Hi there! Yep, it’s comic reviews time! Apologies for this column being a little bit late this week, I was busy with other things.
Anyway, it’s better late than never, as this is a pretty solid week of comics, there’s the final issue of Daredevil, 3 exciting X-Men books, the penultimate Animal Man, an intriguing Iron Man Annual and more All-New Marvel Now, with new issues of bothThe Punisher and Avengers World.
Remember, you can click the link next to each review to visit the separate Outhouse forum discussion, which I suppose is fun. It’s better than most forums!
Iron Man Annual #1– I haven’t read the Iron Man: Fatal Frontier Infinite Comic (if it’s not free or not The Private Eye, I can’t really get behind digital comics) so a lot of this annual flew over my head. However, it was an enjoyable read that did a good job at making me actually want to read Fatal Frontier and also at setting up some interesting strands for the future of Kieron Gillen’s Iron Man run.
This issue is split into 3 different stories, each of which is related in some way to the Moon. The first, where Gillen is joined by Alvaro Martinez, sees Iron Man back on the Moon, trying to reason with a Soviet Robot called Udarnik. Tony has been infected by ‘moon-mercury’ and needs Udarnik’s help to not only rid himself of the infection, but also to help him out in the building of his new city, Troy. All of this is, I’m assuming, from the digital comic. It’s pretty dumb for Tony to be asking for help to fix his city, because Tony caused Udarnik’s Moon-City to be abandoned. It was for good reasons, but still, the robot is pissed, and beats Tony up a little. In the midst of the battle, the infection causes Tony to start hallucinating, and it’s a very effective dream sequence, with Martinez nailing some really creepy imagery, especially when Tony is dreaming that Ho Yinsen is carving him up. Tony wakes up to find that Udarnik has actually helped him, and the disease is now gone from his system. Udarnik might hate Tony, but he can still see that Troy is for the best. Iron Man flies off, and promises to help Udarnik repopulate his abandoned Moon City and restore it to it’s former glory, which I’m sure is a story that we’ll see in the future.
The second story, with art from Agustin Padilla, sees Tony send his brother Arno to meet with Eli Warren and his ‘New Modernist Army’ and ask them to help work on Troy with them. These characters appeared back in Iron Man #5, but it looks like something went down between them and Iron Man in Fatal Frontier to make them hate him. This is why he’s sent Arno, and why Arno isn’t able to reveal he’s a Stark. Warren eventually agrees to help out in Troy, but the most important thing here comes at the end, when Warren tells Arno about the existence of Extremis. Extremis could be used to help cure Arno, and to allow him to walk again, but unfortunately, Tony had Warren destroy the last batch of it. Arno doesn’t tell Tony that he knows about Extremis, so that’s certainly a great teaser for the future, a big old wedge that can be driven between the Stark brothers and perhaps lead to Arno becoming a villain.
The final story is back down on Earth, and fills us in on just how Pepper Potts met and fell in love with her new Fiancé, Marc. This was a useful little story, as Marc kind of came out of nowhere, and in the space of a few pages, it made the relationship feel real. Marcos Marz’s art was excellent as well, perfectly suited to a very real story. There was one annoying moment however, and it was when Gillen had Marc react badly to being called a ‘White Knight’ by Pepper. This was the bad Young Avengers Kieron Gillen raising it’s head, and it just felt jarring. But the rest of that scene, with Marc defining PR, made up for it.
If you read the Fatal Frontier series, definitely pick this up, it’s the last few loose ends, and if, like me, you avoided that series, it’s probably worth going back and reading it, because from the looks of this Annual, the events of that story are not going to be forgotten. It is annoying, because I would have preferred to have important events actually occur in the comic, but I suppose digital is the future after all. I’ll keep it analogue however and pick up the trade when it comes out.
Nova #13– This was a rather slight issue of Nova to be honest, with not that much actually happened, but I do think that Gerry Duggan did a good job at using this issue’s status as a .NOW jumping on point to explain who Sam Alexander is for any new readers, delivering some pleasing action and setting us up for a much more exciting next few issues.
The issue begins with Sam feeling very pleased with himself after the events of last issue, where he helped out some aliens in trouble. Of course, as we readers know, the aliens he helped out were actually villains, so his happiness is going to be short-lived. And it is! But not for the reasons you’d think just yet, as Sam is punched right off his skateboard by his very own ‘Flash Thompson’, Moffett. Moffett is angry at Sam for getting him into trouble, but before he can really beat him up, Beta Ray Bill shows up. Moffett is understandably freaked by the sudden arrival of a giant talking horse man, so he runs away, straight into a signpost. Bill is here to bring in Nova, who he thinks is corrupt and helped the evil Skaarn knowingly. Bill initially thinks Moffett is the ‘Black Nova’. But Sam quickly reveals himself, and a fight begins!
This was a pretty fun fight, and I liked how Sam thought his way out of being trapped under Bill’s Hammer. He can’t lift it off the ground, so he just blasts beneath him, creating a hole deep enough so he can just drop to freedom. Refreshingly, this fight doesn’t go on for too long before the truth comes out, and Sam realises that Skaarn was a bad dude, and Bill that Sam isn’t an evil Nova. So, with the ‘heroes fight over a misunderstanding’ part of the team-up cliché over with, Nova and Bill decide to head back out into space together and stop Skaarn. But first… who’s going to babysit Kaelynn?
I continue to really like how the various writers of this series have balanced Sam’s home-life with his superhero life, as for him, going off on an adventure into space will have real consequences, so he needs to cover his ass beforehand. Sam gets Carrie to agree to babysit his sister, but not until after she slaps him across the face. It is fun how awkward this budding romance is, even Peter Parker is smoother than Sam Alexander. Sam also runs back into Moffett, who is trying to tell the cops about what he saw, they don’t believe him, and Sam doesn’t help the bully out at all. I reckon that’s going to come back and bite him on the ass. Sam’s mother agrees to let him go into space, but is worried about him being alone, except of course, he won’t be. I loved the moment where Sam’s mum sees the silhouette of Bill and thinks it’s Thor and gets all flirtatious, until the hideous horse beast reveals himself. Gerry Duggan is a comedian, and whilst this series isn’t an out-right comedy, it always has plenty of funny moments like this, or just in Sam’s inner monologue.
The issue ends with Nova and Bill in space and heading after Skaarn, so the story has barely begun, but I’m excited to see where it’s going. Paco Medina’s art was once again a perfect fit for this book’s youthful, light tone, and overall, this was just another solid issue of a very fun series. It was perhaps a bit too focused on the Earth-based side of Sam’s life, but that is necessary every once in a while. A big part of this series is how being Nova effects Sam’s home-life after all.
Daredevil #36– The final issue of this volume of Daredevil is much the same as the previous 35… pure comic-book awesomeness. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee adeptly wrap up the Sons Of The Serpent storyline, whilst at the same time setting us up for an exciting new status quo for when Daredevil moves to San Francisco.
Waid doesn’t pick up immediately after the cliff-hanger, and instead, we start 4 hours ago, with Matt telling Foggy his plan back in the hospital. Matt is worried about how ‘coming out’ as Daredevil will not just ruin his life, but Foggy’s as well, and, since it would cause him to lose his health insurance, it could even end Foggy’s life. However, Foggy is fully on board, he doesn’t want Matt to compromise his integrity by working for The Sons, because Matt has the most integrity of anyone he knows, and he doesn’t want to be the cause of him losing that, because if that happened, his life would have meant nothing. I think Foggy is being a bit harsh on himself here, but it’s still a strong, emotional scene that shows just how important a character Foggy is. I certainly hope he’s not dead by the time next month’s #1 rolls around.
After this, it’s back to the court-room, and back to ‘I am Daredevil’. I love the page where Samnee draws the panels to spell that out, and inside each of those letters is the reaction of various fellow superheroes to the news. It showed just how earth-shattering this moment is in a very stylish way indeed. Really, this run of Daredevil is what ushered in Marvel’s new approach to how their books are drawn, and how much they allow the artists to experiment, and led to the likes of Hawkeye and Black Widow and more, so it was awesome to see the final issue contain such a cool flourish. Inside the court-room, Matt has gotten the result he wanted, as Ogilvy, the head of The Serpents is very pissed at having his blackmail taken away from him as Matt expands and tells the court his whole origin story. I liked how Waid wrote his way around how the opposing lawyer is silent throughout all of this, because it really isn’t pertinent to the actual case. It’s explained by the fact that the Prosecutor’s boss is James Priest, the man who Daredevil saved from a lynching when the Serpents doctored his TV appearance. A nice bit of continuity there.
Ogilvy storms out of the courtroom to order a squadron of Serpent goons to come in and assassinate Matt, but whilst we wait for that, 2 critical moments occur. The first is that Matt figures out who it is that’s framing Ogilvy’s son in this case… it’s none other than the presiding judge! He’s a high-ranking Serpent who has been battling with Ogilvy for control of the group. It was he who framed Ogilvy’s son, and he who sent Constrictor and Black Mamba to attack Daredevil and Elektra. Also integral here is Matt’s answer to the question of why he has spent the last few years so strenuously denying what he is now admitting, and why he event went so far as to sue the newspaper that outed him. His answer feels like Waid getting right to the heart of the nature of superhero secret identities, as well as explaining just why so many of them, at least at Marvel, have gone by the wayside. But it’s also completely in character for Matt Murdock, so don’t worry, it’s not just the writer lecturing you.
Matt ends his testimony by revealing the truth he’s discovered about the Judge, that he’s a Serpent, the Judge tries to declare a mistrial, but it’s right at this moment that the Serpent goon squad that Ogilvy ordered arrives, and, after pages of talking, we get some action. Chris Samnee always delivers great action sequences, and this is one of his best, even if it is quite short. Each panel is full of movement and excitement and man, I loved the splash page of Daredevil just kneeing that one Serpent in the head. It’s not quite as good as Daniel Bryan’s running knee, but it’s close. I also really liked how Kirsten McDuffie was in no way a damsel in distress in this fight, she too out some Serpents too.
So, both Ogilvy and the Judge have been revealed as Serpents and brought to justice, but not everything is hunky-dory for Matt Murdock, as he and Foggy are disbarred from practicing law in New York State. The issue ends with Kirsten and Matt talking on the roof of the now-closed Nelson & Murdock, with Matt wondering what to do next. It’s almost impossible for him to get admitted to another State Bar, unless it’s a state where he’s served before. We all know where this is leading, in the 1970s, Daredevil was in San Francisco, and it’s to there that he’s returning.
It’s going to be great fun to see Daredevil in a new (or at least, different) environment, and I’m excited that the same creative team that have done such sterling work for the last few years are still going to be behind the wheel. A new #1 isn’t really necessary, but it’s a new start, and one I can’t wait for. This has been one of the most consistent runs of any superhero series I can think of, I can’t wait for more. Hell, I might even read the digital comic!
The Punisher #2– Frank Castle’s LA adventures continue to be highly enjoyable, although I am finding it strange how much more… human Nathan Edmondson’s take on the Punisher is than most writers. I suppose the change of scenery can be used to explain a lot of that, but still, would the Frank Castle of old really look after a cute little coyote pup? It’s not it’s out of character per se, but it’s going to take some getting used to.
After #1 basically dropped us into Frank’s new California life with no real explanation, this issue explains why and how he’s there. The Punisher had been going up against a Mexican Gang in New York, and he had followed them across the country, eventually all the way into Mexico, where he tracked them to a small town they’d been hiding in, only to find them already dead, killed by some kind of horrible chemical weapon. Frank works out that this gang had been killed by a rival, Dos Soles, and he needs to stick around in order to stop them. Given their use of chemical weapons, they aren’t your typical gang, so only he can stop them.
I love the concept Edmondson hits on here throughout the issue of there being a certain level of criminal that is too much for the cops to handle, but not enough of a threat for the superheroes to concern themselves with. This is the exact niche that the Punisher is needed for, and given that LA doesn’t have as many superheroes as other cities, he’s desperately needed. We see just how different from your average street-gang Dos Soles are from the weapons exchange Frank is spying on at the start of this issue. It’s not with some other gang… it’s with AIM. AIM open up their truck to reveal the new weapon, but it’s bright light blinds Frank, and causes him to make a noise. Two gang-members head out into the desert to look for the source of the disturbance, where they accidentally shoot a coyote, thinking that is what made the noise. Frank kills the two men, but the rest of the criminals escape, leaving him alone with the injured coyote.
The next day, Frank (who, awesomely is wearing a Hawkeye t-shirt) is back at the coffee shop and still flirting with the female police officer. His army contact arrives (his name is Tuggs) and Frank asks him to look after the coyote, who he’s named ‘Loot’ (short for Lieutenant). Tuggs is surprised that Frank is caring for an animal, so maybe the Punisher’s strange new attitude is just part of the story? It can’t just be the nice West Coast weather can it? The action picks up with Officer Stone and her partners in a shoot-out with some Dos Soles gang-bangers. The two other officers chase after the criminals into a building, but before they can get two feet, they are fried by a strange electrical jolt. Stone herself is about to be shot (by normal bullets), but it’s Punisher to the rescue.
Mitch Gerads’ art really comes into it’s own in these action scenes, his gritty style makes everything feel real, and I really liked the design of the Punisher’s new mask. It makes sense that Frank would wear one, when he’s attempting to live at least a somewhat civilian life, and it does look totally bad-ass and intimidating. Frank kills some more Dos Soles, but once again their secret weapon escapes, so the chase is on, until his motorcycle is hit by another bolt of electricity. The Howling Commandos are once again present in this issue, as they arrive too late at the scene. I like that their threat is a slow-burn, a nice contrast with the literal explosiveness of the Dos Soles. We also see that the Commandos are watching Tuggs, so that’s certainly an angle they can attack The Punisher from.
The issue ends with Frank driving along the PCH in his Breaking Bad RV, and once again getting zapped by the mysterious weapon, which turns out to be… Electro! So after all that talk about how some threats aren’t big enough for the superheroes, the villain turns out to be one of Spider-Man’s main enemies (and soon to be a movie star!), which is a pretty cool twist of my expectations. I had thought that this take on the Punisher would be avoiding characters like Electro, so him showing up is really cool.
After 2 issues, I’m liking this Punisher so far, the art is fantastic and the ideas are strong. I do have some issues with Edmondson’s characterisation, but it’s nothing too serious. It’s a blend of the realistic MAX crime stories and the superhero things that Fraction and Remender did with the character. Just like how Edmondson says the character is suited to villains that fall in between the cops and superheroes, his book is falling in between the crime and superhero genres pretty perfectly.
Avengers World #3– Despite generally loving Hickman’s Avengers run, I do have one problem with it, and it’s that he takes very little time to focus on the characters. There are so many members of the Avengers right now, and they rarely get any individual moments or character development. So, for me, the fact that Avengers World seems to using each issue as a specific character-focus is great news.
Much like #2 was all about Smasher, this third instalment was all Shang-Chi, and when I say all, I mean all. He’s the only Avenger who actually speaks in this issue (Wolverine, Black Widow and Falcon appear in one, wordless panel) and the whole 20 pages are one big kung-fu fight between Shang-Chi and Gorgon. So, you know, it’s pretty fucking awesome. I’m sure there will be some readers who are annoyed at the story progression being slowed down for a very extended fight, but I really don’t care about that when the fight is written and drawn so well. Hickman, Spencer and Caselli really deliver a special experience here and the whole issue had me grinning from ear to ear.
The fight is awesome, but you can’t really write about individual moves and stuff like that, so the most pertinent thing for this review is the flashbacks used, and how effective they are. Throughout the fight, Shang-Chi thinks back to previous Kung-Fu masters and uses them for inspiration. He remembers a Monk who was betrayed by his Emperor, a Peasant Girl who fought back against raiders who attacked her village, and a Policeman who continued to fight a thief even after he had been stabbed with a poison dagger. There are 3 different colourists credited for this issue, but I’m not sure if each handled different flashbacks, but the way they used different colouring was very effective. The colours were washed out, made to look like ancient asian artwork, but also, there was a heavy focus on the red clothing of each warrior. This highlighted their connection to Shang-Chi, who is also clad in red.
However, even after drawing on these legends, Shang-Chi is defeated by Gorgon, who slashes his stomach. ‘How can this be?’, you ask, well, it’s because the legends Shang was remembering actually ended with each of the heroes dying. The Policeman, the Peasant Girl and the Monk, they all died. And so too does Shang-Chi, as Gorgon throws him off of the dragon’s head to his death. Now, of course, we all know that Shang-Chi won’t die here (they just announced a new Deadly Hands Of Kung-Fu mini-series), but it was still a great, surprising way to end the issue, and I can’t wait to see where Hickman and Spencer are going.
I really liked this issue, and I loved that it gave me something I totally wasn’t expecting when I bought it, more comics should be like this, and break away from the regular structure. Yes, there are other groups of Avengers out there and other subplots, but who cares, there’s Kung-Fu to be had!
Uncanny X-Men #17– Brian Michael Bendis continues to do great work in this title of developing the various new Mutants he’s introduced. In this issue, the established names like Cyclops and Magik only appear at the very beginning and the very end, as the new recruits are sent on a training mission by themselves and all sorts of sparks (and golden balls) fly.
The location of this mission is initially unknown, with the likes of the Savage Land or just the Danger Room being suggested, but thanks to David, AKA Hijack, who has brought along his phone despite being told to destroy it by Cyclops, they discover they are in Montana. It’s not said outright in the issue, but I’m guessing they are in Tabula Rasa, which was created in Rick Remender’s X-Force run and was visited by Cyclops during Kieron Gillen’s Uncanny X-Men tenure. The opening few pages are light and full of classic Bendis dialogue and humour, particularly when everyone makes fun of Tempus/Eva’s obvious crush on Cyclops. However, once a giant hairy rhino ape monster appears and attacks, things get more serious, and the team is separated.
Goldballs and Tempus are attacked by a giant ostrich lizard, and awesomely, Goldballs is able to fight it off. Goldballs is turning into a bit of a bad-ass, could it be that Future-Deadpool from Battle For The Atom was telling the truth about his legendary status? I would love that. In the process of defeating this monster, Goldballs loses track of Eva, and when he hears a girly scream, he runs off in it’s direction. This scream turns out to have come from Christopher Muse who is totally freaking out, until one of the Stepfords uses their powers to calm him down. We saw this tactic used to great effect in Limbo, and it works here, but how long can these X-Men go by cheating into learning lessons? Not very far I think.
Elsewhere, Benjamin, Hijack and another Cuckoo are wandering around the jungle, where they run into 3 weird red humanoid creatures. Their presence causes the Cuckoo (I think it’s Celeste) to start freaking out and fall to the floor, and, from the reaction of the other Cuckoos, she might even be temporarily dead. Benjamin goes up to the creatures and uses his powers to shape-shift into them, and gain their trust, which allows Celeste to wake up. However, once these creatures see how angry she is at them, they bare their teeth and go into attack mode. They are stopped by Tempus, who appears out of nowhere with her clothes all torn. It looks like some seriously bad shit happened to her when she was on her own, and she orders the Cuckoos, who have read her mind, not to tell anyone what they saw, and even refuses to let Christopher heal her. I can’t wait to see Bendis fill in these gaps, and I just love the fact that these new characters are getting some real development.
So, everyone is safe and back together, but they are still not out of the woods, as SHIELD, along with Nick Fury Jr, Hawkeye and Spider-Woman show up to bring them in, as they’ve tracked Hijack’s phone, just like Cyclops said they would. Hijack manages to redeem himself somewhat by using his powers to take control of SHIELD’s weapons and by them time to escape, but that’s still not good enough for Cyclops. The issue ends with Cyke furious at Hijack for disobeying his orders and refusing to take responsibility, so he kicks him off the team, as Magik drops him back at home. I really liked this scene, it showed how serious Cyclops is taking his mission, and how it’s not all lovey dovey like the Jean Grey School. In Uncanny, if you fuck up, you’re done. Of course, this won’t be the last we see of Hijack I’m sure, I imagine SHIELD will be outside his door in 5 minutes, so this harshness could come back on Cyclops.
Chris Bachalo’s art was once again excellent, he’s perfect for drawing weird, mutated plants and monsters like we got in Tabula Rasa, and he fits the comedic side of this book as well. Plus, I don’t think anyone else can draw Goldballs, he is the definitive, iconic, Goldballs artist.
All of X-Men books have been great lately, and this is no exception, I especially can’t wait for next issue, which promises to bring the focus back around to Cyclops. I love these new characters, but there’s nobody quite like Scott Summers in comics right now, he’s just fascinating.
Amazing X-Men #4– Whereas last issue focused only on Nightcrawler, Beast and Storm, this issue sees Jason Aaron spread his love around a bit more, as the rest of the cast return, but it’s still clear that the main focus is on Kurt Wagner. He is Aaron’s one true love, and it’s great seeing the character get so much attention. I’m undecided on picking up his solo book (Claremont? In 2014?) but being a regular part of an Aaron-written team book is just as good, if not better than a solo series.
The issue begins by quickly catching us up with what’s going on with the characters who weren’t in #3, as we see Wolverine and Northstar wandering around an endless arctic wasteland and Firestar desperately trying to fight off a bunch of demons whilst protecting a quickly melting Iceman. I loved seeing Firestar kick some serious ass here, that splash page of her ‘making it burn’ was just awesome. After this, we’re back with Nightcrawler as he tries to fight off a rabid Beast, who has been driven crazy by the battle against Azazel’s men and having a sword jammed into his back. Nightcrawler tries to shake his friend out of it by rapidly teleporting him around the ship, but that doesn’t work, as Hank still has his hands firmly around Kurt’s throat. Kurt implores Beast to remember him, and this launches us into a flashback, where, much like Storm last month, Beast remembers a time when he and Nightcrawler bonded. In this case, its staying back at the X-Mansion and playing ‘obstacle chess’ rather than go out to the bar with the rest of the X-Men and risk being made stared at. These are the only blue and furry men in comics, so it would make sense that they have a special bond, but this story is making it clear that Nightcrawler pretty much had a special bond with everyone, he’s that awesome. Beast snaps out of it and hugs Kurt, and, now that the X-Men have control of a boat, it’s time to find the rest of the X-Men.
Iceman wakes up, surprisingly unmelted, in a strange cave with only Firestar and a load of Bamfs for company. Firestar reveals that the cute critters saved them after her last-ditch attempt to ward off the demons, but that there doesn’t seem to be any way out of here. Luckily, it’s not long before Nightcrawler shows up to rescue them, get another hug, and also finally explain the origins of the Bamfs, which has been a long time coming. The Bamfs started out as demon off-spring, maggots, that had been left for dead in hell, until Azazel came across them, fed them his blood, and transformed them into the evil Red Bamfs he still uses. Nightcrawler came across one of them after warding off one of his dads’ attacks, and gave them something to turn them good and blue. I’m guessing that Kurt game them his soul, and that’s what’s stopping him from coming back to life immediately (as he says repeatedly in this issue, he is still dead).
After this, it’s finally time to save Northstar and Wolverine from freezing death, and it comes just at the point where Wolverine is about to give up. Wolverine has a flashback himself, to him and Nightcrawler talking in a bar about how he’ll die, and Wolverine finally realising that he doesn’t want to die alone, that Kurt was right. Luckily, he’s not going to die (because we all thought Wolverine was going to die right here), as Nightcrawler comes to the rescue, and we get the best reunion hug of all, it’s so good it gets a full page. The emotions! I did get a little dusty. With everyone safe and on board the Pirate Ship, Nightcrawler dons a Captains hat and gets ready to attack his father’s fleet. Next issue should be fantastic, Nightcrawler is living (well, technically he’s not living them) his Piratical dreams, and that joy is infectious, not just for the other characters, but for the audience. That last page just made me smile, as this whole story has.
It’s a classic, old-school superhero story that’s done a brilliant job at bringing back a character and demonstrating just why he should be brought back. Ed McGuinness’ art is awesome once again, I love the way he draws Nightcrawler, and the sense of fun that character brings is perfectly translated in his art. This story is set in hell, but thanks to McGuinness’ cartoony style, it doesn’t feel grim.
X-Men #11– Okay, now I’m confused. I get that the 2 stories in this issue are connected by Arkea, but when are they supposed to be happening in comparison with each other? Last issue it seemed like they were happening at the same time, but now? Karima appears in both! Quentin Quire appears in both! It doesn’t make any sense, does Brian Wood have a split personality? Has Brian Wood been injected with the Lady Deathstrike consciousness or something? I hope the next issue irons out the timeline, because if not, then I dunno what. Luckily, each story is decent enough on it’s own, and the art throughout is excellent, because without those caveats, I would be as close to scathing as I get.
The issue begins with Ana Cortes and Enchantress paying their way into a secret vault in New York that contains the soul of Selene captured in nothing but air. I didn’t read the Necrosha crossover, so the back-story here is lost on me, but the end result is that Selene is back, and although Enchantress initially bows to her, by the end of the issue, Selene is bowing to Arkea. This Sisterhood is getting really powerful, and the next step is Maddie Pryor.
As for the X-Men, they are still playing catch-up and spend the majority of the story on Cortes’ boat, trying to work out what’s going on. In the end, they work out that Arkea is buying up dead female Mutants and resurrecting them, which, after contact with Sabra, has them caught up and aware that the next target is Maddie. Back at the Jean Grey School we get a brief scene with Quentin Quire talking to John Sublime, which mainly serves to set up some kind of future plot about Baby Shogo, who of course used to have Arkea inside him.
The first story ends in Japan, with Typhoid Mary and Lady Deathstrike sparring, until Ana’s consciousness takes hold and begs Mary to kill her. Mary refuses, and so Ana attacks her for real, trying to commit ‘suicide by Typhoid Mary’. They are interrupted by Arkea, who tells them that they have Madelyne Pryor’s consciousness and can begin some kind of procedure to bring her back. But before this can happen, Ana just straight up stabs herself in the stomach. I like the fact that the new Deathstrike isn’t working out, it would have been too easy for the resurrection to have been seamless, so this added wrinkle works very well, and could very well be the key to the X-Men defeating the Sisterhood. Kris Anka’s art also deserves special praise, he’s only drawn a few comics so far, but already he’s a favourite. I love the facial expressions he uses, and how much attention he pays to fashion and style. Plus, he’s not too cheesecakey, which is great for a female-focused comic.
The second story continues the fight against the Arkea-controlled Sentinels, and was much more action-heavy. It was cool to see some lesser-known X-Men students get the spotlight, and I also liked seeing Jubilee use her Vampire powers, although they do go wrong at the end. She turns into mist, but doesn’t turn back, uh-oh. Clay Mann’s art was excellent too, but really, this story had me scratching my head with where it fits in time-line wise.
It really held me back from enjoying this issue fully, I want to like this book more than I do, but something is stopping it from reaching the same level of quality as the other X-Books.
Wonder Woman #28– If you thought last month’s issue of Wonder Woman picked up the pace a lot, then this one will blow your mind. After quite a few slow issues, some big stuff went down here, and it was literally explosive. Azzarello’s run has been very good throughout, but issues like these, where simmering plotlines finally come to the boil are what makes it so special.
There’s 2 main stories in this issue, and both of them reach big turning points before coming together right at the end. I’ll start with our main character, Wonder Woman, as she, along with Hera, Hermes and Artemis are on the hunt for the missing Zola. They track her to the London Underground, where Artemis figures out that she is with Dionysus, as he’s left a tiny piece of his fox’s tail behind with him. Is it bad for me to admit that I hadn’t even noticed that Dio had a tail until now? Sometimes I miss stuff like that, I need to pay closer attention. Dio and Zola are of course in Provence, and about to be attacked by Cassandra’s Minotaur who comes charging right at them. At first, it looks like Dio has a chance in this fight, as apparently his powers extend to some amount of reality bending. I suppose that makes sense, when you drink too much your perception of reality changes, so the god of inebriation having control of that is cool. I just love the way Azzarello reinterprets the Greek Gods, and this may be one of his best yet. Dionysus has the Minotaur tied up in some vines, but the beast easily rips them up knocks the God out.
The Minotaur drags Dio back to Cassandra, his mission complete, but it’s at this point that Wonder Woman et al arrive to try and stop Cassandra and fight her Jackal Men. This fight is too short, but it’s short for a reason, as Cassandra decides that she doesn’t care about just leaving the Jackal Men behind, they are expendable, she can grow more. It’s a great little touch that shows just how despicable a villain she is, and the art seems to hint that this lack of compassion for her underlings could eventually be her undoing, as the Minotaur doesn’t look happy about it. Wonder Woman flies up and grabs on to the bottom of the aircraft, hitching a ride to Olympus.
But as it turns out, Olympus might be the one place you don’t want to go right now, as Apollo and the First Born are in the midst of a heated battle. And I do mean heated. This fight was awesome, with Apollo just repeatedly blasting First Born with fire, burning his body to a crisp, but the First Born just keeps on fighting, his anger is more powerful than any flame. Those 3 or 4 issues of slightly repetitive torture all feel worth it now, as First Born gets his revenge, and this truly was a clash of the titans. The fight ends just as Cassandra’s ship arrives at Olympus, with Apollo at First Born’s mercy. In a last ditch attempt to save himself, Apollo explodes, and the entire skyscraper/mount with him. It’s going to be very exciting to see the fall-out from this explosion, and which characters have survived it. Obviously, Wonder Woman isn’t going to be dead, but plenty of others could be. Suffice to say, the world in Wonder Woman #29 will look a lot different than this issue.
Cliff Chiang’s art was spectacular as ever, he and Azzarello are just perfectly in sync at this point. I loved the fight between Apollo and First Born, it was just so epic, and you have to say, a lot of the credit for that should also go to Matthew Wilson, the colourist. The contrast between the bright yellow Apollo and the coal-black First Born was great. It was interesting to see that regular fill-in artist Goran Sudzuka provided the lay-outs for several pages in this issue. I think this is a good move, his style is similar to Chiang’s, and the art didn’t suffer a jot, so maybe this will allow for Chiang to do more issues in a row without needing a full fill-in? That would be brilliant.
Animal Man #28– The penultimate issue of Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man run wraps up the central threat of Brother Blood, as well as tying up a lot of the Baker Family drama at the same time. It’s going to be interesting to see what the final instalment is like, particularly as there is one big element hanging above Animal Man’s head.
The issue begins with our heroes in dire straits, Shepherd has been mortally wounded, and Brother Blood has his hand round Maxine’s neck. With the last of his strength, Shepherd sends a bone-bird-thing to find Animal Man and bring him to save his daughter. But of course, Buddy has his own problems to deal with, as he’s locked in battle with the King Of Limbs. The KoL however makes a few fatal mistakes, he underestimates Buddy and his new powers, and he also tells Buddy that he’s going to wipe out his daughter. Spurred on, Buddy (who is still in giant horned-gorilla form) rips out 2 of the King’s eye-horns and guts him with them. It’s pretty shocking and brutal, especially for a comic like Animal Man, but I suppose, to crib from an old phrase, you can take the comic out of the Vertigo line, but you can’t take the Vertigo out of the comic. The bird-bone-thing arrives, delivers Shepherd’s message, turns into giant non-bone bird and Buddy flies off on it’s back to save Maxine.
However, Maxine may not actually need saving, as she gets her own big hero moment, channelling the strength of a Gorilla to save herself and Socks from Brother Blood’s grip and reclaiming her control of The Red. This was a really great moment, especially when Maxine exclaims ‘I’M ANIMAL GIRL!’. It’s times like this when the static nature of superhero comics really bugs me, because it would be awesome for Maxine to eventually actually become a superhero called Animal Girl (or Woman), but we’ll just have to settle for dystopian future stories. I also really liked how, even though she had Brother Blood on the ropes, Maxine stayed true to her character and was more concerned with helping her friend Shepherd. She uses her power to create a new Shepherd and bring him back to life. Has she used up all of her powers here? It looks like it, and I think Maxine losing her powers is a nice book-end to Lemire’s run. It all started with her gaining them, so really, this run of Animal Man was her story, not her dad’s.
The new Shepherd makes quick work of some Splinterfolk, but Brother Blood has one more ace up his sleeve, as he reaches out into the real world and drags Ellen into the red and threatens to kill her unless Maxine gives him the Red. You know what’s coming next, but it doesn’t make it any less awesome, as Animal Man arrives to save the day and finally defeat Brother Blood, in a big red collision. I was surprised by how quickly this fight was over, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a Round 2 to come in #29 actually.
The issue ends with a touching reunion, as Buddy, Ellen and Maxine all hug, and everyone finally accepts that Cliff is truly gone, but that only means that Buddy will never leave his remaining family again. But there’s one final twist at the end of course, as we see the Bridgewalker watching this heartfelt moment. Could all of this happiness be swept away next issue? The fact that Animal Man is going to be in the new Justice League would seem to indicate nope, but you never know, moving to Canada is basically the same as being forced to abandon your planet and live in space right?
Rafael Albuqurque’s art was just great once again, it’s been really awesome to have him draw these last few issues, as his style really makes story elements that could look ridiculous work. And man, that preview of American Vampire looks gooooood.
Justice League #28– Perhaps my favourite thing about Forever Evil has been these tie-ins, where Geoff Johns has basically brought back a bunch of great characters into the New DC Universe. In this issue, he gives that treatment to the Metal Men, and it is excellent. I’m not exactly a huge Metal Men expert, but to me, this was the return of the classic team and Johns really does them justice. The next time someone calls Geoff Johns’ work too dark and grim, show them this issue, it might change their mind.
Most of this issue is set in the recent past, but it starts in the present, with Cyborg begging Will Magnus to help him fight the Crime Syndicate by bringing back the Metal Men, but Magnus refuses, and the flashback explains why. Will Magnus was a robotics prodigy who was working for the US Government as part of a ‘race’ with other scientists to create the first Robot soldiers that the Army could use in environments where sending in human soldiers would be too dangerous. Magnus has spent 600 million dollars on his project, but has locked his doors and won’t show the higher-ups what he’s been up. The Secretary Of Defence is knocking on his door and he still doesn’t answer. I like Johns’ take on Will Magnus here, he’s a bit crazy, but not quite as crazy as the version that was in New 52, which, although a great character, was perhaps a bit too far. Magnus’ central characterisation seems to be that he’s always been let down by his fellow humans (his parents used his superior intelligence to help them commit crimes for example) and that he believes Robots can be better than us, which is a cool approach for the character, and nice contrast with the Metal Men’s desire to be human.
Will places the ‘responsometers’ into vats of molten metal, and the Metal Men are born! They start out looking like uniform drones, but soon morph into their familiar, unique appearances and personalities. As I said, I’m not hugely knowledgeable about the Metal Men, but they seem pretty damn similar to their classic incarnations. Metal-based heroes having personalities that are similar to their metals is the kind of thing Geoff Johns would come up with on his own (Central City is fast! Coast City is fearless! Etc) so it makes sense for him to stick to that. I suppose Mercury is the most different, as he acts like a bit of a human-hating Robot-supremacist, but it looks like it’s mostly a put-on. Will tries to order his creations around, but they refuse, they have free will and are their own people, why should they follow orders? It’s here that the Secretary Of Defense blasts down Will’s door to see his creations. The Metal Men revert to their default looks to try and hide their sentience from the Government, but when it’s suggested that they are sent on an Assassination mission, they refuse and flee, leaving Will back at square one.
An interesting mystery is also set up here, as we see someone steal a prototype responsometer and drop it in some hazardous waste to create the villain ‘Chemo’. Who this was, I have no idea, but it could be important in the future, could it have been The Outsider? Will Chemo return as a member of the Secret Society?
Will’s flashback ends with the Metal Men revealing that they ran away to Will’s apartment to hide out, and Will realising that he doesn’t need to fix them. But then, Chemo attacks, and the Metal Men fight to stop him, disobeying their orders and saving everyone else instead of worrying about themselves. Basically, showing true humanity and heroism. In the end, they sacrifice themselves to stop Chemo, leaving Dr Magnus desolate. He can’t bring them back because he doesn’t want to see them die again. It’s pretty tragic really, but as expected, Cyborg is able to talk him around and convince him to bring them back. This was a really good issue that did a fantastic job at showing what a great concept the Metal Men are. Yes, they are kind of goofy, but they are true heroes, and I can’t wait to see them back permanently.
Ivan Reis’ art was the usual excellence, although it did get a bit rushed towards the end, and there was one rather awkward panel that focused on Platinum’s ass. I don’t normally mind a bit of cheesecake, but at least it’s usually a human and not a robot! Forever Evil might be a dark story, but by the end of it, I think the DCU might actually be in a brighter place with all of these classic heroes returning.
Green Lantern: New Guardians #28– New Guardians continues to be an enjoyable book under the pen of Justin Jordan, but man, the basic gist of the new villains for this arc are pretty much a rip-off of the ‘God Butcher’ story from Jason Aaron’s Thor. Now, there’s enough differences already for it not too be a total steal, and there’s plenty of time for Jordan to tell a completely different kind of story, but still, militant space atheists killing Gods is something we literally just saw in another book. There’s nothing wrong with doing stories with similar elements (it’s superhero comics, original ideas are scarce) but it does mean a story has to work especially hard to impress me, it’s handicapped right from the off.
The issue begins with a brief prologue showing a young Alien about to be sacrificed to his specie’s God, however, before he can be killed, the God itself is killed by a mysterious flying dude who rants about how the God’s powers won’t work on him, and how Gods take from people and never give and freedom and all that stuff. He hands the kid a sword, and tells him to take revenge on the people who were about to let him die.
After this, we move over to Kyle, Carol and the Guardians, as both Kyle and, I have to admit, myself realise that one of the New Guardians is no longer with them on their quest. It’s explained that Quaros stayed behind to examine the Source Wall, and we see him pick up something that makes a familiar ‘Ping Ping’ noise. I actually think DC have done a good job lately at making New Gods appearances and mentions feel special, so I’m intrigued as to where this is going to go. I’d love a big Green Lantern Corps Vs Apokolips storyline. The dialogue between Kyle, Carol and the various Guardians is a lot of fun too, and I like how Jordan is slowly giving each of them personalities.
The Guardians are taking Kyle to a planet that has recently taken up a new religion, ‘The Light And Fire’. This religion has taken over many planets, and seems to be actually pretty benevolent. Kyle and the gang spot a bit of violence going on with some believers of this church and some soldiers, and intervene, but they only end up making things worse, as a Priestess of this religion points out. Kyle is eventually able to stop the fight by using his compassion powers, but they won’t last forever. We then see that the power of this new religion is real, as their Goddess shows up and uses her fire powers to fix the damage caused by the battle. This God’s name is X’Hal, which is familiar, isn’t it the God that Starfire worships? It rings a bell, she’d say it like her version of ‘Great Rao’ or ‘Oh my stars and garters’ right?. The Priestess of this religion certainly seems to from the same species, her name is (hilariously) Kaland’r. Is this the first time we’ve seen the God actually appear?
So, X’Hal looks like being an actually good God, so of course the issue ends with the chief Godkiller being informed that they’ve found her, and also referring to her as ‘The Destroyer Of Worlds’. Is that literal, or do these guys view religion as a form of destruction? Brad Walker’s artwork was strong once again, I love the weird aliens he designs and he imbues Kyle and Carol Ferris with lots of personality, despite their dumb-ass masks.
So yes, whilst very similar to Aaron’s Thor, this story does have promise, particularly with it’s connections to the wider DC Universe. We’ve got the New Gods and now Starfire hanging around the edges. I do still wish that this series was more connected to the excellent larger story going on in the other books, but it’s still a good read.
Batman ’66 #8– Another hugely entertaining issue of Batman ’66, and this time both stories have a fun historical feel.
The first, longer story sees Batman and Robin going up against the villainous King Tut. The Dynamic Duo spot him sailing down the Gotham River in his barge, and try to bring him in, but he tells them he hasn’t actually committed any crimes. So how does he have so many valuables and gold on board? Tut gives Batman a piece to examine, and it turns out that it’s not been stolen, but is in fact only 12 years old. How is this possible? Time-Travel baby! I love that this series went a bit more sci-fi here, and once again did the kind of story you know the actual 1966 TV series would have loved to do if they had the budget. Batman and Robin track King Tut down to the Museum, where it turns out that an Ancient Sarcophagus also serves as a portal to Ancient Egypt himself, where Tut is trading chocolate for gold, which is just awesome and hilarious.
Perhaps the best scene in the issue was when Tut throws our heroes into the Nile, leaving them to be devoured by crocodiles. But of course, Batman prepared for this, and in fact altered his famous ‘Shark-Repellent Spray’ (from the movie!) into ‘Crocodile-Repellent Spray’, which is… yeah, I can’t believe Jeff Parker actually went there. What’s next? The return of ‘some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb’? Oh wait, The Dark Knight Rises already did that! Tut is eventually forced to abandon the past when one of his henchman drinks a magic potion in one gulp, insulting his hosts, and back in the present, Batman and Robin are easily able to defeat them. However, the henchman who drank the potion, who is driven into a rabid brute, escapes. I imagine he’ll return, these stories don’t have much continuity, but they do have some. The story ends on a clichéd note, with Batman and Robin having accidentally led to themselves being included in hieroglyphics, but you have to love stuff like that.
The second story sees Batman and Robin go up against a Cowboy-themed villain called ‘Shame’ (I guess it’s a play on Shane? I dunno) who has been on a crime spree across the west. This story was very funny, and I loved how Parker made fun of Shame’s attempts to live a Cowboy life, and how inaccurate his perception was. I especially liked his Native American henchman subverting expectations by actually being a physics genius who had been driven to a life of crime. The story ends with Batman in a showdown with Shame on top of a moving train. Will Batman draw? He has one of Shame’s guns, but of course he’s sworn never to use one. Luckily, Robin saves the day with a precisely timed Batarang. This was a light story, but as I said, it was funny, you have to love any story where Batman wheres a Cowboy hat and rides a horse.
Ruben Procopio draws both stories here, and his cartoonish style is a great fit for the tone of Batman ’66. Also of note is that he uses a different style for each story. The King Tut is drawn traditionally and coloured by Lee Loughridge, but the Shame story looks to have been fully painted by Procopio, which is awesome, and gives it the look of an old Western book cover.
Batman ’66 just delivers pure comic book entertainment every month, if you’re looking for superhero comics with a light touch that nevertheless don’t turn into outright parody, this is the book for you.
King’s Watch #4(of 5)– Much like with last week’s Uncanny, I had no idea this book was a mini-series, so I’m kind of annoyed that it’s almost over. Dynamite need to be more up-front about what kind of books they are publishing. At least we’re going to have that Flash Gordon series from Parker afterwards. Is that going to be ongoing? Who knows! This was another very enjoyable issue of what has been a great series, Parker really has done an excellent job at rebooting these classic names, and Marc Laming’s art has just gotten better and better.
The issue begins with a pretty kick-ass villain monlogue from Ming The Merciless, as he broadcasts his evil plans for the Earth across the globe and we see that this threat truly is global, with China, London and (I think) Russia under attack as well as America. The King’s Watch are hearing this too, but they are stranded in the middle of Africa, how can they help? Luckily, Zarkov’s plane was close enough to the portal to avoid being fried, and can fly, but it’s nearly out of fuel. The Phantom says that he has plenty of rocket fuel, so they head to his Skull Cave, which is awesome. I have seen the Billy Zane Phantom movie, but I don’t remember much of it, what I do remember is how cool the Skull Cave, and that returns here. It puts the Bat-Cave to shame. I mean, a giant penny? That’s dumb.
Also inside the Skull Cave is a stone globe called the k’la tidon, which is apparently a companion to the King’s Watch. Mandrake lights a fire under it, and the heroes are able to see what’s going on across the globe, including the location of Ming’s portals. They see that the most immediate threat is in London, so they head off there. A lot of crazy action happens in this issue, but Parker makes sure to not forget character and characterisation, we see Flash Gordon, who is, after all, just a human, struggle in the presence of superhumans like Phantom and Mandrake, and there’s even a romance blossoming between Lothar and Karma.
In London, an army of Beast Men are running riot, killing people left and right, but the King’s Watch soon arrive and put a stop to it, using a combination of their various powers, or just Flash’s impetuousness. Eventually, they buy enough time for Lothar to arrive with a weapon that Zarkov has cobbled together that is able to blast the Beast Army and make them disappear. It’s not clear whether they’ve just been sent back to Mongo or are dead, but does it matter? This is war! From the remaining Beast Man, we discover that they are just the tip of Ming’s invasion, and the next few pages skip through quite few battles, showing the King’s Watch really turn the tide. I think it would have been better to have this mini be 6 issues and devote a whole issue to , these conflicts, because now this war does feel brief, but I suppose it would have been repetitive.
The issue ends with Ming hearing about the heroes who have been holding his forces at bay, and sending Cobra and his cult to finish them off. The next issue should be big, there’s a lot for Parker to pay off and also the Flash Gordon series to set up, I’m excited.
As I said, Laming’s art is better than ever here, as he manages to depict the ridiculous of Rhino-Men riding giant lizards in a realistic way which gets across the impact of Ming’s invasion perfectly. His art has positioned these characters firmly in a real, modern world, and that’s made this series feel fresh, and not just an act of nostalgia.
So there you have it! My favourite comic this week wasDaredevil #36, which was just a perfect wrap-up for a great series, every single issue of Waid’s run has been excellent, and I’m glad that even though the numbers will change, he and Samnee are going nowhere.
Join me next week, where I’ll hopefully be on time, and there’ll be plenty more great comics on the docket, including the new Fantastic Four series from James Robinson and Leonard Kirk, the return of The Wake, the final issues of Three, Wolverine & The X-Men and Cataclysm as well as a whole heap of other Image goodness, and even a Lois Lane one-shot.
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