Is this the biggest TWIP ever? I think it is!
Credits & Solicit Info:
And welcome once again to TWiP, the most average comics column on the web! This week is actually probably slightly better than average, because it's just so freakin' big. There's absolutely loads of comics this week, and if I even start to list them it'll take all night, so let's get going!
Avenging Spider-Man #8 – This issue serves as a tribute to Silver Sable, who 'died' in last week's issue of Amazing Spidey. After spending ages trying and failing to find her body, Spider-Man is forced to accept that she's gone, but not before a flashback where he tells Captain America about just why Sable was special to him. This was a fun story, pitting not just Spider-Man and Silver Sable, but also Doctor Strange against Doctor Doom, who was reliably evil. The story wasn't anything special, but it had some good moments of humour, and as I said, it was a tribute to Silver Sable, it showed who she was, a mercenary, yes, but one who also cared. I must admit that this issue also made me smile at the thought of what reaction Spider-Man referring to his 'girlfriend' instead of his wife in the past caused to certain, crazier sects of the internet. No matter how much they try and forget OMD, it's always there to smack them in the face, and their rage is never not hilarious. This was a solid issue, a nice epilogue to the big Ends Of The Earth story, and though I don't believe for one second that Silver Sable is really dead, it still worked as a last hurrah for her.
Venom #19 – Rick Remender, Cullen Bunn and Lan Medina are really putting Flash Thompson through the wringer here, his life is just getting fucked in every hole. I'm constantly surprised by how dark this book is willing to get, and this issue was the maybe the darkest yet. Flash's family and ex, Betty Brant are being targeted by the Crime-Master's 'Savage Six' and unlike most lame-ass villains, they're actually following through with their threats. So you get stuff like Flash's brother-in-law being brutally murdered, like his sister getting Gwen Stacy-ed off of a roof (and even though I'm really very bored of this homage, it did kind of work in a way, because Jack O'Lantern acknowledged he was doing it, and because Flash saved his sister, but then immediately put somebody else in danger, he just can't win) and, wait for it, his mother being eaten by the Human Fly! At least I think that's what happened, I initially thought that the issue had ended on a moment that was way too small, but then I looked closely at that final panel and... HOLY SHIT THAT'S A RIB-CAGE! HIS MOTHER'S RIB-CAGE! JESUS! I can't believe they went there, but I love it. Hell, in amongst all of this, you could easily forget that Flash revealed to Betty that he was Venom, that's another massive deal. This book really does have an aura of 'anything could happen' and that's brilliant for a Spider-Man title.
Invincible Iron Man #519 – After last time's 'Tony-Lite' issue of Iron Man, the moustachioed one is back in the mix, but there's still lots of other stuff going on, but you really do get the sense at the moment that the tables have turned now. Whereas before the Mandarin was two steps ahead, now it's Tony that has the advantage. It's a bit like the back half of Breaking Bad Season 4, where (SPOILERS) Walter White finally began to out-think Gus Fring. I just hope that when the Mandarin is finally brought low, it's even half as awesome as how Gus was. Anyway, enough about AMC TV shows, back to the comics! It is interesting to see how Fraction is juggling all of his myriad plotlines, each issue gives one a lot of prominence, and the others kind of fade into the background. Like how this issue only had Iron Man on the last page, or how the big Stane Vs Mandarin cliffhanger from last time was dealt with in 2 pages. Here we got a lot of Sasha Hammer and Detroit Steel and a fair bit of post Spy Master reveal stuff. It was interesting to see Spy Master commit 'suicide by cop', Fraction subverted my expectations there, I thought it was an escape attempt, but it was something a lot more tragic and intriguing.
Hulk #54 – Red Hulk and the gang take the fight to the Mayan Gods, but the real star of this issue was the art of Dale Eaglesham. I mentioned in my review of #53 that his muscular style was perfect for a Hulk comic, but this issue really demonstrated that he has more to his bow than just bulging biceps. Some of the panel layouts in this issue really were spectacular, it's hard to really describe panel layouts in words, but seriously, check this issue out, it's not quite at JH Williams' level inventiveness, but it really was interesting. As for the story here, it was more good solid stuff, I'm really enjoying how Parker has built a little team for Rulk now, the supporting cast of Annie, Machine Man and now A-Bomb really works for me, and it was fun to see them all together. I was a bit annoyed that Alpha Flight were shuffled off to the side so quickly though, Puck needs to get back in the game! The Mayan Gods are also interesting villains, I'm not really knowledgeable about the real mythology, I'm assuming these are 'real' Gods, am I right? This is a very good superhero comic, and it's also becoming a real under-the-radar artistic gem, people are all raving about Daredevil's range of artists, but Hulk has just as much good stuff.
Winter Soldier #7 – Brubaker and Lark, just kicking out some awesome jams. This was another great issue of Winter Soldier, and most I've enjoyed a Brubaker Cap-book since before Steve came back, it's the perfect mix of gritty cold-war thriller, and Marvel superhero story. In this issue, Bucky and Black Widow continue their hunt for Leonid, and more of his seemingly-random plan starts to come to light. It's really cool how this book is really exploring the murky past of the Marvel Universe version of the Soviet Union, all their freaky plans and Red Rooms and things. I've often felt that a lot of Marvel's characters such as Iron Man suffered a little when the Cold War ended, so it's cool to see an enemy that was once central to the world come back to prominence, out of the past. This issue also delivered an awesome action sequence with Bucky and Natasha's attack on the motor-home, that was wonderfully drawn by Lark, and I loved how Brubaker reminded us of how Bucky originally died/became Winter Soldier, the sense of history in this book is not just coming from the Soviets, but also the characters. I'm guessing that Leonid was in love or had some kind of relationship with Black Widow back in the day, but I'm sure Bru will still find some way to surprise me.
Daredevil #14 – Even though this issue didn't actually feature Daredevil taking on Doctor Doom (hey, it's the battle of the DDs, insert a joke about boobs here), it was still awesome, and I say that despite the fact I had completely gotten the ending of #13 wrong, I had thought it had something to do with Klaw and that DD (referring to Daredevil here, not Doom) had been replaced ages ago, but instead it was just a simple (sic) teleportation. Daredevil comes face to face with the head of the Latverian bank, and after a seemingly harmless gas attack, he's free to go, but in a brilliant bit of characterisation, he plays right into the villain's hands by attacking them, Daredevil really doesn't look before he leaps. A thrilling chase through Latveria ensues, with this issue really evoking the character's swash-buckling roots, he's in a country that looks straight out of a Douglas Fairbanks movie. Of course, the gas Daredevil inhaled wasn't actually harmless, but instead slowly takes away his senses, which adds a race against time element to the story. I absolutely love that at the end of this issue DD totally failed to escape, it undercut the story beautifully, and shocked me a lot, I can't wait to see how he eventually does get out of this situation, and hopefully see him actually come face to face with Doom. Chris Samnee's art was fantastic, his first issue was a slow, character issue, but here he got to unleash his action chops, and it was awesome. Oh yeah, and more intrigue back in NYC with Foggy worrying about Matt, what's in the drawer? I'm guessing it's Battlin' Jack's skull!
The Punisher #12 – Another excellent issue of Rucka's Punisher, I just love the atmosphere of this title, it really does remind me of Gotham Central, the dark underbelly of a superhero universe. Most of Rucka's plotlines get an update with this issue, we see Ozzy and Bolt looking for Rachel, Norah Winters returns (and how cool was it to see Phil Urich appear, and for Rucka to play it straight and not even mention he's Hobgoblin, that's a great representation of how this book works, all the crazy stuff up in the skies is irrelevant when it comes to Punisher's war) and we get the reunion of Frank and Rachel. I loved the scene where Frank talks her back around, it's probably the most he's said so far in the book, and he makes it count. It's chilling to get Rucka's take on why he does this, because he sees himself as already dead, he's dead, so he doesn't have anything except the war. I'm very worried about Rachel, she burns that photo, so it seems like she's permanently a Punisher, but does she really have the heart? Marco Checchetto's art was once again brilliant, that silent fight in the rain was top stuff.
Wolverine #308 – This was my last issue of Wolverine for the foreseeable future, because I'm really not up for another Loeb/Bianchi mess, but this was a good way to go out. Wolverine defeats (or does he?) Dr Rot and his family in a very satisfyingly violent way, and Bunn also changes the status quo of the character, by bringing back some of his memory problems. The process Rot used of pulling out Logan's brain and letting it grow back meant that it grew back with some blanks, he tragically doesn't remember who Melita Garner is, and he has other missing pieces too. I'm surprised that Marvel yet something like this happen in what is essentially a fill-in story, but it was cool that Bunn's story left it's mark. I'm not sure how I feel about them going back to an amnesiac Wolverine though, I liked the change, even if I didn't like the Wolverine Origins title, and it all feels a little bit Didio DC, hitting the rest button. We shall see. Paul Pelletier's art was good once again, I didn't know he had this brutality in him! So long Wolverine, I guess I'll just have to make do with reading about you in Wolverine & The X-Men, Uncanny X-Force, Avengers and New Avengers, I feel so empty!
New Avengers #27 – This was an issue of two halves. The first one was the final chapter in the story of Fongji, the Phoenix/Iron Fist from the past, where we see whether or not she manages to control the Phoenix, which, hey, she does. The second half took place in the present, with Iron Fist and Yu-Ti trying to teach Hope to do the same thing as Fongji. It was a lot of fun seeing the differences between the two characters, they may look the same, but they aren't. The scene where Hope keeps messing with the 'Scrying Vessel of Bo-Ling' was great. Because of the aforementioned 'Scrying Vessel', Yu-Ti realises that Hope doesn't need to be trained to be Iron Fist, but by 'the Spider'. I initially thought this meant one of the other Immortal Weapons, Bride Of Nine Spiders, but it actually meant Spider-Man, which makes sense, he was on the cover after all, I just had a brainfart. This leads to a very fun scene where not only is Spidey hilarious, but he also teaches Hope his most important lesson, the old great power great responsibility spiel. Yes, it's old hat, but it remains surprisingly profound. As Spider-Man himself says, you could spend along time thinking of something better, but you just can't. It still blows my mind that Stan Lee came up with that line on a whim, and it's come to define not just Spider-Man, but almost the entire Marvel line.
Secret Avengers #28 – A solid issue, with plenty of exciting moments, and I think after this issue, the events of this title and Bendis' Avengers do kind of mesh up. Remender makes sure to mention Protector acting weird at the end, which tees that up nicely. The most interesting thing about this issue for me was the identity of the villain, Minister Marvel, who was a distant relative of Captain Marvel's, and to him, this was a curse, his name was that of a notorious traitor. It's an interesting twist, and one that made things nice and personal in a story full of abstract concepts. I also liked how Remender had him commit suicide, it was a strange moment of reality in amongst the cosmic firebirds. The other stuff here was a bit more traditional, Miss Marvel briefly becomes Binary again in an attempt to stop the Phoenix, which was cool. And when that failed, it was time for Captain Britain to step up. I really like what Remender's been doing with Cap, he seems to be trying to make him the almost-A-lister he probably should be, and so far it's working. I was surprised to see Captain Marvel die again so soon, but it makes sense, the ending of this issue was mainly there to set up Kelly-Sue DeConnick's new book with Carol. This was a fun arc, and now that the continuity niggles have been resolved, there are no real problems. That said, I am looking forward to the book getting back to the espionage element next issue, this arc was good, but it wasn't exactly secret was it?
Avengers Academy #32 – The second arc of Avengers Academy's AvX tie-in begins, and the focus here is on two (well, three really) characters who aren't part of the main team, X-23 and Juston and his Sentinel. It makes sense that Sentinel would play a big part in this event, it's a member of the Avengers who fights alongside the mutant equivalent of a Nazi Stormtrooper. It made sense to use X-23 as a foil for the big robot, not only is she a mutant, but she is similar in that she was created to be a killing machine. I really like what Gage is doing with X-23, she's a character I never really cared about previously, but she's very interesting now. To complicate matters, a Phoenixed-up Emma Frost shows up to try and destroy the Sentinel too. Phoenix-Emma was pretty awesome, she's still the same bitchy person, but with a much scarier, cosmic edge, it's going to be fun to see her fight the Academy next issue. The art here was from Timothy Green II, who I've been a fan of since Annihilation: Conquest – Star-Lord, and while his work is a little less angular here than there or in the recent Animal Man Annual, it makes sense, this is a much more mainstream title, it's good to see an artist adjust their style.
Dark Avengers #176 – Is it really a good idea to use your second issue as an Avengers title and all of the extra readers that should bring in focussing on a bunch of characters who aren't the Dark Avengers? Not that I'm complaining, I love this team of Thunderbolts and I'm glad the book hasn't changed too much, but it's not too clever from a sales perspective, eh, what do I know? Nothing! Anyways, this was a good, as we return to the time-lost Thunderbolts, who are stuck in the very very distant past, and I mean dinosaurs and shit. The two main events here were the rebirth of the Man-Thing, which was good timing, and also a surprising source of comedy. The new Man-Thing can speak, and not only that, he sounds different to each person, so to an idiot like Boomerang he sounds like a 'gangsta'. It's a fun idea, and it's rife with potential, I personally can't wait to see him say 'Sweet Christmas!' to Luke Cage. The other big event was the involvement of another time-traveler, Doctor Doom. I guessed it was him, but it was still a great reveal, especially Boomerang's reaction, 'the one time we do something nice and it's Doctor Doom!'. It seems like this is Doom from a point in time just after Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's run where he was shoved into the past by his evil master, and that's a story I wasn't really expecting to show up ever again, yet alone in this book. Jeff Parker is developing a Busiek-esque skill at using continuity in unexpected ways.
Uncanny X-Men #14 – After a few issues flitting in and around the edges of the main AvX storyline, Kieron Gillen shifts over and returns to one of his runners, Mister Sinister. This was a strange, but very well-done issue, with absolutely fantastic artwork from Dustin Weaver. If he's got time to deliver brilliant art like this, it makes me wonder what's up with SHIELD, has Hickman hit a block in the writing? The story here was basically a demonstration of what Sinister has been up to, building his own bizarre London deep beneath the Earth's crust, where everyone looks like him. We follow a Journalist Sinister who is secretly plotting to kill the real Sinister. This functions as a tour of this weird society, but really, it shows the lengths Sinister has gone to in order to make his own species, it's all part of a system, even dissidents. But this wasn't just a villain spotlight issue, it was also set-up for a bigger story, because Sinister knows that Cyclops and the rest of the 'Phoenix Five' (Who would win a fight between them and the Greendale Seven?) will be coming from him. To combat this he has a bunch of weird clones of X-Men, like the group of hilarious Gambits who can only say 'Ma Chere', or most importantly, a whole lot of Madelyne Pryors. Clones of Jean Grey? In a Phoenix story? Holy crap!
X-Factor #238 – I just want to take a moment to praise the covers of this book, for the past few months, ever since Regenesis, David Yardin has delivered some really interesting images, it's great to see a book try something different. The insides of this issue were good too, with a hell of a lot of plotlines going on. Rahne, Rictor and Shatterstar go looking for Rahne's baby, Madrox and Havok argue with eachother, there's the murder of Far-Sight still begging to be investigated and now someone is killing people using similar abilities to Siryn. It looks like this villain has something to do with the Red Demon who recruited the Isolationist a while back, I wonder where all this is leading? Some kind of patented-PAD megaplot that takes 3 years to resolve? At leas the inter-personal soapy stuff was good here, I continue to find soulless Strong Guy disturbingly hilarious, and the Layla/Madrox stuff was fun. I also liked that we got a deeper insight into Havok, not only on his relationship with Polaris, but also with his brother. With Cyclops' recent rise to mega-prominence, I've felt that his brother has been a bit forgotten, so it's good to see PAD explore that.
Avengers Vs X-Men #6(of 12) – Act 2 begins, and wow, this feels like a different book. After the seemingly constant battles of the first 5 issues, this one skips ahead 3 weeks and show that instead of immediately fighting, the 'Phoenix 5' instead busied themselves with changing the world, making it into a Utopia. But as always with a Utopia, there's something rotten at the core of it, and that's why Captain America re-starts the war. I found it interesting that this issue, to me anyway, repositioned the role of hero and villain, in the first 5, it had seemed like Cyclops was in the wrong, but now? Cap is breaking up a perfect world on a hunch. I've long said that both sides have a point in this, so there's no point in taking sides, but dammit, the architects are still doing it me! This issue also featured some story elements of this event that had sort of been left to one side come bursting into the spotlight, namely the Scarlet Witch showing up as the ultimate wild-card, and also the Iron Fist stuff that's been going on in New Avengers. I'm guessing this week's issue of NA takes place after this one. The writing and art in this issue was very strong, Hickman managed once again to strike the right tone for event comics, he's changed his voice here and it's working, this title couldn't handle any 'human machinery' nonsense. Olivier Coipel was magnificent, I've loved his art since House Of M, and he's a great fit for these big epics, it's no accident this is his 3rd one. Next issue promises 'No More Avengers', which is a cool quote, what with all of the House Of M imagery it brings up, but I'm not exactly sure how it will work.
Casanova: Avaritia #4 – I literally have no idea what happened in this issue. Even though I re-read parts 1-3 of this story yesterday in preparation... I was very confused. Everything's exploding, people are jumping in and out of realities, Newman Xeno fights Cass, Kaito has crazy eyes, some more stuff happens and Cass leaps to somewhere? I dunno? However, as always with Casanova, despite the plot making little-to-no-sense, it was still a hell of a good time, with some brilliant stylistic moments, such as the return of the (words in brackets replacing sound effects) idea, or even just the playing with sound effects, so 'FUUUUUUUUUCCCCCKKK' is spread over two panels, or using 'ONOMATOPEAIA' as one, which is weirdly genius. And of course, the artwork from Gabriel Ba was phenomenal. Whether or not this was style over substance is not the point, for me, Casanova has always been about how the style is the substance. I just hope that 'Acedia' comes along sooner rather than later, because this is one of the weirdest, and one of my favourite, books on the market, even when Fraction doesn't bother to do the backmatter.
Supergirl #10 – This issue did really well at combining both the current story of Supergirl fighting against Black Banshee, but also doling out interesting back-story, in particular about what life was like on Krypton and Kara's relationship with her mother. This was done rather elegantly, with Kara being trapped in nightmares about her past by Black Banshee. We haven't really been given much information about what Krypton was like in the New DCU, so anything about it is intriguing to me. The fight against the Banshee was very cool too, but then I'm a sucker for a giant dragon. Mahmud Asrar just keeps on improving with each issue, this was awesome to look at. I wonder if absorbing her father is what turns Siobhan into a villain? It certainly looks like that's what's going to happen. Who is the shape-shifting villain at the end working for do you think? That guy from the first arc who had all his legs blown off? I'm guessing it's him, but it could very well be someone new, or the US Government.
Wonder Woman #10 – Brian Azzarello continues to do the impossible and make Wonder Woman interesting, I can't believe how much I'm enjoying this book. This issue in particular raised a very interesting character detail for Diana, in that she wasn't lying when she said she loved Hell, because she loves everyone. That's a really interesting take on the character, and one that sets her apart from all of the other superheroes. Superman may be a good person, but he doesn't love the whole world, he protects it. Wonder Woman coming from a place of love makes sense, because it positions her as feminine, yet still a bad-ass. It also sorta explains the whole ambassador of peace but brutal warrior dichotomy. I also liked that the issue explored the idea of truth and trust, an important theme for a character with a magical lasso that can force people to tell the truth. But this issue wasn't just Wonder Woman loving everything, there was some fun action (It's always a shame when Chiang takes a break, but Akins and Kano are solid fill-ins) and Azzarello continues to do the unexpected with the God characters, I never would have expected Strife to help like that. But they are Gods, the literally do move in mysterious ways, we can't expect them to act like humans. What was with the ending? Is Hell dead? Will he now be smitten with Wonder Woman? I'm very excited to see what happens next, and I never thought I'd say that about a Wonder Woman book.
Blue Beetle #10 – Holy crap! That last page! So awesome. Even though Jaime is not the Blue Beetle you really want to be teaming up with Booster Gold, it's still going to be amazing to see that famous team semi-reunited. They worked well together in Generation Lost after all, so yay, Blue and Gold, bitches! The rest of this issue was solid too, Ig Guara returned on pencils, and it's good to have him back. I also like seeing Jaime continue to make absolutely bone-headed decisions. One of the best things about teen superheroes is that they can fuck up without looking like morons, because hey, they're kids, and it's great that Bedard is willing to allow Jaime to make realistic mistakes, he really has no idea what to do. The sequence where he just walks into the DEO's office was hilarious. It was cool to see Director Bones show up, I've liked him ever since Marc Andreyko's Manhunter series, he really could be DC's equivalent of Nick Fury, but they can't ever seem to decide whether it should be him or that dude with the metal hand (Sarge Steel?) in that role. I'm personally putting my support behind the chain-smoking skeleton.
Green Lantern Corps #10 – John Stewart's death sentence leads to predictable consequences, with the regular GL's kick starting a war against the Alphas. I'm hoping that by the end of this arc, the Alpha Lanterns will be history, because really, they're a dumb idea, or at least, a dumb visual. The most interesting thing to me where was the way Tomasi depicted John Stewart, he seems resigned to his fate, not fight back etc, what's going on with him? Is he suicidal? Does he have a secret plan? Either way, the scene where he was confronted with Kirrt's family was brutal. Also, what was with that scene where Kirrt's replacement as GL for his sector only had the ring for seconds? They aren't going to reveal that Kirrt's not actually dead are they? That would make sense as some sort of secret plan from John, but it would also be laaame.
Hellblazer #292 – Milligan takes a break from the epic trips to Hell and all of the Constantine family drama for a cool story about Werewolves. Taking place 10 years ago, we see the first meeting between John and Epiphany, but neither of them know it, because John was a Werewolf. This issue got the Hellblazer balance just right, horror mixed with British life and politics. I loved the idea of fusty old Lords needing something to get them up when shagging prossies, but it turns them into monsters, it was just interesting. I also liked seeing what a teenage Epiphany was like, and it was also fun to see a younger John Constantine, even though he's basically always the same. Cover artist Simon Bisley steps in for one of his semi-regular guest spots, and he does his usual awesome job, it's heavily stylised and gory, but it works.
The Unwritten #38 – I wonder how long Mike Carey is going to keep Tom Taylor off the board? We haven't seen him for 2 issues now, and it's doing a really great job at ratcheting up the intrigue about what he's like in this new world. Wouldn't it be crazy if he was a background figure for the rest of the series? It looks like I was right on the money about the death of Leviathan meaning the end of the world because we don't have stories anymore, Mme Rausch sort of explained that. I was especially freaked out by the scene of that guy ranting and shooting himself in the head, I'm guessing he's a novelist or some other kind of writer who can't think of any ideas because of Leviathan. The character of Didge the Detective continues to be interesting, it's becoming more apparent that she has some disability that means she can't read, but there's a lot of ambiguity to it, it comes and goes? What does that mean? Also interesting was the scene at the very end, where Danny stumbles across a warehouse full of magical creatures. What's their deal? Are they the worshippers of Tommy transformed into animals? Are they from the stairs? I should also say that Peter Gross' art looked better than ever here, I guess taking a bit of a back-seat to the finishers during the last arc did him some good, because now that he's back doing all the art himself, he's doing some beautiful stuff.
Saga #4 – I continue to be very impressed with how well this book is balancing out-there space weirdness, with the very realistic marriage and family at the centre of it all. This book has two main plotlines, the first is Marko and Alana discussing just who exactly 'Gwendolyn' was, which was a story that could pretty much have taken place on Earth, with two normal people just living their lives, that's not a slight, it means that it really rang true as recognisable human emotions and dialogue. Brian K Vaughan really is one of the best writers of dialogue in comics. This stuff really grounds the more sci-fi elements of the story, and stops it from spinning out of control like the works of Grant Morrison or Matt Fraction sometimes can. The sci-fi stuff here involved The Will visiting 'Sextillion' a brothel-planet, which was filled with all sorts of weird aliens fucking each other. But even then, it was balanced with good character stuff, The Will may be a bad guy, but he's not going to have sex with a child. He's becoming a very interesting villain, really cool. I'm really enjoying this book, you really get the sense that there's a whole world out there waiting to be explored, and BKV and Fiona Staples are going to show us it all, but not without forgetting what matters, the characters.
Jeez, I'm exhausted after that one. Not much more to say.
Join me next week for a look at the likes of Fatale, Spaceman and the glorious Hit-Girl gets her own spin-off mini.
Review by: Niam Suggitt