Alrigh’? Yep, time to review some comics. This week is flipping mammoth I tell ya, there’s exciting returns for Daredevil and American Vampire, we say goodbye to Animal Man, there’s more of that new Ms. Marvel, 3X-Men books and a pretty momentous issue of Zero. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg that the aforementioned mammoth is trapped in!
As per, click the links for the forum discussions, and let’s go!
Iron Man #23– All-New Marvel Now might have given this book a fancy new logo, but it’s still the same quality on the inside, and thankfully, a lot of my fears about the end of #22 were unfounded. Kieron Gillen hasn’t just dropped everything about the ‘Troy’ concept for the shiny newness of Malekith The Accursed, and all of the events here build on past events brilliantly. I’m not sure how much sense this will all make for the new reader the .NOW issues are supposed to bring in, but then I guess that’s what the digital trade giveaway is for.
Gillen kicks off by doing one of the things he likes best, writing in a cod-fantasy style and filling us in on the back-story of Malekith and the Dark Elves. Gillen, who of course wrote Thor and Journey Into Mystery for quite some time, is well-versed in this style, and I dare say that fans of those books who haven’t tried his Iron Man yet will love this opening. There won’t be as many ‘feels’ to be had about Iron Man as there was about Kid Loki, but still, Gillen gets comic book fantasy, in all of it’s ridiculousness. We see Malekith sitting on his new throne as King of the Elves, and how he was initially approached by one of the Mandarin Rings. The ring wants to use Malekith to take down Tony Stark, but it’s made a mistake here, as Malekith is far more powerful than the little trinket and soon, Malekith is in control, rather than the other way around. Gillen has some fun here with the old ‘magic is just advanced technology’ cliché, and you can see that this whole arc is going to be very much about the relationship between those two concepts. Iron Man is a staunch realist who doesn’t really hold with magic, so how does he deal with a magical villain that he doesn’t understand? Malekith, as we saw at the end of last issue, then begins to hunt down the other ring bearers so he can steal them for himself.
The story then moves over to Iron Man going up against the latest Mandarin, who is a Musical Director who was hired by Stark Industries to make a Broadway Show about Tony, and then fired when he depicted him as a pervert. Iron Man is fighting this ‘Lightning Conductor’ right in the middle of Broadway, but the fight doesn’t last long, as Malekith intrudes, blows the Lightning Conductor’s head off, takes the ring and warps away.
I said before that Tony doesn’t understand magic, and that’s true, so instead he just employs someone who does know about it, in the form of Marvel UK hero Dark Angel. Despite being British, I’m not very familiar with Dark Angel, so a lot of the back-story here went over my head, and man, there are too many red-heads in this book aren’t there? Tony and Dark Angel check up on ‘The Bride Of Darkness’ from way back in #4, which is a plot-point I had forgotten about, and then get on with trying to track down Malekith. Gillen comes up with a solid explanation for why Tony doesn’t just call up Thor to help, and we also get some more of the previously mentioned science-is-magic-is-science stuff, and Dark Angel successfully sends Iron Man (whose suit doesn’t actually have any Iron in it at the moment) to Svartalfheim, but unfortunately, she sends him right into the middle of Malekith’s throne-room, where he is of course surrounded.
This was a strong opening issue to this arc, it set up the immediate conflict between Iron Man and Malekith well, and it also depicted the more thematic conflict in an interesting way too. Luke Ross’ art was strong, he’s an artist with a lot of different styles, and here he’s using one that’s somewhat half-way between his Jonah Hex stuff and his more traditional superhero work, which does fit a fantasy story.
Oh yeah, I forgot about the one tasty chunk of subplot we got here, which showed Abigail Burns (another pesky red-head) struggling with her lack of hands, before being contacted by Arno, who wants her to test out some new technology that he’s made that can help her. She wants to write a story on Arno, but more interestingly, there cracks in the relationship between the Stark Brothers are growing, with Arno saying that his brother is ‘just a man’. How long before Arno is a villain? It’s only a matter of time…
Thor: God Of Thunder #20– ‘The Last Days Of Midgard’ continues to entertain and intrigue across two time-periods, and it’s proving to be very interesting watching Thor and Roz Solomon’s attempts to save the Earth when we know from the future scenes that they fail. I didn’t think the Past/Present/Future Thors idea would last beyond the opening storyline of this book, but Aaron is making it work spectacularly well.
We begin in the far far far-ass future, where Galactus is about to eat the now desolate Earth. Old King Thor sends his granddaughters away to Asgard, and flies up to confront the Eater Of Worlds. Thor tries to reason with Galactus, but the big purple guy is having none of it. Even a dead world like this will sate his hunger, and besides, he’s finally getting revenge on the one planet that stopped him time and again. I think you know what’s coming… FIIIIGHT! We don’t see much of this titanic tussle in this issue, but man, I can’t wait to see how it plays out, and man, Esad Ribic’s art makes it look like the most epic, Heavy Metal thing I have ever seen.
Back in the present, Thor and Roz are trying to figure out how to save the Earth from dying, and Thor’s even gone to the Library Of The Gods for research, to look at how other planets died. In the end, they decide to start with the corporations, and Thor flies up into the atmosphere to destroy an unmanned Roxxon facility that is incredibly toxic. He and Roz do this to several plants and facilities across the globe, and not just to Roxxon, but also to Alchemax and Yashida Corp. Because these attacks just look like lightning storms, they are seen as, quite literally, ‘Acts Of God’, and as such, Roxxon can’t make an insurance claim on them, this leads to their totally evil CEO Dario Agger to declare war on Thor. His first brainstorming session involves setting genetically modified bears on his employees, in what was an awesome scene. I love how there was actual detailed thought behind these modified bears, that they had been created to eat up all of the wild salmon in Canada, meaning that any salmon people wanted to eat had to come from Roxxon’s farms. The weirdness here is not just for the sake of it, this isn’t ‘sharks with frickin’ laser-beams on their heads’.
In the midst of seeing his people get mauled by bears, Agger has another ‘episode’, including a teasing flashback to some him being experimented on, and we get confirmation of what was hinted at last time… his ‘Minotaur’ nickname is no joke, he can transform into an actual Minotaur. Which is pretty cool. In the end, one of the Roxxon underlings does come up with a plan of attack against Thor. We don’t hear exactly what it is, but it involves Broxton, and we see a whole load of Roxxon trucks driving into town. Are they going to build a factory right under Asgardia? Or is it more overt than that? Either way, shots fired, and this battle is just getting started.
As I said, Esad Ribic’s artwork is still a perfect fit for this book, the action scenes look truly epic, and he can also handle the smaller stuff, like Thor and Roz just sitting in a diner having a conversation, and boy, he draws a mean Minotaur.
Ms. Marvel #2– G. Willow Wilson is taking it nice and slow with Ms. Marvel’s origin story, and I really think that it’s the right approach. After only 2 issues Kamala Khan feels more like a real person than most other superheroes, and that’s because more focus has been on her characterisation than just putting her in a costume and making her fight people.
The story starts off with Kamala still freaking about her transformation into Captain Marvel and whatever’s going on with this weird mist. Turning into her hero is the mere tip of the ice-berg of Kamala’s new Inhuman abilities however, as we see her turn back to normal, and then, when over-hearing the voice of her concern troll frenemy Zoe, turns back into the blonde, white Captain Marvel. It’s interesting that Kamala’s powers seem somewhat related to her state of mind. Zoe makes her feel uncomfortable about her real self, so she turns into someone more like Zoe, and after that, she even shrinks down to the size of a cockroach. Zoe, and people not understanding her culture, literally makes her feel small.
But Kamala doesn’t get to spend too much time hanging with her new roach buddy, as Zoe is accidentally dropped into the water by her drunk boyfriend. Kamala rushes in as Captain Marvel and saves her, by growing a massive hand and scooping her out of the water. This draws the attention of some other passers-by, who start to question what Captain Marvel is doing there, why is she in her old costume? What’s with the giant hand? Rather than risk being discovered, Kamala runs off. I loved the narration in the following scene, where Kamala realises that being Captain Marvel isn’t all she thought it was cracked up to be. The costume is uncomfortable for one thing, and the long flowing golden locks get in her face. We’re starting to see Kamala realise that she shouldn’t want to be someone else, and she can just be herself and be a hero at the same time.
Feeling cold in the Captain Marvel costume, she borrows a dirty jumper from a homeless guy, and heads back home, but it turns out that sneaking back in through her window is harder than getting out, as her loud landing on her carpet attracts the attention of her brother. She starts babbling, trying to explain her blonde appearance, but she doesn’t have to, she’s back to normal. This is more good stuff about her powers, now that she’s at home, she is more able to just be herself. But Kamala’s not out of trouble, because her parents know she snuck out to the party, and as such, she is grounded, which will probably put a dampener on her burgeoning superhero career. I liked how this scene gave us a bit more depth about Kamala’s parents, as we see that her mother is a bit stricter than her dad, and also that she regrets even coming to America, because it’s messed up both her kids. This book is doing a fantastic job of showing the diversity within Islam. I do wonder though why none of Kamala’s family members have gone through Terrigenesis as well. Either she’s adopted, or some later issue is going to shockingly reveal that everyone in her family has powers too.
The issue ends with Kamala alone in her room, looking at her poster of Captain Marvel doing her Rosie The Riveter pose (it’s the Ed McGuinness cover to #2 of the first DeConnick run) and doing the same thing, but with a giant fist.
Adrian Alphona’s art was once again excellent, his style really fits the body-morphing powers that Kamala has, and the cartoonish elements to his work are just perfect for teen superheroes. This book needs unique art to go with the rest of what makes it different. I don’t think the more deliberate pace of Wilson’s story would work without Alphona, and I don’t think Kamala would be as likeable a character without him either, his facial expressions are just so spot-on.
Nova #15– The cover to this issue says that Nova is ‘Unchained’, but I don’t think he even gets chained once inside these pages, let alone breaks out of them. It was a good cover though, and the story, even with the lack of chains, continues to be a lot of fun.
Gerry Duggan starts off in Knowhere, with Sam rushing to the infirmary to try and save the life of Cosmo. Cosmo is obviously OK, because come on, they aren’t going to kill off Cosmo, and he tells Sam what Skaarn’s actual plan is. He wants to use Knowhere’s massive teleporter to rob a vault that, due to it’s orbit, is only accessible once every few years. Skaarn heads off in his ship to attack from that front, and, with the War Bringer destroyed last issue, leaves behind his new hired mercenaries, 3 rogue Space Knights called the ‘Disavowed Of Galadoria’ to use the teleporter and get right into the vault. Sam confronts the Disavowed, and they get into a pretty fun fight, with one particularly interesting moment where Sam and one of them start laughing at the disgusting goop they got punched into. It’s that kind of good-natured stuff that sets Sam Alexander apart as a teen hero, even in a life and death battle, he still finds time to laugh. Nova melds two of the Space Knights’ legs together, captures all 3, and then teleports them away to the last co-ordinates entered, so right into the path of Beta Ray Bill, where they are, presumably, hammered to shit.
With 8 hours to kill before Skaarn’s attack on the vault, Sam has Cosmo teleport him back to Carefree so he can go to school and avoid getting suspended. I think the plan here looks to be that when in space, Sam will be based in Knowhere, which will allow for easy back and forth between there and Earth. This will mean Sam can be Nova, without worrying that it’s all just going to make his civilian life worse. Of course, being back home isn’t all that easy, as Cosmo accidentally teleported Sam into the girl’s changing room, and he now owes Carrie 70 bucks for babysitting his sister.
After school, Nova heads back out to space, where he and Beta-Ray Bill are reunited and get ready to teleport in and interrupt Skaarn’s plan. But there’s complications, this vault isn’t full of money, it’s full of weapons, and when they get there… it’s too late. Skaarn has pulled off the robbery all by himself, and he’s now got a massive weapon that is full of the Power Cosmic. Next issue looks like being a battle for the ages, and it’s probably the biggest test the new Nova has had yet.
David Baldeon’s art was once again solid, this book has done a good job of using different artists but retaining the same tone and energy. Baldeon is on the same curve as McGuinness and Medina for sure. Gerry Duggan continues to make Nova a fun read each month, and he’s always finding new ways to balance out the two sides of Sam Alexander’s life.
Daredevil #1– It’s a new #1 for the man without fear, but luckily, not much has changed. Well, Matt Murdock is now public with his secret identity and has moved to San Francisco and the logo now has little horns on the second ‘D’ and the price of the book has gone up, but it’s still the same high level of quality we’ve come to expect from the team of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee. If you loved Daredevil before, you’ll still love it, perhaps even more-so, because it really is a great blend of new and old.
This issue mainly serves as an introduction to the changes in Daredevil’s life, and how his methods have changed on the West Coast. The central plot involves the rescue of the daughter of San Francisco’s Deputy Mayor, but it’s not the what that’s really important here, it’s the how. The issue opens with Matt Murdock working with the Police, using his powers to examine the ransom evidence to work out the whereabouts of the missing child. Back in New York, Daredevil had a much more adversarial relationship with the Cops, and he wouldn’t have been given easy access to this material. But in San Fran, now that everyone knows what he can do, he’s been welcomed. Matt works out where the kid is, and heads off into the city.
We get a brief recap of his origin story, and then a bit where he talks about how well he knew New York and could navigate it just by smell and sound alone. This is in stark contrast with San Francisco, which, although he lived there before, he doesn’t know as well, and even then, it’s changed since then. Matt overshoots a palm tree with his Billy Club, which puts him, and the Deputy Mayor’s daughter, in trouble as they are chased across the city by two mysterious masked kidnappers on Goblinesque Gliders. To make up for his unfamiliarity with the City, Matt has Kirsten McDuffie in his ear telling him wear to go, but even that has it’s issues, as it blocks his hearing in one ear, meaning he can’t hear one of the gliders and crashes into it.
The big question here is, if Matt has already rescued the girl, why are the villains still giving chase? It turns out that they’ve planted a bomb inside her, and want Daredevil to carry her back to the Town Hall or wherever… and blow her up. They need to stay close in order for the detonator to work. Matt needs to find a solution for this, but another difference between NYC and SF rears it’s head, as he needs to find a tall hospital with an elevator. In New York, there are loads of these, but California is not nearly as tall, so he and Kirsten are in a rush against time to find one, and use the elevator as a make-shift Faraday Cage to block the bomb’s signal. In the end of course, they do, and Daredevil is able to punch out the villains and save the day.
The issue ends with a short scene 3 days later with the Deputy Mayor visiting Matt and Kirsten’s new offices. We learn that the daughter is fine, and that the kidnapper isn’t talking, but the big deal here is when she asks about Matt’s former partner, Foggy Nelson. There are loads of photos on the walls of Foggy, and even an Urn. Matt refers to Foggy in the past tense, so yeah, looks like Foggy died in between #36 and #1. Or did he? The last panel shows a bald man watching this through CCTV. This is presumably Foggy, so he’s still alive, but for some reason, this is being kept a secret. I have no idea why this is, but I’m fascinated to find out.
This was a great return for Daredevil, it really hasn’t missed a beat. Waid has a lot of fun with the differences between San Francisco and New York, and it really does feel like a new start for the character. Hell, the fact that the main action scene is set in the daytime rather than at night shows that perfectly. Samnee’s art was of course wonderfully in sync with Waid, and the extended chase through the city was this book at it’s best. I also loved the origin recap and ode to New York pages, such great, interesting layouts. This creative team is always thinking of something new.
If for some insane reason you didn’t read Waid’s run on Daredevil from the start, this is a great jumping on point, but really, who doesn’t read Daredevil? You know this was damn good stuff, rest assured, it still is.
New Avengers #15– Whenever an issue of New Avengers focuses on Black Swan, I just know I’m going to be confused. Something about the character and her back-story just brings out the worst in Hickman (or at least, the worst as I see it) and it just goes right over my head.
The issue begins with 5 pages of weird science babble between the Illuminati (well, most of them, Namor and Doctor Strange are absent, but Maximus The Mad is there to make up for it) about the nature of the Mirror/Bridge, which I think basically boils down to it not just allowing them to look at alternate dimensions, but also to look into the past. I think. I don’t know. The past they choose to look at is Black Swan’s, and we get a look at 3 important moments for her.
The first is when she is set free from the clutches of The Black Priests. She uses some kind of weird green vial to blast at the Priests, and then escape through the door into ‘The Library’. The Mirror/Bridge cannot look into the magic doors. The next snap-shot of Black Swan’s past is a single panel of her performing some kind of ritual sacrifice, but the 3rd and final one is the most interesting. Here, we see her on another Earth, where she has helped their version of Reed Richards and Tony Stark save their planet from destruction using Manifold, but it has come at a great cost. The planet seems to be basically a desolate wasteland. She turns on Reed and Tony, warping Reed into the sun (in this reality, he was the Human Torch) and snapping Tony’s neck. So basically, we have confirmation that the Swan is not to be trusted, which… duh.
The final 2 scenes were also very confusing, as we saw the aftermath of a fight between The Illuminati and Black Swan, or some kind of violence, she was still in her cell, but Maximus was injured and there was blood everywhere. They basically tell Black Swan that she’s never getting out of her cell, but she doesn’t mind, sooner or later, Rabum Alal will come and it won’t matter. The issue ends with a conversation between Black Swan and her fellow prisoner, Terrax, where he basically confirms that change is coming, there will be a reckoning etc. Most interestingly, it looks like Thanos and Proxima Midnight’s imprisonment in the cube might not be as permanent as we thought.
Overall, this was a strange issue, Black Swan still doesn’t really make sense as a character, and it would have really helped if the recap page had actually recapped her origin. This was the kind of story I don’t like from Hickman, loads and loads of promise for the future, but not much actually happening in the present. And to top it all off, this was probably the worst art I’ve seen from Simone Bianchi, it looked really rushed.
This title has a habit of releasing issues that really don’t work for me every 5 months or so, luckily, it usually bounces back with something immense. Let’s hope #16 is immense.
Avengers World #4– This book continues to focus on one specific Avenger per issue, and so far, it’s working out really well. After last issue’s insanely brilliant 20-page kung-fu fight with Shang-Chi, this time out it’s the turn of Starbrand as he gets some much needed character spotlight.
Starbrand is, as we last saw in #1, trapped in a creepy underground Italian town alongside Hawkeye, Spider-Woman and Nightmask. They wander around the deserted streets, before coming to the river, but what’s flowing through it isn’t exactly water, and they attacked by weird, inky monsters speaking in Norse runes. In the middle of the fight, Starbrand starts to hear more voices calling his name, and he leaves his teammates to follow them. This leads him to Kelly, a girl from his high-school, but wait, didn’t the White Event destroy his high-school? Yes it did, but somehow, she’s there. Starbrand follows her through a door, which leads to his High School. Kevin wanders these halls, seeing all of the people that were inadvertently killed, but just like before, they all ignore him, including his warnings that they are all about to die. The only person who hears him is Kelly, who then proceeds to berate him about how he killed everyone he knew, as the illusion changes to the charred bones that surrounded poor Kevin after he got his powers. Starbrand freaks out, and is attacked by his dead school-friends and dragged off to see whoever’s in charge.
Elsewhere, Captain America and Bruce Banner are still on the Heli-Carrier, attempting to sort out 5 different crises at once. Banner laments the fact that, even though there are now more Avengers than ever, they don’t have a magic specialist on hand to help work out what happened with Starbrand’s group. Luckily, Maria Hill has brought in a magical consultant, and it’s a character that both Jonathan Hickman and Stefano Caselli are very familiar with… yep, Sebastian Druid is back! I’m a big Secret Warriors fan, and think it’s a shame that a lot of those characters have dropped off the radar, so it’s great that Hickman has brought Sebastian back, if only for a cameo. As soon as Sebastian hears that the team disappeared in Velletri, Italy, he knows what’s up. Velletri is the sight of one of the Cities Of The Dead, and if it’s acting up, someone very powerful has taken control of the restless ghosts who live there. The same ghosts that are messing with Starbrand.
That powerful someone turns out to be none other than Morgan Le Fay, who reveals herself at the end of the issue to Starbrand. Morgan Le Fay was the villain of the first Avengers story I ever read (the first Busiek/Perez arc) so I’ve got a soft spot for here, it’s exciting to see what her plan is. This was another strong issue of this title, I do feel a bit like it’s too spread out, but the character focus is very good, particularly as that’s not a big strength of Hickman in general, and Starbrand really needed it. Plus, when he and Spencer do finally bring this thread together with AIM and Hydra, it should be amazing.
Caselli’s art was excellent as ever, as I mentioned, it was great to see him draw one of the Secret Warriors again, and whilst this wasn’t the action tour-de-force that #3 was, it was still a lovely looking comic.
All-New Invaders #3– James Robinson and Steve Pugh continue to move this book forward in some very interesting ways, and it’s clear now that Robinson isn’t just confining himself to the 4 main Invaders, as the original Golden Age Vision, Aarkus, who appeared in flashback last issue, makes his presence known in the present. I said this about his appearance last issue, but Marvel have so many weird forgotten GA heroes, it’s going to be exciting to see Robinson do the same for them as he did for DC’s oddities in Starman.
The opening scene here is a flashback showing how The Sub-Mariner was captured by Tanalth and the rest of the Kree. Robinson writes Namor well, he’s full of the expected arrogant bluster and we get an all-important ‘Imperius Rex!’ on only the 2nd page. Namor is outsmarted by Tanalth however, as she blasts him with a laser that drains all the water out of his body, leaving him powerless. We then see him imprisoned by the Supreme Intelligence, and his memories invaded, which is what set this whole thing in motion.
Back with the rest of the team, they’ve split up. Bucky has gone to look for Aarkus, whilst Cap and the Torch have gone to Avengers Mansion to contact Thor and warn him about the God’s Whisper. It turns out that all of the Asgardians are now immune to it’s control, which makes sense. There’s also mention of Aarkus having last been seen going up against Professor X’s son, Legion, which I’m guessing happened in X-Men: Legacy? It doesn’t much matter, but Robinson is doing a great job of using continuity here, something I’m not normally too fussed about, but with a book like this, with so many links to the past, it is important. Bucky eventually finds Aarkus in the form of a homeless man’s dog, and convinces him to help them go to Hala. Robinson drops a lot of hints here that he’s going to reveal some new stuff about Aarkus’ origins, which is interesting. I also liked the conversation between Captain America and the Torch that happened at the same time as Bucky’s journey through the smokey teleport corridors. Torch was sceptical that Aarkus would agree to help, but Cap had faith that he would. Of course, Cap was right, and, after Torch blows up the Quinjet (thankfully it’s an old model) to make enough smoke, the Invaders all teleport to Hala.
They are immediately attacked by Tanalth and her soldiers, which is to be expected really. Whenever a superhero or team teleports anywhere, it’s always right into the middle of fight, it happened in 3 different Marvel books this week. The Invaders tell Tanalth that the joke’s on her, the God’s Whisper doesn’t work on Asgardians anymore, but you see, it does still work on other Pantheons, and that includes the Kree’s new weapon… Ikaris of The Eternals! That was a great ending, I really didn’t see it coming at all, and can’t wait to see such a powerful character go up against this make-shift team.
Steve Pugh’s art was once again very strong, it’s just classic old-school superhero work that fits with these classic characters (well, 4 classics and Aarkus). I’m really digging both of James Robinson’s new Marvel books, he seems to have rediscovered his mojo. Although I still haven’t read Earth-2, apparently the mojo came back there.
Superior Foes Of Spider-Man #10– I was surprised that another issue of Superior Foes came out this week, as #9 only came out last week, but it turns out it’s a fill-in issue without Spencer and Lieber, so it actually does make sense. Even without the regular creative team, this was still a very fun comic, as James Asmus teams up with a bunch of artists to tell some shorter stories about Overdrive, Beetle and Speed Demon. The focus on these characters is really welcome as, for better or for worse (mostly better), Superior Foes has always been the Boomerang show, with Shocker starting to get a bit more focus in the last few issues. Apart from Beetle’s origin issue, the other 3 members of the Sinister Six have mainly been background players, good for a laugh and a lot of fun, but we didn’t know much about them. Thanks to Asmus, now we do. This issue isn’t quite as good as the previous 9, but it keeps the same humorous tone and style, and is well worth it.
The framing story here is that the 3 lovable losers have robbed a bar in Brooklyn, but the safe is on a timer, so rather than try and bust it open, they decide to sit and wait. To pass the time, they tell stories about their biggest successes as supervillains, the biggest superhero they every actually defeated.
Overdrive is up first, and his big win was actually Hercules, but it wasn’t much of a win. This was his first crime, and he did it without a mask, Hercules got in the way, and Overdrive ran away. He stole a motorcycle helmet, and with it on, Hercules didn’t recognise him, and he was able to escape. Not only was this a funny story, but it was a cool bit of back-story for the least well-know Superior Foe. It also set up what could be a funny recurring gag, as Overdrive is still, to this day, afraid that Hercules will come and beat him up.
Beetle’s big victory was also a rather unconventional one. It was against Daredevil, but it wasn’t in battle, it was in court. She was representing a sociopathic criminal in court, with Matt Murdock trying to convict the guy. Beetle tried to ‘out’ Daredevil’s secret, but when she was unsuccessful, she just used her criminal contacts to get The Looter to attack the Courthouse. Matt sensed this, and, as Daredevil, went out to stop Looter. He did, but in the meantime, Beetle won the case.
Speed Demon’s story is basically a bunch of jokes about him bragging about beating heroes that he never actually did, but it does end with a truly great Superior Foes moment, as Speed Demon describes how he beat Overdrive’s arch-enemy Hercules by giving him an STD. Well, not him personally, he gave a supervillain groupie he knew to have the clap Herc’s location and let that take it’s course. That is just so small-time it’s perfect, and of course, given that Hercules is a God, he probably can’t get STDs anyway. These characters are such Z-listers that even when they win… they actually lose.
The issue ends when who else but Hercules walks into the bar looking for a drink, and giving the Sinister 3 the gift of battle. I’m a massive Hercules fan, so it was a lot of fun to have him play such an unexpected role here.
There were 4 or so artists in this issue, so it was a mixed bag, I liked Nuno Piati and Pepe Larraz’s segments the best, but overall, it was solid. This issue did look a lot more conventional than what Steve Lieber gives us, but it was by no means bad, and was in fact preferable to a sub-Lieber copycat. James Asmus did a good job here at stepping into considerable shoes. It’s not ideal to have fill-ins, but when they are good, it doesn’t matter, this issue stacks up well with Spencer.
Uncanny X-Men #19– After last issue’s tight character focus on Cyclops, Brian Michael Bendis gets into plot-mode with this issue, as the long-simmering X-Men Vs SHIELD storyline bubbles over, at the same time as several other subplots reach interesting turning points. Whilst I loved last issue, it was great to get the big picture finally moving.
The issue opens up with 2 short scenes that, as I said, give 2 of this book’s subplots new impetus. The first sees the recently fired Hijack approached by Maria Hill and SHIELD, who demand that he tell them where Cyclops’ base is, but unfortunately, he has no idea. What I found most interesting here is the levels of paranoia that Hill has reached, how she thinks that Cyclops fired Hijack on purpose so she could find him as another level of manipulation. Everyone is playing everyone here, and at this point, it’s hard to guess why Scott Summers does anything. Hell, Maria Hill might not actually think this, it could just be a ploy to get Hijack to talk. This book is messing with my mind!
The other scene continues Mystique’s evil plans, as we finally discover what’s up with the original Dazzler. She’s not dead (hooray!) but she’s drugged up to her eyeballs, is blindfolded and, most crucially of all because of her powers, has her ears bunged up so she can’t hear any sound. Mystique explains to Sabretooth that she’s keeping her alive so she can use her to make the Mutant Growth Hormone that’s funding the takeover of Madripoor, and we actually see her get injected. This is all kinds of fucked up, I love it. Ever since Bendis’ run began, Mystique has been this crazy wildcard in the middle of Cyclops and Wolverine and SHIELD, and it’s great to see everyone keep overlooking her as her plans actually work out. When she finally does reveal herself… it’s going to be epic.
The main meat of the story involves Cyclops and his X-Men doing what they do best, going to meet a new Mutant and try and recruit them. There’s an interesting bit of tension between Cyclops and Tempus beforehand, it could be because of her crush on him, but more likely it’s due to whatever happened to Tempus when she time-travelled in #17. Just like with Mystique, when those details come out, it’s going to be great. The X-Men head to site of the new Cerebro spike, which is Chicago, but when they arrive, there’s no Mutant there, just a Sentinel who spits smaller Sentinels out of it’s mouth. We’ve seen this group of X-Men go up against Sentinels loads of times already, but this time, the evil robots have something new up their sleeves… they can stop mutant powers. Goldballs can’t use his balls, Magik can’t teleport them away, Cyclops can’t use his blasts.
Luckily, they can’t block everything, as Tempus is able to make a time-bubble, and Magik uses her sorcerer powers to create a massive flame dragon. Magik working with Doctor Strange has really paid off, and I liked how this issue used the same technique to depict the magic spells that Bendis used before when writing Strange in the Avengers. With the Sentinels destroyed, everyone has their powers back, but really, the X-Men lost here, as the good citizens of Chicago turn on them. The Sentinels are just as much a PR weapon as a physical one. Cyclops ends the issue by declaring war on whoever it is that’s been attacking them with the Sentinels, whether it’s SHIELD or not, he doesn’t care, he’s going after them. We of course know that the person behind these attacks is mysterious bubble-head man, and we see him again here, watching Cyclops, and tinkering with another Sentinel. I have no idea who this dude is, but I can’t wait to find out.
Chris Bachalo’s art was once again excellent, I love his unique layouts in action scenes, the page where Cyclops just went to town with his optic blasts were fantastic. And also, Goldballs has a costume! It’s great! This issue kick-started the conflict we’ve all been waiting for, Cyclops has declared war and shit just got real.
Wolverine & The X-Men #2– I didn’t review #1 of this book because I didn’t pick it up until last week, but I enjoyed it. It’s a different experience reading a less comedic and more traditional superhero comic about these characters, but I think it works. It’s far better for Jason Latour to try something different than just do a weak-ass imitation of what the other Jason did. This issue was more of the same really, as the true nature of the Phoenix Corporation is explained in greater detail and Latour begins the long march towards what was teased at the start of #1… Quentin Vs Evan, Phoenix Vs Apocalypse.
The issue begins with a monologue from Edan Younge, the CEO of the Phoenix Corporation about the history of the Phoenix Force, how it represents the Fire that helped civilisation be formed, but then how it was corrupted, first by the Dark Phoenix, and then by the Phoenix Five. The Corporation seem to want to bring it back, and help humanity rise again.
We then see the various reactions to the ‘Rise’ message that has been sent to every phone across the world, Quentin sees it… and runs away. Wolverine sees it, and is pissed off, ready to go stab the Phoenix Corporation in it’s face, but Storm stops him, tells him to calm down. I loved this scene between Wolverine and Storm, how she forces him to confront whether he’s doing this for Jean Grey, or for himself. Are Storm and Wolverine still a couple? I can’t remember, but I don’t think it matters too much for this scene. Anyway, the X-Men will have to go to the Phoenix Corporation anyway, as Idie shows up to tell them that Quentin has gone.
After this there’s an excellent one-page scene with Evan talking to his ‘Uncle Cluster’, AKA Fantomex, where we begin to see some seeds of enmity between him and Quentin. Evan doesn’t understand why Quentin keeps on pushing people away, when basically, he has a great life. Everyone at school loves him, Wolverine spends more time with him than anyone else, he’s got a hot girlfriend, and his future has him becoming a very powerful X-Man, whereas Evan… he has none of that. It’s going to be so tragic to see Evan succumb to his apocalyptic destiny, I’m feeling emotional already.
Wolverine and Storm consult with Anole about then Phoenix Corp, and basically, they came out of nowhere and rebuilt San Lorenzo (which was destroyed in Avengers Vs X-Men apparently) overnight. Quentin heads to their building, where he is met first by sexy nuns (his words, not mine) and then by a massive bearded guy who looks a bit like Cable. He probably is an alternate reality Cable, I dunno. He takes Quentin out, and also gives him a glimpse at his future, and the whole Phoenix Vs Apocalypse thing. Storm and Wolverine show up to try and save Quentin, but beardy kicks their butts too, blasting them with psychic attacks. First he gives Storm a vision of a claustrophobic situation (I had forgot about that particular character trait to be honest) and then showing Wolverine some of the future too, that Evan will be Apocalypse, and that they plan on killing the poor kid.
Intercut with this is another interesting scene back at the school, where Armor tries to take charge and tell the students to relax and not to worry, but Idie isn’t having any of it. The name of the school has Jean Grey in it, the Phoenix villains are bound to attack, and she even makes it personal. She’s barely older than the students and she’s just another one of Wolverine’s slightly creepy female sidekicks. The poor man’s Jubilee! Evan plays peacemaker, but it’s probably the last time he’ll be doing that!
Mahmud Asrar’s artwork is very good, it fits the more traditional style this title has now, but it has the right amount of cartoonishness in it to sell the little bits of comedy (mostly involving the Bamfs) and the youthfulness of the characters. This book has a lot to live up to in following up Jason Aaron, but so far it’s managing it by being different, but just as good in it’s own way. The mysteries of the future are starting to unfold, I’m excited to see how Latour and Asrar take us there.
X-Men #12– Wait, that’s it? That’s how Arkea is defeated? And it was that quick and easy? I’m actually kind of annoyed, Wood could have kept this plotline going a lot longer and it would have been a lot better. But I suppose it’s best to wait and see. I had initially thought that Arkea was dead and gone after #3, but she was back, I wouldn’t be surprised if she does so again.
Once again, this issue is split into 2 stories, the first sees the X-Men take down Arkea and her Sisterhood, the second is the X-students fighting a load of Sentinels. In the first story, we finally get to see Madelyn Pryor back to life, and looking good, and we also see that Lady Deathstrike’s mind is now in Reiko’s body along with Arkea. Up above, the X-Men drop in, and the fight is on. Monet (has she dropped the ‘M’ codename?) goes straight for Enchantress, looking for revenge after she was ‘killed’ by her a few issues ago. Psylocke goes for Typhoid Mary, but her motive is less serious, she’s annoyed that Mary made her run around in her underwear.
This is all too easy for the X-Men really, especially when Storm basically allows Madelyne and Selene to go free and leave Arkea. They do, and after that, Monet stops Arkea in her tracks, allowing Karima to shoot her with some kind of magic bullet that will kill the Arkea consciousness but hopefully not harm the human Reiko. As I said, it’s all too quick for me, that such a powerful threat like Arkea was beaten that easily. There are plenty of loose ends though, as I’m sure letting Maddie and Selene go free will come back to bite everyone on the ass, Maddie even says she’ll form her own Sisterhood. Yeah, that was kind of stupid from Storm. After this, Karima reveals that she’s leaving the X-Men to go work with Sabra and that Gabriel bloke, which… it’s hard to really care about. The best thing about this story was once again Kris Anka’s artwork, I just love his style, he’s perfect for a title with all women, and in this issue, he got to some truly excellent action scenes.
The second story also wraps up with more ease than I expected. Jubilee isn’t trapped in mist form for very long, she distracts one Sentinel, and Quentin Quire is able to control one of them long enough to make it destroy the others and then itself. We get a nice bit between Bling and Mercury and their budding romance, and everyone makes fun of Hellion’s speedos. That’s it really. Clay Mann’s art was great, but splitting the storylines like this still doesn’t make much sense.
After a promising first few issues, this title is losing it’s way a little bit I feel, and seems to be coasting along on goodwill for it’s all-female cast. Brian Wood is normally a much better writer than this, he needs to sort it out, bring some of his Vertigo side to things, because at the moment, this is the most generic X-book of them all, when it has the potential to be the most exciting and different.
Superman Unchained #6– Another very good issue of Superman Unchained, it’s a shame this title comes out so damn infrequently, because it hurts the momentum of the story, and in fact, I had forgotten what had happened at the end of #5, so the first few pages took a little time to get adjusted to, but once the action got going, I was back in the zone with Snyder and Lee.
The issue starts with Superman telling an anecdote about how much he hates a TV ad for a mattress store that features a parody of him sleeping on a cloud. It’s not really outright explained why he hates it, but I assume it’s because Supes can never really sleep comfortably, and this is shown by his narration segueing into him talking about how he’s constantly monitoring the number of nuclear missiles on the planet at any given moment. Right now there are 919 nukes on Earth… and Ascension have just launched all of them. After briefly coordinating with Batman and Wonder Woman, Superman flies off with Wraith to take down Ascension and stop the missiles, but even then, the tension between them remains, as Wraith is only concerned about the nukes that might hit America.
At Ascension’s base, Lois Lane is trying to fight back, and she shows her characteristic feistiness, but there are too many of them, and they prepare to kill her. Of course, this is Superman’s cue to arrive right on time, take out the Ascension dudes, and save Lois. Lois grabs a shard of Earthstone, but before they can do anything with it, the head Ascension guy activates the self-destruct button, blowing everything up. Superman is able to protect Lois with his cloak, but there’s still those damn missiles to stop. Because the Earthstone is what allowed Ascension to hack into the missiles, it makes sense that it would be able to stop them, and that’s what Superman does, just in time, he saves the whole planet from complete destruction. Which is, you know, pretty cool.
Man, this issue is pretty non-stop, as right after Superman has stopped the nukes, Wraith shows back up, demanding he hand over the Earthstone to the US Government. Supes of course refuses, and the fight we’ve all been waiting for is on. However, Superman is prepared, as he and Batman have worked together to create a synthetic material in a ring that acts as Wraith’s own Kryptonite. I loved the little cutaway panel of Batman whistling innocently here, Scott Snyder’s work is often very serious, especially when it comes to Batman, so this was a nice surprise. Superman beats Wraith down, and has the guy vowing to kill him, but rather than fight back, he is told to retreat by General Lane. So for once, his following orders has been a good thing for Superman!
The main story ends with Superman taking Lois back to the Fortress Of Solitude in order to keep her safe from any surviving Ascension-types. She sees his alien zoo, and they study the Earthstone together, and they need to, as it starts acting strangely, re-writing itself or something. This happens at the same time as General Lane and the rest of The Machine arrive in the Arctic and declare war on Superman. This is a great ending, and I can’t wait to see how Superman will deal with his own country going against him like this again. This whole arc has dealt really well with the nature of Superman’s loyalties, and whether or not he should be more pro-America than he is. As a Brit, I don’t particularly have a dog in the fight, but I do much prefer the global approach. Not present with the Machine is Wraith, who, as we see in this issue’s 2 page Dustin Nguyen back-up, has headed to the Batcave and plans to kill Batman for his part in making the ‘Wraithtonite’. Does this mean General Lane knows Bats is Bruce Wayne? Oh man.
Jim Lee did what he does best in this issue, and that was draw exciting, classic superhero action. This run has really been much more suited to his strengths than his last Superman run with Azzarello. I’m not a huge fan of Lee’s, but Snyder has crafted a story that allows him to shine.
It’s a shame that this book is ending in only 3 issues, but when it’s all over, we’ll have a great, complete story that actually has something to say about who Superman is, and a great centrepiece for the 75th anniversary.
Wonder Woman #29– Azzarello and Chiang’s Wonder Woman has been awesome since #1, but I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that this issue is probably the best yet. All of the various subplots and characters come together atop a ruined Olympus, and the stage is set for an epic last few issues of this run. Don’t get me wrong, I’m annoyed that this team is leaving to be replaced by David Finch, but still, we have a lot more greatness to come.
The issue begins with Hera, in a very funny scene where she tries to decide what to order at the restaurant, before she’s blasted by a strange green orb. After that, it’s time for everyone to make their way to Olympus. Artemis and Hermes see the explosion, and then Artemis senses that her brother is gone. They teleport there, only to have Cassandra’s ship land right on top of them. Wonder Woman managed to keep it going long enough to ensure a safe landing at least.
Once everyone is together (Zola and Zeke wisely stay hidden), Artemis goes after Cassandra, thinking she is the one who killed Apollo, but of course it wasn’t her, it was The First Born. He reveals himself as hideously charred corpse, but he’s claimed the throne of Olympus, and is more powerful than ever. He can send out weird red tendrils that can drain the life-force from people, even Gods. He gets Artemis to death’s door, and with what she thinks is her last breath, she tells Wonder Woman to fulfil their bargain by no longer denying her mantle. First Born rants and raves like a true villain should, but just as he has everyone at his mercy, Hera arrives, and oh yes, she has her power back. That green orb was Apollo’s last act, he restored her to Godhood. I’ve enjoyed seeing Hera struggle with mortality, so I’m sad to see that end, but it had to come to this, and those struggles have changed her, she’s not a villain anymore. She realises that they need an army to defeat her son, so she teleports everyone away to safety, including Zola.
Safety is Paradise Island, and Hera isn’t done with her good deeds, as she revives all of the Amazons to be the Army. Wonder Woman delivers a rousing speech to her fellow Amazons, asking them to fight for her, not because she’s the Princess… but because she is the God Of War. Oh yes, there’s that mantle reclaiming we wanted! I had initially thought that Azzarello had bungled Wonder Woman becoming the new War, but I shouldn’t have done so, he waited until just the right moment, and man, those last few pages were just spine-tinglingly good. I can’t wait for the next issue, and to see how this team will wrap everything up. The Amazons are back, so that’s one big change restored, but what else will happen?
Chiang’s art was of course amazing, it’s getting a bit dull just heaping praise on him, but he’s just that good. All of the momentous events in this issue would mean nothing without a good artist, and he’s better than good. This was the best issue of DC’s best book, I can’t wait to go back and re-read it all when it’s done, it will be a complete story, and I won’t even have to think about Finch at all.
Animal Man #29– The final issue of Animal Man here, and it’s bittersweet. It’s sad to say goodbye to this book, but of course, it’s not really goodbye, as Jeff Lemire will continue to write Buddy Baker in the pages of Justice League United, but still, that will be a different experience. This was a great epilogue to this run, and provided a nice bit of emotional closure for everyone about the death of Cliff Baker.
Lemire begins inside The Red, with Animal Man striking a deal with Socks and Sheperd. They become the new Totems (and totally digivolve when they do) in exchange for Buddy becoming the Avatar again, and for them to promise that Maxine will be left alone to be normal, and that when he dies, they’ll find someone totally new to be the next Avatar, which is a pretty fair deal all around I’d say.
Back in the real world, Buddy strikes a deal with Ellen too, he can still be Animal Man, but he can’t bring it home, the family has to be kept safe. Of course, all of this has the spectre of Bridgewalker hanging over it, and the promise Buddy made to her about becoming the universal Animal Man. There’s a shot of the creature in the background of one of the panels, and I’m certainly intrigued to see what happens when Lemire gets around to this story in the pages of JLU.
Buddy then goes in to check on Maxine, and she tells him a story. This story is basically a recap of the previous 28 issues, but from a kid’s perspective. It was great to celebrate and remember all of the cool stuff that happened in this run, but the most important thing here is the emotional place Maxine has reached when it comes to Cliff. She doesn’t want to bring him back anymore, as she now realises that, when she and her parents eventually die, they will be reunited, and that, thanks to the Red, she knows that Cliff’s spirit or soul or whatever is safe and happy in the Red. It was actually quite emotional.
The issue ends with Buddy saying goodnight to Maxine and Ellen, before spotting a spider on the carpet. He picks it up, takes it outside and tells it ‘Goodnight Cliffy’. If Cliff is in the Red, he can always talk to him. I doubt Animal Man will ever get over the death of his son, but this is a good place to wrap things up and leave everyone in a good place, especially as it would really cheapen it if he were ever to come back from the dead. Lemire took a real risk when he killed off a child, but it’s paid off.
The art in this issue was a real highlight, as original series artist Travel Foreman returned to tell the main story, and Jeff Lemire himself drew Maxine’s story. Having the artist of #1 and the regular writer draw this finale made it feel special, and managed to heighten the emotions of everything really. This was a great ending to one of the true highlights of the New 52. I’m excited to follow Lemire and Buddy over to the Justice League, but it won’t be the same for sure.
Green Lantern: New Guardians #29– Another intriguing issue of New Guardians, and one that goes some way to allaying my fears that this story was just ripping off Jason Aaron’s Thor, as these God-Killers have a much more personal relationship with X’Hal.
Justin Jordan begins with Kaland’r telling us her and her religion’s origins. X’Hal was the goddess of Tamarand. She left, and whilst many people stayed, other’s followed her out into the Galaxy. Kaland’r lived on one of the planets that these Tamarandians colonised, but it was in a bad way, war-torn and fucked, until X’Hal returned to save everyone and restore Kaland’r’s faith. In the present day, Kyle and Carol try and stop X’Hal, but she’s too powerful for them, and in any case, should they really be trying to stop her? She certainly seems reasonable, and is actually quite pleased that Kyle refers to kneel before her.
I found the discussion between X’Hal, Kyle, Carol and the Guardians about the nature of Godhood very interesting indeed. The Guardians may deny that they are Gods, but they actually kind of are, given that they are immortal beings that have shaped the Universe. Kyle agrees to let X’Hal work her magic on this world if Kaland’r can prove it’s all for the best, so they fly off together to see the changes happening to the planet, and it all seems good, but of course, trouble is coming, as the God-Killers attack.
The lead God-Killer explains the reason why he’s after X’Hal, and it’s a pretty good one. He reveals some interesting truths about X’Hal, how she was mortal before being experimented on by ‘Makers’ who made her into a God, and that, after leaving Tamarand, she eventually returned and destroyed it completely. Her new attempts to save planets are just an attempt to make up for destroying her homeworld basically. This God-Killers are Tamarandians out for revenge, and they get it, as the issue ends with them stabbing X’Hal.
With all of the other Green Lantern books embroiled in another crossover, it’s good to have this book off doing it’s own thing, and Jordan is doing a great job at combining superhero action with headier stuff about what Gods should mean. With X’Hal presumably dead, it’s going to be fascinating to see what happens next.
Brad Walker’s art was excellent, I really think he is one of the most underrated artists working today, every panel looks good, even when he’s asked to do really weird stuff, and he’s one of the few artists that can make Kyle Rayner and Carol Ferris’ goofy-ass masks look half-way decent.
Batman ’66 #9– Two more funny and fun stories from the Batman ’66 crew.
The first story is from Jeff Parker and Craig Rousseau, and sees the Dynamic Duo up against Zelda The Great, a villain who’s main motives are perfect for this book. She’s an escape artist, and she basically spends the whole issue putting Batman and Robin into ridiculous death-traps which they have to escape from. I loved how Batman was able to keep away vicious scorpions through Tuvan throat singing, and even better was the escape we didn’t actually see because Zelda was too busy talking, that was just hilarious. There is some hidden depth to this story, as the person who Zelda was talking to was Haley, Dick Grayson’s date to Zelda’s show, who is impressed by the villain and in the end runs free and leaves her (presumably) boring life behind. This was a different kind of story than we’ve seen before in Batman ’66, but it was great to see that this book can be a bit more versatile. The only downside is that Rousseau’s art was probably the worst seen so far on this book, but it was still good, he just has great competition.
Competition that includes Chris Sprouse, who draws the second story, written by Tom Peyer. Sprouse is a fantastic, big name artist, so I was surprised to see him here, but he’s a great fit, and I think artists relish the chance to draw short stories like this in between bigger gigs. The story here focuses on Alfred’s criminal cousin, Egbert, who looks exactly like Alfred and knocks him out so he can assume his identity and rob Bruce Wayne. Of course, given that Egbert doesn’t know Bruce is Batman, his cover is soon blown, and Batman and Robin come up with a pretty genius way of outing him. This was a really funny story, and I loved the ending where Alfred got to show his bad-ass side by knocking out his cousin.
This book is just a delight each month, it always puts a smile on my face.
American Vampire: Second Cycle #1– After being away for far too long, American Vampire is finally back and thankfully, Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque don’t appear to have missed a beat. If you’ve read Snyder’s DC superhero work but never tried American Vampire, this is your chance to jump on, as Snyder makes sure to keep this issue perfectly accessible for new readers.
After a brief, creepy prologue showing a group of Native Americans attacked and killed by a mysterious force in 1811, the story then moves to 1965, and we catch up with Pearl Jones and Skinner Sweet and see what they’ve been up to in between now and the last arc, which was set in the 1950s. After the death of her husband, Pearl has moved back home to the family farm in Kansas, pretending to be her own daughter ‘Henrietta’ and using the farm to protect waifs and strays. We see Pearl save a young black girl from a lynching, and it’s clear that we’re supposed to see the mob’s hatred for the child as a race thing, but we later find out that this girl, like all of Pearl’s other wards, is a Vampire, so that’s more likely the real reason. It’s interesting to see Snyder move forward in time like this, to an era when Civil Rights were really getting into full swing. Will we see a march for Vampire acceptance? Pearl see