Howdy! Yep, time for more of my comics reviews, you know the drill by now I’m sure. This week sees All-New Marvel Now roll on with the first issues of Iron Patriot and Silver Surfer. There’s more Miracleman, the return of Sandman: Overture, another excellent issue of Deadly Class, the final issue of Indestructible Hulk, a new dawn for the Ultimate Universe in Survive and more of The Wake and more!
Click the links yadda-yadda.
Superior Spider-Man #30– The penultimate issue of Superior Spider-Man is here, and it lives up to all of my expectations and then some. It’s not hyperbole to say that the last 3 or 4 pages of this comic are up there with the best Spider-Man moments of all time for me. To cut to the chase, Peter Parker is back, and it is epic.
Slott and Gage begin with both SpOck and Spider-Man 2099 in the grip of the now Goblin-controlled Spider-Slayers. Goblin and Menace reveal that they’ve got Anna Maria held hostage, and basically taunt Spider-Man with what they view as an impossible dilemma. He can go save Anna Maria, butt hat would mean just leaving Spidey 2099 behind to face the Slayers alone. But of course, SpOck doesn’t give a fuck about Miguel, so he just bails on out of there. It remains to be seen what impact this particular bout of selfishness will have, and I imagine it will end up rebounding onto Peter. Spider-Man races across the city, which is being ravaged by Spider-Slayers, and the assorted Avengers are having trouble holding them back. Another troubling plotline for the future comes up here, as Iron Man and Captain America discover the illegal clinic that SpOck has been running. I was also intrigued by the brief scene focusing on J. Jonah Jameson as it looks like his blunder with the Spider-Slayers will cost him his office as Mayor, especially as Liz Allan has burned him. It also seems like Liz has been working for the Goblins all along to help protect Normie, which does a good job at explaining just how the Goblin hacked the Slayers.
Once again, many of this issue’s best scenes take place inside the mindscape, as the journey through Otto Octavius’ memories gets right up to date, as he relives the events of Amazing Spider-Man #700. This is what opens the door for Peter Parker’s return, as the memory of having Peter Parker’s memories shoved into his mind is what reawakens all of those memories again. It’s all come full circle, the Ghost Peter is fully back, and ready to help out.
And he’s needed, as Menace has lured Spider-Man down into the Subway, where she and Green Goblin have what looks to be Anna Maria tied to the tracks. I loved the nod Slott gave to the death of Gwen Stacy here, he’s used bridges before, so now it’s tunnels. The hostage turns out not to be Anna Maria, but Amy Chen, the little girl who’s disease Otto helped cure. Just as the train is about to hit, Otto can’t decide what to do. He knows he should help the girl, but it’s so risky, if he misses, then he’ll be dead, and he won’t be able to save Anna Maria or anyone else later on. Crippled by self-doubt, it takes the Peter ghost to spur him on, forcing him to jump, and save the girl. Peter reveals himself to Otto and tells him that, if you’ve got no time to prepare, you just do the right thing, no matter the risk. This is the big moment, as Otto realises that his methods are not going to get the job done here, and that Peter’s willingness to sacrifice himself is what makes him the actual Superior Spider-Man. Throughout this run, Slott has done a brilliant job at comparing and contrasting Peter Parker with Otto Octavius, and the dialogue between them here just sums it up. Otto isn’t as smart as he thinks he is, so he overcompensates, whereas Peter is a lot smarter than he gives himself credit for, but he sacrifices that to help others.
Spider-Man returns to Parker Industries, where he once again enters the mindscape. Only this time, he doesn’t delete Peter Parker’s memories, but Otto Octavius. To save those he loves, he has to sacrifice himself. It’s really quite moving, and it’s great to see that the events of these last 30 issues have had a massive impact on Otto Octavius. This run didn’t turn Spider-Man evil (OK, maybe a bit), it turned Doctor Octopus good. Peter, now fully in control, wipes away a tear, and goes to his wardrobe, where he dons the classic, bright blue and red costume and prepares to take on Green Goblin himself. It’s spine-tingling stuff for sure, and just made me grin from ear to ear. Spider-Man is back! He’s fucking back! I hope all of the people who hated this idea and sent Slott death threats read this issue, because this return after a long absence is worth far more than if we had just had 30 issues of normal Peter Parker adventures.
Giuseppe Camuncoli’s artwork was excellent as ever, he continues to outdo himself with the mindscape layouts, and that penultimate page, where Peter puts on his old costume was told just through his art, and it was perfect. I can’t wait for the final chapter of this brilliant story. I’m surprised that Peter is back already, but now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The only thing left to do now is to stop the Green Goblin, and hey, who the hell is he anyway?
Iron Patriot #1– Much like with his new Secret Avengers series, I wasn’t initially planning on picking this book up, but Ales Kot drew me in, and once again, I’m glad he did. This isn’t quite as good as Secret Avengers, and it feels like a much more traditional superhero book than we’re used to from Kot, but it was still highly enjoyable and Kot seems to have a different take on James Rhodes that should hopefully allow this series to last a little longer than the previous War Machine or Iron Man 2.0 series did.
The issue begins with a flashforward that shows Rhodey (did anyone else know that his middle name was Rupert?) lying prone on the ground after being attacked by a mysterious armoured figure, and being asked if he’s a ‘true patriot’ or not. It certainly looks like Kot is going to use this series to explore what it really means to be a patriot in this day and age, and that certainly looks to be fascinating ground to cover with this character. It’s been done somewhat before with Captain America, but I think Rhodey, as a man from the present-day, as well as a black man, will have a different perspective.
The story then moves back to the present day, with Iron Patriot helping to inspect the flood defences of New Orleans, before getting a phone call from his dad, who wants to talk to him. Here, Kot introduces the supporting cast for this book, which is Rhodey’s dad, Terrence, and his niece, Lila. I don’t know if these characters are new or not. I seem to remember Pak’s War Machine series focusing a lot on Rhodey’s mother, but not the rest of his family. Because Rhodey’s sister is dead, he and his dad are the only family she has left, and his dad wants him to be around more to help out. Lila seems to be something of a genius prodigy, who has trouble communicating with fellow teenagers, but not with adults, and has an interest in tinkering with the Iron Patriot armour. Rhodey flies off to his empty home (there’s no mention of the relationship between him and Captain Marvel here) where we see some subtle hints about his various daddy issues, he can’t tell his dad he loves him, etc. It’s all pretty standard stuff, but really, having problems with your dad is almost universal, and most superheroes have to do that when their parents are dead, so this should be a bit different, and I’m sure Kot will avoid cliché.
The next scene sees Rhodey call a press conference and basically set out what his new mission statement is. He basically says that because he represents America right across his chest, he is now limiting his military operations to those on American soil. Unless it’s a rescue mission, he will not be sent out to foreign war zones to kill for an agenda. He wants to represent and help the best of America, not it’s worst. It’s a pretty interesting idea, and I’m excited to see it play out. It certainly has big repercussions immediately, and a lot of people are pissed off at James Rhodes. We see a Congressman being coerced by a Mr. Fujikawa (who of course have a long history with Iron Man) to denounce Rhodey and, in response to online comments bashing her uncle, Lila records a Youtube video defending him. This puts her on the radar of a mysterious man with burned skin who has been told to take out Iron Patriot. I’m guessing this is the armoured villain from the flash-forward.
The issue ends with Iron Patriot fighting what looks to be a routine attack from mud-monsters in the Gulf Of Mexico when, right in the middle of the battle, his armour just shuts down and he goes crashing into the sea. Rhodey has opened up a can of worms here, let’s hope he can put them back.
Garry Brown provides the art here, and whilst he’s new to me, it was strong work, reminding me a lot of what Mitch Gerads is doing on The Punisher. It’s scratchier and more realistic than what you’d normally expect from an Iron Man type book, but Rhodey is dealing with a more realistic and deadly world than Tony, it fits. It’s hard to live up to a Dave Johnson cover, but Brown manages it.
Overall, this was a great opening issue, Kot is one of the most exciting new voices in comics, and whilst this is a little more traditional, it’s still well worth reading, and you can tell he’s only just begun to scratch the surface of some big ideas.
Indestructible Hulk #20– The final issue of Indestructible Hulk sees Mark Waid seemingly wrap up and throw away a lot of the stuff this run was about, and setting us up with something entirely new for the next relaunch. It’s interesting indeed, but I do feel kind of like this book never really lived up to it’s potential. There’s a lot of loose ends left however, and Waid still has a lot to do with Banner’s various assistants, so I imagine we haven’t seen the last of them. And even if we have, that last page shock ending is enough to make me excited for Waid’s next role of the big green dice.
The plot here involves Hulk and his team’s attempts to rescue Randall Jessup from the clutches of Ted Goodrich and the Bee-Hive. I really enjoyed how stupid Goodrich was made to look throughout this issue. First of all, he seriously underestimates Jessup, and doesn’t know he’s a doctor, and doesn’t truly understand the difference between this particular Terrigenesis and the others. He also doesn’t know that Jessup is working for Bruce Banner, so when the Hulk shows up… it’s a pretty big surprise.
Once Hulk teleports to the Bee-Hive (one of his staff somehow knows how to reverse engineer their teleportation bracelets, which is another interesting back-story nugget) everything pretty much goes to shit. Their core is unstable, and it takes both the Hulk and a monsterfied Jessup to stop it from killing everyone. In the midst of this, there’s more stupidity from Goodrich, as he tries to forcibly open up another Terrigen Pod, but it’s inhabitant just grabs him and his partner and presumably kills them. It’s really refreshing to have a villain just be so rubbish, despite being a supposed genius.
After a massive explosion, there’s a very interesting wrap up. Luckily for Jessup, this transformation wasn’t permanent, and he’s back as a human, but who knows what will happen next time? Bruce Banner tells his team to stay hidden in the Bee-Hive to help keep Jessup a human, and also to avoid being punished by SHIELD. He goes back to Maria Hill and basically tells her that when he woke up, everyone else was gone. Banner is playing a dangerous game here in lying to SHIELD, and that’s made clear when Hill tells him that if they wanted to fire him, they’d kill him.
The final scene sees Bruce return to his lab, where he realises a lot of the bad things that happened over the last few issues are his fault. He was too eager to prove that he was better than the other Marvel big-brains with his anti-Terrigenesis Bomb, and it all went wrong. He declares that from now on he’s going to let go of his jealousy towards Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Hank Pym and the others, which is a good move I think. I never really liked that idea in the first place. But it turns out that ‘from now on’ isn’t very long, as right then, Bruce Banner is shot in the head by a mysterious gunman (or woman, or alien, or whatever) and left for dead. This is a fantastic ending, and I’m very excited to see what the new Hulk #1 is going to be like. Obviously, Banner isn’t dead, but he’s going to be pissed off, and the mystery should be tantalising. This issue sets up it being SHIELD, but that feels too obvious.
Joe Bennett provides the art here, and it’s his usual, old-school superhero goodness, he’s the perfect artist for an issue mainly involving Hulk and another monster punching things. So, farewell Indestructible Hulk, you won’t be missed, but only because Waid is still going to be writing the character.
Silver Surfer #1– If you follow Dan Slott on twitter, you’ll soon learn that he’s a massive fan of Doctor Who. Since he’s American, it’s unlikely that he’ll get the chance to write an episode of that show, so instead his new take on the Silver Surfer is very much inspired by it. A lone intergalactic warrior with a dark past but who now strives for peace wandering space with a female companion from Earth? Yep, it certainly sounds familiar. Since I’m a Brit, Doctor Who is pretty much part of my DNA, so it was fun to see Slott take what he loves about that show, and combine it with one of the all-time coolest comics characters for a fun new take. Silver Surfer has often struggled to maintain a solo series, but I think this new one will work, I’m not saying it’ll go for 50 years like Doctor Who, but you know, it’ll be more than 12 issues.
The issue begins with our introduction to the Surfer’s companion, Dawn, who we see as a child wishing upon a shooting star. Her identical twin sister Eve wishes to travel the world and see everything the star sees, whereas Dawn wishes that the star could stay up there forever so everyone could see it. Only this star isn’t actually a star, it’s the Silver Surfer, coming to Earth for the first time to prepare it for Galactus to eat.
Slott then moves to the present, where we see the now-heroic and free Surfer saving a small sun from going out, and therefore saving a whole tiny nebula. The aliens who live on one of the planets praise him but he doesn’t want that, he just wants to atone for what he did as a Herald Of Galactus. Surfer is then recorded by some strange cameras, and recruited by the brilliantly named ‘Incredulous Zed’ to help protect ‘The Impericon’ from attack. Surfer has no idea what the Impericon is, and it’s because it’s been hidden from all of Galactus’ heralds so the big purple guy can’t eat it.
The Impericon is an impossible palace full of wonders, and it’s brilliantly drawn by Mike Allred, who is just the perfect choice for this title. He’s always been heavily inspired by Jack Kirby, so it’s wonderful to see him draw what is perhaps the quintessential Kirby creation, and also for Slott to provide him with plenty of weird aliens to tackle. The Silver Surfer is a pop-art kind of character, and Allred is a pop-artist, it’s a brilliant fit.
Meanwhile, Slott fills us in on what the adult Dawn is like. Her sister has gone off to travel the world, whilst she’s stayed behind in Anchor Bay to help her dad run their hotel. She keeps telling herself that staying behind is what she wanted, but it seems that she’s starting to no longer believe that. I really liked how Slott and Allred mirrored Dawn showing her guests round the hotel with Surfer being shown the Impericon. Both had wonders and surprises of ther own, although a Moon that’s a nightclub is a bit better than a fish that Albert Einstein caught.
Silver Surfer agrees to protect the Impericon from the ‘Never Queen’ but when he does so, there’s a catch, Zed fires ‘The Motivator’ beam at him, which provides motivation for him to fight, by teleporting the person that’s most important to the Surfer as leverage. Surfer is of course furious, thinking that they’ve kidnapped Alicia Masters or Nova or someone we already know, but nope, the most important person in the world for the Silver Surfer is none other than… Dawn, someone the Surfer has never met before and has no idea who she is. It’s a great ending to the issue, and although it does feel like a bit of a rip-off of Clara Oswald or Amy Pond, I am intrigued as to what makes Dawn so special. Is it just her wish at the start of the issue?
I thought this was a strong opening issue, Slott clearly gets the Silver Surfer character, and although the Doctor Who parallels are perhaps a bit too overt, I do think having a human along will make the series more accessible and hey, if you know someone who’s a massive Who fan but doesn’t really like comics, you can use this to hook them in. Throw in some pitch-perfect Allred art, and you’ve got a great comic.
Hawkeye #18– After last issue’s bizarre cartoon interlude, Matt Fraction gets back to business with the best Kate Bishop story yet, and one that starts to tie all of her previous issues together as the conflict between Kate and Madame Masque gets more and more personal.
The issue begins with us finding out that the strange Philip Marlowe-esque guy that hangs around the supermarket and gives Kate cryptic advice isn’t just a figment of her imagination, but a real person who tells Kate that he’s leaving LA and wants her to look after his cat. Kate agrees, but the cat is a massive dick, so along with her neighbours, decides to go and give it back. When they reach the man’s house, it’s huge, and they find him beaten and bloodied.
He tells them his story, and while he’ll never be able to leave LA alive. The man, who’s name is Harold H. Harold (the H stands for Harold) came to LA as a reporter, and covered all sorts of weird goings on, before becoming a Hollywood screenwriter and making tons of money. Whilst at a Hollywood party hosted by Count Neff and his daughter, he met up with an old friend, who said something cryptic about becoming young again. The next day, this friend was killed. Later on, Harold saw a younger version of his friend jogging on the beach. He investigated, found something horrible in Neff’s house, and was beaten up by his Goons, the bellhops and told that he could never leave Los Angeles. Count Neff and his daughter are obviously Count Nefaria and Madame Masque, so Kate agrees to try and help get Harold out of town.
They buy a plane ticket, and sit and wait. Harold is approached by Flynt Ward, the weed dealer from a few issues back, who, along with some of those damn bellhops, absconds with Harold. Kate and her neighbours give chase, but they lose him, and Harold is killed, hung from the Hollywood sign with an arrow in his chest. After yet another brilliant lecture from the poor Police Chief, Kate receives a letter from Madame Masque, telling her that now she’s fallen victim to the same punishment that Harold was under. She’ll never leave LA alive. Which is bad timing, as, from studying Ward’s phone, she discovers about the hit out on Clint back in New York. Kate can’t go and help him out at all. And oh yeah, when she gets home, it’s been set on fire. Clint’s luck really is rubbing off on Kate in the worst way.
This issue was once again full of the strange sense of humour that Fraction always brings to this book, and I think it was better balanced than previous issues, Kate didn’t seem like as much of an idiot as before, and it was more like a Thomas Pynchon style humour, with weird off-beat LAness in the background, I wonder how much Fraction loves Inherent Vice? I’m guessing a lot.
Annie Wu’s art was once again just a great match for the story, the way she draws facial expressions, particularly Kate’s is just perfect, and man, Matt Hollingsworth’s colours are just the best as well. This issue showed that the Kate issues aren’t just going nowhere, and with her learning about Clint being in trouble, showed the first signs of the now very splintered narrative coming back together again. At times the slow pace of this book can test the patience, but it’s always a lot of fun, and always rewarding.
Avengers #27– Marvel’s double-shipping policy is bad in a lot of ways, but one title I think it really helped is Hickman’s Avengers. With 2 issues a month, Hickman got through a lot of stuff and it made his often drawn-out plotting work a lot better. Now that we’re back down to being monthly (although Avengers World is filling the gap) the same kind of storytelling feels much slower, and the momentum has completely gone. It’s a shame, because as I said, it’s still the same book, and this current story is good. It’s just a shame it feels like it’s taking so much longer.
Hickman begins with a fascinating meeting between the Marvel Universe’s Bruce Banner and the evil alternate reality version. This conversation reveals a lot of cool details about this alternate reality. This version of Banner was lobotomised by the other Avengers so that he doesn’t feel emotions and can’t Hulk out at random, he can only transform if one of them flips a switch. They take turns at being in control and, as we saw last time, the Wasp was the current ‘keeper’. This Banner also reveals that he’s now a sociopath, which is hardly a surprise. Our Banner then whacks the evil version on the head with a wrench and Hulks out himself.
Elsewhere, the head honchos at AIM are pretty pissed off about what’s happened since they dipped their toes in the multiverse. The Scientist Supreme kills the underling that fucked up, and they head off to interfere in the big ol’ fight that’s going on between the 2 groups of Avengers. I loved the humour in this scene with everyone looking exactly the same in the dumb AIM beekeeper hats. Hickman has a very underrated, twisted sense of humour for sure.
The fight between the Avengers was interesting for what more it revealed about the alternate reality. It turns out that the evil Iron Man isn’t Tony Stark at all, but a villainous Jarvis who killed Howard Stark and smothered the baby Tony before stealing the Iron Man suit for himself. All of this might seem a bit inconsequential, but it was a nice reveal, and given what’s going on over in New Avengers with all of the alternate worlds, these characters could turn out to be very important indeed. They came here fleeing from an Incursion, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they played a part in causing Captain America to recover his memories and expose The Illuminati. The Hulk arrives in the middle of the fight, but crucially, nobody knows which Hulk it actually is, which I can foresee causing problems. AIM then interfere, freezing everyone so they can sort out this mess. It looks like AIM are accidentally going to send the wrong Hulk back into the multiverse.
The issue ends with those new Adaptoids heading out into the multiverse themselves. So yeah, everything’s pointing towards there, which is cool, having this book be more closely tied with New Avengers should help cool my complaints about the slower pace.
Larroca’s art was solid as ever, and I think he did a fantastic job with the scene between the 2 Bruce Banners. They are the same man, but somehow, they did look different. It’s all in the eyes…
New Avengers #16– Hot on the heels of last week’s rather confusing instalment, New Avengers is back for an issue that somewhat gets things back on track, but I’m not sure is as good for new readers as .NOW issues are supposed to be.
After a brief opening scene featuring Black Panther and Namor bickering, which is always entertaining, their role and antagonistic relationship in this book has always been the best thing about it, we’re back to examining an alternate universe, but this time, things are a bit different. This is because this isn’t another Universe that tried and failed to stop the Incursions… but one that succeeded in stopping them twice.
What makes this world even more interesting is that it’s clearly an analogue for the DC Universe. Ever since this book began, I’ve thought that Hickman was slyly poking at Crisis On Infinite Earths, and this brings all of that back. If the Marvel Universe has been able to repel Incursions, it only makes sense that the DC Universe could too. I was surprised that this Universe wasn’t just another take on the Squadron Supreme, the Green Lantern analogue is called Doctor Spectrum, but other than that, it’s all different. Superman is ‘Sun God’, Batman is ‘The Rider’, Flash is ‘Boundless’ (and a woman, so is Doctor Spectrum), Martian Manhunter is ‘The Jovian’ and Doctor Fate is ‘The Norn’. I wonder why Hickman didn’t decide to go to the normal Marvel Justice League homages, I guess it’s because he’s already using Hyperion.
This issue did pretty much follow the pattern of recent issues, we are given lots of exposition about the history of this world, and then see them deal with an Incursion. But there are bigger differences in this universe. Sun God delivers a speech that is similar to Reed Richards’ now well-known ‘Everything dies’, but instead, it’s ‘Everything lives’, which is a crucial difference I think. It’s the sort of thing Kurt Busiek did in JLA/Avengers, where the DCU was just that bit more optimistic than the Marvel Universe. Of course, with the New 52, that’s all changed, but Hickman is keeping that shininess a bit more. The Justice League, sorry Great Society, head out to stop the Incursion, where they run into the Mapmakers. Whilst the rest of the team deal with them, The Norn uses his magic to somehow stop the Incursion and blow up the other Earth. He does this by splitting into 3 and putting on what looks to be the same helmets the Black Priests wear. Somehow, the Great Society found away to stop The Priests, and take their power for themselves.
I’m very intrigued as to where this is heading now. Are The Illuminati going to head to this Ersatz DCU and team-up with them? Or are we going to see Doctor Strange (who is still AWOL) attempt to do the same as The Norn and take the Black Priest’s helmets? The questions raised in last week’s issue made me roll my eyes, but this week’s had me begging for answers. That’s the thing about Hickman, he’s always asking questions, but they aren’t all equally gripping.
The art here comes from Rags Morales, and it was certainly a bit of an adjustment to see him drawing Marvel Characters when he’s spent so long over at DC. It’s a good job he was mostly drawing DC analogues! I’ve always liked Morales’ style, and it looked good here. I really like the way he draws Namor, he just looks so perfectly cocky. I suppose that makes sense too, he drew Black Adam for a long time, and he’s basically just Namor isn’t he? As I said last week, a bad New Avengers issue is no big deal, as Hickman normally gets back to form pretty quickly. He does that here, and sets up a whole lot of interesting new story possibilities for the future.
Uncanny Avengers #18– Where do you go after blowing up the entire world? Well, in Rick Remender’s case you jump forward 5 years or so to Planet X for an incredibly exciting issue that moves headlong into the next stage of this massive epic story. Although the fact that Remender has shaken things up so much that it’s now too obvious that everything will go back to normal, this is still a really great ride.
This issue takes place on Planet X, the new world that the Mutants went to after they were Raptured by the Scarlet Witch. Everyone seems to have pretty much accepted what’s happened, that the Earth deserved to go and tha the Mutants are better off without the humans. Everyone that is except the last remaining Avengers, who are Havok, Wasp and Beast. In this future, Havok and Wasp’s flirtatiousness has led to full-on love, and even marriage, and the daughter that we’ve seen Havok’s letters to in the last few issues is theirs. Wasp and the daughter, Katie are the only humans left in the world, and as such, they have to stay hidden.
In this issue, we see Havok and Wasp attempt to once again shut down the Tachyon dam, which will allow Immortus to finally get through and reset time back to before all of this went down. But they don’t have much luck, and are chased down by Magneto’s new X-Force, which basically seems to be the old Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants. Blob, Pyro, Toad, Avalanche etc. I liked the fact that Magneto (and his cool future-beard) wasn’t trying to stop Havok just because he’s working for Eimin, no, he’s doing this in memory of Wanda. He doesn’t want her death to have been in vain, which is a cool character detail. Of course, if Havok is allowed to succeed, it could mean Wanda had never died at all.
This issue is basically one big action-chase sequence, and it’s very good stuff. Daniel Acuna’s art has never looked better either, Planet X looks beautiful.
In the end, Havok is able to destroy the Tachyon Dam, but in the process, Wasp is captured by Magneto. Havok returns to his secret base, where Beast is looking after Katie. Beast reveals that even though the Dam has been destroyed, the day has not fully been won, as it’s still intact at the time period they want to go back to. The rules of time travel hurt my brain, but that kind of makes sense. But there is still a chance, as Immortus can come back to this moment, and help from here. Only when help does arrive, it’s not Immortus… it’s Kang. I know they’re the same person, but you know what I mean. Kang arrives with his new team, which includes not only Thor, but a bunch of the heroes we saw Immortus try and recruit before. Earth X Spider-Girl is there, Iron Man 2020, Stryfe, and some others I don’t recognise.
This was a great way to introduce us to the next stage, Remender doesn’t bog us down with exposition, instead we’re right in the moment with Havok and Wasp, and even though we know it’s all temporary, it does feel real. This series just gets better and better for me. I can’t wait to see how much crazier Remender will get.
Guardians Of The Galaxy #13– The final chapter of ‘The Trial Of Jean Grey’ wraps up everything that Bendis has set up very well indeed, and at the same time sets up some interesting new possibilities for the future. The biggest impact here is obviously for the X-Men, but the Guardians have been affected too, as now even more of the Universe hates them.
The action picks up right where All-New X-Men left off, as Jean Grey interrupts the big fight, and basically admits that yep, she was (or will be) The Phoenix, and she couldn’t stop it. But then neither could anyone else, so why is she the only one on trial? She also says that she doesn’t want to punish Gladiator for what he did to her now, but that she can’t forgive the Shi’Ar killing the entire bloodline so she… powers up. She doesn’t become the Phoenix, no, this is something new. She glows pink and is even more powerful than ever. Inside of her mind, Jean and Oracle work out that this is psionic energy, and that this is Jean using both her telepathy and telekinesis at the same time. I suppose it’s a bit like Psylocke’s psychic dagger, but on a bigger scale.
She and Gladiator clash, and both of them basically cancel each other out, which leads to Oracle declaring the battle over. Cyclops, who once again is a total bad-ass, stands up to Gladiator and tells him to leave Jean alone, because if they come back for her, he’ll come back too, and he’ll bring all of Earth’s other superheroes with him.
Gladiator lets everyone go, but he tells Starlord that he and the rest of the Guardians are no longer allowed in the Shi’Ar system. So now they have the Spartax and the Shi’Ar after them, great. After this, everyone heads home, and we get more fun interactions between the various characters and great Bendis dialogue. However, the most interesting thing here is dialogue free, as Angela eyeballs Jean Grey. That has to be leading somewhere.
Once back on Earth, Starlord gives Kitty a comm-device so they can talk again, and whaddayaknow, they kiss. It’s kind of cute. Bendis also throws in some great comedy, with Groot acting weirdly towards Earth trees, and Rocket Raccoon being shocked by ordinary Earth raccoons and how naked they are. The issue ends with Cyclops dropping a bombshell, as he reveals that he’s leaving the All-New X-Men to go and travel through space with his dad. It would have been better if this had not been spoiled by the announcement of the upcoming Cyclops solo series, but this was still a big moment, and should lead to some interesting places.
This issue really seems to mark the point where the All-New X-Men really do live up to the All-New label. Jean has new powers, and Cyclops has gone into space, it’s not the same anymore. I also hope that this means that Bendis will start focusing more on Iceman, Beast and Angel, as Scott and Jean really have been at the forefront a bit too much.
It is perhaps a bit of a shame that this story was so much more about the X-Men than the Guardians, as they were mainly there just to get the merry Mutants into space, but as I said, the team is now even more outgunned than before, the future certainly looks intriguing, I mean, Venom? What the?
The art here from Sara Pichelli and David Marquez was very good, I normally hate fill-ins, but Marquez and Pichelli have similar styles, as seen on Ultimate Spider-Man, and from his short stint on All-New X-Men, Marquez knows how to draw the X-Men, so it wasn’t too jarring.
Amazing X-Men #5– Nightcrawler makes his triumphant return to the land of the living with this issue, but it’s not without cost as Jason Aaron wonderfully balances dark and light for an excellent final chapter of this opening story arc. It’s a shame that Aaron isn’t sticking around for much longer on this book, but at least he got to bring back the best X-Man around.
The battle here is on two fronts. Out in the ‘real’ world, the good blue Bamfs are fighting the evil red Bamfs as the rest of the X-Men try and guard the portal to the underworld. But inside Heaven/Hell/Whatever, Nightcrawler is leading his Pirate Crew and X-Men against Azazel and his Pirates. As Iceman says, they don’t really have much of a plan except to dress up as Pirates, but it mostly works, and is a lot of fun. The real meat of the fight here is Kurt going up against his father, which is emotional, heavy stuff, but with teleportation.
Azazel stabs Wolverine, who of course has no healing factor, and the fight looks lost, but then Nightcrawler is psychically contacted by Professor Xavier, who tells him that a host of Angels is coming to shut Azazel down, and that he can now finally return to Heaven. But Kurt doesn’t want this, he knows that any prison that the Angels can put Azazel in… he can just break out, so he needs to put him somewhere different. He tells a nearby Bamf to tell his brothers that he’s willing to pay what they agreed, and out in the real world, the blue Bamfs start to coalesce and form… a new Nightcrawler body. He teleports into it, and brings Azazel with him, trapping him in the mortal realm. Everyone else grabs a Bamf and teleports to safety, but there is time for one last glimpse at the dead Charles Xavier.
So, it looks like everything worked out great right? Wrong, as we see Kurt moping on the roof of the Jean Grey School. He wanted to be back here when he was in Heaven, but now that he’s out, he’s thinking about what he’s given up, and to top it all off… he sold his soul to the Bamfs to come back. Nightcrawler is of course one of the most overtly religious superheroes in comics, so how is he going to cope without having a soul? I’m almost tempted to pick up the new solo series from Claremont, but I don’t think I can handle the word count.
This was a strong ending to a good story, yes, the X-Men didn’t have much of a plan, but that’s the kind of character Nightcrawler is, he flies by the seat of his pants into adventure. Ed McGuinness’ art was as brilliant as always, the action here was great, and with all due respect to Cockrum, Byrne and Davis, he does probably draw the best Nightcrawler ever. It’s certainly going to be interesting to see what happens when he meets his mother Mystique again next issue.
Survive One-Shot– This issue basically wraps up the events of Cataclysm and sets us up for the exciting new era for Ultimate Universe. I know this is like, the 8th exciting new era for the Ultimate Universe, but I am genuinely pumped for these new books. Bendis of course knows these characters inside out, and I was also very pleased to get a full issue of awesome Joe Quinones art, he’s a real talent, and very suited to a dialogue-filled issue like this, he and Bendis make a good team.
The story here is framed by the Funeral of Captain America, with all of the various surviving superheroes gathered to hear Tony Stark give a heartfelt (and drunken) speech. Throughout this, various characters are given flashbacks to set up what’s next for them. First up is Black Widow, who we see assisting in the clean-up of New Jersey. She is approached by Foggy Nelson, who tells her that she is having charges pressed against her for what happened, as since she was in charge of SHIELD at the time, she is being blamed for Galactus’ attack. I love the fact that even in the face of grand cosmic horror and death, someone still has to go to trial for it. Only in (Ultimate) America! We also find out that SHIELD is going to be shut down, which is a pretty big deal.
The next flashback is from Sue Storm, who thinks back to a meeting she had with Reed Richards at the half-destroyed Baxter Building. She asks him what he’s up too, and whether or not he’s a villain who only turned good again briefly, or if he’s truly reformed. It seems Reed’s trip to the Marvel really has caused him to change his ways, as he tells Sue about his meeting with Valeria, and also that he knows a lot more about their alternate, possible futures, as he hacked the 616 Reed’s files. He accepts that they won’t be getting back together, but now he knows the true potential of the Fantastic Four, and thinks that maybe they should re-open the Baxter Building think-tank. All-New FF is the only new title I’m undecided on picking up, but this teaser has me interested in it for sure. Ultimate Reed is such an intriguing character now.
After this, Kitty Pryde gets a flashback, where she is visited by some Men In Black who hand her off to a phonecall from the President. This new President wants to help push through Pro-Mutant legislation, and wants her to help him. It would certainly be interesting for the Ultimate Universe to make bigger strides in Mutant Equality than the regular Universe, I’d like to see that.
The final flashback is Spider-Man, as Miles helps in the clean-up too, and generally gets back into the groove of being Spidey. Miles is approached by Spider-Woman, who tells him that she wants him to be a part of something new. The issue ends with Spider-Woman interrupting Tony Stark, and announcing that she, along with Miles, Kitty, Cloak, Dagger and Bombshell are forming the All-New Ultimates. We knew this already from the solicitations, but still, it’s a cool moment, and as Tony says, it’s what Cap would have wanted.
This issue did a good job at setting up the new look Ultimate Universe, it certainly has changed a lot, which is supposedly what we the fans want. I’m certainly excited for the changes, and I hope everyone else is too, and that we don’t have to go through yet another relaunch in 2 years. As I said, Quinones’ art was excellent, I’d like to see him draw an issue of Ultimate Spider-Man again for sure, his take on Miles’ costume reminds me of Samnee’s. Although what’s the deal with Coipel’s cover to this issue? Falcon and Storm take centre-stage, and they are barely in the story! Odd.
Miracleman #4– It’s no surprise, but these reprints of classic, legendary stories continue to be classic and legendary. It’s just so great to finally be able to read these issues properly, and not on a computer screen.
This issue sees Miracleman attack Project Zarathustra, go up against Big Ben, and learn some more of the truth about his past. I love the way Moore deconstructs Miracleman, and the superhero in general here, and really makes things as real as possible. Miracleman finding out that his memories were actually fake was just a tragic moment. I really enjoyed seeing Moore have fun with the Big Ben character and how over the top he was, and how at first it was funny, but by the end, it was sad too. That’s one of the best things about the Original Writer, he can write some truly great comedy, but it always has depth behind it.
I was also very much intrigued by the one page scene focusing on Liz Moran and her fears about the baby. Like most people, I’ve heard about the infamous ‘Birth’ issue, but never read it. I’m dreading it right about now.
The Warpsmiths story was once again very weird, and it does feel out of place when compared to the main story, like someone just dropped a 2000 AD Futureshock into the middle of things. But hey, it’s better than an Anglo story, and the art from Garry Leach is excellent. Alan Davies’ work on the main story is also very good, it’s very cool for me to see what his style was like 30 years ago when compared to today. Overall, this is just a great package, the new colouring looks brilliant, and the story is living up to all of my high expectations and then some.
One question though, was the use of the N-word censored in the original Warrior printing? Marvel have kept all the nudity intact for the print edition at least, so I was surprised to see ‘N-----‘ rather than the full word. Not that I mind, it’s a horrible word, but still interesting.
Aquaman #29– You know an issue of Aquaman is going to be a lot of fun when the very first line is ‘outrageous!’ Whilst I don’t think the Brave & The Bold cartoon version of Aquaman would really work in the DCU, he’s still a brilliant take on the character, so Jeff Parker taking little bits and pieces from it just puts a smile on my face.
This issue picks up from where #28 left off, with Aquaman and Mera returning home to find that his Trident has been stolen. Thanks to his new Police Friend, Aquaman soon finds out that it was taken by Dr Daniel Evans, a scientist working out in the Azores. He heads off to get it back, which means Mera has to go to an Atlantean Council meeting in his stead.
This meeting serves to continue the growing sense of distrust between Aquaman and his council, but also to set up an interesting crossover between this book and Charles Soule’s Aquaman. The reason for this meeting is because of a strange burst of Algae in the ocean. Readers of Swamp Thing will be familiar with this event, and it’s very cool to see it reflected in another title, and for us to have a crossover that really seems organic.
Back at Dr Evans’ site, things obviously don’t go to plan. The Trident isn’t opening up a portal to Ancient Atlantis, instead it’s just opening the doors to the prison where the Atlanteans kept their most feared monsters. These monsters managed to use their will to change the symbols on the stone, so ‘Hell’ was changed to ‘Gate’ and someone would be tricked. It worked, and now they are out, wreaking havoc. Aquaman soon arrives to save the day and fight some monsters, which is always fun, Jeff Parker seems to have really amped up on the monster quotient of this title.
Just as it looks like Aquaman is about to save the day, one of the chief monsters goes back into the portal to bring back with her an even bigger threat. This massive humanoid figure is far too strong for Aquaman, and he should be, as it’s none other than Hercules. The back-story here is that the Atlantean King asked Hercules to come help him defeat these monsters, and Herc did so, pushing them into the portal. But the King couldn’t risk the monsters getting out, so he shut the door with Hercules still inside and left him with the beasts. Now he’s back, and with vengeance towards the Atlantean King on his mind… even though it’s not the same King! I like this reveal, it explains why Hercules hasn’t been a part of Wonder Woman (although the First Born is sort of like Hercules, maybe he’s Heracles?) and he’s a formidable foe for Aquaman, I’m not too familiar with the old DC version of Hercules, but I gather that he was a more villainous character than Marvel’s loveable oaf, like how he actually raped Hippolyta.
This title continues to be a lot of fun under Parker, he surprised us last issue with the High School Reunion, and he’s done so again here. Paul Pelletier’s art was great once again, this was a very action-packed issue, and he delivered that, and the look of the various weird monsters was very cool. He suits this title’s old-school superhero tone.
The Sandman: Overture #2(of 6)– I actually don’t mind the long delays this title is going through, as it makes each individual issue feel like yet another long-awaited return. Now obviously, the 4 and a half month gap between this and #1 isn’t nearly as long as 10 years, but still, if this title kept to a regular schedule, it wouldn’t feel like as much of an event. I might be making no sense. It’s like latter-day Planetary or something. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter when this comes out, as long as it’s good, and man, it is good. Neil Gaiman has returned to his world with ease, and JH Williams III is just blowing my mind with each page.
This issue begins, surprisingly, in the present day with Dream in his Daniel form deciding randomly to go for a walk in the Dreaming, where he enters the dreams of another familiar face in Mad Hettie. Gaiman fills us in on some of Hettie’s tragic back-story, but the reason Daniel is there is so he can recover a strange, broken pocket-watch. I’m guessing the reason for this will be explained by what Morpheus does in the main story, Dream is always pulling his own strings, even if he doesn’t realise it at the time(who hired Puck and Loki hmm?).
Gaiman then moves back to the main narrative, as Morpheus arrives at the congregation of all the various aspects of Dream, and they try and work out what is happening, and whether they are different people or not. This was a brilliantly written scene, as Gaiman brilliantly manages to write conversations between people who are the same person, yet not. The logic behind the Endless’ various different incarnations is a difficult tightrope, but Gaiman is skilled enough to pull it off. He did it before in the strange way that Daniel both is and isn’t Morpheus, but this is even more complex. Eventually it becomes clear that these are all the same person, and as some of them disappear, we realise that we are just seeing this story from our Dream’s perspective. I think? I don’t know, it’s wonderful dream-logic. The one aspect of Dream who seems able to tell what is going on is a strange hooded eye, who was the Dream of the ‘first created things’, so like, Lovecraftian monsters. But he too eventually disappears.
The reason for every Dream being here is because one aspect of him has been killed, the Plant Dream we saw at the start of #1, so basically, Morpheus has to investigate his own murder here, which is very interesting. Morpheus goes inside his Gem to consult with someone who might be able to help him, Glory, of the First Circle. I’m not sure who this character is, I don’t remember him from the original Sandman series, but he tells Morpheus that somewhere in the Universe a Star has gone mad and that madness is spreading, leading to a War. And somehow, this is all his fault. The mystery here is very cryptic, but it seems to have something to do with the strange, naked woman who we see on the next 2 pages. Does she know Morpheus? This isn’t another vengeful ex-girlfriend is it? Man, Dream is such a dick.
The issue ends with Morpheus preparing to enter the one place he is supposedly forbidden to enter… The Vortex. But he’s not going alone, as The Dream Of Cats is going with him. Again, they are the same entity, so the dialogue between them is very cleverly done. Dream is alone, but he wants someone to talk to, so another aspect is sticking around. The reason for why Morpheus is going into this Vortex is a real surprise as well, as he and the cat are going to see… his father? I didn’t even know The Endless had parents, let alone that we would ever meet one of them. I can’t wait to see what he will be like.
As I said, JH Williams’ art is phenomenal once again, it’s worth the wait for work of this quality. Each page is laid out in a completely new and exciting way, but it never gets in the way of the story at all. Gaiman is writing complex stuff here, especially with the strange nature of Dream’s identity, and Williams matches that. Dave Stewart’s colours are also some of the best I’ve ever seen, there’s so much variety there. I imagine I’ll be poring over these pages many more times in between now and the next issue, whenever that happens.
The Wake #7(of 10)– Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy delve even deeper into the Dystopian Future side of this epic story here, and man, it’s just getting better and better as we find out more about the world the Mers have created.
The issue begins with a flashback to Leeward’s childhood, as we see she and her parents attempting to escape from the Gov and try their luck on the open sea in an awesome looking zeppelin/truck/boat hybrid. However, before they can get going, the Arm (that’s not a typo, the army is called the arm in the future) shows up to stop them, led by General Marlow. Leeward’s dad gets out to talk to him, but tells her to set off without him. She puts her foot on the pedals, but we don’t see anymore. I’m guessing it doesn’t turn out well, as Leeward is still in America in the present, and neither of her parents are around.
In fact, we get confirmation that her parents are dead in the next scene, as both Leeward and Pub have been captured and imprisoned on a floating gulag for trying to listen into the bottom of the ocean. Leeward tells Pub she plans on escaping, to maybe try her luck with the so-called ‘Outliers’, rogue pirates who live out on the sea and are supposedly cannibals who mate with the Mers. But she doesn’t have much luck here, as Marlow is right behind her and hears everything. Marlow is going to take Leeward and have her walk the plank.
I found the short scene that shows Marlow’s talk with the Governess before getting on the ship very interesting indeed, as she tells him that all of the soldiers who heard Lee Archer’s message are to be killed. The conspiracy here goes deep, but why? What does this woman have to gain from the world slowly being drowned?
Just as Leeward is thrown off the side of the ship, a giant fucking Mer attacks it, and what follows is an amazing action sequence from Sean Murphy. I’ve been a fan of his art for a long time, but The Wake is his best work yet I feel, and this huge monster attack shows that. Lee splashes into the water, where her Dolphin, Dash, comes to the rescue, but even then she’s in trouble, Marlow has her in his sights and then… she gets swallowed by a giant Mer. But instead of just being eaten, Leeward finds a strange metal structure inside the Mer and it’s inhabited by a bunch of men dressed up like old-school Pirates. These have to be the Outliers, but is it out of the frying pan and into the fire? Are these men just going to eat Leeward? Or are they going to help. It’s probably the latter, but you never know. They certainly look cool.
This title really is going for it in the second half, I can’t wait to see all of the mysteries explored, and to see how Leeward connects with Lee Archer, other than her name.
Deadly Class #3– Wow, after only 3 issues I think Deadly Class might be one of my favourite comics on the stands today. This title is so good, and this issue might be the best yet, as Rick Remender starts to really develop one of the characters who isn’t Marcus in the form of Willie.
This issue focuses on just those two characters, as they attempt to complete their assignment of finding a hobo who deserves to be killed… and kill them. The opening few pages are just great, with Marcus and Willie jumping between rooftops. Marcus makes it, but Willie is only just able to grab on, and needs Marcus to pull him up. What follows is a fascinating conversation between the two of them that not only reveals the true nature of how fucked-up Marcus has become, but also starts to reveal Willie’s backstory. He’s the son of a big time gangster, who killed 5 rival gangmembers before he was 12 after they killed his dad right in front of him. As for Marcus, we see more about his troubles connecting with people, and how he can’t make friends.
But we start to see a sign of friendship between Marcus and Willie, and it comes through in the same way that most teenagers make friends, a discussion about music. Sure, Willie calls The Smiths ‘gay’, but the conversation between the two of them about Rap music was really important I think. It brings the fact that these characters are very young back into the foreground, and really, the rebellious music of the 80s is being used as a metaphor for the assassinations here. These kids are outcasts in more ways than one.
Marcus and Willie approach one of Marcus’ old hobo friends, Rory and ask if he can point them in the direction of a fellow tramp who does bad shit. They head to this guy’s tent, and it turns out to be the man who stole Marcus’ shoe in #1 and who he spared. The man attacks and runs away. Willie has him in his sights, but he can’t pull the trigger. It turns out the story he told about his past is bullshit, as he didn’t kill anyone, he was just there when his dad was killed, and it messed him up. The two of them go back to sit with Rory and work out what to do. Rory talks about how going to Vietnam ruined his life, and it seems like that’s what this series is all about, people who’s lives were fucked with by ‘the man’ trying to fight back. It’s not for nothing that Marcus wants to kill Ronald Reagan.
The issue ends with another big surprise, as Marcus decides to kill Rory instead and use him to pass the test. It’s not clear how premeditated this is, it might just be because Rory called Marcus a ‘pretty boy’ which brings back a dark memory, or it could be Marcus finally accepting that the Assassin School is the only place he has left. Remender narrowed his focus for this issue, but at the same time, the scope of things has gotten bigger.
This is just a brilliant book, and Wes Craig’s art is a huge part of that, every page looks fantastic, and I love the massive number of panels used. Lee Loughridge’s colours are also excellent again. The look of this book is hugely important, given that it’s about various ‘cool’ teenagers, and Craig and Loughridge convey that expertly. This book looks unique, it looks like rebellion.
Oh yeah, and that guy with the burnt face is getting closer and closer to Marcus, he spells trouble.
Fatale #21– The end is nigh for Fatale, but even with these last few issues, Ed Brubaker is still creating more and more mysteries. When the answers finally come, it’s going to be amazing.
Brubaker kicks things off here with an awesome dream sequence inside Nicolas Lash’s head, that Sean Phillips just draws the hell out of, especially when combined with Elizabeth Breitweiser going full-on pop-art with her colours. Phillips is an artist that is normally very down to earth and ‘real’, which makes his flights into the more supernatural all the more effective. That’s why this whole series has worked so well.
Nic wakes up in a strange house, full of weird occult books. He has been put here by Jo to keep him safe and away from anyone who might be looking for them. It turns out that this house belongs to a man named Otto, who is something of an expert in the occult, and is, somehow, immune to Jo’s powers. The reason behind his immunity seems to be the tattoos that cover his entire body, and apparently he’s had them all since birth. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a descendant of the woman who befriended Jo in the Cowboy issue. Jo has even gone so far as to tattoo something onto the bottom of Nic’s foot, but that’s a different deal.
Nic spends a few weeks trapped in the house, as Jo comes and goes, until she tells him to accompany him to a party. They get all dressed-up, and it’s a creepy rich-person sex party. If you ever wanted to see Sean Phillips draw a blowjob, this is the comic for you. Jo is there to retrieve an item from someone, but he’s not very cooperative. I love how Brubaker stopped to show the toll Jo’s magic has, and how badly it can break the brain of someone when they realise they can’t have her. This man attacks her, but luckily Nic is there to beat him to death with an ornament. Jo retrieves the mysterious object, and the two of them flee the scene. It looks like the reason Nic was there was so Jo could complete some kind of ritual, she needed him to kill for her. Man, this issue took a dark turn, all throughout this series I’ve viewed Jo as a fundamentally good person trapped in a bad situation, but what if she’s just as bad as the villains? She is the Femme Fatale after all, and that character’s motivations are always shady.
Speaking of the other villains, the object Jo needed was of course Bishop’s eyeballs, but her retrieval of them wakes him up, he could see her through them! There are only 3 issues left, and man, it’s going to be good, I can tell. This issue pulled on elements from all of the previous stories and brought them together.
I know a lot of people haven’t enjoyed this book as much as Criminal or Incognito, but when all is said and done, I think this is equal to those books. Until The Fade Out comes along and blows them all away of course!
Satellite Sam #7– I’m not really sure why, but I think this was my favourite issue of Satellite Sam yet. It’s probably because the one subplot that wasn’t really explained yet, Libby Meyers and the old reels of tape, did finally start to come together, and also perhaps because the focus of the issue seemed a bit more focused on just 2 plots, give or take a few pages. Plus, I think I’ve finally got used enough to Chaykin’s style here that I can recognise each character right away without having to flip back to the recap page, that certainly helps.
Fraction begins with Libby delivering some of Carlyle White’s tapes to his storage facility, before shifting over to more of Michael&r