisingly very funny, and I like my Thor to be funny, like the movie. In fact, this whole issue really shows Kelly-Sue DeConnick’s strengths as a writer, the funny dialogue, the ability to reference comics history and pop culture effectively, and a knack of making the ridiculous not quite so dumb. The art for this issue comes from Scott Hepburn, who I’m not familiar with, but I like his style, it reminds me of Rafael Sandoval from Incredible Hercules or the Ultimate Doom trilogy, angular and cartoonish, but not quite at Humberto Ramos levels. This was an exciting opening to this story, with plenty of action but also real human stakes for Carol, I’m in, I’m even going to pick up Avengers Assemble!
FF #7– Another really enjoyable issue of FF that’s full of great moments, insane concepts and brilliant art from Mike Allred. I enjoyed Joe Quinones as a fill-in, but there’s nothing quite like getting some pure, uncut Allred action. This issue was basically a massive fight between the FF and the Wizard’s new Frightful Four over the soul of Bentley 23. Each member of the team had a part to play (except She-Hulk, who was off with the Inhumans until the very end) including the kids. I especially liked Ms. Thing getting a moment of glory in beating down Blastaar and getting to say the immortal ‘IT’S CLOBBERING TIME’ line. I also liked how the way in which Blastaar was defeated tied in with what’s been going on in the other Fantastic Four title was cool. That time-travel stuff still doesn’t make sense, but it’s good to see that Fraction is maintaining a strong connection between both books. I’m not quite sure what Fraction is going for when he has Wizard rant about his ‘heteronormative, cisgendered classification of family’, it seems odd to bring in real world politics to such an off-the-wall comic, but the Fantastic Four has always been about family, and it’s interesting to see Fraction keep that theme going even when the team are not actually related like the real deal, it was actually very heart-warming to see Bentley choose the FF. After 7 issues where the new team is barely a team, it looks like the attack from the Wizard has made them an actual unit. It even seems like Scott has stopped freaking out and imagining the funerals of all the kids. But then at the end… DOOM! I can’t wait to see this off-beat team take on the biggest and best Fantastic Four villain. This is just a really enjoyable Fantastic Four comic, it takes it’s lead from the kitschy 60s and the Kirby stuff (I liked how The Inhumans were described as being ‘mega-groovy’, because, well, they are), but it’s modern at the same time, it’s a unique experience, and it’s Fraction using Allred to his best abilities and both of them going crazy with it.
Wolverine & The X-Men #29– Jason Aaron takes a break from the ongoing craziness of life at the Jean Grey School and gives us a glimpse of the future. As I’ve said before, I’m a sucker for alternate realities and possible futures, so I really enjoyed this issue, and with the upcoming ‘Battle For The Atom’ crossover, this is probably not some throwaway future, this is the future the rest of the X-Men books are heading towards too. We don’t see any of the future X-Men that Marvel teased (although Xorn is mentioned), but that doesn’t matter, this is a story all about Wolverine. In fact, he and Eye-Boy (sorry, Eye-Man) are the only Future X-Men we really learn about at all. After commenting during the last story arc on the surprising bad-assery of Eye-Boy, it was so cool to see that he lives up to that potential in the future. Eye-Man is awesome, he lives in a floating satellite made of a Sentinel’s head and he watches all of the Earth. He’s a deadly shot with a laser and he has an awesome space-suit with glowing red eyes. I want an Eye-Man solo series and I want it now! He’s the new Spider-Man 2099 but better. Future Wolverine wants to send a message back to the present to warn our Wolverine about the dangerous shit that’s headed this way, and Aaron teases us with what he has planned, there’s the Hellfire Academy (that we already knew about), but he’s also planning on bringing in Azazel, who presumably is behind the Bamfs, there’s something called ‘The Black Order’, Sabretooth has something going on, and an Apocalypse Crusade? What the! It’s so cool to see Aaron plant seeds like this. Oh yeah, and there’s stuff going on in the present-day too, Wolverine makes an interesting speech, and there are exciting developments with the Hellfire Academy, as both Dog and Idie join up. Speaking of Dog, I like how Aaron is using him to humanise Wolverine a lot, how he’s desperate to find what’s in his brother’s box, how Beast didn’t even know he had a brother, how he asks to be called James. It’s powerful stuff for a character who is often too unaffected by everything. Aaron is always challenging and changing Logan, and it’s made him more interesting than he’s been in ages. That final revelation about the contents of Dog’s box was very powerful. This was the final issue of Ramon Perez’s stint as artist, and it was a good one to go out on, I’ve really enjoyed his stuff here, it’s perfect for the wild and woolly tone that Aaron, Bachalo and Bradshaw have established, I hope he gets another gig at Marvel.
Cable & X-Force #8– I feel like this book has really found it’s groove now. Cable has a premonition about a future disaster, the team thwart it, but only end up digging a deeper hole for themselves as fugitive terrorists. It’s a cool hook for a series and I like how Cable really does have everyone after him. In this issue, we find out that the reason X-Force busted the creepy Spider-Alien out of prison was because a bunch of other aliens who were pissed at him for his crimes were coming to Earth to take out both him, and the planet. Cable explains this to Agent Brand (it’s always good to see her show up, a great addition to the Marvel Universe), and she agrees to help them as long as Cable and the rest of X-Force agree to turn themselves in. Which of course they don’t. I’m not so sure I buy Brand being that gullible, but I suppose in her situation you have to try anything you can. In between that glorious double-cross, there are some really cool moments, I loved Colossus being shot out a missile chute as a ‘Spaceball Special’ and Domino showed some real brass balls in standing up to ‘Kliktok The Cruel’. I also dug how Dennis Hopeless poked fun at Sci-Fi conventions by saying the alien dialogue was ‘translated from crazy alien’, a fun little bit and one that shows he’s having fun. Salvador Larroca continues to deliver his usual consistency on art, he’s just so good, and even better because he’s so fast. At the end, Brand calls in Havok (shown inexplicably and hilariously eating a banana) and the rest of the Uncanny Avengers to take down his nephew. Hopeless has been teasing this confrontation since the first issue, it should be good.
Age Of Ultron #8(of 10)– This series continues it’s surprising swerve into alternate reality, and it’s a lot of fun. As I said about last issue, your enjoyment of this issue will depend largely on how much of a fanboy you get when it comes to alternate universes. I like ‘em, so I liked this issue. Bendis drops a lot more information about ‘the new now’ on us, and I found a lot of it very interesting. The antipathy between Tony Stark and The Defenders is intriguing, as is the fact that Morgan Le Fey is the biggest bad in this universe and the conflict between magic and science is a big, big deal. Who knew Hank Pym was so important? I wonder if Marvel are planning on any mini-series that explore this reality in greater depth like they did with House Of M, that universe lived on for a lot longer than I expected, and really, Bendis has only scratched the surface here. Brandon Peterson’s artwork is again very good, one of his strong-points is his depiction of technology and he gets to do a lot of that here. The climax of this issue involves Le Fey attacking at the same time as The Defenders attempt to break ‘our’ Wolverine and Sue Storm out of prison,and all hell breaks loose, with an amazing visual of two Helicarriers smashing into each other. It also looks like we’ll be getting Wolverine Vs Wolverine round two, which should be exciting. There’s a lot to wrap up in the remaining two issues of this title, people have complained about this event being too slow, but now I fear things may move too past!
Wonder Woman #20– In this instalment of Wonder Woman, two of Azzarello’s biggest plots come together, as the First Born finally gets into the main story and comes face to face with Lennox, Zola and baby Zeke. We also find out that Cassandra, the woman who dug the First Born out of the ground is another one of Zeus’ kids, and she has a history with Lennox, in that he ripped her throat out. I really like how Azzrello has given one of our heroes such a dark thing in his past, the Greek Gods are messed up and complicated, and so is this title. Also in this issue is a knock-down, slap-out fight between Wonder Woman and Artemis, which is a lot of fun. Goran Sudzuka draws the heck (I don’t want to say hell because he’s a character in this book and it could get confusing) out of it, and you could tell that he was following breakdowns from Cliff Chiang. Whilst I’m sad that he can’t drawn every single issue of this book, I really appreciate how each fill-in is similar in style. I also liked how the fight brought up the idea that Wonder Woman has been holding back in combat for a long time, I can’t wait to see what Diana looks like when she stops holding back, I’m guessing that’s a part of Azz’s endgame. This is simply one of DC’s best and most consistent comics, I really want more of their books to be like this, where they just let a creator tell their own story. The Marvel Now approach before there even was Marvel Now!
Fatale #14– It’s the last of this little run of standalone stories, only this one isn’t really a standalone. Taking place in WW2, this story fills out back-story that was introduced in the very first arc of the series, as we see how Jo first meets Walt Booker, a soldier who would go on to become a corrupt cop. We saw some snippets of this story, but it was good to put some more flesh on these bones. My favourite thing about this series is how it really gets across the idea of something dark and terrifying sneaking around just out of sight, and the unsettling nature of how and when it crosses over. Brubaker really nails the sense of impending doom here, as Walt’s crew of soldiers goes mad thanks to a mysterious map, and he is drawn towards Josephine. Bru also continues to drop some hints about the nature of who or what Jo is. We are definitively told that she is not the same woman who appeared in the Medieval and Western issues, but part of a lineage. I know some people are frustrated by the slow plot progression in this series, but I don’t mind it really. I like the gradual drib-drab of new information, and how each new answer poses a new question. As always, Sean Phillips’ art is the perfect complement to Brubaker’s script, these two are just a perfect team, almost symbiotic. These last few issues have been very exciting, and it’s been cool to see Bru and Phillips stretch their legs into other genres, but I am ready to get back to the main plot, with Nicolas in prison. I think the next arc is set in mid-90s Seattle though, which is intriguing, will we discover that Kurt Cobain was a demon like all or grandmas told us?
That was a good one if I do say so myself. My favourite book this week was Iron Man. Kieron Gillen is really messing with the character here, and I love it.
Oh, one more little bit of business! I also picked up Suicide Squad #20 this week, which is the first issue of Ales Kot and Patrick Zircher’s run on the title. Because it actually came out last week I didn’t review it, but man, it was good, so pick up a copy if you can, I’ll give some more detailed thoughts on here when #21 comes out. Unless there’s a massive drop-off in quality, but I doubt that.
Next week is an interesting one for sure, and speaking of Suicide Squad, that title’s creator John Ostrander is writing an issue of Aquaman, which should be good. There’s also new Batman Incorporated, a bumper-sized issue of Daredevil and an issue of Young Avengers that’s sure to cause some major feels. Oh yeah, and only the final chapter of Geoff Johns’ epic Green Lantern run! It’s the end of an era!