It's a Leap Day Special!
I know I did a similar joke for Valentine's Day, but come on, it only happens every 4 years. Anyways, even though it's not a Special per se, it's still a very special week of comics! There's a triple-shot of Bendis, the return of Spaceman and the final instalment of Six Guns!
Credits & Solicit Info:
It's another week of comics, but it's one of those weird 5th weeks where DC barely have anything out, but what they do... it's pretty cool. The Shade, THUNDER Agents, The Unwritten, oh yes.
And Marvel still have a crap-ton of stuff, from Spider-Man to The Ultimates, they make 5th Weeks look like regular weeks!
As always, click the links to be whisked away to the magical fantasyland that is the Outhouse forums.
Amazing Spider-Man #680 – A fun story which takes Spider-Man and the Human Torch into Spaaaaaaaaace! I liked how this wasn't just a story that happened for no reason other than the novelty of Spidey in space, but that it's actually a big part of the build-up to Ends Of The Earth and has something to do with Doctor Octopus' master-plan. It's really cool that an event is coming together more or less organically, with Slott setting things up very well. Pretty much everybody loves the relationship between Peter Parker and Johnny Storm and it was a lot of fun to see the two back together, bickering with each other but still really the best of friends. One of the best friendships in comics for sure. Do we still use the word 'bromance' or is that way too 2009? Also noteworthy in this issue is the return of underrated bad-ass John Jameson and his relationship with his dad, Slott and Yost did well to once again show that Jonah isn't just a blustering idiot. I'm a big fan of Giussepe Camuncoli thanks to his work on titles like The Intimates and Hellblazer and it's always nice to see him pop up on Spidey, I really like how his pencils work with Klaus Janson's inks. And how awesome was that diss of the Walking Dead TV show? Genius
Venom #13.4 – The shipment of this book to the UK was damaged so I didn't get a copy of this, look out for a review sometime soon, probably sometime around March 14th.
Moon Knight #10 – The latest issue of Bendis and Maleev's excellent MK run is this week's choice for the New Review Group! Head to that thread for a long-form review from me.
Avengers #23 – More fun with the Avengers taking on HAMMER, but this time, after the rather depressing #22 where our heroes were pretty much defeated, this one had them fighting back. It was really awesome when Daisy shook the HAMMER headquarters to it's core and set everyone else free, it's great to see Quake show up now that Secret Warriors has been cancelled and take on a starring role. Her dialogue scenes with Spider-Woman were really fun. Of course at the end the bane of Bendis' Avengers run showed up, Ninjas. Only this week I had a rant at an Outhouse poster who lazily claimed that Bendis' Avengers only ever fight Ninjas, slamming them for making such an obvious observation and one that's not true, even claiming that it's probably been about 3 years since a Ninja showed up. So of course this issue had to feature them. Typical. Oh well, at least they aren't the only threat, they are side show to Osborn. Daniel Acuna's art was great, I'm really glad he's back, Guedes was OK, but Acuna is just so unique.
New Avengers #22 – I've been enjoying how this book has been meshing with Avengers in this arc so far, but this issue raised a quibble for me, how is Doctor Rapaccini managing to be trying to dissect Iron Man over in Avengers, at the same time as she's dressed up as Ms. Marvel for Osborn's Dark Avengers? It's strange that there would be a discrepancy, because both books are written by the same person. Odd. Maybe it's a Skrull! No, let's not start that again. I liked how this issue explored Victoria Hand's allegiances and how her interrogation scene just kept twisting and turning. It was especially cool how the team used Wolverine and Daredevil as lie-detectors, with a power-set like that, the New Avengers are a team you don't want to lie to. Luke Cage going rogue is something we've seen before, but we all know that you never fuck with his wife, I imagine he's going straight for Osborn to kick his ass. The ending with Skaar turning on the Dark Avengers surprised me, we were all so focussed on the traitor in the Avengers mix (Victoria Hand) that we didn't even think of the possibility of an inside-man going the other way. Clever.
FF #15 – This book continues to dance around the edges of what's been happening in Fantastic Four in an enjoyable way, but I'm still none-the-wiser about what's really going on, and it was annoying that there was no forward momentum from Fantastic Four #603, they ended in exactly the same place. I did like the action scene with the team taking on the Evolved Moloids, especially seeing Power Pack in action. You have to love Power Pack, just so goofy and fun. Nick Dragotta's art was very good, I seem to be the only person in the world who liked Bobillo's work, but I still enjoyed Dragotta very much, especially how he drew the blank-outline-man, who later turns out to be Future-Franklin. Right? I appreciated how Hickman kind of poked fun at himself for his portentous dialogue by having Franklin refer to it as 'Weirdo Stuff). Good to know he has a sense of humour about himself.
Six Guns #5(of 5) – An excellent finale to what has been a highly enjoyable mini-series and the kind of thing I'd like to see from Marvel. This was a book that did not feature any superhumans (apart from a one-panel joke character, Knight-Vision) and was part of a genre that Marvel don't really do that much of, with of course a Western twist. The revelation that Roxxon were behind everything and had manufactured a Civil War just to make some money was a shocker and was actually quite interesting in a political satire kind of way, we may think this stuff is out there, but it's a lot closer to reality than you'd think. The ending was very satisfying too, both PMC groups were killed in a mine explosion and even though we don't see it, the eeeevil Vance gets his. I'd like to see a sequel to this, but don't know if this series sold enough to earn one, fingers crossed!
The Ultimates #7 – This issue brings the events of the Ultimate Hawkeye mini-series back to the fore, as The Ultimates head to Tian to try and convince the Celestials and the Eternals to help them against Reed Richards and his City. It was great to read a story that, in my mind at least, would never happen in the regular Marvel Universe, and one that relied entirely on new and recent story developments. The Ultimate Universe is no longer re-hashing old stuff, it really is doing it's own thing. I did think that Reed Richards, for someone supposedly super-intelligent, acted like a bit of an idiot when he shut down the message from Tian, but then that's his arrogance bringing him down. It was awesome to have Esad Ribic back drawing the entire issue, I liked Brandon Peterson, but Ribic really does bring a different feel to this title, it's very European, which makes sense, Ribic is European! The final scene with the Hulk smashing around the City was awesome, can't wait to see the carnage of #8.
Ultimate X-Men #8 – Much like this week's issue of The Ultimates, this one was all about bringing the events of Ultimate Hawkeye into play, and showing how important they are to what's going on, especially when it comes to Karen Grant/Jean Grey. I really liked the stuff with Val Cooper and Nick Fury trying to outwit each other, and the way Spencer revealed Jean's betrayal was well-done, he really does know how to write a cliffhanger ending, that's 3 issues in a row now that have thrown me for a loop. It was also good to see Liz Allen and the winged guy again, I for one really enjoyed Ultimate X and it's good that they haven't been forgotten as the 'Ultimate Runaways'. Have we seen Liz's reaction to Peter Parker's death yet? That's something we need to see. Overall this was a strong issue, but it was annoying to have to read 2 recaps of how Tian and Xorn and Zorn came to be in a row, it would have been better if this issue and The Ultimates #7 didn't come out in the same week.
Justice League #6 – Well that was pretty meh. After hating #5 this was a bit of an improvement, but still, not very good. This story pretty much neutered Darkseid and rather than big him up as a credible threat, just turned him into a generic strong person. We didn't see any of the innovative ideas that the New Gods are known for, any spark of Kirby's madcap genius was gone and replaced with grim 90s rubbish. And then he was defeated because Cyborg thought really hard about what it means to be a man! And then Superman punched him! And then there was a Super-Friends joke! Lame. This really is the most mediocre side of Geoff Johns' writing, and I say this as someone who's really enjoyed his work on Green Lantern and Aquaman post-reboot. This whole story was just average and unnecessary, like a child's idea of The Ultimates. When you compare this to other JLA origin stories like JLA: Year One or even New Frontier, it doesn't even compare. Hopefully now that this is out of the way, Johns and Lee can get on with telling big, wide-screen Morrison-era style JLA stories, but that's a big if. The back-up was lame, I really don't care about this 'Pandora' and I think it's fuggin' stupid that they had to have an in-universe reason/get-out clause for the reboot in the first place, DC should have had the courage of their convictions and just done it, not used it to plant seeds for some event or some way back.
The Shade #5(of 12) – Another very enjoyable issue of The Shade, and one made even better by Robinson being joined by Javier Pulido's artwork. Pulido has always been a favourite of mine, and while he's not quite as experimental in his layouts as the similar Marcos Martin, he's still very stylish and perfect for this story and character. The best thing about this story was the introduction of La Sangre, who not only expanded the global side of the DCU as we see which 'hero' protects Barcelona, but also added a never before seen wrinkle to The Shade's character, in that she's his adopted daughter. Oh yeah, and she's a vampire. (Nice nod to Andrew Bennett in this issue, I wonder if La Sangre might show up in I, Vampire? That would be excellente). I'm sure some purists will complain about how come Shade never mentioned this in 80 or so issues of Starman, but he's always been a secretive fellow, and Robinson did tie it into a mystery about the character, how exactly he turned completely from a man with shadow powers to a full shadow-being. This is an excellent mini, yes it's a little verbose, but it's a fun journey around the world of the DCU and the through-line of The Shade's blood is a strong one. Forget your continuity concerns and whether or not it's on Earth-2 or whatever and just dive in!
THUNDER Agents #4(of 6) – I've mentioned before that my biggest issue with Nick Spencer's THUNDER Agents run is that he hasn't really written any of the characters about from Toby and Colleen in any great detail, and that was very much in evidence in this issue. Lightning's heroic sacrifice didn't really have any impact because we haven't been any reason to care about him and he hasn't actually done that much since his origin spotlight issue. What should have been an epic moment was just... whatever. I did like that he actually had used steroids though, and Wes Craig drew the hell out of it, but still, it wasn't as good as it could, or should have been. The stuff with NoMan and Emil Jennings was interesting, and Sam Kieth's artwork was nice, but the last page reveal... come on, how many times is someone going to betray the team! It's reaching almost parody levels the number of wheels within wheels this book has. But then I did get a sense in the first story arc that Spencer was poking a bit of fun at spy clichés, perhaps this is that again? Hmmm.
The Unwritten #34.5 – This 'Point 5' issue was probably the one that revealed the most about the hidden back-story of this title. We see a young Wilson Taylor (and find out that what we thought was a pseudonym he used in the superhero arc is his real name) in the trenches of WW1, and Carey shows us how he discovered the secrets of the story and leviathan. The WW1 setting was of course very evocative and Carey got across well the horrors of the trenches and the incompetence of the officers. Gary Erskine's art was a great fit too, he's drawn several WW1 comics for Garth Ennis and he knows the milieu. The stand-out moments of this issue were when the world of story invaded the real world, when the Angels showed up above the battle, and then when Wilson/Will came face to face with the Leviathan. It was annoying that the story ended just as Wilson met Rausch and was recruited by the Cabal, his adventures with them are what we really want to see! But Carey is still holding his cards very close to his chest, it's painful how many mysteries we need answering. GODDAMMIT! Reveal something! Also, is it just me, or did this issue indicate that Wilson was bi-sexual? I wonder what the significance of that will be? Will the man who confessed to love him play a part in the future of the series?
Spaceman #4(of 9) – It's been a fair while since #3, so it took me about half of this issue to get used to the dialogue of this book again. I think that if I was reading this story all in one go this problem would disappear, because you're immersed in the world and the argot, but in monthly instalments, it's a little jarring. But still, this is very good, atmospheric stuff. Orson is a very appealing protagonist, and the central plot of the kidnapped child-star is a strong one and Azzarello takes full opportunity to poke fun at reality TV and other celebrity nonsense. This is contrasted with Orson's flashbacks to his time on Mars, which although they're moving a bit too slowly for my liking, are very interesting. I wonder if the discovery of gold on Mars is connected to the present-day story? I'm sure if it is it's in a very complicated noir-ish way, the troubles of Orson coming out of the past. Risso's art is of course fantastic, but then you know that.
Invincible #89 – After a teaser that came out, what, 2 years ago? We finally get around to the debut of... Black-Vincible! And yes, it's Bulletproof. That's somewhat of a relief, I'm sure some of us had fears of a Punisher-style pigment change for Mark, but in the end, it's just Bulletproof filling in for Invincible, who, after inhaling the Scourge Virus is in dire condition in hospital. Now that we know he's not dead straight away, it's clear that Mark will eventually recover and that Bulletproof's stint as Invincible is only temporary, but it's still cool to see the book do something so different, I hope Kirkman actually gives Bulletproof some character development, because he's been in the background for ages now yet we know pretty much nothing about him. Was this the first time we were told his name? The other stuff in this issue was also intriguing, especially the scene where Thragg discovers that Mark is a 'match' for something or other. Not only was that a gloriously bloody head-burst, but I'm guessing it's something to do with Mark being a genetic match for the dead Viltrumite king that Thragg carried around the skull of. Time for a brain-transplant storyline?
My favourite this week was either The Shade or Amazing Spider-Man, both very different comics, but both excellent.
Join me next week for a whole bunch of DC #7s, the final issue of Avengers: Children's Crusade, new Defenders and oh yes, Fatale!
Review by: Niam Suggitt