Hi there! Happy New Year! Yep, it’s the first comics reviews column of 2014, quite a momentous occasion I’m sure you’ll agree. I had a pretty great ‘Holiday Season’ as you Americans say, and I hope you did too, but now that’s it over, it’s time to get back to some serious work, and by serious work I mean talk nonsense about comics.
This week is a good one to kick-off 2014 with, because it’s the start of All-New Marvel Now, as there’s the first issues of Black Widow and Avengers World to deal with. But there’s plenty of old favourites back as well, including Iron Man, Sex Criminals, Green Lantern, Fatale and Avengers A.I. We also say goodbye to a couple of titles that are coming to an end, like Young Avengers. New Year is a time for change, and things certainly are changing for my pull-list!
But one thing doesn’t change, as ever, click the links to go to the Outhouse forum discussions about each comic.
Iron Man #20– Kieron Gillen’s latest Iron Man epic gets more and more interesting with this issue as the threat from the various Mandarin rings gets even bigger.
The story here kicks off at Tony’s press conference for his new ‘Troy’ initiative that had been so rudely interrupted by it being formed into a giant fist by one of the Mandarin’s rings. Fearing that she’ll be blamed for this, Red Peril, the holder of one of the other rings, reveals her presence and starts blasting stuff whilst spouting a lot of empty leftwing rhetoric that you can really tell Gillen is having a lot of fun writing. Red Peril is already a great new villain, and if Gillen can keep this up with the other ring-holders, then Iron Man could have lost his main villain, but gained 10 new great ones in his place. The fight between Tony and Red Peril is a lot of fun, and it allows Gillen to show some cool new developments for Iron Man’s abilities, especially with the introduction proper of his new drone system, which, although they are dispatched by an EMP, will probably be very important in the future. I also loved the revelation that Tony was wearing his stealth suit the entire time, that it was just invisible, that made for a nice new spin on the usual ways he has to rush to put his armour on. No need for a suitcase this time! Although, it does once again raise some questions about Tony’s mental state if he’s constantly in the suit and nobody knows.
The relationship between Tony and his newly discovered brother Arno continues to be a nice new development for this title, as Tony struggles with having an older brother around, especially one who may be even smarter than he is. Because of the aforementioned EMP, Tony is forced to abandon the fight with Red Peril to try and save him, if his Iron Lung has been shut down by the blast, he’ll die. But as I said, Arno is smarter than Tony, and he already protected his Lung years ago. Red Peril escapes, and she flies up into space to deliver a message to the world having a go at Stark and surveillance and a load of other topical stuff. I think Iron Man, more than any other superhero, thrives on modern references like this, it needs to feel cutting edge. I like seeing Gillen do that here, and it’s part of the reason I’m so enthused for Ales Kot’s upcoming Iron Patriot series.
Speaking of Iron Patriot, he shows up here, as he and Tony head deep into the military vaults to check on the Mandarin Rings, which are supposedly still under lock and key. The conversation between Tony and Rhodey was very well-written, reflecting the difficult relationship these two have professionally, with Rhodey having to put the military ahead of his personal feelings, but also how Rhodey is definitely worried about his friend. They open up the vault to find all the rings still there, but it’s a trick, one of them, the ‘Liar Ring’ has the power of illusion, and it stayed behind to cover up the fact that all of it’s ‘brothers’ were out in the wild. Sensing detection, it flies off into space and tells all of the other rings that they need to step up their game, to find holders, and start doing some terror-work. Iron Man had difficulty dealing with 2 Mandarin rings, now all 10 are out there, the next few issues should be crazy.
Joe Bennett’s art was once again solid as, well, Iron, and it’s just great to see Gillen continue to do something new with Iron Man and his world, he flipped everything upside down with the arrival of Arno, and now the Mandarin is being put to new use, it’s all very exciting.
Black Widow #1– I was not initially planning on picking this series up, because, well, whilst I like Black Widow as a character and as a member of the Avengers, I’ve never really felt like she’s that interesting as a solo proposition before. But really, that’s all down to creative teams, nobody ever thought Hawkeye would work on his own, and we all know how that turned out. I’m not saying that Black Widow is the ‘new Hawkeye’, but I do think that the team of Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto could finally be the ones to make me a definitive Black Widow fan.
The chief draw for me here is Noto’s art, which is just fantastic all through out. I’ve been a fan of his work for a long time, and I think this is the best he’s ever been, everything, from the amazing retro-yet-modern cover art, through to the pacing of the action scenes and his colour choices (Noto is doing everything here) just works. Even little things, like giving Black Widow a small mole on her face just show the attention to detail and thought that Noto is putting in here. In terms of art at least, this actually might be the new Hawkeye, because of just how damn good and unique it looks.
The story here is good too, but nothing beyond standard opening issue stuff, with Edmondson setting up his taken on the character of Natasha Romanov, introducing a new supporting character and showcasing just how bad-ass this woman is through some cool action sequences. Like a lot of recent Marvel titles, it feels like Edmondson is taking quite a lot of cues from the Marvel movies, as the focus here is on Natasha feeling like she has to atone for her past actions as a spy and killer. Edmondson doesn’t outright quote the whole ‘red in my ledger’ bit from The Avengers, but he might as well.
So, Black Widow feels like she has to atone, and she has set up trusts to pay money to unknown places (perhaps the families of her victims?), to pay for this, she is taking side jobs as a hitman (Do you say hitwoman? Is that non-PC?) unbeknownst to the Avengers and SHIELD. The issues opens with a brief glimpse at one of these missions, where she tricks a rogue Russian into thinking she’s on his side, before handing him over to the Berlin authorities. After this, we’re back in America, as Natasha’s lawyer, Isaiah gives her the next assignment, and tells her that she should probably be charging more. But as we know, for Black Widow, it’s not about money, it’s about atonement, she doesn’t want these jobs becoming about her. It’s a fine line that Edmondson has to walk here, writing an stone-cold killer in a way that doesn’t make her seem like the Punisher (who Edmondson is also writing these days), and he mostly pulls it off. The next mission shows that in fact, as we are meant to believe that she has been sent to assassinate someone, but in reality, she is there to protect him, and assassinate his assassin. So Black Widow is bad, but there’s worse out there.
The art and pacing throughout this action scene is fantastic, and really effective. The issue ends with Natasha back home, talking to her cat (who isn’t really her cat, because Black Widow shouldn’t have a cat) and once again wondering how much she has to do to be able to forgive herself and forget her past. I’m very intrigued by what Edmondson plans to do with this character’s history here, she has lived a long time and I’m sure there’s lots of cool stories from the past that could be shown, I’d like to see periodic flashback issues for whenever Noto needs a break showing stuff from the last 50 years or so, and really exploring Black Widow.
I think this was a really strong first issue, the artwork was bloody brilliant, and Edmondson has an interesting hook for the main character, albeit one that is indebted to the Avengers film. If you’re a fan of Black Widow, you’ve already picked this up, but if, like me, you’re kind of wary of her as a solo star, try it out, you will be surprised.
Avengers World #1– I’m not really sure why we need yet another Avengers title, but hey, they sell, and it’s more Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer out in the world, which can only be a good thing. This title, whilst featuring pretty much the same cast as the main Avengers book, does have a different raison d’etre it seems. In the wake of Infinity, the Avengers have declared the whole of the world under their protection, and as such, have decided to become more closely allied with SHIELD and work with them to protect the world. I’m guessing this will mean that Avengers will deal a bit more with cosmic, outer-space things, so they aren’t stepping on each other’s toes too much.
The story here focuses on Captain America’s first day of really, properly liaising with SHIELD, as he and Bruce Banner are aboard the Heli-Carrier to talk with Maria Hill and co-ordinate the Avengers around the world. The dialogue between Cap, Banner and Hill is all very good stuff, and I think it’s here that the collaboration between Hickman and Spencer shines brightest. For all of his many skills as a writer, I don’t think Hickman’s dialogue is that good or natural or fun, but Spencer’s most definitely is (read Superior Foes everyone! Read it twice!) and when the two combine, the Avengers feel more like people than just chesspieces in an epic, cosmic game. There are several crises going on around the globe, and each has a group of Avengers sent to deal with it.
Harsh weather is attacking the Eastern seaboard, and I do mean attacking, as it looks like it’s being planned, so Thor, Hyperion and Captain Marvel are dealing with that. The people of Madripoor are rioting for some unknown reason, so Black Widow, Falcon, Shang-Chi and (duh) Wolverine are there. In Italy, a whole town has just simply disappeared, so Spider-Woman, Hawkeye, Nightmask and Starbrand investigate. Splitting this very large team up into groups works very well as, just like with Spencer’s dialogue, it allows the characters a bit more focus. It turns out that the force behind the storms attacking the East Coast is coming from AIM Island, so a final group, consisting of Smasher, Cannonball and Sunspot are sent there to deal with AIM.
But it’s not going to be that simple, it seems like all of these various threats are the handiwork of AIM, and they soon escalate very quickly. In Madripoor, Gorgon is back (I miss Secret Warriors, so this was a cool return to that for Hickman) and causing the rioting by ‘waking the beast’, and in this case, that beast is Madripoor itself. Yep, Madripoor is not just an island, it’s actually resting on the top of a giant fuck-off dragon, which made for a truly surprising moment and a great visual. As I said, all of the other situations go FUBAR pretty quick too, Spider-Woman’s group finds a weird stone cube thing, which teleports them underground to ‘the city of the dead’ and when Smasher tries to, well, smash into AIM Island, she is met by a robot who blasts her with a laser. AIM Island is growing and changing, it’s not an Island anymore, it’s an Empire. The issue ends with the reveal that, yep, this is all down to AIM, and the introduction of their mysterious new leader, who I’m guessing is the new Scientist Supreme. AIM have been a consistent presence in Hickman’s main Avengers title, so it’s very cool to see them take the centre-stage here, having kind of been forgotten about during Infinity.
The artwork here comes from Stefano Caselli, who is one of my favourite artists, and he really suits this book. It makes sense, he’s drawn previous issues of Avengers from this writing team, and he worked with Hickman even before that on Secret Warriors.
So yes, whilst we probably don’t need this book, it’s still well worth reading, and if you dig what Hickman’s been doing with the other titles, this is well worth reading, especially as it’s essentially taking the place of the double-shipped second issue of Avengers we used to get.
Avengers A.I. #8– After last issue’s Inhumanity interlude, Sam Humphries knuckles down right back into the meat of the ongoing Avengers Vs Dimitrios story with another very enjoyable issue that not only continues to burst with cool new ideas about A.I., but also brings some more of the wider Marvel Universe in. With Captain America involved, everything feels just that little bit more important.
We begin inside The Diamond, with Victor Mancha and his new friend Gibson about to be attacked by some of Dimitrios’ goons. Victor is forced to jump off the edge of a cliff, but he saves himself by realising that The Diamond is artificial, if he believes he can fly… he can fly. This was a cool moment and I’m guessing Victor’s hyperactive imagination could go on to play a big part in eventually defeating Dimitrios. Dimitrios himself appears in this issue in the midst of a long conversation with his sister, Alexis, as he explains a bit more of his plans. Dimitrios wants to talk to his creator, and he doesn’t mean Hank Pym, he means God. Dimitrios’ plan is basically to wipe out humanity to save the planet, and also so he can try and talk to God, which is all kinds of mental. We also get a brief glimpse at another of his and Alexis’ siblings, known as ‘Eton The Gardener’, it’s going to be interesting to see what Eton is like, along with all of the other original A.I.s.
Back in the ‘real’ world, after winning his battle with Dimitrios, Vision now knows the location of every server that is hosting The Diamond, so he heads off into space to examine each and every one of them with his nanobots and try and find the weakest one to serve as the Avengers’ entry point. I think one of my favourite aspects of this series is what Humphries is doing with The Vision and his powers, and how they keep on changing and he keeps on doing something new. Vizh finds a weak point, and Pym prepares to go into The Diamond, rescue Victor and stop Dimtrios.
Present in Hank’s lab are two members of another Avengers group, Captain America and Rogue (this issue takes place before she was gloriously and brutally killed off in Uncanny Avengers a few weeks ago, so it was weird to see her again, but kind of cool). Cap fills Hank in about the change in attitude from SHIELD, and about the new law classifying A.I. as property, which understandably pisses Hank off, and to make things worse, Cap even starts to question his mental state, particularly about his use of Doombot (who is, as ever, hilarious, so many great one-liners).
But before the two founder Avengers can really get arguing, they are interrupted by Cannonball with a distress signal as people across America are rioting. Why are they rioting? Well, it’s all down to Dimitrios. He created an App that locates cheap gasoline, and then blew up a series of Oil Refineries, creating a shortage. With everyone using his App, he is able to combine it with Psycho-Man’s technology and cause panic and global chaos. It’s a pretty clever plan and one which makes full use of Dimitrios’ position as an A.I. villain, he’s doing things slightly outside the box. Because time moves differently inside The Diamond, the only way to stop Dimitrios before the world is engulfed in riots is to go inside it, so Pym, Doombot, Vision, Rogue and Cap all ‘jack in’ and head into the virtual world, in a sequence that allows Andre Araujo to really cut loose with some cool visuals, he really is the perfect artist for this book and it’s tone.
So, now everybody is inside The Diamond, the Avengers are immediately set upon by Dimitrios’ goons, and Victor is faring no better, as he and Gibson are captured by an anti-Dimitrios group. The next issue should be crazy!
Young Avengers #15– And so, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers run comes to an end. You all know the problems I have with this series, so I don’t want to go into too much detail, this issue, just like all of the previous 14 (except maybe #6, which was actually quite good) was a huge disappointment to me.
I don’t want to waste any more words about how annoying I find this title’s excessive playing to it’s target audience, and how ridiculous the reveal that nobody on the team except for Kate Bishop is straight was. There’s being diverse, and then there’s just trying too hard. I don’t want to complain about how the Loki character and plotline still makes no sense, so I’ll focus on the positive sides of this issue, which is basically the artwork.
From Jamie McKelvie, Becky Cloonan, Ming Doyle and Joe Quinones, this whole issue looks great, these are some of my favourite artists around, and they have kept me reading this series when the story has let me down. The only other thing I liked was the discussion between Prodigy and the ersatz Patriot and how that led to Speed’s return, that was a well-written scene that certainly holds some intrigue for the future, but I doubt we’ll ever actually see Prodigy be forced to transform into Patri-Not.
There is one element here I do want to complain about, and it’s that I don’t feel that this series earned the big 2 issue emotional send-off and I don’t buy that there is any real deep and meaningful connection between any of these characters. When Loki looks at his old selfie and is all wistful… I don’t feel any emotion there. This team was only together for 13 issues and basically, 1 adventure. Not long enough for me as a reader to feel like they were a real team. Yes, a lot of stuff happened off-panel as they travelled the Multiverse, but we never saw that, so it doesn’t matter. It’s not like this is the original 5 X-Men, or hell, even the original Young Avengers. All of this did not feel earned at all. If this run of Young Avengers had gone one for 25+ issues, then maybe I could believe it, but 15? No way josé. I thought the same thing about #16 of Immortal Iron Fist (the end of Brubaker and Fraction’s run), and also about the last issue of the recent Captain Marvel series. You can’t have big celebratory issues when you’ve barely even started. But then I suppose that’s modern comics for you, and really, for better or worse (definitely worse for me), Young Avengers was modern.
This title was 2013 in comics, in style, in fanbase, in so-called social conscience. All I can say is that I hope 2014 is a bit more up my street. I still love Gillen and McKelvie, but this is their one miss for me, their ‘Be Here Now’ to use a Phonogramish reference. Hey, now that YA is over, do we finally get Phonogram 3? Oh boy, I’m excited for that.
Cable And X-Force #18– This issue sees the start of the ‘Vendetta’ crossover that will eventually lead to the two X-Force titles merging into one book. It’s a pretty simple set-up for a crossover, and one that makes a lot of sense, and even though I’ve not been reading Uncanny X-Force, only this book, I really enjoyed this issue and am excited to see what happens next.
As I said, the set-up is pretty simple, and builds from the previous Cable series where Cable and Hope were chased across time by Bishop, who believed that Hope, rather than being the Mutant Messiah, was actually the cause of the particular dystopian future he was from. During that series, Bishop went full-on bad guy, killing loads and loads of people. Since then, he’s come back, lost his memories and joined Uncanny X-Force in secret in some stories I haven’t read.
In this issue, everything is set into motion by a) Bishop discovering his heinous crimes and b) Hope finding out that her own personal bogey-man is alive and well in the present, and a member of an X-Team. Understandably pissed, she races off to try and kill Bishop. Hot on her tails is Cable, who doesn’t want his daughter to become a cold-hearted killer and plans on killing Bishop himself. Hope attacks Bishop, but before they can really throw down… Stryfe shows up and kidnaps them both! Yep, Cable’s evil clone is back, and he’s even more dangerous than ever because he still has the powers that Cable lost. I have no idea what kind of plans Stryfe has, but I can bet it will be crazy and confusing but still kind of great.
Unfortunately for Cable, as soon as Stryfe winks away with Hope and Bishop, the Uncanny X-Force team shows up wanting to know where Bishop went, and the fight is on!
This was a very enjoyable comic, that made good use of continuity to set up a crossover that feels necessary for once and makes sense. Hopeless’ dialogue is good as always, particularly for Boom-Boom, who is just ridiculous and hilarious. The artwork from Angel Unzueta was solid as well, although it does suffer in comparison to the cover from Ramon Perez.
As I mentioned, I don’t read Uncanny X-Force, so I’m not sure if I’m going to pick up those issues of this crossover, I guess it depends on my budget on a given week. But yeah, whilst I’m sad to see this title leave, it’s going out on a high note and my interest in the new combined X-Force title has definitely increased.
All-New Marvel Now! Point One #1 – With All-New Marvel Now really getting going this week, this is another one of those anthology ‘point one’ books they’ve done in the past, and as such it’s basically a collection of preview stories for upcoming new series. So if you’re looking forward to the likes of Silver Surfer, All-New Invaders or Ms. Marvel, this is your first taste, and if you’re undecided about whether or not to try a title, this one-shot should help you make up your mind.
For my sins, I was already planning on buying every title previewed here, so this was more of starter dish, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Loosely tied together by a framing story involving Loki gathering a bunch of keys, this issue features short teaser stories for the following titles: Black Widow, Silver Surfer, Ms. Marvel, All-New Invaders and Avengers World.
I enjoyed each of these stories to some extent, particularly Black Widow, for another dose of sweet, sweet Phil Noto art, and also Silver Surfer, which was very fun indeed. I think Slott and Allred are going to completely redefine the Surfer. Ms. Marvel was pretty basic teen hero stuff, with clichés like the parents not approving etc, but the art from Adrian Alphona was amazing, I have missed his work. The Avengers World one was fun, I liked seeing the return of Sunspot and Cannonball’s inside-man at AIM and whilst I found it weird to have Rags Morales at Marvel, his art is always good.
The Invaders story was perhaps the most intriguing, as James Robinson doesn’t use the actual Invaders at all, and instead sets up the series’ villain, a vicious Kree warrior. I don’t really get why they used the Loki story as a framing device, but these were all fun pages, Al Ewing writes this ‘Teen Loki’ a lot better than Gillen did in Young Avengers, and I loved seeing the Braddock Academy again.
As I said, I was already planning on picking up each of these books, and thankfully, none of these stories made me change my mind. Let’s hope the actual comics live up to these short teasers.
Daredevil: Dark Nights #8(of 8) – Jimmy Palmiotti and Thony Silas wrap up their tale of Daredevil and Misty Knight in Miami in a pretty effective way, but it’s not much more than effective.
The issue begins with a flashback showing what Misty’s relationship to the villainous druglord ‘King’ was like way back in the year 2000 (pretty on-the-nose shot of the Twin Towers on that opening page huh?), they were all lovey-dovey it seems, but Misty had sent Colleen Wing off to investigate him, she found out that he was a lying criminal scumbag, which tipped him off, so he blew up Misty’s apartment, killing her dog. He killed a dog! So yeah, he’s a bad dude.
Back in the present and in Cuba, Matt Murdock meets up with a group of locals who are planning on trying to take on King themselves, Matt wants time to get Misty and Nestor (the witness he came to Miami for in the first place) out safely, so he asks these rebels to give him until midnight before they attack. King drugs Misty and is going to rape and then kill her (dark nights indeed), but after the awesome visual of Daredevil riding a horse, he busts in and saves her.
After this, everything is wrapped up all neat and tidy, Nestor is saved and taken back to the US where he testifies against King’s brother, King is captured and has the crap beat out of him by Misty, and we end with Matt and her making out on the beach. This was probably the least of the three ‘Dark Nights’ stories, but it was still a perfectly enjoyable read, it was fun to see Daredevil out of his New York element (although, given that he’s moving back out West soon, we’ll be seeing more of him out of his element) and the relationship between Matt and Misty is a lot of fun, which is a good thing, Daredevil’s romantic entanglements always get way too dark. Sometimes he needs a break and to get it on with a hot woman with a robot arm.
Thony Silas’ art was good once again, but it did look a bit rushed in some of the fight scenes, but I can’t hate on it given how awesome that visual of DD on horseback was. Overall, this was a pretty good mini-series, it allowed for some different takes on the character of Daredevil, and although I love what Waid is doing, there should always be room for other voices. If you love Daredevil, check out the trade, especially for the Lee Weeks story.
Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand #3(of 5)– Guys, I really don’t think the Ultimate Universe is ending and I still really don’t think that Miles Morales is moving to the 616. Everyone thought that the journey to that Universe in this event would be this huge thing, but it turns out it really wasn’t.
Miles and Evil Reed Richards cross over into the 616 (but not after Iron Man tells Miles that he should kill Reed if he does anything shifty), notice how the Baxter Building looks different, and break into the other Reed’s lab. They don’t even run into Scott Lang and the FF and have a fight, the whole building is empty, and Reed, once again fascinated by the similarities and differences between his lab and his counterpart’s is able to find the data on Galactus and put it on a memory stick. But then, some real emotional shit happens. We already had a scene where Evil Reed noticed a photo of the whole 616 Fantastic Four, complete with kids, but then he meets Valeria. She initially thinks he’s herd dad, but then quickly realises it isn’t and activates the security. Miles and Reed escape, and Miles inadvertently sics the FF HERBIEs onto the 616 Spider-Man in a very funny moment, as Miles feels guilty about messing with Peter Parker, only of course, it’s actually Otto Octavius. I was initially disappointed that we didn’t get a longer meeting between Miles and SpOck, but this was good enough.
Miles and Reed make it back to the Ultimate Universe, where they share what they know about Galactus, that he’s come here to eat the Earth, and that the other heroes couldn’t stop him. They discuss sending Galactus to another dimension, but then realise that would be wrong, and the issue ends with Reed revealing to Sue that he saw their daughter, and apologising for what he did. It really looks like this series is going to be the redemption of Ultimate Reed Richards, I think he’s going to sacrifice himself to save the world.
This series is in a really interesting place right now, there are only 2 issues left and nobody has any idea how to stop Galactus, I can’t wait to see what kind of crazy shit gets tried. And hey, didn’t the X-Men appear at the end of #2? Where were they in this issue? Lazy muties! Mark Bagley’s art was his usual excellence, he never lets you down. As I said, I have no idea where Bendis is going here, but I am enjoying the ride, we got a little mini-sequel to Spider-Man, and Reed Richards is being somewhat redeemed, I think it’s great that, even in amongst the huge scale of Galactus’ destruction, this story is really all about the characters.
Cataclysm: Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #3(of 3)– The 2nd issue of this mini-series ended on a real shocking moment, with Miles revealing that he’s Spider-Man to his dad, a notorious hero-hater.
However, Bendis doesn’t begin this final issue right there, instead, we open with a normal passenger plane expecting to be able to land in New Jersey, only… Galactus has just destroyed New Jersey, there is no airport, no nothing. So basically… this plane is about to crash into Galactus. It’s not initially clear, but it looks like it swerves at the last second and manages to just crash into the ground. It’s not obvious at first why we are seeing this scene, and not some Miles/Miles’ dad drama, but it makes sense eventually. But not before we do get that Miles drama!
As you might have expected, Jefferson Davis is not exactly over the moon to find out that his son his Spider-Man, and he accuses him of killing his brother (The Prowler), and then starts blaming Miles for his mother’s death. This is all very hard-hitting, personal stuff, and it was pretty hard to read, I just felt bad for everyone involved. Luckily, the fight between father and son can’t get too far, as that plane crashlands in the next street. Miles tells his dad to get back indoors and wait for him while he goes to help, and he does, but what he sees is shocks him so much he forgets to put his mask back on, until Spider-Woman reminds him to, not just to protect his secret identity, but also to help him breathe. David Marquez really nails the scene of Miles seeing this crashed plane, and the shock on his face, but then, he nails everything, the art here is excellent.
Miles heads into the plane to help anyone trapped in there, and he finds… none other than J. Jonah Jameson, another known hero-hater (well, Spidey-hater). It looks like JJJ, who had finally come around to Peter Parker right before he died, and because of that was against Miles, will now change his opinion of the new Spider-Man as well, which is cool. After this, the rest of Miles’ amazing friends show up, with Cloak and Dagger helping to teleport injured people to safety in Pittsburgh, and Bombshell totally kicking ass at saving everyone from falling debris. I really get the feeling that, post-Cataclysm, Ultimate Spider-Man will be a teambook of some sorts.
Miles returns home, but his Dad isn’t there, which, again, emotions were happening. It’s here that Miles gets the call from Tony Stark, and the events of the main series where Spider-Man heads to the 616 Universe are set up, but really, the biggest thing here is the Miles and his dad stuff. I said it about the main series, but it’s even more applicable here, Bendis is doing a fantastic job at keeping this story focused on the characters in amongst the end of the world. Stuff like Galactus happens all the time in comics, but heartbreaking scenes like the one between Miles and his dad? That’s all too rare and very special.
Fantomex MAX #4(of 4)– I don’t know what to say about this issue really, or about this mini-series as a whole, it was just a weird, almost-mess. I don’t even know if I can recap the plot of this final chapter, a lot of stuff happened that I think was explained and set up earlier, but I can’t quite remember how. I think I need a re-read.
Basically, Fantomex is smarter than Agent Stirling, and beats him, even though he can turn into a monster. It looks like Agent Flemyng is going to let him go, but then she doesn’t, so Fantomex knocks her out to escape back to a life of crime, where he builds EVA a robot body that he can (presumably) fuck. I dunno.
This whole thing is weird, especially because this version of Fantomex is clearly not the same one who appears in the Marvel Universe. In this issue he flashes back to his childhood, to seeing his mother be killed by a German soldier, but as we all know, Fantomex doesn’t have a mother, he was grown inside The World. Even his characterisation is difference, in the Marvel Universe, Fantomex is always pretending to be French, whereas here, it seems like he actually is French, but he pretends to be British. I dunno, I think going so far out-of-continuity with this is a mistake.
I do think Andrew Hope shows promise as a writer, there were lots of cool, big ideas in this series, and there were some very funny lines of dialogue, but for me, as a big Fantomex fan, this was a let-down. Apart from the art, Francavilla’s covers were amazing throughout, and Shawn Crystal really grew on me too. But really, if you want some Fantomex fun, just pick up some Morrison or Remender, it’s much better.
Action Comics #27– Greg Pak’s run on Action Comics continues to be enjoyable, but I’m not sure that I’m not just overrating it in comparison with the last year or so of fill-ins we had to suffer through. After that… anything would seem good. But I suppose it is early days, I do think that this could grow into something special.
The issue begins with a flashback to Clark Kent’s childhood, where he’s trying to fly for the first time. He doesn’t manage to (probably because Scott Snyder only just did a flashback showing his first flight last week) because his super-hearing kicks in, and he over-hears his parents talking about him not being human. This leads to us seeing how the Kents revealed to Clark that he was from Krypton, and them giving him the famous red cape. This is all to demonstrate just what that cape means to Superman, and make the connection between him and the mysterious shape-shifting monster more apparent. That cape comforted Clark as a kid, and it’s doing the same for ‘Baka’.
Baka easily escapes from the pen he’s in, and runs around the Fortress Of Solitude, where he is drawn to photos of Clark’s past (I loved seeing a conventional American bedroom, with bookshelves and pennants on the walls right in the middle of the alien fortress), so it looks like he misses his family. At this point, Clark gets a call from Lana Lang, who is going deeper underground to investigate what the hell happened in the last issue. She is being trailed by ‘Ghost Soldier, but her more immediate problem is a load of giant monsters out to eat her. Obviously, Superman and Baka fly in to save her, but the most interesting thing in these scenes is the way Pak is writing both Lana and Clark’s inner monologues, and how they compare and contrast. Pak’s Superman feels real, and I really think his take on Lana is the best in ages. Pak gets across really well how weird it must be for her to have the most powerful man in the universe be her childhood friend.
In the midst of battle, Baka displays the ability to talk, but soon runs into a more humanoid monster, who on the cover is referred to as ‘Ukur, The Beast Lord’, which is pretty bad-ass. Apparently Ukur and his monsters are there to protect the Surface World from a secret subterranean empire. The issue ends with an epilogue, showing that, thanks to Superman and Lana, some kind of seal has been broken and the Queen of the ‘Imperial Subterranea’ is now free to attack the surface, which is probably bad news.
The artwork from Aaron Kuder was once again fantastic, perfectly suited to the large amount of, well, action Pak puts into this series, but it was a bit annoying to have the first 8 pages of the issue drawn by 2 other artists, they were fine, and one of those sequences was a flashback, but dammit, I prefer consistency at all times.
So, whilst I’m still not sure whether or not this title is great again, it’s a hell of a lot better than it was before, so if you still like Superman, jump back on board.
Green Lantern #27– I hope everyone reading this title has also been reading Green Lantern Corps, because if not, the events of this issue will really have come out of nowhere. But I have been reading GLC, so it was awesome for me. Here, the Durlans, who have been sniffing round the edges in that title, causing trouble for John Stewart, really step into the spotlight, and man, things do not look good for Hal Jordan and the entire Corps at all.
Robert Venditti kicks things off with Saint Walker coming out of his comer and learning about all of the messed-up crazy that’s happened since he’s been out. All of the other Blue Lanterns are dead, Kyle Rayner is gone too, and, with the knowledge of the Emotional Reservoir, the GLs are cracking down on the use of the rings by others. Walker is obviously rocked by this, and since the Blue ring is the most powerful of all, it’s also the one causing the most damage, so basically… he loses hope. His ring comes off his finger, and his usual tune of ‘all will be well’, is replaced with ‘all is not well’. It might be a bit on the nose to have Walker, and therefore the whole Corps, literally lose hope, but then, the whole concept of rings powered by emotions is on the nose, so I don’t mind it, and it was a powerful moment.
The story really gets going with the arrival of the prisoners Hal and Kilowog took from the Clann last issue. However, it’s all part of a plan, as a few of them sneak off and meet up with one of the hidden Durlan shape-shifters. They accidentally run right into a bunch of Lanterns in the infirmary, but are able to escape and find their way to Hal’s command-centre, where they take him out, have the Durlan take his form and broadcast a message to the entire universe. I think what’s interesting about the message here is that, technically, none of it is a lie. The GLs have discovered that their rings are harming the universe, they aren’t planning to stop using them, and they are going to stop others from using theirs. All of the things that DurlanHal reveals here are true, it’s just that the real Hal was keeping them secret, which is arguably worse. I love how complex Venditti is willing to go with Hal’s character and his poor decisions, as I said before, under Johns, Hal was basically infallible. Now, he’s a more realistic character, a risk-taker who’s risks don’t always come off.
The universe was already turning against the Corps, but now they are doing so violently, as the issue ends with a load of Station Houses across space being attacked. Man, it is dark days for them, and to top it all off, Hal will now have all of his fellow Corpsmen mad at him for revealing the truth, that page with Simon Baz, Guy, Kilowog and The Zamarons reacting was great. I can’t wait to see where Venditti is going with all of this, he and his fellow writers really haven’t been afraid to shake things up, so the next few months will really interesting, especially since #28 is going to also feature the Red Lanterns.
The artwork here is from Dale Eaglesham, who is one of my favourites, his intricate style is perfect for demonstrating the use of green energy, and he just works on this kind of cosmic story. I can’t wait for his Sinestro series.
Swamp Thing #27– Well, that happened quicker than I expected. I thought that Jason Woodrue would be the Avatar of the Green for longer than 2 issues, but even with the quick wrap-up, this was a very good issue, and one that once again, changes things up a hell of a lot for Swamp Thing, as he may very well be more powerful than ever at the end of it.
After last issue showed what Seeder was up to on Earth, this one was all about Alec Holland being trapped inside The Green, and trying to make his way out and stop his enemy. The Wolf tells him that he can’t leave, and tries to make him stay, first by creating plant versions of Abby Arcane and Capucine that Swamp Thing could fuck to his heart’s content, and then by producing a fruit that he could eat to make him sleep through Seeder’s tenure and move on. Holland of course rejects all of this, so The Wolf leads him to the one person who may be able to help him, the incredibly creepy Lady Weeds.
It turns out that the way to break through from The Green and back to the Earth is to go to where the connection is most strong… The Parliament Of Trees. Swamp Thing and Lady Weeds go to see the Parliament from their end, which is a bunch of Swamp Things tethered to those trees in the swamp. There’s no time for Swamp Thing to try and get voted into the Parliament, so basically their only option is to fight. Lady Weeds cuts the tether, and it is on. I liked seeing a new bunch of former avatars, including a Russian Cossack, a Scottish warrior, and best of all, a Dinosaur. This fight is pretty damn fun, and it ends with Alec outsmarting everyone, including Lady Weeds, and bursting through, back into the Real World as a Parliament Tree, and luring Seeder to him so he can take his powers back.
I’m not sure if the next sequence, where Swamp Thing turns the whole planet green is actually happening or just Soule showing us what he’s promising The Green he’ll do, but it was effective, and in the end, Holland is back as the Undisputed Swamp Thing, and on top of that, he seems to have shut down the former Avatars too, giving them the fruit of forgetfulness and putting them to sleep forever. He even manages to not kill Woodrue, as he places him in the Green as well (which is probably a bad idea, he’s going to return eventually).
The art from Jesus Saiz here was brilliant throughout, he’s being asked to do a lot of weird, odd stuff by Soule, and he pulls it off, making story elements and characters that could come across as ridiculous, really work. I’m very intrigued as to what the new and improved Swamp Thing is going to be like, especially because he now (presumably) won’t have a load of other voices in his head telling him what to do. Has he actually turned the planet green? Is he now a villain? I have no idea, and I love that. Soule is kicking ass on this book for sure.
Batman/Superman #7 – Greg Pak wraps up the second arc of this book, and man, this was kind of a weird story. I’m no Mongul expert, but this plan of his, to take over the world using videogames, doesn’t really sound like his usual modus operandi. Maybe Pak should have tied this game in with the ‘Black Mercy’ somehow.
Anyways, yeah, I don’t think this story really worked, but there were some cool character moments and Pak continues to absolutely nail the relationship between his two title characters. The issue starts with a focus on a young woman in Gotham who is desperate to send a letter off in time in order to secure some kind of special loan from a Wayne charity. If she doesn’t send this letter, her life is fucked basically. And fucked it is, as the fight between Superman and the video-gamed-up Batman smashes right through the post office, giving her no chance to send it. She is distraught, and driven to anger by Mongul’s weird pollens, picks up gaming device, and joins the fight, out to get Superman.
The fight is not that simple, as Superman doesn’t want to hurt his friend, and he knows that if he tries to shut down the console powering Batman… it could end up killing him. In the end, Superman’s solution is… to lose. If he goes down, the videogame will resurrect him too, and make him part of the game, more powerful and able to take down Mongul. He is able to convince the poor woman who had her life crushed to control him, and, in a pretty clever moment, the other gamers’ knowledge of superhero tropes means that they know that at this point Batman and Superman have to team-up, means that it’s game over for Mongul. Superman and Batman take him out, throw him in the Phantom Zone, and everything is wrapped up very nicely indeed. Batman’s life is saved, the effect of the crazy pollen wears off, and Clark Kent is able to pull some strings with Bruce, and get the woman onto that loan system anyway, meaning her life isn’t fucked. Hooray!
The issue ends with another interesting conversation between Supes and Bats, and the tease of Mongul’s son for the future, which could be good. The art from Brett Booth was once again solid, but I still don’t get why this arc was in landscape, it was for no reason at all. Yeah, this was an odd story, let’s hope the next one is an improvement, and isn’t randomly sideways.
Fatale #19– In amongst all of the surprise and excitement over Brubaker and Phillips signing exclusive contracts with Image, one little fact seems to have gone under the radar… that Fatale is set to end with #24. With only 5 issues left after this one, we’re really in the endgame now, and with this issue, Bru sets that up. The story of Jo in Seattle comes to an end, and the present-day framing sequences with Nicolas Lash take another dark turn. I know a lot of people haven’t liked Fatale as much as previous Brubaker/Phillips’ collaborations, but I have, so whilst I’m sad to see it come to an end, I’m very excited to see what that ending entails.
Back in 90s Seattle, everyone is reeling after the events of #18, where Amsterdam attempted to film a music video starring Jo and inadvertently caused a bit of a riot. Jo has ran away, getting on a train to Chicago, and the band themselves are freaking out, worried that the Cops are going to come to their house and find the dead body of Skip. One particular Cop does come around, and you guessed it, it’s Wulf, the serial killer who is obsessed with Jo. Somehow, she senses he’s going to attack her friends, so she comes back, but it’s too late, he’s already killed Darcy, Tom and Jon, and he’s about to sacrifice Lance in some kind of creepy way. I guess the runes on Lance’s body are what drew Jo back? I think so anyway. Jo is able to kill Wulf, and she and Lance escape to the middle of nowhere.
The story of the band is all over the media, and Lance is being blamed for it, he’s set up as a Satanist who killed his fellow bandmembers. Jo tries to help him out of his funk, even sleeping with him for one last time, but he seems irreparably damaged, and she leaves, just one more fucked-up man in her wake.
There is a loose end here, and it’s the whereabouts of the videotape of Jo’s music video. It turns out that Sommerset/Bishop owns the record label, so he has it in his possession. I’m surprised we didn’t get a bit more of confrontation between him and Jo in this arc, but I imagine that he, and the music video, will play a large role in the final storyline.
The issue ends back in the present day, with Nelson taking Nicolas to their final destination, and it turns out that, as I think many people suspected, Nelson is actually Lance, and he’s even crazier than before. He’s going to do the same thing to Nicolas that Wulf did to him back in the 90s, and carve runes on him and call Jo to him, so he can see her one last time. I think it’s very cool how the Seattle story is a lot more closely linked to the present-day stuff than the other arcs, obviously it’s more recent, but with the 1970s arc, everyone affected by Jo pretty much died. Here, the sins of the past really are coming for her, which is basically what Noir is.
Sean Phillips’ art was amazing as always, and really, things are set up very nicely indeed for the final arc. I’m very excited that Brubaker and Phillips are committed to working together at Image for the foreseeable future, they are one of the best teams in comics, and I will read whatever they do.
Sex Criminals #4– This book just gets weirder and weirder, and I love it. This issue wasn’t as outright hilarious as the previous three, but it was still very enjoyable, and this is just such a strange, brilliant premise, you can’t help but be impressed.
As usual, the story begins with Suzy and John’s bank-robbery, as they come face to face with the Sex Police. They discover that these Cops aren’t really Cops, they are just people like them with the ability to get into The Quiet/Cumworld.
In the flashbacks, we see our heroic couple prepare to start robbing banks and saving the library, first by discussing the moral implications of it, and then getting it on, walking into the actual Cumworld store, and just moving everything around to see what they can get up to when time is stopped. After this, they move on to actually robbing banks, but unfortunately for them, Suzy’s roommate, Rachel is overhearing what they are doing, and calls the Police. The real Police, only it turns out, the leader of the Sex Police is their receptionist, so that’s how they track them down.
In amongst this flashback, there’s another flashback, where Suzy remembers the time when she used ‘The Quiet’ to get revenge on a College douchebag jock who raped Rachel. She pauses time, smokes pot in front of him (the effects of pot in The Quiet are very interesting indeed) and puts it in his bag, getting him expelled. This was a very good little mini-story, and it adds a nice bit of depth to both Suzy, and the relationship between her and Rachel, as well as opening up the possibilities for this book to explore a much darker side of sex.
The issue ends with the Sex Police knocking our heroes down, and taking them in. This issue gave us a brief glimpse at the Sex Police headquarters (although that may just be in Suzy’s imagination), but I’m excited to see more of it next issue. We seem to be pretty much done with the initial set up for this story, now I think things are really going to get weird.
Chip Zdarsky’s art is still just perfect for the comedic tone that Fraction is going for, they really work together well, and he adapts well here when the tone gets a little darker. If you’re not reading this title, you really should be, it’s more than just that comic with the hilarious variant covers, it’s got actual substance inside it as well.
Three #4(of 5) – In this penultimate issue of Three, things get bloody, and the end looks set to be even bloodier. We left off last issue with our 3 heroic Helots on the run from 2 separate groups of Spartans, and in this issue, they converge.
First to come across them is Nestos, the son of the Spartan who was killed to set all of these events in motion. He is convinced by the tracker he’s hired, Aristodemos, to try a more subtle approach. Aristedemos is a ‘Skirites’, another form of slave (as with previous issues, this is explained in depth in the back-matter interviews between Gillen and a Historian), and so he is able to trick the Three into taking a different path, and leading them into a trap. Before this happens however, Terpender continues to question Klaros about his history, and his strong fighting ability. Terpander tells another story of recent Spartan history, where, after a victory, all of the greatest Helot fighters were killed by the Spartans as punishment for being too good at fighting. Terpander believes that Klaros was a part of this army, but he was too smart to admit he’s a good fighter, and so has slipped under the radar. I’m inclined to agree with Terpender here, but Klaros keeps insisting he’s just a butcher.
Anyway, so the Three are trapped, and Nestos attacks them, leading to a brutal fight between him and Klaros, which ends when Terpander sacrifices himself to allow Klaros to win. As Nestos has his spear embedded in Terpander, he is not able to use it against Klaros, and gets got. It was great to see Terpander go out as a hero, throughout this series he’s been a chatty jerk, but here, his goodness shines through in allowing his friends to survive.
Unfortunately, whilst this is happening, the other, much larger group of Spartans is closing in on them. The issue ends with Klaros donning Nestos’ armour and going out to face the Spartans. Next issue is going to be bloody, one man (and one woman) against an army.
Ryan Kelly’s art once again perfectly complemented Gillen’s story, the violent action scenes in particular have been brilliant throughout, and you really felt the impact of Terpander’s death thanks to Kelly. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this mini-series, and can’t wait for the final chapter, although given the way the creative team has strived for realism and historical accuracy, I don’t think we’re going to get a happy ending.
Oh yes, it’s good to be back. My favourite comic this week was probably Black Widow #1, because man, the art… holy shit is it amazing.
Join me next week for more great comics, including a milestone issue of Superior Spider-Man, more Green Lantern Corps, the final issue of this Fantastic Four volume, the penultimate Daredevil, some Velvet, and oh yeah, a little title called Miracleman is back. I’ve never actually read this seminal Alan Moore (am I allowed to refer to him at least?) work so I am really excited for it.