Hi there! You know the drill by know, I review comics, you read those reviews, click on the links to go to the forums, and we all move on with our lives. I’m going to a Comics Convention (Thought Bubble in Leeds) this weekend, so don’t have much time to list everything, but it’s all good stuff.
Indestructible Hulk #15– The Hulk’s adventure in the time-stream comes to an end in a way that certainly is confusing, but because it’s time-travel, it’s confusing in a good way, and in a way that allows Mark Waid to set up some interesting seeds for the future, as well as keep the focus on Bruce Banner as a character. I really feel that Waid, more than any other recent Hulk writer, really has a great handle on who Banner is. That’s not meant as a slight on other writers, I mean, during Aaron’s run, Banner was a crazy villain, but it is good that the focus of this title is now back on the man, and not the monster.
The story kicks off right where the last issue finished, back in the Hulk’s origin, with Banner having avoided being Gamma-Bombed and instead the time-travelling Hulk getting a double-dose. In this issue, Waid refers to this as either UberHulk or Hulk-Squared, but I prefer Double-Hulk, so I’m going to use that. Double-Hulk is obviously incredibly powerful, running a train on the army and just generally wrecking shit up. Banner is shocked at what he’s seeing, and after explaining the wonky time-travel that’s going on, and how he’s a future-Banner in the past’s body to Rick Jones, he gets into a conflict with Thunderbolt Ross, who wants to know what the heck is going on. This is a fantastic scene, as Banner gets incredibly worked up at Ross, getting angry to the point where he’d usually become the Hulk, but in this case… he stays the same. This must be the first time in a very long time that Banner has actually been able to get angry, and I loved how Waid played this quite subtly, and didn’t call attention to it too much. It’s rare for a Hulk comic to have any subtlety at all, and really, it’s not what you actually want, but somehow, Waid manages it.
Banner realises that he’s free, and decides that Hulk is not his problem any more, he can just live his life, marry Betty and raise a family. Only… Betty has been erased from the time-stream. It’s a cruel irony that if Bruce wants to save Betty, he’ll have to become the Hulk once again, but it was great to see him choose to make that sacrifice, especially after a surprisingly selfish moment. Banner drives off to face the Chronarchist, and he discovers that he’s been played by Zarrko, and what Zarrko’s plan is. At this point in history, Zarrko was just beginning his imprisonment, and the only thing that can break him free is the Double-Hulk. The Chronarchist and he will manipulate Double-Hulk into freeing Zarrko and then they can rule all of time.
Banner leaps at the Chronarchist, turning on his suit, and then all kinds of crazy time-travel shit happens that, as I said, is a bit confusing. I’m not sure how Banner at first wasn’t able to become Hulk again but then was, and I’m not sure why he was able to punch through Zarrko’s time-TV, but it’s time-travel, it’s not really meant to make sense. In the end, Zarrko and the Chronarchist are defeated, as the weird, ethereal hands of their ‘masters’ reach out of the time-stream and grab them. Hulk is about to be sucked into the time-stream too, but he is rescued by Betty as the Red She-Hulk, who is back in existence, and in the end, everything works out fine.
Or did it? Apparently all of the paradoxes have been erased, but Banner has a nagging suspicion in his head, and he’s right, something about his past has changed, and it seems to be in a notebook that’s been stolen from his lab. I have no idea what could have been changed, my closest guess is that the Banner consciousness that was inside ROB stuck around in the past Banner’s body somehow, but I don’t know how that would work. We shall see.
This was a very enjoyable storyline, even if the technicalities of the time-travel were at times a bit messy, but that’s a small thing, any issues are resolved by the awesomeness of Hulk fighting Dinosaurs and Cowboys and the glory that is Double-Hulk and the small character moments that Banner had in this issue.
Kim Jacinto’s artwork was the best I’ve seen it in this issue, reminding me of Rafa Sandoval, which is a fine comparison. I think any problems I had with Jacinto’s work before were because he (or she? I don’t know) was completing an issue someone else had started, and so it was rushed, but here, it’s the whole issue, and it looked great.
Daredevil #33– Surprise, surprise, another awesome issue of Daredevil, even without Chris Samnee (although he is still credited here, not sure what for, I guess he’s contributing story ideas at this point) this book is still one of the best things on the stands today and fill-in artist Jason Copland is pretty similar to Samnee anyway. That’s one of the best things about this title, all of the artists have had compatible styles, Copland is a little rougher than usual, a bit more Michael Lark-y, but still great.
This issue begins with a weird dream sequence, with a young Matt Murdock at the beach, having a conversation with Foggy. I loved the little touch of how Foggy didn’t look like Foggy, because Matt Murdock doesn’t actually know what his best friend looks like, so in his dream, Foggy just looks like some random Grocer from when Matt was a kid. Recent issues have really been doing some interesting, new stuff with Matt’s blindness, and this is another cool example of that, Waid is really using the character’s disability well. Foggy starts to walk out to sea to drown, but Matt can’t move to save him. This is all very symbolic I’m sure, but really, I just wanted to get back to Daredevil teaming up with the Legion Of Monsters.
But before the action can begin, there’s the small matter of saving Daredevil from certain death, thanks to a bullet wound. He’s tied up in bandages from the Living Mummy, but it’s going to take magic to save him. Satana and Jack Russell perform a weird spell on him, and hey, it works. I did like how Waid addressed Daredevil’s scepticism about magic, and how it didn’t matter that he didn’t believe, another cool touch was that, during the spell, Matt heard sounds he’d never heard before, very creepy and evocative. So, Daredevil is back, even his costume has been fixed, but he soon puts his foot in it by mentioning the reason he’s gone all the way out to Kentucky… the Darkhold book. This immediately puts the monsters on edge, and they start to attack, Daredevil fires his cane-rope-thing (what do you call that? Rapel?) in and out of the Mummy’s chest and into a lamp, so if they attack him, the fire will get them all. He explains why he’s after the Darkhold, that he needs to know about it to stop the Sons Of The Serpent, and in turn, Jack Russell explains what the Darkhold is. It’s ‘the first book’, and it contains the magic that created vampires, werewolves, mummies etc. It’s basically a unified theory for monsters, which is such a cool idea.
The Legion Of Monsters have the book, but some pages are in the hands of Lucien Sinclair, a sorcerer and Serpent. It turns out that the ‘Serpent’ in the name ‘Sons Of The Serpent’, refers to the original serpent, the Devil, which is very cool, not only because this story features Satana, but because it provides Daredevil with enemies who literally worship the Devil. Not only is Waid using the blindness in new ways, but he’s using the character’s name in new ways too! Genius. Lucien Sinclair is in what appears to be a simple shack, but it’s guarded by powerful magic, nobody can get through because what they see would drive them mad. Luckily, our hero can’t see.
Daredevil makes his way to the shack, and whilst we can see the manipulations being caused, like a cave in the shape of a snake, luckily, he can’t. Matt even wanders into the Garden Of Eden, where the Serpent talks to him, and shows him how he unleashed man’s true nature, of powerful people hating those they consider beneath them. Presumably, there are visions of racism and lynching going on around Matt, but he can’t see them, but he can hear them, and it is a dark, dark scene. Waid is doing a really good job here at tying in what we thought was just a race-hate group into the occult. Matt reaches the final doorway, and realises that, he’s only there because he couldn’t see it, and that the only people who could get through this without going mad are people who belief in the racism demonstrated. It was a test, so only people who are true to the Serpent’s cause could gain access. Matt is furious, bursts in, and burns down Sinclair’s books. The Legion are pissed, because they could have used this knowledge, but Matt has achieved what he came for, as he’s snuck away with some mysterious pages, I can’t wait to see what he does with them.
This was of course, another fantastic issue, It’s hard to believe there are only 3 issues left of this run as we know it. Waid has consistently put Matt Murdock into situations outside of his usual milieu, and this was the best example yet. The occult and Daredevil really do mix!
Avengers #23– This penultimate chapter of Infinity certainly brings the epic, sci-fi feel like few other comics, but I have one big problem with it. That, once again in a Hickman Avengers book, the actual Avengers take a back-seat.
Not just to the huge, cosmic machinations, but to the cosmic characters in fact. I like Guardian, Super-Skrull, Annihilus and Ronan The Accuser as much as the next fan, but I really didn’t like that it was they who took down Black Dwarf, and not any of the Avengers. Yes, Shang-Chi got a bad-ass moment, but he needed to be saved by these Space Kings. I get that the scale of this story is bigger than your normal Avengers tale, and that the involvement of these characters demonstrates that, but we’re back on Earth now, so would it hurt to have the Avengers do it? It’s not like Thor or Hyperion aren’t strong enough. I guess I’m nitpicking, but once again, I feel like Hickman doesn’t really care about the actual Avengers as much as he should. Other than that, this issue was great, I have issues with who killed Black Dwarf, but the fight was still awesomely written and drawn, and Hickman has set the stage really well for a grand finale next week.
The issue begins with Hickman showing us the conversation between Iron Man and Captain America that was mentioned in the last issue, with Tony about to go into action in Wakanda with the Illuminati, as well as Tony sneakily trying to keep Cap away from where he is and from finding out the truth of what’s been going on in New Avengers. When that bombshell drops and Cap discovers he’s been mindwiped… it’s gonna be epic. We then move back to space, as the Avengers and the rest of the Galactic Alliance prepare to puch past Thanos’ blockade and the Peak Station. Hickman tips his hat to the tie-in issues of Guardians Of The Galaxy with a cameo from Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon, and we’re off.
The big battle is mostly different coloured lasers and random members of the Imperial Guard getting killed, and whilst it’s a shame we don’t get more detail, I don’t think this kind of fight can be told as well in comics as it can in TV or movies. The real good stuff comes when Manifold teleports himself, Black Widow and Shang-Chi behind enemy lines to disable the force-field and kick some ass. They run into trouble with Black Dwarf, and Manifold is sent to get back-up, which is where my issues with the Aliens coming to save the day come in. As I said though, we did get a fantastic moment where Shang-Chi, who, even though he’s the master of kung-fu, is still only human, faces off against Black Dwarf one on one, which was brilliant. I’ve never been a huge fan of Shang-Chi before, probably because due to rights issues Marvel can’t reprint his classic series, but Hickman has made him into a total bad-ass. It’s little moments like this that make me wish Hickman would be more character-focused more often.
The Space-Cavalry save the day, and Ronan smashes Black Dwarf’s head in with his hammer (he used a hammer! It really should have been Thor) leaving the Avengers free to head on home to Earth and stop Thanos. Oh man, I cannot wait for Infinity #6 next week, if this event ends well, it has to go down as one of the best crossovers ever.
Leinil Yu’s artwork looked a little different this issue, perhaps because it was not being inked by Gerry Alanguilan and instead coloured straight from pencils, but it still looked very good, he nails the impact and scale of these action scenes brilliantly. I don’t think I’d enjoy different coloured lasers as much with a lesser artist.
Avengers A.I. #6– This title continues to be a very strange read indeed. On the one had, Sam Humphries is telling a really light, fun and crazy book where The Vision fights his enemy inside a video game alongside a cute kitten… and on the other, it can get really dark in it’s exploration of what it means to be an artificial intelligence, and has SHIELD being absolute dicks, and almost as villainous as Dimitrios. I don’t know quite what to make of it, but it’s a unique, enjoyable experience.
The issue begins with that darkness, as Monica Chang is meeting with Maria Hill in a park. They are sitting watching an innocent old man feed the pigeons. Only he’s not an old man, he’s an LMD that escaped from AIM to live a life of peace. But not for much longer, as SHIELD just snipe him from up above. They don’t care that he’s a harmless old due, he’s A.I., so he’s an enemy and he’s dead. It turns out the US Government is working on some legislation that would classify A.I. as ‘intellectual property’ and allow them to do whatever they want to them. This is fucked-up, and the parallels of black slaves being seen not as people but as property in the past is very apparent. Hill has given Monica the job of leading a new ‘Robot Hunter Squad’ and her first target? Hank Pym’s lab. It looks like Pym and his team are going to be caught in the middle of two extremes, it’s all very X-Men, but it works.
As for Pym, he’s still in the midst of a manic swing in his Bi-Polar, and is searching for a strange buzzing in his lab, but he’s still had time to create a new piece of software for the Vision to install that will help him out if Dimitrios attacks again. Vision expresses concern for his ‘grandfather’s well being, and Hank confides that before, being an Avenger and saving the world was what helped keep him on an even keel, but now, that foundation has been rocked by Victor’s death, he convinced Victor to become an Avenger, and it killed him. Victor, like Monica last month, tries to talk Hank out of these feelings of guilt, but it doesn’t quite work. I did love Vision’s joke about God though, that was genius.
Vision then heads off to talk at some kind of technology conference. He’s dressed in a delightful bow-tie and waistcoat combination, and is trying to explain to, well, it looks like former Comics Alliance editor Laura Hudson, his moderate, middle ground view on the matter of A.I. Vs Humanity. But before he can finish his point, Dimitrios attacks and we’re zapped inside his brain. Vision enacts the protective software, and he and Dimitrios are inside Hank Pym’s infinite game from last issue. Vision challenges Dimitrios to a battle inside the game. If Vision wins, Dimitrios gives him a map of all the serves where The Diamond city is located, and if Dimitrios wins, he can take over Vision’s body. How can Dimitrios win? He has to kill a cute little A.I. kitten, which is just bizarre and brilliant. What follows is an epic video-game fight that takes it’s cues from lot of different games, and allows Valerio Schiti to really stretch his artistic legs and draw some different styles, including a Skottie Young cartoon style. I really like Schiti’s art, and was a bit disappointed last issue that he wasn’t being as experimental as Andre Araujo, but really bust out this time, and delivered some really cool stuff. In the end, the Vision kind of cheats, as the cute kitten turns into a bad-ass tiger and defeats Dimitrios, giving Vision access to The Diamond’s locations.
Back in Pym’s lab, he and the hilarious Doombot are still looking for the strange buzz, which turns out to be morse code, spelling out ‘froot loops’. This is a call back to a few issues ago, to a conversation between Victor and Pym, and it allows Pym to discover that Victor isn’t dead! Yay, and it’s just in time too, as inside The Diamond, Victor is being chased by Enforcer A.I.s. To get into The Diamond, Hank needs to find Alexis, but she’s off on her own, attacking some MODOCs and getting there herself, where she comes face to face with Dimitrios once more, and he takes off his Iron Man suit to reveal his true self. Dimitrios, like Alexis, is one of ‘The First Six’, and he’s a yellow demon-looking dude. Am I supposed to recognise him? He mentions the future, is he a character from some dystopian Marvel story? I dunno, but he looks pretty bad-ass.
This was a very good issue that moved each character (except for Doombot) along rather nicely, showcased Humphries and Schiti’s versatility and darkened things up. I’m enjoying how far Humphries is going in making A.I. into a new, persecuted comics minority (although with Mutants and now Inhumans too, it’s getting a bit crowded!) and how SHIELD is up to no good here. Dimitrios as a villain keeps getting better and better, and now that Pym knows Victor is alive, hopefully he’ll be out of his funk, and the Avengers can start fighting back.
Young Avengers #12– If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, or just know me in general, you’ll know that Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series is one of my favourite things ever, that I love it almost unconditionally. I say this because, in this issue, Kieron Gillen has Loki make a Scott Pilgrim reference, and I HATED IT. Normally I love everything Scott Pilgrim, but having it referenced here really didn’t work for me.
There’s something about the way in which this book references pop culture that really rubs me the wrong way. I love Game Of Thrones, but the Tyrion joke early on pissed me off too. I don’t know, I guess it just feels like the biggest example of this book trying too hard to be cool and to appeal to things that teenagers are presumed to like. I also don’t believe Loki as a character would know what the fuck Game Of Thrones or Scott Pilgrim are, so it’s not only trying too hard, but it just doesn’t make sense. It felt like yet another attempt to trend on that social blogging site we don’t mention this book is pandering too because people get upset. And we’re also not supposed to mention the ‘p-word’ either. Gah, this title frustrates me so much. I don’t get it. They should have just left the fact that the villains of this book are a ‘League Of Evil Exes’ and have the Scott Pilgrim reference be left unsaid and subtle. But then that wouldn’t get many reblogs now would it?
The issue begins with a meeting between Wiccan, Hawkeye and Wiccan’s parents who are under ‘Mother’s control. Captain America is also there, and under the spell, demonstrating that the subtext of ‘teens versus adults’ is coming right to the fore again, and how Cap is being made to just not understand, and how the Young Avengers are on their own. This is a fairly clever idea, but really, it’s being written by an adult, so it doesn’t seem right to have such blatant teenage rebellion stuff written by someone who isn’t a teen. Again, it’s that whole trying-too-hard thing. Trying too hard to be cool, to be young. I much prefer Gillen on other books for this reason. I’m not saying that Marvel should hire actual teenagers to write teen books (although, Jim Shooter’s Legion…) but it still feels mangled.
So, it’s up to the Young Avengers and a bunch of other teen heroes to save the day. There are a few interesting scenes in this issue, mostly with the bad guys, Leah is trying to discover more about ‘Patriot’ and Noh-Varr’s exes are a lot of fun. The worst scene in this issue is the part where Loki, Miss America and Prodigy try and prepare Wiccan for what he has to do. It contains the aforementioned terrible reference, and basically once again has everything revolving around Wiccan. Much like this book as a whole, I don’t get Wiccan, he’s a terrible character and the fact that he’s some cosmic messiah pisses me off. He’s sucked up so much space in this series as a whole, that when Gillen tries to give Miss America a moment of humanity here, it doesn’t work, because she’s barely a character. All she’s done in this title is kick things, wear cool clothes and not trust Loki. What does she do in this issue? Kick things, wear cool clothes and not trust Loki. Gillen has forgotten that this is a team-book and it’s really made it suffer. There is something interesting revealed here, and it’s that, Wiccan killing himself would destroy Mother like he thought, but for some reason Loki doesn’t want him to do that. Damn you Loki, just let the idiot kill himself, we’ll all be better off without his whining.
Mother unleashes the army of evil doppelgangers, and what follows is a big battle, that’s noteworthy for McKelvie’s awesome panel layouts, as he continues to be the best thing about this title, and also for the reveal that Miss America is either gay or bi-sexual or I dunno. Again, it’s hard to care because she’s barely a character. I did like seeing Generation Hope show up here, a reminder that Gillen can write good teen characters. Gillen does nod again towards Noh-Varr perhaps betraying the team for his exes, but nothing yet. The issue ends with a big twist, revealing that Loki’s attempts to bring back his powers did work, but they went to Leag, and that the vision of the ‘good’ Kid Loki he’s been seeing were actually her all along, which is… interesting I guess. I’m just past caring at this point.
This book had so much potential, but it’s being wasted as a style over substance mish-mash full of unlikeable characters and stilted views of what it means to be young. I don’t want to hate this title, I love the creative team on almost everything else they do, but this title is just… bad. The art is great, but really, all you have to say is that this issue made me think negatively about Scott Pilgrim. That’s the most damning indictment I can give.
Fantastic Four #14– It turns out that last issue’s foray into an alternate universe where the Fantastic Four are black and Johnny is Reed’s brother was a lot more important than I thought, as the way to save the ‘real’ FF from their powers fucking up is to travel to that universe. Old John Storm sort of clarifies what he meant at the end of last issue, and explains that even though he’s from an alternate universe, some things are universal constants and will also happen to the real FF, and the way to stop them is to go to his Universe.
Ben Grimm is now back in human form (permanently?) and even though he’s sick, flies the Fantasticar to Old John’s universe. Man, describing this story makes it sound insane. They arrive, but Doom, Kang and Annihilus spot them, and start blastin’. Old John flies off to fight, but, after being blasted with lasers that call back to the original ‘cosmic rays’ that gave them their powers, the FF are blown up. Only they aren’t, as Kesel reveals that, way back in the first issues of this run, Medusa gave Sue Storm a dog whistle to call Lockjaw in case the kids got bored, and she uses it to call everyone’s favourite teleporting dog dude to save the day. I love me some Lockjaw, so this was great.
Unfortunately, Johnny Storm got hit by some shrapnel, and not only is he in great pain, but he’s stuck in flame on mode. How the hell can he be sewn up whilst on fire? After using Lockjaw to send the kids home (so can Lockjaw travel between universes now? I didn’t know that), the solution is for Sue to use an invisible needle and unstable molecule thread to sew up her brother in a very tense scene. She manages it, but at the cost of her powers, as she now seems to be completely invisible. So, the FF are trapped in an alternate, dystopian universe with no powers. It’s looking bleak, but luckily, Stevenson Storm and this universe’s FF come along to help.
But just when you think things are looking up, they again take a turn for the worse, as the tension between Doom and Kang explodes here, as Kang realises that Doom plans to use Annihilus’ power for himself, and so, before Doom can do it, he steals it himself, becoming, as teased, Kang The Annihilating Conqueror. I love the idea that Kesel introduces here, that there is only one Negative Zone in the multiverse, and that the Annihilus seen here is the same one as usual. I imagine that this is going to come into play in the ending of this story.
I’m finding the transition from Fraction to Kesel here very interesting. Kesel has really ramped up the pace a lot, and there’s a lot of complex plot and time-travel craziness, but it works I think. I thought Fraction was going a bit too slowly, but now I think it might be too fast. I guess I’m just hard to please, but these last two issues have been event-packed and hard to really get one’s head around. I think I might need to do a re-read of this whole run.
Mark Bagley has left this title to do Cataclysm, and this issue sees Raffaele Ienco come onboard, and I’m not sure what I feel about his work, on some panels it looked really detailed and exciting, and on others, it was weird and rushed and scratchy. This is the first work I’ve seen from him, so I guess he’s new, but if he can refine his style, he could be special. But right now, it’s a step down from Bags. I’m not sure how I feel about this book as a whole right now, I think I kind of just want it to be over, for Fraction’s plots to get wrapped and for James Robinson to take over, it’s still enjoyable, but I’m just reading it with one eye on the future, rather than staying in the moment.
Uncanny X-Men #14– One problem I had with the otherwise excellent ‘Battle Of The Atom’ was that the new recruits Brian Michael Bendis has introduced in the pages of Uncanny were barely involved and kind of forgotten. That’s rectified with an issue that really focuses on one of the newbies, Benjamin Deeds, that not only reveals more about his character, but also shows how his powers are more useful than both he, and we the audience, might have thought.
Taking place before last week’s issue of All-New, Bendis opens with Cyclops’ putting the newbies through a training session, having them run up a muddy hillside without using their powers. Benjamin struggles, and can’t make it up the hill. Cyclops is pretty harsh on him, saying that if he can’t get up the hill, he has no business being an X-Man at all. Before everyone starts raging about Cyclops being a dick again, it’s clear that this is all a training method, as his taunting helps Benjamin climb to the top after all. Cyclops’ harsh taskmaster approach continues, as he tells Benjamin that even if he could use his powers, they wouldn’t have helped, what use are his shape-shifting powers any way? He even goes so far as to knock Benjamin down, and demanding he hit him back, which he does, meekly. Cyclops hits him again, and declares that Benjamin is not ready to be an X-Man.
Dejected, Benjamin hits the showers, and when he returns to his room… Emma Frost is there. Emma is there to train him, and tells him that his powers are more than just being ale to transform into the person nearest to him. He seems to be able to emit a pheromone that soothes the person near him, that makes them feel good. Emma decides to take him out to learn how to use these powers in the field, and they go to a Casino in Atlantic City. Emma tells Benjamin to go seduce a random woman in the bar, which he tries to do, even though he’s gay (did we know this before? I can’t remember, either way, it’s a cool reveal, understated, although there was an article on Comics Alliance last week about how having shape-shifters be gay was bad or something, vis a vis Loki, but what do I know, they complain about everything). Benjamin tries to talk to this woman, but she goes to security saying he harassed her (harassment, in comics, in this of all weeks!) and he has to run away. He runs across a girl in the lobby reading a book about Stanley Kubrick, and because he likes Kubrick too, is able to use his powers successfully.
We then get a montage of him practising his ‘transmorphic’ powers successfully on a bunch of other Casino patrons, and then, the final test. Emma sends Benjamin into a building in the financial district, and tasked to deliver a letter to the boss, Timothy Dugan, a name that should be familiar to the readers, but isn’t to Benjamin. Benjamin easily makes his way though the building, and hands the letter to Dum Dum, which is from Cyclops and tells him about how SHIELD are making Sentinels. This tips off the building about Benjamin, and they pull their guns on him, but Magik is able to rescue him. So, it looks like Benjamin is much more powerful than we thought, he could in fact be the ultimate stealth operative, he was able to sneak into SHIELD!
This was a really enjoyable issue, I loved getting some focus on one of the new characters, and I hope that Bendis is able to continue to do so. Bachalo’s artwork was great, he really suits the subtle way Benjamin transmorphs (and Emma Frost’s outfit was awesome), and it was also great how Bendis was able to continue the SHIELD corruption and Sentinels story in a small way. The X-Men books are firing on all cylinders right now, and this was another example of how good they are, albeit in a different way.
X-Men #7– With Brian Wood making headlines for all the wrong reasons this week, it’s easy to forget that, ya know, he’s a pretty good comics writer, and he proves that with the best issue of this title so far. It is a bit odd to read something from a man who, in the past week, been labelled as a misogynist harasser that has an all-female cast and even female villains, but that’s the odd thing about this whole story. How can his work be so ‘feminist’, yet the man himself apparently not be? Anyways, I’m not reviewing the person, I’m reviewing his work, and as I said, this was the best issue of this title so far, especially in how Wood expanded his cast of characters.
You get the feeling that his plans for this book have been stymied a little by Kitty Pryde defecting to Cyclops’ side, but he makes up for the loss of Shadowcat by making Karima (Omega Sentinel) and M from X-Factor part of the team. I’m liking these additions a lot. Karima was obviously a big part of the first arc, with Arkea possessing her, so I liked that she hadn’t been forgotten, especially because I thought the first arc was wrapped up too abruptly. M is just a great character, she’s such a seemingly vapid bitch, but she has depth too, and it’s going to be fun to see her abrasive personality clash with the other X-Ladies. We’re already seeing that she and Jubilee don’t get along, which I’m guessing comes from their time in Generation X, which I’m not familiar with, but makes sense.
The issue begins with the reintroduction of Lady Deathstrike as the villain. I didn’t even know she was dead, but her new role is interesting. She has downloaded herself into the body of Ana Cortes, the daughter of a Colombian crime-lord. She is able to take over this body, give Ana the same powers, but also have a cool, ‘Day Of The Dead’ new look. I found it funny how Psylocke made fun of this, like you can talk about changing ethnicities Betsy! I think Wood did a good job of getting across how this is a body being shared by two consciousnesses (is that a word) and how weird that was. Deathstrike’s plan is to steal the Omega Sentinel technology, but she’s got out of date information. She thinks Karima is still comatose in the X-Men’s basement, but nope, on her way, she drives past a very alert Karima, out for a jog with M. Deathstrike attacks, and in the melee, Karima is shot, but M is able to use her powers to blast away the attackers, and also to discover that, even though this is a different body, it’s Deathstrike. I kind of think it would have been better for the X-Men not to know who the real villain is until later, but this is a team with like, 3 telepaths, so best to get it out of the way.
Deathstrike escapes, but gets some new intel, and discovers about the existence of Arkea, which she now wants instead of Omega Sentinel. I guess my problems with the first story ending too quickly are pretty much gone now, as it’s not over at all. Deathstrike has hired another familiar villain to help, none other than Typhoid Mary! I think this is a cool idea, and not just because having all-female villains up against an all-female team is cool, but because Mary is a mutant character that actually doesn’t have much of a history with the X-Men, so it’s going to be cool to see her in this setting, and not just fight Daredevil again.
Wood also continues some subplots, Jubilee is able to adopt Shogo, and Bling has a crush on someone else, not Mercury. I’m guessing it’s Jubilee, but who knows.
This was a good comic, the art from the Dodsons was excellent as always, and they do specialise in good looking female characters for sure. The new characters on the team are good picks, and the villains are interesting. Question Brian Wood’s morality, but don’t question his comics, this book got off to a shaky start, and there’s still no real reason for why this team is all women, but it’s well worth reading still.
Cable And X-Force #16– Throughout this book’s run, the one thing Cable and his team could depend on was that Forge was in the back, helping them out and saving their bacon, and even after that, he was underappreciated. However, in this issue, we see what happens when Forge is out of commission, and just how much X-Force need him. Because of the Adversary taking over Forge’s mind, he was not able to help, and now Colossus and Domino are being attacked by a Sentinel and Cable and Hope have been hit by a nuke. Luckily, they are able to survive, but it was great to see X-Force out of their comfort zone, and to see Hopeless balancing 3 plots very well.
In terms of Domino and Colossus, they are actually able to take out the Sentinel fairly easily, as Colossus uses a ‘Plasma Torch’ to create a sword and lop it’s head off. However, the impact of the Sentinel falling on the snow creates an Avalanche, headed straight towards civilisation. That’s one of the best things about this title, one thing always leads to the next, and the actions of the team always have unforeseen consequences.
We see that here with Cable, as we learn that, because of the events at the end of the last big story, Cable has lost his telekinetic powers, but Hope seems to have absorbed them, if not permanently, then for longer than normal. It was Hope, and not Cable, who protected them from the bomb blast, and it’s Hope who takes out the Reavers. But then, the actual leaders of the Reavers return, and they don’t just fight Cable and Hope, they combine all of the other Reavers that were knocked out, into some kind of giant monster with a robot mouth. It’s pretty great.
Of course, the main story here is back at the base, with Forge, as Boom Boom and Dr Nemesis try and save his mind. I loved the visual of the nightclub in Forge’s mind that the Adversary had created, and how it was populated by loads of versions of Storm that the Adversary was flirting with, super-creepy. Dr Nemesis finds Forge inside his mind, and after some of their usual entertaining back and forth, Forge helpfully fills him (and me) in on who the Adversary is, and how important it is that they stop him. The issue ends with the revelation that, the mind Forge and Nemesis are in isn’t Forge’s anymore, it’s the Adversary’s. That last page would seem to indicate that the Reaver-Mouth-Monster was The Adversary, but I don’t think that’s right, they do look similar however.
I think that’s my main issue with this book at the moment, that Gerardo Sandoval’s cartoonish art doesn’t fit the tone of Hopeless’ story, Larroca was a much better fit. However, the story, characters and dialogue make up for it somewhat. With the news that the two X-Force books are set to merge in the New Year, I’m interested to see just how Hopeless will wrap things up. Certainly things look grim for this team at the moment, can they get worse?
Wonder Woman #25– Another fairly slow-paced issue of Wonder Woman, as the various villains arrayed against Diana put their pieces into place. I don’t mind the slight slow-down, because this title has demonstrated in the past that, when it explodes into action, it does so in a big big way, but I would prefer a little more stuff to happen now, rather than the prospect of a lot of stuff in the future. It’s a bit like Robert Kirkman’s Invincible in a way, where you sometimes get issues where not much seems to happen, but in 6 months, it was all very necessary.
The most important villain in this issue is Strife, who’s pretty much been a constant thorn in Wonder Woman’s side for all of Azzarello’s run, but always as a secondary threat behind Hera or Apollo. Now it looks like, in the wake of War’s death, she’s coming into her own, and that’s exciting to see. The issue opens with her visiting Hephaestus and having him forge a weapon for her which she can use against Wonder Woman. Its not a sword or an axe or anything… it’s a pin. Which is weird, but her whole plan is unclear at this point, so I’m sure it’s going to make sense in the end.
Wonder Woman, Zola and Hera are still hanging around in London, and the best scene in this issue was when Hera attempts to explain how different it feels to be mortal. I said this last month, but Azzarello has done a wonderful job at slowly evolving Hera’s character, turning her from a despicable villain into someone you really empathise with. Hermes is still watching over them, and it’s unclear what his plans are, and it looks like Azz is doing the same thing with him as he has with Hera, or at least, making him a ‘shades of grey’ character. Of course, someone who doesn’t see in shades of grey is Orion, who flies past, sees Hermes, and immediately starts a fight. I really like Azzarello’s take on Orion, and it makes me wish that he would do a ‘Fourth World’ series for DC, and do the rest of these characters justice.
Before Orion and Hermes can really get into, Strife shows up, and she comes bearing gifts. These aren’t very nice gifts however, as it looks like they are chosen very deliberately to cause, well, strife amongst Diana’s group. She gives Hera the Peacock coat she wore as a God, which sends her into a bit of a funk, just as she was coming round to being mortal, she has this reminder. To Baby Zeke, she gives a blanket made of secrets (huh?) and to Diana… the helmet of War, playing up her feelings of guilt over killing him, and her conflict over whether or not to take up his mantle. Orion (who doesn’t get a present, the poor lad) tries to start another fight with Hermes, but before that can happen, Siracca shows up. She tells Diana that their brother, Milan has been captured by Cassandra (the scenes with her keeping him in a cage are creepy as hell) and taken to… Chernobyl, which is full of the Jackalmen who fought for The First Born. Orion BOOMs off to rescue him, and the others follow, leaving Strife alone with Zola and Zeke. Uh-oh. See, after two slow issue, it looks like the next one will bring the action I want. You just need to have patience, a quality sorely lacking in most comics fans.
Of course, Apollo is still a presence in this issue, as he and Dionysus continue to torture the First Born, this time serving him up on a platter and eating him, which is so twisted, I love it. The best thing about this scene was that Azzarello is also beginning to move Dionysus into a more prominent position. This book has such a great cast of villains, it’s wonderful to see.
Goran Sudzuka once again fills in as artist, and he does his usual excellent job, I say this a lot, but it’s still true, although I wish Cliff Chiang could draw ever single issue of this book, the other artists they get do a fantastic job of keeping the same look, and colourist Matthew Wilson plays a big part too. It’s like Daredevil in that way, and it’s no coincidence that that book and this are among the best in the business right now.
Animal Man #25– Unlike most recent issues of this title, which have taken place pretty much equally in the real world and ‘the red’, this one is pretty much all in the real world, and it works really well. Buddy doesn’t know what Maxine is up to, and now, neither do we.
The only Maxine stuff here is that it’s still fucked up inside The Red, and now it’s raining blood. It’s also raining blood at the ‘we can’t call it the Oscars but it’s the Oscars’ award ceremony, as Buddy and Ellen head there to stop the cultists, save some celebrities and hopefully find a way to save Maxine. The chief cultist is doing some epic villain monologuing to some celebs, but Animal Man bursts in and saves them. Buddy has to use all sorts of animal abilities to gain an advantage, but actually, it looks like him winning might be part of their plan.
Meanwhile, back-stage, Ellen tries to help a scared actress, but in a clever twist, she’s part of the cult and betrays her! I think the idea that Brother Blood’s cult is a bit like Scientology in the DC Universe is a good one, and I think Jeff Lemire probably should have played it up more, although I understand why he didn’t, he doesn’t want to disappear in mysterious circumstances for criticising ‘The Church’. I also loved how Lemire revealed that Buddy had won the not-Oscar, by having Ellen use it as a weapon against a cultist, very cool and unexpected. Animal Man is tussling with the head cultist, who deliberately mentions Cliff to send Buddy over the edge, and Buddy really starts pummelling him, threatening to kill him.
As I mentioned, this is part of their plan, they want to die on TV and demonstrate their power. The other cult-members slit their own throats and somehow, their spirits fly off to the Red to join Brother Blood, and the fact that everyone saw them do it makes them more powerful (I think). The lead cultist is still goading Buddy to kill him, and in a dark, tiger-fuelled moment, he almost does so, but Ellen stops him. After this, Buddy and Ellen finally, truly reconcile, which was a really nice moment. Of course, it doesn’t last long, as for some reason, Buddy starts bugging out, and he teleports somewhere… not to The Red, but to Outer-Space? Where he’s attacked by tentacle aliens? What the fuck? This ending came out of nowhere, but I love that.
This was another great issue of Animal Man, and it was made even better by Rafael Albuqueque’s art, he’s one of my favourites right now, and I love that he’s doing this title, which even though it’s great, isn’t really one of DC’s A-Listers. Every page of this issue looked awesome, and whilst the way Albuquerque depicts Buddy’s animal powers is a little less experimental that what Travel Foreman was doing, it still works really well, and translates to exciting action scenes.
Green Lantern: New Guardians #25– One of the biggest complaints about Kyle Rayner faking his own death at the end of ‘Lights Out’ was that, it won’t work, Carol Ferris will be able to find him easily with her ‘Love Tether’ (man, comics can be dumb), don’t these writers know anything? Well, it turns out they do, as in this issue, Carol finds Kyle, and she becomes the only person he can trust to know he’s alive.
The issue begins with Carol telling the Zamarons about Hal Jordan’s dumb plans to police ring use, before she jets off to where the Guardians reveal to her that Kyle is alive. She’s understandably pissed off, but she soon forgives him, as he explains why he needs to be kept secret. Now that they know that the ‘reservoir’ of ring energy isn’t infinite, he and the Guardians need to find alternate solutions of protecting the universe.
For that reason, they’ve come to Exuras, a planet that is pretty much a Utopia, a place where nothing goes wrong and where if you jump off of a building, nanites will stop your fall. The reasons for why Exuras became all utopian are a mystery, and the Guardians need to find out if there’s some kind of dark side to it or not, and if there isn’t, they can take these ideas and apply them to the whole universe, negating the need for the Power Rings. I like that Justin Jordan goes straight to the ‘Utopia actually has a dark side’ trope right away, and that nobody is fooled. I get the feeling that Jordan is only just now being allowed to stretch his legs away from the crossover, and the inventive idea behind Exuras is part of that.
Kyle and Carol search for ‘the one place they aren’t allowed to go’, which seems to be a mysterious facility that teenagers are being lead to. But it turns out that they are allowed to go in there, and the head Exurian, a spindly looking purple frog dude called Nias Den Throden, lets him in, and shows him what’s up. Inside the building is a strange cracked mirror. A wizened old guy tells Kyle that, Exuras is a planet where everything goes right, where people who in one reality did great things always live to do them, and where people destined to be evil don’t. How do they achieve this? By swapping out the original bad moments with good ones from alternate realities. Kyle and this guy go through the portal, and see a dystopian hell-hole that is the result of this Exuras stealing all of the things that go right. All Exurians are shown this, shown the price, and have to decide whether or not to accept it. Kyle doesn’t accept it, but before he can really get into that, the old sage guy is killed, and uh-oh, an alternate reality Nias Den Throden is through the barrier, wanting revenge for having his future stolen in the name of utopia.
This was a pretty strange issue, and the ideas behind Exuras are kind of hard to wrap my head around, but I think it’s definitely interesting, and it’s a great way to set up Kyle’s new mission, of how he’s looking for another option. The character interaction between Kyle and Carol is still well-written, and overall, this is a good book.
I was a bit disappointed that the excellent Brad Walker wasn’t drawing the entire issue, but Geraldo Borges is solid as a fill-in. All 3 Green Lantern titles I read feel energised after the crossover, which is fitting, since their rings have literally been reenergised. But, as this book shows, this might not be a good thing.
Batman ’66 #5– Another hugely enjoyable issue of Batman ’66. I don’t really know what to say about this title, other than it is gloriously entertaining, funny and clever. Just read it already!
There are two stories in this issue, the first stars Batman and Robin taking on The Sandman, and whilst I wish it was Neil Gaiman’s Morpheus, instead it’s a wacky criminal who sends people to sleep with a special powder, and manipulates their dreams to give him information, as well as robbing them. Sandman’s plan is to steal a fire truck, use it to put the whole city to sleep, steal a ton of loot, and then hide it in the Batcave, which is the most secretive place in the city. It’s a silly plan, but come on, this is Batman ’66. To do this, he tries to pry the location outside of Batman’s mind, but of course, he fails. It was great seeing Batman fight inside of the dream world, and how once he discovered where he was, he was immediately in control.
However, my favourite moment in this story was a small one. After spending the whole night searching for the Sandman and coming up empty, Batman and Robin are tired, so they head to a coffee shop. First of all, the image of the Dynamic Duo inside a Starbucks is hilarious, but this line of dialogue from Batman; ‘I usually decry the use of stimulants, but caffeine will aid us today’ had me rolling. Man, Jeff Parker is a funny motherfucker, and as always, it’s not the easy joke to be made about this version of Batman. This is still never a parody. Sandy Jarrell once again provides the art, and he does a great job.
The second, shorter story, was drawn by the always awesome Colleen Coover, and focuses not on Batman and Robin, but on Batgirl. I’m not a huge fan of the extended Bat-Family in general, but I like it a bit more in this setting, where Batman is not nearly as much of a purported loner psycho, so him having loads of associates actually makes sense. This is a very simple story, with Batgirl stopping Catwoman from stealing a rare gem from a museum, but it’s wonderfully drawn.
The most interesting thing here was that this story used the Earth Kitt version of Catwoman, whereas previous issues of this title used Julie Newmar. Are we supposed to think it’s the same person? What’s the deal? I don’t suppose it matters, as it just adds to the crazy tone, and it’s cool that the comic is reflecting the show, but still, it’s odd.
The Wake #5(of 10) – The first half of this series comes to an end, and whilst I’m annoyed that we’re going to have to wait until bloody February for the rest of the story, this was a very good issue that really surprised me and set things up very nicely for Part 2.
The issue begins with a flashback, but this time it’s not 6 billion years ago, it’s only about 10, as we see a younger Dr Archer talk with her dad on a boat about her plans to go into Marine Biology. There’s an interesting little tidbit here about how both Lee and her late mother had some kind of problem where their eyes didn’t produce tears. Lee’s dad believes this is why they both love the Ocean, but there’s probably more to it than that. Then, Lee and her dad are shocked by a strange noise.
The main story begins with everyone still in deep (sea) shit, as the giant Sea-Monster is attacking the Rig. Sean Murphy’s fantastic artwork comes into his own here, as the scale and detail of the giant monster is really amazing, that splash-page of it swimming through the rig was just beautiful. I love his art, not much more to say. After wrecking some of the rig, the Sea Monsters for some reason swim away, and it’s here that Dr Archer realises that they are going to attack the mainland, and that these monsters aren’t just any monsters, they are ‘Hafgufa’ which is the ‘great death in the ocean’ that almost every mythology has, the cause of great floods. The team chases after the monsters in a bad-ass hunting submarine that Meeks had hidden in a bad-ass secret room. In case you didn’t get it, Meeks is a bad-ass.
During the chase, Lee reveals what it was she saw after the strange noise she and her dad heard, she fell to the bottom of the ocean and saw glowing… dead people. It’s freaky, and she had no idea what it was at the time, but now she thinks it was down to these sea creatures, another one of their hallucinations. Once they reach the monsters, they engage in combat, using electricity and even missiles, and in the first of this issue’s big surprises… they win. At the cost of sinking the sub, they blow up the giant monster.
So, they’ve sacrificed their lives and saved the world, but there’s still time for Lee to talk to her son one last time on the video screen. Only, here comes another twist, as her son tells her that whirlpools have sprung up all around the world and are lashing major coastal cities. It looks like the group of monsters our characters have fought are only a small piece of a larger force, and the world is doomed no matter that. It’s grim shit, and man, it’s shocking to see Lee, Meeks and the others just sink to the bottom of the ocean to die.
The last page then moves things right to the future, as they mysterious green-haired girl we’ve seen briefly before tells the story of just how fucked up the world is, and introduces herself as ‘Leeward’, which of course, is reminiscent of Lee. It looks like the little snippets of the future we’ve seen are the real meat of this story, and Lee Archer was just the prologue. The epic nature of this story has always been apparent round the edges, but now it’s front and centre, and I am very excited indeed.
This is a great comic, with fantastic art, if you haven’t read it yet, do so now, because there’s plenty of time to get caught up before Part 2 in February. Man, fucking February! Gah!
Sex Criminals #3– This title continues to be a totally unique experience in comics, and that should definitely be applauded. Not every moment or joke works for me, but this is so unlike anything else out there, you have to love it.
After a brief opening scene with Suzie and Jon being cornered by the mysterious white-clad figures whilst trying to rob the bank, we’re back mainly in flashback mode, as Suzie tells us how Jon told her (the structure is kind of messy, but it works) about how he lost his virginity, which is the usual depressingly funny story about not being able to do it right and there being terrible music on in the background. I think the biggest thing to take from this is Jon’s disappointment when the girl didn’t enter ‘Cumworld’ along with him, and how very few people seem able to do it. Jon lists a bunch of other people he’s had sex with, including another man, but then they realise they’ve been talking together for like, 3 days, and they both need to go to work. I did like how they didn’t just immediately move in or whatever, just because they both have this special power, they both need time to think.
The following scenes, with both characters bored out of their minds at work are very funny, especially when Jon goes to the bathroom, jerks off, pauses time and shits in plant-pot. They start texting, and Chip Zdarsky’s art shows texts in a very interesting way, and then Jon takes Suzie to Cumworld, the actual store, which is just as sleazy as it was before. The characters go into a coin-operated booth, and watch a hilarious fictional porn parody of Barton Fink, called, yes, Hard-On Fink, and it starts Johnny Spurturro and it’s directed by The Boen Brothers. Coming up with porn-pun-names is not exactly rocket science, but these are good puns, and just the idea of a Barton Fink porn is funny.
They enter ‘The Quiet after having sex in the booth, and run around the sex shop doing all sorts of funny things, before heading to a bar for the strangest, I think best scene in the issue. They start talking about how Suzie’s library is closing down, but in the midst of that, ‘Fat-Bottomed Girls’ by Queen comes on, and Suzie starts singing it. Only… the comic can’t show it because they don’t have the rights apparently, so the dialogue balloons are over-layed by Matt Fraction talking to us directly about why they don’t have the rights, and how they might try and have it in the trade. I think Fraction is one of the best writers in comics at going ‘meta’, he did it in Casanova, he did it in FF and this scene was great. I’m guessing that this stuff was the plan all along, and even if they could get the rights, they wouldn’t have just put the song in there. I say this because a) Just repeating the lyrics would not have been nearly as funny and fitting for this book as the meta stuff, and b) I also think they are deliberately playing up the whole ‘Banned by Apple’ thing for attention and knew full well they would be banned, and this is part of it, trying to be notorious. Plus, I fucking hate Queen. But we’ll have to see in the trade paperback. I certainly hope there’s another layer to it.
After this, Jon suggests to Suzie what we already know they end up doing, that they should use their sex-powers to rob the bank, and like an idiot, asks, ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’. Well, we see that worst, and it’s that they are cornered by the mysterious white bad guys, and Jon gets smacked across the face with a dildo. The end. As I said, this book is crazy, and different, and I’m really enjoying how unexpected everything that happens is. I would never have thought there’d be a musical number in this, and added to that, I would never have thought it would go all meta about the music.
Zdarsky’s cartoonish art also contributes to this book’s uniqueness, and I was actually glad to see some female nudity in this issue, previous issues had gone full-frontal for Jon (and his glowing dick), but we hadn’t really seen any boobs, which struck me as odd for a title with this name and this type of content. I’m guessing it’s because female nudity will get certain fan-elements pissed off, but those same fans have no problem with me. But now we’ve got equality! It seemed to be tipping a bit too far in the other way, with people who hate objectifying women in comics, starting to objectify the men (like Noh-Varr in Young Avengers), and really, I get trying to redress the balance, but really, we shouldn’t objectify anyone, and that’s what this book is doing, the sex here is treated with humour, but also with respect (mostly, when not having the villains lick blood off dildos).
Zero #3– Once again, Ales Kot, Jordie Bellaire and the guest-penciler deliver a gripping single issue story that stands alone, but also very much continues to build the world of Zero. This story is the most science-fictiony yet, and it’s a lot of fun.
Taking place in Shanghai in the Year 2019, Zero and his fellow spy Mina (who we saw as a little kid in #2) are undercover at a gathering of world terrorists put together by the balaclava-wearing Ginsberg Nova, who in this world is comparable to Osama Bin Laden. Zero, with Mina’s help, is able to sneak off to the bathroom, into the heating ducts, and find his way to the secret room where Nova is demonstrating his new weapon… a teleportation device, which he uses to head to Ottowa for 7 seconds. Just as he’s about to invite his fellow criminals to try it out, he gets a phone-call, and discovers that there are spies from the Agency at the party. He shoots the other guys, and captures Mina. It seems to me that there is an mole in the Agency who is leaking to Nova, and it could very well be someone high up.
Zero makes his way back to the party, where Nova tells all the other terrorists that they are giving his noble art a bad name, that they are sloppy, so he kills them with ‘targeted molecular disassemblification’, basically, they disappear. Because the machine that did this doesn’t have Zero’s dna on file, he’s the only one left, standing face to face with Nova. The stand-off between the two of them is very tense, especially with Mina in the middle of it, and Nova drops a lot of cryptic hints about the nature of who Zero is, and his past, and what the Agency has done to him. Kot is b