Hi there guys, yep, I’m late once again, sorry about that, but it just means I don’t want to waste any more of your time.
So… comics! This week! Reviews! Hawkeye! Fantastic Four! Deadly Class! Aquaman! Lois Lane! Umbral! More!
And of course, click those links!
Superior Spider-Man #28– ‘Goblin Nation’ continues to deliver as promised, an epic conclusion to the great, long-running storyline that is Superior Spider-Man. In this issue, the Green Goblin really has SpOck on the back foot, but there’s still a ways to go, and the war has only just begun, so whilst this issue wasn’t quite as explosive as #27, there’s plenty of exciting stuff on the horizon.
Slott of course begins right in the thick of the Goblin Assault on Spider-Island, with the base in flames, and all of the various secondary Goblins swarming over it, killing Spiderlings left right and centre. They even kill Spiderling #23, who was apparently Spider-Man’s favourite. It’s a shame that this character hadn’t been a bit more developed before his death really, but I suppose it was to demonstrate that even though Ock is an evil villain with henchman, he’s probably slightly less evil than the Green Goblin (I’m also surprised Slott didn’t go with #21 or #24 to make a cool Venture Bros reference).
Spider-Man is able to escape thanks to his Living Brain robot, so the Green Goblin moves on to phase 2 of his plan, which is to go after Spider-Man’s loved ones. If that sounds a little clichéd, it’s meant to be, as Slott subverts our expectations here in a pretty bad-ass way. 2 of those Goblin/Vulture children go after MJ and her new boyfriend, but since MJ has been attacked for being Peter Parker’s girlfriend/wife/friend/whatever so many times over the years, she’s prepared for them, and even has her own pair of web-shooters which she uses to take out the Goblin kids. MJ then sets off to round up the others who are in danger, like Aunt May and Jay Jameson, taking them off of the board. I really liked this development, as I said, going after supporting characters is a cliché, and having MJ combat that shows how this really is a different era of Spider-Man, and not just because of who’s under the mask. Unfortunately though, MJ isn’t able to round up everyone, and Anna Maria is picked up by Lily Hollister, AKA Menace, who is claiming to be a friend of Peter’s, so I guess the cliché isn’t entirely subverted. But this makes sense, Anna Maria is the only supporting character in this book who is loved and cared for more by Otto Octavius than by Peter Parker. Sure, Otto doesn’t want MJ or Aunt May to die, but Peter never even met Anna Maria, she’s Otto’s love, and having her be the lone captive works very well.
Spider-Man resurfaces, as Peter Parker, at Parker Industries, where he is confronted, first by Sajani, who is understandably pissed at him for disappearing, and then by Wraith, who wants to bring him in for questioning about Carlie’s whereabouts. Wraith is able to use her mask to know that Peter is telling the truth when he says he doesn’t know where Carlie is, but she soon gets her answer, as Carlie shows up as ‘Monster’. Well, she doesn’t get her answer really, as Wraith’s mask is under the same ‘Goblin Protocol’ as the Spider-Bots were. She can’t see Monster at all, and so is easily knocked. Monster reveals her identity to Peter, which has him totally freaking out. If the Goblin has Carlie, then he knows he’s Peter Parker! After managing to separate himself and Monster and Sajani, there’s another twist though, as Monster crushes her own earpiece, not allowing Green Goblin to hear her, and reveals that her human side is still in control, and that she hasn’t revealed the whole truth, and that she needs him to fix her. This was set up rather well, with Carlie refusing to tell Green Goblin whose face was under the mask, but it still surprised me, and with time running out before Monster takes control and spills the beans, it adds even more urgency to an already desperate situation for SpOck.
Despite all the craziness happening in the outside world, I think my favourite scenes in this issue were the ones set inside the mind, with Peter Parker trapped looking at Otto Octavius’ memories. Slott does a fantastic job here of comparing and contrasting the two characters. There are a lot of similarities, both were nerdy genius kids who were bullied at school, but there are fundamental differences too, Peter was raised in a loving environment by his Aunt and Uncle, but Otto was alternately over-coddled by his mother, and beaten by his dad, which gave Otto much more of a chip on his shoulder than Peter (although, if you read those early Lee/Ditko stories, Peter is a lot angrier at the world than he would become). Slott really shows how Otto Octavius is like a dark mirror of Spider-Man, perhaps even more than Venom. Giuseppe Camuncoli’s layouts here were excellent, and the way Slott wrote Peter’s narration, with him slipping in and out of being himself and being Otto was very clever as well.
In terms of other subplots, Jonah reveals his new Spider-Slayers to the public, only he’s calling them ‘Goblin-Slayers’ now. It looks like this is going be a big part of the next issue, and that Spider-Man 2099 is going to get involved once again. Man, Slott really is tying everything together here, and it’s working out wonderfully.
Hawkeye #15– Hot on the heels of #16 comes the issue that was meant to come before it! This numbering snafu doesn’t really matter too much to be honest, with the title’s current alternating between Kate and Clint issues, and really, it was just great to have this book back, and to have a plotline that has been spinning it’s wheels (albeit very entertainingly) for what seems like months, finally move forward again. This issue really brings back the Hawkeye/Tracksuit Draculas War to the fore, as well as continuing the relationship between Clint and his brother Barney, and it does so all with that usual Hawkeye style and charm.
The issue begins with Hawkeye once again looking like an idiot, as the Draculas have him surrounded, guns aimed at his head, and he has his trousers round his ankles, because he’s lost his belt and he can’t tie the string properly. I think at times Fraction pushes it a little bit with Clint’s stupidity, I mean, how can you be an Avenger if you can’t keep your trousers on? But since it all works out and it provides enough of a distraction to allow Barney to take them out, I suppose you can justify it. We also see Clint and Barney have to go inside the building to rescue Clint’s neighbours from more Draculas, so they have a way inside.
Intercut with Clint and Barney’s confrontations with these Draculas, we see the Barton brothers trying to investigate this enemy alongside Clint’s recurring ex-Girlfriends. First Mockingbird, then Black Widow, and finally Spider-Woman. It’s great seeing these characters appear and just condescend to Hawkeye. I’m not sure what the significance is of Barney playing the crossword in the background, or if it has any at all (with Fraction, it’s always hard to tell what’s meant to be taken seriously and what’s a joke). Clint slowly works his way through the Draculas, until he finds out about their hitman, the Clown, the man who killed poor, poor Grills.
At the same time, we find out more about what the Draculas’ plan is, and wow, it’s not what I expected. They have been buying up real estate in Clint’s area of New York, in order to knock it down and build a luxury shopping mall, and only Clint’s building is standing in their way. I actually really dig this, it’s not your typical supervillain plot, and it really puts Hawkeye’s hero on the street nature into focus. Unfortunately however, the Clown peruses the documents, and sees that Clint technically doesn’t really own this building, he didn’t buy it legally really, he just thought he could skate along on being an Avenger and being rich. But of course, he couldn’t. Without the law in his way, the Clown realises that he doesn’t need to hold back and can really attack Hawkeye head on, which, well, he does.
The issue culminates in a truly shocking scene, where, after ruminating on it with Barney and Spider-Woman (and once again being told what an idiot he is by an ex), Clint realises that the Draculas have a way into the building (the old lady from the Dog issue!) and might still be inside! He rushes out, but the Clown is lying in wait, with 2 of Clint’s own arrows in hand. It’s not clear what exactly he does to Hawkeye, but it looks like he stabs him right through the ear. Barney comes running, only to be shot right in the chest, leaving Spider-Woman alone with two possibly dead Bartons.
These final 2 pages were fantastic, with Aja telling it all himself with the art. It’s just great in general to have his art back again, and whilst this issue doesn’t contain as much experimentation as previous Hawkeyes have, every panel is perfect and stylish and the pacing of the action works brilliantly. Even though Marvel Now sparked an artistic renaissance at the company, this is still it’s best looking comic for me.
I was truly shocked by the ending of this issue, now obviously Hawkeye isn’t dead, but he certainly won’t be the same, and Barney probably is dead, so the fall-out from this should be amazing. It’s going to be quite a long wait for the follow-up though, which is the only real problem. I’m sure the Chris Eliopoulos drawn #17, and the next Kate issue will be great, but damn, that cliffghanger!
Uncanny Avengers #17– Holy shit! That was amazing! I can’t quite believe what I read in this issue, but I love that Rick Remender went there, and did what he did, and with this issue, he proved something about Uncanny Avengers that I’ve been thinking myself for the last few months. This isn’t really an ongoing series in the traditional sense. It’s an epic, superhero crossover event, but rather than be spread out across a central mini-series and a bunch of tie-ins, it’s all happening in the pages of one single comic. You could have easily split this title across multiple Avengers and X-Men books (and Lord knows, there’s enough of ‘em out there) and 5 different writers, but Remender is doing it all himself, and much like Hickman on Infinity, it’s delivering fantastic results. In this issue, Remender destroys the Earth, that’s not the kind of thing that normally happens in #17 of a non-event comic, and yes, whilst we know the Earth will be back (there’s time-travel in this story for a reason, folks), it was still crazy to read, and has me incredibly excited for what’s next.
We begin once again with some suitably ominous narration from Havok, apologising to his future daughter for what happens in these pages, but we’re soon back into the attack of Exitar, as the Avengers back down on Earth try and get their plan, to build a force-field around the planet to stop Exitar long enough for Thor to defeat him. Central to this plan is the Hulk, who is strapped into the machine, as only he is strong enough to hold the electromagnets in place. However, before Thor can get to Exitar, he has to go through Eimin first, and their fight is just as good as the one he had last month with her brother, Uriel. You can tell Remender is having a hell of a good time writing these epic battles, and the over-the-top villainous rant from Eimin just shows that, she is ranting and raving and it is just glorious. Thor is able to defeat her, trapping her under some rubble, and grab the only weapon capable of stopping Exitar, Jarnbjorn.
At the same time, Wasp is still locked in combat with the Grim Reaper, who has forced her into having to either kill him, or let the Earth die. Boiling all of this down to the ethics of superheroes killing is a great move from Remender, because, as the Grim Reaper says, the Avengers’ disgust at Wolverine’s killing of Apocalypse is what ended the Unity Squad, and what pretty much caused all of this. However, it looks like Wasp may be spared from this decision, as Captain America arrives to save the day, to fight Grim Reaper and allow her to fix the time-machine and allow Immortus to come to the rescue. Only… the time machine still doesn’t work, and, well, Grim Reaper just straight up kills Captain America. Yep, not content with Scarlet Witch, Rogue and Wonder Man, Rick Remender’s rampage has now run through Cap. I wonder, now that he’s killed 2 men and 2 women, is he still a hateful misogynist writer?
Remender’s not done either, as Thor is unable to reason with Exitar, Eimin comes back to knock the Axe out of his hands, the force-field breaks and Exitar destroys the planet. Boom, it’s gone. Thor is able to escape through a portal to Asgard, where he is consoled by Odin (isn’t he supposed to be dead?), and told that this isn’t his fault for being tricked by Kang, but that it was the people of Earth’s fault for not uniting, for not putting aside their differences, chiefly between human and mutant. It’s the big theme of this series writ large, but really, I can’t believe Remender did this, and I can’t wait to see where it’s going. Obviously all of the mutants are still alive, having been raptured away, so it’s up to them to save the day. I’m sure there will be time-travel mind-fuckery to spare, but that’s the only way this story can go now.
Steve McNiven’s art was once again excellent, he really is a perfect fit for this book, because of his experience of drawing an epic crossover like Civil War. He nailed the scale of this story, but also the smaller moments, like Cap’s death and Thor’s grieving. If you’re not reading this book, you need to pick it up, as I said, it really is an epic event comic, just told in a different way. Fuck it, I’ll say it, it reminds me of Grant Morrison’s JLA, which tried to tell an event with every story. It’s big, it’s larger than life, but it also has a point, a message of unity behind it, that really makes it special.
Mighty Avengers #7– People (and I include myself in this) complain about there being too many Avengers titles, but I actually really don’t think they should. Just because comics share a name, doesn’t mean they are that similar. I read 2 comics with the A-word in the title this week, and they were very, very different. The first was a sci-fi epic where the planet was actually destroyed, and the second, this issue of Mighty, was a street-level title where the heroes went up against real-life issues and legality. They really couldn’t be more different, and that’s awesome. It’s more important to have diversity inside the cover, than on it. If this book was called ‘Heroes For Hire’, it wouldn’t have much chance of success, so I don’t mind the title one bit.
With this issue, Al Ewing narrows down the focus to White Tiger, who, after hearing that Gideon Mace, the man who killed her parents is out of prison gives in to the White Tiger spirit inside of herself, and goes on the hunt. Falcon overhears this on the comm-link, and so the rest of the Mighty Avengers head out to try and stop her from killing Mace and doing something she’ll regret for the rest of her life. But they don’t have much luck, as she basically kicks their ass. With the White Tiger spirit in control, she is able to easily out-fight both Power Man and Iron Fist. When you can beat Iron Fist in a kung-fu fight, you’re one bad-ass spirit.
Meanwhile, Luke, Falcon and She-Hulk (in her Jen Walters form, which surprised me, from her solo title, it looked like she was all-green, all the time these days) are in Mace’s headquarters (the former Josie’s Bar, which is a nice touch, I guess with Daredevil moving to San Francisco, another book is entitled to use it) which has some suspiciously Nordic imagery on the walls. But unfortunately for the Avengers, it’s all legal (the evidence of one of Falcon’s bird friends is not admissible, what, is Ewing bird-phobic or something? This is an out-rage!), and if White Tiger does attack, she’ll be the one at fault, and if she kills Mace, it could be the end of this fledgling team.
Of course, it’s not long before she arrives, smashing right through the window, which is just kind of proof that this building is cursed. Even though it’s no longer a bar and Daredevil is gone, the window is still getting broken. White Tiger continues to prove what a total bad-ass the spirit is, by easily dispatching her fellow Avengers, and even managing to scratch Luke Cage’s unbreakable skin. But she’s not too smart it seems, as she dives head-first at Mace… only it isn’t Mace, it’s a trick of the light from Spectrum, who zaps her, full force. So it looks like our heroes have won, sort of, even if they did so by protecting a villainous, racist creep. But there’s one more sting in the tail, as just as soon as White Tiger is knocked out, the Cops arrive, with guns pointed right at the Avengers, and to be honest, they are liable to quite a bit of property damage. The last page was very interesting indeed, as we see the real Mace and his lawyer upstairs, laughing at how they tricked the Avengers, and also revealing that they are being backed by Cortex Inc, the very same company that was after the Inhuman tech in the last story arc. Al Ewing has not just forgotten about that plot, oh no, it looks like it’s set to run and run.
This was just another great issue of a really good series, Ewing’s sense of humour meshes wonderfully with Valerio Schiti’s art style, but when they want to, they can cut loose with some great action. The way White Tiger took out Power Man and Iron Fist was real hard-hitting, and Schiti’s pacing and kineticism made that work. Ewing has a large cast, so this issue does see the likes of Blue Marvel and Ronin absent, but that doesn’t matter at all, as here White Tiger gets a ton of development and spotlight, and already I care more about her than I ever did before. Ewing is doing a great job at building a team of lesser-known characters here.
Fantastic Four #1– Despite my misgivings about the FF now having red costumes (I could handle the white and black we’ve had for the last few years, but red? That is, like, the opposite of blue, it’s ridiculous!) this was a good opening issue from James Robinson and Leonard Kirk that simultaneously gets the Fantastic Four back to basics after being in state of flux recently, as well as setting the stage for tragedy to come. So even whilst you’re enjoying the old-school fun of the Fantastic Four taking down a giant monster, there’s a little extra to it. This issue really was mostly set-up, but I don’t mind that, as it gave us a sense of how good a handle James Robinson has on these classic characters, before he brings them down, and generally, I think he does get Marvel’s first family.
The issue begins in a flash-forward, with Sue writing a letter of apology to Franklin and Val, and giving us a teaser of what bad shit is going to happen to the team throughout Robinson’s tenure. Reed is now a broken man, unable to do any science. Ben is in prison, awaiting trail for murder… and he’s there on Reed’s testimony. As for Johnny, his party-boy lifestyle seems to have now caught up with him, and it’s implied that he’s now an alcoholic. Sue herself is all alone, flying over the ocean and weeping.
So, we’ve seen the FF after their fall, but how does it happen? Well, it begins innocently enough with the team stopping an attack on New York by none other than Fin Fang Foom. This was a pretty basic, old-fashioned FF scene, you had Reed the genius with a special weapon telling the rest of the team what to do, Ben and Johnny bickering and Sue holding things together, but it was a lot of fun, especially because, as I said, we haven’t really had the classic Fantastic Four doing stuff like this for a long time. Hickman killed off then brought back Johnny, and then Fraction sent them off into time and space. The FF defeat Fin Fang Foom, but it might not be as routine and classic as I thought, as Reed realises that a mindless rampage like this is not normally Fin Fang Foom’s M.O. Could this be a clue about where things are heading? I was also surprised by the Fin Fang Four reference Robinson slipped in here, he really has been doing his research!
Back at the Baxter Building, we see that not everything is back to normal, as Valeria has moved out, angry at her parents for lying to her during Fraction’s run, and gone to live in Latveria, this causes a bit of a domestic between Reed and Sue, but it doesn’t last long, as they reconcile, and are soon interrupted by the rest of the Future Foundation kids. I’m really glad that Robinson is keeping these characters around, as with there now being only 1 Fantastic Four book, I thought that perhaps they would be dropped, but nope, they are still here, and still a lot of fun. Bentley-23 building a death-ray that turns things into chocolate is just great.
After this, we see Ben out, reuniting with Alicia Masters and getting back together in a very touching scene. There’s a reason writers keep going back to Ben and Alicia, it’s just a classic romance. We also see Johnny’s new status quo, and it’s that he’s now become a rock/pop star (perhaps inspired by his ex, Darla Deering?), and his agent calls him telling him that, for the good of his music career, he can’t go on any vacations like he did recently. He can still be a superhero, but he has to stay Earth-bound. Which, for the FF, might be an issue. I know a lot of fans bristle at every writer reverting back to immaturity for Johnny when they take over, but at this point, I guess we have to accept that it’s not bad writing, it’s just a character trait, he’s an immature person that might grow up at times, in serious situations, but he’ll always want to have fun first and foremost.
The issue ends with everyone in a good place, but of course, that won’t last long, and we see a Negative Zone (I think?) doorway in one of Reed’s labs open up, unleashing a horde of ravenous insect monsters on New York.
This was, as I said, a strong opening issue for Robinson, he showed he gets the characters and, with the flash-forward, hooked me in with wanting to find out just how the FF end up in their bad way. Leonard Kirk’s art was also very strong, I’ve been a fan of his since he was on JSA, and he’s just a brilliant, classic superhero artist, and there’s no better classic superhero team than the Fantastic Four, his line-work is strong (Karl Kesel is back on inks, he should never not be on the FF in some form or another), the characters look great and, even though he does have that classic style, he is suited to the darker edge this story will have. In fact, the only problem is those pesky red costumes. This is the real FF controversy right now, I don’t care if Johnny Storm is black, all I care about is that he’s not wearing red!
Guardians Of The Galaxy #12– ‘The Trial Of Jean Grey’ continues to be a good story, but this issue was mainly filler really, saved only by very strong opening and closing scenes. Don’t get me wrong, I always enjoy reading Bendis-filler, because of his great dialogue, but this issue was basically the X-Men and the Guardians flying to the Shi’Ar Throneworld with little incident. Now of course, there’s bound to be more than just incident in the next 2 issues, but still, this was just Bendis moving the pieces forward that one final step.
As I said though, the opening was very strong. We start with Cyclops having a flashback to the last time he saw his parents, with them being attacked by Aliens and his mother giving him and Alex the only parachute to make their escape. Scott wakes up, and his reunited with his dad, and I’m not ashamed to say I got a bit emotional. Bendis really nailed how surreal this must have been for Corsair as well, because he’s already done this once before when he met the present-day Cyclops. The emotion isn’t over however, as Corsair also tells Scott that his mother is truly dead. I wonder if young Cyclops will find out about his half-brother Vulcan? It might over-complicate things, and he is dead, but then again, Marvel’s cosmic characters have a habit of coming back with no explanation lately, so you never know. You know what, I’m guessing that Vulcan will come back in Rucka’s upcoming Cyclops ongoing. Scott goes off to be alone, but is comforted by X-23. I still think that relationship is all kinds of weird, but Bendis is making it work. Cyclops gave her a hug a few issues back, and now she returns the favour.
In case you thought this was all a bit too schmaltzy, Bendis does lighten things up with Rocket Raccoon and Star-Lord’s reaction to this family reunion, with Rocket not understanding why someone would hug their dad. We all know about Star-Lord’s fuckhead of a dad, but now I want to meet Rocket Raccoon Senior.
Speaking of Star-Lord’s dad, he reappears here, being told that the Shi’Ar have captured Jean Grey, and that his son is involved, so it looks like the Spartax will have a part to play in this story, I wouldn’t be surprise if we end up with a Spartax/Shi’Ar War. There might even be a Shi’Ar Civil War, as we see Oracle and Gladiator discuss the upcoming trial, and Oracle basically telling her King that he’s in the wrong, but that doesn’t stop him. I really can see Oracle turning on him, especially after another scene where she tries to help Jean out inside her head.
As I mentioned, the Guardians, X-Men and Starjammers get to Chandilar with no real trouble, only to run into every ship in the Empire guarding the courtroom. They are cloaked, so there’s no action yet, but how long can that cloak last? I found the short conversation between Kitty Pryde and Star-Lord intriguing, especially because Pichelli’s art seemed to be conveying a flirtatiousness and attraction between the 2. They probably will hook-up, we all know that Kitty has a thing for men called Peter (Colossus, Pete Wisdom, Ultimate Spider-Man). Pichelli’s art is brilliant throughout, her facial expressions are just perfect for subtle things like that, so the reunion between Cyclops and Corsair really did hit you. Stuart Immonen, who is of course drawing the other half of this story in All-New X-Men pops in for a few pages here too, which is always welcome.
We end with another great scene, as Jean’s trial begins, and she is shown footage of the Phoenix’s destruction of that planet way back in the day, and finally gets an up close look at her future. Again, Pichelli’s art perfectly conveys her reaction. So yes, whilst this issue wasn’t a hugely important, eventful part of the crossover, there were strong emotions at play, great art, and now the stage is set for Bendis to blow us away in the final chapters.
Wolverine & The X-Men #42– It’s the final issue of this title, and whilst it’s not really farewell (Aaron is still writing an X-Book, and the Latour relaunch is out only next week), it’s still sad to see this iteration of Wolverine & The X-Men go. I have enjoyed every issue of this title, and here, Jason Aaron caps things off perfectly, summing up just how important the Jean Grey School is, and how much the characters he’s written have actually changed during these last few years.
This issue is split between 2 different timelines, the first is the present day, as the JGS wraps up it’s school year with a Graduation Ceremony, and the second is in the future, as the Old Wolverine from #29 (and I guess Battle Of The Atom, they are the same future right?) prepares to shut down the school, as he has no more students. The fact that the school is still going is a sign by itself that this book has had an impact, but it was still a lot of fun to see a bit more about this world, as the glimpses we had before weren’t really enough. Logan wanders around the school with a grown-up Idie, reminiscing about the past, and we also see what Shark Girl (she’s probably Shark Woman by now) is like in the future, and also the glorious return of Eye Man, as they contact Idie for help in fighting the new leader of The Brotherhood… Snot. Wolverine is left on his own again, only to be joined by Quentin Quire, who, as we’ve seen before, in this future is The Phoenix. Quentin is there to see for himself that his old school is actually shutting down, and also, in a great moment, to give Logan some new students, transfers from the Fantastic Four’s school in the Negative Zone. So basically, the story is that the Jean Grey School will never die.
Quentin is the main focus of the present-day story, as he struggles with how much he himself has changed over the course of this series. He started out as a wanted Mutant terrorist outcast who was imprisoned there. Now he’s the class president, with loads of friends, and is pretty much a hero, which doesn’t sit right by him. He wants to be bad, but deep down, he’s actually a good person. This has been a very good writing job by Aaron, he’s managed to make Quentin change, but it all makes sense, and at no point has he really been out of character. It might have been a bit much to have Captain America act as his parent/guardian at the Graduation Ceremony, but other than that, Quentin is now a fascinating character. As he says at the end, what does he do now? I’m very intrigued as to how Latour uses him.
Of course, Quentin isn’t the only character who’s changed over the course of the series, Wolverine himself has also grown. He started this school to try and move mutant kids away from violence, and in the process, he himself has evolved past his violent nature somewhat. Fans scoff at the mass-murderer running a school, an whilst Aaron always acknowledges it shouldn’t work, it has, and we see that here, as Logan manages to go the entire graduation day without popping his claws once, and Storm even tells him that ‘Weapon X is dead, long live Professor Logan’. Of course, events in his solo ongoing, where he’s undercover as a criminal, show that’s not true, but on the whole, this series really has changed Wolverine.
Given that this issue focuses so much on just Wolverine and Quentin, a lot of the other various students get a bit of short shrift with only funny cameos, but there are some nice moments, like Idie reuniting with Hope, Pixie finally becoming a main roster X-Man and, best of all, a 2 page sequence starring Doop, where he singlehandedly defeats Swarm and Master Pandemonium with the power of funk. I really will miss Aaron’s sense of humour in this book.
There are a lot of artists on this issue, with pretty much everyone who drew a previous issue returns. It was great to see Nick Bradshaw and Chris Bachalo return, as they defined this book really, and Ramon Perez and Steve Sanders’ pages were also very strong. It was a bit of a mish-mash, but it worked, this was a finale, so bringing back old faces is perfect. This was a great capper to one of my favourite X-Men runs of all time, I’m excited to see what Latour and Asrar have up their sleeves. To paraphrase Storm, Wolverine & The X-Men Volume 1 is dead, long live Wolverine & The X-Men Volume 2!
Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand #5(of 5)– Cataclysm comes to an end, but thankfully, it’s not the end of the Ultimate Universe, as the few surviving heroes figure out a way to defeat Galactus and the stage is set for a new beginning for the imprint that I’m very excited for.
We begin in the aftermath of the Triskelion explosion, which luckily, most of the heroes (except Captain America) have survived. There’s time for a quick hug between Spider-Man and Kitty, but there’s no time to waste, she has to get on with Reed Richards’ plan. She grows to massive size, and gets into it with Galactus, trying to phase through his machinery and stop him. This is big stuff, and Mark Bagley draws it all wonderfully. In the hands of a lesser artist, a fist-fight between Shadowcat and Galactus could look dumb as hell, but here, you feel the importance.
I also loved the 2-page spread where Kitty remembers all of the people she’s doing this for, both the heroes left alive, but also the ones who aren’t. Bagley draws pretty much every Ultimate Character ever here, and whilst it was a bit self-indulgent I suppose, he and Bendis did create this Universe, I forgive them. Plus, you know, Ultimate Peter Parker was there, and I still get emotional about that death.
It turns out that Giant Kitty wasn’t the only part of the plan, she’s just a distraction, and Reed Richards has something else up his sleeve. He launches a Negative Zone portal at Galactus, which opens up and starts to suck both Galactus and Kitty into it. I had thought this series would be a redemption for Ultimate Reed, but he’s perfectly willing to sacrifice Kitty here, so he’s still kind of a dick. He does save the world though. Miles and Sue Storm rush off to try and save Kitty, but they are only able to do so when Thor returns, slamming into Galactus and forcing them both through the portal. Iron Man begs for time to save Thor, but there isn’t any, and so Reed closes the portal, trapping both Thor and Galactus in darkness.
So, the G-Man is gone, but the world is still in rubble, a lot of heroes are dead, and who knows what’s going to happen next? I was intrigued by the fact that Storm picked up Captain America’s shield, she can’t be the new Cap can she? That would be weird.
Overall, this was strong mini-series that really did change the Ultimate Universe forever. But most of all, I’m just glad that it’s still sticking around and that Miles Morales isn’t going to the 616 Universe. That is the dumbest rumour ever.
Miracleman #3– This was the best issue of Miracleman so far, and that’s down to the fact that it was made up entirely of Alan Moore material (plus the sketches and process stuff). There was no Mick Anglo stuff here, and whilst I’ve been very harsh towards those comics, they really aren’t very good, and it’s much better to have the Warpsmiths in here instead. This issue is 35 pages of pure Moore, and it is great.
The main Miracleman narrative continues, and it’s still just brilliant. I loved the fight between Miracleman and Kid Miracleman, it’s so ahead of it’s time, and man, the aftermath is even better. Kid Miracleman transforming back into Johnny Bates is so dark and twisted, I love it. One thing I was surprised by is the reveal that the child that was thrown about last issue didn’t die, but just had his ribs broken. I’m not sure I like that softening of the blow, but I suppose you could only go so far in 1982. I really enjoyed the scenes with Miracleman and Liz trying to figure out the nature of his powers, especially as Moore begins to explore the differences between Mick Moran and Miracleman, how they are the same… yet different. Moore is looking at superheroes here in a way that nobody ever had until him, and treating them seriously, it’s amazing to see these early steps in the maturation of the genre at last.
The introduction of the new villains ‘Project Zarathustra’ and Evelyn Cream was good too, I like the weird touch of Cream having teeth made of sapphires, but there was some weird, dissonant race-stuff there, like the terrorist calling Cream ‘chocolate’, and Moore’s narration noting that he’s black. I’m not really one to denigrate media from the past for not living up to modern-day standards, but it did surprise me. But then I suppose this story was originally in black and white right? That means that Moore has to denote his race in the text then.
The art was fantastic too, the colouring really does make this look modern. Alan Davis takes over here, and it’s great to see how his style is different compared to now. The fact that Garry Leach is inking him also helps to make the change in artist not be jarring.
As I said, the back-up story here focuses on the Warpsmiths, one of whom we saw last issue. This was a weird story, as Moore drops us right into a weird alien world with little to no explanation and all sorts of strange jargon and stuff goes on. The art, from Leach was of course fantastic, but it was a bit disorientating. But it’s Moore I haven’t read before (hey, that rhymes!) so I loved it.
I’m just so grateful to finally be reading these stories, and even more so that they are living up to their reputations, just pure genius all around.
Superman: Lois Lane One-Shot – Given that in the New 52, Lois Lane is no longer Superman’s wife and also not even working alongside Clark Kent, it does make sense that she’s not played that much of a role in the character’s adventures. But even though it makes sense, it’s not been for the best, as Lois Lane is a good character, and with this one-shot, she is given her chance to shine, and for us to find out just that bit more about what the new Lois is like. I was impressed by Marguerite Bennett’s Lobo story during Villain’s Month, and she tells another good story here, giving Lois, and her sister Lucy some real depth. It’s not amazing or anything, but it’s better than a lot of the Superman comics we’ve had lately.
The story here sees Lois roped into a mystery by Lucy, who comes to her house late at night in tears because her ‘roommate’ (it’s strongly implied, but not outright said that Lucy and Amanda are lovers, which is a nice subtle bit of writing from Bennett, as well as a metaphor for the drug users having to pretend to be something else.) has been captured by a mysterious ‘Cartel’ for using some kind of experimental drug she was given in the hospital. Lois, who basically raised Lucy after their mother’s death agrees to help, and she sets off to do what she does best, investigate. We get a cameo from Jimmy Olsen, which is always welcome, and after following the trail of this drug, Lois eventually finds her way into the Cartel’s base, where she finds out just what’s been going on.
The drug is made from an alien fungus that, when initially ingested, cures illnesses and wounds, but after a while, it starts absorbing particles from other animals around the person, and transforming them into weird hybrids, or changelings. I kind of think this might be Bennett re-writing the weird transformation stories that Lois, Lucy and Jimmy were often involved in back in the Silver Age, but with a modern twist, which is cool.
As I said, Bennett gives Lois and her sister depth here, and she does that by exploring their back-story as Army Brats dragged around the world by their father, and showing how they had their own unique language (which might explain Lois’ terrible spelling? I love that they brought in that trait from Margot Kidder’s portrayal) and what their relationship with both General Lane and their ailing mother was like. There’s also some depth given to Lucy by how the truth about what really went on comes out. Lois rescues Amanda, and flies out on what she thinks is Lucy and Amanda’s cat, but it actually turns out to just be Lucy herself. Amanda wasn’t sick, she wasn’t given the drug by an evil Doctor, nope, she and Lucy are just drug users. Yep, a more modern take on the Silver Age transformation stories for sure.
In addition to developing the Lane sisters, Bennett also introduces an interesting new character ‘Agent’ who was working clean-up for this science Cartel. He and Lois have an interesting chat, where she agrees not to reveal the truth about what happened. I’d certainly be interested in seeing him again, but I suppose, with Wraith and Ghost Soldier, the Superman books already have plenty of shadowy government dudes.
The only real problem with this book is the art, as there are 4 different pencilers involved, so it felt rather disjointed, but taken on their own, the Emanuela Lupacchino and Ig Guara pages were very good. This was, overall, an enjoyable story that has me wanting to read more Lois stories from Bennett, there’s a lot more to go on with Lois and Lucy’s relationship, and as I said ‘Agent’ is intriguing. It was also a great example of how strong a character Lois Lane is away from Superman, who barely appears in this issue, and even when he does, is ineffectual.
Aquaman #28– This was the best issue of Jeff Parker’s tenure on Aquaman so far, and that’s down to the fact that this issue went somewhere completely unexpected and didn’t just carry on the same kind of things Geoff Johns did. I never thought I would ever see Aquaman attending his High School Reunion, but I have, and it was pretty damn awesome.
The issue begins with the mysterious man who’s been sniffing around Amnesty Bay trying to find out about Aquaman making his way closer to the Lighthouse, but we soon move over to the situation at Triton Base, with Aquaman and his fellow Atlanteans tracking the brain of the Karaqan. Initially shocked by what the humans have built beneath the surface, Aquaman soon gets into hero mode and tries to rescue the guy from the end of last issue who was being attacked by sharks. But, of course, things are never that simple, and the Triton Base fires a missile at him. Eventually, thanks to Dr Shin they realise that Aquaman is here to help, and he’s able to get the man back inside the base, but he’s in a bad way, with his legs all bitten off. Aquaman asks Shin for an explanation, but he doesn’t get one, and instead, with guns pointed at his head, is forced to leave. Shin tells Arthur that he has some leave coming up, and he’ll explain soon, so the Triton plotline looks set to be a lengthy runner.
Back on the surface, Aquaman sends the rest of the Atlanteans back to Atlantis, but he and Mera stay in Amnesty Bay, where they are met by a local cop, who went to High School with Aquaman, and invites him to their reunion. I just loved the way the story turned here, you thought you were going to get some serious action and intrigue, but nope, it’s time for some comedy and character development. One of the most intriguing things about Aquaman is how he struggles to balance his Atlantean side with his human side, and lately, with him becoming King and all, this series has focused way too much on the Atlantean stuff, so it was great to have Aquaman have to go back to be ‘Art Curry’ and be put in a very realistic situation. Arthur initially doesn’t want to go to the reunion, but Mera convinces him otherwise, and, after some initial awkwardness, it was a good decision, as we see him begin to reconnect with his old classmates, and confirm that he had been helping them out in secret when any of them got in trouble in the sea. It even turns out that Aquaman’s tortured memory, where he punched a kid so hard he was in a coma for a month turned out all right anyway, as that guy grew up to be proud that Aquaman hit him! With this issue, Parker is seeming to say that Amnesty Bay is Aquaman’s home and not Atlantis, and I can go along with that, I always like my heroes to be humans first, and with this issue, Arthur Curry’s humanity shines through.
But it’s not all fun and games and drinking on the beach, as more traditional superhero danger is just around the corner. The man who Aquaman saved from the sharks is now in a vegetative state, and given that he has no next of kin and it’s too expensive to keep him alive, the scientists at Triton are going to experiment on him, so that’s a new villain for sure. Also, whilst at the Reunion, the stranger breaks into Aquaman’s lighthouse, steals his trident and uses it to open up a portal with something bad behind it about to return.
Paul Pelletier’s artwork was solid as usual, and I was glad to see him draw some more comedic scenes here, he did well at that kind of material back on She-Hulk. If you haven’t been reading Aquaman, I really think this is a good jumping on point, it’s not what you’d expect from the character, but that’s for the best.
Batman/Superman #8– Jae Lee returns with this issue, and so does the spectre (not ‘The Spectre’ as in the big green vengeance guy) of Earth-2, as Batman and Superman meet up with their alternate reality relatives, Huntress and Power Girl for the first time in the new continuity. I’m still kind of mad that those two stole the title ‘World’s Finest’ from it’s rightful owners, but it’s a crossover that makes sense, and this was a good comic.
Greg Pak begins in the Bat-Cave, where Batman has Huntress imprisoned. She tells him that she is his and Catwoman’s daughter from an alternate reality, and that she and Power Girl travelled to this dimension after Darkseid attacked and killed all of the heroes there. Batman doesn’t want to believe her, but his wiped memories of the first arc of this series resurface slightly, and he does begin to trust her, but not before he decides to knock her out and run some tests. Batman is such a gloriously paranoid dick, I love it. Batman’s tests prove that she is a Bruce Wayne’s daughter, so now Huntress can explain why she’s come to her ‘dad’ for help, and it’s because Power Girl’s powers are getting out of control. She’s on the beach, going crazy and releasing blasts of energy. Huntress and Batman head off to stop her, but they do tell her they are coming, which leads to a fun bit where Power Girl is mad at her friend for teaming up with Batman, because he might be an evil alternate universe version. To us readers, the New 52 is the main universe, but for these characters, it is an alternate reality, so it was cool to have that perspective. And to be honest, the New 52 Batman is kind of evil compared to the more traditional Earth-2 version!
Batman decides to not to inform Superman that a fellow Kryptonian is freaking out somewhere, but of course, it’s hard to keep a secret from Big Blue, and he flies to the rescue. I loved that splash page of Superman coming into save the day, with cute bulldog in hand. A great moment of subtle humour, perfectly sold by Jae Lee’s art, which is fantastic throughout, he really makes these characters look iconic and larger than life. June Chung’s colours also deserve praise, as panels featuring Batman and Huntress are far darker than those focusing on just Superman and Power Girl, that really sells the difference between the characters, acting alongside Pak’s narration.
Superman is able to stop Power Girl’s rampage by slamming a rock onto her, and he takes her out to the middle of the ocean where she can unleash her excess energy safely. Meanwhile, Batman and Huntress work out where the source of Power Girl’s problems are coming from, a country called ‘Rheelasia’ that is under the control of a certain Kaizen Gamorra. I may be wrong, but isn’t that a character from the old Wildstorm Universe? I think he was actually the villain of the first arc of the Authority, although the New 52 version looks different, he’s not an old man for one thing. Bats once again decides not to tell Superman this info, and Huntress doesn’t fill in Power Girl either, because apparently, the Earth-2 version of Gamorra used to go out with Power Girl! Very interesting indeed. As Bruce Wayne and one of his random hook-ups, Batman and Huntress are able to infiltrate one of Gamorra’s parties, and sneak around, with Huntress discovering something big, and at the same time, Superman and Power Girl are close behind, which is bad news, as Gamorra plans to ‘detonate’ her. Power Girl panics and flies off into space to explode on her own, but Superman isn’t going to let that happen, and he flies off after her, and when she explodes, he’s right there with her. That’s certainly an intriguing ending, but it’s not exciting enough for me to want to pick up the issue of World’s Finest that will continue the story.
This was a solid comic, with fantastic art from Lee, and I like the fact that, despite the memory wipe ending, Pak hasn’t forgotten the previous storylines, and I continue to love the way he contrasts his title characters, it’s just annoying that once again, this book can’t really stand alone. I haven’t read Earth-2 or World’s Finest and I’d like a story that didn’t rely on those books.
The Wake #6(of 10)– After a longer than normal break, The Wake returns, and it’s completely different from the first half, which is just brilliant. Now, the brief glimpses we got of the future take centre stage, and it’s almost like a different comic, yet still just as good. It was clear from those short scenes that Scott Snyder had something epic for us around the corner, and now it’s here!
The focus of the story here is now on Leeward, who opens the issue out in the open water, fishing for evil fish-people (they are called ‘Mers’ in the future) to decapitate and sell. She trades this heads with her friend Pub in exchange for an ‘ear’, which looks to be a piece of radio technology. Leeward lives alone in a broken down plane, and she spends her days listening underwater, trying to find proof of some prophecy that will save the world from the rising waters and the Mers. Snyder does kind of drop us in at the deep-end here, with some future jargon, but it’s not too hard to understand, if you made it through Azzarello’s Spaceman, you can make it through this easily. I really dug the double-page spread where we are given a map of what the United States looks like now, not only because if scratched my fantasy novel brain, but also because of the fun ‘American Vampire’ reference Snyder drops in. The map is from ‘Skinner Airlines’ and promises ‘Sweet deals’, heh.
The story then switches over to the humans who look set to be the villains of this half of the story (along with the Mers of course), the Army (or ‘Arm’) under control of the Governess of the Northwest Territories. We find out that somehow the Mers are getting stronger, and also that this Governess is pretty damn brutal. She talks, seemingly innocently to a young soldier about how the national bird of America is no longer the eagle, but the crane, and then has him shot for being the one who sold the ‘Ear’ to Pub which he then passed along to Leeward. It looks like she has some kind of vested interest in stopping people from discovering the truth at the bottom of the sea.
The issue ends with Leeward being accosted by the Arm, but just as they grab her, the Ear picks up a transmission from… Lee Archer! Yes, the hero of the first half of this story, who we thought had died, somehow survived, and although she’s probably dead by now, her message apparently holds the key to saving the world. This was an intriguing start to this second half of The Wake, and it can only get bigger and crazier from here for sure.
A big part of how good this book is continues to be Sean Murphy’s fantastic art. His sense of design and detail is just spot on, and this dystopian future looks lived in and real. I also liked how Matt Hollingsworth adjusted his colouring style compared to the first 5 issues, the palette here is a lot lighter and brighter, which fits with the more sci-fi, less realistic story. The scale of this story was always just hinted at, but now it’s a true epic, and I can’t wait to see what Snyder and Murphy have in store.
Black Science #4– Not content with destroying the Earth this week in Uncanny Avengers, Rick Remender continues to kick ass on both of his new Image books, and whilst the death in this week’s Black Science is not quite as huge as the entire planet, it’s just as impactful and surprising.
The issue kicks off right in the heart of the action, with Ward, Kadir and Shawn in a race against time to get the Native American Shaman to their group before the Pillar activates again and teleports everyone away. This was a very tense scene, as a bunch of Native warriors are chasing them down with technology that vastly outpowers our heroes, and whilst it’s exciting as hell, the real meat of it comes with the character moments. Firstly, when Ward demonstrates some serious bad-assery when he decapitates a Native and his horse at the same time, but also right at the end, when Kadir betrays Ward, leaving him to die. Not only does this switch Kadir right back to being a dick, when #3 showed he might not be all bad, but it’s shocking to me that Remender had Ward die. With Grant McKay out of commission for the last 2 issues, he took centre-stage, took over the narration, and looked set to be just as important a character. But nope, he’s dead, and it was a really poetic, tragic scene, with him recalling how his father, and his grandfather before him, died in the mud of battle, so why should he be so special.
Ward’s sacrifice allows everyone else to teleport away again, this time to a peaceful world, and also for the Shaman to heal Grant and save him from death. He wakes up in this new world, safe and sound, and apparently they have the technology here to fix the Pillar somewhat. And they have scotch! But of course it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, this is black science for a reason. Chandra, one of the characters who up until now has kind of been in the background, comes up to Kadir and tells him that she knows he let Ward die on purpose, but ominously for McKay, she has no problem with this, as it means that she and Kadir can now take control of the group. She even goes as far to put her hand on Kadir’s crotch, so it looks like we’re going to get a real power struggle here.
Elsewhere, it’s revealed that Grant’s son, Nate is diabetic, and his sister forget to bring his insulin with her to the lab. This adds a nice sense of jeopardy to every reality jump, because what happens if they end up in a universe that doesn’t have insulin or an equivalent? There’s a more immediate threat however, as the issue ends with a mysterious masked figure warping into this peaceful plane, apparently on the hunt for Grant and his team. Who is this person? How can they reality jump so easily? Is it Ward? I have no idea, and it’s great that after only 4 issues I’m already hooked on these mysteries.
Matteo Scalera’s art continues to be fantastic as well, that opening chase scene was just epic stuff, and, given it must be a lot of work to design whole different realities every few issues, the amount of detail is amazing.
Deadly Class #2– After just 2 issues, I think this might be one of my favourite comics. That’s not hyperbole, it’s just so fucking good, and so cool. This issue gets things going in earnest, as Marcus is now enrolled in the Kings Dominion School for Assassins, and we find out a lot more about what the place is like, and start to find out a bit more about the supporting characters, and it’s all done with a real sense of style and purpose, thanks to Remender’s excellent writing, and Wes Craig’s perfectly-pitched art.
We begin with a short flashback to Marcus’ time at a boy’s home, where he’s busy building a bomb, whilst his roommate jerks off to a dog show. Yes, a dog show. After this, it’s back in the present day (well, 1987) as the headmaster explains the history of the Academy to Marcus. The pertinent details here is that many of the students have been sent here by their parents or governments or crime organisations and have ‘name’ cache, whereas Marcus has none of that, but, given that the school’s main purpose is to allow the people at the bottom of society, he has some promise.
Marcus’ first day of school is highly entertaining, as everyone gives him the stare-down, and he is confronted by all the various different cliques and groups. He opens up his locker to find a doll with a knife in it and ‘child killer’ written across it, before being threatened by the white supremacist ‘Dixie Mob’ kids, for being Nicaraguan, and then has the Mexican gang try to get him to join. But Marcus ain’t the joining type, so he’s on his own. We then get a glimpse at some of the classes at the school, and man, you can tell Remender is having a lot of fun coming up with this stuff. If you thought the classes and teachers in Wolverine & The X-Men were messed-up, you haven’t seen anything yet. It’s just great fun to see Remender play with a lot of high school movie tropes, but with that added edge of every student being a trained killer. We even get a bit where Marcus can’t find anyone to sit with at lunch!
So where does he go to eat? Outside, to the roof, with the outcast kids who are smoking pot. This scene was great, as we find out a bit more about characters like Willie and Lex, but also get a look at why Marcus agreed to attend this school… so he can assassinate the person who ruined his life… Ronald Reagan. I said in my review of #1 that the 80s were the last time period with a real counterculture, and this scene shows that, not just because the President is such a monolithic asshole, but also through the variety of the kids styles and tastes.
After lunch, it’s back to class, and hand-to-hand combat, where Marcus makes the mistake of agreeing to try and take on the teacher, and gets his ass handed to him. A big burly blond guy, Viktor, laughs at him, which causes another kid, a pudge with glasses to inadvertently set Viktor up for a beating from the teacher too. In the showers, Viktor and his lackeys are beating up this kid, Shabnam, but Marcus steps in to save him (but not before Shabnam shits himself), and then we get a great scene where Shabnam walks Marcus through all of the various cliques in the school. It’s a homicidal criminal version of the scene from Mean Girls, and it is awesome. We also hear that Saya, the girl who saved Marcus in #1 served some kind of punishment for killing a Cop, and when he tries to thank her, she tells him to fuck off. But we all know it’s true love.
The final class of the day is ‘AP Black Arts’ and is going to involve splitting into pairs and heading out into the city to kill a vagrant and being able to cover it up. I loved how Marcus, as a new kid, couldn’t find anyone to be his lab partner. We’ve all been there, but our experiments weren’t in murder. Marcus eventually pairs up with Willie, but since he needs to pass this class to not be expelled, well, the signs aren’t good.
There’s an intriguing epilogue, where one of the Cops who was after Marcus is called to a disturbance in a barn, where he finds a guy fucking a goat. Yep, a goat. This bestiality should tip you off that this is Marcus’ former roommate at his old boy’s home, and he’s looking for our hero, because he fire-bombed the home, and left this villain badly disfigured. It’s quite odd to be reading a comic where the hero fire-bombed an orphanage, but that’s what makes this book so good. It’s dark, and not afraid to go there.
Wes Craig’s art is excellent once again, it’s very stylish, and able to keep up with Remender’s dense script all the way. Every character is brimming with personality, and given that there are so many different teen subcultures at play, the look of everyone is paramount, and man, they look cool. I can’t praise this title highly enough, if you’re looking for a comic with an edge to it, then this is it.
Satellite Sam #6– Another suitably sordid issue of Satellite Sam, but the best scene in this issue wasn’t sexual at all, instead it was the focus on the actual TV show they are making, and the way all of the characters interact with each other when they aren’t fucking something or someone. This issue also does well at spreading the attention around to some characters who have been in the background so far, which is useful, although due to Chaykin’s art, and the black and w