It's March Madness as TWiP heads into the 3rd month of the year! There's all sorts of good stuff, from new Fatale, to Wolverine, to Swamp Thing and more! Oooh
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It's another week of TWiP, your one-stop-shop for all your comics needs. You want meaty Animal Man chunks? We got 'em! You want a nice, nutricious Uncanny X-Men? We have that too? Every flavour of comics imaginable!
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Amazing Spider-Man #681 – An enjoyable wrap-up to the story of Spider-Man's adventures in space with Human Torch, but there's not much really for me to say here that I didn't already say about #680. The banter between Spidey and Torch was great fun as always, and I liked how Spider-Man genuinely made a mistake in not using his magnetic webs when he had the chance. It showed that even though he's advanced to all of these technological gadgets, he's still the same screw-up. The biggest thing here was the last-page which set the scene for 'The Ends Of The Earth' which starts next issue, Slott has so far managed to deliver on the big Spider-Man events he's written, so hopefully that story will be as good as it looks. Sinister Six, baby!
Venom #14 – I'm holding off on this one until I get a copy of last week's #13.4 which had shipping difficulties in the UK.
Hulk #49 – Is this week's Review Group book. Hulk Vs The Eternals! 'Nuff Said!
Winter Soldier #3 – Another very good issue of Winter Soldier, this title has very quickly become one of my favourite Marvel comics. This issue was most notable for it's art in my book, Guice really is stretching his legs here, and having a lot of fun with the layouts, the page where Bucky and Black Widow teleported/parachuted into the Latverian Embassy was brilliant, the angles of the panels really made it stand out. The story itself continues to develop nicely, Brubaker gave us a recap of who Lucia Von Bardas is (and the events of Secret War) without it being too expository, and we saw what her real plan is, to frame Doctor Doom for a heinous crime so she can get back to power. Brubaker of course knows his Doom (If you haven't read it, track down his and Pablo Raimondi's 'Books Of Doom' mini, which is an excellent origin) and it's great to see him write the character again. I also really like how this series is exploring the nature of an espionage world post-Cold War, the scene where the re-awakened sleeper agent was killed was excellent, as was the way Red Ghost explained that the war was not really over. Marvel Comics were always a lot of fun with evil Red Russkies as bad guys, and it's cool to have that back.
Wolverine #302 – This arc of Wolverine is just kicking ass, what a brilliant way for Jason Aaron to bow out. Even though it was obvious that Wolverin's re-appearance in Hell was just a manipulation thanks to the mind-ninjas, those scenes were still very very effective. I especially liked the return of all of Logan's dead kids. I know that twist has been controversial, but I loved it, and continue to do so. I still can't believe that Marvel let Aaron do that. I also liked how this issue moved on to other characters beyond Wolverine and gave us an insight into the minds of both Yukio and Amiko, who both kicked a lot of butts here. I wonder what Mystique was up to when she fucked Wolverine there? Does she want a little Logan-baby? It's always awesome to see a Berserker Wolverine, and this occasion didn't disappoint. In terms of artwork, I'm getting used to it now, Sanders and Tan have very different styles but they both work for this story. Next week is the return of Lord Deathstrike, who if I remember rightly was pretty damn cool in his first appearance. Exciting.
Avengers Academy #27 – Man, I've missed The Runaways. It was just so great to have them back in this issue, they've always been favourites and reading this took me back to my teenage years. Gage wrote the Runaways really well, and he managed to fit in all the continuity connections you could have wanted, without making it seem to fanboyish. Moments like Victor meeting his 'grandfather' in Hank Pym and Karolina reconnecting with Julie Power were things we've always been waiting for. Gage also found time for connections between The Runaways and characters who didn't even exist when we last saw them! I really liked the scene with Nico and Hazmat. But this issue isn't just about The Runaways, Avengers Academy still had a role here, and I think what I liked the most was Striker's press conference where he came out as gay. I loved that his realising his sexuality didn't change who he was as a person (ie, a self-publicising jerk). Too often in comics homosexual characters are whiter-than-white so as not too offend anyone, but Striker is a douche no matter who he sleeps with, and it was refreshing to see that. Karl Moline's art was very strong, perhaps the best I've ever seen it, in fact at times it reminded me of old Stuart Immonen, back in the late 90s, early 2000s, before he got such a clean line. Overall, this was a great issue and I can't wait for the next one, but please, can we get The Runaways their own series again please? Please?
The Defenders #4 – This issue was a Doctor Strange focus, and it really worked for me in a lot of ways. I've really liked how Fraction has approached Strange as kind of a creep, and this issue developed and deepened that so it's not just a joke. We see the return of the college chick Strange boned earlier, and also get more mysteries of the weird metal squiggle thing. It somehow managed to resurrect a dead ex of Doctor Strange's, and why is a mystery even to him. The stuff with Strange and Martha was surprisingly effective and emotional. I wonder if we'll see her again? The hustling street magician who tried to take on the Doc was an effective protagonist, and I liked how his attempt ended in a Twilight Zone-esque twist kind of a way. This book continues to read unlike any other Marvel book, and it's great, especially when the bottom of the page 'captions' or whatever get as weird as this, it was like a cry for help, except not from Fraction but from some woman. What the? And then there was something commemorating Bill Hicks? What does it all mean? Who knows! Michael Lark of course kicked ass art-wise on this issue, he's very different from Dodson, but he fit this story very well, it was big, but it wasn't as madcap superheroey as #1-#3.
Uncanny X-Men #8 – After a very poor issue last month, this one was a welcome return to form. We're still dealing with Tabula Rasa, but there was a lot less annoying Unwife bull-crap, and a lot more of Colossus kicking ass and Namor getting it on with a weird fish thing. I'm serious here, but does anyone write a better Namor than Kieron Gillen? He just gets every single line of dialogue right, his interactions with Hope in this issue were simply brilliant. The Colossus stuff was also very interesting, as we see more of the impact becoming the Juggernaut has had on him, and it's worrying indeed, this plotline is getting dark, and fast. I also really liked the coda of the issue, with Magneto confronting Psylocke. Betsy's loyalties are divided between Cyclops and Wolverine at the moment and we haven't seen much of that so far, but it looks like it's taking it's toll. I think this issue proved my point about the problems with UXM being the lack of focus on the actual X-Men, this issue was all about the characters, and it worked a lot better. Bring on a team-up with the Avengers and the return of Pacheco!
Age Of Apocalypse #1 – I really enjoyed this one. Yes, it was mainly set-up, but it was interesting set-up and the series shows real promise. What I like about this is that while it's an alternate reality story, it's not about 'hey, look at these slightly different versions of characters you know' because most of the characters we know are dead. The heroes here are either new or versions of villains, and even then, they aren't exactly heroic. It's weird reading a book where Wolverine is the villain and William Stryker or Bolivar Trask are the heroes, but it works very well. Lapham is not the kind of writer you'd expect for a project like this, but he does it very well, and his depiction of the AoA world is suitably dystopian. Roberto De La Torre's artwork was absolutely brilliant, he's really taken a step-up since his work on Iron Man and Thunderbolts a few years back, this stuff was very scratchy and dark, and perfect for the bleak setting. The idea of the series being narrated by a complete no-one in that reporter is a good one, it lends the series some gravity, looking up from the gutters sort of thing. This issue was just a taste, but I think I'm in, this book is certainly not your daddy's X-Men, and that's a damn good thing.
Avengers: The Children's Crusade #9(of 9) – Despite the fact that this issue featured not one, but two character deaths, it still felt like this mini went out on a bit of a whimper. Maybe it's because Stature and Kid Vision were two of the Young Avengers I cared about the least, but I wasn't really affected by their deaths, and was actually more interested in what Iron Lad was doing, now there's a fascinating character. I didn't like how the team basically quit at the end, with everyone going all emo apart from Speed, but in the end, we know they'll be back, whether from the dead, or from a fate worse than death, living in Scottsdale. The stuff with Wanda kind of rang false to me, I don't believe Cyclops would give up like that after 8 issues of major drama, surely he'd say she should be confined to Utopia or something? But I suppose that Wanda has to be free for whatever happens in Avengers Vs X-Men to happen. Overall, The Children's Crusade has been a very good story, I just wish we knew when we'd next get to read a Heinberg/Cheung Young Avengers story, because they are what makes these characters work.
Villains For Hire #4(of 4) – Although the wrap-up to this story did feel a bit rushed, it was still a good ending, and I really enjoyed the chaos of the fight at Purple Man's base, you didn't know who was going to turn on who and who was controlling who. In a series that's all about someone being in control, a scene with absolutely no guiding hand was very exciting. I suppose I should have guessed that Paladin wasn't actually dead and was pretending to be Scourge, but I must admit I didn't, I totally fell for DnA's fake-out. Stupid me. I wonder what's next for Misty Knight, the last page here says she'll be showing up next in Defenders. Will she get back together with Iron Fist? I'm not sure where I stand on that, I like her budding relationship with Paladin. It's a shame we won't be getting any more 'For Hire' stories, I've really enjoyed them.
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #8 – Another exemplary issue of USM, this book is just so good every month. And this issue was made even better by the return of Sara Pichelli, I liked Chris Samnee's work on the last two issues, but Pichelli's take on Miles is just perfect. The scene between Miles and Uncle Aaron was Bendis at his best, just really realistic well-done dialogue. And then... Bendis shuts up. That page of silence where Miles contemplates things was so good, perfectly got across his thought process. On top of all that, there's the return of the Scorpion, who decides to be a new Kingpin, the introduction of a Police Officer who may or may not be a foe to Miles, and oh yes, we see Aunt May and Gwen in Paris as they find out about the new Spider-Man. If they ever meet Miles, that's going to be one heart-breaking scene. The fight between Spider-Man and the Ringer was a lot of fun, and it was once again cool to see the differences between the experienced Peter Parker and the neophyte Miles. Peter treated The Ringer like a joke, but even the biggest mort is tough for Miles to fight because he's only just learning. Oh yeah, and this issue was also a welcome return to the hilarious police station gags with a fat version of a 616 character ranting and raving in the background. This time it was Nova, and man, this joke never gets old for me, 'I'm telling you, it's a cube! THE COSMIC CUBE!'.
Action Comics #7 – After a 2-issue detour, we get back to the main story here, and it is great to be back. Those first few pages where Superman jumps to Brainiac's base were absolutely brilliant, they get to the very core of what Morrison is trying to do, make this is a true Action comic and have things move propulsively. Morales' art perfectly fits this idea, it's kinetic as hell. The rest of the issue was slower, but still good. What's up with that weird small guy with a big head? His scenes with Glenmorgan were very odd, is he Mxyzptlk? I think so. Forcing Superman to choose between Krypton and Earth is something we've seen before, but it's a core part of the character and I've no problem with it re-occuring. The moment where Superman gets his proper costume was cool, but I'd much prefer to have a few more issues of jeans/t-shirt Superman, I love that look. The back-up story was once again focussed on Steel, and while it's a bit more traditional than Morrison's story, Scholly Fisch has managed to imbue Steel with a lot of character and I really like how he's exploring more of Metropolis. I like the DC fake cities to feel real.
Batwing #7 – What with all of the Kony controversy this week (I haven't seen the video, but I know the basic gist) this book feels especially relevant and timely. As Batwing and Batman try and get to Gotham, we as readers are treated to a flashback to The Kingdom's last stand, and we finally find out about the supposedly horrible thing they did. It was cool to see these characters, and I liked how Winick made their actions neither right or wrong, you can see how both sides could be correct. I've always liked Dustin Nguyen, so it was good to have him provide artwork for this issue, I know Marcos To is taking over, but I wouldn't mind Nguyen here permanently. Also, did anyone else get the feeling that former-Kingdom members Staff and Razorwire were gay? It seems like Winick was hinting towards that, but you never can be sure. It doesn't really matter though, they're dead.
Swamp Thing #7 – Wow, was the artwork fantastic in this issue, Yanick Paquette is really finding a whole new level of skill here. His layouts in this issue were incredible, almost JH Williams-esque. Just beautiful stuff. The story here was good too of course, but really, it was all about the art, I think we all knew that Alec was going to become Swamp Thing again eventually, but I don't think we expected it to be done in such style. I'm very interested in how this new Swamp Thing is different from the old one, he has wings, I don't think he could do that before could he? It was clever of Snyder to hold off on showing us the new Swampy and whatever it is that Abby is now, it heightens the suspense for next month, whatever horrifying thing we have in our minds for Rot-Abby will surely be worse than what they come up with. But then again, with the way Paquette is rocking these days, I wouldn't be surprised if he draws something better than anything limitless imagination could think of.
Animal Man #7 – A rather quiet issue, but still a strong one, especially in some of the family scenes. I really liked the father-son stuff between Buddy and Cliff, it was cool to see them bond again, especially since you could kind of sense some disgruntlement from Cliff over Maxine having powers. I wonder if Cliff's vision of the future was actually that or just a dream? Has he met Swamp Thing or Constantine yet? If not, that means it was a proper flash-forward, which is very interesting. Steve Pugh delivers the lion's share of the art in this one, and I'm liking his stuff more and more, it's not as crazy as Foreman's stuff, but for an issue that's not crazy, it makes sense. I just hope that he can handle it when things get more action-heavy and focussed on those weird cancer monsters that Foreman kicks ass on.
Justice League International #7 – Well, I was not expecting that. After spending 6 issues setting up a team, Dan Jurgens promptly blows them up, kills one team member (and the 2 civilian handlers) and severely injures 2 others. It's certainly a ballsy thing to do and I very much enjoyed this issue, I just hope it doesn't back-fire on Jurgens. I've already seen a bit of anger online at the death of Rocket Red, so the book probably needs to try extra hard to make sure it doesn't lose any readers. I wonder where the JLI are going from here? Will Batwing join the team? His appearance at the end was very cool. This was a shock of an issue, but we'll have to wait a few more issues for the events to reverberate before we can tell whether or not Jurgens has done something brilliant... or something terrible here.
Stormwatch #7 – Paul Jenkins begins his 2-issue guest-stint, and it's.... OK. It's certainly a lot more like the Stormwatch/Authority of old than what Cornell was doing, it's a shame that Cornell spent 6 issues getting us to this point and doesn't get to write the team properly. The gravity monsters are fairly interesting villains, but the thing I liked about them most was that they appeared in Chernobyl and that we got to see Hawksmoor's personifications of Chernobyl and Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I know some people don't like this depiction of Hawksmoor's powers, but I do. Ignacio Calero's art was an odd one, at times it looked good but at others it looked really poor. As I said, this was OK, but I'm not really expecting too much from a fill-in. The real Stormwatch will kick off with #9 when Milligan takes over. At least Martian Manhunter had something to do.
iZombie #23 – A typically solid issue of iZombie, and I'm liking how a lot of the subplots are finally coming together and we're getting lines drawn in the sand. The flashback to Amon taking on Xitalu in Conquistador times was pretty damn cool, as was The Fossors and Dead Presidents teaming up to take on Commander Koschei the Frankenstein. Allred's artwork was fantastic as usual, especially the cover, which managed to be creepy and disgusting, but also sort of sexy. I think the fact that this book has made me find a zombie attractive deeply disturbing, damn you Roberson for discovering my inner necrophile! I joke, but that cover is still very good. At the end... has Horatio been possessed by Xitalu? Uh-Oh.
Sweet Tooth #31 – I really liked the conceit of this issue where almost every scene started with a character waking up from being knocked up. Very cool and it gave the issue a solid structure. I wonder where the creepy bird-guy knows Jepperd from? I'm guessing it's actually something rather innocuous like he saw him playing Ice Hockey before the Plague hit. Man, is Haggarty an evil fucking creep, the scene with him and Becky was just terrifying. I hope Gus fucks him up, but I don't see how he's going to manage it, he may have gotten tougher, but he's still a bit of weedy kid. This book continues to be excellent, after a few issues that were maybe a bit too concerned with the overall mythology, this story has been refreshingly immediate and in the present. I just hope nobody ends up dead.
Fatale #3 – This issue deepens the mystery in both the past and the present. I'm glad that the book has returned to Nicolas Lash after he didn't appear in #2, and liked that the book is comfortable jumping between time periods like this. As Ed Brubaker wrote in his back-matter, I had assumed that the scenes in the past were Dominic Raines' novel, but that's not the case, and it's cool that there's more to it than Nicolas just being a framing device reading the manuscript. This issue showed us more about who Josephine is and what she can do, in a really creepy scene in an abandoned house where she shows she has the power to tell people (or is it just men?) what to do. She went from being a sexy femme fatale to a monster in the space of a page, and Phillips depicted that brilliantly. The mystery of this series really has it's hooks in me now, and I can't wait to see where Bru is going with everything. The horror scratching at the walls is breaking through now, and it's exciting.
The Boys #64 – Holy moly, things are going down right now. That double-page spread with all of the dirt The Boys leaked was just epic, as was Homelander's confrontation with the nameless Vought dude, who was just a stone-cold bad-ass to stare Homelander down like that. This whole issue just felt like the walls were coming down around the status quo and Ennis was blowing shit up. Images like all of the superheroes floating above the White House were brilliant. I wonder what it is that MM has discovered about Black Noir? Is he really the mastermind behind everything? It would make sense if he's the Batman parody, taking his paranoia and prep-time bullshit to the next level. Hey, maybe Black Noir is the nameless Vought dude? That would be crazy though. Right? I don't know at the moment, this book is just surprise after surprise.
That was a good one, I think my favourite book this week was Fatale #3, but I also really liked the latest Action Comics and Wolverine issues. Gah, too many good comics.
Join me next week for yet another doozy, it's gonna be fun.
Review by: Niam Suggitt