Yep, it’s time for more comics reviews, and boy, what a monumental week for comics this was. There’s the final round of Villain’s Month books, more Infinity, more Battle Of The Atom, the final issue of Gambit, plus, The Wake and Guardians Of The Galaxy return.
But the biggest deal this week is Image Comics, who whupped everyone’s asses with 5 amazing books. There’s new issues of old favourites like Fatale, Saga, East Of West and Jupiter’s Legacy and to top it all off, Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky launch one of the strangest comics ever… Sex Criminals.
As ever, click the links to join the Outhouse Forum discussion, which is rollickin’.
Nova #8 – Zeb Wells’ run on Nova continues to be an enjoyable story, with plenty of humour and interesting takes on what it is to be a superhero, and now that it’s tying in to Infinity, it has an added edge, in that it no longer feels just a little bit aimless.
Wells does a good job at explaining just why Nova is involved in Thanos’ attack on Earth, and it goes back to a question a lot of fans have been asking ever since ‘The Thanos Imperative’, and that’s what ever it was that went down in the Cancerverse between Thanos, Richard Rider and Star-Lord. Two of those characters are back in the Marvel Universe in a big way, but the original Nova isn’t, and it’s good that we’re finally getting some hints there, although I suspect fans clamouring for Rider’s return will be disappointed, as Thanos strongly hints that he is dead with a capital d.
There are some people who are clamouring for the return of Richard Rider within the Marvel Universe, and that’s his old New Warriors team-mates, Speedball and Justice, who once again appear here, and this time actually come face to face with Sam Alexander, in what was a very fun scene, especially with Speedball’s reaction to not being instantly recognised. It was a little weird to see the New Warriors TV show that caused Civil War and killed 100s of people referenced in a humorous way, but hey.
I think the best scene in this issue was when Sam was flying away from just having fixed the Skate-Park, and having found out that the cute punk girl had easily worked out his secret identity. It was hilarious to see Sam go so far in ranting and raving at the helmet, that he took it off, and of course fell right back down to Earth and destroyed the Skate-Park again. One of the advantages teenaged superhero books have over adult-focused series is that the main characters are more able to make mistakes, and Sam is making a lot of them, but in new, exciting and endearing ways. I buy him as a real kid who wandered into this crazy circumstance.
Of course, this book is not all humour, as we are introduced the primary villain who’s going to be facing Nova in this arc, Kaldera, who is a member of Proxima Midnight’s squadron of Thanos Goons. She certainly looks like a big threat, especially since she’s armed with a Nova-Glove, and one that was probably Richard Rider’s. At the end of the issue, Kaldera confronts… Sam’s little sister! Uh-oh. I can’t wait to see Sam in action against Kaldera, and whether or not Speedball and Justice will get involved, we could even get some concrete answers on what happened to the former Nova. Oh man, this is getting exciting.
Paco Medina’s artwork was strong, he really nails the tone of this book, getting both the traditional superhero bits in, but also the humour of things like Thanos waving to The Watcher, or just Speedball in general. He’s just perfect for a book with youthful energy like Nova, and I’m glad that he’s staying onboard even when Wells leaves.
Gambit #17– And so, James Asmus and Clay Mann wrap up their run on Gambit, and I have to say, that for a mainstream superhero book, this was actually a very satisfying conclusion, with Asmus wrapping up not only the main plot of the series, but also the theme of the story, of whether or not Gambit is a hero or a thief. The answer he comes to is of course that he’s both, but it was entertaining to see him get there, and to see the various elements of the last 16 issues return.
We pick up right where we left off, with Gambit in the middle of a prison riot, about to be killed by Borya Cich and a bunch of super-powered villains. After an entertaining fight (I loved Icemaster and his Wolverine claws), Gambit does something very unexpected… he calls for back-up. Not only do Pete Wisdom and MI:13 show up, and as a Brit it’s always awesome to see them make an appearance, but Rogue and some other Uncanny Avengers arrive as well! Bringing out the big guns for the finale! Just as it looks like Gambit’s reinforcements have saved the day… he gets shot in the head by Cich. This was a great moment, as this book has always done a good job of balancing the real world of being a criminal, and the crazy Marvel Universe, so having Gambit be taken out not by any laser-beams or superpowers but by a normal bullet was very appropriate.
Of course, Gambit isn’t dead for long, as Faiza brings him back to life (that was a beautifully disgusting panel from Clay Mann) only 2 pages later. Now, that may seem a little cheap, but it’s made awesome by how Gambit defeats Cich. The bullet he was shot with is now inside his mouth, and he charges it up with his pink energy and spits it at Cich. I’ve always thought that Gambit’s powers could be used in many more interesting ways than just charging up playing cards, and Asmus has done a good job at showing just how versatile these abilities can be, and none more so here.
So, with Cich out of the way, all that remains to be answered is where Remy Labeau ends up. He turns down Rogue’s offer of membership in the Uncanny Avengers, and he also turns down the Thieves’ Guild. So he’s back at the Jean Grey School playing basketball with Quentin Quire (on grass for some reason), and all is well. I loved the dialogue between Gambit, Wolverine and Kitty at the end here, and how they made fun of Gambit’s reputation as a ‘sexy’ hero as he chose to be skins in the basketball game. Only, all is not well, as in a cool ending twist, the Thieves’ Guild actually have chosen Gambit as their new leader. I’m not sure where or when this new status quo will be reflected in the numerous X-Men books, but I’m certainly excited by it, having a character balance being an upstanding hero and a teacher, at the same time as being the leader of an international crime syndicate, wow, that’s great, it sounds like the perfect pitch for a Gambit ongoing series! Oh wait, shit.
I’ll miss this series, Gambit has always been one of my favourite X-Men, and it was good to have a solo series for a Mutant that isn’t Wolverine. Asmus always had a lot of fun with the character and the Marvel Universe, and Clay Mann’s art was excellent, even when in issues like this, where it was only layouts. If you ignored this book during it’s run, you should really check out the trades, it’s a cool, interesting look at the character, and it may just change the way you think about the Ragin’ Cajun.
Avengers #20 - Infinity continues to rock and roll, and even though I’ve come out and said I prefer the Thanos side of the story more, the Builders storyline is picking up for me, and this was an excellent issue.
We begin with a rehash of the events of Infinity #3, where the captured Avengers were rescued from the Worldbreaker ship, but Hickman does drop a little new info on us. When that female Ex Nihilo randomly appeared then ran away, she wasn’t just silent, she actually psychically spoke to Abyss, telling her and our Ex Nihilo to follow her. Abyss and Ex Nihilo travel to an Ice-Planet, where they come across a whole bunch of other Exes. Rather than fight as I expected, they actually talk, and we start to get some information about just what’s going on with The Builders. For some reason (It has something to do with the New Universal superstructure) many years ago, The Builders stopped making Abyssi and Ex Nihilos at the same time, and stopped making them able to seed life in worlds. We don’t know why things changed, but it looks like answers are imminent (or as imminent as they can get in a Jonathan Hickman book) and more importantly, our Ex Nihilo seems to have turned the rest of his kind to his side, and against The Builders. The tide of this war really is turning! Of course, it’s turning just as the Avengers are about to surrender.
After discussing their next plan of action amongst themselves, Captain America suggests that rather than continue to attack (and I loved the scene between that one Builder and Ronan The Accuser, about how statistically, victory for the Avengers and their allies was impossible), they surrender. Now, does Cap actually mean it? Or is it another, more complex plan? I have no idea, but I am pumped to find out.
It’s getting kind of boring to be repeating this same praise over again, but damn, this whole crossover is just fucking excellent, the art from Yu is excellent, the scale of the story is huge, and that’s just half of it! Man, Hickman is showing us how it’s done, and I really do feel that his style suits Event comics more than most writers, even when he’s just doing normal issues, it’s not normal, and the ideas are so big. Here, he’s on another level.
Young Avengers #10– Yay! An issue of Young Avengers I didn’t totally hate! And I think I know why, it’s because it only really featured 2 members of the team, and crucially, Wiccan was barely there, and even then, he was asleep, I really think a lot of my problems with this book may come down to Wiccan, who is a terrible character. It’s a shame normally, because Gillen and the rest of the book’s fans seem to love Wiccan for some ridiculous reasons that may just be his floppy fringe, but when there are issues like this, where he’s mostly absent, it just makes everything better.
Much of this issue is focused on the main villain of this title so far, Mother. I’ve found Mother to be a pretty crap villain so far, she’s not been very well-defined, but here, we find out more about her and what her deal is, which is very useful. Best of all was the opening scene, where Gillen goes a little meta and has Mother notice his horribly over-wrought captions… and eats them. That was a great moment, and actually genuinely a bit scary. Mother is then visited by a procession of characters.
First up is Loki, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that Loki is actually the villain of the piece here, as we find out the true extent of his manipulation of the idiot Wiccan and what he’s trying to achieve. Wiccan is ‘The Demiurge’ and he’s going to rewrite the rules of Magic in the Marvel Universe at some point, and Loki wants to steal his powers so he can control all Magic, which I suppose would be pretty useful. I did roll my eyes at the fact that Wiccan is some kind of special destiny ‘chosen one’, but I actually think that is deliberate on Gillen’s part, Wiccan’s only personality trait is that he’s a nerd, so it makes sense that he’d warp reality to make himself Azor Ahai or some other Game Of Thrones reference. See, I can make references too! Make a Tumblr about me! Ouch, that was a bit harsh, sorry, anyway, the point is, that I think Wiccan is only the chosen one because he made himself the chosen one in his own solipsistic way. Gillen may even be commenting here on the popular belief that Wiccan is just Allan Heinberg’s author-insert Mary-Sue.
Mother is then visited by ‘Patriot’, who continues to be very creepy, and then by Leah, who I still don’t really care about because I haven’t read JiM. I did like the scene at the end though, with her introducing Hulkling to the rest of her support group.
Her support group is made up of a whole bunch of the Young Avengers’ ex-boyfriends and girlfriends. There’s Ultimate Nullifier from ‘Vengeance’, 3 of Noh-Varr’s former flames, and ‘Patriot’. Plus of course, Leah herself. All of these characters feel that they have been wronged by the YAers, and that they actually do have something to ‘avenge’ and want Hulkling to join their cause. Which of course, he refuses. Leah seems to let him go free, only because it’s magic, he resurfaces not in Austin, but in New York, which of course is a no-go area for the team, and Mother immediately attacks.
This was, as I said, a much better issue for this title, it managed to clarify a lot of the more confusing elements of the book’s main villains in Mother and Loki, making their motivations clear, and it also provided some more immediately exciting threats in Leah’s new team of ‘Evil’ Young Avengers. It’s going to be a lot of fun to see these two teams clash, and for once, the emotional responses could be earned. I also really enjoyed Jamie McKelvie’s art once again, he’s doing the best work of his career on this title, he and Mike Norton make for a fantastic team, and he manages to make even pages with plain white backgrounds visually exciting. But most importantly of all, Wiccan was only on one page, and that’s just a fucking relief, he’s so terrible.
Guardians Of The Galaxy #6– Man, it feels like it’s been a long time since the last issue of GotG. I’m not crazy right? It’s been like two months! Anyways, whilst this issue probably wasn’t worth waiting that long for, it was still very good. Bendis is obviously having a blast writing these characters, and that translates to a fun comic, even if it does have a dark edge.
This book is mainly focused on two plotlines, the first of which is the arrival of Angela to the Marvel Universe. I have never read any Spawn, so I don’t know who Angela is or why I should care, but this issue did a pretty good job at showcasing that Angela is fucking bad-ass and that maybe I should care a little. Most of this issue was a fight between Angela and the Guardians, and she basically kicked all of their asses. She beat Gamora, she exploded Groot to shit, and she was even taking Drax to the limit and absorbing Rocket Raccoon’s laser blasts. The likes of Drax and Gamora are up there with Marvel’s strongest hitters, so seeing Angela whup them was interesting indeed. I know that I should really care about this playground ‘who could beat who in a fight’ thing, but sometimes you can’t help yourself. In the end, the only thing able to fell Angela was a blast from Star-Lord’s Element Gun.
I think the presence of The Watcher here also added to Angela seeming important, he was there watching this (duh), and he seems scared of her. I know a lot of people feel that having Uatu show up in a story is kind of a cheap trick that has been over-used recently, and I do agree that stuff like him appearing in Civil War was a little weird, I do still find his involvement here effective, it may be cheap, but I trust Bendis.
The other plotline here was Star-Lord confronting Thanos about the Time-Quake vision that he had in #5. This was a great scene, with Quill actually standing up to Thanos, and Bendis doing a good job at explaining what happened with Age Of Ultron and the nature of time in the Marvel Universe, and how that now means that Earth is even more of a target, making Star-Lord’s job even harder. Bendis doesn’t explicitly link this scene with Infinity, but you can definitely read that into it if you want. I also loved that this confrontation was drawn by Olivier Coipel, who draws a fucking amazing Thanos, he looked so good. Sara Pichelli also does a brilliant job on the rest of the book, her style is so fluid, it makes for great space-fisticuffs. Her art has also gone a long way in defining Angela, who hasn’t yet said anything, her personality and traits have had to all be portrayed by Pichelli’s art, and she, along with The Watcher have made her awesome.
Another strong issue of this book, let’s just hope it’s not as long until the next one!
Wolverine & The X-Men #36– We’re on Part 5 of Battle Of The Atom already, and man, things are heating up, especially as this is the first issue of the story written by Jason Aaron. I’m a huge fan of Aaron and was interested to see how well he would mesh the comedic tone of this book with the serious nature of this epic crossover. The answer is of course that he nailed it.
I loved the opening of this issue, we were going into it expecting an epic cosmic battle between Jean-Xorn and Emma Frost, and we do get that, only to our eyes, they are just standing still. I loved this depiction of a psychic battle, because it’s all in the mind, we can’t see it. We do eventually get to see it, but I probably would have preferred it if the psychic characters had just spent the whole issue stood there in silence. But I suppose the final stages of the fight needed us to have some visual. In the end, Young Jean wins the fight against her future self, but she also loses, as she gets a vision of the future, and realises that, yep, the future is horrible and that they really should go back. Throw in a surprisingly impassioned speech from Future Deadpool, where he almost commits suicide, and it looks like everything’s sorted right? Nope, because Deadpool’s speech was all a lie, and the future doesn’t seem to be anything like what the Future X-Men told us.
Magik takes Young Iceman and Beast on a trip to the future, and what they find is very interesting indeed. It doesn’t seem very dystopian at all, in fact, the Jean Grey School is going strong as ever, and the X-Men even have the Sentinels on their side. They then run in to another team of future X-Men, who seem to be lead by a guy in an Iron Man costume, and also contain a Phoenixed-up Quentin Quire, what looks like a cross between X-23 and Jubilee, what is either Cloak or The Hood, a girl riding a Black Cat (is it the little Wakandan girl from the FF?), some kind of Ice-Gandalf (has Iceman split in half?) anf best of all, Colossus with an awesome handlebar moustache. So what’s the deal here? Has there been yet another ‘schism’ in the future? Are the people who have been claiming to be the future X-Men actually the future Brotherhood? What is the deal? Aargh, so many questions!
I love how hooked I am by this story, and how I’m just reverted to wanting more and more. Giuseppe Camuncoli stepped in on the art here, and did a good job, I’ve been a fan of his ever since he and Joe Casey did The Intimates (it’s where the username ‘Punchy’ comes from FYI) and he manages, like Aaron to do good, classic superhero stuff, but also with a comedic side to it. As I said, this issue did find space for some of that traditional W&XM humour, like Future-Deadpool recognising Goldballs as a legend and Iceman and Beast leaving Baby Shogo in the hands of Broo. Just all around great stuff, this crossover is so much fun, and it’s always keeping me guessing. Back over to you Bendis!
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #27– More continued excellence from Bendis and Marquez as the Roxxon storyline really starts to come together. Miles is back in action as Spider-Man, but all throughout this issue he was confronted with reasons for why he quit in the first place.
Ultimate Taskmaster (who is hardcore) has Miles, Spider-Woman and Bombshell paralysed, and it’s only though inadvertent use of his Venom Blast powers that Miles was able to escape. The fight between these characters was a lot of fun, especially as it slowly dawned on Spider-Man and Spider-Woman that Taskmaster was able to absorb their powers and send it back to them. It was great seeing the twin inner dialogues of Miles and Jessica, with Miles doubting himself and thinking he’s crap, but Jessica seeing just how great he is. It was surprising to me how emotional it was to once again be inside what is essentially Ultimate Peter Parker’s head, I still miss that character, even if Miles is great.
Of course, Bombshell, being an idiot, doesn’t cotton on to Taskmaster’s powers that fast, and basically explodes everything. Cloak and Dagger then get involved, and thanks to Cloak, Taskmaster is taken out. So now we’ve got all of the characters on the same page, Cloak and Dagger realise that Bombshell is on their side, and everyone’s off to get Roxxon! Oh yes, I loved how Spider-Woman has gone rogue from SHIELD here, I can’t wait for the next part in this story.
As I said, this book is just consistently great, the artwork from David Marquez just gets better and better, and Bendis just writes Miles’ character so damn well, and he’s doing an excellent job at building a great supporting cast for him. Even though Ganke and Miles’ dad and Katie Bishop are absent here, the likes of Cloak, Dagger, Bombshell and Spider-Woman make for great additions. Just more proof that moving Miles into the Marvel Universe would be stupid, Bendis is building an exciting world and cast here, they aren’t going to get rid of it.
Action Comics #23.4 – Metallo – After playing a fairly large role in Grant Morrison’s run on Action, Metallo has not really been seen since, and in this issue, Sholly Fisch and Steve Pugh do an excellent job of explaining why that is.
Basically, for 3 years, John Corben AKA Metal-Zero AKA Metallo was in a coma. It wasn’t until General Lane gave him his traditional Kryptonite Heart that he woke up, more powerful, and more crazy than ever. The US Military attempt to put Metallo back into combat, but he’s too bloodthirsty for them, just going too far and doing stuff like, when faced with a complex hostage situation, just blowing the whole building up. So, Lane and the rest of the army cut ties, and blow up a plane that Metallo is in, believing him dead.
But, he ain’t. Metallo survives at the bottom of the ocean, and slowly walks back to the US, where he confronts Lane. He then fights a new and improved version of himself, Metal-2.0, but because Corben is crazy and violent, he’s able to defeat this guy. It’s great how Fisch has gone out of his way to show that Metallo is not dangerous because he’s got a Robot Body and Kryptonite, but because as a person, he’s already unstable. General Lane once again blows up Metallo, but at the last minute, he’s teleported away by the Secret Society. I really liked the way Fisch used Scarecrow here, yes, he’s a psychopath, but he’s also a psychologist, and he gets right to the core of who Corben is, and gets him to join up with their villainous cause.
Steve Pugh’s artwork was excellent here, he’s been doing great stuff on Animal Man for a while, but this looked even better, maybe it’s that he has a different colourist, I don’t know, but this looked excellent. So many of the Villain’s Month books have been slapdash in terms of art, but this one looked great.
This was good comic, it managed to take a Superman villain I was never too interested in, and tell an interesting story with him, as well as setting him up for intriguing stuff in the future, I’m excited to see this Metallo take on Superman again, and I’d also love to see Ultraman try and snort his heart! That would be my kind of crazy.
Batman/Superman #3.1 – Doomsday – This was a weird one, I enjoyed it, but it was a little bit confusing, and I’m not quite sure what it was trying to accomplish. I do trust Greg Pak though, he’s going to be writing 2 Superman titles in the near future, so this stuff should be explained.
We open on a pre-destruction Krypton, with the El Clan attending a ‘Remembrance Day’ celebration, with the citizens of Krypton remembering the people who died when the mysterious monster ‘Doomsday’ attacked a few years ago. Lara remembers how she fought Doomsday, and how he was massively strong and powerful, and how it took then Colonel Zod to stop him.
These memories are interrupted by a young Supergirl, who has been listening into this story, and was scared. Zor-El tries to comfort his daughter, and reads to her from a book that tells the legend of how the House Of El will end (and the book looks suspiciously like the Polybag that covered Superman #75 back in the day). This legend is a retelling of the story of Superman, and also of the Death Of Superman, with Doomsday coming out of nowhere to kill him, followed by a bunch of new heroes arising in Superman’s place. We see stylised takes on Supergirl, on Superboy, on Steel, Eradicator and Power Girl. This whole story felt weird to me, I thought DC had said that Superman died and come back in the interim period between his debut, and the present day of the DCU? Has that changed? Has ‘The Death And Return Of Superman’ already happened in the New 52? Or are we going to get a retelling soon? It’s confusing.
Adding to that confusion is the appearance of General Zod in this issue, who is somehow able to communicate with Kara Zor-El from the Phantom Zone, and seems to be in there with Doomsday. Is Pak implying that Zod is the one who created Doomsday like he did the fake aliens in his own one-shot? This book has just raised so many questions, but I suppose that’s a good thing.
The art here from Brett Booth was OK, I’m not a huge fan of his style, but he does draw an imposing Doomsday, for some reason that character looks best when drawn with plenty of 90s bombast. So yeah, and odd one, let’s hope Pak can clear this up in future issues of Batman/Superman and Action Comics.
Batman #23.4 – Bane– I didn’t really like this one, mainly because it was all set-up for a mini-series I have no interest in, Forever Evil: Arkham War. Once again, the biggest problem with Villain’s Month is not the covers, but the fact that until you read them, you have no idea what each of these stories is connected to. That said, Bane is still kind of a bad-ass, and it was cool to see one of his creators, Graham Nolan, draw him again, and that they’ve undone the insane hulking reboot job somewhat.
The issue begins with Bane back in Santa Prisca, fighting some people who oppose him, and generally being a tough motherfucker, breaking backs, etc etc. We think there’s going to be a scene where he’s confronted by an innocent child who doesn’t want him to kill her daddy, but nope, she does want her dad dead, because she respects Bane more than him. That was a cool little twist, and one that shows the strange devotion Bane can inspire.
Bane then begins to set sail for Gotham City, which is left defenceless due to Batman being ‘dead’ at the hands of the Crime Syndicate, and for some reason the Court Of Owls is gone too. Bane is seen looking at a Secret Society coin, so it looks like he’s working for them, but later on, he says he wants to attack Scarecrow, who is a part of the Society, so I’m not quite sure about what his motivations are here, is he attacking Blackgate as part of the CSA’s whole deal, or is he acting against them and just repeating what he did in Knightfall? It’s not very well explained.
We then get a recap of Bane’s origin story, which is always welcome, it’s a really great origin, and we also see who the people in charge at Blackgate are. Bane says ‘Gotham is mine’ and yada-yada-yada, I don’t really care. This was an OK one-shot, Tomasi can write Bane well, and Nolan’s art was excellent, you can tell he cares for his creation, but I suppose my dislike of this was on me, I suppose if I want to find out more I should pick up Arkham War, but I just don’t care, oh well.
Wonder Woman #23.2 – First Born – This issue, along with last week’s Swamp Thing book, have demonstrated the best way to do Villain’s Month. It’s not to parachute in some fill-ins to write about a random member of a superhero’s rogues gallery, no, it’s to let the current ongoing writer tell a story about a villain they are currently using and fill-out the ongoing narrative. Here, Brian Azzarello sheds some light on the history of the First Born, and given his mysterious nature, it’s a welcome story, and man, it’s all kinds of bad-ass.
We open with Apollo hanging around with 3 Latina graffiti artists, before opening up his Limo to reveal the unconscious body of the First Born. It turns out these women are not just random women, they are actually Oracles, and Apollo goes to them to find out more about his older brother.
What follows is an origin story that seems to be loosely based at first on the legend of Hercules, but with enough changes to make it different, and to make the First Born a great villain. Zeus is told by a witch that this baby was going to rule Olympus alone, so he decides to kill him. Hera is distraught at this, so the witch decides not to kill the First Born herself, but to leave him out in the wild to be eaten by animals. Only, he ends up being saved by a Jackal and raised among them. The First Born grows up amongst the animals, like a psycho Mowgli, and he is hardcore as fuck, a teenaged feral kid, attacking and killing a Lion, that is bad-ass. Even as the First Born and his pack kill all the other animals on the plains, he is ignored by the Gods and his father.
We then flash-forward a few years, and see that not only does the First Born live with the Jackals, he also has sex with them, and has creepy Jackal-Hybrid kids, which is disturbing and brilliant. The First Born moves on from fighting animals, to men, and dragons, until he becomes the ruler of the world, with a massive army, with which he declares ‘War On Heaven’. All throughout this, he is still ignored by the Gods, right up until he’s at the foot of Mount Olympus and about to strike. Then his dad notices him, and he is immediately crushed, his army is washed away by the sea, and Zeus, Poseidon and Hades work together to send him to the centre of the Earth, which is where he escaped from back in Wonder Woman #12.
The Oracles then tell Apollo that the First Born and he will fight in the future, and that only one will survive. They also say that a naked woman will be there, is that Wonder Woman? They say ‘sister’, but then half of this book’s cast are Apollo’s sisters.
This was a great issue, that added a lot of depth to Azzarello’s already excellent run, the First Born was already a great new villain, but finding out his full back-story made him even better, this was one fucked-up, blood-thirsty life, and it was awesome. I also liked how Azzarello had the story narrated by the 3 Oracles still in modern street-slang, it made for an interesting incongruity, and that’s what this whole series has been about, seeing ancient myths in the modern world.
I’m not really familiar with the artist here, ACO, but this looked good, and crucially, kept a lot of elements that Cliff Chiang has established for this title, I’d certainly like to see ACO step in again. Matthew Wilson’s colours also deserve a mention for maintaining that consistent aesthetic. This was just a great book, but it’s Azzarello Wonder Woman, what else did you expect?
Green Lantern #23.4 – Sinestro– The Green Lantern Villain’s Month books save the best GL villain for last, as Matt Kindt and Dale Eaglesham give us a very nice potted history of everyone’s favourite pink space Hitler. I know I rag on Geoff Johns being in love with all of his villains, but I actually don’t mind it when it comes to Sinestro, Johns did an excellent job of making the character more than just a villain, and in my eyes, made him kind of the Magneto of the DC Universe. He’s a complex guy, so it was good to see his back-story explored, and also get a few interesting hints towards his future.
This issue was narrated by Lyssa Drak, the Sinestro Corps member who was tied to that book. Now, she’s disconnected from it, and is going a little crazy, so she needs to try and remember all she can about her former boss. It was an effective technique to have this issue be narrated by Drak, as she is firmly on Sinestro’s side, and it allowed for an interesting contrast between what she was saying about his actions, and what actually happened.
Drak tells us about pretty much Sinestro’s entire life, we see him as a Korugarian Archaeologist, who gets caught up in a battle between a Green Lantern and a Weaponer of Qward. The GL, who is gravely injured, gives Sinestro the ring to help defeat the Weaponer, and he does. I loved the little touch here where Sinestro had the opportunity to give the ring back and heal the other Lantern, but instead, he just flew away, leaving him to die. I think that’s a new wrinkle to the origin, and I dug it. We then see Sinestro joining up with the other Green Lanterns, and how he becomes best friends with Abin Sur and falls in love with Abin’s sister. Sinestro and Arin Sur move back to Korugar, and that’s when things start to go wrong, as Sinestro stretches the way he uses his ring, and his fascistic rule of Korugar begins. Arin Sur is scared by these changes, and puts their daughter (Soranik Natu) into adoptive care. But Sinestro just carries on ruling with a big green fist, convinced, just like our narrator, that what he is doing is right.
Then of course, Abin Sur dies, and Sinestro befriends his successor, Hal Jordan, and we get the now familiar story of how Hal saw how wrong Sinestro’s actions were, and ended up getting him kicked out of the GLs and into the Anti-Matter Universe. Once again, it was cool how Lyssa Drak viewed Hal Jordan as the bad guy here, but then again, when she labels him the ‘greatest traitor’, she’s actually right!
Kindt then rushes us through the last few years of Sinestro stuff, the Corps, becoming a Lantern again, Korugar being destroyed by Volthoom, and then finally, him killing The Guardians. So, we’re all caught up, so what next for Sinestro? Well, it turns out that not all of the Korugarians are dead, and they may need his help. I wonder where this story will be picked up? I think Venditti and co have made a wise choice in keeping the character off the board, but there have been a few rumblings about a Sinestro ongoing series, which, if written by Kindt, I may actually be interested in.
The art here comes from Dale Eaglesham, and it was great, I love his style, and I love the detail he puts in, the flashback sequences here are framed in a very interesting way, with ornate detailing around the panels, it looked great, and unique. I’d certainly like to see him do more work in the GL universe.
Aquaman #23.2 – Ocean Master - The two Aquaman Villain’s Month books have been some of this month’s highlights, and that makes sense, since they were co-written by the title’s ongoing writer. Whilst this one wasn’t quite as good as Black Manta, Johns and Bedard still managed to tell a compelling story about Ocean Master, and tied together both Forever Evil and Aquaman very nicely.
The issue begins with Orm giving a speech to the Atlanteans prior to their attack in the ‘Throne Of Atlantis’ crossover, it was a rouser, but it was immediately undercut by the quick transition to ‘3 weeks later’, with Orm in prison. Orm’s lawyer is trying to help him, but he’s got his full Namor on, and is acting all dismissive of the ‘Surface Dwellers’. Then, the CSA’s attack on Belle Reve begins, and Ocean Master can make his escape. We see how brutal he can be in the scene where he ‘saves’ the only Prison Guard who was nice to him by killing him, and I absolutely loved that page of him walking towards the sea and complaining that walking was ‘tedious’. He’s such a jerk, it’s great.
Ocean Master runs into some fellow escapees who are attacking a small-town diner, and whilst he’s initially not bothered about saving the humans, once they turn their attentions to him, he brutally takes them out. A woman who was in the diner desperately wants him to save her young son, but Ocean Master refuses, instead heading straight for the sea, and his Kingdom. But then… he changes his mind, and goes back to save the boy.
This was a very good issue, and one that made Ocean Master a very interesting character to me, the comparison to Namor is apt I think, because yes, he’s a dickhead and at times doesn’t care for humans at all, but he does have some kind of honour. With Aquaman unconscious for 6 months whilst this story is going on, it’s going to be interesting to see what position Ocean Master is in the next issue, is he back ruling Atlantis? It seems weird to say this, but Aquaman actually does have some great villains, and both Ocean Master and Black Manta provide strong threats to him, as well as some actual good Villain’s Month comics. Geraldo Borges’ art also contributed to the quality of this book, as it really reminded me of regular Aquaman artist Paul Pelletier.
Justice League #23.4 – Secret Society– Given that he’s the mastermind behind ‘Forever Evil’, Geoff Johns has been surprisingly absent from Villain’s Month so far, with only the Black Manta one-shot until this week. However, now he’s got 3 books co-written out this week, and they are all good. This one, co-written with Sterling Gates, isn’t really about the Secret Society, but instead focuses on Earth-3, and on Owlman and The Outsider. As such, I’d say it’s pretty essential reading if you’re following the crossover.
Most of this issue is set on Earth-3, and tells us a lot about that Universe, we see that the new Owlman is actually Thomas Wayne Jnr, which makes sense, the New 52 version of this character was of course part of the Court Of Owls, and that he and Alfred conspired to kill his parents. The whereabouts of Bruce Wayne in this universe are mysteriously unknown however, perhaps he’s the hooded figure the CSA brought with them? Everyone thinks it’s going to be Alexander Luthor, but it could be something else.
We see that Owlman has Gotham under his control, but after his version of Dick Grayson, known as Talon has discovered some shocking truth about his parent’s death, he’s been left alone. Talon is killed by Earth-3 Joker (I miss the ‘Jokester’ name, but I don’t think the Jokester would ever kill anyone) and in battle with him The Outsider is injected with Joker poison, which explains why he keeps laughing. Sensing weakness, the Gotham Police turn on Owlman, and this is when things start to go bad for the CSA. We then see the beginning of the crisis that seems to destroy Earth-3, and interestingly, it begins with Red Skies, which is of course a reference to Crisis Of Infinite Earths. Is Johns introducing a new version of the Anti-Monitor here? That would be very interesting indeed.
We then get a repeat of The Outsider and Atomica escaping to ‘our’ world, and the process of creating the Secret Society. The final page was very interesting indeed, The Outsider wants to kill the ‘real’ Dick Grayson, but Owlman wants to keep him alive, and ask him to join their cause. It seems he’s guilty over what happened to the Earth-3 Dick. With what happened to Nightwing in Forever Evil #1, it’s going to be fascinating to see what’s done with his character.
This was a very enjoyable issue, it gave some cool insight into the new version of the classic Earth-3 concept, fleshed out the main villains of Forever Evil, and actually made me interesting in stupid bloody Nightwing. The art from Szymon Kudranski, which was dark and muddy, was also pretty much perfect for a story set on the grim nightmare world that is Earth-3.
Justice League Of America #7.4 – Black Adam – Even though he only killed off Black Adam like 2 months ago, Geoff Johns is already bringing him back to life. I don’t really mind though, as this issue was very enjoyable, and it actually surprised me. I thought that, after touching Pandora’s Box and having his costume turned black in Trinity War, that Billy Batson was going to be corrupted and turned temporarily into the new Black Adam, but nope, Johns and Sterling Gates have actually bought back the original, and that’s fine with me, Captain Marvel needs his arch-enemy.
This issue was actually surprisingly current and political for DC, who normally leave that kind of stuff to Marvel. Kahndaq is currently under the rule of a brutal dictator, Ibac, and we see various ways of people trying to do their own ‘Arab Spring’ and rebel. The ‘Sons Of Adam’ are a terrorist/freedom fighter group that want to bring Black Adam back and win violently, whilst we also see people attempting to change things peacefully, though social media and the like. The central characters here are a brother and sister, the brother is a historian who is helping the Sons Of Adam, and the sister is one of the peaceful twitterers. The Sons Of The Adam are just about to resurrect Black Adam (his ashes are scattered in the desert), but the forces of Ibac attack, killing the brother. The sister is radicalised by this, and finally utters those famous words… SHAZAM! And Black Adam is back, bitches.
We then see the sister pick up a gun and begin to fight back, which is weird, I know superhero comics are all about solving problems through violence, but it was weird to read a comic advocating what some would see as terrorism, especially since this issue implies that Ibac has the backing of the USA.
Black Adam carves a swathe through the bad-guys, and at the end of this issue, he’s killed Ibac, and has sworn to protect Kahndaq, but then, Forever Evil kicks in, and a convenient iPad that was lying on the floor now starts flashing the now familiar ‘THIS WORLD IS OURS’ message. Black Adam doesn’t exactly take kindly to this, and says that the world belongs to nobody. It’s interesting that Johns has set-up Black Adam as an anti-hero again so quickly, after he was an out and out villain in the Shazam back-ups, but some of Johns’ best work involved Black Adam as a member of the JSA and a quasi-hero, so I’m excited to see how this all plays out with him fighting against the CSA.
This event has actually done quite a good job at setting up a fair amount of villains as people you want to root for agains the CSA, Lex Luthor, Black Manta and now Black Adam, it’s weird having them as heroes, but it works. Edgar Salazar’s artwork was also a solid contribution here, with just that little bit of scratchiness that reminded me of Gary Frank.
This was the last Villain’s Month book I read, and it has left me with a decent feeling about this whole shebang, yes, it was a logistical screw-up, but there were some very good comics in the mix, and this was one of them.
The Wake #4(of 10)– It’s been quite some time since the last issue of The Wake, so I have to admit that for the first half of this issue, I was a little bit lost as to which character was which, and like ‘wait, which character just died?’ and ‘huh? He’s gay?’ but by the end of it, I was attuned to what has become a really effective horror comic.
Yes, this series does have some weird, epic mythology, but as an immediate read, it’s a genuinely scary survival horror, and this issue was basically a Zombie movie underwater. Scott Snyder even invites the comparison himself, so you know it makes sense.
After another very weird prologue, this time involving a bunch of caveman being blasted by some kind of space-cannon (man, these framing stories are so mental), we basically get one long chase sequence, with Dr Archer and the rest of the crew attempting to escape from the underwater base and not get eaten by the weird fish-guy. Actually, that should be guys, plural, because now there’s a whole pack of them on the attack. I wonder what the collective noun for these creatures is? It can’t be a school. As I said, a lot of the characters are kind of running together for me here, but one of them is standing out, just like in #3, and that’s Meeks, who is just a stone-cold, crazy bad-ass, I love it.
After one of the characters delivers another retelling of a strange myth (At times, I feel Snyder is relying on this a bit too much, but I suppose it all plays in to the story), our heroes come up with a plan, to use the massive hydraulic drill to create enough noise to blow up the creatures brains. They try to do it, and it looks like it’s working, until the drill starts falling apart, have they used it too much? Nope, it’s only a GIANT VERSION OF THE CREATURE! Aaargh, holy crap, now that’s a great ending, Snyder is doing really well at escalating the scale of his main story with each issue, and since, thanks to the framing device, we know the scale can get even bigger, I’m even more excited to see where this goes.
Sean Murphy’s art was, as usual, fucking amazing, the amount of detail that goes in to his depictions of the Rig and the various structures there is mind-blowing and the colours from Matt Hollingswort also really add to the proceedings. This is just a great comic, and with art this good, I am willing to wait a little longer for each instalment.
East Of West #6– I’m so impressed with the Sci-Fi/Western hybrid setting that Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta have created for this book, and how with each issue, we find out a little bit more about it, and are introduced to even more great characters. Hell, this issue doesn’t even feature the central character of this title, Death, or even the main villains, the other Horsemen, and it’s still fantastic.
The issue begins at Armistice, with the 7 members of ‘The Chosen’ once again meeting, and it looks like Bel Solomon and Chamberlain’s conspiring has been discovered. Xiaolin has sent The Chosen the severed hands of her sister, and thanks to the every-mysterious ‘Message’ this means they know that there has been a traitor. Chamberlain rats out Solomon (I love the character of Chamberlain, he really is a great chaotic element, just fucking things up for the hell of it), and Solomon is forced to escape, not just from his fellow Chosen, but from a weird, tentacle monster created by the Native American Chosen. This was a great action scene, and even in small ways, it told us a little bit more about these characters, I’m particularly interested in the black guy (I think his name is John Freeman), who looks like a crack-shot.
So, Bel Solomon escapes, but unfortunately he crash-lands and is in need of help from an old friend. We then get an extended flashback to tell us about this friend, that also serves to demonstrate just how corrupt the world of East Of West is. Solomon’s friend (I don’t think a name is given) was a Texas Ranger, who discovered that his family had been brutally murdered by a member of a very rich family. Bel Solomon acts as the Ranger’s lawyer in this case, but it’s to no avail, the Judge is in the rich man’s pocket, and he is found not guilty. The Ranger of course takes this badly, and just snaps, killing not only the Judge, but also the court security, and then the man who killed his family. The Ranger then takes the Judge’s helmet, and sets out to stop corruption. It looks like the Texas Rangers became a kind of death-squad, going around killing all of the Judges and Politicians in Texas, which is kind of awesome, like a whole army of Punishers (with a robot dog too!).
After they killed all of the corrupt officials in Texas, the Rangers hung up their helmets, but now Solomon wants his friend back on the job, and to go after the rest of The Chosen. Texas Ranger agrees, but of course, he’s also going to kill Bel… last.
This was another great issue of this comic, the art from Dragotta continues to be amazing, and it’s crazy how many layers there are to unpeel here, as I said, the heretofore central characters of this title are nowhere to be seen here, but it’s still a gripping read. Just like another Image title, Saga, there are no lots of different groups and people moving at cross-purposes in this world, it’s going to be awesome to see what happens if and when the Texas Rangers come into conflict with Death, or with the 3 Horsemen. If you’ve been loving Infinity and Hickman’s other Marvel work, you should check this out for sure, it’s just as epic, but it’s got cowboy hats, so it’s even better.
Fatale #17 – Brubaker and Phillips continue their string of excellence, with another strong issue of Fatale, and man, this storyline is possibly the darkest thing they’ve done yet, as Josephine goes way too far.
We open once again with Nicolas Lash’s increasingly fucked-up life, as he goes on the run with the mysterious (and crazy) Nelson. All seems to be going well, until they reach their destination, a warehouse, but uh-oh, a bunch of those creepy sunglass demon dudes are there. Nelson surprisingly makes quick work of killing them, but as they begin to load up the contents of the warehouse into the back of a van, Nicolas drops one… and it contains new copies of Dominic Raines’ book. Who is Nelson? Why does he have this book? Yet more mysteries to go on the pile, and it just adds to the feeling that, in Fatale, you can never trust anyone.
Bru and Phillips then take us back to 90s Seattle, as Jo continues to just fuck with the lives of everyone around her. The psycho cop, Wulf, on top of killing and dismembering Jo’s friend, has now read some magical tomes, and is beginning to see the Lovecraftian horrors creeping at the edge of the world, which is obviously only going to make him even more of a psychopath.
As for Jo/Jane and the band, she’s now joining Lance and Jon on their bank robberies, and due to her powers, they are able to pull them off without a hitch, as the men who work at the bank will do whatever she says. All of the band are besotted with Jo, even if she has only slept with two of them, but there’s an immensely creepy scene where both Jon and Skip watch as she and Lance have sex. That pays off big time later on in the issue, but first, the set-up for something I’m very excited to see. The band’s music video, and their plans to put Jo in it, which is bound to have terrible consequences, I can’t wait to see how it all goes down.
But first up, that terrible pay off. Skip has been driven crazy by the fact that Jo has slept with everyone except him, so he tries to rape her, but then she uses her powers to tell him to stop… and then kill himself. Which he does. He walks right up to the toilet bowl and drowns himself. This was deeply disturbing to say the least, and it’s a heck of a cliffhanger. It’s probably the darkest thing we’ve seen Jo do in this series, because it’s a Jo who doesn’t really know who she is.
On top of all of this fucked-up stuff, Bishop is back on the scene, he’s blind, he’s old, he’s burnt-to-shit, and he can sense that Jo is unguarded. Oh man, the next few issues of this title should be amazing. I’m loving how each arc of this title can kind of standalone, and Brubaker can kill off as many characters as he wants, and just keep going, with Jo, Bishop and Nic in the present still around as constants.
Sean Phillips’ art was of course perfectly attuned to Brubaker’s writing, but then again, you already know that. I should just write a default sentence now and copy-paste it every time there’s a new issue of Fatale or Criminal or whatever out, save myself time from repeating what’s obvious, that these two guys are just a perfect team.
Jupiter’s Legacy #3– Wow, that was all kinds of awesome. After enjoying the first 2 issues of this title, but not really being blown away by them, this was a real step-up, and it has me very excited for what’s next. Millar has said that, if Jupiter’s Legacy were a play, then this is the end of Act 1, and you can really tell that here, as the shit hits the fan in a big way as Walter launches his coup on his brother, The Utopian, and he wins, emphatically.
Millar and Quitely begin things off fairly quietly, with Utopian telling Hutch that he can’t marry his daughter. This was a good scene, as it showed that whilst Utopian can be a bit of an old-fashioned stick-in-the-mud, he’s still well-meaning and, as an analogue of Superman, essentially a great guy. Millar goes out of his way to have him be the epitome of everything people view as great about America, hard-working, honest etc. Which is probably why he has to die. In the midst of talking to Hutch, Utopian is called away, to stop a falling satellite. He tries to call upon the rest of his team, but they don’t help, because they are working with Walter to take him down.
At the same time as the Utopian is dealing with this falling satellite (which is nuclear, Walter is also attacking his wife, who has just welcomed the pregnant Chloe back home. The nuclear bomb detonates, and we see the rest of the ‘heroes’ attacking both Utopian and his wife. I loved how we once again saw Walter use his powers to trick Grace into thinking she’d won, when she was basically already dead, and just seeing Quitely’s pencils was again a very effective and cool technique. Just as Uncle Walter is about to kill Chloe, Hutch teleports in and saves her, using his power rod or whatever it’s called to zap around the world to try and escape. I love how, just like everything Millar, the scale of this teleportation is just massive, going across the whole world. Chloe, Hutch and their unborn child manage to escape, and it looks like they are going to be the major heroes of this story going forward. I’m certainly very interested in Hutch, he’s a great character so far, and I’m especially interested in his background, stuff like his villainous father for example.
The final few pages feature everyone ganging up on the Utopian, kicking the crap out of him in the desert. It was actually a really emotional scene, with Utopian not understanding why everyone was turning on him, not least his own son. It’s sad seeing those old, heroic ideals be shat on by cynical modern deconstructions, and that’s really what Millar is going for with this story I think. He’s known as one of those cynical deconstructors thanks to The Authority and The Ultimates, but it’s clear that he really loves superheroes, and believes in Superman in particular, so to see him kill an analogue here was really effective. We’ve seen conflicts like this before, like Superman Vs The Elite, but here… the cynics can win. In the end, Brandon eye-blasts his dad to death, causing massive flash of light, and searing Utopian’s entire face of, which was just… shocking.
I’m finding Brandon to be an interesting character as well, how much of what he’s doing is him, and how much is him being mentally manipulated by Walter, who claims to just be consulting, but is clearly pulling the strings. I’m anticipating a Darth Vader throwing the Emperor down the hole style scene in the future.
As I said, this is the best issue of this title so far, the first 2 were really only set up, but now the story is really going strong, ‘Superman’ is dead, so what’s next? You get the feeling that this really is Millar’s final statement on superheroes, so it’s going to be fascinating to see where it’s going.
Frank Quitely of course delivers fantastic art here, his style is so unique and cool, and it’s rarely looked better, perhaps only All-Star Superman can live up to it. I particularly like how understated the art is at times, there’s no massive laser beams or flashes of light, it brings the epic superhero fights down to earth, it makes the punches and the heat-vision seem much more real.
Saga #14– Goddammit Saga! Stop being so consistently entertaining! Writing unabashed praise for every issue of this thing is getting a bit boring. I’m not saying I want a crappy issue, but it would certainly be interesting, what would a bad issue of Saga look like? I can’t even comprehend that possibility. As it stands, this was another great issue of a brilliant series that did a good job of moving along not the larger plot, but of enhancing and deepening the characters.
The opening scene was a real highlight, with the two Tabloid journalists we met last issue visiting Alana’s home, and questioning her step-mother, who is basically the same age as Alana. The fact that Alana’s dad re-married someone a lot younger is an interesting bit of back-story, and that wedding photo is just hilarious. I really like how BKV is writing these realistic human families and back-stories, but putting them in amongst crazy alien species and just bringing everything to a very relatable level. That continues with the scenes set on Quietus, with Marko, Alana and the rest getting to know D. Oswald Heist, who is a drunken mess, he even pukes on poor baby Hazel, in a hilarious moment.
I loved how the hidden messages that Alana was reading into Heist’s books weren’t just her being crazy, and that he actually was writing a book meant to end the war and unite the two sides. I’m also intrigued by what Heist thinks the opposite of war is, and the discussion between him and Marko’s mother was very well written. Just like the Alana’s step-mother stuff, losing a loved-one is a very human thing that we can all relate to, and did anyone else think that Hazel’s narration indicated that Heist and Marko’s mother would get together?
The third and final plotline of the issue was The Will, Gwendolyn and Slave Girl, sorry, Sophie, waiting for their spaceship to be fixed so they can get back on the trail of our heroes. Only, The Will wants to give up the hunt and retire. I wonder what the nature of his visions of The Stalk are? Is he just crazy? Is it really her? Or is it something more sinister? The Stalk keeps egging him on to kiss Gwendolyn, and he does, but she rebuffs him. Again, more relatable human drama, but there’s a talking cat there too. In the end, one of The Will’s informants rings him up with a tip, he’s spotted Prince Robot IV, who has The Stalk’s ship, and has overheard him talking about Quietus.
We already know that Prince Robot will be on that planet at the same time as Alana and Marko, so will The Will (that’s weird to type) and his gang be there too? I was initially perturbed by the fact that these last 2 issues have flashed-back to before #12, but it’s turned out to be a very effective technique. Note to self, do not question the choices of Bryan K Vaughan.
Fiona Staples’ art was once again magnificent, and I feel I should mention that she’s also the colourist of this book, and not only that, but the colours here are among the best in all of comics. She’s pulling double=duty here, and it’s making for a beautiful comic. Throw in another strange Saga survey, and this book has it all, as I said, it’s getting boring constantly praising, but what else can you do?
Sex Criminals #1– Matt Fraction continues his quest to make me uncomfortable reading comics on public transport, first with the lingerie-filled covers of Satellite Sam, and now with his new Image book, which is called Sex Criminals. Damn you Fraction, stop making me look like a perv. I mean, a bigger perv.
I really enjoyed this first issue, and whilst I didn’t find it to be as