After a more relaxed affair last week, TWiP is back with a vengeance, as Punchy takes a look at 22 comics!
22! He's wasting his life.
Credits & Solicit Info:
Hi there, as you can see, I've had a haircut, but everything within my glorious head remains the same, the same razor-sharp intellect, the same searing critical eye, the same stupid jokes, it's all there, and all ready to review this week's comic book offerings.
Let's do this!
And remember, you can click the links to head to the forum threads for each book.
Invincible Iron Man #518 – 'Long Way Down' continues to move all of Fraction's long-running subplots along very nicely, and this issue did a particularly good job of marrying plot progression with awesome action. So not only did we get the continuation of Spy-Master's attack on Stark Resilient, but also the real debut of the all-new (except not that new because it's Rhodey) Iron Man. Rhodey's debut was the best part of this issue, the suit looked awesome, Larrocca kicked ass on it. I loved how it built on what the War Machine suit could do in Iron Man 2.0 (and that title is now very appropriate), the speech bubble was lovely and old-school, and Rhodey reciting Muhammad Ali was just perfect. I found it very interesting that Tony Stark only appeared in 1 page of this issue, that's a real testament to the size of the world and story that Fraction has developed. We don't need Tony when all of the supporting characters and most of the villains have their own, well-realised stuff going on. Stane Vs Mandarin, Detroit Steel Vs Sasha Hammer, Spy-Master Vs his own love for Cababa, it's all important.
Hulk #53 – Holy crap does Dale Eaglesham draw a great Hulk, he's actually hulking, what a fantastic fit for this title, the perfect halfway point between the exaggeration of McGuinness and the relative realism of Hardman. This issue picks up a dangling plot-point from the A-Bomb back-ups this book had when it was $3.99, as we see how Rick kind of messed up in his chasing down of the mysterious ancient Mayan bad guys. It's pretty clever of Parker to revisit this stuff, but I must admit I had almost forgotten about it, but then that's my fault. What it all boils down to is Rulk, A-Bomb and Machine Man team-up with Alpha Flight to fight the Mayans. It's always fun to see Alpha Flight show up, even if the last time I read a story with them in, most of the team in this issue were dead. I'm guessing Pak and Van Lente's short-lived series brought Puck and all the rest back to life? Makes sense, no matter how hard people try, the 'classic' line-up always comes back. The ending of this issue was a good shocker, there's no way the She-Hulks are dead, but I'm interested in seeing how they'll come back. But once again, the real star here was Eaglesham, if you doubt his talent, just look at the cover!
Winter Soldier #6 – This title has been thoroughly excellent throughout it's short life, but this was the best issue yet, improving on perfection! A lot of this has to do with Michael Lark's artwork, this is no slight on Butch Guice, who has been brilliant, but something special happens when Lark and Brubaker collaborate. From way back on Scene Of The Crime, through Gotham Central and Daredevil, they just go well together, it's not quite as good as when Brubaker works with Sean Phillips, but it's almost that. Lark's dark, moody artwork is just perfect for the tone of Brubaker's stories. I also loved how this issue picked up where the first storyline left off, and we're right back into the story of the other Russian sleeper agent. My favourite sequences in this issue were the flashbacks that Leo was going through, especially how Bettie Breitweiser changed her colouring style and for them, emphasising the red of blood. It was also interesting to see the return of Fred Davis, and how even though he was old (and eventually died) he was still a bit of a bad-ass. It's brilliant how Brubaker has managed to come up with even more threats from Bucky's past, it makes each story feel important, gives it depth. Captain America may have lost me, but this title is delivering me what I want from a Brubaker superhero story, it's just excellent, end of story.
Avengers Academy #31 – Avengers Academy continues to subvert my expectations for what an AvX tie-in in this title would be. So yes, while this issue does feature the two sides finally coming to blows, it's a fake fight, one designed to let the X-Kids go without pissing off Captain America and Wolverine. This was very clever writing from Christos Gage, as it showed that while these characters may be rash and stupid at times because of their youth, it also highlighted one of the benefits of being young, in that you're less entrenched in your views, more willing to change your mind about things, because you've not grown up yet. It says a lot about how stubborn Cap and Cyclops are being that these dumb kids could do what they couldn't. Gage also surprised me with the way he used Sebastian Shaw in this issue, I had thought for sure that he remembered who he was and returned to his evil ways, but no, he was still on the side of the X-Kids. These days you're very rarely surprised by superhero comics, so Gage deserves a lot of praise for managing to do so regularly, one of the real advantages of using new characters.
Dark Avengers #175 – Pay no attention to the name change, this is still the same Thunderbolts title Jeff Parker was writing before, just with a name that should hopefully increase sales and ward off cancellation. Oh yeah, and also because the new Dark Avengers from recent issues of New Avengers have joined the title, and on the basis of this opening issue, they make fine additions. I particularly liked Dark Spider-Man and Ragnarok, they were a lot of fun, it's just a shame Gorgon isn't still around, but then he's probably too irredeemably evil to work. It's also cool because the original Dark Avengers were ex-Thunderbolts, and now it's the other way around, the two names are eternally linked. It was good that this issue brought the focus back onto the Thunderbolts' supposed leader, Luke Cage, who had kind of been forgotten in amongst all of the time-travel. He was on the verge of quitting the program until the FACT advisory committee put the Dark Avengers on the team, so I'm looking forward to him trying to reign in these nutcases. It's also interesting that there seems to be something fishy about FACT, I'm sure that's going to lead somewhere interesting. Declan Shalvey's art was very strong once again, he's come on leaps and bounds and now he's drawing an Avengers title! How awesome is that? Oh, and as I've said before, I love it when writers build their own little corners in collective universes by linking their titles, and this issue featured a great example, with the country of Sharzhad from Parker's Hulk run making an appearance. Herald the dawn of the Parker-Verse!
The Defenders #7 – After a few issues of solo adventures for the members of the 'non-team' this issue features them getting back together to try and stop John Aman and get to the bottom of just what in holy hell is going on. Fraction continues to use this title to really explore the Marvel Universe, so we have the Defenders paying a visit to Wakanda, getting high on magic soul-juice with the Black Panthers, and kind of declaring war on John Aman's country. This issue featured some real stand-out moments, particularly for Silver Surfer, the way his body morphed when he took Wakandan LSD was hilarious. Parallel to this, Fraction introduced everyone's second-favourite sexy cat-based thief Black Cat to the book, you could tell he and the Dodsons were having a real blast in the heist sequence, and as this is their last issue, it's good to have them bow out doing what they do best, drawing a character with massive breasts being sexy as Marvel can allow. I wonder what the deal is with those Brass Frogs, and what the hell are the 'Council Of Antiquarians' after? I'm guessing they want the Concordance Engine really. This book is the best expression of Fraction's indie sensibilities I've seen in his Marvel work, lots of on the surface stylish silliness and, but beneath it, there's substance. It's not just being cool for cool's sake. Unless it is.
Uncanny X-Men #13 – Kieron Gillen does a good job in this issue of reflecting what's going on in the main AvX story, but also continuing his own stories. So while there's the occasion glimpse of what's going on up there on the Moon (and this issue does spoil events in AvX #5, so read that first), the real focus here is on Earth, and on Gillen's pet villain, UNIT, who comes face to face with the rest of Generation Hope, and provides some context for what's going on before getting Danger to kick their asses. UNIT is a great villain, very different, and I'm very excited to see where Gillen is going with all of this, when he eventually really tries to win, it's going to be an epic. Are we meant to infer that the Generation Hope kids are the ones who were supposed to be Phoenixed alongside Hope? And not Cyclops etc? Hmmm. My favourite bits in this issue however where Magneto, Psylocke and Storm just sitting in an underground bunker, worrying about what's going on, and talking, these scenes were full of great character drama, especially from Magneto. I'm generally not a fan when Mags becomes a good guy, but it's working for me now. Billy Tan's art looked good in this issue, he can be rather inconsistent, but here, it was decent.
Age Of Apocalypse #4 – More fun in the darkest timeline (bonus points if you know the reference) as we get a real hint of the lengths Prophet is willing to go to in order to defeat Wolverine. I've still not got a handle on most of the characters, but after this issue, along with Prophet, Goodnight is definitely my favourite. It's partly his old-school domino mask, but also because the scene where he goads the Hulk/Thing to come out was brilliant writing from Lapham. I also really loved the twist that the X-Terminated had no idea where or not Betty Ross was alive, they played Bruce Banner in order to get what they wanted. That's cool, and it's great that the heroes in this book are willing to bend morals, this is war, not fun hijinks. I wouldn't like this grim tone to appear in all of my comics, but it has it's place, and this is one of them. Roberto De La Torre's art was excellent once again, and Renato Arlem also did a good job at depicting the dark, grimy world that is the Age Of Apocalypse. Make no mistake, this book is grim, but it's also very interesting, and not like any other X-title out there, even X-Force has moments of levity, not so here, and it's refreshing.
X-Factor #237 – This book is in one of it's up-swings lately, and this issue was a great encapsulation of what makes X-Factor special, it can be very funny, and then on the next page, it get devastate you with drama and emotions. The focus here was on Rahne, who, after barfing up a demon wolf-child, is kind of in a bad way. Polaris and Siryn's attempt to get her out of her funk by going a road trip. These opening bits with the three of them cruising along in a convertible were just great fun. But then we get to the destination of this road trip, and the return of Madrox's Priest dupe, John Maddox. It was very interesting to get a catalogue of all the terrible shit that's happened to Wolfsbane lately, and when Maddox presented her with a cat o'ninetails so she could flagellate herself... the fun stopped, and shit got dark. Of course, Rahne doesn't go through with it, and it looks like she's through the worst of it now. I'm looking forward to a non-mopey Rahne from now on, and hopefully she can help this book continue on the great run it's been on since Regenesis.
Avengers Vs X-Men #5(of 12) – Matt Fraction steps up to the plate as the Phoenix finally takes a host... only it's not the one you'd expect. I'm kind of torn on this issue, I liked the way it was written, and I loved the sheer awesomeness of the two sides fighting each other ON THE MOON. But the ending, where the Phoenix takes over Cyclops and the rest of his team, is a bit stupid really, and a bit too much like 'The Worthy' from Fear Itself, there you got to see what characters would look like if they were Asgardian, now it's the Phoenix. But having read this week's Uncanny X-Men, I do have the feeling that this does serve a purpose. Plus, it made for a better surprise ending than Hope becoming Phoenix, because that would have been in no way a surprise. As always though, this was summer event comics done right, the whole scale of this mini has been suitably massive, and it's been hitting just the right blockbuster notes that please my inner fanboy. Romita Jnr is a big part of this, he's the artist I see in my mind's eye when I think 'Marvel' and he's putting in top-level art here. Plus, I still remain amazed at how the 5 writers have managed to keep the book going, that particular experiment has worked really well. Who's turn is it next time? Back to Bendis?
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #11 – Another excellent issue of USM, this book's not getting as much press as it was at the start (the comics 'media' have forgotten about race and dropped it for the shiny new toy that is sexuality), but it's improved month on month. I loved the opening flashback to a young Miles hanging out with his Uncle. Back then, his rogue Uncle was cool, but now he's dangerous. The fight between Spider-Man, Prowler and Scorpion was probably the best action sequence we've had so far, David Marquez's art was brilliant, and Bendis' dialogue was spot on, I love how Miles' in-fight banter is kind of crappy, he doesn't know what he's doing when it comes to that, let alone fighting. I also like how Bendis had him use the powers that are exclusive to him, it's good that he has different tricks than Peter did. Speaking of the late Mister Parker, the last page was a tantalising tease, Aunt May and Gwen are back State-side, and May wants to meet the new Spidey, I am looking forward to and dreading that scene, I'm sure Bendis will write it well, but it could be emotionally devastating for Aunt May. This really is one of Marvel's best books, and the best thing is, we only have to wait a week for more Miles! Spider-Men begins next week, I'm wary of the premise, but I trust Bendis to deliver despite it.
Action Comics #10 – Well, that was unexpected. One of the problems books set in the past face is that, we already know that the characters are around in present day titles, so there's no sense of jeopardy. Superman can't die or lose because has to be alive for events in Superman or Justice League or wherever to happen. Except in this title, because Grant Morrison just killed off Clark Kent. Of course, Clark has to come back somehow because he's still Superman's alter-ego in the present day, but I'm very excited to see how Morrison writes his way out of this whole, and it also brings back some level of unexpectedness to the title, and loosens things up a little. I continue to love this take on Superman, the return to his socially conscious roots, and the scene where he stopped the child-killer was probably the highlight. I also liked the small scene with the Justice League, where Superman tried to convince them to help the world in his way, but couldn't, because the other League members weren't willing to break international protocol, they didn't want to rock the boat. I want more boat-rocking! But still, that was a strong scene with good dialogue from all of the JLA. I also thought it was interesting that Superman used his spandex-suit when with the league, but on his solo mission, he was still in the jeans and t-shirt combo, a clear delineation between his two roles. That's not to say this issue was totally brilliant, the villain was clearly a Kraven rip-off, but it'll be interesting to see what he's like with his Iron Mask, and who the heck is that little guy? Is he Mxyzptlk?
Batwing #10 – I'm really enjoying the global feel of this title, we start off in Africa, as Batwing stops some Pirates, but then we're straight off to China for a team-up with Nightwing. And there's also stuff happening in the USA too. The scale of the stories in this title makes what could be a pretty bog-standard superhero book into something a little more interesting. It's good to see Batwing get more and more integrated with the rest of the Bat-family, and the scenes with him and Nightwing were very enjoyable, and I normally dislike Dick Grayson. It's good to see the Penguin appear here too, in amongst all of the Owls, Batman's original bird-based foe has been sort of forgotten, and I trust Winick to do a good job with the character, he works really well as a crime-lord, and it makes sense for him to be trying to make inroads in Africa. Marcus To's art was strong and clean once again, I'm looking forward to seeing this dragon-dude in more detail next time.
Swamp Thing #10 – Oh Francesco Francavilla, man have I missed your artwork. The former Black Panther artist steps in for an issue of Swamp Thing and does a fantastic job, the whole book is the usual stylish, well-thought-out product you expect from Francavilla, the colours, the panel choices, everything worked brilliantly to tell a great story. Of course, Scott Snyder is still a big part of this, and he gives Francavilla some truly great and creepy images to work with (the splash of baby Abby and her dead mother stood out in particular), and also uses some nice chronological tricks. It's not until the very end that you realise the person Anton Arcane has been monologuing to was a sleeping Swamp Thing, and shock upon shock, Swampy has just been killed! Uh-oh. Now of course, Swamp Thing won't really be dead, he's only just come back after all, but it was good writing, and it made for a great cliffhanger. But for me, the best thing about this issue was the art, which was just brilliant.
Animal Man #10 – After last week's Annual provided some important context for the war against the Rot, this issue puts us right back in the thick of things as Buddy continues his journey through the Red. Steve Pugh did a great job at depicting the otherworldly nature of this place, and the ending was very interesting, what will Buddy's new body be like? I'm guessing he'll look the same, but have more powerful Animal-abilities, but then again, he could be a cat like Socks, who knows? There's also stuff going on in the 'real world' as John Constantine and some other members of Justice League Dark show up to try and warn the Bakers about what's going on. Jeff Lemire writes a damn good Constantine, I may have to check out his run on JLD (Julia Louis-Dreyfus?), has it started yet? I'm worried about Cliff too, the Rot-Buddy is going to do bad things to him, I just know it. This title continues to be excellent, and the anticipation for the upcoming war just keeps building and building. I wonder who the 'green guy' is if not Swamp Thing? Is Green Lantern going to get involved? Green Arrow?
Justice League International #10 – With news of this book's upcoming cancellation filtering through, you do have the sense that anything could happen, these characters, with the exception of Batman and Guy Gardner, are at the level where DC could kill them off quite easily, so this final fight with The Breakers should be very interesting indeed. I liked that this issue focussed on someone other than Booster (as much as I love him, he's hogged the limelight a little), with August General In Iron narrating the proceedings. It was good to get an insight into what he's thinking. I also liked that we saw some things from the perspective of one of The Breakers, we saw that their motivation isn't just pure villainy, that they have genuine reasons to be angry at the world. However, I am guessing that Lightweaver will end up changing sides by the end of things, and become a member of the JLI, just in time for the title to end.
Stormwatch #10 – Peter Milligan's run continues to really make this concept work to it's potential, as the team face another crazy-weird threat, but this time, the villain coincided thematically with the problems of one of the characters. The team have to fight a monster that was created by a device that came about due to Stormwatch's secrecy, and Apollo is really struggling with that. He finally found the courage to come out of the closet, but now he's hiding himself again. Interesting stuff. I also liked that Milligan is bringing back stuff from Cornell's run, I wouldn't have minded the likes of Harry Tanner or Illusionist being forgotten for a while, but it's good that he's using them, and hey, he even brought back The Fox! Hilarious. Unfortunately Ignacio Calero's art was pretty poor, this title has suffered art-wise, I'd like to see it get somebody actually good for once, that would improve things no end.
Dial H #2 – Since reading #1 of this title last month, I've started reading one of China Mieville's novels, Perdido Street Station (which is excellent so far by the way), so my brain is more in gear with Mieville's unique mind, and as such, I enjoyed this issue a lot more, even though there was probably too much going on. There's two ways to judge this book, one is to just admire Mieville's imagination in coming up with all of the weird different superheroes. This issue featured 8 heroes (and another was mentioned but not seen) and each of them was hilarious, I think my favourite was Shamanticore, but I also liked the one we saw the most of, Iron Snail. These characters are just funny. But as I said, there's more to this than just silly characters, there's serious stuff going on here too. Nelson's friend Darren is brutally murdered by a strange villain, The Squid, who is a pretty big mystery, he seems to be in control, but he's doing what XN says. And what was with his speech patterns? Hmm. I'm also interested in the red-headed doctor, is she also the masked red-head? Is she XN? What's her deal? This book is full-to-the-brim with stuff, and I think I'll need to give it a re-read to fully comprehend what's going on. But even when you don't understand, there's still the fun of Pelican Army and Ctrl-Alt-Del. Mateus Santolouco's art was brilliant once again too, he's given a lot to do by Mieville, and he can do it all.
iZombie #26 – Only 3 issues left and this one felt like Roberson giving us one last look at everyone before things change for good. Gwen spends most of the issue looking for her friends, but doesn't manage to find them as they're off having their own problems in amongst the end of the world. The two most interesting developments here for me, were Francisco's ex-girlfriend starting to work out that he's a Frankenstein, and then at the very end when Gwen bumps into her brother. I'm not sure which I'm more excited for here, the cosmic battle to save the world, or the more soapy elements. That's the real strength of this book, yes, the stakes are incredibly high, but Roberson never forgets to put in good character moments, such as Gwen finally getting to hang a painting on the wall of the coffee shop. Mike Allred's art was absolutely perfect as usual, the guy is just so cool.
Sweet Tooth #34 – Another truly excellent issue of Sweet Tooth, and one that does a great job of filling out the back-story of the series' main villain. I'm sure most us reading the book, like Johnny, fully expected that Abbott (or Dougie) wouldn't be able to pull the trigger on his brother... but then he did. A real shocking moment and one that shows just how ruthless Abbott is. The artwork in the flashback by Nate Powell was very good, this book does really well when it comes to guest artists, they all fit Lemire's tone for the title, but aren't carbon copies. A good showcase for Powell's indie work too, I'm definitely going to pick up something of his now. How many issues of this book is there left? I don't want it to end, but all the same, I'm very excited to see what happens.
Morning Glories #19 – Seriously, what the hell is going on in this book? It's crazy. What's going on with Zoe? Why did she go all slasher-movie? Why the hell is some actress that Hunter saw on a talk-show suddenly in the woods with a high-powered rifle? This book is messing with my head in so many ways, I'm hooked, but totally lost. I did like that the flashback was fairly simple this time, apart from the talk-show. It was just Hunter talking with his mother in the hospital, and providing important character details about him, about his lack of self-esteem. That's the thing that really anchors this book, in amongst all the crazy stuff swirling around, the characters are recognisable as real teenagers. Even psycho-killer Zoe. But now she's dead. I hope the next arc brings all (or most) of the kids back together, I miss the group dynamic really, it's fun to get these character-focussed stories, but it makes the series feel a bit disjointed.
The Boys #67 – Does anyone else's cover to this issue have it as #66? Does this make it more valuable? Speculators, help me out! It really seems that this arc is twisting things round and making Butcher the ultimate villain of the series. First he kills Vas, now he's killed The Legend, and also it's been revealed that he killed MM's ex-wife and threatened his kid. Fucking hell! Ennis did the same thing in Preacher were he turned what you thought was a loveable rogue in Cassidy into a bad dude, and if anything it's even worse here. I was really freaked out by the stuff with MM and his daughter, due to his messed-up genes, she may look 20 or so, but she's actually 12. And she's been in porn! Incest porn! What the fuck? That is all kinds of wrong. So wrong. But it's not all disgusting paedophilia and murder in this issue, I did like seeing Hughie man up on the phone to Monkey, he's really evolved throughout the series. The way he worked out what Vas' text message was about was good detective work too, Wee Hughie, a shining beacon of hope in a shitty world!
Welcome back! I think you'll all agree that this was a pretty stellar week of comics, my personal faves were Action Comics and Winter Soldier, but they were run close by Ultimate Spider-Man and Sweet Tooth.
Make sure you're here next time, where I'll be looking at such delights as Spider-Men, Batman, The Shade, and a new American Vampire mini-series!
Review by: Niam Suggitt