Fastforward selecta! It's that time again, time for Punchy to go through every comic he reads in meticulous detail (disclaimer, detail may not be meticulous) and churn out some reviews.
Credits & Solicit Info:
Just look at his face! His Liefeld face!
Hi there, and wilkommen to another instalment of TWiP, the only comics review column you can trust, if only because most comics reviewers have stopped doing columns and instead started writing longer reviews with overrated things like 'thought' and 'critical analysis' in them. None of that rubbish here! Just half-baked nonsense opinions and speculation.
This week is a good week, as I didn't even have to use my A-K (and yes I know that doesn't rhyme), but I also got to read new issues of some damn good comics, Fatale, Uncanny X-Force, Hulk, New Avengers, Batman and many more besides.
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Avenging Spider-Man #7 – A very fun issue of AvSM, a real classic superhero team-up story in the spirit of, well, Marvel Team-Up. Spider-Man and She-Hulk (the original, green version, none of this red nonsense!) team-up and bicker as they fight against some cute little kitties. Oh yeah, and an ancient Egyptian goddess. This was all basic stuff but it was done in a very enjoyable way, with each of the Immonens adding their own twist, so you had Kathryn's weird sense of humour and funny dialogue, and Stuart's fantastic-as-usual art. I was great seeing him back on Spider-Man actually, because as much as I love Bagley, Immonen's run on Ultimate Spidey is actually my favourite. There were lots of great funny moments in this issue, and it was cool that once again the problem was solved by Peter Parker unleashing his geek side rather than just fighting us way out. Of course, there was plenty of fighting, Shulkie was a bad-ass and a half here. So yeah, a good issue, and it was cool to have the husband-and-wife team working together, I'd love to see them come back and do another issue of this title.
Hulk #51 – More supernatural stuff for Rulk to punch, and while I enjoyed this issue, I didn't like it as much as other previous instalments because I had no idea who these 'Forgiven' people were. I got that they are kind of like reformed Vampires, but where had they appeared before? Is this something from Peter David's Hulk run or what? They looked very 90s to me. I guess I'll have to do some research because it looks like they'll be showing up again soon. I did like Red Hulk's stubborn refusal to stop and think things through in this issue, it was refreshing to see a character just go 'NO!' and fight through, a nice character detail. I also liked that Parker tied this story in with the Hulk Of Arabia one, with the ghost of the former friend who died in that arc coming back to haunt Rulk. Pagulayan's art was great, he probably draws the 2nd best Rulk after Ed McGuinness. Also, where was Machine Man! He needs to be in every issue of this book, he rocks.
The Punisher #11 – This was probably my favourite issue of Rucka's Punisher yet, in that it was possibly the perfect melding of the twin worlds of the relatively realistic Punisher, and the bat-shit insanity of the Marvel Universe. Told through flashback, Detective Bolt reveals how he's been working with the Punisher, and that their latest meet was interrupted by... Zombies. Frank goes to town on the Zombies and it was just brilliant to see him not even bat an eye-lid and just kill them as if they were any other bad guy. I know Frank was only very recently undead himself, but that's kind of been swept under the rug. I just loved it when he killed Black Talon, no questions asked. I also found it interesting to see how Rucka showed us how the NYPD reacted to these events, how even firing a fun at a Zombie requires a full report, like I said, the real world rubbing up against the Marvel world. In many ways this issue was the most Gotham Central-esque one so far, which is high praise indeed. So while this was a bit of a detour from the main story with Rachel Cole-Alves and The Exchange and all that, it was still excellent. Good to see Carlie Cooper show up too, I love the little connections to other Marvel books here, if you hadn't read any Spider-Man you'd have no idea who she was, so it didn't intrude, but if you have, it really enhances things. But how come she was on a date with Bolt anyway? Haven't we seen that he's married? Carlie doesn't seem like the kind of person who'd date a married man. Unless I'm misremembering and the family we saw him with was his brother's or something.
Wolverine #306 – Logan continues to hunt down Dr Rot, and it's all getting a bit Texas Chainsaw Massacre, what with the creepy old dudes in wheelchairs. This is a very creepy arc, perhaps even creepier than the original Dr Rot story, and that's saying something. This story is also really violent, I know Wolverine stories lend themselves to violence anyway, what with the whole knives for hands thing, but still, the fight in this issue between Wolverine, Charlie Chainsaws and the other two freaks was just brutal, almost MAX-level violent. Not that I'm complaining, it made for a very effective story and Pelletier does gore a lot better than I thought he would. Cullen Bunn is impressing me with the story arc, I hadn't read any of his stuff before this, but now I'm eagerly awaiting his run on Venom.
New Avengers #26 – I'm really enjoying this AvX tie-in, even though it's set 100s of years before the events of the mini-series, it's just a hell of a lot of fun and it's great to see previously unconnected parts of the Marvel Universe come together. Not only do we have the newly-revealed connection between the Phoenix and the Iron Fist, but now Leonardo Da Vinci, in full-on SHIELD super-scientist mode is involved. It's issues like this that make the title of 'Architect' fit for Bendis and Hickman, they really are designing this story and building it from the ground up. I may not be the biggest fan of Hickman's SHIELD, but it was still thrilling to see Da Vinci show up. Continuity used in a good way. I still wonder how the events of this arc will impact what's going on in the main story, the cover shows Danny Rand helping Hope, but we haven't seen that happen yet, will it ever? Is the cover just a metaphor?
Avengers Assemble #3 – What a difference a month makes, last time out I kind of made fun of this book for just being there to sell movie tickets or whatever, but now, after actually seeing the glory that is the Avengers movie... I absolutely loved this issue. Reading this just reminded me of how great the movie was, and by extension, how great these characters and concepts are. This issue was full of stuff from the movie, not just the main characters, but also the prominent roles for Maria Hill and the SHIELD heli-carrier. The movie was Marvel Comics come to life, and this kept up that same spirit and tone, just classic superhero stories done right and with a sense of humour. And then of course, there's the final page reveal of who the secret villain behind the Zodiac is. It's been a long time since we've seen this character, and he's also the secret villain behind the Chitauri in the movie, so it was brilliant to see him show up again. It is weird though, the plan in this book doesn't seem like what he'd normally do. Notice how hard I'm trying not to spoil it. It's difficult as hell, in the mean-time, Mark Bagley draws an awesome Hulk.
Wolverine & The X-Men #10 – Yet again, W&XM kicks a whole lot of ass, this book is just brilliant, perhaps my favourite X-book ever. This issue is of course an AvX tie-in, but there's a lot more to it than that, as Aaron continues to develop his running subplots, in particular Angel and Genesis and their budding friendship, which is worrying, but also quite sweet. But the real meat here was Avengers Vs X-Men, and who's side Wolverine is on. Cyclops comes to the school to try and fix things between him and Logan, or at least get them on the same side. It's a fascinating conversation between the two, and although it fails, it sets up a great character conflict for Wolverine, and given what happened in AvX #3 when Captain America kicked him out of a plane, I reckon Wolverine might be reconsidering Cyclops' offer. It was also cool that a couple of the X-Men who sided with Wolverine in the Schism chose to go and fight alongside Scott, just because they may disagree on one issue doesn't mean they can't agree on another, and it's cool that Aaron has managed to resist over-simplifying the split and it's not just pure hate. Or at least it's only pure hate from Wolverine. Bachalo's art was as idiosyncratically excellent as usual, but did have trouble following that double-page spread where Wolverine and Cyclops walked through the school, it kind of snaked it's way round, but I initially read it wrong.
Uncanny X-Force #25 – It's slightly sad that 25 issues is now considered a pretty big milestone for a comic, but hey, what can you do, most books are lucky to get this far, and if X-Force want to celebrate, I'm not gonna argue, those cats are scary. This was a very fun issue, and a great summation of what this book has been about, which is X-Men cutting loose and killing some fuckers. Of course, it looks like most of the team is leaving, but I'm sure that Psylocke and Fantomex will be back, Remender has invested too much in them for this to be it. Their 'departure' allowed Wolverine to take centre-stage, and while he's never far from being in the spotlight, he's not been the main focus of this book that much, so it was great to see Remender's take on his inner thoughts and character. I also liked that we saw AoA Nightcrawler lightening up a teensy bit, I've liked his grimness, but it was cool to see a bit of the 'real' Kurt Wagner shine through when he cracked a joke or two. Speaking of jokes, this book continues to be the only place where Deadpool is tolerable and his jokes are actually funny. The threat set-up here was interesting, I love the idea of genetically growing assassins to believe their target killed their parents, it's brilliantly twisted and perfect for X-Force. I'm not too sold on the Omega family, because well, Omega Red is lame as hell, but I'm sure they'll be fine. Mike McKone's artwork was solid, and it reminded me of Phil Noto's stuff last month, which was cool. The back-up stories were good too, the Wolverine one was a good little character piece with some nice violence, and the Deadpool one was just bat-shit insane, I love Remender's take on that character, but it does make me worry for his own sanity.
The Ultimates #10 – This was another excellent issue of Ultimates, and I really liked that it dropped the more esoteric semi-cosmic stuff with The City and The Children and whatever, and instead focussed on the immediate characters in danger, and also the crazy situation that spins out of Reed Richards blowing up The White House and the rest of Capitol Hill. We saw the real human impact, not just in the excellent pages which showed what some people were doing right before they were disintegrated, but also in the shock of the man who had just become President. The stuff with the Ultimates themselves was also excellent, having the tables turned and them being on the run from SHIELD is a lot of fun and Nick Fury was a total bad-ass in that scene. Bringing back Tony Stark's tumor was a good development too, and it was interesting how it manifested itself, with him talking to himself as a child. I wonder if this improved focus on character was down to the introduction of Sam Humphries as co-writer? I'm not familiar with his work, but the more down-to-Earth feel here wasn't very Hickman-like. I was glad also to see a member of the Fantastic Four other than Reed finally show up, it makes sense that with Reed as a villain that the others should be involved, but Sue and Ben have been nowhere to be seen (Johnny is over in Ultimate X-Men). And then at the end... Christ, I'd almost forgotten about Thor's kid being trapped in a tree, so much stuff has happened in this book.
Ultimate X-Men #11 – Man, the Ultimate Universe kind of has it in for the US Government doesn't it? First it turns on the Ultimates and then gets blown up, then it gives up on like 5 states and surrenders them to a bunch of robots. Shame on you Washington! This was an OK issue, but once again it focussed too much on the big threat than on the heroes, when was the last time we saw Jimmy Hudson? Like 4 issues ago or something, there's not enough X-Men in this book. That said, it's all set-up for a massive finale to Spencer's run next month, and then hopefully Brian Wood's run will focus a bit more on the characters. I am wondering if this story arc will just end with the X-Men ending up in Washington and getting blown up thanks to the events in Ultimates, but that would probably be too dark.
Superboy #9 – Man, I literally have no idea what's going on in this title anymore. It's pretty fucking stupid of me really to be reading this without reading Teen Titans and the other related books, but what can I say, I'm stupid and I buy anything with 'Super' in the title. So basically Superboy, the Teen Titans and Legion Lost are in some kind of volcano and fighting a bunch of evil people, including Warblade and that stretchy dude. Plus Rose Wilson is there and so is Beast Boy who's red for some reason. Superboy fights Warblade who tries to turn him evil but it doesn't work. Timber Wolf seems to think Kid Flash is evil, what's the deal with that? Is he not Bart Allen but actually a Zoom or something? Then at the end a weird creepy angel shows up. Huh. The art looked good though, RB Silva is awesome. But still, yeah, I'm lost, it's my own fault, but until this crossover is over, this book is a lost cause to me. Stupid Teen Titans, you suck.
Batman #9 – Any idea why Batman is out this week instead of next week? I guess it's because of Batman Incorporated starting back up and they don't want too many Bat-books in one week, Morrison and Snyder could steal each other's thunder. This was another very strong issue, the Court Of Owls story really is good. Snyder continues to do what he does best, which is to make the history of Gotham and of the Wayne family matter and make it seem real. I also liked how he took a piece of Batcave ephemera that's been around for donkey's years like the T-Rex model and make it actually do something, that was a great moment. I was surprised by the scene at the end where Lincoln March got killed, I was so sure that he was evil. But then I guess he could still be working for the Court, this could be a double-cross. Capullo's art just keeps on getting better and better, I love his Batmobile, it's been too long since we've seen a sleek-looking classic take on the most famous car in comics. The back-up was only OK, Albuquerque's art was of course great, but the only thing that really stood out to me was that Alfred's dad was called Jarvis, is that a shout-out to the 2nd best Butler in comics?
Green Lantern #9 – So the truth about the Indigo Lanterns is revealed, and it's pretty much what we all expected after the last few issues, they are basically an army of evil criminals who were brainwashed by Abin Sur into feeling compassion. Creepy stuff, but what I liked most about this issue was that it pretty much confirmed that the Guardians are the next big villains and that the next GL event will be about the fight against them. I've hated those little blue bastards for ages now so it's good to see Johns take the first steps towards ending them. Although of course, now that the strange little monkey dude destroyed the Indigo Lantern, getting rid of the Guardians will probably be pretty hard. It was also cool to finally get to see some more Sinestro back-story, to see what his relationship with Abin Sur's sister was like. Is Arin Sur the mother of Soranik Natu, or was that just a one-night-stand for Sinestro? Next issue looks like it's going to be a good'un, the Indigos are now back to their normal, totally crazy bad-guy states, things are not going to be pretty for Hal and Sinestro.
Frankenstein: Agent Of SHADE #9 – Jeff Lemire wraps up his run on Frankenstein with a fun little story that ties in with his other DCU title, Animal Man. Frank and Nina are put on the trail of Buddy Baker and his family because of all the crazy shit that's been happening in that book, and they run into the dead body of that cop who was taken over by the Rot, who is now a creepy spider thing. Frankenstein's fight with the Rot creatures was excellent, I just love the character's over-the-top portentous dialogue, and even though you knew it was coming, 'I AM FRANKENSTEIN!' was still fucking awesome. It was just cool to see the events of Animal Man spill over into another title, and I hope that whenever the big story with that book and Swamp Thing kicks off, that Frankenstein is also involved. I've enjoyed Lemire's run on this book, it's been a lot of fun, with plenty of over the top insanity, but also some real heartfelt emotions. It's the closest in tone to his creator owned work that he's come to with his DCU stuff. I look forward to seeing what Matt Kindt can bring to this title, let's hope it gets even crazier.
Grifter #9 – The dreaded Rob Liefeld takes over on Grifter and... it's actually pretty good! It certainly helps that he's got Frank Tieri doing the scripting here, who is a very underrated writer and a master at snappy tough-guy bluster. The plot here is simple and full of action, just like you'd expect from a Liefeld story, but it works because the pace is kept up and Tieri makes sure that Cole Cash never stops with the quips. Scott Clark's art also plays a big part here, the pages of Grifter snowboarding were very cool. I also liked that this issue saw an escalation in the battle with the Daemonites, whereas Edmondson's run took the invasion slowly, this issue explodes it, with a whole new type of nasties, and the revelation that Grifter is some kind of chosen one, which he of course laughs off. I'm excited to see where this war is going, and to see how other titles will connect with Grifter, we got a shot of Helspont from Superman in this issue for example. Also cool was the introduction of a few more Wildstorm characters into the DCU, chief among them Deathblow, who I don't know much, but whenever I've read a comic with him in it... he's been an unrepentant bad-ass.
Demon Knights #9 – Now that this book has broken out of the initial battle it was stuck in for the first 7 or so issues, I'm enjoying it a fair bit more. I'm really liking how Cornell is expanding the world of the Medieval DCU and doing some unexpected stuff. For example, the city of Alba Sarum we've been hearing so much about was founded by two women, Alba and Sarum who are in love with each other, but cannot marry until the city is proclaimed 'the new Camelot', you expect a lot of things when reading a fantasy story, but not open Lesbianism, pretty interesting, if not exactly accurate to history, but then again, Demons and Amazons don't exist, so why quibble. Alba and Sarum send the Demon Knights off on a quest to Avalon to resurrect Merlin, which of course, ain't gonna be easy, especially when Etrigan is betraying the team to Lucifer (who looked as camp as ever). I liked that this issue still found time for character moments, like the reveal about Al Jabr being a pseudonym, or Ystin talking to his/her horse. The only negative in this issue really was that the art looked very scratchy in some places, not very polished.
iZombie #25 – I'm shocked this book is still coming out, what with all the Roberson controversy that's been raging all over the internet. But it's good that we're at least going to get the full iZombie story told as it was intended. This issue was mainly a naked ghost Gwen and Amon floating above the town as Amon reveals the true nature of Xitalu, who we finally get a good look at in all of his Lovecraftian glory. We also checked in on all of the other characters, including Horatio-as-Strider and Spot, and saw were they're all at before the 'final battle'. Allred's art was fantastic as usual, although why did the naked Gwen and Amon not have nipples? This is a Vertigo comic so there should be nudity! It was also cool that, even though there's only a few issues left, Roberson still took time out to show us Dixie's origin, just because it's the end of the world doesn't mean we can't have a little fun.
Invincible #91 – More fall-out from the crazy events of a few months ago, Mark is now awake, but it's obvious he's not back to normal. That last page was a real shocker, is he completely powerless now? It would be cool if he lost an arm forever, but I doubt that will happen. I liked that this issue found a bit more time to focus on Zandale/Bulletproof/Black-Vincible, because he's ostensibly a main character in this book at the moment, yet he hasn't done much. I also liked the ways in which Mark tried to induce indifference in Dinosaurus, that being the trigger for his powers has been a very fun recurring gag. Also, Tech-Jacket showed up again! Awesome, I love that dude.
Fatale #5 – The first arc of Fatale comes to an end, and although we're not really any closer to finding out the answers to the central mysteries, we get a lot of juicy details and some closure on one main character, Walt Booker, who dies, but not after dealing a blow to the evil cult. Am I right in guessing that the new body that Bishop took was Hank Raines' unborn son? If so, that's a brilliant development, one that makes the story very personal. I can't wait to see this version of Bishop all grown up. I must say, that despite the presence of creepy tentacle-faced demons and labyrinthine tunnels, the part of this issue that freaked me out the most was the scene at the end in the present, where Nicolas went to visit his father in the asylum, very creepy. I hope the next arc of this story focuses a bit more on Nicolas' story, I feel that in this first arc, the balance between past and present wasn't quite right. This was another excellent issue from the Brubaker/Phillips dream team, despite the lack of a back-matter essay, seriously, I need those essays, they brighten my month.
Morning Glories #18 – I know this book teaches you to expect the unexpected, but I certainly wasn't expecting Jun to be gay. What a cool reveal, totally out of the blue, and one that should change some perceptions, the tough bad-ass one of the group is the gay one. I have to say that the guy he bones, Guillame, was kind of an annoying douche though. This issue revealed some more stuff about who the mysterious Abraham is and why he took in Jun, but it still hasn't revealed enough! This book is such a tease, it makes LOST look like a dirty old man flashing his dick in the street. So is Zoe also one of Abraham's recruits, or is she working against them? Hmmm...
Hmmm indeed, hmmm indeed.
That was fun wasn't it? I think my fave book this week was probably Uncanny X-Force #25, not only did it have a fantastic main story, but the two back-ups were good too, especially the Deadpool one, I normally hate Deadpool, but that was insanely good. After the mis-step of the Captain Britain/Excalibur arc, this book has turned itself around rapido-quick.
Make sure you're here next week, when I'll be looking at the likes of Blue Beetle, AvX, Conan The Barbarian, The Secret Service and The Shade. Oooh.
Review by: Niam Suggitt