While I mostly review single issues for The Outhouse I am a trade-waiter by nature. I put in a regular order through Discount Comic Book Service and get a monthly shipment consisting mostly of HC’s TPB’s and OGN’s. I’m also a stay-at-home dad who enjoys books and movies. As a result my “to be read” pile has gotten a little high, so for the month of November I’m going to read a trade a day and then post short capsule reviews every 5 books or so.
Welcome to Stack Month.
Captain America Vol. 1: Castaway in Dimension Z
Written by Rick Remender
Penciled by John Romita Jr.
I’m one of the few people who never really latched on to Ed Brubaker’s Captain America. I read the first Winter Soldier storyline and Red Menace? Maybe? The stuff around his death for sure. Either way it just wasn’t for me. This, on the other hand, is right up my alley; Cap’s on some alien planet, harsh environment, pursued by predators, crazy-ass Arnim Zola out there somewhere and he’s also protecting this kid he saved from Zola. Eleven years pass over the course of 5 issues! He’s painting pictures of The Avengers, Sharon Carter, balancing a desire to go home with the realization that this might be the rest of his life. Great flashbacks to young Steve growing up rough in Brooklyn, learning the lessons that will make him the man he is. It’s grim stuff at times but also an exhilarating survival tale. I’m a JR JR fan so this is all good for me; pretty good creature design, I like his Steve Rogers, square jawed but beat to shit most of the time. Only real problem I have is the kids in the flashbacks all look like bobble heads, huge expressive heads and faces on skinny bodies. I don’t really care though, I’m enjoying this too much.
Harbinger Vol. 1: Omega Rising
Written by Joshua Dysart
Penciled by Khari Evans & Various
I’ve read all of the nuValiant volume 1’s and this comes in solidly at number two.* The story of Peter Stanchek, a powerful telepath pursued by two factions, who may be destined to destroy the world. Stanchek is one of those characters who doesn’t really want his “gift”, he uses drugs to drown out the thoughts of the masses, pals around with a schizophrenic, uses his powers to make a childhood crush love him. In clumsier hands he would be as clichéd as that recap sounds but Dysart gives him a kind of panicked desperation that seems to justify all the stupid choices he makes. Of course a rich telepath comes calling to recruit him, of course the rich guy has a plan to benevolently rule a broken world, there’s some training, other asshole students, it’s a little predictable but so well executed you don’t care. There is one thing out of left field, Faith, an un-stereotypical character that comes out of nowhere in issue 4, she’s pretty interesting. The art is solid if unspectacular, Evans gets assists on 4 out of 5 issues, the storytelling is good and the action is clear. All in all a good read and I’m here at least through the Harbinger Wars crossover and probably beyond.
*For those who care it’s XO Manowar, Harbinger, Archer & Armstrong, Bloodshot, Shadowman (though A&A and Bloodshot switch positions beyond volume 1’s).
Think Tank Volume 1
Written by Matt Hawkins
Penciled by Rashan Ekedal
Think Tank is a B&W techno thriller/military adventure/something from Top Cow’s Minotaur Press imprint (hey, remember Felon?!?). I had read the first issue way back when it came out and was underwhelmed. The protagonist fit neatly in the “super competent asshole” character mold formed by House and all its clones. Add in some cutting-edge tech and I still wasn’t interested in reading Elementary + all the Mission: Impossible movies (except for 2. I’m glad John Woo isn’t making American movies anymore). Then I found Vol. 1 in a $5 box at Detroit Fanfare and thought “Why not?”
It ended up being an ok read. It’s funny in that “I blew air out of my nose a little” way, the tech is well researched and used inventively and there’s a nice twist at the end but I remain uninterested. David Loren is a slacker genius, works for DARPA, bristles at authority, and is growing disillusioned with building weapons. He creates a thing that can read people’s minds, realizes that he doesn’t want any government to have this much power and attempts to escape. It’s well executed as a thriller but I just don’t care about Loren or any other character. Hawkins also spends a lot of time speaking to the reader via Loren’s interior monologue. I got tired of this quickly, it seemed preachy and over-written to me. The art is the high point, Ekedal reminds me of Pasquel Ferry, and the book looks great in black & white. The escape sequence is clear and well executed. I bought Vol. 2 in the same $5 box, so I guess we’ll see where this goes but I’m not overly optimistic.
Wolverine & the X-Men Vol. 4: AvX
Written by Jason Aaron
Penciled by Jorge Molina & Various
In my experience the best thing to come out of AvX were these Wolverine & the X-Men tie-in issues. This collection is essentially a series of one-shots, some AvX related, some not. The first issue deals with whack-o Pheonix-powered Colossus attempting to re-kindle his romance with Kitty Pryde; Aaron does a great “creepy omnipotent being” for Colossus and Kitty gets equally good turns as “overwhelmed headmistress” and “badass”.* Second issue is a “calm before the storm” thing as everybody gets ready for the final fight. Great character moments from Iceman, Kid Gladiator, Broo and Husk.* Third issue is a Chris Bachalo penciled Kade Kilgore (new Black King of the Hellfire Club) origin. It relies a little too heavily on the “oh shit the person doing all these over-the-top evil things is a LITTLE KID!” trope but it’s not like I was bored. Fourth issue is an all Doop issue penciled by Mike Allred! That’s all you need to know! You need to know more? Doop fights a League of Nazi Bowlers, Doop visits a strip club, Doop teams up with Howard the Duck and gets run over by a lawnmower! I read it twice in a row. Last issue is a sort of AvX epilogue and then right at the end shit gets real, Bad Boys 2 style. Look, this is a great book, the art is universally awesome, the coloring is bright and fun and Aaron is doing some Joss Whedon level dramedy here. Always recommended.
*Also a funny Toad moment, but those pretty much happen every issue.
The Legend of Luther Strode
Written by Justin Jordan
Penciled by Tradd Moore
Disappointment, thy name is The Legend of Luther Strode. I was a big fan of the first mini, The Strange Talent of Luther Strode. In that one geeky Luther turns into a stone-cold killer via a Charles Atlas-like workout course. His high school problems are obviously over and he gets a girlfriend (Petra) but a secret organization comes looking for him, a lotta people have to die and everything pretty much goes to shit in the end. It was a fun book; witty, full of over-the-top violence, and Tradd Moore came out of nowhere as an awesome artist capable of dynamic, visceral action.
Legend takes place 5 years later, Luther is operating alone, killing criminals at random. An up-and-coming Mafia guy decides to take a shot at him, he gets some assistance from a guy who turns out to be hunting Luther and that guy ends up having another guy packed in a box. Box guy is SPOILER. Then there’s violence. And that’s about it. Most of the characters spend most of their time fighting and most of their dialogue talking about fighting. I mean, Moore is awesome and the violence doesn’t exactly get boring but when it’s just one of 3 guys fighting in random combination and spewing some variant of “It’s over when I say it’s over” for 6 issues it gets a little tired. Petra shows up and it’s a coin flip per page whether she’s a damsel in distress or Ripley from Aliens. She gets all the funny lines and Luther doesn’t have much to say (“You don’t understand what you’re dealing with”). I was pretty bored by the end, the only thing keeping me reading was Moore. Legend is a great showcase of brutal fights between super-powered beings but the story and dialogue left me cold.