After a bit of a Christmas break, TWIP is back with a Santa-sized loads of comics reviews. So many comics, so little time.
Credits & Solicit Info:
Welcome along to another instalment of TWiP. Apologies for the lateness of this week's column, but it's the week between Christmas and New Year, I haven't got the will to do anything except eat chocolate, fart and watch TV.
But I did manage to shake off the quilt of Quality Street wrappers that had coated by body and read some comics, and this is the result! The biggest TWiP ever!
As always, click the links to head to the forum threads, it may be Christmas, but that doesn't mean you can't abuse me.
Amazing Spider-Man #676 – Is this week's New Review Group selection! Rock on! Read that thread to see what we all think of the return of the Sinister Six.
Venom #11 - Holy crap, the new Jack O'Lantern is one fucked-up dude, I find him to be a really great villain, from his insistence on having charisma and being likeable, to his disturbing origins, which not only gave us a lot of info about old Jack, but also raises some interesting questions about who Crime-Master is. I can't wait to see Flash finally take out those two, they really are despicable. Remender continues his great job of really making Flash a rounded character, his struggles with addiction (to both alcohol and the symbiote), his need to be a hero and the incredibly dangerous situation he's in just make it fascinating to follow. Add to that the fact that he's now being tracked by the Red Fucking Hulk, it doesn't get much worse for him. Oh yeah, and there's also Eddie Brock, who now seems to be some kind of crazed religious symbiote-killer version of the Punisher. Which is pretty awesome.
Invincible Iron Man #511 - Fraction really piles on the misery for Iron Man in this issue. His company has a go at him for being drunk, he gets his ass beat on by the Living Laser, which then leads to the public thinking he's still drunk! It's really great how Mandarin is expertly pulling all these strings, and how Fraction is bringing in pretty much every Iron Man villain of any import, from ones he's created in his run, to old-school ones like the afore-mentioned Living Laser. Any ideas on who is actually the Saboteur in Stark Resilient? Pimacher? The asian guy? I actually think my favourite scene in this issue was the confrontation between Pepper and Bethany Cabe, really strong dialogue there, and it's great that this book has such a strong female supporting cast. This issue probably needed some more Splitlip though.
Incredible Hulk #3 – Man, this issue was really dark, the last page of the Boar Brothers slowly dying in the Lava? Bleak shit man, bleak shit. And Hulk abandoning his little Moloid friends? Sad. This book is moving a bit too slowly really for my liking, but it has had it's moments, and now that Hulk has agreed to join up with Amanda Von Doom and her squad to take down Banner, I think Aaron's main plot thread has been set-up and things should pick up pretty quickly. One thing I like about this take on the Hulk is that we're getting an insight into what the Hulk thinks, most of the time, we'll get narration from Bruce Banner, but not Hulk, so it's really cool to see what the big green guy is thinking, although really, his monologue should mostly be 'SMASH!!'. I still have problems with Silvestri's art here though, it seems rushed and robs a lot of the action of the necessary gravitas. At least he managed to draw this one though.
Hulk #46 – Wow, this one was pretty trippy, the fight between Rulk, Machine Man and Dagan Shah in the trippy void-space was awesome, and really allowed Patrick Zircher to cut loose. I especially liked the return of Arabian Knight, straight into the action, chopping mother-fucker's hands off (a comment on Islamic Law?), like you do. I also liked how this story didn't really resolve the issue of Sharzhad, it's still there, and it's now been established in the Marvel Universe as the Arabian Latveria, so hopefully other writers will use it, and Parker will get to come back to it. Also good to see General Fortean show up again, we're still waiting for that plotline to culminate! It was also good how Parker brought this arc back to the personal for Ross, it was really all about his dead friend, not crazy cosmic alien madness. But then the best Hulk stories are about both aren't they?
Daredevil #7 – Ah, now that was nice and festive. I didn't get either Marvel or DC's Christmas specials this year, mostly because they come out too early and also because they're often not very good, but this provided me with plenty of Christmas cheer, and it was made even better by being a proper story, rather than a load of schmaltzy rubbish. I mean, yeah, all the little blind kids showed true spirit and saved DD's life, but the bus driver still died, which is pretty dark. That's what this book is about, really, the mix of light and dark in a person. And that was perfectly demonstrated by Matt's flashback to the Nelson & Murdock Christmas Party, where he goes from sitting in the dark brooding, to extrovert happiness at the party (I loved the 'I am not Daredevil' jumper) and back-and-forth repartee with Kirsten the DA. Matt's new positive outlook is built on foundations of sand really, and with the last page that seems to indicate that someone has dug up one of his parent's graves... could the darkness come rushing back? And of course, this issue once again had fantastic art, Paolo Rivera is just awesome, and the way he Daredevil's powers are brilliant. Next issue is the Spider-Man crossover, which should hopefully be, if not amazing, then at least spectacular.
Wolverine #20 - How great is it to see Aaron writing the Marvel Universe version of Kingpin? He's doing such a good job with the character's X-rated version in PunisherMAX, that it's cool to see he can still write him the same way, just without the fucking and swearing. This issue was a little disorientating at first, it seemed like we were jumping in halfway into a storyline, rather than kicking off a new one, but Aaron soon caught us up and the idea of an epic war between the Hand and the Yakuza is something that has me salivating, and should mean that #300 is actually worthy of the anniversary. I'm not too knowledgeable about Wolverine's solo past, is Seraph new? If so, a detective agency full of Wolverine's exes is a great idea! At least I knew who the Buzzard Boys were, it was cool to see them again, they're just so disgusting it's almost funny, a gun that shoots teeth! Come on! Oh yeah, and Sabretooth is back, I guess that's a big deal? When did he come back? Or has it not been explained yet?
Avengers #20 – Thank the gods that Bendis managed to get Madame Hydra out of that stupid Octopus-Head thing. I loved Secret Warriors as much as the next man, but that whole idea was just idiotic. This was another very strong issue of Avengers, I just love how Osborn and his new Hammer is a threat to the team in every possible way, not only can it kick their asses, but it has also led to the public turning on the team. It's also great that, as Hawkeye says, nothing Osborn says is actually wrong. Whether or not Osborn is a villain or not is a matter of perspective really. This issue also had a bit of fun in splitting the team up into separate groups just like the old Justice Society did in the Golden Age, which allowed some characters who don't normally interact to do so. I particularly liked Storm's questioning of Rulk, and it was awesome to see some of Marvel Boy/The Protector's old rebellious personality to return. I was reading Morrison's original idea for that series in his 'Supergods' book, and the character at the moment is nothing like he's supposed to be. Acuna's art was excellent yet again, I particularly like his Vision, he really makes the bright colours work.
Fantastic Four #601 – This issue felt more like a big anniversary event than #600 did in some ways, there were just way more exciting images and 'fuck yeah' moments than last time out. I really loved the return of the classic '4' beacon, and Ben's reaction to it and subsequent 'Clobbering Time' really were awesome. Is that the best 'Clobbering Time' ever? I think it could be up there. I also like how much more mature and self-assured Johnny Storm is here, just because he's come back from the dead doesn't mean he's back to normal, and it'll be interesting to see what kind of character he's like from here on in, especially since he's now the supreme ruler of the Negative Zone. Oh yeah, and did anyone else think Captain America was kind of a dick to that horse dude? Not cool Steve.
Thunderbolts #167 – Well that was... odd. It wasn't nearly as simple as I thought it was, Hyde hadn't gone off the deep end and become Jack The Ripper, it was some crazy magic stuff where he and Satana had to kill the prostitutes because they had been possessed by Iceni witches. Or something. It all kind of makes sense, but it all seems kind of skeevy. The scene where Boomerang had to kill Mary Jane Kelly was surprising, and the stuff with Abberline at the end was really fucking bleak, especially when you know what he has to do with the body. I do like that the Ghost is back in time now, he's probably my favourite character in this book at the moment, and it'll be a lot of fun to see the Tbolts in medieval times. Declan Shalvey's art was great as usual, and he really kicked ass on Satana's little Iceni history lesson.
Wolverine & The X-Men #3 – Quentin Quire kicks ass and is hilarious. Not much else to say really, this book continues to be an amazing wild ride where literally anything can (and does) happen. I was a bit annoyed that Bachalo didn't do the whole issue, but when the story is this fun, it doesn't matter too much. This book is a real shot in the arm for the X-books, and it's worked a treat. Although... ending two issues in one week with the 'shocking' return of Sabretooth? Kind of lame.
Uncanny X-Force #19 – This issue is less of a 'Regenesis' tie-in and more of a 'Dark Angel Saga' epilogue, and it does a good job at that, because I did feel that #18 left quite a few unanswered questions. So whilst it's not good for my bank balance, it's actually quite handy that this has come out so hot on the heels of the last issue. This issue was mainly set up for the future of this series, but it does set-up some very exciting stuff, I particularly like the role that AoA Nightcrawler looks set to play, this guy is not the happy-go-lucky elf we're used to, he's a much darker character, and it'll be fun to see him bamf around and be a bad-ass. I'm also glad that Genesis is sticking around, and how his existence sheds a new light onto Fantomex's internal struggles. The scene where he and Wolverine faced off over a room full of beers was excellent. Robbi Rodriguez on art took some time to get used too, he's a lot more stylised and cartoony than the artists this book has had previously, but it was good, reminding me at times of Eric Canete. And speaking of art... Rafael Grampa's cover to this book is one of the covers of the year, just amazing. Oh yeah, and now this book has brought in Captain Britain and the Multi-Verse, can it get any better? Not really.
Generation Hope #14 – In case you think I'm biased towards 'Team Wolverine', here's a book from 'Team Cyclops'! And what a book it is! I was wary of James Asmus taking over this book, because I didn't know him from Adam, but his last two issues have been really good. The art from Roberson has been great, crazy stuff like Martha Johansson getting a body has happened, and he's tackled one of Fraction's dangling plotlines in 'what the hell happened to Sebastian Shaw?' Well, we have our answer now, and it's a good one, he's got no memory (he and Angel should hang out) and has been tricked into becoming a suicide bomber who can't really commit suicide by a crazy Chinese kid called Jin Billionaire. I really enjoyed Jin Billionaire, his crazy, hyperactive, technology obsessed rants really made him seem like a modern villain, one of today, rather than yesterday. I suspect Jin and Kade Kilgore would get along. In the end, Hope and the gang take 'Shaw' back to Utopia, where of course, Cyclops has a problem. It's going to be interesting to see how this all shakes out, Shaw isn't really a bad guy anymore, but can Scott see that?
X-Factor #229 – Another awesome cover, at first you see it and think it's lame, like those kind of stunts actually work, but then you see.. oh, they're all Madroxes, and it becomes very clever indeed. The actual issue inside this cover was rather odd, we find out that the 'future' where Rahne kills Madrox and Layla on their wedding night that the book has been building up to for aaages now is not really the future but a parallel universe. Which is kind of lame in one way, but then it's always fun to see a parallel universe, and see Banshee alive, or that Wolfsbane has a crazy daughter, or that Shatterstar and Longshot are brothers (which of course applies to the 'real' world too) and that Peter Parker is (I assume) chief of police in a mutant-hating world. And then Jamie dies again and is reborn in another reality. Strange. I do wonder how David can continue this story though, what with next issue being the 'Regenesis' relaunch issue, it's not going to be very new-reader friendly if all we get is Madrox being killed.
Six Guns #3(of 5) – This issue was a fantastic action spectacle, just like the best Michael Bay movie ever, by which I mean, it had explosions, but it also had a plot. Diggle and Gianfelice make a really fantastic team, and the action setpieces were incredibly exciting, particularly the one at the end where Matt Slade drove his car into Tarantula's plane. Yes, you read that right, and there was more, all of our heroes are in the same place, and sparks are flying. The plot of the evil Blackguard continues to develop nicely too, especially now that Roxxon is involved. It's interesting that Two-Gun's brother is alive, will that mean he turns on the others? I feel that this book is flying under way too many radars, when the trade comes out, you should all get it, all of you. Or, hey, maybe you can go back and get the first 3 issues?
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #5 – Miles Morales' origin comes to an end, and it was another very enjoyable issue. Miles' confrontation with Spider-Woman was very well-done, but I do think maybe it would be better if we had seen that from Spider-Woman's perspective, because Miles doesn't really know how much of a big deal it is, that she's Peter Parker's clone. But then I suppose it may have been intentional to keep us seeing things only from Miles' position, it allows you to get to know him more. What was also cool was that Miles took out Electro using the Spider-Powers that are exclusive to him, ones that Peter didn't have, it did a good job of demonstrably setting him apart. And then the iconic last page where we get our first look at Miles' costume, and that he is officially Spider-Man. Great stuff. I did feel that the art this month was a little rushed, Pichelli was only doing breakdowns and you could tell, but it still looked decent. Oh yeah, and it looks like Bendis subtly answered something that had been bugging, that Miles had his mother's surname rather than his dad's, because if he had his dad's, he would have been called Miles Davis! Nicely done.
PunisherMAX #20 – More glorious brutality from Aaron and Dillon, this issue was just a bloodbath, the fight between Frank and Elektra was amazing. But of course there was more to this than shurikens to the head or biting arms, and Aaron really did well to feature some rather poignant flashbacks for Frank, we see his first kill, we see his first female kill, we see Frank as a kid, it simultaneously humanises Frank and makes him more monstrous. The final confrontation with the Kingpin is going to insane. One thing I also liked about this issue was that Elektra was killed so soon, it subverted my expectations that she would be a major force against Frank, sticking around, instead, she's killed in her first fight with him. That's the good thing about MAX, it can do whatever it wants, even more so than the Ultimate Universe.
Supergirl #4 - Another solid, albeit slow-moving issue of Supergirl. I think what sets this book apart is how, like Superboy, it really internalises what it must be like to discover superpowers, to discover you are as incredibly powerful as Supergirl is. Green and Johnson put you right inside Kara's mind and we discover what she can do alongside her. This issue kind of wrapped up the first storyline, and did a very good job of setting up Supergirl's new nemesis, Tycho, who is now a limbless freak, it's going to be interesting when he shows up again, because not only does he now (I'm guessing) have the powers of 'The Brain', but he also has his own genius intellect, a very intriguing threat. Mahmud Asrar continues to do the best work of his career on this book, it really reminds me of Leonard Kirk, who is awesome, so that makes this awesome. Supergirl may not be grabbing the headlines like some other New 52 books, but it has been very good, if you want very strong superhero action with a non-sleazy female protagonist... look no further.
Batman #4 – Or 'The Adventures Of Bruce Wayne, Boy Detective'. Snyder is doing a lot of retconning here, and I'm not sure it's all working for me, the idea that this Court Of Owls thing has been an obsession for Batman since he was a kid yet hasn't been mentioned until now is a little much. But it is interesting, and I love how it's building up the history of Gotham and making it feel real. I also loved how the issue ended with a gloriously old-school death-trap maze, Dick Sprang would be proud. Even though I found the flashbacks problematic on a story level, the artwork more than made up for them, Capullo really shone there, going for a more expressionist, shadowy and scratchy style that was very effective, he's more than just incredibly long, twisty capes.
Wonder Woman #4 – So Wonder Woman likes heavy metal huh? That's an odd character detail, but it works surprisingly well, and allowed Cliff Chiang to draw the character in a pretty awesome outfit. His artwork truly has been amazing in this book; every page is excellent. This book introduced Azzarello and Chiang's interpretation of another Greek God, this time it was War, who rather than being a hulking meathead like Marvel's Ares, is actually an old man with bloody feet. It's an interesting take, and his world-weary attitude surprised me, that's a great thing about this book, it's looking at the gods in a really different light. If superhero comics are modern myth, then this really is modernising the actual myth. The ending was very good too, it's very cool irony that after her lies to Diana, Hippolyta has been turned to clay. Can it be reversed? It almost looked like Hera was going to be merciful for a second there.
Blue Beetle #4 – I've seen a couple of threads complaining about this book in comparison to the old run, but since I haven't read that, I'm enjoying this for what it is, and maybe that's for the best, I don't have any baggage here, and can just appreciate what is a very solid title. And of course, what I do know about Jaime Reyes is being subverted here, like the stabbing of Paco on the last page. Is Paco truly? I actually hope he is, it would really make people stand up and notice that this book isn't just re-hashing what Giffen and Rogers did, but is actually doing something new with the Blue Beetle. I would like this book to slow down a bit though and let us learn a bit more about Jaime as a person, we know he's a decent guy and doesn't want to kill anyone, but other than that... Ig Guara's art continues to improve, I was iffy on him at first, but this issue looked really great, especially his rendition of the Beetle in action.
Justice League #4 – Ah, Justice League, you're a strange book, I want to hate you for being kind by the numbers, but I can't help but enjoy your blend of fan-service, lame jokes and explosions. I particularly liked Aquaman in this issue, not only is he rocking some awesome sideburns, but he used a shark to kill some Parademons and made Green Lantern look like a retard. But then that's not hard in this book, pretty much everyone makes Hal look dumb. I though Johns was supposed to be a big fan of the character? It doesn't seem like it here! The scene where he accidentally touches Wonder Woman's lasso was ridiculous. The stuff with Cyborg still annoys me, he doesn't belong here! He's not a member of the JLA! But what can I do about it? Every time I complain about it I get labelled a racist. Jim Lee was Jim Lee, and his Darkseid was suitably intimidating. Overall... good, but mainly because of little character details like Aquaman's sideburns, the Flash being a boy scout and Superman hating the army, not the overall plot.
Green Lantern Corps #4 – I thought Green Lantern was supposed to be whimsical sci-fi fun? Not so in this book, it's fucking dark. The title page is of a GL having a sword shoved in his head, with his brain-parts squirting in the reader's face. Grim. Then the rest of the issue is Guy Gardner going full Guantanamo on a prisoner. It's all way to serious for me, and it's a bit too much, I know the GL Corps can easily be seen as an army, but really, they're supposed to be a Police Force. The cover says 'War Crimes', and that doesn't just apply to 'The Keepers' but to our heroes as well. When people get angry about superhero comics being nothing but blood and guts, this is what they're talking about. That said, I did really enjoy the guest appearance from Martian Manhunter, which set up the fact that he, and Stormwatch are no fans of the Corps, that could be an interesting storyline down the road. Also, didn't Johns say that Martian Manhunter had served on the JLA before he joined Stormwatch? If so, how come Guy didn't recognise him, or did J'Onn maybe erase everyone's memories of him? Oh yeah, and it was good to have Pasarin back, I really like his art, and it is cool how Tomasi is exploring the issue of where the Lanterns came from, that's cool continuity, but other than that... this book needs to lighten up!
Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes! – Bloody hell, this was a big one, it's almost a trade paperback! It took me a while to read too, especially the second story, which has really rather confusing chronology, but did, I think, kind of tie it all together well in the end. I would recommend that you read the recap of the rest of Batman Incorporated before the actual stories rather than after, because I certainly had forgotten a lot of what had come before, and Morrison didn't really make any effort to remind us in the story. But then that's not his fault, he didn't think this would be coming out 4 months after #8. The first story with Batgirl was pretty fun, I got a kick out of seeing Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, and Cameron Stewart's art was fantastic. However, after reading it, I can't see why everyone was so upset about Stephanie Brown not being Batgirl anymore, she didn't seem that exceptional. The second story, was, as I said, rather confusing at first, what with all the time skips, but at the end we know the full story, and with the revelation that Talia is behind Leviathan, the stage is set for an epic battle. No idea when that will be, but hey, as long as it happens sometime. Chris Burnham's art was great as well, he and Stewart really click well with Morrison's madcap scripts.
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2(of 6) – I really like how this book is tackling what could be a really goofy subject like a subterranean uprising in a serious way. Spencer reflects the conflict through the prism of the Cold War and it makes it work much better than the usual Mole-Man silliness. In many ways the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents are the superheroes that are the most related to the Cold War, along with maybe Iron Man, so it's cool to see that era flashed-back too, especially with Jerry Ordway's art. Wes Craig continues to do fantastic work on the present day sequences too, very expressive and stylish. It's just a shame that the 'death' of Dynamo on the last page doesn't have much impact because we haven't really seen anything about his character since #3 or so. This book is doing the big picture stuff brilliantly, but beyond Colleen and Toby, the characters are still under-developed.
Hellblazer #286 – A really good ending to the 'Devil's Trenchcoat' story arc, and even though it's an evil piece of tailoring, I'm very glad that John has it back, he's just not the same without it, although surely it must be coated in the blood of that Mafia guy? Oh well, magic I guess. The scene where Gemma and Terry are fucking was just terrifying, scarier than any demon, but it is good grist for the drama mill, and it sets up what should be a very exciting story with Constantine heading to Hell to find out why his sister is there. It's always fun to see different writer's takes on Hell, and I expect Milligan's will be something special.
Invincible #86 – No book does superhero fights with added gore like Invincible, and this issue ranks among the best blood-fests. The fight between Allen and Nolan was gripping stuff, and then when Oliver got involved... on the side of Allen, wow. It was interesting to note how this fight basically boils down to a debate about humanity, are we a good species, or a bad one? I hate to say it, but Oliver and Allen may be right! And of course managed to sneak some humour into the story, but not too much. This has been a nice diversion from the main story, where Mark has been a bit of a whiney bitch lately, out in space, people are making things happen, and the it looks like the confrontation between Mark and his former friend and brother will be EPIC.
The Boys: Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker #6(of 6) - The origin of Billy Butcher comes to an end, and what an origin it was, doing a fantastic job at fleshing out Butcher, and getting around to showing the death of his wife that has been hinted at since the beginning in an incredibly powerful way. This final chapter really showed us how The Boys as we know it got started, and was everything you want from this book, great art from Robertson, piss-takes of superheroes (in this case Daredevil and also a bit of Spider-Man), political satire (Bush senior and Clinton get a bit of a kicking), real pathos and humanity in Butcher's reunion with his mother, and then finally, shocking stuff only Ennis can give you, such as someone pissing on their dead father's face. This story had to be told so now we know the full truth, now it's time for the main book to reach it's finale, I can't wait.
I told you it would be a big bastard didn't I? I don't think I even remember reading most of those comics, it's all in a big Turkey haze. It's difficult to recall a favourite, but considering the season, I guess I'll have to give it to Daredevil #7! Well done!
Join me some time next week for a thankfully shorter column, but there'll still be plenty of high quality comics, including new issues of All-Star Western, Punisher and Haunt, and the final issue of DMZ! It's the end of an era.
TWiP 2nd Opinions!
- Tyler Mills also reviewed Uncanny X-Force #19
- Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #5 was given another look by David Dean
Review by: Niam Suggitt