The cream of last week's comics are given the once-over by Punchy, it's a strong week, including two Millarworld books, and the final steps before AvX begins.
Credits & Solicit Info:
It's that time again, yes, time for TWiP. All the best comics given an exciting irreverant capsule review. The only column that can feature both a discussion of how Songbird looks in a bikini alongside one about the creepiness of fumetti.
As always, click the links to head to the individual forum thread, I know you already know to do that, but it's just a helpful heads up y'know?
Amazing Spider-Man #682 – The big kick-off to the new Spidey event is this week's book for the New Review Group, so check out that thread for my full review.
Invincible Iron Man #514 – The big Mandarin story continues apace, and it's really good to see Tony Stark be attacked from all angles, he's not just fighting a load of his old villains, but the Mandarin is also using more subtle methods to get at him, and even though Tony tries a pretty damn clever delaying tactics, the government will inevitably prove he was drunk, and end him. I do question why exactly Tony decided to put on 'the Governor' inhibitor device straight away, it looked like he was given a bit of a waiting period. But it did make for an exciting ending, even if you could probably see it coming. I'm continuing to love how Fraction is upgrading all of Iron Man's villains, this issue featured the Melter and Whirlwind, and not only do they have enhanced abilities and cooler costumes, but Fraction is also giving them (or at least Melter) personalities, and the fact that there is tension between the other villains and Mandarin is very interesting. Tony may think he's up against one monolithic threat, but it's more interesting than that, and I'm sure that by the end of this arc, the villains will be fighting amongst themselves.
Wolverine #303 – 'Back In Japan' comes to an end, and I must say it's been one of my favourite Wolverine stories ever and a fine way for Aaroon to bow out. The story had many spinning wheels and had plenty of twists and turns every issue, it always kept you guessing. The end result of all these twists is that Sabretooth is now head of all crime in Asia, along with Mystique, Lord Deathstrike and Silver Samurai. That's a pretty awesome collection of characters and it's going to be very cool to see what they do next. The art this issue was a bit uneven as rather than just having Steven Sanders and Billy Tan alternate, Paco Diaz was there too, and his style, whilst reminiscent somewhat of Tan's, was still jarring. Aaron has one issue left right? I'm guessing it will mainly involve Wolverine and Melita breaking up over the photos she received of Berserker Logan screwing Yukio/Mystique.
Thunderbolts #171 – Jeff Parker takes a break from the time-travel fun for a character spotlight issue on Songbird, and it was a very strong one. And not just because of how good she looked in a bikini! We start with Melissa at the most relaxed she's been in years, but end with her looking whatever it is that's the opposite of relaxed, with a punky new haircut and stronger abilities. Parker doesn't really go into too much detail about how Songbird has changed, it may very well be that she's much the same, but for now... I'm worried she's going to make a turn to the dark side. Doctor Dorcas did something to her brain, and that's bad news. The scenes in Dorcas' compound were wonderfully creepy, Kev Walker's depiction of his starfish body was brilliant, and that scene with the little puffer fish guy slobbering all over Songbird's toes was just so weird and unsettling. There's 3 issues to go before this book changes over to Dark Avengers, and we've still got a fight between the current Tbolts and the originals, it's exciting times for Earth's Most Morally Ambiguous Heroes!
Uncanny X-Men #9 – Yay! Carlos Pacheco is back! I don't mind Greg Land, unlike a lot of others, but Pacheco is of course the better artist and it's great to have him back on the book, he really does give it the big epic superhero feel that it needs. This issue was a team-up between the X-Men and the Avengers, and with the upcoming event hanging over everything, it was actually weird seeing them together, we've been shown teaser images of them punching the shit out of each other for so long now that it feels like AvX has already begun. But of course it hasn't, and for now, the two teams are friends who of course will team up to take down a bunch of escaped SWORD prisoners. Gillen packed this issue with plenty of cool moments, I especially liked panel where Cyclops and Wolverine (who was there representing the Avengers) stared at each other, the resentment bubbling under. I also liked Emma Frost's mocking of the Avengers and of Storm not assembling with them. And of course the narration, replete with references to quips, or lack thereof. It was cool seeing UNIT show up again too, it was clear from the short-lived SWORD series that Gillen had a lot of plans for him, and they're panning out. He's a really great villain, and I'm legitimately worried about what he's going to do with Hope.
Generation Hope #17 – And so Generation Hope comes to an end, but this is not the end of Hope's story. As with this week's issue of Uncanny, the spectre of AvX hangs over this issue, and of course, it ends with a shot of the Phoenix. The actual ending was very satisfactory, with Hope defeating the now-fully evil Kenji and bringing all of the other Lights (as well as Pixie and Sebastian Shaw) back onside and ready to get back to work as a team. We see that in Uncanny (although for some reason Shaw is absent there) and I'm sure we'll see the team together one last time in AvX. One thing I really liked that Asmus did here was give all of the other team-members a chance to shine and to deliver narration. We all know that Hope has a big future ahead of her, but this may be the last time we get any real focus on the likes of Teon and Laurie so it was cool to give them one last hurrah. I've really liked Asmus' short run and it's a shame it's been cut short by events outside of the title, but I'll be sure to look for whatever he does next, and hope that the characters from this title continue to get exposure in the 40 other X-books.
X-Factor #233 – Madrox is back from the dead and X-Factor shifts the focus back to the actual team, as they take on an Anti-Mutant Militia. I really liked this scene, it was a pretty standard action setpiece, but it had enough original ideas (like the deaf guy resisting Terry's powers) that it felt fresh. It doesn't hurt when it's drawn by Leonard Kirk either. I liked seeing Havok and Polaris back in action, and it was cool how PAD kind of subtly showed that the team seems like more of a unit with Havok in charge, say what you want about the Summers brothers, they make good leaders. I actually wonder if Jamie's resurrection may cause more harm than good, he'll probably butt heads with Havok, who despite wanting to honour his memory, probably won't be too pleased to have him back. Oh yeah, and this issue featured the return of whatshisface, The Isolationist. It's been so long since his last appearance that I'd kind of forgotten what his deal was. It would have been useful if the recap page had actually recapped who the new villain was instead of featuring Peter David lecturing us about learning about old movies. I already know who Fred Astaire is Peter, tell me about your comic! I generally like the jovial nature of this book's recap page, but it bothered me here, if you're going to just bring back a character after 50 or so issues, you need to try and remind us who he is, hell, what about any new readers? They'll have been totally flummoxed.
Avengers: X-Sanction #4(of 4) – I've done a longer review of this one for the site. Click the link to read what I made of Loeb and McGuinness' old-school slug-fest.
Kick-Ass 2 #7(of 7) – Wow, that was brilliantly violent wasn't it? Kick-Ass 2 has really amped up the level of gore and violence and it's worked well. I'm not sure how much further Millar and JRjr can take things before we get diminishing returns, but sometimes you just want a bit of mindless violence and Kick-Ass always delivers. The fight between Hitgirl and Mother Russia was awesome, as was the Kick-Ass Vs Red Mist. I really liked how that fight was actually kind of lame, they weren't acting like superheroes, but the teenage nerds that they are, it was cool for Millar to bring everything back down to Earth. Sure this title may not be for everybody, it's too violent and crude for that, but I enjoy it, and can't wait for the Hit-Girl mini-series. I wonder if that'll be a Hit-Girl in prison story? In fact, my only problem with this mini has been wondering how the hell they'll manage to adapt it into a movie!
Supercrooks #1(of 4) – As one Millarworld story ends, another begins, and Supercrooks looks like being another hit. Once again Millar stumbles onto a high-concept that is shockingly simple when you think of it, that's his real gift, coming up with ideas that you can't believe nobody's done before, and the idea of a bunch of super-villains leaving the US to head to an unprotected Europe is one of those. But thankfully Millar doesn't just leave it at that and there's a bit more depth to it, with the nominal crooks seeming not to be such bad people and the heroes of this world seeming almost as bad. 'The Gladiator' at the start is a bit of a jerk, and Millar also introduces a corrupt superhero in Praetorian. It's cool how Millar is essentially writing a heist story, but everyone has super-powers and it's treated as normal. Leinil Yu's art is of course fantastic, he just works so well with Millar, and whilst this series doesn't have the heart that Superior did, it's still very good. It's also interesting that movie director Nacho Vigalondo is credited as a co-plotter, I wonder how far along the movie is? I know Millar gets a lot of stick for all of his stuff getting adapted to the silver screen, but I actually think it's pretty cool that we can be at the ground floor for next year's blockbusters and having the movie be in development at the same time of the comic makes me feel closer to it in some way. Like I'm a part of it, an insider. I dunno, that sounds crazy.
Supergirl #7 – Another very good issue of Supergirl, this title really is underrated. Yes, the villains were kind of generic, but the fight between them and Kara was very well-written and wonderfully drawn by Mahmud Asrar. He's come on leaps and bounds since his earlier work, and this book looks fantastic every month. It says something when a guest issue by George Perez next month is set to be a step down! One thing that made this issue work was that the fight against the generic villains was happening for reasons other than just that they were there, Supergirl and these World Killers have a shared history and every hit mattered. I wonder how long it is before the 5th World Killer shows up? Or has he/she already appeared? What if it's Kara herself! What if it's Superboy?
Batman #7 – This issue mainly served as exposition to set up the big event coming up, but it was still awesome. I loved the way that Snyder returned to the origin, with the whole bat bursting through the window thing, and went back to show us that the bat that so inspired Bruce Wayne was immediately eaten by an owl. Heavy symbolism, but it worked very well and Capullo drew the hell out of that page. The revelation behind Talon and his link to Dick Grayson was also cool, I like how Batman had inadvertently made an enemy of the Court years ago and never knew it. Although it's pretty ridiculous that Batman could just smack Dick in the face and knock out the exact tooth that contained the Owl coin. He's good, but he's not that good. This is a really great story, and I can't wait to see it go up another level next month with 'Night Of The Owls'. Oh yeah, and who was that girl who rescued Batman from the ice? It seemed like he knew her, but I have no idea!
Wonder Woman #7 – I have no idea why anyone would be pissed off at this issue, it was just a fantastic comic, yes it made retcons to the Amazons, but they make sense and hell, it's what was in the actual myths. It seems to me that people these days are always just looking for an excuse to fly off the handle at something being offensive or sexist or whatever, and it's sad. To me, the fact that Wonder Woman was willing to call the male Amazons her brothers shows what a hero she is, and actually makes the character stronger, and gives her more depth rather than compromises it. If this issue pissed you off, you're just plain wrong. This story continues to be the best Wonder Woman I've ever read, and that's all there is to it. I loved seeing Azzarello's takes on Eros and Hephaestus, although the first scene was a little confusing, was Eros in a relationship with that guy, or was he in trying to get Eros to reverse some kind of love spell? It was fantastic to have Cliff Chiang back on art, I liked Tony Akins' fill-in issues, but Chiang just adds so much to this book, he really makes it click. Just stop gnashing your teeth and enjoy it!
Blue Beetle #7 – Jaime hits the Big Apple for another solid issue of Blue Beetle which introduced some cool new threats to Jaime, and not just of the supervillain variety. Yes we got that weird monster that eats cats and Short-Timer and Stopwatch, but there was also the threat of media perception! Somebody caught Blue Beetle hitting Brenda on camera, and he's now the poster-child for out of control superhumans in the media. I enjoyed seeing Jaime's misadventures in New York, particularly the scene with the ATMs, and the bickering between him and the suit never really gets old. You could tell he was going to get blamed for the jewellery robbery, that's as cliché as it gets, but I suppose it was on purpose, to really bring up that classic Spider-Man feel. I did like the reveal that using his powers had caused Short-Timer to age from a teenager to a pensioner, it added an element of tragedy to the character. Marcio Takara's art was decent stuff, it kept up the tone that Ig Guara has established. I wonder how long Jaime will be in New York for? The little we saw of El Paso showed that there are a lot of loose ends.
Justice League #7 – A big improvement over the disaster that was #6, and that's not just because it's always good to have Gene Ha artwork, the writing was a lot closer to Johns at his best. I liked that the story focussed on Steve Trevor (although it is odd that he hasn't appeared once in Wonder Woman's solo title) and on the people on the ground, rather than on the League. Johns is laying it on a bit thick with all of the 'modern day gods' thing, but you really felt for Steve when he admitted he was in love with Wonder Woman. Idiot Hal Jordan continued here, no signs of a 5 year gap maturing him, but at least it was somewhat amusing here, although I do hate it when Johns uses Wonder Woman's truth lasso for gags, it's just lame. Oh yeah, and why was Batman so against the Justice League International here? He's actually been fairly supportive in that book so far, but then Johns has never really been able to write a Batman who isn't a massive tool. As for the oh-so controversial and evil Shazam back-up, I actually quite enjoyed it. Johns and Frank make a really great team, and I really liked the fake-out where you're led to believe that Billy Batson is some kind of perfect little kid, when he's actually a much more realistic character. I know some people want Captain Marvel to be all whimsy, all the time, but I think this take works, it looks like becoming Shazam will be what teaches Billy to be good. In fact, the only problem I have with it is the name-change, which is out of DC's hands in a lot of ways, but other than that, this was a fine start to me.
Green Lantern Corps #7 – In the events of the fight against the Keepers, John Stewart was forced to kill a fellow Green Lantern who was about to betray the Corps out of cowardice, it was a shocking scene and it's cool to see it reverberate beyond the end of the story and for Tomasi to show that John's actions weigh very heavily on him. It was probably a bit of manipulative over-kill for Kirrt to have a mentally-challenged little brother, but this was still a rather emotional issue which dealt well with what John did. He's had to do something like this twice now, what with having to kill Mogo in 'War Of The Green Lanterns' and I can't help but thinking something pretty bad is going to happen to him soon. Claude St. Aubin stepped in as guest-artist and did an OK job of emulating Pasarin's style, which is all I really ask from a fill-in.
THUNDER Agents #5(of 6) – Now I see why the death of Lightning didn't really have that much impact, it didn't need to because he was never really dead in the first place! Well, he was, but his consciousness was immediately transferred to a clone body, and the same happened to Dynamo. It was cool seeing how far back this plan between Colleen and Emil Jennings went, and that it all seemingly worked out. The ending was a bit of a shocker, I'm guessing that Raven was a Spider agent, I seem to recall that phrase being used by them in the first volume. I wonder if Toby really is dead, it doesn't look like he has a clone back-up anywhere, but you never know. Wes Craig really is out-doing himself on the artwork for this book, I liked his stuff on Guardians Of The Galaxy, but here, it's just spectacular. The Undersea Agent back-up was OK, a little wordy for my tastes, but Trevor McCarthy's art was good. I wonder if that story will tie in with the main one in some way? Undersea Agent bursts in to save the day and resurrect Toby with magic water! .... Nah.
Hellblazer #289 – A typically strong issue of Hellblazer, this trip to Hell arc really has been excellent. I particularly like Milligan's take on Satan and the way he's really manipulating everybody. I wonder why he wants Terry Greaves' soul? Being buried alive is a big fear of mine, so what happened to John in this issue really did freak me out, although I did like how he managed to remain himself, stuff like sticking two fingers up to the devil is classic Constantine. Was the nurse in this issue the one who was friends with Phoebe at the start of Milligan's run? It's weird that John's totally forgotten about her isn't it? This arc is set up for a devastating finale, let's hope Milligan delivers. Hell, we already know he will.
Super Dinosaur #9 – Another very fun instalment of SD, I just love how much cool stuff Kirkman crams into each issue, not only are there several subplots, but also silly goofy bits like General Casey's gun-hammer. If I was 15 years or so younger this book would make my mind explode with all of the mad shit that goes on. The revelation of what the Exile is was cool, he's some kind of weird reptile alien, I wonder what he wants with a bunch of genetically engineered dinosaurs? I'm guessing his species is behind the creation of Inner Earth and sees the dinosaurs as their children, a bit like the Kree and the Inhumans. Jason Howard's art of course adds a lot of fun to the proceedings, it's cartoony, but the dinosaurs still seem real to me.
The Infinite Vacation #4(of 5) – It's a real shame that this book has been so delayed, because I had a bit of trouble remembering all of the events of the first 3 issues, part of that is my memory, but it was still rather confusing, but I got into the groove by the end of it, Spencer is doing some crazy shit here, but it works. The real star here though is artist Christian Ward, who absolutely knocks this one out of the park, every page was a delight to look at, with brilliantly inventive layouts and fantastic use of colour. Even if the story went a bit over my head at times, the art kept me hook, as did Spencer's excellent dialogue. The fumetti sequences continue to be weird, they've managed to find a bunch of really sinister looking people, or more precisely, a bunch of people who are so corporately bland that they are sinister. I hope #5 isn't too far off, because I'm looking forward to re-reading this all in one go and finally truly 'getting' it.
Rocketeer Adventures 2 #1(of 4) – IDW bring back Dave Stevens' iconic hero for another anthology series that on the basis of this issue, looks set to be just as great a tribute as the first one. They really are bringing out the big guns and giving us some fantastic art to look at, and a lot of variety too. The first story comes from Marc Guggenheim and Sandy Plunkett, and while the story is a little trite, the artwork was fantastic in how it emulated Stevens' style. Peter David and Bill Sienkiewicz then contribute an absolutely spot-on Looney Tunes parody as Daffy Duck becomes 'The Ducketeer' in a story that's basically Duck Dodgers. PAD's jokes were very accurate to what you would get in a real Looney Tunes, and whilst Sienkiewicz's art is not as clean as a real cartoon, it worked really well. The final story was written and drawn by Stan Sakai, and it was a cool, subtle semi-team-up between the Rocketeer and Superman. I didn't catch the link at first, but at the end it was really quite sweet. Add in an awesome pin-up from Art Adams (including a dinosaur and Betty in a bikini) and a brilliant cover by Darwyn Cooke that brings to mind WW2 propaganda posters, this was a fantastic package and as I said, a great tribute to a fantastic creator and his character. I'm a little iffy on the idea of new full-length stories, even if they are from Mark Waid, this anthology is all you really need I think.
My favourites this week were Wonder Woman and Supercrooks, both damn good comics and both very different.
Join me next time for another good week, with the likes of Aquaman, Ghost Rider, Morning Glories and Spaceman under scrutiny.
TWiP's 2nd Opinions!
- Christian Hoffer offered his opinion on Wonder Woman #7
- Kick-Ass 2 #7 was reviewed by Dan Buckley
- And that man again Christian Hoffer reviewed Supercrooks #1, he's been busy!
Review by: Niam Suggitt