Greetings, Earthlings! Welcome to yet another comics review column, where, surprise surprise, I review comics.
This week is pretty great week, Velvet is back, and Marvel start their next big event, Inhumanity. Plus, there’s more Superior Spider-Man, Swamp Thing and Amazing X-Men.
Remember, click the links to head to the forum discussions, most people use that opportunity to correct my errors, but you can do whatever you want really.
Superior Spider-Man #23– Just a week on from Part 1, Dan Slott and Christos Gage, along with Humberto Ramos, deliver another excellent chapter of ‘Darkest Hours’ that, whilst surprisingly light on action, moves the plot on very well indeed, continues many of the book’s exciting ongoing subplots, and ends very excitingly to set up part 3, which unfortunately, isn’t out next week. You tease me with this weekly schedule, and then you take it away! Damn you Marvel!
The issue begins with Venom at Spider-Man’s mercy, because Otto has no idea who Flash Thompson is, and doesn’t particularly care. Flash is able to escape, but he and the symbiote are left weakened by the barrage of fire and sonics that Spider-Man used against him. Luckily for Otto, and unluckily for Flash, the only friend Flash has left in New York (he sent Betty and his family away when he thought the new Crime Master was a credible threat) is Peter Parker, so he rolls right up to Peter’s door whilst Peter and Anna Maria are preparing lunch for Aunt May and Jay Jameson. It’s actually pretty fortuitous that Otto ran into Flash as Venom, as otherwise ‘Peter Parker’ would have failed to recognize one of his childhood friends, which would have definitely threatened his cover.
Speaking of Otto’s cover-story, it’s continuing to fall down around him without him knowing, as Slott and Gage slowly move forwards towards the endgame. Captain Watanabe is trying to find Carlie, and so she heads to Mary Jane’s club, which has been reopened following the fire, and is now has free entry to all firemen, cops and other emergency service people, which is a cool idea I think, even if it’s only there to further MJ’s relationship with this Pedro guy. Captain Watanabe knows that Carlie’s last phonecall was to MJ, and so they listen to the voicemail, wherein Carlie tells MJ to stay away from Peter. So now it looks like SpOck is the main suspect in the disappearance of Carlie Cooper, and on top of that, Mary Jane may also be close to knowing the truth. Carlie’s true whereabouts are of course, as a prisoner of the Goblins, and the scene between her and the Green Goblin was very interesting. He has read her notes, and now knows that Doc Ock is Spider-Man, but Carlie has omitted who Spider-Man is actually supposed to be. Green Goblin has a feeling he should know who Spider-Man was, but he doesn’t, and he’s desperate to pry that knowledge out of Carlie. I still, at this point have no idea who this current Green Goblin is, some of the things he says point to it definitely being Norman Osborn, but then why keep it a secret? And who is this Black Sheep of the Goblin family he’s talking about? Harry? With Amazing Spider-Man 2 coming up, it would make sense to have him back in the mix in the comics.
Prior to their lunch, we see Aunt May undergo the robotic surgery to fix her leg at Parker Industries, and it’s a huge success, Aunt May can walk again! Once again, I love it when Superior Spider-Man actually succeeds, when Peter returns, he’ll have his arch-nemesis to thank for healing his Aunt, which is just so deliciously complicated and twisted. Surprisingly, Peter is not present at the operation, and neither is J. Jonah, as he starts his new plan to take out Spider-Man alongside Alchemax, by giving them the rights to build new Spider-Slayers. You can tell how unhinged Jonah is getting, after all, as Liz Allan points out, the Spider-Slayers killed his wife, but he’s willing to rebuild them to stop Spider-Man. And the interesting thing here is, this time… we’re actually on Jonah’s side. Slott once again masterfully brings two subplots together here, as, being that Jonah has hired Alchemax, both Tiberius Stone and Spider-Man 2099 show up. He really is weaving a web of stories here, and I mean that pun, I do.
The issue climaxes in an awkward Lunch, where, as was hinted last issue, Aunt May is a little bit uncomfortable with her nephew dating a Little Person, which, as I said last week, is a cool wrinkle to her character, she’s not just a perfect saint all the time. Before this argument can get out of hand, and before Flash can leave, Otto snaps, and , changing the subject, reveals that he wants to use the same tech that fixed Aunt May’s leg to fix Flash’s. Flash, since he already has a solution to that problem in the Venom suit, is wary, but goes along. It is of course a double-cross, as SpOck uses the machine to not only give Flash some robot legs, but also to remove the Symbiote from him and trap it in the same containment device Reed Richards used back in the day. Only, the Symbiote has grown stronger since then and it breaks free, bonding with Spider-Man to become, you guessed it, the Superior Venom, which I saw coming, but is still awesome.
This was another typically excellent issue of Superior Spidey, and I can’t wait for the next chapter, the art from Ramos was excellent, nobody does better Symbiote goop than him, and all the plots, whether major or minor continue to build. If you’re still not reading this title, you really need to rethink that, every issue is just Spidey perfection, with that dark twist to make things fresh.
Iron Man #19– After most of the first part of ‘Iron Metropolitan’ was spent in an alternate future, Gillen kicks the story off in earnest here as Tony and Arno begin to build their own take on a City.
It turns out that there’s a ready made location for the Starks to make their ‘Troy’ and it comes from Matt Fraction’s tenure on Iron Man, yes, Mandarin City is back and Tony is going to rebuild it. Of course, since the death of the Mandarin, the City has been left to pretty much rot, and has been taken over by the Triads, so first things first, Tony has to clean it up, and he does so by using the Stealth Suit to stalk through the city in scenes which basically take the piss out of Batman. I liked the use of the Stealth Suit here, as it’s doing what other recent issues have done and made the first 5 issues of this book, which were pretty average to be honest, seem more important in retrospect. At first those done-in-one stories seemed unnecessary, but now, the concepts and new armours Gillen introduced then are actually playing a part.
After clearing out Mandarin City, Tony has to do some pretty awkward introductions, as he not only reveals to the real Pepper Potts that his new A.I. is, well, her, but he introduces her to Arno. These were well-written scenes, but I have to admitted I was a bit distracted by the fact that they took place in Tony Stark’s house from the Iron Man movies, it’s cool that this location is now in the comics too, but it is a distraction.
I found it odd that, only a few pages after Pepper found out about P.E.P.P.E.R., Tony has gotten rid of this A.I. and plugged it into the ‘core’ of his new City, renaming her H.E.L.E.N., which is of course, the name of the A.I. that betrayed the Stark brothers in the potential future we saw last time, does Tony really pay that little attention? But I suppose he doesn’t need an A.I. now that he has Arno in his ear, and they do make a solid team.
Because Pepper knows Tony Stark better than anyone, she knows that this plan to build a new City is him overcompensating for the recent upheaval in his personal life, and so she tries to help him, saying that he needs a PR person to help him sell this idea as something other than him helping out China, and that PR person is her new boyfriend, Marc, who was mentioned but not seen in #17. Marc and Tony are together at the press conference to announce the new venture, where Marc spots Abigail Burns, the young blogger who was given a Mandarin ring last time out, and it’s a good sign that he’s suspicious of her, even if it is because he knows she hates Tony Stark, and not because she’s a villain. Anyways, it turns out that Tony should worry about more than just Mandarin-7, as when he begins his speech, another ring crashes down, exploding and creating a giant fist made of wreckage. So now there are 2 Mandarin rings out to get Iron Man, boy, he really picked the wrong site for this City didn’t he?
I’m continuing to really enjoy Gillen’s Iron Man, and this was a great step forward after a previous issue that stalled the momentum a bit, the entire world of Tony Stark has been turned upside down, and it’s great to see Gillen not rest, and to have things continue to change for him, whether that be his methods, or the form an attack from his arch-enemy takes. It’s great that the Mandarin is such a threat, even when he’s dead. Joe Bennett’s art was strong and clean once again, if we can’t have Eaglesham forever, then he’s the next best thing.
Young Avengers #13– Yeesh, this was one hell of a disappointing ending to the story that’s been happening since #1. Even though Gillen pointed out how stupid it was to have ‘love’ end up saving the day, it didn’t stop it being incredibly stupid when that happened. Making fun of a cliché is still doing a cliché, and this was pretty bad. And that’s not even mentioning what went on with Loki in this issue.
Gillen seems to reveal that almost all of this was part of his plan, and that the likes of Leah, Ultimate Nullifier and Noh-Varr’s league of evil exes weren’t real, but just holograms created by Loki. This sort of makes sense, but the way it’s revealed doesn’t. He just stops the fight, reveals his treachery and they all disappear, and he mopes on the floor. But none of the other Young Avengers seem that bothered by what he did, and he still helps them un-tangle Hulkling. Maybe my confusion comes from having not read Journey Into Mystery, and not being clear about which Loki did all of these things. Is the Loki that sided with Mother the current one? Or is it the original evil one? I really don’t get it, can anyone explain?
After this, Hulkling is given a pep talk by Prodigy about why it doesn’t really matter if he only loves Wiccan (or hell, that he only exists) because Wiccan manipulated him to, because that love is still real, which I personally don’t buy. Gillen is this close to doing something really interesting with Wiccan as a character (something I thought nigh-impossible) by making him an unwitting villain, but he doesn’t commit to it, and it’s a real shame. It also makes me think less of Hulkling as a character, that he’s willing to accept this possible manipulation, and the same goes for Prodigy too. All these characters are bending to the whims of a whiny emo for no real reason other than that it turns out Wiccan really is the incredibly special boy of destiny who saves the world. It’s just sickeningly terrible. He and Hulking kiss, which allows him to become the full-on Demiurge, defeat Mother and save the day.
Oh yeah, and in amongst all this, Fake Patriot has somehow become a poor-man’s version of the already annoying Lying Cat from Saga. Still no answers about the location of the more interesting Maximoff brother though, Speed, save us from your annoying brother’s solipsism!
So, Wiccan beats Mother through the power of love, and even though the writing here is bad, McKelvie and Norton bust out some more amazing, experimental stuff here, with Wiccan basically breaking the Fourth Wall and walking above the pages of the previous issues, which was very cool indeed.
Mother may be gone, but her army of alternate reality knock-offs is still there, but Miss America convinces them that it’s in their best interests to return home, in a moment that almost gives her some semblance of characterization, but is really just more of the same weak-sauce treatment she’s had all series. She wears cool clothes, is a bad-ass, and has a strange flirtation with Loki, that’s it. Once again, it pisses me off no end that characters with a lot of potential have all been left underdeveloped to focus on Wiccan, and how this whole story has somehow tried to make his self-centredness a good thing. We don’t even get a proper break-up scene between Hawkeye and Noh-Varr, just her giving him back his alien bow and some awkward facial expressions. McKelvie depicts it well, but it’s another demonstration of how these characters are all surface, and the only ones given any focus are Wiccan and Loki.
That’s what this whole series is, missed potential, it has a great creative team, a great cast, and, as I said, it was on the verge of exploring some very interesting stuff with Wiccan and his powers, but in the end, it didn’t live up to any of it. It focused too much on the least interesting characters, it played it safe with Wiccan, perhaps to avoid infuriating the ‘shippers’, I don’t know, and hell, it didn’t even really do anything with the army of teen superheroes assembled last time, they get 1 page and we see about 5 of them.
Hopefully the final two issues, which will be smaller stories in a kind of ‘Phonogram: Singles Club’ tribute, will be better than this main run, and allow for the likes of Miss America and Hawkeye to be more than just cool costumes and quips, and maybe, just maybe, this series can right the ship right at the end. And, unlike in my Spider-Man review, I don’t mean that pun, shipping and Tumblr have ruined this series.
Guardians Of The Galaxy #9– It’s pretty awkward timing for this ‘Infinity’ tie-in issue to come out a week after Infinity itself came to an end, as there’s no real suspense to any of it. We’ve already seen that the Avengers were able to get through the barrier and defeat Thanos, so it’s not as enjoyable to see Star-Lord, Rocket and Agent Brand try and disable it.
What is enjoyable is the interaction between all of the characters, and Franco Francavilla’s art, which really shouldn’t work in a sci-fi setting, but does so very well. The issue begins with a short scene focusing on Gamora, who had stormed off last time after she found out Star-Lord let Thanos live, however, she reconsiders her actions, and teleports back to help out her team. And they do need help, as Angela has smashed in through the side of the Peak Station and, even though she’s trying to help them, may have made things worse. Star-Lord, Rocket and Brand make their way through the Station, and as I said, the best things here are the typically funny Bendis dialogue between them all, and the art from Francavilla, who delivers some really cool layouts and moments. I loved the two silent double-page spreads, which show, with cool diagonal panels, first Angela taking a beating from the Aliens, and then, Drax and Groot coming to her rescue, just brilliant stuff.
The Guardians make their way to the control room which can open the barrier, but the Avengers’ ship is nowhere in sight, and in the process of waiting, a SWORD agent is, I think, killed. Thankfully, the Avengers finally get on comms, and we get a hilariously awkward scene between Star-Lord and Captain Marvel, and where Quill almost presses the wrong blue button. So, the Avengers are through on their way to Earth and to kick Thanos’ ass as we saw last week, but our heroes here still have problems to deal with in those pesky aliens. Luckily, this time Gamora arrives to save them, and Brand is able to set the Peak to self-destruct, and everyone, including Angela, flies off to safety. Hooray!
These 2 Infinity tie-in issues were a lot of fun, even though they were hardly essential, the dialogue between all of the characters was Bendis on top form, and it was great to see an artist like Francavilla do something outside of his usual wheelhouse, and that looks set to continue, as next issue sees Kevin Maguire drawing an issue, which should be fun to say the least. I think his comedic style should mesh very well with Bendis’ take on this book.
Amazing X-Men #2– Despite being annoyed that this issue of ‘The Quest For Nightcrawler’ only actually featured Nightcrawler for 1 page right at the end (he does narrate the whole thing though) this was still a very enjoyable issue of what I’ve come to expect from Jason Aaron’s X-Men, with great characterization, funny dialogue and some twisted ideas thrown in there too.
Thanks to the machinations of the evil Red Bamfs last time out, the various X-Men have been sent through portals to the afterlife, with Wolverine and Northstar being sent to Heaven, and Storm, Iceman and Firestar to Hell, where they are caught up in different parts of what seems to be a wide-ranging pirate war for control of Heaven and Hell between Azazel and some other demons. Aaron makes the most of throwing the X-Men into Hell, with it’s heat obviously having an adverse effect on Iceman, who starts melting, and, because there is no weather in Hell, Storm is also powerless. This only makes it all the more awesome when Storm grabs a demon’s mace and starts cracking skulls with it. She doesn’t need her powers to kick some ass, which is something that goes all the way back to when she lost them in the 80s, and it was cool to see that side of her again, complete with Mohawk.
As I said, the story is narrated by Nightcrawler, and we get to see his opinions on each of the X-Men featured, which was cool, and, as I said last time, it’s great to see the likes of Northstar and Iceman get some real focus, because at times, the main X-Men books do become the Wolverine and Cyclops show to the expense of everyone else. One cool wrinkle here is that Azazel’s Pirate lieutenants are demonic versions of Jack The Ripper and Billy The Kid. Not only does Aaron have a lot of fun referencing their real life exploits, but it also ups the ante for the X-Men to face, it’s not just Azazel, but real life evil too, and hey, if Azazel is in charge of these guys, he must be bad news. As I said in my review of #1, Aaron is doing a great job at rebuilding the reputation of Azazel, who, after the Draco, is seen as one of the worst X-Men villains ever, and he does that here by having Northstar actually laugh when he finds out that the mastermind here is Azazel. The characters themselves view him as a joke, but as they are proven wrong, so are the audience.
The battles in Heaven and Hell reach exciting climaxes, as Storm is captured, and Iceman does something truly impressive with his powers… literally making Hell freeze over, which is pretty awesome. This freezing doesn’t last long, and it costs Bobby his last reserves of power, as he collapses, leaving Firestar on her own… As for Heaven, Wolverine is forced to the end of a gangplank by Jack The Ripper, and he is visited by a strange voice telling him he needs to avoid falling from the plank. This voice comes from another dead X-Men, Charles Xavier, and it was cool to see him show up again, even though he was no help at all, as Wolverine does fall from the plank, partly because of the shock of seeing Chuck again. So, things look bad all around, Wolverine is falling to his doom, with Northstar racing after him, Storm is kidnapped, Iceman is unconscious and the newbie Firestar is surrounded. Looks like the perfect time for Nightcrawler to save the day! I can’t wait for the next issue and for the Elf to be reunited with his friends, there’s going to be some emotions for sure.
Ed McGuinness’ art was of course fantastic, the demons looked great, all of the characters are perfect and the Bamfs he draws are incredibly cute. He and Aaron mesh really well, as all of Aaron’s superhero stories have that slight comedic, cartoonish edge that McGuinness’ art has, and it makes for a very fun, classic X-Men story, away from all the moralizing and metaphors of the other books (which I love) and just straight up, superhero action.
Inhumanity #1– With Infinity over, it’s time for Inhumanity to begin, and whilst the momentum for this little mini-event has faltered with the announcement that the ongoing ‘Inhuman’ series has been delayed until February (insert your own hacky joke about Joe Mad getting a PS4 here), this one-shot is still very cool, as Matt Fraction and Olivier Coipel not only set the stage for what’s to come for the Inhumans, but also provide a helpful explanation of their relevant history, which I certainly found useful.
The issue begins with the explosion of Attilan from Infinity, and the Terrigenisis that followed it across the world, and from then on, the focus is on Karnak, the Inhuman who can see the flaw in anything and kung-fu chop it right there to destroy it. He is found in the wreckage of Attilan by the Avengers, muttering ‘extinct’ under his breath and arrange the skulls of Dire Wolves (an allusion to Game Of Thrones I’m guessing, and one that makes sense given this story) into the shape of Black Bolt’s tuning fork thing. Bruce Banner tries to talk to him, but Karnak flips out, taking down both Black Widow and Iron Man before Hawkeye nails him with an electric arrow. It was cool to see Fraction writing Hawkeye in more of a superhero setting like this comic, and how that book’s tone and take on Clint Barton carried across. But that’s a digression, this comic isn’t about Hawkeye, it’s about the Inhumans!
The Avengers lock Karnak up in their most secure cell and Hawkeye asks him what the heck has been going on. Karnak explains, and he goes waay back to the beginning, explaining the origins of the inhumans, how they were the result of Kree experiments on Cavemen and how Randac founded Attilan and invented Terrigenesis, which is explained in a very tragic and creepy scene where, during the attack from Thanos, Gorgon rushes his son into it, and he is transformed into a freak with a massive bull-head. This scene was very effective, and shows how Terrigenesis is not necessarily going to turn out well for everyone.
After this, we see what happened to some of the Inhumans when they went through that teleport door in Infinity that sent them ‘where they needed to go’. Where the likes of Medusa and Crystal needed to go was a skyscraper with a view of Attilan, just in time for Black Bolt to blow it up. Medusa then shows up in Avengers tower to talk to Karnak, and ask him if Black Bolt is alive, Karnak doesn’t know, but here, he realizes that Black Bolt must have been behind the explosion, that it can’t have been Maximus, because Maximus wanted to sit on the throne, not destroy it, and that Black Bolt knew about the various Inhumans scattered across the world and planned this to make it harder for Thanos to find his son. We already know all of this is true, so it was a little repetitive to see Karnak figure it all out, but it was great to get an explanation all in one place, and for Fraction to tie a lot of stuff together.
Karnak then starts drawing Black Bolt’s tuning fork onto the window (which is supposed to be unbreakable) and again, is muttering to himself, and, here, Fraction sets up a lot of plots that I imagine will be important in Inhumanity as a whole, the fact that Black Bolt and Maximus are presumed dead, the location of Black Bolt’s son, Ahura, Thane, the new Inhumans and more. Then, strangely, Karnak believes he has seen the flaw in everything, and that it is him. He smashes the window and tells Medusa that she has to unlearn everything she thought she knew, and leaps out of the window to his death. Yep, Karnak commits suicide. Karnak’s words in this issue were very intriguing, but it did feel very much like Fraction trying to write like Hickman, which I suppose makes sense, this is all spinning out of Hickman’s crossover, but it was a bit frustrating. Why is Karnak the fault in all things? Why did he need to kill himself? It’s frustrating that we’ll have to wait so long to find out, but that frustration is a good thing, in that I am interested in the Inhumans for the first time in a long while. Marvel are trying to make these characters a big deal in the Marvel Universe, and with this one-shot, I think they have succeeded.
This was a very enjoyable read that, as I said, filled in the gaps in my Inhumans lore, and set stuff up very nicely for the future. Olivier Coipel’s artwork was wonderful as ever, and the use of flashback artists was good too, Leinil Yu handled the ancient flashbacks, and Dustin Weaver drew the scenes that took place during Infinity, which of course worked, seeing as he drew Infinity. I was wary about Inhumanity at first, especially because it meant Fraction left the Fantastic Four to write what is essentially a spin-off, but now, I’m on board. This may all just be because the Marvel Movies can’t use Mutants, but even so, it’s making for some good comics, and real change in the Marvel Universe, which is all we can really ask for.
Daredevil: Dark Nights #7(of 8)– Daredevil and Misty Knight’s team-up takes them from Miami to Cuba with this issue, and this story continues to be an enjoyable piece of fluff with a surprisingly sharp edge. Yes, it’s sharp fluff, which makes no sense, but just go with it.
DD and Misty are flying a Helicopter to Cuba to track down the crimelord, King, and rescue Nestor, the witness who has been kidnapped, when the chopper is hit by a missile. Our heroes of course survive, and float to see on a life raft. Misty wants some sexy time with Matt, but he’s so tired he just falls asleep as they drift ashore. This was a funny scene, as it shows the impact these kinds of globe-trotting adventures have on superheroes realistically, and it subverts your expectations of the insatiable horndog that is Matt Murdock.
After that, we get our first look at King, and he’s a bad dude, as when he beats a girl at videogames, her punishment for losing is to actually be kille, which is pretty harsh. Nestor tries to talk him out of it, so instead, King makes the girl and her brother fight to the death, saying, ‘this is better than Spartacus!’. This is all pretty clichéd villain stuff, but I was intrigued when King in the end decides to let them off the death-match, and saves them both. Is he all bark and no bite? Or is he actually not that bad? After all, he hasn’t killed Nestor, only kidnapped him. Who is bad however is Carmen Averez, the head of the mercenaries that King sends after Daredevil and Misty. After some more fun flirting (Misty buys Matt trousers that are too tight), they easily spot they are being tailed, and Matt takes out the soldiers with… oranges? Yep, he chucks oranges at their throats, which is weird, but kind of cool. What follows is a fun chase through the streets, which ends when Averez pulls out a massive fucking missile launcher and fires it right at our heroes, trapping them under some rubble.
Misty is taken to see King, and Matt is loaded into a truck full of dead bodies, which he quickly escapes from. The issue ends with Misty waking up in King’s mansion, being told that Matt is dead, and then given a dress to wear by Averez. It turns out that Misty Knight does know King… and that they used to date, which is an interesting turn of events.
This was a fun issue, with solid, clean art from Thony Silas, and really, that’s all this mini is, a fun diversion of short Daredevil stories, they don’t pack the punch of the main series, but it’s a little different, and that’s good. Plus, the covers from Amanda Conner have been amazing.
Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand #2(of 5)– It looks like Cataclysm really is that sequel to Spider-Men we all wanted, and I could not be happier about it, as this issue sets up Miles Morales (and a surprise partner) going the other way and heading to the 616 Universe to stop Galactus. Because really, that’s the only way the Ultimates can stop him.
In this issue, Iron Man realizes that every time they fire at Galactus, he just absorbs it, and makes himself stronger, so what can they do? Miles Morales certainly doesn’t know what to do, as this sort of thing is so incredibly out of his league, which made it all the more heroic when he just leapt into action. Hitching a ride on the back of a Helicopter and landing on Galactus’ helmet, which is just a great, iconic Spider-Man moment, regardless of which Spider-Man it is, true heroism right there. Just as Galactus notices the tiny Spider, and is about to grab him, Thor flies in to save the day, and the Ultimates and Spider-Man get to work saving people on the ground.
It’s here that Iron Man realizes that they can’t just attack him, and also that Galactus is not from this universe. In fact, he recognizes that he has the same energy signature around him that the Marvel Universe Peter Parker did when he came to the Ultimate Universe, and so they are from the same place. Luckily, the 616 Mysterio is still a prisoner of the Ultimates, and they go to interrogate him, and even though he’s zonked out on drugs, he recognizes Galactus, and remembers that it took Reed Richards to save his universe. The problem here is that, the Ultimate Reed is a maniacal villain, and none of the heroes trust him. Everyone heads to the weird, purple portal that leads to the Marvel Universe, but just when Iron Man is about to go through, Ultimate Amadeus Cho shows up and tells him he can’t go through, that if it goes wrong, they can’t afford to lose his genius.
Here, Miles gets his second big heroic moment of the series, when he volunteers to go, and it does make sense. He travelled through the portal before, and he knows their version of Peter Parker. But then… someone else volunteers, and it’s none other than evil Reed Richards! Boo! Hiss! Thor smashes him, which is satisfying, but Reed manages a convincing explanation about why he should go, that he’s super-smart, and that, if the 616 Reed is not there (which, as readers of Fantastic Four know, he isn’t), then he has the same DNA and fingerprints and can access his labs and find out how to beat Galactus. I loved this scene, and it’s cool to see Reed somewhat redeem himself, as the end of the world is big enough to bring him back around. He’s still a villain though, and I will always love that change Bendis made, it’s one of the coolest things about the Ultimate Universe I think.
So, Miles and Reed are off to the Marvel Universe, whilst Galactus is still busy making his doomsday machine. The issue ends with the Ultimate X-Men watching all of this on TV and deciding to go get involved. I have no idea what’s going on with the Ultimate X-Men these days (they have a Utopia now?) but I’m excited to see them come into this story and make this truly a universe-spanning event.
This was an improvement over #1, as stuff actually happened, and even better, that stuff was a tie-in from one of my favourite comics of 2012, Spider-Men, the fact that Bendis is picking up those threads is making me very excited, and I can’t wait to see what Miles and Reed get up to in the Marvel Universe. Will we see 616 Miles Morales? Will the Superior Spider-Man recognize Miles? What will Ant-Man and the FF make of evil young Reed? So many cool possibilities, and there’s still tons of crazy shit to happen in the Ultimate Universe, especially now with the X-Men. Bagley’s art was typical Bagley quality, he especially nailed the contrast in size between Spider-Man and Galactus, and it’s just great to have him back in the Universe he defined.
Fantomex MAX #3(of 4)– Three issues in to this four issue series, and I still don’t know what quite to make of it. It’s very weird, funny, and it’s hardly MAX at all, the story is wide-ranging and doesn’t quite make sense, and the villains are pretty fucking terrible. One thing I do know is that the covers by Francavilla are amazing, of that, there can be no doubt.
Hope kicks things off inside the digital world, with EVA meeting Michael Shivas, who it turns out is her creator. This was an odd scene, but the fact that Shivas created EVA is interesting and important, and could play a decent sized part in the ending of this story. Whilst EVA is trying to convince her dad to drop the water and allow Fantomex to live, Fantomex himself is in the midst of trying not to be eaten by a Kraken. He is able to crack open the Kraken’s brain and punch it, in probably the only part of this issue that earns being Mature Readers, seeing a fist go into a brain is pretty hardcore. Just after punching the Kraken to brain death, EVA is able to convince Shivas to drop the defences, saving Fantomex from drowning and allowing him to continue his search for that key he’s after. He is after a key right? I forgot.
Meanwhile, the agents of Grover Lane continue to be incredibly over-the-top in their villainy, I can’t decide if it’s funny or just sad. Agent Flemyng is delivered to one of them to be raped (I think?), but at the last moment she whispers that the two others have been conspiring against him, and hey, it turns out they have. The one with the ascot sticks a tentacly hand out of his forehead, and attacks the other, killing him. He then proceeds to tell Flemyng the origins behind their superpowers. Three years ago, Grover Lane were flying a plane over Argentina, when they crash-landed in the mountains. Here, one of their number was eaten by some weird, alien bugs. The other agents killed these bugs, and, like those Rugby players in that film, ate them to survive. This sent them to sleep for months, and when they awoke, they had superpowers. This is a pretty cool origin, and I wonder if their alien parts are why they want to destroy the world? It would make sense.
Back under the sea, Fantomex is wandering around, and he comes across Shivas’ lab, where he finds his dead body floating in a tube, connected to cyber-space I guess. EVA tries to talk to Fantomex, to explain things, but he ignores her, and whilst we don’t actually see him take the key, we do see him head back to see Grover Lane, where he proceeds to get tentacled, and put out of commission by the head Grover Lane dude. He then gains access to the laser satellite, knocks out the female agent, and fires a laser at some city, killing 2 million people, which is quite a way to end an issue.
There’s a lot to wrap up in issue four, I’m very intrigued by what Andrew Hope will do, how is Fantomex going to stop Grover Lane, what does Shivas have to do with it? And more. Shawn Crystal’s artwork has grown on me over the course of the series, now that this clear that the tone of this series isn’t as dark and MAX as I thought, the cartooniness works, and so do the benday dots. So yeah, this is a weird series, I still don’t know what I think, let’s hope the final chapter will clarify things for me.
Action Comics #26– Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder’s run on Action continues to be enjoyable, not really because of anything plotwise, but mainly because it’s great to see the character of Superman being written competently again in the New 52, and written in an interesting way.
Pak clearly sees Superman as Clark, as a person first, and all of the, well, action, is filtered through a very relatable character. The run kicks off in earnest here as the story moves to the present, with Superman flying in to save Lana Lang and her colleagues from the strange lizard monster that attacked them at the end of last issue. I said earlier that Pak writes Superman as a person first, and that’s clear here in the way he reacts when he realizes his ex-girlfriend is there, by showing off. He realizes it’s dumb, he’s dating Wonder Woman for pete’s sake, but he still wants to impress Lana. Not only does this make Lana look awesome, in that she can compete with Wonder Woman, but it’s a great humanizing moment.
That continues throughout the fight, as Superman quickly realizes that this monster is not a mindless beast that’s out of control, but that it’s trying to communicate and needs help, not punching in the face.
This is complicated by the one element of this story that I’m not a huge fan of, and it’s the involvement of a new character called ‘The Ghost Soldier’, who attacks Superman whilst the Government fire drones at the poor monster. Ghost Soldier is a pretty cool character, and he can phase through stuff, which makes him a decent fight for Superman, but it just seems repetitive of the things Scott Snyder is doing in Superman Unchained, with the Government sending Wraith after Superman. Let’s hope Pak manages to make sure this plot is different enough in future issues.
In the end, Superman is left with no choice, he can’t save the monster, and so flies it into the sun, like he’s the fucking Sentry or something, what a rip-off! Except, he doesn’t actually do that, he only makes Ghost Soldier and Lana and everyone think he has. What Supes actually does is take the monster back to the Fortress Of Solitude, where, for some reason, it turns into a cute little blue kid. Huh? That was an odd ending, but I am intrigued.
Throw in a touching childhood flashback for Superman, and the excellent art of Kuder, who really does suit Superman to a tee, this is a great start to an exciting run. Pak clearly gets Superman as a character, and his take on Lana Lang is more interesting that almost any other writer’s in the past 30 years, and with Lana set to play an important role in this story, I am excited. Things have been bleak for Superman since Morrison left, but now we’ve got this book, Unchained, and hell, even Superman/Wonder Woman is good. Now, if only we could do something about Lobdell…
Batman/Superman #6– Man, this is a weird story, and I still can’t work out if this is supposed to be the ‘real’ Mongul or not. It certainly seems like a plot to take over the world through videogames would be beneath him, but then, this is a guy whose chief weapon is a fucking plant-pot, so who knows.
The interesting thing about this story is that Batman actually died at the end of last issue, no foolin’, and he spends about half of this issue dead on the floor. Luckily, Superman is here to fight off Mongul, and the video-game testers who think they are in control are able to select his body as their new avatar and bring him back to life, albeit slightly robotified. Superman notices that even though he’s alive again, his heart still isn’t beating, so this resurrection is only temporary, so it’s going to be interesting to see how Greg Pak actually does bring Batman back to life, because they obviously aren’t going to kill him off in this title. To complicate matters further, those game testers still think this is all just a game, and so they try and control Batman to take out Superman, and, given that they can control the game, he is able to actually hurt him.
This issue continues the best thing about this title, and it’s that most of the narration from both characters is about how each of them views the other. Thanks to Pak, I now feel that the relationship between ‘the world’s finest’ is much more well-defined and realistic. I see why they are friends, and, at times, friendly rivals.
Luckily for Superman, one of these game testers is Jimmy Olsen, and he’s able to convince his pal that this is actually real, and they get to work making the newly powered-up Batman fight for good, saving people from Mongul and actually flying, which is cool to see. But, this doesn’t last long, as the mysterious, crystal-boned Agnes removes the ‘game’ from beta-testing and opens it up to the whole world. So now, Batman is not being controlled by 4 nerds who know that it’s real, but by millions of other gamers who still think it’s just a game. And that’s not all! Remember that weird meteor shower from last issue? That was sent by Mongul to seed the areas of the world with the most gamers with an even larger lust for violence than they normally do.
So, now we’ve got a souped-up robo-Batman controlled by every asshole who ever called your mother bad things on Xbox Live, hopped up on space-coke. Oh dear, and he’s gunning right for Superman. I guess this is the real Mongul after all, as his plan is working to perfection. As I said, this is a weird story, but it is enjoyable, although, if I was a gamer, it would probably be pissing me off.
Brett Booth’s art is what you expect from Brett Booth, but I really don’t understand why this issue was landscape, unlike #5, it didn’t really make an effort to do something with being landscape, it just was for the sake of it, and it was a bit annoying. If you do a gimmick, do it for a reason.
Green Lantern #26– Robert Venditti continues to do an excellent job at showing us just how much the game has changed for Hal and the rest of the Green Lanterns in this post-Lights Out universe.
Hal and Kilowog are surrounded by Prixiam Nol-Anj and her entire Clann, and those are not good odds. Not only is this hundreds of guns aimed a their heads, it’s also a Star Sapphire that’s stronger than most, because she’s powered by the love of all of those gunners. Every time that the two Lanterns try and concentrate on one of these threats, the other hits them from the side. I really liked one moment in this fight, when Hal admitted that his constructs were basic (like the serving tray he uses to save Kilowog) because, well, he doesn’t put much thought into them. We all know how ridiculous it is that Hal’s imagination seems to only stretch as far as ‘boxing glove’, so it was cool to see Venditti have Hal acknowledge that, and, as I’ve said before, Venditti seems much more aware of Hal’s flaws, and that makes him a better character in my book.
Another cool wrinkle in the fight is that both Hal and Kilowog are worried about draining the emotional reservoir in the fight, which adds an even bigger sense of urgency, not just here, but in every GL fight going forward. As a last-ditch gambit, Hal sends out a distress call to every other Green Lantern out there to come save him, and they do, including freaking Mogo, which is great. Venditti continues to address the small sect of Lanterns who are now refusing to use their rings, and how that’s causing tension amongst the Corps, but once they get planetside, we see that these Lanterns are well and truly capable of kicking some ass even without their rings.
In another continuing subplot that really has changed the GL world, we see that, to the Clann, the Lanterns are villains, as small children and old ladies throw garbage at them. Is Hal doing the right thing here? As he admits later, it took the entire Corps to help him disarm one single Star Sapphire. Venditti and the other GL writers have really turned things around, and now both the characters and the audience are made to question the very purpose and methods of the Corps. I’m loving these added layers of complexity, especially because it’s without the ridiculously over-the-top evil that the Guardians were towards the end.
Hal is able to make Prixiam and the Clann surrender by having Mogo come too close to the planet and causes gravitational problems, which is fucking awesome, and I love that the Corps is now truly mobile, these backwater planets are now able to be policed as well. So, the Clann surrenders, with Prixiam allowed to go free, as long as she hands over her Violet ring, but there’s a twist, as she now knows the secret about how wielding rings destroys the Universe, and will spread that around the surrounding planets, further fucking with the Corps’ reputation. At first, this doesn’t seem like a big deal, as I said, it’s a backwater planet, but the last page reveals something very cool indeed, and it’s that one of the little kids who threw rocks at Hal… is actually a Durlan! Those evil shape-shifters have been a part of the Green Lantern Corps series recently, and I’m excited to see that plot become even more important, making it’s way to the main book. The Durlans know the big secret, and I’m guessing it’s a part of their ‘next phase’.
The Green Lantern books are really good right now, the plots are interesting, the writers are really changing things up, and the art, in this case from Billy Tan, is uniformly great. If you left when Johns did, think again, the new teams are a breath of fresh air.
Swamp Thing #26– Even though the Alec Holland Swamp Thing died in last month’s issue, that doesn’t mean the book is over, and it doesn’t even mean he’s gone, as Charles Soule continues his epic, surprising run with another great issue that shows just how wrong a choice Jason Woodrue is as the new Avatar, as well as detailing his New 52 origins in greater detail. Plus, Animal Man shows up! Yay for Animal Man!
But first of all, why the heck is Alec still around? Well, as we’ve seen throughout both Soule and Snyder’s runs, the current Swamp Thing can consult with previous ones and get advice, Alec is now one of those previous ones, and is forced to watch as Woodrue goes around basically being a dick. The first thing the new ‘evil’ Swamp Thing does is go and see the mysterious Capucine, who he threatens, and causes to run off. The character of Capucine has been around for quite a while now without really doing anything, so I’m ready for her to actually matter, but for now, this was a good scene, as it showed how much of a villain Woodrue really is.
After this, to show how strong he is to the Green, Woodrue decides he needs to attack another Avatar, and he goes after Animal Man, who he believes is the Avatar of the Red. Of course, Animal Man isn’t the Avatar (that honour goes to his daughter, Maxine, if for some reason you’re not reading Animal Man), but that doesn’t mean he can’t handle himself in a fight. It was awesome to see these two Avatars really go at it, with Woodrue at first killing all of the animals for miles around, believing that would block A-Man’s powers. It doesn’t, as he underestimates Animal Man, who can stretch his powers further, and become an ant, to give himself strength, become a worm to heal himself, and become eagle, flying up with Woodrue, and dropping him into the forest. It’s always awesome when Animal Man truly reaches his bad-ass potential, and he did so here.
Throughout this issue, Alec Holland looks back at Woodrue’s life, trying to see how he ended up the way he is. Woodrue was a student, fascinated by plants, and the possibility of their being consciousness behind them, ie, the Green. A college professor introduced him to the idea of the Avatar, tying it into real world ‘Green Man’ myths, which is pretty awesome, and Woodrue spent his life searching for the Parliament of Trees. In the end, he found them, but he wasn’t allowed to become Avatar, but the Parliament did keep an eye on him, and enlisted him to save Alec Holland’s life. There was an awkward moment where Holland sees something from the past that had been erased from his memory, like the retcon slapping you right in the face, but it works mostly. As a reward for saving Holland, Woodrue was given his ‘Seeder’ powers, but it wasn’t enough, and he travelled the world looking for ways to become more powerful, doing bad things for bad people, until, well, he got the power to do what he’s been doing since the start of Soule’s run.
The issue ends with Woodrue, furious at being beaten by Animal Man, and desperate to impress the Green, finding a logging factory in Peru, and just crushing it, bringing it down, and causing blood to just seep into the river. It was a dark, fucked up way to end the issue, and I can’t wait to see where Soule is going. How is Alec Holland going to come back? I have no idea.
This title is just consistently excellent, and part of that is the art from Jesus Saiz, just so good, and surprisingly violent. I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m putting my neck out… Soule’s Swamp Thing is better than Snyder’s. Yeah, I said it!
Trillium #5(of 8) – Not many series destroy the Universe half-way through, but Trillium did, and it was awesome. However, the story must go on, and it does so here, with a very strange, new Universe being created, with, for some reason, Nika and William switching places.
So, in this issue, we see Nika wake up in 1920s London, living with her sister and suffering with mental problems after the war. Just like the ‘real’ William did. However, there are differences here, as the war that Nika fought in is not the First World War, but the ‘Blue War’, which was fought against, I assume, the Atabithian aliens, so it’s a bit more of steampunk (ugh) world, with alien technology around. Nika seems to be aware that something is wrong with the world, and that feeling continues when she goes to the museum and meets Commander Pohl, who wants to take her on an expedition to the Jungle, again, just like William. She declines, and at home, opens a book, to see a Trillium flower, which causes her to remember William.
As for William, he is of course now living in Nika’s world in the future, fleeing from the Caul and working with his brother on a space-station. William is just waking up from a black-out, where he went wandering out on the barren planet, and for some reason, Essie can’t remember what happened. After witnessing an industrial accident that not only reminds him of WW1, but happens to the future-guy he saw dead in the jungle in #1, William tells his brother that they don’t belong here, and he finally unlocks what happened to him last night, seeing… a hologram of Nika.
This was another very enjoyable, strange issue, and I once again loved how Lemire experimented with layout and structure. Much like #1, this was a ‘flip-book’, but every page had the top half focused on Nika, and the bottom half on William. I loved how each character’s story mirrored the other’s, how the panel layouts were always the same, and how they came together at certain points. I complained in my review of this week’s Batman/Superman, that doing a gimmick like a landscape comic for the sake of it is pointless, but when Lemire does something like this, it’s always in service of the story and making it more interesting.
The art is fantastic and detailed, which really came through in this issue, as he had less space to work with, and he took full advantage of it. Man, this mini is crazy, and I love it, I can’t wait to see where all of this is going, and how mental things can get.
Velvet #2– This second issue of Velvet really brings the action right to the forefront, with Brubaker and Epting really kicking all kinds of ass on the extended fight and car-chase between Velvet and the other Agents as she escapes.
This was a fantastic sequence, exciting, hard-hitting and inventive. I especially liked the technique of showing how Velvet, and other spies, compartmentalize things. So, whilst Velvet is kicking some ass, we see circular panels of her thought process, of a map where she plans her route, of her remembering fighting textbooks, and other stuff like that, very cool. It’s a bit boring for me to just go through the sequence, but rest assured, it was great, really living up the expectations you have for a title like this from watching James Bond films, yeah, it was James Bond level-good.
But this issue wasn’t just action, as Brubaker drip-feeds us a bit more of Velvet Templeton’s mysterious back-story, as the boss hands Agent Robert files on Velvet, giving us glimpses of her past as ‘Agent Valentine’, and what kind of awesome stuff she got up to as an actual spy, from East Berlin, to Monaco, and to Prague. But what the boss doesn’t disclose is why her last mission was in 1956 and just why she became a secretary. It looks like that one is going to run and run, which is great, and Bru throws more intrigue on top of it, as another Agent (perhaps Roberts?) was involved, and suspected of being compromised.
The issue ends with Velvet given no choice but to leave England, and she swims up to a boat, waking up an old acquaintance called Burke, who she wants to smuggle her away. Brubaker continues to develop this world very nicely indeed, we know more about Velvet as a character and her history now, and the same goes for the X-14 agency as a whole. But more than that, this issue was just an exciting read, with a great fight and chase, brilliantly drawn by Steve Epting. I’ve loved his art on the likes of Captain America and FF, but this may be his best work ever.
I know you don’t need my recommendation, but come on, this book is already one of the best out there. It’s Brubaker and Epting, just buy it.
Yeah, just buy it.
My favourite this week was either Swamp Thing, which really is one of DC’s best books, or Amazing X-Men. Velvet was great too.
Next week is another biggie, with new issues of Batman, Lazarus, Mighty Avengers, King’s Watch, Uncanny X-Men and more. See you then.