Wotcher? Time once again for some comics reviews, and this is one big ol’ column. There’s 3 All-New Marvel Now series in The Punisher, Loki: Agent Of Asgard and Ms. Marvel along with new issues of Forever Evil, Mighty Avengers and Lazarus. There’s also an extra-special issue of Green Lantern that comes with the latest Red Lanterns absolutely free!
As ever, click the links to go to the forum discussions and leave your thoughts.
Iron Man #21– Kieron Gillen continues to surprise and delight with his Iron Man run, you never know what to expect and this issue was no exception, as the threat of the Mandarins reveals itself to be more complex than first thought and it all ends on one hell of a cliff-hanger.
Gillen jumps the story forward quite a bit by the start of this issue, with the war between the Starks and the Mandarins over Troy having now gone on for 2 months. The city keeps getting attacked by ‘Remaker Bombs’ and Tony and Arno can’t track their enemies at all. The focus of this issue is actually not on Iron Man, but on one of the Mandarins, Red Peril, who starts the issue off by meeting with her ex-boyfriend (and current fiancé of Pepper Potts) Marc, who asks her to stop her attacks on Tony, that he’s trying to help the world. She ignores him, going straight to a fresh attack. It’s a race against time for both Iron Man and his drones to stop her, and as soon as Tony actually gets there, she’s teleported away.
Where to? Well, she’s teleported right to the heart of the city to do what she did before she got her magic ring, and be an investigative journalist. Abigail wanders through the city, using her ring as a Dictaphone, and gradually discovers that both Marc and Tony are right, Troy is a good thing, and it is going to help people. This causes her to ask her ring, why the heck is she doing this? We don’t see the elaboration, but it seems to me that the Mandarin’s mission is just to stick it to Iron Man, regardless of the cost, which is just a brilliantly dickish beyond-the-grave move from Iron Man’s arch-nemesis. Whilst Red Peril is talking to her ring, Iron Man and Arno are able to work out where she is thanks to Marc, and in a stealth suit, he follows her to a meeting with 2 fellow ring-bearers. The issue culminates with Red Peril meeting up with Lord Remaker, who is the crime-lord Tony ousted from Mandarin City, and The Exile from the Inhumanity issue. Remaker has built an even bigger bomb than before and plans to use it to destroy the city, because if he can’t have it, nobody can. I like the fact that the various Mandarins aren’t a unified force, that they are still people underneath it all, and are arguing amongst themselves. This makes them a much more complex group of villains, and hey, at this point, Red Peril isn’t really a villain, she’s more of an anti-hero.
The 3 Mandarins gear up for a fight, but as soon as they power up, they are able to see through Tony’s stealth-shields and go for him instead. Remaker launches his bomb, and since Arno refuses to evacuate, the issue ends with the tower engulfed in a fiery explosion and Arno seemingly dead. I actually wouldn’t put it past Kieron Gillen to introduce an important new supporting character that looks set to be around for years, and then kill him off only 5 issues later, as it’s basically the last thing you’d expect. Arno may have served his purpose as a character already anyway, he’s turned Tony’s world upside down, given him a new impetus, and in this issue, we see him show Tony some leads on his birth parents. I can’t wait to read the next issue and see if he actually did die, it’s a testament to Gillen’s writing that I am so interested in the character after, as I said, only 5 issues.
Joe Bennett’s artwork was once again great in it’s solid, traditional superhero style, he’s a great fit for this title.
Loki: Agent Of Asgard #1– I guess you could count me as one of those people who is baffled by the recent rise in popularity of Loki. I’ve always liked him as a villain, and Tom Hiddleston’s performance was definitely the best part of the first Thor film, but viewing him as a hero? Giving him his own title? Making him some kind of sex symbol? That just makes no sense. So then, why am I buying this title? Well, it’s mostly down to the writer, Al Ewing his just a great writer, from his 2000 AD work (everyone, read Zombo now!) through to the current run of Mighty Avengers, he always delivers and entertains, so I decided to pick this up. I was worried that this title would be a continuation of Young Avengers and be too focused on the Tumblr-crowd, but not to fear, apart from one awkward reference to slash-fiction, Ewing seems to actually want to write a story, rather than just inspire gif-sets.
This was a very fun opening issue that sets the stage for what should be an enjoyable, unique series. It grabs you from the very first page in fact, as it opens with a splash of Loki literally stabbing Thor in the back. He says he knows what he’s doing, but does he? This opening arc is called ‘Trust Me’, and for Loki as a character, that’s perhaps the most important factor, can anyone trust him, and should they? After this stabby opener, Ewing flashes back to earlier in the day, with Loki taking a shower, and then being given a mission by the All-Mother. We don’t learn what the mission is, but we soon see that it involves breaking into Avengers Tower. I really liked Ewing’s description about what magic is (taking a thought and making it real) and also how he put that magic to good use as espionage gear. Loki has magic boots that allow him to walk up walls, and he has an invisibility coat. This series is a strange mix of fantasy and spy story, and already you can see just how well those two genres can mix. I already kind of want a crossover between this book and Black Widow.
Loki’s mission quickly goes wrong as Thor (who is busy getting drunk) smells him, and chucks his hammer at him, causing him to fall right past Black Widow and Hawkeye, who are playing video-games. Hawkeye saves Loki from his fall using a grappling hook arrow, but it’s only to bring him in for questioning. Ewing provides a nice quick recap of the fact that Loki is the villain who accidentally caused the Avengers to form, and then it’s on to the interrogation. The Big Three show up, wanting to know just why Loki is here, and he deftly manipulates them by telling Thor that Iron Man never actually destroyed the DNA he used to create Ragnarok during Civil War, and cause the Avengers to fight each other. I loved the fact that Ewing brought up Ragnarok and Civil War here, as those events do seem to have been conveniently forgotten by a lot of writers, and it’s the perfect choice to sow discord amongst Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Hawkeye tries to stop Loki from escaping, but the Loki he sees is an illusion cast over Bruce Banner, who is understandably not happy to have an arrow in his shoulder, and Hulks the fuck up, giving Loki even more time to do what he came to do.
It looks like what he came to do is access the Avengers’ database (and therefore basically every other database in the world) and erase all information they have on the previous Loki, which he does, but as soon as he’s finished, the Avengers have stopped fighting, and confront him once again. It’s here that Thor’s angry nature becomes more pronounced, saying that he plans to kill Loki. The biggest hint that something is up with Thor is that Mjolnir is too heavy for him, and it’s here that the stabbing happens, and the real purpose of Loki’s mission is revealed.
Already weakened by Malekith in his own title, Thor has been corrupted by some mysterious black goop that is turning him evil and crazy. The All-Mother have dispatched Loki to save his basically, and he does so, as the magic sword ‘Gram’ sucks all the evil out and into a convenient jar. Thor and Loki reconcile, and Loki returns to his mothers. We find out that Loki’s desire to escape his past goes beyond the mortal realm, and that his reason for becoming the ‘Agent Of Asgard’ is that, for every successful mission, the All-Mother will purge the memory of one of Old Loki’s misdeeds from Asgard’s history. Loki is literally trying to become a new man, and it’s a great set-up for this series. But unfortunately, it won’t be that easy, as once Loki leaves, the All-Mother opens the jar of evil goop, which reveals itself to be… Old Loki! I’m guessing he’s not taking too kindly to being removed from history.
Overall, this was a great first issue, the character of Loki is well-written and not nearly as annoying as he was in Young Avengers, the tone is fun and clever, and the idea behind why Loki is now a quasi-hero makes sense. Lee Garbett’s art was also very good, he imbues Loki with a lot of personality and nails the more comedic moments perfectly. I may not get the rise of Loki right now, but I think Ewing and Garbett are going to make me understand. I trust them. Or do I?
Ms. Marvel #1– Most of the discourse around the launch of this new Ms. Marvel series and character has been about how ‘important’ it is, how you need to buy it to support diversity in comics and all that stuff. But to me, all of that means nothing if the actual comic itself is bad. We shouldn’t praise comics for being diverse or important, they should just be good. And luckily, on the basis of this first issue, Ms. Marvel is not only good, but very good indeed. After only 1 issue, G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona have created an engaging, unique character in Kamala Khan, and a character with a different perspective and style from most of what is on the stands, and a title that could very well go up there with Ultimate Spider-Man and Runaways as the best teenaged superhero titles ever.
Wilson is taking things fairly slowly here, as the superhero element doesn’t really kick in until right at the end of the issue, but that works for me. Kamala is a new character, and we need to know what her life was like before she became a superhero. People complained about Ultimate Peter Parker not becoming Spider-Man for like, 4 issues, but it made the origin that much more impactful, and the same applies here. The issue begins with Kamala and her friend Kiki (AKA Nakia) in a convenience store talking to Bruno, another friend who works there. From the very first page we are seeing Kamala struggle with her identity as a Muslim as she eyes up a bacon sandwich, wanting to try it, or just smell it. A bit more tension is introduced when some white fellow students also come into the store. Wilson writes this scene very well, as Zoe and her boyfriend aren’t at all outright racist, but they do display ignorance about Muslim culture.
I know I shit-talked praising comics for simply being diverse earlier, but I think this title could do a good job at educating people about what Islam is like and challenging stereotypes. We see that again in Kamala’s home-life, which shows a varied range of devoutness. After seeing a bit of her Avengers fan-fic (which was dumb, but funny, and sure to endear the character to fans), it’s time for dinner. Kamala, as we’ve already seen feels chafed by her culture, but her parents actually seem fairly moderate, chastising her brother for praying too much, and showing that he uses religion as an excuse for not getting a job. We also see this with Kiki, who has recently started wearing a headdress, which her parents are actually opposed to. It seems that many people view all Muslims as fundamentalists who worship constantly, but, just like Christianity, some people are just moderately religious. It’s a spectrum and Ms. Marvel is showing a lot of different sides of it. Kamala asks to go to a party she was invited to by Zoe, but her dad forbids it, causing her to sneak out.
The party is pretty damn awkward as the dumb jock Josh gives her some booze, and is generally pretty offensive. I like the fact that Kamala seems trapped between two different worlds, she feels like her home life is too restrictive, but is out of place in amongst the non-Muslim kids at school. Perhaps the most important part of making the character a Muslim is that it makes her an outsider, which I feel is important for teen heroes. Every teen, no matter their race, feels like an outsider, like nobody understands them, and superhero comics need to convey that. Back in the 1960s, liking science and wearing glasses was enough to make Peter Parker a bullied outcast, but now, stuff like that is ‘cool’ so the best way to make someone an outsider is culturally. Kamala isn’t out-right bullied like Peter Parker was, but there’s definitely tension there.
Kamala leaves the party after Bruno tells her to, and she wanders right into a mysterious mist. This is the Terrigen mist from Inhumanity, but wisely, Wilson doesn’t say that, it’s better to make this stand on it’s own for now. Kamala is knocked out, and has a vision of Captain America, Iron Man, and most importantly, Captain Marvel. They are speaking Urdu and basically tell her that she’s at a cross-roads, and she needs to decide who she wants to be. She tells Captain Marvel that she wants to be a like her, and when she comes out of her cocoon… she is! Kamala comes out looking exactly like classic Carol Danvers, in her old costume, and white as white can be. This was a great ending, and one that surprised me. Kamala didn’t want to be different and brown, and now she isn’t, but I don’t think it will make her happy.
Adrian Alphona’s art is a big part of why this issue was so good, I’ve been a fan of his ever since Runaways, and it’s great to have him back in comics, and on a teenaged character. I like the adjustments he’s made to his style too, it’s a bit more cartoonish and stylised, but it really works. Every character is recognisable and seems to have personality, and hey, he draws one hell of a creepy mist.
This was a very enjoyable debut issue, G. Willow Wilson, who I haven’t read anything from before, has really delivered here, the characters feel real, the depiction of Islam is realistic and not sensationalised, and whilst the superheroic elements aren’t really a factor yet, I’m excited to see how they are handled. Don’t buy Ms. Marvel because somebody told you to because it’s important and fits into an agenda… buy it because it’s great.
Black Widow #3– Another excellent issue of Black Widow, with more absolutely fantastic art from Phil Noto. I didn’t review #2, but it’s the same as #1 and this issue, a gripping, done-in-one action story that slowly builds Natasha’s character, as well as the supporting cast. The most interesting thing about #2 was probably Isaiah taking things into his own hands, but he barely appears here, and instead the focus is more on Natasha’s home, and her neighbour, Ana. Of course, Black Widow denies that she has a home, and tries to stay out of Ana’s abusive home-life, but this issue clearly demonstrates that no matter how much she tries to deny it, Natasha does have a home.
The mission this issue involves heading to Black Widow and breaking an innocent man out of prison, where he has been sent for a crime he didn’t commit. Black Widow, thanks to an awesome disguise, is able to get herself and Angelo out of the prison, but they still have to escape through the jungle. Like previous issues, this plot is simple, but it is well-told, through excellent action pacing and Noto’s art. In the process of getting Angelo through the jungle and to his rescue helicopter, Black Widow works out that all is not as it seems, and that whilst he was in prison this time for something he didn’t do, Angelo is in fact a hardened criminal, with awesome nicknames like ‘The White Wolf’ and ‘The Butcher Of Argentina’. Black Widow throws both her and Angelo out of the Helicopter and into the river, where she stabs him and leaves him for the Crocodiles. It was pretty bad-ass.
Throughout the issue, Natasha’s inner monologue is talking about the idea of ‘Home’, she says she has none, but if she does, the mission is her home, the Jungle is her home. But when she thinks this, the art shows a panel of her battered neighbour, so it’s clear that she does have a real home. Black Widow’s narration is basically her lying to herself, saying that she’s a hardened killer professional, when in fact, she does have a heart. This all culminates at the end of the issue, where, even after being picked up from Buenos Aires by Maria Hill and given a mission from SHIELD, she makes sure to stop off and teach Ana’s abusive husband a violent lesson. Issue by issue, Edmondson is peeling back the layers on Black Widow, and allowing us to know more about who she is as a person, and not just an Avenger or spy.
It looks like next issue will show the SHIELD mission, which will be a cool change, so far all of these have been Black Widow going off the books. I don’t particularly want to see Black Widow as a full-blown superhero in this title, but SHIELD missions make sense.
Phil Noto’s art was once again gorgeous and amazing, I love the way he shifted style, both in pencils and colouring, for the night-time scenes in the jungle, the white outline was a great choice, as was getting a bit scratchier. The violence was impactful, the layouts exciting, and basically, this comic looks good.
Even if you can’t read, you should be buying this comic, the art is that good. But if you can read, Nathan Edmondson is writing some pretty great words too. I don’t know why I’m talking to you if you can’t read, because you won’t be reading this either. I was speaking metaphorically! Aaargh.
The Punisher #1– After being mightily impressed by his Black Widow series, I decided to give Nathan Edmondson’s Punisher a try, and whilst I’m still not sure about after just one issue, there’s plenty of promise here that makes me want to continue and pick up #2.
I would say I am a Punisher fan, but that’s mainly down to the calibre of writers he’s had over the last decade or more. The likes of Ennis (duh), Fraction, Remender, Aaron, Rucka and more have done fantastic work with the character, but even then, I like those books more for the creators than the character. Frank Castle is a cipher, a killing machine that can be dropped in all sorts of settings and stories and work (I liked, nay, loved Franken-Castle).
In this new series, Edmondson is dropping Frank from coast to coast, taking him away from New York and into Los Angeles. Not only is this change of scenery a great idea, but it seems to have reinvigorated Frank Castle as a person. He’s in a city where he’s not instantly recognisable, and is able to actually demonstrate some personality. This slight softening might be anathema to some Punisher fans, but I don’t mind it. The issue actually begins with some characters who aren’t Frank, we see a group of bad-ass soldiers rescue a prisoner from Togo swiftly and effectively. They are preparing for a break, but are soon given word of redeployment. Where to? I think you can guess the answer.
The story then moves to Mexico, where The Punisher is taking out some Mexican drug smugglers. I really liked the upside down page showing Frank swimming up from under the water, it was weird and a bit disorientating, but effective. Frank interrogates the chief smuggler (who looks like Danny Trejo), who gives him the name ‘Hector Suarez’, but only after Frank shoots his hand off, which was really surprisingly violent. This isn’t Punisher MAX, but it might as well be! The next day, we see Frank back in LA, eating at a diner and actually being quite friendly with the guy who works there and even flirting with a fellow customer, who’s a cop.
Another character who seems to be friends with Frank is the soldier he goes to meet out in the desert who gives him a load of weapons. I’m guessing these two served together in whatever War it was Frank was in now. Are they still saying it’s Vietnam? Or have they done a ‘sliding timeline’ and changed it? Eh, it doesn’t really matter. This scene had a very Breaking Bad feel to it. It was out in the desert and Frank’s vehicle of choice was a very familiar looking RV. Breaking Bad is a modern crime classic, so any homage to that works for me. Now that I think of it, Danny Trejo was in Breaking Bad! The connections run deeper… It is weird seeing Frank be friends with people and be somewhat human, but so far it is working for me, he’s in a new city and has somewhat of a fresh start. Of course, all of Frank’s friends normally end up dead by the end of a writer’s run, so the future doesn’t look good for these characters.
I think the best scene of this issue was when Frank was tailing Hector Suarez, and he basically loses patience after being stuck in traffic, gets out of his car, and shoots a gas grenade into the limo. It was awesome to see crime clichés like that get subverted by the Punisher’s relentlessness and lack of patience. Hector, after being jabbed in the face by a car cigarette lighter, leads Punisher to the building where the Dos Sols cartel are making the drugs. He tells Frank that he might be good, but he’s not good enough to get in and out of there alive. So what does Frank do? Much like his lack of patience for the tail, he just whips out a rocket launcher and fires it at the top floor, killing the criminals instantly. It was a great moment, and it shows what separates The Punisher from other vigilantes. He doesn’t mess around. Marvel’s version of LA is often treated as basically being in the real world, there aren’t many, if any, superheroes there, so Frank being there does work very well. These are real-world criminals, dealing with a force of nature.
Frank heads back to the diner, where he’s told that Officer Sam is out on Punisher duty, cleaning up his mess. The issue ends with Sam at the scene, being watched by those soldiers from the first few pages, who turn out to be the new Howling Commandos. Their mission is take down the Punisher once and for all. This issue really has set things up nicely for the future, Frank has 3 separate entities gunning for him now, the LAPD, the Cartel, and now the Howling Commandos. It’s going to be fun to see that shake down.
Mitch Gerads is an artist I’m not too familiar with, but he impressed me here, his style is gritty, yet expressive, which makes it a good fit for this tone. Frank’s face is heavily lined, so he looks suitably bad-ass. If anything, Gerads reminds me of Steve Lieber crossed with John Paul Leon, which is a pretty awesome hybrid indeed. He has the darkness necessary for a crime story, but a light enough touch for an LA story.
So yes, a good start, Edmondson’s characterisation is perhaps a bit off, but it makes sense, and I’m excited to see where it goes.
New Avengers #14– Jonathan Hickman continues the slow, deliberate pace of New Avengers, you can tell it’s going somewhere big, but right now, it’s hard to say where or when that big something will happen. This issue is pretty much evenly divided between two storylines, one of which worked for me a lot more than the other.
I’ll start with the less exciting story, which, whilst decent in it’s own right, was pretty much a re-tread of the events of last issue, as once again we get a window into another world, and another group of Illuminati. Starting once again with Reed Richards’ ‘everything dies’ speech, we see an alternate reality group, this time including Doctor Doom, Hank Pym, Captain Britain, Psylocke and Emma Frost, alongside the seeming constants that are Reed and Iron Man. I’ve said before that I’m a sucker for an alternate world, but I don’t think Hickman is really using these to their full potential. There’s a page or two of exposition about how the Mutants were treated much worse on this Earth, and are, under the leadership of Magneto, living on the floating city of Tian. This was quite interesting as a callback to Hickman’s run on The Ultimates, but it doesn’t really go anywhere, as within 2 or 3 pages all of the Mutants and the Illuminati are killed during the Incursion and the Earth destroyed.
The main purpose here seems to be to show us more about another evil force that is involved in the Incursions, the Sidera Maris. Is it just me or are there way too many uber-powerful forces set up for this series? The Mapmakers, The Black Priests, and now these dudes. This story ends with Reed Richards sacrificing himself to save Doctor Doom (who does manage to kill a Sider Maris) before Doom himself is killed, and we see ‘our’ Reed reacting with horror to what he’s seen. This was basically a re-tread of last issue, and I hope #15 doesn’t just show another alternate reality get snuffed out. Hickman needs to either go into more depth about these realities and make us care, or just not bother.
But it’s not all bad, as I said, there is another storyline, and it’s much more interesting as Doctor Strange journeys into ‘The Lost Lands’ in search of power. He is met by a goat-demon, and Hickman basically gives Simone Bianchi to go as creepy and weird as possible in these segments. Bianchi got his big start in comics on a fantasy series, Seven Soldiers: Shining Knight, and it’s a genre that his style really suits. It was also cool to see Hickman writing a more fantasy type story, he’s normally very hard sci-fi, but this was something different. The issue ends with Doctor Strange going into ‘The Throne’ and agreeing to sell his entire soul for more power. I can’t wait to see where this is going, what kind of man, and hero can Doctor Strange be with no soul? How powerful will he be? It’s going to be fascinating. Doctor Strange has often struggled to fit into the wider Marvel Universe, in part because he’s too powerful, but ironically, it looks like making him even more powerful will actually solve that problem, at least temporarily.
This series is moving slowly, but I am willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, Infinity proved that Hickman can bring it when everything comes together, I just wish the wait wasn’t so long.
Mighty Avengers #6– The cover to this issue promises ‘an epic struggle for the truth’, and whilst I’m not quite sure there’s any of that in between the covers, this was still a very enjoyable read that allowed the characters a bit of down-time after the relentless pace of the first 5 issues, and in doing so, gave a lot of them a bit of much-needed depth.
The main focus of this issue is an impromptu party at Luke Cage and Jessica Jones’ new apartment (they are swapping with Dave so Baby Danielle isn’t sleeping at an Avengers HQ that is easily attacked), and it was a lot of fun to see these characters hanging out, even when it got serious. Jessica has the Blue Marvel use his super-strength and flying to help transport heavy items like the fridge. After an interesting conversation about how he managed to handle raising a child as a superhero, and what advice he can give her, she invites him inside. I was very pleased to see Iron Fist hanging out, because he really should be on this team. My annoyance at his absence has been mollified slightly by the announcement of a new solo series, but still, literally every single one of his superhero friends except Misty Knight is on this team, he should be involved.
Al Ewing once again shows a great knack for humour, as White Tiger makes fun of Luke after finding a box of his old Power Man costumes, including one that’s just full of Tiaras. White Tiger is one of those characters who got a bit more focus here, as we see her trying to leave the party early and go on patrol, and how she’s working way too hard. Part of this is explained in a nice bit of continuity, as this issue takes place after news of Avengers Arena has leaked, and she’s pissed about what happened to her friends, but she’s also just driven in general, and is still trying to find Gideon Mace, the man who killed her family.
Not at the party are Power Man, Spectrum and She-Hulk, who are training at the Statue Of Liberty. This scene is to show a bit more about how Power Man’s ‘chi’ powers work. Earlier this morning he was only able to withstand a blast from Spectrum for 16 seconds, but after spending all day studying the Statue’s history, he could do it for over 8 minutes. The more Victor knows about his surroundings, the more chi he can draw from it, and the more powerful he is. It’s a very cool idea, and it allows for a cool source of conflict for the character. He doesn’t want to study, but he has to. There’s another funny moment afterwards where Ewing seems to acknowledge complaints that Greg Land gave Monica Rambeau ‘white’ hair.
Speaking of Land, he’s off this book now, and replaced by Valerio Schiti, and artist who’s really impressed me when ever I’ve seen his work on the likes of Avengers A.I., he has a cartoonish style that works for this book’s comedic moments, buc can also handle the big, action sequences.
Back at the party, White Tiger discovers a new Mighty Avengers signal device, but the real meat is the conversation between Luke and Blue Marvel, which was just fascinating. They’ve never met before, and they both agree that they thought they wouldn’t get along, but now they can because they’ve learnt from their mistakes. The issue is… they both think the mistake is on the other’s part. Adam mistrusted Luke because of his criminal past, and Luke was always angry at Adam for agreeing to step down and live in secret, for not standing up during the Civil Rights movement and being an inspiration. He even says that, if Adam had been public, maybe Luke wouldn’t have fallen into a life of crime. It’s very interesting stuff, and important too, given this title’s high number of black characters. Adam flies off on a mission, but this isn’t the last we’ll see of this debate.
Interspersed throughout this issue are scenes of a criminal, who burnt down a bookshop because it was full of ‘socialist propaganda’ trying to escape across the city. Only he isn’t being followed by any cops, but by birds. This is of course set up for him to run right into the Falcon, and it was very well done. Falcon, much like another superhero who can control animals in Aquaman, can quite easily come across as goofy and lame, but here, he was shown as bad-ass and actually quite scary. Ewing references Hitchcock’s The Birds here, and it’s an appropriate reference. Falcon easily dispatches this crook, and it turns out he’s working on the orders of a certain Gideon Mace, the man who killed White Tiger’s family. And just who is it who happens to be listening in on Falcon and Luke’s conversation on her shiny new signal device? You guessed it!
This just continues to be a great comic, it’s fun, funny and full of great characters. If the Avengers books have gotten a bit too heady and sci-fi for you, then pick up Mighty, Ewing and Schiti won’t disappoint.
Avengers A.I. #9– Another gloriously weird issue of Avengers A.I., and it makes sense that it would be weird, as apart from the 1st panel and the last 3 pages, this comic takes place entirely inside the virtual world of The Diamond, allowing Sam Humphries and Andre Araujo license to go a bit nuts.
The issue starts off with the Avengers struggling to get used to being in the digital world, Captain America and Rogue especially. As Vision says, the traditional laws of physics do not apply, and that takes a bit of an adjustment period. We then see Victor and Gibson trying to convince Mairead and the rest of her freedom fighters to free them and help the Avengers in their battle with Dimitrios’ forces, and after initial refusal, they do go and help. Once Cap and Rogue get the hang of things, the fight gets a lot more fun, as Rogue transforms herself into a giant, and Cap grows himself 6 arms, each one with it’s own shield, which is a pretty awesome visual that Araujo just nails. The other Avengers have also adapted their forms, I’m not sure what Hank Pym had done, it looks like wings, but he wasn’t flying, just using super-speed.
However, just as it looks like they’ve got the upper hand, Dimitrios’ enforcer goons ‘engage beastmode’ (and yes, it actually says that in the comic) and merge together, becoming a giant wolf robot that is ready to crush. Luckily, this is when Victor and the freedom fighters arrive to help turn the tide. Pym is delighted to have it confirmed that Victor is still alive, and we get the awesome return of ‘froot loops’, but there’s not enough time to really celebrate, as the best is yet to come. To confront the giant wolf guy, the Avengers combine their bodies to create an amazing looking Avengers Mega-Zord. It’s got the Vision’s head, Captain America’s shield and Thor’s hammer too. It is amazing and stupid and brilliant. If you’re older than me then your reference point for this is going to be Voltron rather than Power Rangers, but whatever, it was great. Avengers-Mega-Zord easily smushes the wolf-bot with it’s hammer, and it’s on to Dimitrios.
Speaking of Dimitrios, he and Alexis are still in Eton’s garden, but once he’s introduced Alexis to their sister, he is forced to leave. Here, we finally find out about the rest of the ‘First Six’. There’s Bangalter The Conqueror (sweet Daft Punk reference), Cothron The Benevolent, who is dead, and finally, Fountain The Destroyer, who is asleep, and if she awakes, will, well, destroy everything. Humphries has built up a very interesting mythology for The Diamond in a very short pace of time, and I can’t wait to find out more about it.
After this, the Avengers start to bond with the A.I. resistance, but they have trouble, as Mairead is angry at them for not helping out sooner. There were initially 1000s of revolutionaries, now there are only 4. This scene shows that, even though the Avengers are talking a good game about wanting to help the A.I.s, they aren’t following through, although part of that is down to the time differences between the two planes. Vision tries to convince her to help, and we won’t get an answer to #10, but I suspect it’s yes.
The issue ends with Monica Chang and Jocasta, who are getting to know each other thanks to the most ridiculous ‘trust fall’ I’ve ever seen, and are soon called away on Robot Hunter mission. Monica asks Jocasta why she’s going against her own kind, and her answer is that, by taking out evil A.I. now, she’s making peaceful coexistence in the future more likely, which makes sense to me. The issue ends with Jocasta revealing her new ‘upgrades’ which are a whole bunch of different Jocasta bodies with different capabilities. Who does she think she is? The end of Iron Man 3? Nah, it’s cool, and this book continues to be very cool indeed.
All-New Invaders #2– This title is turning into a really great, old-school superhero comic. James Robinson isn’t trying to really deconstruct anything here, he’s just telling an exciting action story with cool characters, and I’ll never not be down for that.
This second issue begins a few hours before the end of #1, Bucky is in Vienna, Winter Soldiering it up and assassinating an ex-Stasi officer. The job goes smoothly, but afterwards he is attacked by those pesky Kree, and much like Human Torch, he is mind-zapped and given that same vision of the past. Bucky is able to interrogate one of the Kree (I love that he can speak Kree, so bad-ass) and finds out that they have Namor held captive, and are out to attack Human Torch. He calls up Cap, and they head to save their friend, which brings us up to where last issue left off. I did like how Cap was annoyed at Bucky for breaking his ‘supposed to be dead’ cover, Robinson does give Cap a bit of an old-fashioned side.
The fight back in Blaketon between Cap, Bucky, Human Torch and Tarnath was great fun, with the villainous Kree throwing around loads of power, and basically smashing the shit out of them. Cap realises that separately they aren’t strong enough, so they need to attack together, but even that doesn’t work. It’s just a pleasure to have these 3 characters working alongside each other, it’s simple, but it put a smile on my face for sure. The only reason the Invaders aren’t killed is that Tarnath receives word that her fellow soldiers have found the last piece of the Gods’ Whisper, so she just ups and leaves. Overall, this was a really great action scene, but it wasn’t all fun and games, as it basically destroyed Blaketon and leaves the townspeople angry and scared towards Jim Hammond. Robinson is doing a fantastic job at making Hammond a compelling, sympathetic character.
Later, on Cap’s Quinjet, Bucky and Jim fill him in on the back-story here. The mysterious vision that they both had last issue wasn’t some kind of fake memory after all, it was real, only after it had happened, and after they had split the Gods’ Whisper into three and hidden it, the other Invaders decided to have Aarkus, the original Golden-Age Vision erase their memories. It was pretty awesome to see such an obscure character show up again, I can’t wait to see the other Marvel Golden Age D-listers that Robinson pulls out of the Mothballs. He managed to make the fucking Red Bee compelling in Starman, so anything can happen. Cap is not best pleased that his friends lied to him, but he realises that their priority now is to rescue Namor from Hala. I loved that even though he knew most other people on Earth would be pleased to have the Sub-Mariner off-planet, they still had to save him, and man, that last line of the issue was a real fist-pumper. ‘We invade them’, totally awesome, it makes the team name make sense on top of being bad-ass.
Steve Pugh’s art was once again very strong, especially on the early Winter Soldier pages, where he was channelling Butch Guice and Steve Epting. This is an old-school comic, and his art fits that to a tee. This title isn’t reinventing the wheel, but it’s well-written, well-drawn and exciting, so it’s well worth your time.
Superior Foes Of Spider-Man #8 – My review of this issue has been pretty much compromised by the news that this series is probably ending with #15. I’m normally fairly sanguine about cancellations in comics, but in this case, I’m pissed off. This series was and is so good, it really should have more readers than it does, and if you didn’t heed my warnings each and every month to pick it up, I am holding you personally responsible for the cancellation and you will pay. You will fucking pay!
Anyway, this issue was just as good as ever, and, after the Beetle origin story last time, Spencer and Lieber reunite and get right back to the main story. The issue opens with a dream sequence, with Boomerang hanging out at the pool with his prospective girlfriend, Obama, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman and Dormammu, as well as swimming for buried treasure. There’s some metaphor in there, but really it was very funny, especially when Fred isn’t even able to get a girl to take off her top in his own dreams. This is all happening whilst Fred is unconscious during his torture at the hands of Chameleon and his goon, who still wants to know where the Head Of Silvermane is. Fred says he doesn’t know where it is, and for once he’s telling the truth, because the head is with Shocker at his apartment. I loved the sequence between Shocker and Silvermane, it was hilarious and Shocker is just such a damn loser. The fact that he considers himself to be Spider-Man’s arch-enemy is both funny and tragic, which pretty much describes this whole series. I especially loved the capper to that scene, with Silvermane leaping up and biting Shocker’s nose.
As for the rest of the Sinister Six (Five), they have been freed by Tombstone and have split up to try and track down Boomerang. I loved how shit-scared of Tombstone Overdrive and Speed Demon were, it shows how he’s on another level of villainy altogether.
After this it’s back to the torture, as Chameleon has Fred hooked up to a jack in the box via electrodes in his nose. It’s fucked up, and it leads to another dream sequence, that mostly plays as a parody of dream sequences. Fred wakes up to see that Chameleon has found the portrait and taken it, which has wiped out their debt, but there’s soon another knock on his door, which he answers, boomerang in hand.
It turns out to be his love interest (does she have a name? I don’t think one has been mentioned at all, I guess this is either to show how much of a dick Boomerang is, but she might also have a secret identity herself) who is there to go out for drinks. She jiu-jitsus the fuck out of him, and they go out, where he’s forced to finally explain what’s going on with him. At first, Fred says he’s a super-hero, which she admits is a turn-on, but then he says he’s actually a super-villain, which is less appealing, until he explains how C-List he is, but in a positive way. In a surprising turn, this woman is remarkably receptive to this news, and to Fred’s recap of basically the entire story up until now. In fact, she even tells him that he shouldn’t just give up on the Portrait of Doom, and should try and steal it back.
They lean in for a kiss, but trouble is up. Steve Lieber (who is awesome as ever throughout) draws the final page in a series of circular panels representing a Sniper-Sight, aiming right at Boomerang’s head. The person behind that Sniper Rifle? It’s only goddamn Bullseye! I’m not going to quibble here about how Bullseye being here makes no sense considering the state he was in when he was last seen in Daredevil, this was just a great moment. The characters in this title that we’ve come to know are loveable C-List losers, but now they are going up against an A-List psychopath killing machine. I can’t wait to see what happens next issue, even though it might involve Boomerang’s nameless love getting her head blown off. That would be a dark turn for this book, but I think it could work.
I’m angry about this series coming to an end, but we still have 7 issues left, which is a lot. I highly recommend going back and picking it up, even when it does end, you’ll get a complete, amazing story with a unique, hilarious tone. I sometimes feel I do this series a disservice in this reviews by just skimming through the plot, as Superior Foes isn’t really about the plot, it’s about the humour and characters. It’s just so damn good, we need to cherish every last panel.
X-Men #10– This was an odd issue of X-Men that felt a bit disjointed. It seemed like the villains, and Brian Wood too, had forgotten about he Sentinel plotline until right at the very end, and that even though they are connected via Arkea, they weren’t written as if they were part of the same deal. I dunno, maybe it’s just me. The art from Kris Anka and Clay Mann was awesome though.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this issue was the increased focus on the new Lady Deathstrike and her state of mind (or should that be minds) as we see for the first time Ana Cortes and Yuriko Oyama not exactly on the same page. The issue begins with Deathstrike narrating the events of the last few issues to catch us up, and then picks up with M lying basically dead on the roof of the Cortes skyscraper in Dubai. She isn’t dead, and her escape from the authorities is helped by that Gabriel Shepherd dude, who seems pretty damn powerful. I have no idea who he is though, and it’s not really explained. M flies off and is reunited with Storm and Psylocke on the Blackbird, where we see that the X-Men are able to use a Cerebro spike that Future Xavier left behind to track Arkea, and M officially joins the team.
As for the Sisterhood Of Evil Mutants, they are wandering through the desert, seemingly lost, and Ana Cortes getting frustrated. Arkea tells Yuriko to silence the other voice in her head, and reveals that they aren’t lost, as an unmanned Helicopter under her control comes to pick them up. We then get a fun 1-page sequence with Pixie and Rockslide throwing satellite pieces of Arkea into the sun. I love characters throwing things into the sun, bring back The Sentry damn it.
Then there’s an awkward scene between John Sublime and Rachel Grey and their relationship, and it’s back to the action, as Storm, Psylocke and M attack Ana Cortes’ boat, only to find they aren’t there. The Sisterhood is actually in New York, as Arkea plans to expand the group. She wants to add two heavy-hitters in Madelyne Pryor and Selene, which would be pretty awesome in fact. I like the fact that Arkea is quickly turning on Deathstrike here, she really has bitten off more than she can chew.
The last few pages then finally remember the Sentinels, as Jubilee and a bunch of JGS students prepare for their arrival on Catalina Island (it’s the Catalina Mutant Mixer goddammit!). I think Wood probably adds too many characters at this point, as the likes of Quentin Quire and Hellion are involved. I think this series works best with a tight focus on the main women, and it felt like Wood’s take on a lot of these characters came out of nowhere. The issue ends with Pixie and Bling face to face with Sentinel, which is cool I guess, but it all feels very disconnected from the main Sisterhood/Arkea story.
As I said though, the art was excellent throughout, Kris Anka draws the first 15 or so pages and Clay Mann the last 5. They have different styles, but they both really fit the world of the X-Men, and fall on the same stylistic continuum that previous artists Olivier Coipel and The Dodsons do. This series is a weird one, I do enjoy it, but it’s by far the worst of the X-Men books I read. I don’t even really know why, it just feels less important.
Action Comics #28– Greg Pak’s run on Action continues to be damn good Superman reading. With the announcement of the new Johns/Romita Jr series (and I suppose the last few issues of Unchained) it really does look like the Superman family of titles are getting good again, after a year or so of dross.
This issue continues the story of Superman and Lana’s adventures underground, and it does so with a big sense of fun and a keen eye for character. Plus there’s lemur-monsters. The story begins with Uruk, the ‘Beast Lord’ we met last issue reacting in horror at the terrifying creatures that Superman and Lana have accidentally unleashed, but in a cool subversion, those monsters aren’t at all terrifying, and are in fact the cute lemur-monsters I mentioned before. Clark and Lana try not to laugh, and instead turn their attentions to the weird glowing orbs that provide energy for this underground kingdom. Before long, the Queen from the end of #27 shows up and thanks them for freeing them, but interestingly, it is not Superman she thinks is responsible, but Lana. It seems that the subterranean society is a matriarchal one, and Queen Kokya thinks Lana is the Queen of the surface, and Superman just her slave or concubine. Lana is all to happy to go along with this, and she and Superman go to see more of the city. Pak’s handle on the relationship between Clark and Lana has been a big part of his run from the start, and that continues here, as Lana clearly relishes being seen as more important than her friend for once. Being childhood friends, Clark and Lana have a unique relationship, and it’s great to see that explored, like how Lana is annoyed at him for lying about killing Baka, because even though he keeps the truth from the rest of the world, he hasn’t ever with her.
Clark and Lana hear a strange scream, so they go and investigate, where they find one of the lemurs being drained somehow. This is apparently what powers the orbs, life-force. Superman flies in to try and stop it, but he himself is stopped by Ghost Soldier, who doesn’t want Superman to accidentally start a war between the underground and the surface, which is pretty likely. Ghost Soldier is also turning into quite an interesting character, we find out his name in this issue (Leonard Sawyer, and he’s apparently a Native American) and he eventually comes around to fighting alongside Superman and Lana against Queen Kokya and her stone robots.
Another big part of how well Pak writes Superman is that he just comes across as a good person, he’s open-minded, and willing to trust and befriend people and creatures like Baka previously and now Ghost Soldier. Superman should be a character that radiates goodness, not gloominess, and under Pak, he’s back to that. Of course, Superman’s trusting nature here does end up biting him in the ass, as after escaping to the surface, everything goes to hell. The cute lemur-monsters react badly to the sun, and grow into larger, giant monsters, which means Uruk was right in his fear at the start. Pak subverted his own subversion! Adding to Superman’s troubles is the fact that, as soon as he sees the lemurs transforming, Ghost Soldier turns on Superman and stabs him because his actions have led to a threat against humanity. Ghost Soldier really does feel like an interesting character, he’s neither good nor bad, he adjusts to whatever fits his mission to save the people. I guess that’s what a soldier is.
Aaron Kuder’s art is a big part of why this run is working so well, it’s big, brash and cartoonish and it fits a Superman who has a smile on his face, but it’s also not so cartoony as to make the threats and enemies seems ridiculous. And man, the cover to this issue is awesome, iconic stuff, I want it as a poster.
Green Lantern/Red Lanterns #28– It’s rare in comics to find value for money. $3 is way too much money for only 20 pages, let alone $4, but we’re all pretty much happy to pay it, such is our addiction. But every once in a while, a comic comes along that is good value, and Green Lantern/Red Lanterns is such a comic, as for the regular price of $2.99, not only do you get the latest issue of Green Lantern, but the latest Red Lanterns as well! For free basically! I know people are able to turn anything DC do into a negative, but I can’t see how they can do that here. This is a great deal, and it actually has me considering picking up Charles Soule’s Red Lanterns run, as well as continuing the excellent ongoing storylines Robert Venditti and Billy Tan have already set up.
The story begins with two Lanterns (one of them is a Frog guy, the other looks like Wolf-Man) trying to make their way back to Mogo to answer the distress calls caused by the attacks against the Corps. On their way, they come across Supergirl, who is now a Red Lantern. I don’t read Supergirl anymore, so I have no idea how or why this has happened, but that doesn’t matter, what does matter is that there is an incredibly powerful being that has been driven mad with anger roaming free across the universe. These Lanterns get in a tussle with Supergirl, and after a struggle, eventually contain her and decide to take her back to Mogo.
On that planet, Hal is in the process of formalising the alliance between the Corps and the villains who helped them out in the GLC Annual. In a funny moment, the only oath he can think of for them to swear is US Armed Services’. You’d think a Lantern would have a bit more of an imagination! After this, we see just how effective the Durlan attack has been on the Corps, as they are becoming paranoid, especially against the Lanterns who have decided to stop using their rings. Could these objectors be secretly Durlans? It doesn’t look like any of them are, but the more important part is that these villains have the Corps fighting amongst themselves.
After this, Red Lantern Supergirl crashes down, and after another struggle, Hal is able to scan her and discover she’s a Kryptonian, so he knows this is bad news. Is this really the first time Green Lantern and Supergirl have met in the New 52? Weird, but I guess it makes sense, Hal has actually been away from Earth for quite a while now. Since the only way to remove a Red Ring from someone without killing them is through a Blue Lantern, Hal goes to see Saint Walker and ask for his help, but he’s still struggling with the new state of the Universe, and is unable to use his ring, so Hal is left with no choice but to go to Ysmault and see the rest of the Reds, and their new leader, Guy Gardner. Hal leads a bunch of fellow Greens to the desolate planet, where he finds Guy none too happy to see him, and claiming 2814 as the Reds’ own sector!
Man, I can’t wait to see what happens next! Oh yeah, I can just flip it!
The Red Lanterns portion of the story actually begins before the cliffhanger, with Guy and 2 other Reds on Earth, fighting the Shadow Thief alongside Ice. I’m a bit of a sucker for the Guy/Ice relationship, so it was cool to see that again, and the choice of Shadow Thief as a random villain is a good one, because her whole deal is that she hates aliens. There’s some of Soule’s ongoing subplots here too, with Atrocitus fighting against Bleez for some reason, these scenes were OK, but Dex-Starr was involved so I kind of hated it. Fuck that shitty cat.
Guy and his gang return to Ysmault, to confront Hal, but before long, Supergirl busts out, and so they have to try and get her into the red river, which for some reason will cure her madness and bring her back to herself. Perhaps the best moment in this fight was when Zilius Zox, the normally spherical Red Lantern, who for some reason here has been squished out of shape, was slammed into the ground by Supergirl and returned to his glorious roundness. Supergirl is forced into the river, and after she comes out, she says that her name is Kara Zor-El, which allows Hal and Guy to work out that, oh shit, this is Superman’s family, and if he finds out she’s a Red Lantern, he’s not going to be happy.
There was quite a lot in this Red Lanterns story that I didn’t get, because I haven’t been reading the title, but I enjoyed it a lot, Soule has impressed me on all of his other books, and, terrible moustache on Guy aside, Alessandro Vitti’s art was strong. I’m still not 100% on picking up Red Lanterns from now on, but this experiment made me inclined to at least try #29, so I guess it’s a grand success.
The Green Lantern books I am reading have been great so far, this double-sized issue should serve as a great jumping on point I feel, and you have to give it up to DC for doing this, it makes up for at least 2 or 3 counter resets.
Swamp Thing #28– With the threat of Seeder vanquished and the Parliament gone, it’s time for Swamp Thing and Charles Soule to revisit and character and storyline that had kind of gone by the wayside in Capucine, as this issue finally reveals her full origin story, and it’s very interesting indeed.
But first, there’s some fall-out from last issue to deal with. The first page once again shows that the sea has been turned green, but it’s disconnected from everything else so I’m still not sure whether or not it’s actually happening in the story or is just a metaphor. Back in the swamp, the previous Avatars that Swamp Thing brought with him aren’t dead as I thought, but have now returned as humans, and totally naked humans at that. It’s pretty great to see The Wolf and Lady Weeds and the other guy (his name is Brother Jonah) as humans, and it looks like they, Lady Weeds especially, are going to be important in the future. She’s definitely not to be trusted. Swamp Thing wants to head right off and find Capucine, but before he can, the former Avatars want to see what the Earth is like now in the 21st century, rather than just be cooped up inside, so Alec takes them to… Mardi Gras. This was a cool moment of levity for a series that can get a bit too serious, and I especially liked how Swamp Thing shaped his body so as to look like a carnival costume.
After this, it’s finally time to track down Capucine, who is hiding in the one clime on Earth where she thinks she’ll be safe from Seeder, some Salt Flats. Alec tries to talk to her, but she thinks the Avatar is still Seeder, so she blows him up with a bazooka. It’s pretty awesome. Given that there is no plant matter for miles and miles around, Swamp Thing is fucked here, but Soule comes up with a great way for him to come back, as Capucine had forgotten to scrub the teeth of the rabbits she’d killed for food, and Swampy is able to manifest himself out of a tiny scrap of vegetation. Soule is always coming up with cool new ways for Swamp Thing to use his vast powers, and this may be one of the best yet.
Alec is now able to prove he is who he says he is, and convince Capucine to tell him her full back-story. Capucine grew up on the island of Mont St Michel, which was constantly being attacked by various different countries because of it’s location. To protect it, the monks who lived in the Abbey on the island struck a deal with a mysterious stranger (he has a white streak in his hair, which made him identifiable to me straight away) to help protect them. They took 3 urchins, Capucine, her brother and one other boy, and gave them a magic potion to drink, which gave them their powers of longevity and strength. Capucine and the others protected the island for many years, until they joined up with the French King’s army and fought for him, right up until the French Revolution. For some mysterious reason, Capucine’s brother and the other warrior split away from her, so even though there’s plenty of truths revealed, more is still to come.
It turns out the real reason Capucine came to Swamp Thing for help was because of the bargain struck between the Monks and the stranger, who is confirmed to be who I thought in Etrigan The Demon. Once Capucine dies, her soul will be the property of Etrigan’s, which is something she doesn’t want, and that she didn’t agree to, as she was just a child. Swamp Thing agrees to protect her from Etrigan, and I can’t wait to see that story come to fruition. This origin has been worth waiting for, as it’s opened up several exciting new story possibilities. Swampy and Capucine return home, where they are met by a bunch of people in robes, calling themselves The Sureen. I have no idea if this is a new concept or not, but I’m interested to see what they are here for.
If you thought Swamp Thing’s life would be simpler after then of last issue, well, you were dead wrong. This was another excellent issue, with fantastic art from Javier Pina and a lot of great, intriguing moments. Soule continues to knock this one out of the park every month.
Forever Evil #5(of 7)– This continues to be a really good crossover event story, this may surprise people, but Forever Evil is actually good. It is moving slowly though, as the ‘hero’ team only actually gets together at the end of this issue. There’s only 2 issues to resolve things, so unless Johns goes absolutely mental, I imagine there will be quite a lot of loose ends.
The first 2/3rds of this issue are split between 2 fights, one between the Lex Luthor/Batman team of resistance and a bunch of Secret Society goons and the other between Sinestro and Power Ring. Both were highly enjoyable action scenes, with David Finch delivering great, wide-screen art, but the most interesting thing about them is how they ended. Sinestro was a total bad-ass and just chops off Power Ring’s arm. You can insert your own joke about Johns’ obsession with removing limbs here, but it’s pretty much the only way to beat Power Ring. The ring flies off to find a new host, and Sinestro kills him.
The end of the larger fight comes when Deathstroke has a gun pointed right at Lex’s head (I liked Deathstroke’s comment about how Lex’s armour doesn’t ha
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