Punchy tells you everything you need to know about last week's comics! How the heck is Kitty Pryde pregnant? Do you need to read Teen Titans in order to understand Superboy? Is Conan The Barbarian now a hipster? All these questions and more are not really answered right here!
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I've had a haircut, the column is on time, everything's coming up Punchy!
This is an excellent week for comics, there's a threepeat for Jason Aaron, the final issue of the excellent Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive, new issues of Green Lantern, Haunt and The Unwritten, as well as a new start for Conan The Barbarian!
As per, click on the links to head to the forum discussion, rock on!
Venom #13.1 – 'Circle Of Four' continues to be a fun story as our various heroes take on their 'antitheses'. As Rob Williams wrote this issue it focused a bit more on the characters he's regularly dealing with in Ghost Rider and X-23 but he still found time for some interesting character details for Hulk and Venom. I think the best scene in this issue was the fight between X-23 and X-666, it's really interesting how this story is really tackling on what exactly a 'soul' is and what it means in a world where Heaven and Hell are real. This issue also added Doctor Strange and Daimon Hellstrom into the mix, which is always fun. It's a real shame that 2 of the characters in this crossover have ongoings that are soon to be cancelled, because this really could have led a lot of new readers to X-23 and Ghost Rider.
Incredible Hulk #5 – So we finally get an explanation as to how Hulk and Banner got split apart, and it's DOOM! I'm not sure how this works with what we saw in Fear Itself #7 where it looked like what split the two apart was a mystery to the Hulk himself, but it's cool that Doctor Doom is involved, especially since Aaron has recently introduced a character who may or may not be related to him. I'm also guessing that Doom wasn't being quite honest when he said he'd not make any adjustments to Banner, he deliberately made him crazy. The rest of this issue was fun, gamma monkey poop and all, but really, the art was hard to get through, Portacio is not a favourite of mine at the best of times, but here... it was really rushed and amateurish. Aaron is writing a very good story here but he's not being well served by his artists and it's hurting the book. Sort it out Marvel!
Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive #529 – This title comes to a very satisfying end as Black Panther outwits the Kingpin and rediscovers himself. I had suspected that Miyu was working for the Panther, but I had not guessed that it would actually be Shuri, that was a cool reveal. Once that was revealed, Fisk's defeat was inevitable really. This has been a good series and whilst I'm sad to see it finish, it was always going to be a finite concept and T'Challa was always going to head back to Wakanda to be King, so it's good that it came to an end in a way that felt natural, rather than because Shuri got killed or some other forced motivation that hit the reset button. I think that this run really made me a fan of Black Panther, whereas before I liked him, but wasn't really fussed, this made him a true Marvel hero with the feet of clay, and I loved it. I hope Liss gets another shot at a series soon, because he kicked ass with this one. He and Martinbrough made a great team, perhaps on Wolverine? He's already proven he can write Ninjas.
Secret Avengers #22 – Rick Remender's run kicks off in earnest with an enjoyable issue that not only introduced new team-members in Captain Britain and Giant-Man but also an interesting new threat. We already know that Remender knows how to write a team-book (and a stealth team-book at that) with X-Force and he manages the same blend of character interaction and action here. I really liked the scene where Captain Britain thought he had been made leader, and it looks like he and Hawkeye will have a very interesting relationship, one that's rife with conflict. I'm torn on who to side for, whilst Hawkeye is of course awesome, as a Briton, I feel I should always stand behind our Captain. Damn this patriotism! Gabriel Hardman's artwork was as high-quality as his Hulk stuff, and a good fit for this book, which requires not only crazy superhero fun but also a deal of darkness and mood. The new villains are intriguing, it looks like they are some kind of children of the Super-Adaptoid, I wonder how that works, and do they have any connection to the Shadow Council?
Wolverine And The X-Men #5 – Another crazy fun issue of W&XM, this book is just such a rollercoaster ride each time out. The main thread of this issue is Wolverine's search for funding, as the Hellfire Club blocks him using Warren Worthington's billions, it's going to be awesome to see him and Quire off in space. Aaron also takes time out for a bit of actual learning at the school, as Beast takes a couple of the students on a field-trip inside of Toad's body, which was hilarious. Aaron is not really known as a funny rider, but once again he delivers some great lines that don't get in the way of the story and make sense for the characters. Nick Bradshaw's art was fantastic yet again, I know some people have a problem with his faces, but for he his cartoonish style is perfect for the madcap tone of this title. Kitty's 'pregnancy' is the most dangerous plotline the book has had so far, and I fear for Broo, I bet some people will blame him for what's happened to her.
PunisherMAX #22 – Wow, I can't believe they actually did it. The Punisher is dead, I know it looked grim at the end of #21, but this is comics, there's always a way out. But I had forgotten that this was MAX and Jason Aaron, the normal rules do not apply. With Frank dead, the focus of this epilogue issue was Nick Fury who gives Frank the funeral he probably doesn't really deserve, and we see how his War wasn't meaningless at all as he spurs on the general populace to fight back against crime. That ending may seem to be a positive one, but it's troubling me, Frank's death has basically led to a violent uprising against the state. It would be interesting to see Aaron follow that story up, but it's probably a bit too similar to what Bendis is doing with Scarlet. I really hope that this is the last we see of MAX Punisher, after what Ennis and now Aaron have done, I doubt it can be bettered. Let the Marvel Universe have its PG-13 Frank, that should be enough.
Superboy #6 – OK guys, level with me, am I missing out by not reading Teen Titans? Is it as crap as it looks or is it actually decent? I ask because at times I feel like I'm only really getting half of the story in Superboy, the stuff at the start with Superboy talking to some lame new Titan was lost on me. I'm starting to get worried that once that Ravagers book comes out I'll barely be getting a third of the story! This is the bad side of an inter-connected universe, you start to feel obliged to buy certain comics you have no real interest in. Thankfully the stuff with Supergirl was a lot better and raised some interesting new details about the nature of Superboy's powers (he seems to have some telepathy as well as his tactile TK) and also about the history of Krypton. It seems that Krypton's dodgy history with Clones from the John Byrne era is back in force with the new continuity, and the name 'Kon' seems to refer to clones. How long before we get an appearance from Black Zero? This book continues to be good despite my not reading Teen Titans, but at this point, the fact that Superboy is still willing to work for NOWHERE is just fucking ridiculous, almost as bad as the Green Lanterns still trusting the Guardians. It's just so obvious NOWHERE are dicks.
Batwoman #6 – Not only is Batwoman the Lana Del Rey of comics, she's also this week's choice for the New Review Group, head over there to see the usual gang of berks discuss the adventures of Kate Kane.
Green Lantern #6 – Sinestro as GL continues to work really well in spite of itself. This issue was mainly a bridge between the last arc and the big stuff coming up in the book (see the page where Sinestro gets a glimpse of the future). Now obviously Hal Jordan isn't going to get killed, but we already know that the Indigo Tribe will play a big role and that the Guardians (twats!) will be creating a new Corps, this issue just confirmed. But it did so by adding some good character bits, such as Hal Jordan actually becoming a human being for the first time in decades and not wanting to be Green Lantern again, as well as the introduction of a new character in Starstorm. Starstorm is the former 'nemesis' of Sinestro, which if you think about it means he used to be a hero until good ol' Thaal humiliated him and made him a suicidal hobo. I hope this character sticks around, he sheds some new light on Sinestro. Mike Choi steps in on this issue's art duties, and while his stuff here isn't as polished as his covers, or the pages he did for Demon Knights a few months ago, it still looks good, and even more impressive is that he colours it himself.
Frankenstein: Agent Of SHADE #6 – Did anyone else get a bit of a Watchmen vibe from this issue? I mean, Col. Quantum is surely a homage to Dr. Manhattan, there's the reference to Captain Atom and of course, he fought in 'Nam and is a big naked primarily-coloured guy. But this homage did work well, and the way his story ended was rather poignant. I just hope that the cover to this issue doesn't lead to disappointment for some readers! It made it look like we were getting explosive action, when instead we got something just as good, but a lot quieter. I particularly liked how the story of Quantum showed us a Frankenstein adventure in the past, I think it would be a great idea for Frankenstein to take a leaf out of Starman's book by doing periodic 'Times Past' issues which show Frank's adventures in the past, something for Matt Kindt to think about when he comes on board. The other plotline of the Humanid's becoming sentient was cool too, but it's only really getting started, but I especially liked how it came out of Brother Eye's actions in #5, which demonstrated that the crossover happened for a reason. Well, a reason more than just money, which is more than you can say for most crossovers!
Grifter #6 – This issue was a bit of a disappointment really, after a lot of big build-up, the climax to Grifter's initial fight with the Daemonites and the Black Curate was rushed and rather confusing. I had really enjoyed the first 4 or so issues of this book, but I think I may now drop this after Edmondson leaves, the concept of the title isn't really appealing to me any more. I think that they rushed the title into full-on cosmic war a bit too soon, and he became uber-capable way too quickly. I think I would have preferred a slower pace, with Cole facing more low-key threats in more realistic settings before coming face to face with the Black Curate. This book seemed to be about a normal criminal coming into contact with an unknown world, but that unknown became known way too soon. It looks like the ending of this one has something to do with Superman #1 and Stormwatch, so we'll see how that goes, but really... the ball was dropped with this one.
Demon Knights #6 – The battle is finally here and it kicks ass! This was probably the best issue of this title so far, the action was propulsive, each character got a nice moment and the stakes were high as hell. Exoristo's 'suicide by rhino-monster' scenes were great, and the page of Horse-Woman and all the other Horses facing down those dragons was brilliant, epic stuff. I do worry that the usual controversy-stirrers will start complaining about the book killing off innocent horsies though, they've been quiet for a while and they need a new, well, a new dead horse to beat. Maybe the bronies can get involved? Madame Xanadu continues to frustrate though, she's always almost doing something, but never actually does. I did like that the origin of her name made no sense in a time-travelly way, she chose it because Merlin told her she would choose it in the future. What the? This issue featured another artist on a few pages, but it's a credit to Robson Rocha that I didn't really notice.
The Unwritten #34 – Another eventful issue of The Unwritten, and one that demonstrates the true epic scope of what Carey and Gross are doing. I loved seeing Tom gouge that Cabal guy's eye out, it was a great moment, and although you could probably see it coming, it still had impact. I also really liked Richie going full-on Vampire to take out the Cabal writers who were robbing Tom of his powers, it's interesting how his vampirism seems to have improved his life, rather than hindered it. But I guess that may change. I was slightly annoyed by Carey once again dancing around finally revealing some answers with the Cabal not actually really knowing what they are doing. It's all getting a bit too much like LOST, where The Others were just as clueless to the true scope of things as the survivors of the Plane Crash. But the ending where the Sibyl sent Tom crashing into the pit and face to face with Pullman... that was good, and holds promise that perhaps next issue will have some answers. But is that hoping for too much?
Northlanders #48 – The final part of the Icelandic Trilogy kicks off, and takes us a few more hundred years into the future of the Hauksson clan. We pick up the story in 1260, which I think is the most recent time that this book has been set in so far, and shows us that once again, the Hauksson's are an exceedingly dysfunctional family. Iceland is at war, but the head of the clan wants to sit out the war to make sure of the future. The son of course thinks differently and plots against his father. This is rich drama, and Wood writes it wonderfully. I think what really makes this story work is the weight of history behind it, the Head Hauksson is writing a history of the clan, and the actions of the characters we read about in the first 2 parts of the trilogy hang over every action here. Wood has managed to build an epic continuity in only 7 issues! Impressive to say the least. Danijel Zezelj takes over the art duties for this final chapter, and he does his usual excellent job, his angular style really works for a Viking milieu, it reminds me of ancient runes or something. It's no accident that he's the only artist along with Gianfelice to do more than one story for this series.
Haunt #21 – Casey and Fox's reinvention of Haunt continues to be a brilliant, madcap thrill-ride. The art is really the big draw here for me, Fox's art is so idiosyncratic and weird that it's just a joy to look at each panel. He draws the bizarre tentacles of Haunt well, his backgrounds are detailed and the way he draws intestines is so good it almost becomes beautiful. Under Fox's pencil, Haunt has become one of the best looking books on the market, and that's no joke. But that's not to denigrate Casey's contribution, he paces the action brilliantly, and while the dialogue isn't quite as insane as in Butcher Baker, he manages to get some great one-liners in there, and the made-up scripture of the secret bible sounds real. Last month I predicted that 'Still Harvey Tubman' was actually Jesus Christ, and I'm not sure whether this issue had any pointers one way or the other, I hope I'm right though, it would be awesome for Jesus to have a starring role again, he hasn't had one since Battle Pope.
Conan The Barbarian #1 – Before you start, yes I only bought this for Wood and Cloonan. Call me a hipster or whatever, but I don't really have that much interest in Conan these days, but with that creative team, who can say no? Wood/Cloonan (Or Woonan, if you like) have that same kind of synergy that the likes of Brubaker/Phillips and Bendis/Maleev do, they just go together so well. And this new start for Conan is no exception to that rule, this was a damn good comic. The story starts with a young Conan on the run from the law, leaping into mid-air to land on a boat, and then he begins a life of piracy. I really liked the cockiness of Conan here, and thought the way that Wood started the story with the character throwing such caution to the wind really worked in showing us without spelling it outright what kind of a man Conan is. I also really liked the pages with Belit, Cloonan's art was really fantastic here, getting across just the right mix of sexiness and evilness. Cloonan may not be the most obvious choice for a Conan The Barbarian story, but it worked for me here, this is a younger Conan, one who isn't really a hulking Ahnuld, but a wiry youth. Cloonan is perfect for that and her facial expressions were as fantastic as usual, Conan's eyes glinted with character. After this issue I'm a Conan reader for as long as this team sticks around, and perhaps afterwards. Dark Horse have thought outside of the box for this relaunch, and it's paid off, perhaps other companies should have done the same?
Good stuff eh?
I think my fave this week was probably PunisherMAX, just a fantastic ending to a great story. If you only read one Punisher story... make it that one.
Join me next time for a hard-hitting look at the new issues of Batman, Daredevil, Wolverine and more!
TWIP's 2nd Opinions!
Review by: Niam Suggitt
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