Another great week of comics goes under Punchy's microscope! We've got Ghost Rider, FF, New Avengers, Ultimate X-Men and a whole host of DC #2s such as Superboy, Demon Knights and Green Lantern! Plus all the fallout from X-Men: Schism!
Credits & Solicit Info:
Welcome to another instalment of This Week In Punchy, the review column where I basically say whatever uninformed rubbish pops into my head about every single comic I read in any given week.
It's another busy week, we've got more DC #2s, some Spider-Island, some X-Men: Regenesis, some Fear Itself and a healthy dose of Vertigo.
As always, you can click the links by each review to join the pulse-pounding Outhouse forum conversation, get involved and threaten me with death.
Amazing Spider-Man #671 – Another action-packed instalment of Spider-Island, lots happened here and all of it was entertaining. I think the thing I was most intrigued by was actually a plot-point that isn't really related to Spider-Island, which is the reveal that the mysterious 'Number Six' at Horizon Labs is actually Morbius. That was something that really surprised me, and I'm excited to see where Slott is taking this, and what kind of a character Morbius will be, because he's kind of flirted with being a good guy recently. The fight between Kaine and Spider-Man was pretty awesome, and though it was very, very convenient that Peter's Spider-Sense came back just at that point, it was a really cool moment. And I think we have our answer as to who the new Scarlet Spider will be, it's got to be Kaine hasn't it?
The Punisher #4 – This was probably the best issue so far, just a really solid story and a great focus on Norah Winter's, who I may have to rename 'Punisher's Pal, Norah Winters' rather than Spider-Man's. I really like how Rucka is using civilian supporting characters from other books like Norah, Ben Urich and now Carlie Cooper, as it puts this book squarely in the Marvel Universe, but not in a way that goes against the realistic tone of the book. The scenes with Frank performing surgery on himself were excellent, it's amazing how much Rucka and Checchetto can show about the Punisher's character when he says less than 10 words in the whole thing, even little details like insisting Norah stick to the speed limit. Frank is beaten and battered, but that's when he's the most dangerous.
Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive #524 – An enjoyable tie-in to Spider-Island, and one which made great use of giving Black Panther spider-powers, in that it just added to his bad-assery. It was a cool idea from Liss to have the issue be narrated not by T'Challa, but by Z-List Spider-Man villain Overdrive. The mind of a minor villain is a perspective we haven't seen very often, and it was cool to see, and I ended up actually quite liking Overdrive and his reluctance to get involved in the fight between Panther and Lady Bullseye. The art by Franco Francavilla was great as usual, and he used some very interesting panel layouts that really added to the story. Plus that cover! Brilliant. I also really dug how Liss used this tie-in to further his own story, introducting the Kingpin as a foe for the Panther and the idea of everyone's favourite fatty trying to take over Wakanda. In many ways it was unimportant that Black Panther and Lady Bullseye were spidered up, which was different.
Ghost Rider #4 – Ghost Rider in Space! How awesome is that? It's something you don't expect to see ever happen, and it worked surprisingly well. I did feel that the threat of Adam was wrapped up a bit too quickly at the end, but then who can be sure he's truly gone? The best thing about this book has been Rob Williams' voice for Johnny Blaze, and that was in full-force here, his take on the character is just a lot of fun, I loved it when he ejector-seated the zombie, and his quips are very funny. Plus, you know, Space-Bike. I'm intrigued as to where this book is going now, Adam is seemingly gone, and Alejandra looks to be trying to do good as the Rider, but I'm sure there will be complications with Blaze following her. And where's Danny Ketch in all of this? On holiday?
New Avengers #17 – A fun action issue that sows plenty more seeds for the bubbling Norman Osborn/Dark Avengers plot. The New Avengers (and Iron Man) take down Ultimo, a giant robot, and it was a really cool fight, drawn brilliantly by Mike Deodato, I loved the two pages where he showed each individual Avenger in their own panel attacking Ultimo, and then the next page, being smashed by him. This was one of this issues where you just see the team fight something and banter a bit, and it was enjoyable as usual. But of course Ultimo was under the control of Norman Osborn, and was planning on stealing an Iron Man armour, I presume in order for Normie to become Iron Patriot once again. That fails, but then he does manage to get a sample of Wolverine's DNA and blow up the Avengers. I just love how batshit Bendis' Osborn is, 'flay the skin from their bodies' indeed.
FF #10 – A good issue, certainly better than the last few. This was probably down to the fact that we've moved beyond the massive cosmic war that Hickman never properly explained and instead moved onto some more down-to-earth and interesting character stuff. There was still a bit of cosmic silliness with Ronan and Crystal, those scenes were just... odd, I have no idea what Ronan's motives are here, has he turned on Black Bolt or what? But the scenes between Reed and Sue and Evil Reed and Nathaniel were good enough to make up for it. Plus Hickman remembered that the Thing existed! Yay! Good to have the big lug back, especially when he's brought Captain America, Iron Man and Hawkeye along with him, they'll cut through all the bullshit and sort this stuff out I'm sure. Barry Kitson's art was great too, he's always good.
SHIELD Volume 2 #3 – This issue wasn't confusing! But that's only because it was a 20-page fight with no words so Hickman didn't have a chance to fuck things up. I must say that this was a damn good-looking comic, Dustin Weaver really is becoming a top-notch artist, and it was great that Hickman dropped back a little to let him shine, even if SHIELD mostly pisses me off, it's always worth reading just for the art. I wonder if the 'future' everyone is heading for is actually our present. It's easy to forget this book is set in like, 1958.
X-Men: Regenesis – Very strong, and a must-read companion piece to Schism I feel. Gillen did a really good job at showing why each X-Man chose each side, and set up lots of really tantalising bits for the future. I'm particularly interested to see where Psylocke is headed, and even though I've never been a big Storm fan, I'm also intrigued about her. Some of the stuff which picked up from books I don't read like X-Men: Legacy and New Mutants left me a little lost, what's wrong with Cannonball's head then? The framing device of Cyclops and Wolverine fighting is a little silly, but it worked well, and grew on me throughout the issue. Reading this issue it really struck me that Cyclops has become possibly the most complex and interesting character in mainstream superhero comics, there's just so much going on behind that visor. I may prefer Wolverine, but I can't wait to see what Gillen is going to do with Scott. I haven't been this excited for the X-Men franchise in ages, well done Messrs Aaron and Gillen, well done.
Uncanny X-Force #16 – Man, this book is crazy. I never expected to read a comic where Fantomex is trapped up the Blob's arsehole, but now I have, and it was awesome. There's so much cool stuff in this book, and at the moment I just can't think of how X-Force are going to stop Archangel. I know they will, because hey, it's comics, but I can't fathom how, the situation is just too dire. It was great to have Wolverine back in the mixer here, and he and Deadpool kicked some ass, but really it's all to no avail. I was sad to see my beloved Fantomex run away (insert Frenchman joke here) but I'm sure he'll be back to save the day. This is just a great book, superhero comics with an epic scope, but also not afraid of a little fun and humour, as I've said before, this is the only time Deadpool has ever been funny, and making this happen is Remender's greatest achievement, even if he eventually cures cancer or invents time-travel, it will pale in comparison to making Deadpool even vaguely amusing.
Generation Hope #12 – It's a SWORD reunion! Gillen and Sanders back together again! This was a run issue, very similar to Regenesis (hell, it used some of the same pages, and that experiment worked fairly well, both stories needed that scene) but with a bigger focus on the GH gang. I like the idea of Pixie joining the team, and that Gillen has managed to make the events of the brilliant #9 reverberate, because it could easily have been left as a standalone. The scene between Laurie and Rockslide was hilarious and tackled a problem I had with her character, she's like a teenager, yet Cyclops lets her walk around naked? Inappropriate! Every character got their moment to shine here and it was a fine send-off to Gillen's run on the book. I'm not sure whether I'll be continuing with this one, I might drop it to make room for Wolverine & The X-Men, but I'll give James Asmus at least one issue to win me over.
Ultimate Spider-Man #3 - The continuing adventures of Miles Morales is this week's Review Group book, so head on down to the RG thread to see what I think about it.
Ultimate X-Men #2 – That was Jimmy Hudson being thrown in Stryker's prison at the start right? It looked liked Wolverine Junior but I wasn't sure. This was an improvement over #1, and that was already pretty good. I really enjoyed the fight between Kitty, Iceman, Johnny and the Nimrod Sentinels, the back and forth between all the characters was a lot of fun, Spencer has a real knack for one-liners. Kitty's technique for rescuing Rogue was well-done, but I'm not too sure about the involvement of 'God'. Both Rogue and Stryker mentioned being told what to do by 'God', and what they were told was correct, so who is it? It can't be the actual God right? Maybe it's Charles Xavier or something.
PunisherMAX #18 – Brilliant stuff, as usual, Aaron is writing not only a definitive Punisher story here, but also a definitive Kingpin story. I loved the opening scene with Frank killing Bullseye, even though the guy is going to be paralysed for life, Frank has no mercy, just blows his damn head off, and the way Steve Dillon drew Bullseye's smiling face... just amazing. I also liked how Aaron is amping up the pressure on the Kingpin, and the involvement of this new MAX Elektra is fascinating, she's fucking both Kingpin and the Kingpin's wife and I'm still not sure what side she's on. I can't wait to see her try and take down the Punisher, as she inevitably will after Frank resorts to digging up Richard Fisk's grave. That is a hardcore move from Frank.
The Stand: The Night Has Come #3(of 6) – Some of the best stuff from the book was in this issue, Stu and the gang finding Harold's body, Nadine's 'suicide by Flagg', Trashcan Man finding the Nuke, Flagg's evil eye surveying the 4 walkers and then Stu's fall. Aguirre-Sacasa and Perkins translate this all wonderfully to the comics page, and it's just great to read. The end is nigh, and I have some problems with the ending in the book, will I feel the same way when I see it rather than just read it? I don't know.
Superboy #2 – A decent issue, I really like Lobdell's voice for Superboy, it's very detached and just different from the norm. I also like the supporting cast this book is developing, I always liked Ravage as a member of the Teen Titans and she's a lot of fun here. It's obvious now that 'Red' is Caitlin Fairchild from Gen13, and we're getting some hints as to what her status quo is and that she still has superpowers. The threat of 'Templar' and 'NOWHERE' isn't really grabbing me though. I didn't read Teen Titans #1 so are there any connections I missed? Did that book give us any more details on who these guys are? The best thing about this book is definitely the artwork though, RB Silva is just a great artist and he improves this book a lot.
Green Lantern #2 – The renaissance of this book continues, I think we can safely say that Green Lantern is back to it's best. Mahnke's art is as good as ever and Geoff Johns seems rejuvenated by Sinestro becoming GL, even if it is a dumb idea. What I like most about this is that it's not the usual hagiography of Hal Jordan that Johns normally does, he's recognising that the character has major faults and is addressing them. He's a mess, and he's never used the Power Ring to it's full potential like Sinestro does here. That scene where Sinestro rebuilds the bridge was great stuff. You can see that Johns and Mahnke are having a lot of fun with the book at the moment, and it really does translate to the quality of the finished product.
Frankenstein: Agent Of SHADE #2 – I love this book, it's just so weird and different. From Frankenstein punching out a Nun to the real back-story behind the monster-invasion, this was just a whole heap of strange fun. But there's depth behind the craziness. Frankenstein is a melancholy character with a lot of sadness behind him, and Lemire is developing real characters for the Creature Commandoes. Nina Mazursky's origin was very sad. The artwork from Alberto Ponticelli is very scratchy, but very suitable for the tone and the writer, as it looks a lot like Lemire's own artwork. Next issue looks like a real belter, Frankenstein and the gang take on a whole planet of monsters, awesome.
Grifter #2 – Well I'm enjoying this book. It's basically a rip-roaring action movie, and Edmondson works in some great action sequences, the fight in the diner was excellent, as was the confrontation between Cole and his brother in the desert. It doesn't hurt when the artwork is bloody brilliant, CAFU is just awesome. I will say that I could probably do without Grifter's internal narration, it's not necessary and is a little too cute, I don't want it to get as annoying as Madrox's narration in X-Factor which just pisses me off these days. But enough about X-Factor, I also liked how this book explored the Daemonite conspiracy a little more, is the general out to hunt them, or is he one of them? Dun dun dun!
Demon Knights #2 – Wow, this book doesn't let up for a moment does it? I liked the frenetic pace of #1 but I feel that maybe this issue should have taken the opportunity to slow down a little and introduce the characters a bit more rather than just have a massive fight. Paul Cornell did a decent enough job of explaining who Al Jabr, Exoristos and all the others are during the fight, but it did feel a bit rushed. I do like Cornell's take on the Demon a lot, his admission that he is, you know, evil was a lot of fun. I was a little confused about the ending, was that fireball due to Madame Xanadu or Mordru? The artwork from Diogenes Neves was a mixed bag, on some pages it looked really great, and on others it was a little rushed. Overall this was good, but it needs to calm down and stop just chucking dragons in our face.
The Shade #1(of 12) – Despite not being the title character of James Robinson's Starman, the Shade is probably the best character from that book, as much as I love Jack Knight, he's not as unique as Dickie Swift, the nefarious villain turned hero turned anti-hero turned anti-villain turned I don't know what. It's great that Robinson is returning to the character, and it looks like this is also a return to form for the writer. Whilst this wasn't quite as good as Starman, it was very good, and Shade is just as great a character as ever. We revisit the Shade picking up from the Blackest Night issue of Starman, with him dating Hope O'Dare, and the scene between the two was very interesting, we're seeing a Shade who is not as confident as usual, add to that his melancholy due to it being October, and it's clear he needs to rediscover his mojo. Although it's kind of hard to do that without a head. The ending to this issue was a great surprise, obviously Shade isn't dead, but it's a great set-up for a 12-issue series. One thing that struck me about this issue was that it's clearly set in the New 52 DC Universe, rather than the mooted Earth-2, because Animal Man is mentioned and Deathstroke shows up in his new costume. How does this square with the history of Starman which is kind of dependent on the existence of a JSA and a superhero history stretching back into the past a lot further than 5 years. I don't normally worry about continuity stuff like this, but it's gnawing at the back of my brain. Oh, and Cully Hamner's art was great.
The Unwritten #30 – A very strong issue, the story of Milton/The Tinker was really rather tragic and provides an interesting parallel to Tom's own life, and while I think we can assume Milton is dead, he's gone to Hades, I reckon he'll pop back up at just the right moment in order to save Tom's bacon at some point. I also really liked everybody's interactions with Frankenstein, or 'The Creature' as he prefers to be called, is he officially a part of Tom's entourage now? The ending was great, Tom is pissed off, and the next arc is going to be an epic, I mean, with a title like 'Tommy Taylor and the War Of The Worlds' how could it not be?
Northlanders #45 – 'The Icelandic Trilogy' jumps a couple of hundred years into the future, but doesn't miss a beat, this is still an intriguing and exciting story, with an epic scope which definitely makes it my favourite Northlanders story. I liked how Wood switched the head of the Hauksson from being a man to a woman, Brida seems like a really interesting character, she's a woman yes, but she's still very much a Hauksson, and she has a violent streak. I also like that Wood has returned to the conflict between the Vikings and Christianity, it's a really interesting hook for a story, which makes us question our own moder society, we aren't used to seeing Christians as 'the other', but for the characters in Northlanders, they definitely are. I was disappointed that Paul Azaceta was not continuing with the book, but Declan Shalvey is an excellent replacement, I love his work on Thunderbolts, and he's just a suited to realistic historical drama as he is to superhero action.
American Vampire: Survival Of The Fittest #5(of 5) – A great finale to what has been a highly enjoyable mini-series and companion piece to the main book. It's been great fun following the adventures of Cash and Felicia behind enemy lines, especially as it's been drawn by one of the best artists in the industry in Sean Murphy. His art is just so good, I can't wait to see what his next project will be. This issue was mainly a great action show-piece, Cash and Felicia's escape was very exciting and featured several cool moments, not the least of which was Cash sacrificing himself whilst singing the 'Star-Spangled Banner', which whilst a little cheesy, really worked well, and the book is titled 'American Vampire', you can't fault it when it glorifies America a little. I'm glad that Cash's son Gus seems to have been cured, I imagine we'll see him again all grown up, it's great how Snyder is building this really deep mythology with characters and lineages that will stretch throughout many time-periods.
Super Dinosaur #5 – This really is Kirkman hankering after the Cartoon Network dollars isn't it? He's got grown-up TV conquered with The Walking Dead show, and now he wants to get at the kids! This book really is like a cartoon, and it's enjoyable all the same, there are plenty of eye-rolling moments, but if you go with it, and just accept the stupid/cool ideas, it's a lot of fun. The fight between SD and the Mega-Raptor was dumb, but it was dumb fun. I did like the ending, which revealed the true extent of Maximus' evil, he kidnapped Derek's mother and made him forget her! That bastard! That's an extra level of maturity that elevates this book from being totally for kids only.
Morning Glories #13 – More mind-bending fun from those crazy kids at the Morning Glories Academy. This issue featured everything that makes this book great, you had the awkward (but in a good way) teenage drama and character interactions, and then the crazy LOST-ian science-magic-stuff like the weird chairs that Casey and Ms. Hodge sat in, which I assume sent them through time, a bit like the frozen donkey wheel in LOST. And also, with this issue I think that Ike has become my favourite character, he's just such a magnificent arsehole. I do hope that next issue explains what exactly a 'woodrun' is, as I've never heard of it. I have no idea what's going on in this book, but that only makes it better, as unlike SHIELD, this book isn't po-faced at all, and makes room for fun jokes and recognises it's WTF-factor.
Oh yeah, you know you love it.
Ahem, another good week, yes? I think my favourite book this week was probably PunisherMAX or The Shade. The real James Robinson is back!
Join me next week for another insane-in-the-membrane week of comics, I'll be taking a look at another load of DC #2s, including the likes of Batman, Blue Beetle and Wonder Woman. Plus there's the finale of Fear Itself, new issues of Wolverine, X-Factor and Hellblazer, and the last issue of Uncanny X-Men EVER! I can't believe we'll never read another issue of Uncanny X-Men, what a shame.
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Review by: Niam Suggitt