Welcome along to yet another This Week In Punchy column, wherein I review all the comics I buy in a week. This week has some really interesting books on offer, there’s the second instalments of exciting new series like Satellite Sam, Avengers A.I. and Superior Foes Of Spider-Man, there’s new Iron Man, new All-New X-Men, new Green Lantern and most excitingly of all, Jeff Lemire launches his new Vertigo series, the epoch-spanning Trillium.
So let’s get down to it, and remember, you can click the links next to each review to head to the forum discussion.
Superior Spider-Man #15– This title once again delivers an excellent issue, but this time out we get a bit of a different perspective on ol’ SpOcky. Whereas in previous issues, Slott has endeavoured to show how Otto’s approach to fighting crime is more successful, and well, superior to Peter Parker’s, in this issue, we see that it’s not all roses for him, and that perhaps the old-school Parker way did have it’s advantages.
The catalyst for this is the Hobgoblin, who escaped the destruction of Shadowland last issue, and, with no regular money from the Kingpin, is on a desperate crime-spree in order to pay back Roderick Kingsley. Because of the Green Goblin making it so any Goblin-looking dude is not detectable by the Spider-Bots, Phil Urich is able to elude Spider-Man, which of course, drives Otto a little bit angry. It’s clear that Peter Parker, who didn’t really rely on technology, would have just accidentally swung into Hobgoblin, but SpOck is over-thinking things, and just sits in his lair and forgets all about everything else.
In this issue, Slott returns to a lot of Spider-Man’s supporting cast, from Mary-Jane, to Horizon Labs, Aunt May to Anna-Maria, they’re all here, and ‘Peter’ has forgotten about all of them. It was cool to see this side of the new Spider-Man. This character has always been about a guy trying to balance being a superhero with having a regular life, Spider-Man has always been soapier than your average superhero, and here, we see how well Peter managed to juggle it in comparison to Otto. The new Spidey may be better at some aspects of this job, but at others… he sucks. This is a bit of much-needed balance, as I think Slott may have gone a bit far in making Otto way better than Peter. It’s all well and good surprising us with him actually being decent, but if you go too far, it not only becomes a bit silly, but it makes the actual hero look bad.
The role of the Green Goblin here is interesting, not only is he the reason why Hobgoblin gets away with his crimes, but he’s also the reason why Hobby eventually gets shut down, as he deactivates whatever it is that stops the Spider-Bots from seeing Goblins. It’s intriguing me that in this scene, the Green Goblin’s face is masked, which I would have thought unnecessary, but it looks like this Goblin is not actually Norman Osborn, but someone else. Who? I have no idea, but I can’t wait to find out.
In the end, Spider-Man catches up to Hobgoblin, they tussle, and Spider-Man announces to the world that Hobgoblin is actually Phil Urich, which should set things up for an exciting second part. I’ve enjoyed Phil’s role as an ‘evil mirror-image’ of Peter Parker, but since the actual Peter is kind of evil these days, it’s not really needed.
This was a great issue of Superior Spidey, especially since it brought back a load of subplots I haven’t even mentioned yet, there’s the stuff with Peter’s college and his romance, Carly and Captain Watanabe are stepping up their investigation of Spidey, and Stone, the ex-Horizon guy who was working for Kingpin is back. Slott is at his best with this book when there are almost too many subplots, and this issue had that in spades, throw in some excellent Humberto Ramos art, and you’ve got a perfect Spider-Man comic. That is, if you ignore the fact that Doctor Octopus is the hero. But I can manage that now.
Iron Man #14– The best thing about this storyline is the sheer cosmic scale of things. Iron Man is trapped inside a giant space-robot that 4734 miles long, that is just fucking crazy, and I love it.
The actual plot of this issue was fairly simple, Tony is on the run from both 451 and Death’s Head, and we get an exciting chase scene. That’s it really, the dialogue is nice, but after some truly mind-bending issues, it did feel a bit too simple. But then the end of the issue came, and man, I was back on board. 451, ever the manipulator realises that if he can’t force Tony to plug into the Godkiller, he can make him do it of his own accord, and the best way to do that is to make it so Tony has to do it in order to save lives. 451 nudges the Godkiller into the path of an inhabited planet, and Tony tries to do the right thing and save them. Only… it doesn’t work. Tony puts the helmet on his head, and he’s not connected. 451 has miscalculated or something, and Hope’s Pustule is exploded in a fiery ball of death. Like I said, sheer cosmic scale, a whole planet was blown up!
I think the best scene in this issue was Tony’s inner monologue just before he tried and failed to become the Godkiller pilot, where he says it’s up to Captain America and Thor to save the day now, and the realisation that he just put some faith into not only a God, but also his fellow man. Stuff like that shows how well Gillen writes Tony Stark, he just nails it. So what next? Oh yeah, 451 is now aiming the Godkiller right at Earth. He thinks Tony chickened out from becoming Pilot and thinks this will make him do it. I think it’s really fascinating how 451, who until now has been always right and a Machiavellian bad-ass, has now totally screwed up, and it’s going to cost him a lot. Next issue promises to be crazy, I just hope Death’s Head isn’t actually dead.
Greg Land’s art once again impressed me, I’ve said it before, but on a book where most of the characters are inside robotic suits, or just plain robots, his style fits, especially with Guru eFX’s metallic colouring skills.
Avengers #17 – Wait, so this was just the end of the prelude? And I don’t just mean the end of the prelude to Infinity, I think Hickman means that these last 17 issues of insanity are just the prelude to his run as a whole. Which, if true, means holy crap, things are going to get mental pretty quickly. Unless it did just mean the end of the prelude to Infinity, which is meh, I mean, what does any of this have to do with Thanos? No idea.
I thought this issue was a bit of a mixed-bag, there was some stuff I really liked, such as the discussion between the whole team in one room, where for the first time, these characters felt like an actual team, and some of them like actual characters. I like it when Hickman tries to be funny now, he’s certainly a funny guy, his twitter is great, the later issues of FF were fun, and Manhattan Projects is of course amazing, but a lot of the time his Marvel stuff is very dry. Stuff like complaining about there only being one shower is important, as it means I care about these characters, and not just about how they fit inside some metaphysical clockwork structure.
I also like the idea of Ex Nihilo, Abyss, Starbrand and Nightmask becoming Avengers, these are incredibly powerful characters, and it shows the team really stepping it up in terms of ambition.
My problem with this issue is that once again, the Avengers aren’t really doing anything. They are all unconscious when the Robot-dude is kidnapped by AIM, and only Manifold is able to fight them. They only bring the powerful new team-members aboard because Captain Universe told them to. It just seems like, even though this is the biggest and baddest Avengers team ever, they are just reacting to stuff that is barely explained. If this is all just a prelude, then I want some explanations soon.
The artwork here was also a mixed-bag, I like all three of Caselli, Checchetto and Rudy, but I don’t think their styles mesh well together, and generally, I’m just a fan of one artist on one comic, unless there’s a good explanation for it, like flashbacks. Oh yeah, and why is Ex Nihilo a woman on the cover? Did Leinil Yu mess up or is there something else going on? Is he going to change gender to appease the blogosphere?
Avengers A.I. #2– Sam Humphries and Andre Araujo’s team of Robot Avengers continues to be a surprising delight for me, and this issue took things to another level. I thought the first one was a hell of a lot of fun, but here, Humphries adds a bit of darkness to that fun, and what we get is a thought-provoking comic that makes you think about just who side we should be on. The writer seems to now be on the side of the robots, should we the reader be too?
The issue opens with a proper introduction to Dimitrios, who has taken control of one of Iron Man’s old armours, to be precise, the sentient armour from that Joe Quesada story, which is a cool use of that old story, and we see the first steps in his robot revolution. I loved the character who helps him, Sister Joanie, who was an LMD developed by SHIELD to infiltrate underground youth culture in the 1970s. Is this a new character? I can imagine that weirdness springing from some LSD-addled bronze-age writer, but it could also just be Humphries.
Dimitrios’ first salvo is to activate a massive Sentinel, and send it to destroy Washington DC. The fight between Avengers A.I. and this Sentinel was a lot of fun, first with Doombot flying right at it and getting smashed (I love Doombot, so funny), and then with Vision using one of his unconventional new powers to fight in a different way. Vizh creates some tiny nanobots which go inside the Sentinel and change it’s programming (depicted in awesome 8-bit fashion by Araujo), and saving the day. But that’s where the darkness kicks in. Sentinel stops his rampage, and is repentant, forming a bond with the Vision, and helping him and Victor from saving some school kids trapped inside the Washington Monument. But then SHIELD, not realising that Sentinel has been stopped, fly right at him and kill him. Which is pretty sad, the humans just killed an innocent being. Maybe Dimitrios is right? His speech at the end certainly was awesome.
This issue was also packed with great little scenes and ideas, the mystery of Alexis is a fascinating one, she’s not made of metal, she exists in multiple ‘quantum layers’, what is her deal? I also loved the scene with Victor and his ‘grandpa’, Hank Pym, as Humphries brings back an old bit of Runaways continuity. In that book, a Gert from the future came back and revealed that Victor would join the Future Avengers and betray them, so Victor is worried that’s going to happen, and wants to leave, but Pym talks him out of it, telling him to ignore parallel realities and possible futures. And hey, since Gert is dead, he’s probably right to. And what’s the deal with that weird shape?
Andre Araujo’s art was awesome, apart from the aforementioned 8-bit sequences, the rest of it was great to, adding to the sense of fun this title has, I especially liked the not to Moebius. After only two issues, this has developed into a very good comic, I can’t wait for #3 and to see the Avengers and Dimitrios really go at it.
Superior Foes Of Spider-Man #2– Wow, I was impressed by #1 of this title, but this issue I liked even more. This really is the new Hawkeye, and that is high praise indeed. In this issue, we are treated to more of Boomerang’s depressing life as a small-time criminal trying to step up, all tied together with the idea of what the worst thing about being a supervillain is.
Is it The Punisher? Maybe, especially since he doesn’t play by the rules and just kills you? Is it the meetings? I’d say so, as Spencer has the characters address the fact that their team is one man (or woman) short of being the Sinister Six. I loved this scene, the dialogue was really funny, and it really showed the unique perspective this book has on the Marvel Universe. The call back to the ‘Sinister Syndicate’ was great, and I loved Boomerang’s idea that people would think there was some secret mystery member, maybe even Dormammu backing them up, which is hilarious, and makes me want to see these losers get wrapped up in some kind of magical adventure.
Or maybe the worst thing about being a supervillain is the lawyers, as we are introduced to Boomerang’s lawyer, a shyster by the name of Partridge. I like this new character already, he’s a different kind of lawyer in the Marvel Universe. Most of the time we see heroic lawyers like Daredevil or She-Hulk, but now we’re seeing a corrupt asshole of a lawyer, which should be fun, I’d certainly like to see him go up against Matt Murdock or Jen Walters in court.
The main crime the Sinister Five commit in this issue is to rob a high-class restaurant, but uh-oh, they are interrupted by The Punisher. Only it’s not Frank Castle, it’s actually the Chameleon, come to put Boomerang back on track. I’m really enjoying the way this book is using Chameleon. The main Spider-Man series kind of turned him into a joke, but here, he’s dangerous. The task he’s set Boomerang? To nab the head of Silvio Silvermane. Not only does this call to mind the classic Peckinpah movie, but it’s just such a cool idea.
But of course, with this title, it’s not just insane heists Boomerang has to deal with, but more realistic stuff, like his new parole officer, who is none other than his old pal, Abner Jenkins, who is now Mach VII. Being a big Thunderbolts fan, it’s always great to see these characters show up, and in a book like this, I think Spencer can have a lot of fun with the former Beetle. Oh yeah, and Shocker knows that Boomerang is lying to the team, that should be an interesting plotline, already, this title has some gripping subplots.
Steve Lieber’s art is once again perfect for this title, it’s realistic and low-key, which really works for what is essentially a crime book, I also like the way he experiments with cartoony daydreams and the like. Much like with Hawkeye, half the fun of this title is seeing superhero characters drawn in a new and different way. But of course, the story is also great, Spencer has really drawn me into this lowlife world, Boomerang is already better-realised than most superheroes, and the rest of the characters are getting there. And also, this issue had no Spider-Man in it at all, I know this book probably needs his name on it to sell, but it does seem kind of out of place.
All-New X-Men #15– Hey, David LaFuente’s back from the dead! After loving his artwork on Ultimate Spider-Man, he kind of disappeared, but now he’s drawing this issue of All-New X-Men, and it’s a given that it looks great. His style is perfect for a book about teenagers, and heck, this is the most teenagery issue of this title so far.
Bendis largely takes a break from the action this issue, and instead focuses on the characters of the OG X-Men and how they are holding up with the stress of time-travel, and it’s a lot of fun. The best thing about this series is seeing the characters react and freak out, and we get plenty of that here. The issue opens and closes with Jean Grey running into Rachel Grey, who is, I dunno, her daughter? Right? I don’t know, it’s confusing, but those silent scenes were awesome and hold a lot of promise for the future.
Iceman is freaked out by seeing his future-self make out with Kitty Pryde, so he drags Cyclops out to go get something to eat, to just be normal for a bit. But of course, they can’t really be normal. Scott is recognised by some local teenagers, and they end up stopping a police chase. I thought these scenes were really well-done. Iceman’s reaction to seeing himself make out with someone was hilarious, I just love Bendis’ dumb-ass take on that character, and hey, seeing Scott and Bobby flirt with some present-day teenagers was a bit of much-needed levity. But of course, Dazzler: Agent of SHIELD (or perhaps Mystique) was lurking in the background.
The most interesting stuff in this issue however revolved around the Beast and Jean Grey. Present-day Beast is helping Jean develop her telekinetic powers, by having her levitate Wolverine’s motorbike, but she accidentally disassembles it. Whilst trying to rebuild it, Beast starts thinking about how much the young him fancied young Jean back in the day, and stuff along the lines of ‘what if I had told her how I felt?’, the standard unrequited stuff. But of course, with time-travel, it doesn’t have to be a what if. Jean goes to confront OG Beast, and tell him that she knows he loves her and… dun dun dun! They totally kiss! OMG! I loved this development, back in the day, Stan Lee had all of the X-Men lusting after Jean (even Professor X, ewww), but when she got together with Cyclops, that was kind of forgotten about. But now it’s back, and it’s shocking to see Jean lock lips with someone who isn’t Cyclops or Wolverine. I can’t wait to see the ramifications of this kiss, which is odd for me, in other teen superhero titles I roll my eyes at the soap opera nonsense, but here, it has me gripped. Maybe it’s because these are characters that aren’t normally teenagers, or maybe it’s because Bendis is using the time-travel aspects to do the unexpected, but yeah, I’m into it.
This was a great little ‘rest issue’ before the big ‘Battle Of The Atom’ crossover begins, it developed the characters a lot more, just in time for serious shit to go down. I’m just loving the X-Books right now, Bendis is kicking ass.
Cable And X-Force #12– Dennis Hopeless and co-writer Cullen Bunn (why is Hopeless needing so many co-writers? Anyone know) deliver another enjoyable issue of Cable And X-Force, and one which really ties in both of the series’ central plots.
In the present day, Colossus and Domino are in Switzerland, fighting a bunch of demons that are trying to infest the world, whilst at the same time bickering about their quasi-relationship. In the dystopian future, Hope, Blaquesmith and the mysterious Stryfe-lady (who is, no surprise, Hope herself) are fighting a bunch of demons that have already infested the world and are also infected with the Technarch stuff from this title’s first arc. In a nifty use of time-travel, when Colossus and Domino defeat the demons in the present, the ones in the future disappear, because they were never able to come to power. Hope is the ‘villain’ of this story, hacking into Cable’s brain and causing his premonitions in order to make the future a better place, piece by piece. It’s a cool hook for the story, and it’s all very Terminator, as well as making for a villain that’s a) not really a villain and b) Cable won’t want to fight, because she’s his daughter.
In amongst the time-travel insanity, Hopeless and Bunn give us some very good character scenes, particularly between Colossus and Domino, who’s romance is a lot of fun. Like a lot of people, I was bored of the Colossus/Shadowcat love-story, and felt it was dragging them down a bit, with Domino, Colossus has to act a bit differently, love-wise, and it’s helping drag him away from constantly moping. Which is good, I love the big Russian idiot, but he is a bit of an emo.
We also get an interesting scene between Cable and his Uncle, Havok, as Alex attempts to find out just what the hell his Nephew is up to. Havok doesn’t quite get his answers this issue, but they’re coming, and in the meantime, Cable’s brain condition seems to be worsening. This issue did a solid job at explaining the central mystery of this book so far, but also raising some new questions along the way and doing new stuff with the characters.
Salvador Larroca’s art was excellent as usual, I love his take on Colossus and how he’s moving away from the photo-realistic style he used on Invincible Iron Man and going back to something more akin to his 90s work. I just want my goddamn Doctor Nemesis/Forge team-up issue already!
Daredevil: Dark Nights #3(of 8)– Lee Weeks’ tale of Daredevil’s deadly journey through the snow concludes in a very satisfactory fashion, although I’m sure some readers will find the timely intervention of SHIELD a bit too convenient.
The issue opens with a hooded figure we are lead to assume is Daredevil making his way across the city with the transplant-heart, but it turns out it’s not Daredevil, it’s the criminal who Daredevil elected not to save from torture in #2. It turns out that this guy, Johnny was a volunteer at the Battered-Women’s shelter DD crashes in, and he’s not a bad guy after all. I liked this touch, it made that rather incongruous scene from last issue work as part of a whole.
Daredevil himself is still out cold, and having a somewhat clichéd hallucination, reliving his origins, seeing all of his dead girlfriends etc. It is clichéd, but Lee Weeks’ art is awesome throughout. That’s really what this story is about, a showcase for Weeks’ amazing pencilling, and also a chance for him to demonstrate he can write, which he most definitely can. In the end, Daredevil gets both the heart and Johnny to the Hospital, and it all works out fine in the end. This was an enjoyable little story, and since the current Daredevil title is striking a new kind of vein, it was nice to return to the more street-level world of Miller, Bendis and Brubaker.
The second story in this mini-series is by Dave Lapham, who is always worth reading, and features one of our new Superior Foes favourites, The Shocker. I’ll be interested to see what Lapham comes up with.
Kick-Ass 3 #2(of 8)– With only a week to go before the release of the Kick-Ass 2 movie, I’m getting pretty excited, and what better way to stoke that excitement than with a new Kick-Ass comic? I can’t think of one.
Whereas #1 moved quite slowly in terms of setting up the plot of this final chapter, this issue speeds up the pace, as we are introduced to the villain of the story, Rocco Genovese. Rocco is the brother of the crime-lord from the other stories, who was exiled to Sicily because he’s a predatory homosexual. I’m sure Millar will get flak from some quarters because the bad guy here is gay, but I don’t mind. In real life, some gay people also happen to be bad people. It’s not like Millar makes it a habit to have gay villains, and really, how diverse is it if all of the gay characters in comics are heroes? Plus, Rocco likes ‘young blond men’ and Dave Lizewski certainly fits into those categories, I bet there’s foreshadowing there for an attempted rape of Kick-Ass. I suppose if Millar has a man get raped, the people who hate the rape of Katie in Kick-Ass 2 will have less to complain about? I dunno, that controversy has reared it’s head again this week, I doubt it will ever go away.
Also in terms of villains, Red Mist/Mother-Fucker/Chris isn’t actually dead! I thought for sure he was at the end of the last mini, but nope, he’s just in Prison-Hospital, slowly recovering. I wonder if Red Mist has the same nerve-damage as Kick-Ass does, that would allow for an interesting fight between the two of them. The role of Chris’ mother is also interesting to me, she initially plans to kill her son, but ends up saving his life, I hope Angie plays a large role in the rest of this story, apart from Hit-Girl, this series is very male-dominated, so she gives something new.
I’ve gone this far and I haven’t even really mentioned Kick-Ass himself yet! I really enjoyed the opening scene where he showed how much he actually has developed as a crime-fighter. He still loses, but he’s not as much of a dweeb as he was. It’s a realistic development. We also get introduced to a possible new love interest for Dave, which could be interesting.
The stuff with Dave and his pathetic superteam continues to be a lot of fun. It’s great how Millar balances light comedic scenes like this, complete with fanboyish references to Batman: Year One, and at the same time there’s loads of gore and violence and real life stakes. That’s the crux of this whole story, idiot nerd superheroes coming face to face with the Mob… and winning? I also find the character of ‘Juicer’, the lazy superhero who’d rather fight Internet Trolls than the Mafia a lot of fun, although I’m sure things will take a darker turn with him soon. Romita’s artwork was once again excellent, I never get tired of seeing him unleash some ultra-violence. You don’t get to see him get visceral on his Marvel titles, so Kick-Ass always gives you something new.
This title is chugging along nicely, but really, I much prefer the more comedic cinematic take on this story, so I want Kick-Ass 2 now. Plus, this title has no Hit-Girl in it at all! Come on!
Action Comics #23– I don’t really know what to say about this one. It’s a perfectly serviceable Superman story, where Big Blue saves the day from a huge monster, but that’s all it is. The ‘Pax Galactica’ characters are totally forgettable and stupid, like something out of He-Man, and it’s basically just one big action sequence.
There are nuggets of interest in here, like the origin of Lourdes and Lexus, the fact that they are twins, etc, but they are only explored in 1 page, and then Lexus is killed. I did like that Lobdell established that Superman is not actually invincible, and had Lexus actually hurt him, but other than that… just a big bowl of meh. I want Greg Pak on Action now please. I did enjoy Tyler Kirkham’s artwork though, he can certainly draw space battles, and his Superman looks pretty bad-ass.
The ‘World Of Krypton’ back-up story was also a little bit disappointing, it felt like Hannah ran out of time to tell his story, and it just ended. I do like the irony of Jor-El managing to stop a Military Coup with the help of General (well, Commander here) Zod, and those two characters being childhood friends is a cool idea, but other than that, again, meh.
Seriously, this comic was fine, but I want Action Comics to be more than just fine. Do I have unrealistic expectations? I don’t know, but Superman deserves better than ‘OK’.
Green Lantern #23– After only 3 issues, I think I already like Robert Venditti’s characterisation of Hal Jordan a lot more than I ever did Geoff Johns’. I know I’ve said that I kind of came around to tolerating Hal by the end, and that’s true, but under the pen of Venditti, Hal seems like much less of an asshole. This is probably down to the story, rather than Venditti’s characterisation really, making Hal leader means he has to act differently, and can’t just be a jerk.
This issue picks up the plotline of Prixiam Nol-Anj, the escaped Star Sapphire prisoner. Hal tracks her down to her planet to try and bring her in, but of course, he fails. I thought it was clever how Venditti brought in the ‘rings keep malfunctioning plotline’, Nol-Anj’s planet has an atmosphere that will kill anyone after 30 seconds, and what do you know, the rings malfunction for 24 seconds! This managed to keep the upcoming ‘Lights Out’ crossover story in the back of the reader’s mind, whilst also adding some extra drama to the actual plot. Nol-Anj defeats Hal not by brute force, but by making him see his lost love, Carol Ferris, and what she’s up to in the pages of New Guardians with Kyle. Hal runs off to try and find her, and it looks like the GL books are right back to connecting directly. Hal may not know what Relic is, but he’s seen him now.
I’m also really enjoying how Venditti is depicting the current depleted state of Oa. We find out more about some of the new, weedy recruits, who look to be like fun characters, and any of the scenes with Kilowog struggling to take over Salaak’s role are gold.
I am still a bit annoyed that the GL books are still so similar to what Johns did, I’d probably like to see a few more Earth-based adventures, but this is a good comic, and Hal’s not an asshole! Billy Tan continues to be a good fit on the art as well, he draws aliens well, and I do like the way he does ring-constructs.
Swamp Thing #23– For some reason, this book didn’t ship to my area of the world. Look for a review when I get it.
Trillium #1(of 8)– Not content with writing half of DC’s superhero comics (Matt Kindt is doing the other half, ‘natch), Jeff Lemire returns to creator-owned work with this exciting new mini-series. I’m a big fan of Lemire’s writing in general, and when he’s doing the art as well… I like it even more, especially when it’s as good a package as this.
It’s hard to really say what Trillium is about at this point, it’s been marketed as an epic love story, but the two central characters only meet at the end (or the middle), so what we really have is an insane sci-fi story that spans millennia. That’s interesting enough on it’s own, but the way Lemire tells it makes it even better. This first issue is split into two stories, and is in flip-book style. You read one story, then flip the comic upside down and read the other one. It’s not clear which story you are meant to read first, and I don’t think it matters.
I personally read the story of William first, which probably makes me sexist (This could be a great barometer to weed out sexism from comics fans, people who read the man’s story first are SEXIST, and people who read the woman’s story first are FEMINIST and that’s that. I’m joking, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some people actually thought this way). William is a British WWI veteran who is leading an expedition deep into the heart of the Amazon to find a secret temple and loot it for treasure. His party is attacked by a tribe of ‘savages’ and he runs off, coming face to face with… a female astronaut?
You find out who this woman is by reading the second story. She is Nika, a scientist who is trying to broker peace with an alien race in order to access a plant that could help protect the dying Human race from a virus that is sweeping the galaxy. She visits the aliens, eats one of these plants (they are the titular Trillium) and trips the fuck out. She goes into the temple, comes out the other side and meets, you guessed it, William.
I think it actually works better if you read the William story first, as it means the sci-fi stuff comes as more of a surprise, but as I said, it could work either way. It’s a unique way of telling a story, and for me, it works really well. It will be interesting to see how this book carries on from here, will Lemire continue to experiment like this? Or now that William and Nika have met, will things be a bit more conventional? I doubt it, Lemire’s previous Vertigo series, Sweet Tooth, was never afraid to mix things up. I’m already excited to see where this story goes, how are the Amazonian tribe connected to the Alien tribe? How did Nika travel to 1921 from 3797? This story is already weird, and it’s only going to get weirder.
I said before that I like Lemire’s work even better when he pulls double-duty, and that’s definitely true here, the art here looks fantastic, and I found it interesting how often he used 12-panel grids here. It’s rare to get comics that use so many panels on a page these days, but it was very effective, especially when he deviates from the pattern. I suppose it was necessary, Lemire has 28 pages to tell two stories here, but out of necessity, comes greatness. Yeah, I said it, unless things get seriously off the rails, this story is going to be great. Vertigo is back, bitches! Ahem.
Fatale #16– The murky mid-nineties Seattle setting is really working for me in this storyline. The 1940s and 1970s are fairly standard Noir time periods, but the 90s? Yeah, that’s something new, and it’s a lot of fun.
I also like how this story is changing my perception of Josephine. In previous issues, she’s been the victim, but here, she’s, if not the villain, then at least the catalyst for all of the bad things. The opening few pages show us the secret behind Wulf, the serial killer cop who had Jo captured last time. Why is he serial killer? Well, it’s Jo’s own fault. Wulf ran into her as a child, and came under her ‘spell’, and since then he’s tried to find her again, killing women who look like her. I really like this idea, and it shows just how dangerous Jo can be.
But of course, she’s managing to be plenty dangerous on her own. Waking up with amnesia, she’s taken in by Lance and his band, and well, she’s causing trouble. All of the men are falling in love with her, and because she has no memory and no knowledge of her curse, she’s reciprocating and having sex with them. I’m sure this is going to lead to all kinds of messed-up shit in future issues, and I can’t wait to see it.
The flashback scenes with Jo’s friend Gavin show that, prior to being kidnapped by Wulf, Jo was trying to control her power, to not allow any men to touch her, but now? She’s out of control, and that means she’s dangerous. Especially since Lance wants to put her in a music video. What’s going to happen when Jo’s power affects every man who watches MTV? Brubaker is weaving a tangled web here, and, in the best Noir tradition, it’s all going to come crashing down on everyone’s heads. I’m mixing metaphors, I guess this web is made of bricks or something.
Brubaker also fills us in on more of Lance and his band’s back-story, which is interesting. Brubaker lived through this time period in Seattle himself, so you can tell he’s really enjoying himself here. Although the image of Skip crying as he jerks off his red raw penis is not enjoyable at all!
Sean Phillips’ art was of course, excellent, I have run out of words to praise how perfect the collaborations between these two are. I will say that this issue is probably the most sexually explicit so far, have we seen Jo nude before? I can’t remember. This is just a truly great comic, you should be buying it. And plus, there’s an awesome preview for Velvet in the back, that book looks amazing too. I may miss Bru on superhero comics, but his indie work is still so good.
Satellite Sam #2– Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin’s sordid tale of television’s past continues to be entertaining, but man, even with the recap page telling me who everyone is, I still had trouble figuring out who was who. I dig Chaykin’s art a lot, but his male characters do all look very similar, and with the book being in black and white, you don’t even have hair colour to differentiate. I’m sure after a few more issues this problem will go away, but it did slightly effect my enjoyment of this particular comic. It’s hard to care about Doc Ginsberg crossing off his list when you have no idea who the people on it are!
But that problem aside, there’s a lot to enjoy here. The details of 1950s TV that Fraction goes into are fascinating, and the whole setting is wonderfully realised by both he and Chaykin. This is a dialogue-packed comic, which is a good thing, as not only does it take twice as long as a lot of other books to read, but the content of that dialogue is also interesting. One of the big trends in the Mid-20th Century in America was the migration of a lot of big industries from the East Coast in New York, to the West Coast in Los Angeles. It’s happening in Mad Men, and it’s happening here. LeMonde Network is based in NYC, and wants to stay there, but Carlyle White wanted to move Satellite Sam to LA. These days the only TV show made in New York is Saturday Night Live (more or less), so we know who wins this particular battle, but it’s going to be interesting to see it play out.
Of course, the central mystery of ‘who or what killed Carlyle White’ is once again a big part of the story. His son is still freaked out by the racy photographs he found, drinking heavily, and, in what is a very disturbing scene, masturbating to them. Seriously, I bought two Image comics this week, and both of them featured creepy wanking, what’s the dead Ed and Matt?
The issue ends with an interesting scene, as Mike confronts one of the women in his Dad’s photos, and one who just happens to be his supposedly-Christian co-star. That last page, with the close-up of the sleazy shot was great. I don’t know why, but Chaykin’s style just oozes dirty sex, and Fraction is utilising that feeling to great effect. This book is moving slowly, and there are teething problems, but I really feel that once things click into gear, we’ll have something special on our hands.
So there it is, another TWIP bites the dust.
I think my favourite this week was either Trillium or Superior Foes Of Spider-Man, both very different books, but both excellent.
Join me next week, where hopefully I’ll be able to review Swamp Thing, but also the return of Saga, the final issue of Ales Kot’s Suicide Squad, more Batman: Zero Year, a very special issue of Avengers Arena and oh yeah, Marvel’s latest crossover, Infinity begins.
See you then!
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