Hello, and welcome to another of my review columns! Yes, it’s late again, but I have a good reason! It was my Birthday on Saturday, and no way am I working (if you can call this work) on my Birthday!
To celebrate the glorious anniversary of my birth, Marvel, DC and Image worked together on a great week of comics, there’s 3 exciting All-New Marvel Now series in Captain Marvel, Secret Avengers and Avengers Undercover. There’s a… unique issue of Hawkeye, another over-sized issue of Batman, a game-changer of an East Of West and more!
Remember, click the links to go to the forum threads.
Superior Spider-Man #29– ‘Goblin Nation’ continues to ramp up the excitement as the Green Goblin outwits Spider-Man at every turn and begins to make things really personal for Otto Octavius. So far, the Goblin’s attacks have been at targets Peter Parker would care about more than Otto, but now? The gloves are well and truly off. Dan Slott (and co-writer Christos Gage this issue) really is crafting an epic finale to this series, as everything falls into place.
We begin with the aftermath of an explosion at Parker Industries, with Sajani telling the press that she can’t find Peter or Monster anywhere, so he’s presumed dead. The Goblin is angry at this, not because he knows Peter is Spider-Man, but because, as Spider-Man’s supposed best friend, he wanted to use Peter as leverage against Otto. Of course, SpOck isn’t dead, and he and Sajani are hard at work in the bowels of Parker Industries trying to reverse the effects of the Goblin Serum on Carlie. He calls Mary Jane to tell her to get people out of New York, but as we saw last issue, she’s way ahead of. SpOck’s brusque tone with MJ in this conversation looks like being the last straw for her sticking by him, I wonder if she’ll actually a bigger part of the end to this story than we realise.
Before he can really get down to fixing Carlie, Otto receives another call, this time from the Green Goblin! It’s pretty much a running joke in this story that the Goblin can hack anything. Green Goblin demands Spider-Man come out onto the streets, because he has something to show him, and man, it’s a doozy. I loved Goblin’s reasoning for why he’s targeting Otto so much, it’s because he’s mad that he didn’t get to kill the real Spider-Man himself, that the second biggest villain beat him to it. I’ve said since the beginning that this storyline may have actually moved Doctor Octopus up to first place on the Spider-Man enemies list, and it was great to have that kind of idea show up in the comics. It makes sense that these guys would be competitive. Goblin then hacks into Spider-Man’s mask, and shows him footage from around the City of places that Otto Octavius holds dear being blown up. His childhood home, the lab where he became Doc Ock, the facility where his old inventions are being kept, the sight of his first big triumph as Spider-Man, even the HEART clinic… all of them are totally destroyed, along with any people inside them. Spidey is furious, and vows to kill the Goblin, who tells him that the next place for him to go is ESU, where he has someone very close to Otto held captive. SpOck assumes that this means Anna Maria, and so races off towards what he’s sure is a trap. I love how in this moment he’s finally forced to ask himself ‘what would Peter Parker do?’. Otto has always considered his approach to be, well, superior to Peter’s, but now, at the end, it might not be.
We get one brief glimpse here inside the mindscape, where things are not looking good, Peter Parker’s consciousness has almost fully melded with Otto’s, and he’s consumed with hatred for Spider-Man.
Spider-Man being spotted leads to Jonah finally releasing his Spider-Slayers to stop both him and the Goblins, but it might be too late for Jonah. He held back on sending them out just to help people, because he was saving them for Spider-Man, which leads to Glory walking out on him. I think that Slott is building towards something big with Jonah by the end of this story, it was fun to have the cliché inverted and have him love the Superior Spider-Man, but now he’s back to full-on hate, but he’s gone too far. I smell redemption in the air for JJJ somehow. Spider-Man makes it to ESU, where he find the Goblin and his captive, who turns out to be, not Anna Maria, but Dr Lamaze! From the Goblin’s perspective, Lamaze is the closest thing Otto Octavius had to a friend, which, wow, that’s just sad. Spidey leaps at Green Goblin, but, again with the hacking and Gobby has control of his robot arms, which immediately start attacking their owner. The Goblin flies off to leave Spider-Man to be killed by his own arms, but, in a surprising moment, Lamaze sacrifices himself to stop one of them. Against all the odds, Superior Spider-Man inspired someone to be a hero, and man, it was actually quite poignant. Lamaze has basically been a joke and a dick throughout this series, but his death definitely has an impact. And it’s not even the end of the issue!
Before SpOck can catch his breath, the Spider-Slayers show up to take him out, with Jonah ranting all the while. They tussle a bit, but then they are shut down by Spider-Man 2099, who wants to find out just what the hell is going on with the present-day Spidey. But before he can get any answers, the Spider-Slayers are back online… and now under the control of the Green Goblin! Interestingly, the face that appears on the Slayers is that of Norman Osborn’s, not the Goblin mask, but we still haven’t had any actual confirmation if the Goblin really is Norman, so there’s definitely still a twist coming.
This was another excellent issue of a fantastic storyline, and Camuncoli’s artwork was another stand-out. His work has always been solid, but lately he seems to have been experimenting a bit more with his layouts, the scenes inside the mindscape in particular have been great, I loved how the panels were actually segments of Ock’s tentacles. We’re at the half-way point of the finale, and things look bad for Spider-Man whichever way you look at it, I can’t wait to see how Slott and Gage turn things around for Peter’s triumphant return, which at this stage, couldn’t look further away.
Captain Marvel #1– Kelly Sue DeConnick’s much acclaimed Captain Marvel series returns with a new artist, a new status quo for the character, and some surprising new personal developments for Carol Danvers.
The issue kicks off with an intriguing opening scene that drops the readers right into the unknown, as we see Captain Marvel in deep space with a team of aliens (there’s a robot dude, a centaur, a green girl and what looks to me like a Shi’ar) at a market, looking for something and on the run from the Spartax Police. Things quickly go wrong, and there’s a fight with a police, and Carol loses track of her green friend, who’s name is ‘Tic’. We have no idea what’s going on, and we’re not really supposed to, as the rest of the issue flashes back 6 weeks to begin to show us just how Cap ended up in space with a bunch of weirdoes.
It all started when Captain Marvel and Iron Patriot intercepted a mysterious meteor that fell from the sky, which turned out to be a pod containing the girl who we’ll come to know as Tic. This short scene was well done, as we see Carol’s impulsive side, as she throws the pod away without thinking, because it might be a bomb. We’re then back at Carol’s new apartment, which is of course the head of the Statue Of Liberty, a dumb idea that I really like. I’m surprised Superman never lived there before, but the fact that Captain Marvel does is just so fucking comics, and it does make her feel like a bigger deal than before. Carol has another one of those heart-to-heart conversations with her neighbour Kit, which I’m not really a fan of, Kit is just too impossibly angelic a kid character. We live in an age of Damian Waynes and Bentley-23s, kids like Kit don’t cut it anymore.
Iron Man this time shows up, so he can fill Cap in on the alien she found. Whilst he does, they team-up to stop a mugging, and this was just a great scene that showed just how powerful both characters are, they didn’t break a sweat here, and their conversation wasn’t interrupted at all as they stopped the crime. It turns out that Tic is a refugee from a planet that was destroyed by The Builders during Infinity, which is a cool bit of continuity. This team-up ends with Tony floating the idea to Cap about having a regular Avengers presence in space. He did it with the Guardians Of The Galaxy, and Jason Aaron has hinted that it’s in Thor’s future too, but at the moment, it’s Captain Marvel’s turn to head out into the stars. Of course, Tony doesn’t actually ask her, he instead tells her it should be Rhodey, who is of course, the better pilot. As Tony himself says, heh heh heh heh.
The issue ends with Carol taking her friend Tracy out on a flight in a jetplane for her Birthday, and she and the rest of the supporting cast throwing a party. I’m not hugely invested in these characters that DeConnick has created, but it was cool to see them get a bit of a spotlight before they (I assume) drop out of the book when Captain Marvel goes into space. Carol and Rhodey (who arranged for the terminally-ill Tracy to be allowed on a jet) exit the party for a minute and… it turns out they’re a couple! Yep, Captain Marvel and Iron Patriot, sitting in a tree, etc. I like this development quite a bit, and I think it makes sense, both characters are Air Force, they’re both Avengers, they both used to have codenames that had the word ‘War’ in them. I could go on. This could also be a sign of how they’ll use Captain Marvel in the Marvel Movies, she could be introduced as a colleague of Rhodey’s before she becomes a superhero. DeConnick writes the dialogue between them at the end well, I buy them as a couple for sure. Of course, much like the rest of Carol’s friends, we probably won’t be seeing Rhodey for a while, as she tells him she’s going off into space, and the issue ends with her doing just that.
I’m surprised this issue didn’t make more mention of Carol’s recent memory erasure, it’s hinted at, but not out stated. I guess it might be a bit confusing for new readers, which hopefully, there will be a lot of. To help those newbies, this issue ends with a brief recap of Cap’s origin story as told by Kit, and interestingly, it made no actual mention of the original Kree Captain Marvel. To me, this is probably another sign of how they’ll do a movie version, just have it be non-specific Alien tech, and not have it be a legacy type deal.
David Lopez is the new artist here, and I think he’s a good fit. He’s a bit more of a traditional superhero artist than the likes of Andrade and Soy, but that works for this story. His lines are clean, and he draws Cap very well, and manages to avoid cheesecake, which is important for a series like this. Overall, this was a strong opening issue, it carried on what worked for DeConnick before, but also added a lot of new stuff, which showed that this isn’t just a new #1 for no reason, this is a new era for Captain Marvel. A new life in space, a new boyfriend and more.
Black Widow #4– Another very exciting issue of Black Widow from Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto, and one that’s made all the better by the fact that it’s not another done-in-one, but the first part of a longer story. This creative team have established their mood and take on Black Widow wonderfully, and now we get to see them stretch their legs a bit.
The issue begins with a brief tease of the story’s villain, Molot, receiving his orders from a weird glowing light, but we’re soon into the thick of things with Natasha. Or rather, the boring of things, as her mission from SHIELD turns out to be on the less exciting end of the spectrum. Her job is to go into the Ukrainian embassy pretending to sell a motion detector, but at the same time plant a bug. I loved the narration here, with Black Widow finding more real-world spycraft like this boring when compared to fighting aliens like she does with the Avengers or on other SHIELD missions. But in the end, this mission turns out to be anything but boring, as, just before she enters the Embassy, she spots a silhouette on the roof opposite and… boom, the building explodes. I loved the double page spread of this explosion, with very quickly paced panels of Natasha turning her head, overlaid over the blast, it was very cinematic, and just more all-around brilliance from Phil Noto.
Natasha chases after the guy who blew up the embassy, but he takes her down easily. Luckily however, before he does so, he says a word in Russian, so she has at least one lead. Hmmm, Russians and Ukrainians going at it? TOPICAL COMICS ALERT! I hope Edmondson doesn’t put his foot in it here.
Even though one of her arms is injured, Maria Hill still sends Black Widow off to clean up this mess and find some answers. She heads to Kiev, which in the Marvel Universe is looking rather peaceful, and uses a tiny remote control fly camera to find out what the ministers there know about what happened to their US Embassy. She’s literally bugging them! It’s great. Natasha discovers that the mystery man is called Molot Boga, and his next target is a Croatian Ambassador who is going to be in Soutg Africa. Widow heads to Cape Town (she really is jet-setting this issue, and it was great how Edmondson explained how useful her frequen flyer miles were, another example of reality mixed in with the Marvel Universe craziness) where she sees Molot stand in the middle of the road with a chain gun to try and kill the Croatian Ambassador. I loved the fight between them here, it was a shoot-out, with Black Widow thinking she can out-smart the brutal Molot, but nope, he has more than just the chain gun, and is able to get Widow out of the way long enough to assassinate his target.
The art in this fight was fantastic also, but then every page here looks good. I liked how Clayton Cowles lettered a few of the panels where Natasha was upside down with the lettering upside down as well, very cool. So, for the second time this issue, Black Widow fails and the bad guy gets away, which is not what we’ve come to expect from this title. I can’t wait to see what will happen next issue as Natasha really starts to hunt this guy, and his mysterious glowing red benefactor (who is not God) down.
This is just a great book, and I do feel like I’m giving Noto’s art a bit of a disservice by not going into greater detail, but then I suppose it’s art that’s so good words can’t describe it. Yeah, there’s my excuse right there.
Hawkeye #17– Matt Fraction takes another break from the norm with this issue of Hawkeye, as instead of picking up from the shocking cliffhanger to #15 or even giving us more Kate Bishop adventures, he instead goes back to show us the Christmas cartoon Clint watched with his neighbours in #6. Yes, a Christmas issue in March, it sounds weird, and it is, but I think it works. Hawkeye has always been a book willing to try things other superhero comics wouldn’t, and the fact that it continues to do so, and that Marvel is allowing Fraction that lee-way, should be applauded. We hear stories and complain about editorial interference ruining comics all the time, but we never stop to praise when editors allow the creators the freedom they deserve. Read Hawkeye #17 and make that time.
After a one page opening sequence drawn by Aja that sees Clint and his Santa hat sit down to watch the cartoon, we’re into the thick of ‘The MBC Wintertime Winter Friends Winter Fun Special’, which does two things. First of all, it’s a funny parody of children’s holiday specials that you can just tell Fraction is having a blast writing, but it’s also a metaphor for Hawkeye as a character himself, and how he, in this book, views himself. I’m guessing this isn’t actually the cartoon that Clint watched, and that he just fell asleep halfway through and dreamed a version about himself, because otherwise, it wouldn’t really make sense.
The cartoon is the tale of the Winter Friends, a group of anthropomorphic superhero animals who are based on the various winter holidays of various religions. So there’s a Christmas Jackalope, a Hanukah Kitten, a Kwanzaa Alligator, a Diwali Lama, a Yalda Dog (I haven’t even heard of Yalda, guess I need to check my non-Persian privilege) and even a little girl who represents Pagan beliefs. There’s some great pun-names here, and I like how Fraction is both making fun of, and supporting attempts to make Christmas non-denominational. This cartoon goes to such lengths to be inclusive, it’s ridiculous. The Winter Friends are there to stop the snow being melted by the evil Mister Sun, but soon succumb to the heat.
Their only hope turns out to be a dog called Steve who has no powers. This dog is clearly a stand in for Hawkeye himself, who of course is one of the few Avengers with no superpowers. He heads out to rescue them, and is joined by a younger girl dog (ie Kate Bishop) and a stupid big dog who is his brother (Barney Barton). They want to help, but Steve pushes them away, saying he can do it all by himself. They ignore him, and come anyway, where they run into a bunch of evil Dingoes who attack them. These Dingoes are constantly saying Dog, so I think you can guess who they are meant to be Bro. Steve is save saved by a trio of dogs, stand-ins for the trio of ex-girlfriends that have regularly appeared in this series, Black Widow, Mockingbird and Spider-Woman. They too want to help Steve, but again, he can do it all by himself, and he races off to save the Winter Friends by himself.
He tries to fight the Sun by himself, and it’s a valiant effort, but he’s over-powered. The Winter Friends are freed, and together they call down Mother Winter who freezes the Sun and saves the day. She calls Steve a good boy, and that’s pretty much it, everyone has a Multidenominational Pantheistic All-Inclusive Seasonal party, but Steve doesn’t want to join in. We end with another Aja page of Clint asleep, and that’s it.
This issue was basically a reiteration of Fraction’s take on Hawkeye, and it was well done. I’m not sure why we needed this metaphor of Clint having to learn not to do everything by himself, and what the overall message was. I mean, if this happened during #6, why did he then go and push Kate Bishop away in real life? Did he learn nothing from the Winter Friends? It’s a weird ending too, because Steve The Dog didn’t really prove himself, yes, he fought well against Mister Sun, but he wasn’t the decisive factor, in the end, the more powerful superheroes were needed. I’ll be interested to see where Fraction takes this, will the fight against the Tracksuit Draculas and The Clown need the heavier hitters to come in and bail Hawkeye out? I can’t really see that. I’m probably (no, definitely) over-thinking things.
I mentioned the 2 Aja pages but not the rest of the issue, which came from Chris Eliopoulos, who is normally the letterer, but he’s also an excellent cartoonist, perfectly suited to this story. I loved his work on those Franklin Richards stories a few years ago, and he brings that same energy here, first drawing appropriately Peanuts looking children playing in the snow, and then some great cartoon animals. Everything here was very cute and perfect for what is supposed to be a Christmas cartoon, and just something visually different from the rest of the superhero books, which is what Hawkeye should be. This is a different kind of different than Aja, but still awesome.
Secret Avengers #1– I wasn’t initially planning on picking this new Secret Avengers relaunch up, because that series as a whole has never lived up to the potential it has (except for briefly under Ellis). But in the end, I couldn’t ignore the fact that this was Ales Kot, the writer of the amazing Image spy book Zero doing a superhero spy book, and on top of that, he’s joined by the artist of Zero #1, Michael Walsh. Marvel roped me in, and on the basis of this first issue, they’ve got me for a the long-haul. This was a fantastic series opener, full of great character moments, some fun action, a surprising amount of humour and amazing artwork.
Kot kicks things off with Nick Fury Jr (a character I’m still not sold on, but I think this book might turn me around) and Agent Coulson on a SHIELD space station, dealing with a threat that’s a bit above their paygrade in The Fury. You know, from The Original Writer. We then flash back to 6 hours earlier when Maria Hill sent those two on this mission by themselves, because the new Secret Avengers team hasn’t officially been formed yet. I love how this gets across the bureaucracy of SHIELD. They’ve decided that the new Secret Avengers’ first mission will be on Friday, and no crisis will get in the way of that. But of course, it’s never that easy for the Avengers.
The other members of this team are set to be Black Widow and Spider-Woman, who are spending their time before they start relaxing and getting a massage at a Russian Baths, which is more than just a baths… it’s got a superhero target range for the ladies to have fun with, including Hulk Hands!
I said that things are never that easy for the Avengers, and nobody embodies that more than Hawkeye, who is not supposed to be on the new team, but stumbles into it anyway as he tries to run away from AIM and into the same baths that his ex-girlfriends are. Hawkeye is in full on Matt Fraction mode here, and I’m actually kind of conflicted about that. I love that book, but I think having the character appear in other settings and be that much of a fuck-up idiot is a bit ridiculous. There’s a reason that book shows what he’s doing when he’s not Avengering, and it’s because he’s allowed to be a bit incompetent. That said, his scenes here were very funny, and Kot has a lot of fun with it, even bringing back the old-school Hawkeye face to censor his dick, and to make it even better, doing the same thing for Spider-Woman’s boobs. I think that’s actually why the Fractionesque Hawkeye works here better than it should, the whole tone of the series is similar, and other characters are shown with the same humanity… and genitalia.
Hawkeye, Black Widow and Spider-Woman get into a naked fight with AIM and at the same time, Fury and Coulson are in trouble in space with The Fury (it’s meant to be confusing that there are 2 entities called Fury here, Kot gets a lot of funny bits out of it) but that’s not all, as there’s bad stuff going down at SHIELD HQ too. Maria Hill goes down into the Labs to meet with MODOK, who has turned informant and is now working for her, I really like Kot’s take on MODOK, who is just the right kind of ridiculous. He’s over-the-top weird and funny, but he’s still dangerous and you have to take him somewhat seriously. Whilst she’s down there with MODOK, a new Latverian SHIELD recruit is making his way through the Helicarrier killing agents, and he’s headed right for Hill.
Out in space, Coulson accidentally blasts open a window, and, whilst that does suck out The Fury, it leaves him and Nick Fury susceptible to getting lost out in the atmosphere themselves. Hill contacts Widow and Spider-Woman and tells them to go into space and save their soon-to-be teammates, with Hawkeye tagging along, but, to MODOK’s surprise, she doesn’t ask for help with the Latverian attack. She thinks he’s just a lone gunman, she can deal, but uh… nope, he shoots a hole right through her hand and it looks like he’s out for revenge for his parents.
This was an excellent first issue, it threw 2 exciting plots at us, has engaging characters, and as I said, a surprising sense of humour. I went into this expecting Zero but with superheroes, but this is totally different, Kot is a more versatile writer than that. This book is funny, and it’s not just Hawkeye. MODOK is funny, the Nick Fury/The Fury stuff is funny, even Black Widow has her moments, and she is a deadly serious bad-ass at all times.
Michael Walsh’s artwork was great too, as Ales Kot himself says in the letter’s page, his style is in the same zone as Aja, Phillips and Lark, all big favourites of mine, but he does bring something different to it. It’s a little rougher, which makes the violence harder but also makes the jokes hit better too. This is a dense book, with lots of panels, but it all looks great, and adds to the frantic feeling of SHIELD having to deal with 3 things at once before they’re ready.
Mighty Avengers #8 – Al Ewing continues to not only juggle a large cast of characters in this series, but also a lot of different storylines. In this issue, the threat of Gideon Mace is left to the side and Blue Marvel takes centre-stage with an interesting new villain going up against him and the rest of the team. Ewing does all this with a great sense of humour and excellent dialogue, and it’s basically the total team book package.
We begin in Blue Marvel’s undersea fortress, where the still-possessed White Tiger is being looked over by Adam along with Luke Cage, Spectrum, She-Hulk and Power Man. The threat of lawsuits from Mace is hanging over them, but more importantly, even Adam doesn’t have much of an idea about how to fix what’s up with White Tiger and they aren’t having much luck getting help from the Marvel Universe’s magical superheroes. Even though I pretty much hated the recent Young Avengers run, I did like the nod towards it with Power Man wanting to call up Wiccan, but the older heroes not thinking he’s up to it because they don’t remember what happened. We get a short conversation between Luke Cage and Adam where they sort of bury the hatchet after their argument in #6, which was interesting, I thought that the animosity between them might be a bigger deal, but hey, they are both grown men, so it makes sense. I imagine it will blow up eventually though.
Before they can decide on what to do with Ava, Adam receives an alert that there’s been a breach into the Universe from ‘The Neutral Zone’ and that technology from WESPE (the German AIM-type dudes we saw him fighting in a previous issue) is behind it. He, Spectrum and She-Hulk head off to investigate, leaving the Power Men behind to look after the Tiger. When they reach the site of the Neutral Zone breach, they are attacked by some of WESPE’s Kill-Bots, which appropriately look like wasps. The fight between the Avengers and the Kill-Bots was a lot of fun, and allowed She-Hulk some time to shine. She hasn’t done much yet in this book, and since she now has her own title I get why she doesn’t need the spotlight, but still…She-Hulk smash! The villain behind these Kill-Bots is a guy in a Doctor Fate looking helmet by the name of Dr Positron, who seems to be very familiar with the Blue Marvel.
Back at the base, we get an insight into the war inside Ava Ayala’s mind for control of the body, and man, this is a fascinating scene, as Ewing totally turns things around on us. It starts with the Tiger God talking a big game about how it’s so powerful and wants total control, but Ava soon flips the tables and reveals that it’s her human side that’s actually the more powerful. This is because the Tiger is no longer feared or respected by humanity. It’s hunted, it’s kept in zoos, and people raise money to try and protect it. Humanity isn’t scared of tigers… they pity them. I loved this scene, it was a great blend of realistic detail with more out there supernatural stuff, like most of this series. Ava takes control and absorbs the Tiger spirit. She’s back, and better than ever! She even hugs Power Man, so hey, that little romance might be going places.
The other heroes make their way to Dr Positron’s base, which is of course in a Volcano, where he traps both She-Hulk and Spectrum before revealing himself to be… Blue Marvel’s son, Max! He’s angry at his father for what he feels is poor parenting, and he also blames him for the death of his mother and for his brother Kevin being trapped inside the Neutral Zone. This was all interesting stuff, but what it really says to me is that Marvel need to re-release the original Blue Marvel mini-series in trade. I know it’s probably on Comixology or something, but I don’t hold with digital. The reason for the Neutral Zone incursion is because Max is trying to get his brother back, but he’s obviously not as smart as his dad, because he didn’t know that the physics between the two planes were very different, and that when Kevin comes back through… he’s coming back giant-sized! This was another top-notch issue of Mighty, I like the way Ewing is going about focusing on the characters, last issue and this had much more White Tiger, and now Blue Marvel is the main character. This is a team book with a real focus on the characters, and that makes the humour shine through, and I would place money on Max being somehow related to Cortex, everything else has been.
This title can feel too spread out at times, but it really isn’t, and it always entertains. Valerio Schiti’s art was once again excellent, although on some panels it did seem like he was trying to copy Greg Land more than he was before. Look at Blue Marvel on pages 4 and 5, they look like Land trace-jobs. Is it a joke on Land? What’s the deal? But other than that, it looked ace all around.
Avengers Undercover #1– Avengers Arena was one of my favourite comics of the last few years, but it was always a finite concept. The game of death those young heroes were playing had a definitive endpoint, and Hopeless reached that, and told a fascinating, exciting story full of great characters. But in the Marvel Universe, nothing ever ends (Adrian), sometimes for bad, mostly for good, and Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker returning to these characters for a completely different story is certainly good. If you loved Avengers Arena, then you need to pick this up and see what comes next. If you hated it? Well, you need to buy it as well just to give yourself more things to complain about on Tumblr.
The issue begins with a brief montage showing the impact of Arcade’s leak about Murderworld and how the press and general population has reacted to those horrific events. This is not only a good way to get any unfortunates who didn’t read Arena up to speed, but also show how the media narrative has become very important here. Hopeless then begins to show what state of mind the surviving characters are in. First up is Hazmat, who can now live freely outside of her suit, and who overhears a fat nerd guy talking shit about her in a diner, saying how she was the worst person in Murderworld and how he would have done stuff totally differently. The people in the Marvel Universe aren’t taking these events seriously, to them, it’s just a reality show, but to Hazmat and the rest, it’s her real life. She goes up to this nerd, intimidates him and burns his table down with her radiation powers. So yeah, she’s not in a good place.
Up next is Chase (and his terrible new Mohawk), who seems to be the only person who is embracing the media spotlight, which makes sense for his character. He’s on a talk show discussing what he went through, but is interrupted by Nico, who’s mad at him for breaking the pact. Chase doesn’t see the point in the pact when Arcade already broke it, so they argue. It’s revealed that, since they returned, Nico hasn’t been staying with the other Runaways (we see them watching on TV) and has basically abandoned her friends. Nico (who also has new hair, red highlights) then teleports the both of them to a secret location.
After this we see Deathlocket being tested by some SHIELD scientists, which basically reiterates the same point Hazmat’s scene did, that people are treating what happened like it was a TV show, as one of the scientists totally fanboys up to Deathlocket about how much he loved her on ‘the show’. I think I liked this more than the Hazmat stuff though, it was more subtle.
Someone whose life doesn’t seem to be too bad is Cammi, as her return has managed to make her mother stop drinking and start to fix her life. But nevertheless, she has stuff to deal with and can’t stay in frickin’ Alaska, so she jetpacks off to the same ‘someplace’ that Nico and Chase did.
Last up is Cullen Bloodstone, who seems to have gone full-on crazy-town as we see a video he recorded of himself blowing up Arcade’s house with a Rocket Launcher. He’s on a bloodthirsty trail of revenge, and that’s why Anachronism has called all of the others to Bloodstone Manor for a meeting. They all meet up, go inside Cullen’s Rust Cohle-esque room of investigation, and look at his next video… Cullen heading into Bagalia, the country owned by the Masters Of Evil, in order to track down Arcade. He’s been down there 3 weeks and nobody’s heard anything, so the rest of the gang decide to go and look for him. And boy, they may not like what they find, because right now, Cullen, in his monster-form is helping Zemo, Madame Masque, Constrictor and Son Of Satan destroy a SHIELD base. The cover to this issue asks which hero will become a villain, and I think we already have our answer!
Kev Walker’s artwork was just as good here as it was in Arena, perfect for the dark shit that goes down here, but also a good fit for teen characters. But as I said, I’m not sold on Chase’s new hair, but that’s just me being lame. This was a great first issue, I’ve missed these characters in the short time since Arena ended, and I love having them back, especially in a totally new setting. The idea of them being undercover in Bagalia hasn’t even started yet, but I dig it already.
People bitched and moaned about how Arena was jut wanton, hate-filled slaughter, but the fact that there’s a whole new series just dealing with the aftermath shows that to be just total nonsense. The Marvel Universe may not grasp the full impact of Murderworld, but rest assured that Dennis Hopeless does, and he’s going to explore it fully.
Fantastic Four #2– ‘The Fall’ begins in earnest with this issue, as a bunch of creepy alien bug dudes blow up the Baxter Building and attack New York, and whilst it’s still very unclear how all of this will lead to the dark future we saw in #1, it is becoming clearer.
The issue begins right in the middle of the explosion, with Reed and Sue rushing to protect the kids. Dragon Man has kept them safe, and Franklin tells his parents that he can sense that these creatures came from ‘his’ world, which is better known to us as the ‘Heroes Reborn’ universe. I’m intrigued by this, as the original Heroes Reborn series are actually the first Marvel Comics I ever read, which probably explains my skewed sense of what good comics are, and also means I have a special place for them in my heart, even though they are probably (no, definitely) a bit shit. I haven’t read many of the later stories that featured the Universe, but what’s intriguing here is that James Robinson actually wrote a few issues of the infamous Captain America series. So I guess all of these terrible events are because of Cap-Boobs.
The FF head off in their awesome new Fantasti-Car to try and stop these monsters, and we see that this threat is wide-spread, and has bought all of the other various superheroes out to stop it. I said this about last issue too, but it’s cool to see a Fantastic Four series that feels much more connected to the wider Marvel Universe again. Millar, Hickman and Fraction all basically did their own thing, but now the FF is back at their rightful place as the centre of the Marvel Universe. But unfortunately for them at this moment, this is because the other heroes, mainly Wasp, are blaming Reed for what’s happened and want him to fix it. Johnny fries one of the monsters and delivers it to Reed so he can examine it and try to work out what to do.
Reed, being a genius, quickly works out that nothing from this Universe can stop the beasts, so he whips up a toxin from the Negative Zone that should stop them. Johnny grabs it to fly up and use it, but he ignores Reed’s warning that there may be side effects. It does work, and the monsters are stopped, but there are definitely side effects, as when Johnny falls back to Earth… his powers are gone. This makes sense, as this isn’t technically the original Johnny if I remember correctly. He’s a clone or something made from Negative Zone worms (Hickman’s run was weird y’all). Or if he’s not a clone, he died and was resurrected so many times in the Negative Zone that the toxin was bound to fuck him up. So this is the first step in the Fall then, no powers for Johnny Storm. I’m not too enthused about this, but hey, we shall see.
Leonard Kirk’s art was once again excellent, he really is a brilliant fit for an old-school superhero team like the Fantastic Four. So far, Robinson’s run is impressing me, he gets these characters, even as he tears them apart. And hey, I almost forgot how angry I am at the red costumes! I reckon next time I’ll be able to avoid mentioning it!
Superior Foes Of Spider-Man #9– Surprise, surprise, it’s another fantastic issue of Superior Foes! It’s getting boring just raving about this book at this point. I can’t say enough good stuff about it though, you should all be reading it, each and everyone of you!
Nick Spencer picks up right where he left off, with Boomerang and his girlfriend right in Bullseye’s crosshairs, about to be killed. But, even though this series has always been comedic, Spencer shows that Boomerang is now joke, as he knows Bullseye is there, and deflects the shot with a trusty boomerang. In many ways, Fred Myer’s sad-sack narration has been a trick on us, to get the audience to underestimate him, so when he pulls off an issue like this… it does come as a surprise. The opening few pages here basically fill us in on the sort of rivalry Boomerang has with Bullseye, how Boomerang believes he’s the better assassin and super-villain, but Bullseye just has better marketing than him, a better reputation. In many ways, that’s what this whole series has been about, showing us the super-villains with poor reps, and how they can still be dangerous. Even if they are sad sacks.
Case in point, Hydro-Man, who comes round to the Shocker’s house for movie night. Shocker tries to shoo him away so he doesn’t discover Silvermane’s head, but Hydro-Man starts freaking out so he needs his routine to stop him from walling off the wagon. Shocker, ever the wimp, lets him in, where he sees Silvermane. Hydro-Man tries to convince Shocker that he can uses this to step up, become a big name player in organised crime, but he soon sneaks off through the toilet, presumably to tell more powerful people about the location of the head. So even though Hydro-Man is fucking loser, he’s still dangerous and is willing to betray his friend.
Back with Boomerang, we see that he himself has been stoking the Bullseye rivalry, going around saying that he’s the better villain, which is why Bullseye has agreed to kill him. He corners Fred and his unnamed love interest in a church, where Fred tries to use the woman as a shield, to be the Elektra to his Daredevil. Spencer has a lot of fun with this stuff, as Boomerang makes fun of Bullseye for basically never actually managing to kill Daredevil himself, only cause him mental anguish. This backfires however, as the woman knocks Fred out herself, leading to both of them being captives of the Owl. It’s here that Boomerang really proves himself to be smarter than we think, as he tells Owl that it was never him who double-crossed him… it was The Chameleon. Chameleon has been going around pretending to be Fred in order to steal the Doctor Doom portrait and get away with it, and Boomerang can prove it, if the Owl can let him go visit the Chameleon with a hidden camera and show him the painting. It’s also revealed here that ‘Bullseye’ is actually an LMD built by the Tinkerer, which make sense as the Bullseye is currently completely paralysed and blind.
Boomerang heads over to the Chameleon’s headquarters (where we see a hilariously fucked-up scene of Chameleon by himself) and manages to get the Doom painting on camera so the Owl can see it and even make Chameleon take his face. Against all the odds, Boomerang has managed to get away with his crimes and set the Chameleon and The Owl up against each other! He’s a genius!
Except not really. As soon as Fred’s narration starts talking about ‘no loose ends’ and ‘things finally going my way’, you know something bad is about to happen, and it does, as Overdrive and Beetle show up with a school bus full of kids and weapons sticking out of it. I have no idea what happened there, but I can’t wait to find out.
Steve Lieber’s art was excellent as ever, and I love all the various little innovative touches he does, like switch to big-head cartoons, or when Fred is having trouble thinking on his feet, covering his face with the Apple ‘loading’ rainbow wheel thing. The humour in Spencer’s scripts wouldn’t translate nearly as well without Lieber’s flexibility as an artist, and much like Waid and Samnee on Daredevil, they really deserve that ‘Storytellers’ co-credit. Even though Spider-Man isn’t ever in this comic, this is still a tangled web of plotlines, and I love it. Boomerang seems to have gotten away with something big here, but it can’t last, and I’m glad it won’t, this title seems to thrive in everything going wrong at once.
All-New X-Men #24– The penultimate issue of ‘The Trial Of Jean Grey’ is actually only the start of the trial, but then I don’t think it’s a case that’s going to last long. Here, Bendis brings all of the various forces together and the sparks, oh they do fly.
We begin in the trial room, with Jean being asked how she pleads, but remaining silent. Gladiator is about to take this silence as a tacit admission of guilt, but he’s interrupted by J-Son of Spartax, who says what any right-minded person should think, that young Jean is innocent, and that this trial is a farce. He also reveals to Jean that the Shi’Ar killed all of the members of her family in case they became the Phoenix too, which appears to be inadvertent, but given that J-Son is a huge dick, has to have been on purpose.
Out in space, the Guardians, X-Men and Starjammers have figured out their way past the fleet and onto Chandilar. They sent out Angela on her own to play dead in space. Given that she’s not from this universe, the Shi’Ar scanners would be intrigued by her, and bring her into one of the ships. Once inside, she wakes up, takes them all out, and commandeers it for our heroes, who are able to fly in and land on the planet. Meanwhile, furious at J-Son’s interruption, Gladiator calls a recess in the trial, and sends Jean back to her cell, but before she can reach it… she escapes into the city. It’s not clear whether or not this is Phoenix-inspired or not, but I’m sure we’ll find out soon.
The assorted heroes land, but not before Corsair tries to talk Cyclops out of going because he’s too emotionally tied up. As Corsair himself says to Hepzibah, it must be really weird and difficult for Corsair to see his son fuck up in the same way twice. They open the door to the ship, with X-23 in the lead and Jean’s scent in her nose, but as soon as they do, they are face-to-face with Gladiator and the rest of the Imperial Guard. The fight we’ve all been waiting for is here, and whilst what we get in this issue is brief, it’s not the end, there will be more in Part 6 for sure. The best part of this fight was Cyclops blasting Gladiator twice, and basically standing up as a total utter bad-ass. How crazy is it right now that both Cyclops’ are cooler than Wolverine? I love it.
Gladiator and Scott square off yet again, but before they can, they are interrupted by Jean, who finally says how she pleas… and it’s guilty. She is a monster. I have to admit I did see this coming, this Jean Grey has always seemed to believe the worst about herself, but her admitting this right in front of the Shi’Ar will have some serious consequences.
Stuart Immonen’s art here was, as you’d expect, amazing, I loved the silent 2 pages of Jean running around in the Shi’Ar city, the art alone sold her confusion and fear. When you have that rock-solid visual storytelling combined with excellent dialogue and characterisation, you’re onto a winner, and he and Bendis have been proving that for years and getting better and better. The final part of this story in Guardians Of The Galaxy has a lot to wrap up, I can’t wait.
Batman #29– After last month’s journey into the future, Zero Year returns for another over-sized issue that sees the story reach a pretty major turning point, as well as resolving some of the weird, out-there scenes we’ve seen over the last few months. I still think that this origin recap has gone on for way too long, but it’s always been enjoyable to read, and this was no exception.
Scott Snyder begins with a flashback to young Bruce Wayne and his parents at the Police Station, where he is at first chastised for playing truant, but we soon see that the Waynes are pretty forgiving parents. In fact, his dad’s biggest problem is that Bruce said he thought ‘The Mark Of Zorro’ was a bit lame, so they decide to go and see it again later that night, as a family. Which is, as we all know, turns out to not be the best idea.
In the present (or rather 5 years ago) Batman bursts out of the pile of bones Dr Death tried to bury him in, and gets back to work. He calls up Jim Gordon to tell him to make sure that the Gotham Electrical Grid is not turned back on, because The Riddler has rigged it so that, once back on, it would be under his control. Whilst Gordon rushes off to do this, Batman makes his way towards Riddler’s Weather Balloon, which is key to his plan to take control of the power in the City. Batman does this in an awesome ‘Bat-Blimp’, which is not only a great visual, but a cool precursor to the eventual Bat-Plane, as an early-days Batman shouldn’t have tech like that yet. It even elicits a ‘Goddamn Batman’ from a random Cop. With this origin retelling, Snyder is pulling on all sorts of various bits of the Batman mythos, and whilst I certainly didn’t expect or really want some of Frank Miller’s insane All-Star run to be referenced, it was still awesome. There’s another, this time more deserving Frank Miller reference a few pages later when Batman leaps from the Bat-Blimp onto the Riddler’s Balloon, as Capullo draws a silhouette of Batman in front of a lightning bolt, a la The Dark Knight Returns.
Once Batman lands on the Riddler-Balloon, he is immediately confronted by Dr. Death, and they of course, get into a fight. I must admit that these fight scenes are probably my least favourite thing about this issue, and the whole Zero Year so far. Death is just so over-the-top and loquacious in his rants, that it all felt a bit ridiculous. That said, the turning point in the fight, when Batman says that it’s now ‘the part where he hurts him’ was pretty fucking bad-ass, and the actual contents of those long-ass speeches did provide some useful answers about some of the seemingly out-of-place scenes Snyder has used recently. The WW2 Soldier who was in Japan listening to a woman sing ‘Tokyo Moon’ was Helfern’s grandfather, and one of the modern-day soldiers who we saw get blown up in Africa was Helfern’s son. The mission that Helfern Jnr was on was a supposedly cushy deal that Philip Kane had got for him, looking for one Bruce Wayne. Bruce staying in hiding basically led to the creation of Dr Death, and, at the end of this issue, has Batman thinking that all of this is his fault. Just like how the flashbacks make his parents’ death all his fault. Death eventually dies, but he doesn’t give Batman enough time to jam the Riddler’s signal, and down on the ground, Gordon isn’t having much luck either.
The cop at the site of the power switch turns out to be Corrigan, the corrupt guy that Gordon made an enemy of, and so the power is switched back on. Gordon goes to confront the Riddler himself, but he has a rock nearly dropped on him, and basically, everything goes wrong at once. The Riddler now has the city under his control, and he blows up all of Gotham’s flood defences, meaning that the Hurricane can completely destroy, and flooding the streets.
The issue ends with this happening as Batman and the Riddler-Balloon fall to the ground, as Bats pounds his fists in anger and we finally see what we’ve all been dreading… the murder of The Waynes. The way Snyder and Capullo pace this out is fantastic, you really get a sense of Bruce’s desperation, both in the past and the present. Capullo’s art was of course excellent throughout, I was especially freaked out by the increasingly warped appearance of Dr Death, he really reached back into his Spawn days there.
It looks like the next stage of Zero Year will take us to the brief glimpse we got of a truly fucked-up Gotham way back in Part 1, which should be good, as it’s something we haven’t seen before in a story that, albeit entertaining, is full of old things with just a new lick of paint.
Justice League Of America #13– Man, this issue kind of pissed me off. I don’t even really want to write about it.
Basically, Stargirl fights Despero, gets a glimpse at his origins, and basically works out that the events of the last 5 or whatever issues haven’t really happened. She and Martian Manhunter never actually left their mental prison, and it was all in their heads as Despero attempts to manipulate them, and to have Star-Girl give into her weaknesses and fears like all of the other Justice Leaguers have. This brings J’Onn back, as he was never actually dead, and he tells Stargirl that her fighting back, even though she’s back where she started, wasn’t meaningless, as he was able to get back in touch with Steve Trevor, who’s going to come rescue them, but they need to get Wonder Woman first. This might all be another manipulation by Despero though, who knows, and frankly, who cares?
I know no superhero story actually matters in the grand cosmic scheme of things, but the fact that the last few issues have all only been in service of giving us some Stargirl origin flashbacks just makes them a waste of money. I wanted to read ‘Forever Evil’ tie-ins with substance, like the Justice League ones have been, not stuff that was ‘all a dream’. Now, as Manhunter says, some of this stuff did happen in a way that will stick, but at this point… whatever.
I did like the appearance of Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch fighting each other, and the explanation of how the detonation of the prison is actually tied to their argument, and the art from Barrows was once again solid, but yeesh, this story has been, unless you’re a massive Stargirl fan, a waste of time.
Superman/Wonder Woman #6– This issue was probably the best example so far of how fun and interesting it is to push the seemingly disparate worlds of Superman and Wonder Woman together. In this issue, Zod and Faora are the main threats, but Wonder Woman’s current nemesis Apollo plays a large role too, and Charles Soule does an excellent job at showing why this romance has changed both heroes lives, but in this case, it’s made it more difficult.
Having made their escape, Zod and Faora are building a larger Phantom Zone portal to allow their reinforcements to come through to the physical world. Superman and Wonder Woman fly to Mt Etna to meet Hephaestus, but on the way, they have a rather fascinating conversation, where Superman asks Diana if it was a mistake for them to get together. Zod being free is his fault, and it’s endangered Wonder Woman, and on top of that, he’s finding it hard to concentrate on his own fight because he’s worrying about his girlfriend. Wonder Woman shuts this train of thought down, and says that, if she thought this relationship would compromise her ability to save the world… it would never have started. I’m sure there are some people who will call Superman out as sexist or whatever for not thinking that Wonder Woman can fight her own battles when she’s basically as strong as he is, but I think this is more to show how caring Clark Kent is as a person, that he can’t help but put those people he loves ahead of him, whether they are simple farmers or Amazonian princesses.
From Hephaestus, Supes and Wondy (I’m trying that out, not sure it’ll stick) pick up the armour they asked him to build to fight Doomsday, which they plan to use against Zod and Faora. This armour is kind of dumb-looking, but I did like how Hephaestus stuck an ‘S’ shield on Superman’s, gotta keep up that brand awareness. When the 2 power couples fight again, Zod and Faora surprisingly kick Superman and Wonder Woman’s butts. This is for 2 reasons, the first is that Apollo has secretly been using his control over the sun to make the villainous Kryptonians more powerful than they should be at this point, and the second is that Superman and Wonder Woman let themselves get pummelled. Their magical armour absorbs blows, and sends that energy back in a force-blast. They even hold hands to activate it, how cute.
Watching from Olympus, Apollo is pissed off at this, so he reveals himself by sending a beam of pure sunlight to recharge Zod and Faora, who, now more powerful than ever, quickly knock out the heroes and imprison them in a Nuclear Silo, which, as it’s lead-lined, will stop Superman from seeing what they are up to with the Phantom Zone portal. It turns out that Zod’s plan is to bring War-World through to help him conquer the Earth. We only saw War-World get trapped in the Phantom Zone last week in the Batman/Superman Annual, so I was surprised to see it back so soon, but I do like this development.
The issue ends with a desperation move from Superman and Wonder Woman, as they decide that the only way to escape is for Wonder Woman to use her magic sword to literally split on of the atomic atoms in the Nuclear Plant. Superman locates one, she splits it and… kaboom. The plant explodes and the last page is a pretty dead looking Supes and Wondy. Obviously they aren’t dead, but #7 is going to be interesting.
Tony Daniel’s clean, classic art continues to be a strong fit for this book, the action scenes are clear and exciting, and he contributes a lot to the epic scale of the story. The way this issue combined the threats of Apollo and Zod was very well-done, and it really demonstrated the positives this new status quo can bring. Without Superman going out with Wonder Woman, he wouldn’t have pissed Apollo off, and that wouldn’t have allowed Zod to win. These new combinations of characters is just that, new, something all too rare at DC these days.
Green Lantern Corps #29– The Corps continue to be on the losing side of pretty much all fronts of this massive struggle against the Durlans and their allies in this issue, but there is one positive turning point here, as Von Daggle may hold the key.
On the planet Muz, Daggle is caught between the Corps and his fellow Durlans, quite literally, as both ask for him to join their cause. He initially tells John Stewart he’ll side with them, but it’s a double-cross, as he cold-cocks John and heads off with the other Durlans to find some more radioactive energy to repower himself. But this turns out to be a double-double-cross, because as soon as Daggle gets his energy back up, he takes out the Durlans and agrees to help the Corps. But not without a price, as he demands they help him find his original partner in the Green Lantern Corpse, who has gone under deep cover and is missing. Each step in this massive story takes us somewhere new, I’m very interested to see what this character’s deal is.
Van Jensen also develops a couple of other subplots here, as this series really has become all about the Corps, and not just John. We see Arisia struggling to train the wimpy new recruits, and also her and Kilowog discuss what John is going to do once he finds out that Hal has given Sector 2814 to the Red Lanterns and that he’s barred from the Earth. John not only loves his Mother, but he and Fatality are planning a vacation on Earth, so he won’t exactly be happy. It was awesome when John punched Hal right in the face a few issues back, and this next argument should be even better.
Elsewhere, Iolande, along with fellow Lantern Hwaal and the conscripted villain Loragg are hunting for the missing Soranik Natu at the ‘Shadow Market’. They ask a crime-boss if he knows about a missing Korugarian Lantern’s whereabouts, and he tells them that, while there are Lanterns who have been captured by the Khunds that he knows about, Soranik isn’t one of them. Nobody knows where she is. As we saw last issue, she’s been taken by Arkillo, and part of me thinks this plotline might not actually play out in this book, but rather in the upcoming Sinestro ongoing series, she is his daughter after all. The crime-boss then proceeds to threaten Loragg, who owes him money, which causes Hwaal to attack him, cutting off his hand. This pisses the crime-boss off, as it would, and he mutters under his breath about how this means he’ll now accept the Khund’s offer to join them.
Kilowog pulls Iolande back to Mogo because they need all available Lanterns at hand, and she raises some suspicions about Hwaal, who is normally very meek, but here acted very violently. It turns out she’s right to do so, as the last scene of the issue shows an alien who looks very much like Hwaal in a Durlan prison along with many other Lanterns. It looks like the ‘Hwaal’ in this issue is actually an imposter, but we’ve seen before that Durlans can’t use Power Rings. Have they found a way around that? If so, then Von Daggle probably won’t actually matter, the Corps is done for!
Bernard Chang’s art was great as ever, I’m liking the use of all-red panels to show important action moments, that started last issue and it continues here. You expect Green Lantern books to be colourful, but that colour is normally, well, green, so the overt red stands out a lot. Chang also draws some really great, detailed alien weirdos.
East Of West #10– After the last few issues spent most of their time fleshing out supporting characters, with this 10th instalment of East Of West, Jonathan Hickman moves the focus back onto the central character of Death with predictably violent results. And even though the spotlight is back on Death, there is still room for us to find out more about both his son, and his mysterious travelling companion Wolf.
The action picks up deep underground, where The Oracle has taken one of Death’s eyes in exchange for information about his son’s whereabouts. Only she’s tricked Death, she can’t actually tell him where his son is, only point him to the location of someone else who can, and that location is ‘Heetse’isi’ which means ‘The Grave’. Death is understandably pissed off, and storms out. The Oracle claims that Death will return to her in the future, and when that happens, he’ll give her freedom, but it will cost him a lot more than an eye. So now not only has Hickman got a load of mystery about the present… there’s teases for an epic future too. Death, Wolf and Crow head to The Grave, which is a place where Native Americans who have been cast out of their society go. Wolf has been there before, and in fact, it is his Father’s domain, and it’s him who they need to see. Wolf