Yep, it’s TWIP-day! Sorry this is a day late, but I was busy, some people have more in their lives apart from comics! Unfortunately I’m not actually one of them, but still.
This is a great week for our beloved medium, Marvel’s next big event Infinity begins, and the writer behind it Jonathan Hickman also has another issue of his awesome creator-owned book East Of West. There’s also 2 X-Men books, the final issue of the epic ‘Godbutcher’ storyline in Thor: God Of Thunder, more ‘Zero Year’ in Batman, Ales Kot’s last issue of Suicide Squad, Avengers Arena and oh yeah, a little title called Saga returns.
As always, you can click the links next to each review to head to the Outhouse forums discussion, where the debate is raging! Raaaaging!
Thor: God Of Thunder #11– Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic’s 11-issue ‘Godbutcher’ epic comes to an end with this issue, and wow, what an ending it is.
Gorr thinks he’s won, the Godbomb has been detonated and is reverberating throughout history, killing all Gods everywhere and everywhen. But of course, he doesn’t actually win, as Thor the Avenger is inside the bomb, and he’s wielding two fucking Mjolnirs and he saves the day. I know this sounds kind of basic, but just like with every other issue of this run, Jason Aaron’s amazing narration really kicks things up a gear. The way he describes everything in this story just makes these events feel truly epic, makes them feel God-sized. There were so many awesome moments in this issue, starting with Thor wielding both hammers. Then there’s the moment where Thor has absorbed Gorr’s power, the brilliantly-named ‘Necrosword’, where Thor is oozing that weird black stuff, and just looks intimidating as hell (Hel).
Of course, this comic is not just mad cosmic stuff exploding all around, Aaron grounds things in the characters. You get a really interesting final insight into who Gorr is, and the tragedy within his character, how in his desire to kill Gods, he became one himself. He’s a fascinating villain, and since I am personally an atheist, I can empathise with him somewhat. He just took it too far, and that’s what this story is all about really. Aaron doesn’t come down too much on one side or the other of the ‘are Gods necessary?’ debate, even Thor himself acknowledges that Gods should do better.
The other great character moments in this issue involve the 3 Thors interacting. It’s been a lot of fun seeing the different incarnations of the Thunder God running around in this story, but here, it’s more than just fun, and Aaron brings everything back around to Thor’s role as a hero, and how much he wants to prove himself to Odin. A character hook like that works really well in making the character relateable, even if he is ‘the greatest God who ever lived’.
It was also cool how Aaron brought everything back full circle to the opening scene of #1, where the little alien girl prays for Thor because she doesn’t have any Gods of her own. Now she does, and this epic story really does work as a standalone entity, which is all too rare in superhero comics.
Of course, Aaron’s run isn’t over, and it’s a little annoying that Thor won’t remember much of this, but I’m looking forward to seeing what he does next and if he can keep up the pace and scale of this long story. Esad Ribic’s artwork was once again excellent, his painted style really goes hand-in-hand with Aaron’s narrative tone in making this feel like an epic fantasy story, rather than a superhero tale. I love his style, and it’s perfect for Thor, I hope he sticks around, but if not, he’s done sterling work on this excellent story, and hell, it’s probably my favourite Thor story ever (although I haven’t read Simonson).
Avengers Arena #13– Ever since Avengers Arena began, one of the burning questions (apart from ‘WHY GOD WHY, WHY KILL MY TEEN SHIP BABIES?’ Fuck you Tumblr fans) has been ‘How come none of the adult superheroes have noticed these characters have disappeared and how come none of them have gone looking?’. Well, in this issue, Christos Gage steps in to answer that question, and it’s a very satisfying and enjoyable issue.
Gage of course wrote a lot of the stars of Arena previously in Avengers Academy, so he knows his way around teen superheroes, and also how to write Hank Pym, who is the central protagonist this issue. The reason why nobody has noticed that the kids are missing is that Arcade has covered it up. He’s made sure he kidnapped heroes who had a reason to leave, and made excuses that make sense. So, as far as anyone knows, Reptil has disappeared to search for his parents in the Savage Land, and other stuff like that. To help this cover-up, he’s falsifying text messages and emails from everyone, and even going so far as to use LMDs of Juston Seyfert, and using the robot Mettle we saw at the end of #12.
But of course, there’s still suspicion, and it makes a lot of sense that it’s mostly coming from the Runaways. Those characters are supposed to be a family, so it rings the most false that Nico and Chase ran away. It also makes sense that it’s not an adult hero who first has suspicions, but Molly Hayes, the youngest superhero out there. Sometimes a kid can see things that an adult would miss. Molly brings this up to Pym, and he goes around the Marvel Universe trying to discover clues, but of course, he comes up short.
I especially liked seeing how SHIELD have to deal with teleportation, and the way Gage depicts as being like trying to combat computer viruses was great fun, I really like it when stupid superhero stuff is taken a little bit more realistically. I also loved the scene where Pym is on the phone to Wolverine, and the hilarious background stuff between Glob Herman and Transonic, that was classic Gage.
Also very interesting was the closing scene with Arcade. If Murderworld is him trying to get his rep back, why is he keeping it a secret? Is he trying to commit ‘suicide by cape’? I have no idea, but Hopeless and now Gage have really made this guy a fascinating villain. His reputation may not be much better in the Marvel Universe, but in the real world? It’s much improved.
Karl Moline provides the art here, and he does an excellent job, he worked with Gage before on an Avengers Academy/Runaways story, so it’s cool to see him return to those characters here, and his lighter, more traditional superhero style works well for an issue set away from the Island. So, whilst this issue probably won’t please the fans who want the Avengers to find their babies and rescue them, it did help explain just how this story can work in a shared universe, and was damn entertaining in it’s own right.
Fantastic Four #11– It was announced this week that Matt Fraction is set to leave the Fantastic Four titles, which is a crying shame really. I’ve loved FF since the very start, and this title is really only just starting to warm up. Stupid fucking Inhumans! You’re an FF spin-off anyway, you shouldn’t be biting the hand that created you! I expect Inhumanity to be pretty great, but still, it’s annoying.
Anyway, onto this issue, and already you can tell that Fraction is on his way out, as this issue is co-written by Christopher Sebela, who did pretty well co-writing Captain Marvel with Kelly Sue DeConnick, and looks to be a bit of a rising star. This issue has the Fantastic Four attempting to tackle the problem of their bodies breaking down head-on, as Val takes them to a weird planet called ‘Celeritas’. There’s a lot of weird, time-travel nonsense that happens in this issue, and I must admit, a lot of it confused me, but I do really like the central hook of a bunch of Nostalgic hipsters using time-travel bombs to try and bring back the past. That’s just a fun idea.
The rest of the time-travel elements though… eesh. Why did Johnny run into his future self from FF? Is this ‘Old John Storm’ from before he arrived in that title? Or afterwards? Too many questions! I also really liked the return of Franklin using his superpowers, I’m resigned to the fact that no writer is ever going to pull the trigger on Franklin, but it’s still awesome whenever his potential rears it’s head.
Mark Bagley’s artwork was solid as usual, but I did feel it looked a little more rushed than usual. This was another good issue of Fantastic Four, despite my confusion, but I’m just annoyed that Matt Fraction won’t be ending this story properly. Inhumanity better be worth it!
Uncanny X-Men #10– Another very enjoyable, and very talky issue of X-Men from Bendis. I know a lot of people will be annoyed by the lack of action, but I’m loving it, mainly because Bendis’ dialogue is awesome, and also because so much of what’s exciting in the X-World these days is expressed through dialogue. These comics are all about opposing ideologies and plans, not just about punching and shouting. Of course, I’m sure there will be plenty of awesome punching and shouting when Battle For The Atom kicks off. But until then… awesome talking.
This issue opens with a training session for the new recruits out in the snow, and we find out a new wrinkle in the powers of Tempus. Not only can she stop time, but she can also make people travel through time, which is a cool new development. These new characters are taking time to grow on me, but they are getting there.
This issue also returns to the tantalising plotline regarding Magneto’s loyalties. Here, he is called to a meeting by Maria Hill, where she says she can’t trust him, and from now on, if he wants to contact SHIELD, he needs to talk to Dazzler (who we know to be Mystique). I’m really finding the current status quo for Magneto fascinating, who’s side is he really on? I know this is going to be a slow-burner, but I’m hooked.
The central scene in this issue is Cyclops and his team gate-crashing a Pro-Mutant Rally being held in Michigan. This rally looks to be mostly humans, protesting about the terrible treatment of mutants, in particular of Cyclops. Here, Bendis brings into the story a lot of what fans have been saying in an around the last few years of stories. That Scott is a hero, that the Avengers were aggressive dicks in AvX. It’s very interesting seeing that stuff come into the actual comic, and it really does show how fascinating and grey the character of Cyclops has become.
Also interesting is the reaction of these humans when Cyclops and the rest show up. I may be reading Irving’s art wrong, but to me, they looked scared. It’s one thing to support a supposed terrorist in abstract, but when he shows up? Are these humans just posers? I wonder if Bendis is trying to show that only Mutants can stand with other Mutants, that when push comes to shove, Humans are still scared. Or maybe I’m wrong.
The contents of Scott’s speech were very exciting, he starts to bring up Charles Xavier, but, since he killed him, moves away from that. He then says that people shouldn’t blame the Avengers, and just before he’s about to say who’s really to blame for the oppression of Mutants (it’s probably the Government, or Wolverine), a Sentinel shows up, and it is on for next issue!
This was just another great issue, Frazer Irving’s art worked brilliantly, the characters are getting more and more developed, and most importantly, the dialogue of ideas is getting stronger and stronger. These days in X-Men, it’s not about how powerful you are, but it’s about what you think and say.
Wolverine & The X-Men #34– Whilst the two flag-ship X-Men books are more concerned with a war of words than old-school superhero action, there is still one title that’s not afraid to get a little kick-crazy, and that’s Wolverine & The X-Men.
In this issue, The Hellfire Saga’ nears it’s finale, and Jason Aaron and Nick Bradshaw treat us to a non-stop thrill-ride of a comic, featuring some very large-scale violence. The bulk of this issue is made up of a Kaiju-sized fight between the Jean Grey School’s Krakoa and a bunch of evil, Volcanic Krakoas. And oh yeah, Iceman has built himself a giant Ice-Voltron to help out. Yeah, it’s as awesome as it sounds. We even get to see Wolverine and Krakoa do a Fastball Special, which is pretty damn impressive.
But there are more intimate fights here too, as Quentin and Idie attempt to escape from the Hellfire Academy alive and in one piece, which is pretty difficult when you’re face to face with the all-powerful Snot. I also really liked the small scene where Toad cannot fight back against the insane Husk because he loves her too much. In amongst all the silliness, Aaron always finds the heart of these characters. Of course, there’s still plenty of silliness, the one-page sequence with Doop and Lady Mondo was absolutely stupid and hilarious. She tries to break his mind with her avant-garde cinema, but Doop just barfs out his home movies from 1994 and does the same to her. I love Doop, and I love how Aaron has managed to make him work in a mainstream X-Book.
Also very exciting here is the imminent downfall of Kade Kilgore. His plans are all falling down around his ears, his teachers are being defeated, and he spends most of the issue being savaged by Broo whilst his friends stand by and do nothing. But at the end, he still thinks he’s won. We as readers know that Max Frankenstein and Manuel are stood behind him with guns, so it looks like he’s just gone mental, but could there be more to it? I can’t imagine the Hellfire Club will be defeated this easily, these guys have been the villains of this series (along with Cyclops) since the very beginning, I expect Aaron has a twist up his sleeve for #35.
This was a ridiculously fun issue, and it really surprised me, I did not expect to see hot Krakoa on Krakoa action, but I loved it. Nick Bradshaw’s cartoony art is still a great fit, and this book is always a delight.
Infinity #1(of 6)– Jonathan Hickman gets his first solo stab at a big crossover event, and on the basis of this first issue, he’s going to do very well. One of my biggest complaints about Hickman is that he’s constantly setting up for a some big, epic cosmic endgame and it takes forever to come, and that’s certainly true for his Avengers comics so far, but now, that endgame looks to have arrived. There’s a lot going on in this comic, and it’s a lot to take in, but really, what Hickman has done here is taken everything that he’s been building up to in the last 18 issues of Avengers and 8 of New Avengers, mixed it together, kicked things off, and then thrown in a massive curve-ball in the shape of Thanos.
After a reprint of Marvel’s FCBD preview story, which I still don’t really like, the story kicks off in earnest as we see ‘The Builders’ attack and destroy Galador. The Builders were introduced in Hickman’s Avengers run, and it’s great to see them finally do something, and for there to be an explanation for the female Ex Nihilo from the cover of last week’s Avengers, she’s the ‘Gardener’ for the villainous group of Builders. It’s pretty crazy that Hickman not only opens this big blockbuster with a rather obscure bunch of characters in the Space Knights, but also that he kills them all and their planet. I guess Marvel figure that if they can’t use ROM, they may as well not bother. It does do a good job of setting up the threat of The Builders, they can destroy entire planets, and not just meaningless ones, planets with Marvel Universe history and importance.
Back on Earth, we see Captain America and Hawkeye deal with some Skrull refugees, and this, along with a distress signal from the Krees and the surprise reappearance of Captain Universe (who was on Galador) that tips the Avengers off about The Builders, so they decide to head off into space to stop them before they reach Earth. Which is… a mistake.
We all know that the Inhumans are set to become much bigger deals thanks to this event, and Black Bolt plays a large role here, as Thanos’ spy-thing goes into his mind and finds out the secret behind the Illuminati and how, in their attempts to stop the ‘Incursions’, they lost the Infinity Gems. Of course, this piques Thanos’ attention, and he readies to attack an Earth that the Avengers have left behind. This is a great set-up for an event, and I think it’s going to be exciting. Hickman has set up so many threads in both his book, so it’s very interesting to see how they all culminate. Plus, after complaining about his Avengers being way too reactive, it’s cool to see them take some initiative and go off into space, even if it does open the door for Thanos.
I’m very excited by Thanos’ role here, Jason Aaron has given me a new appreciation for him, and given the amount of foreshadowing Hickman uses generally, it’s awesome that the big villain here has basically come out of nowhere. I’m also excited by what’s going on with Black Bolt, and as I’ve said before, I love any comic where he speaks, and he does that here, and it is ace.
Jim Cheung provides the art, and he does his usual excellent job, his smooth, clean style is perfect for superhero comics, and he provides a really great level of detail. Justin Ponsor’s colours are also amazing, the Space Knights have never looked better, until they died. This issue had me pumped for the rest of the event, and has me retroactively looking upon Hickman’s Avengers much more favourably. Bring it on!
Batman #23– ‘Zero Year’ continues to be an enjoyable, but still entirely unnecessary story. Now, I’m not saying every story has to be ‘necessary’, because that would be dumb, but we’ve all seen Batman’s origin a billion fucking times, and we don’t need to see it again, even with all of the extra stuff Scott Snyder is adding. That’s most apparent in this issue when we see Snyder and Capullo’s take on the iconic ‘Yes father, I shall become a bat’ scene. They use that dialogue, and the scene is well told, but it’s just like… I saw Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli do this already! This is just an expanded, overcomplicated version of that!
This is by no means a bad comic, it’s actually really good, much better than most of DC’s output, but it’s just frustrating that that excellent team of Snyder and Capullo are doing this, rather than something interesting set in the present-day of Batman. The character just went through 3 very traumatic upheavals, the revelation that he has a brother, the ‘death of the family’ and then Damian actually dying. I want to see Snyder write that, not this.
But that’s just sour grapes, I should try and review this comic not some imagined one in my head. As I said, this comic is still good, and the opening sequence really shows that. The way the writer and the artist work together there, and show the different time periods works really well, really getting across both the themes of the story, but also the disorientation in Bruce Wayne’s head after the Red Hood gang’s bomb. I also really liked the speech from the main Red Hood, he’s a really effective villain, especially because we’re still not sure whether he’s The Joker or not. I’m actually thinking that he’s not The Joker, and that one of his random Hood henchman is actually the future Clown Prince of Crime, that would be a great twist.
Unfortunately, that same ambiguity of character isn’t there when it comes to Edward Nygma. The scene between him and Philip Kane was pretty good, especially as it gave Kane some depth, he’s not a bad guy. But the way it ended was a bit cheesy, the whole ‘you’re just a big question mark’ nonsense. It was Geoff Johns-type (hey, Central City is fast! Coast City has no fear!) stuff, and I thought Snyder was better than that. The scene afterwards with Bruce and Alfred patching up their differences (and Alfred literally patching Bruce’s body back up) made up for it though. Less obvious symbolism, more great character work.
So yeah, this was another good issue of Batman, but I still keep coming back to the question (oh no, I am The Riddler!) of ‘do we need this?’. I know nobody needs any comic, but you know what I mean. Capullo’s artwork was of course excellent, I mentioned earlier how he and Snyder gave been working together for long enough now that they really are becoming a team. I also still like the different colour palette that Plascencia is using, this is a Batman comic that’s brighter than most, but it works. The back-up was once again interesting, and it managed to make Bruce’s ‘no-kill’ rule make sort of sense, plus, lovely Rafael Albuquerque art!
Justice League Of America #7– I’ve been enjoying ‘Trinity War’ a lot more than I thought I would, but this issue was probably the least enjoyable of them all so far. It really did smack of Lemire and Johns going ‘this is the middle of the story, so pad things out a bit before the big climax’.
I also feel a bit robbed of the promised Justice League Vs JLA battle we were promised. The two teams are working together now, and the Justice League knows about the other group’s secret purpose. I wanted them to fight god-dammit! We’re never going to get to the fireworks factory now. I am however enjoying seeing this many characters all interact in one story. Since the New 52 began, DC have kept the crossovers fairly small, but this has stepped things up a level, and for the first time since Flashpoint, we’re getting a look at the ‘DC Universe’ as a whole.
Most of this issue was various groups of Justice Leaguer’s running around trying to find an answer to one mystery or another and failing, but there were some good bits. I liked how Catwoman managed to open the door to the House Of Mystery by persuasion rather than brute force, and Flash saying that Hal would have been able to do things better than Simon Baz was a fun moment, he just misses his friend!
The action scenes were also well-done, Doug Mahnke’s artwork was excellent, I loved how scary Superman was made to look here. Something’s not right with him and it’s intimidating. Speaking of intimidating, man, Martian Manhunter is not fucking around is he? He is hardcore. I sort of miss the fun-loving, Oreo-eating J’Onn from back in the day, but this guy is kind of awesome. The Doctor Psycho plot was pretty interesting too, he was in Kahndaq, but he never did anything, it was a diversion from the Secret Society, which shows just how ruthless they are. Now that we know they are something to do with Earth-3, the mystery is less exciting, but still, they are looking like a genuinely exciting threat.
The involvement of Lex Luthor in this story is confusing to me, if Pandora is looking for someone who is ‘pure of heart’, why the hell is she going to Lex? It makes little to no sense. But I don’t mind really, Luthor is a great villain, and since he’s appeared so little in the New 52 (although he’s creeping up more often lately) it’s always nice to see him. The ending was actually pretty good too, as Wonder Woman grabs Pandora’s Box and gets totally possessed.
I’m genuinely excited to see what goes down in the final 2 parts of this story, yes, it’s kind of stupid, but it’s the good kind of stupid, it’s event-comic stupid!
Green Lantern Corps #23– After only 3 issues, I think this is my favourite of the Green Lantern titles I’m reading. Which is weird, because under Tomasi, it was probably my least favourite. This issue wasn’t anything flashy, but it was very enjoyable, and it ended with a great cliffhanger.
Van Jensen and Robert Venditti are doing a great job at balancing quite a few separate plotlines (although they might be more linked than I think), as well as making this a title not just about the Human GL, but also about the Corps. So whilst we are focused on John Stewart and his rookies (who continue to get nicely-paced character development, last issue gave us more about Jruk, here we see mostly about Feska), but we also have plenty of scenes with other Corps members. Not just Kilowog and Salaak, but also the likes of Iolande, Vath Sarn, Isamot Kol and Soranik Natu. These are characters that were big parts of this title back when Dave Gibbons wrote it many moons ago, but really dropped off when Tomasi took over. I like Tomasi in many ways, but his love for Guy Gardner really took over this book. But now, it looks like the writers are really going to make this about The Corps, and that’s great.
John and the rest manage to escape from The Khunds fairly easily, but I did like how John has started to enforce a ‘no killing’ rule. It was a big deal when the Guardians repealed that law, but now that they are gone, and the GLC is trying to rebuild their reputation, I like that they are back to being a heroic police force, rather than an army. The Durlan story is also getting more and more intriguing, as they attempt to do some kind of surgery on Fatality. Those guys are creepy as fuck, I just hope they don’t get lost in the mix of this ‘Lights Out’ stuff.
That upcoming crossover rears it’s head at the end of this issue, as John, Kilowog and Salaak inspect the Central Power Battery to see if a malfunction there is what’s causing the rings to blink in and out. Turns out, Ion, the dumb fucking space-whale that gives you the green light powers is dying, and so are all of the other dumb fucking spectrum Pokemon. Eesh. I don’t really like these Johns concepts, so if Lights Out is going to kill them… then yeah, I’m down for that. Bernard Chang’s great art is also a big part of why I’m enjoying this title, he’s got a great, unique style, and it’s perfect for drawing all sorts of weird alien dudes.
Suicide Squad #23– And so, Ales Kot’s glorious run on Suicide Squad comes to an untimely end. The fact that DC only gave the guy only 4 issues is a fucking crime. I’m dropping this title after this issue, nothing to do with Matt Kindt, who I like, but just because I liked these issues so much and I want to punish DC for their stupidity. What will I be replacing it with? Well, Kot’s new Image series, Zero.
This issue was probably the worst of Kot’s ‘run’, but it was still a lot of dark, twisted fun, albeit fun that felt very rushed. It’s revealed that the man behind the events of the last 3 issues is John Lynch, the old Wildstorm character, which is pretty cool I guess, I liked that guy in Sleeper. Lynch has some rivalry with Waller because of some other DC book (Team 7? I dunno) and as he tries to arm a Banana Republic somewhere, the Suicide Squad shut him down in a variety of entertaining ways. I kind of feel like Kot had this big, epic ‘Waller Vs Lynch’ story planned for a run that would last 20-30 issues, and when he saw he only had 4… he did it anyway. It feels rushed, as I said, but this issue was great.
The caption’s were hilarious, with Kot bringing a bit of a Fraction-esque sense of humour into DC, which is much needed, and the lame-ass superheroes the Squad dealt with were very funny (yes, Impetus). I continue to be surprised by how tolerable I find Kot’s Harley Quinn, and King Shark is just amazing. I also really liked how nonchalantly the Unknown Soldier was revealed to be there, I had almost forgotten about him! The narration from James Gordon Jnr was also very well-written, Kot’s take on this guy is brilliant, and it’s a crying shame we won’t get to see it all play out.
Also a shame is the fact that Patrick Zircher is not drawing this issue, his 3 issues of this title were some of the best work of his career, and whilst Rick Leonardi is a solid superhero artist, he doesn’t bring the same level of darkness and detail that Zircher did. Overall, this is just a shame, we’ll always have these 4 issues, but once again, DC have shot themselves in the foot. But there loss is Image’s gain, I’ll definitely be picking up Zero, and I really think Marvel should give Kot a chance on one of their books, maybe even Thunderbolts? I mean, it’s basically the same premise (or it was).
East Of West #5– The first few issues of this title were chock-full of mysteries and questions, and in this, concluding issue to the first arc, we finally get some answers. But of course, they only prompt more questions.
Death and his pals have liberated his wife, Xiolian from her prison, but still, all is not well. Jonathan Hickman gives us some real juicy back-story for both Death and Xiaolian, and we find out that the reason they fell in love was because the strange prophecy that is ‘The Message’. We also discover that she’s pissed at him because he left her and the other leaders of the various American Nations killed their son. It was one thing to have it revealed that a Horseman of the Apocalypse had a son, and another to have it be that he was murdered, and then ANOTHER for it to be revealed that he wasn’t actually dead. This book really keeps you on your toes.
Because, yep, Death and Xialian’s son is not dead, he’s imprisoned by the various ‘Chosen’ because they want to end the world and they believe he is ‘The Beast Of The Apocalypse’. Which is pretty crazy. The image of this poor kid being hooked up into all sorts of machinery is really haunting, and he looks set to be a very interesting character, especially because he doesn’t know what feelings are. The conversation between the two members of The Chosen whilst they look at the kid was brilliantly written, I just love the character of Chamberlain, he’s such a dick, and this is the first really good look we’ve had at Bel Solomon, who also looks like being a fascinating character. He’s a member of the Chosen who wants to avert he apocalypse, and interestingly, it is he who gives the ‘This is the world…’ speech that’s been on the cover of this book since the start.
Xiolian is preparing for war against the other nations, and she has tasked Death with rescuing their son, so the stage is set for a second story arc that’s even bigger than this initial one.
I’m really loving this book, Hickman’s stylistic tics work better for me in standalone universes, rather than the Marvel world (although I did like Infinity), and the way this world synthesises science fiction and Western images is just so cool. Plus, the incarnation of Death in this title is just such a bad-ass character, perhaps not as good as Gaiman’s goth-girl, but still great. Nick Dragotta is also delivering some of the best artwork of his fine career, perfectly getting across the twin genres of this story, and ably abetted by Frank Martin’s colours. If you picked up Infinity #1 this week and loved it, do yourself a favour and check out Hickman’s Image stuff, both this and Manhattan Projects are among the best work he’s done.
Saga #13– The Eisner Award-winner for best series returns after a short break, and it’s just as good as ever. During the hiatus, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this series was just about some stupid cat on a t-shirt, but it’s a lot more than that, and this issue showed that. The best thing about Saga is how it mixes huge sci-fi concepts with a very realistic portrayal of a young family, and that’s all present here.
This issue takes place before #12 actually, as we see Marko, Alana, Hazel and the rest on their way to meet D. Oswald Heist. On the way they come across some reanimated skeletons, which even end up biting Marko’s mother’s ear off, which is pretty hardcore. But the real meat here is not about the skeletons, it’s about Marko grieving over the death of his father, and hey, he looks pretty awesome with a beard.
Of course, the likes of Prince Robot IV and The Will are hot on their trail, and quite a lot of this issue is actually focussed on The Will, which is awesome, because he’s become a really cool character. I’m not so hot on Lying Cat as I mentioned, but that’s mainly because I’m not an animal-lover at all and find pets in fiction not that lovable. The truly important characters here, and the ones who deserve to be on clothing items are The Will, Gwendolyn and Slave Girl. Or rather Sophie, because at the end, The Will decides to give her a name. This is spurred on by a mysterious vision he has of his dead girlfriend, The Stalk, who tries to talk him out of tracking down Marko and Alana, and just settle down with Gwendolyn. Just like with the central couple, just because this book is in space, doesn’t mean the relationships aren’t completely and totally real and important.
Another interesting development in this issue is the introduction of a new group of people who are after Marko and Alana. No, it’s not more Bounty Hunters, it’s tabloid journalists! This issue opens with a Landfall soldier telling a reporter and his photographer about Marko and Alana, and it looks like these two are going to be pretty interesting characters going forwards, and it’s going to be a lot of fun seeing how the media works in this crazy setting.
As usual, Fiona Staples’ artwork is excellent, and full of great little touches, like the camera being used by the journalist having an actual eyeball on it, and the tiny patches of urine on Oswald Heist’s underpants. That’s another great example of how this book brings you back down to Earth (well, not Earth, the planet is called Quietus) and makes the characters seem real. It’s so good to have this title back, BKV is one of the best writers going and it’s just a delight to see he and Staples develop this universe, and these characters every issue. I’m sure some will be annoyed that the overall plot hasn’t moved on from #12, but that’s not what this book is really about for me, the title ‘Saga’ is actually a misnomer, yes, this is an epic story, but it’s more about the characters. God, I sound like Damon Lindelof.
The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys #3(of 6)– We’re halfway through this mini-series now, and things are really heating up. So far, the dystopian future here has seemed like a confused mish-mash of too many ideas that don’t make sense, and that’s still kind of true, because, well, it’s a world that was invented for a rock album, and music isn’t really the best vehicle for detailed storytelling. So whilst the world is vague and kind of silly, Gerard Way and Shaun Simon are now really zeroed in on the characters here, and I’m starting to get invested in them.
The most powerful scenes in this issue involved the ‘Pornodroids’ Blue and Red, and their tragic relationship as they try and escape from Battery City and the evil BLI corporation. You can tell this story is not going to have a happy ending, but the emotions are ringing true, and I’m feeling a surprising amount of sympathy for robot prostitutes. The role of Korse (AKA Grant Morrison) in this story is also very interesting. In the original My Chemical Romance music videos, he was a real villain, but in the comic, he’s been given a lot of depth, despite saying very few words. I’m finding all the scenes set in Battery City to be fascinating, and the totalitarian regime they have there is getting more and more scary.
The stuff out in the desert is less gripping at this point, perhaps because the characters are less immediately gripping. I barely know any of their names, and if I’m supposed to be worried about this Val kid… I’m not. I did like the conversations between Cherri Cola and Doctor D, and the scene where Cola shows the Girl how to shoot was awesome, but it all seems a bit too aimless. That said, the artwork from Cloonan shines brightest in these segments, and Way and Simon keep throwing up awesome concepts and visuals for her to draw, like a weird skinless dude who’s addicted to sunbathing in radioactive rays, or the fact that to get fresh water, you have to travel to a vending in the middle of nowhere.
This is a comic you can really tell was written by a musician, as a whole, it doesn’t quite work, but there are individual moments, individual lines of dialogue that shine, that have a real (ugh) lyrical quality, and make this well worth reading. Plus, you know, Cloonan art, Cloonan is the best.
And that’s that.
My favourite comic this week was Thor: God Of Thunder, that was a great ending to a story that really does stand on it’s own. Even if you don’t like Thor, get the inevitable hardcover. Saga was also great, as was Infinity.
Oh yeah, I mentioned last week that I didn’t get a copy of Swamp Thing. I did get it this week, so here it is, albeit a bit out of date…
Swamp Thing #23– Charles Soule’s run on Swamp Thing continues to be a very good comic, and this issue may have been the best yet, as it really showed just how powerful Swamp Thing can be.
Picking up from the last issue, Swampy has to deal with a whole tone gone mad on evil Whisky, and a megalomaniacal John Constantine as their leader. It was interesting seeing Swamp Thing so powerless at the start, as he’s trapped and emaciated in the prison. I also really liked Soule’s take on Constantine, I’m still annoyed about him being taken away from Vertigo, but if Soule was writing his solo series, I’d actually be interested. Plus, this issue had some really quite scary scenes with the drunken villagers who had gone crazy with the booze, there was a real dark, Vertigoish feel to this issue, so these characters felt true to that era.
I also liked how easy it was for Swamp Thing to stop this once he had got rid of Constantine’s spell. He is not a superhero, he is an immensely powerful elemental, and that panel of a giant Swamp Thing rising out of the ground was just amazing. The voice of the green that was in Alec Holland’s ear, trying to make him kill all the villagers was very interesting too, it looks like there’s going to be a lot of conflict between the human and the green within Swamp Thing.
The end of this issue brings things back to ‘The Seeder’, who has infiltrated the Swamp, beaten up Capucine (I almost forgot about her) and it looks like we’re going to get the long awaited confrontation between the two of them. I will say that I couldn’t make out what the trees were spelling out on that last page? Could anyone else see what it said?
The artwork here was very good, Kano has been kicking ass on this run, and when your fill-in pages are done by Dave Lapham, that’s just awesome. I’m really enjoying this book right now, but I do feel like the Villain’s Month issue is going to disrupt the momentum, I don’t care about Arcane at the moment, I want more about the new villain, about Seeder.
Yeah, Swamp Thing is pretty good. Make sure to join me next week, where the highlights include Batman ’66, Daredevil, Superman Unchained, Superior Spider-Man and Wonder Woman! Ooh yeah.
Follow me on Twitter @NiamSuggitt and visit my blog niamsuggitt.tumblr.com, which has been pretty busy this week, there’s my 'Ides Of…' column and sometimes this weekend I’ll put up my WWE Summerslam predictions.