While most of the so-called Comics Community descended on San Diego, Punchy spent his weekend holed up in his bedroom doing what most people at the Con only pretend to do: Reading Comics.
Credits & Solicit Info:
And it was good, no cosplayers, no celebrities pretending to be nerds in order to plug their new comic-that's-actually-a-terrible-movie-pitch, no panels for shit movies and TV shows.
Just comics, which is what it's supposed to be about. The real celebration of comics is not in some San Diego hotel, but in the mind of every reader!
Now let me get off my soapbox and tell you that you can click the links as always to get to the forum threads for each issue.
Avenging Spider-Man #9 – Spider-Man teams up with the all-new Captain Marvel a week before the character even becomes Captain Marvel! It's odd timing, but it works as a good introduction to Kelly-Sue DeConnick's take on Carol Danvers, and perhaps this way more readers will pick up the new title. I certainly am more likely to get Captain Marvel #1 next week after enjoying this fun issue. Carol is giving Peter Parker a lift to Boston to visit Aunt May, but of course, trouble ensues as they run into a crazed teenage activist/bank robber and the Private Security Forces after. The bank robber is a fun villain, and hey, she may not even be the villain. DeConnick portrays the gung-ho Private Security Robots as just as bad if not worse than 'Robyn Hood'. There's plenty of funny dialogue between Spider-Man and Robyn Hood, and I liked how tough and no-nonsense Captain Marvel was, she's from a military background and that's often forgotten. The artwork comes from the Dodsons, which is a good fit, they do sexy well, but they don't over-do it, which is perfect for a female superhero. Yes, Captain Marvel is a pretty lady, but she's more than that.
Venom #20 – It seems pretty sadistic to say this, but I'm really disappointed that Human Fly didn't eat Flash's mother. That would have been the darkest thing I'd ever seen in a Marvel Comic, and while I am annoyed that Remender and Bunn backed away from it, the rest of this issue had plenty of stuff that was equally fucked-up and shocking. I just love how far this book is willing to go. The fight in this issue between Venom and Death Adder was brilliantly done, the way Flash's disorientation was expressed, and then at the end... Venom just breaks Death Adder's neck. And that's not all! Because Venom tracks down Human Fly and tortures the hell out of him, ripping out his wings. This is our hero! Most books about so-called 'anti-heroes' are kind of half-hearted, the hero is a jerk but never actually does anything that bad, but Venom is really pushing things here, and we still don't know how much of what he's doing is down to Flash himself or just the Symbiote. The other shocking thing about this issue was the revelation of just who the new Crime Master is... it's Bennet Brant, Betty's brother who's supposedly dead. It's a cool idea, and one that really brings the villain close to home for Flash. He could end up defeating his arch-enemy but in the process losing his girlfriend forever.
New Avengers #28 – A very fun issue showing just how the X-Men are treating their prisoners. We think we're following a successful escape attempt from the X-Brig by Spider-Woman, Hawkeye and Luke Cage, and just when we think they've done it... we're yanked back to the real prison and shown that it's all a simulation from Danger. It's a great twist and one that makes a lot of sense considering who the X-Men's prison officer is. I do wonder about whether this level of mental torture is a step too far towards villainy from the X-Men. Up until now I had thought that AvX was doing a good job at showing that both sides have a legitimate point, but something like this is a trick you'd expect from Doctor Doom, not Cyclops. But we'll see, maybe another issue will show that the Avengers are being just as dickish to their prisoners, this is a War after all. I did like that, even though this was a simulation, Bendis gave us some fun character stuff, like continuing to develop Hawkeye and Spider-Woman's relationship and even little bits like Spider-Woman's surprise that Luke Cage can grow hair through his unbreakable skin.
Avengers Assemble #5 – Whilst I'm still kind of perturbed that Bendis hasn't given us an explanation as to exactly how Star-Lord isn't dead and the Guardians are back together, this was still a very good comic, and I'm very glad to have the GotG back together again and being bad-asses. Even Rocket Raccoon kicked ass here, whether he was shooting Badoons in the face or asking for Pizza, he was refreshingly played straight here, not too jokey. I also liked the explanation given from the Guardians about how Earth is now off-limits for aliens due to constant meddling, holding us back and making us dangerous. Of course it couldn't last and Thanos found a way around it. It's going to be fun to see these two teams join forces and take down the big purple douchebag. The scene with Hulk and Cap questioning the General was good stuff, and I guess I should have seen it coming that the Cosmic Cube would be involved in this story, as this book is so indebted to the Avengers movie. I'm actually surprised it hasn't been renamed to 'The Tesseract'. The Hawkeye/Black Widow stuff that takes up the cover is a little odd, Bendis is putting quite a bit of energy over in New Avengers to setting up a Hawkeye/Spider-Woman romance, so what's he playing at here? At least they mentioned that he had a girlfriend. And where's Mockingbird in all this? Clint Barton, you slut. Hopefully this is what Fraction's solo series will be about, not crime-fighting, just trying to make sense of his love life.
Dark Avengers #177 – After one issue focusing on the Dark Avengers and another on the Thunderbolts, this issue features both, and does a pretty good job of balancing two storylines, each with large casts. The chief way this is done is by the use of two artists, Declan Shalvey handles the present-day stuff with Luke Cage and the Dark Avengers, and Kev Walker does the sequences from the past, which feature the Tbolts fighting a load of Doombots. These scenes were mainly mindless action, but I was particularly interested in the strange things going on with Man-Thing. Now that he is sentient, he can't do as much, because he doesn't understand, it's very intriguing. And then at the end, the Thunderbolts are sent to the future to take on... Judge Dredd? Or at least a thinly-veiled Judge Dredd analogue. That should be fun, Dredd is the antithesis of American Super-Heroes, so I want to see him grind them beneath his boots. The Dark Avengers scenes were a lot of fun too, we're only just getting to know these characters, but there's interesting stuff there, and I like how they needle Luke Cage about his criminal past. It's also good to see Dagan Shah and Sharzhad appear again, I really enjoyed the 'Hulk Of Arabia' arc and it's cool that Parker has brought the concept back here, the idea of an Arab Latveria is a very good one, and it makes a lot more sense in the 21st century, America has no real issues with Eastern Europe these days so Latveria is in many ways out-dated.
The Defenders #8 – Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton come on board as the book's new artists, and they do a brilliant job. I love McKelvie's art style, and it's great to see him get to draw all the crazy Fraction can throw at him, and pull it off with such style, This issue just looked cool as hell. The story picks up where #7 left off, with the Defenders desperately trying to avert a war between Wakanda and Z'Gambo by defeating John Aman. Black Cat hovers around the edges too, getting into trouble and generally being a lot of fun. The fight between John Aman and the team was very cool, with everyone getting involved, and the Silver Surfer getting to be appropriately weird. We got some more insight into John Aman's motivations in this issue, as we saw flashbacks to his team coming into contact with a Concordance Engine for the first time. Some of the cryptic hints that have been the series' buzzwords cropped up in dialogue for the first time, and while it's a start, there's still a lot left unanswered. It looks like whatever happened to the Defenders at the very end may give us some answers. Aman orchestrated everything to get the 3 Brass Frogs together again to create a new Engine. What is going on! I'm scared. Hold me.
Wolverine & The X-Men #13 – I'm really enjoying how writers aren't just using their AvX tie-ins to show big dumb fights between Avengers and X-Men, but to do different things, and to make the crossover work for them, to work for their own ongoing storylines, even as it derails them. This issue is a good example of this, as Jason Aaron uses the events of AvX and the involvement of the Shi'Ar to tell the origin story of Warbird. And what a great story it was, a great way to show the alien nature of her race, of how they value cruelty and violence over creativity, and also to develop a character who up until now has mainly been in the background getting annoyed at Kid Gladiator. I love how the reason she is his bodyguard is so she can learn to hate children, hilarious. Even from the opening scene of her looking at Rorschach blots and lying about what she sees (I'm choosing to believe this was a deliberate homage to Watchmen on Aaron's part, it has to be, and it works really well) this issue just told us a lot about who Warbird is, and about the dangers of being different in Shi'Ar culture. I feel really sorry for her now, and I never would have said that an issue ago. Hopefully she an Iceman can find happiness together, although he may find it hard to sleep with someone who decapitated him. Nick Bradshaw's art was very good once again, I know his cartoonish style isn't for everyone, but I often find that more unrealistic styles are better at expressing emotion to the readers than realistic one, and he excelled at drawing the alien scenes on Chandilar.
Uncanny X-Force #27 – I'm weeping as I write this. Fantomex, America's Sweetheart, the Queen Of Hearts, is dead. How could Rick Remender kill off the most beloved comics character of all time? There's going to be rioting in the streets because of this! I joke, I joke, I know a lot of people don't (or didn't) like Fantomex, but I did, and I'm sad to see him go. But at least he went out like a hero, sacrificing himself to save Psylocke. There may well have been another death in this issue, I'm not sure, but it looks like Ultimaton killed Gateway. Australia's Sweetheart! Noooo! Anyways, the truth behind what's been going on is revealed, and it's Daken! He's the leader of the new Brotherhood and it makes a lot of sense, who better to take down Wolverine's team of killers than a team of killers led by his son? I haven't really kept track of what Daken's been up to since Dark Avengers ended, so it's great to have him back and being just as much of a dick as usual. I also like how his plan ties back in to what this book's been about since day 1, Apocalypse. He's kidnapped Evan, and whatever he has planned... it can't be good. What else? EVA is now a sexy humanoid robot, and Blob sat on Kid Gladiator, all good stuff. This book is back on a roll after a brief blip, and once again it's one of the best comics Mainstream Superheroes has to offer.
Spider-Men #3(of 5) – This series continues to be excellent entertainment, doing what I thought was impossible and making an Ultimate/Marvel Universe crossover work and make sense. There are two things this issue excelled, the first was the fight with Miles and Peter taking on 'Mysterio' and a bunch of their villains he had conjured up. So we got to see the original flavour of Green Goblin and Carnage and Doc Ock and all them, alongside Uncle Aaron as Prowler and Ultimate Omega Red and Scorpion. Pichelli drew the heck out of these, and it was fun to see Miles come into contact with some of the classic Spider-Man villains. We also got some information about what the hell is going on with Mysterio, but we're still none the wiser about what's really going on. The second thing in this issue that really worked for me was the ending, with Peter Parker working out what happened to his Ultimate counter-part. I found it really emotional actually, especially when he appeared on Aunt May's lawn and took his mask off, tears streaming down his face. Next issue is going to be raw I think, Aunt May and Gwen re-united with a Peter, Peter re-united with a Gwen. Get your hankies ready, I'm feeling weepy already.
Ultimate Comics X-Men #14 – 'Divided We Fall' begins, and while it's a pretty slow start, this was still a good issue. Brian Wood continues to focus heavily on Kitty Pryde and her plan to get deep into enemy territory and start a Mutant Rebellion. I really like Wood's voice for Kitty, you can see that she's not sure that what she's doing is going to work, but she knows she has to do it. I also like that the book now has a much tighter focus, Spencer's run was a bit all over the place, but Wood is keeping it to only 4 characters, and it's working really well. The idea of a Kitty/Jimmy romance is a good one too, the character has such a strong connection to Wolverine that it makes sense that she'd be attracted to a more age-appropriate version. Even though this issue was a little light on the explosions and fireworks you might expect from a summer event story, I do think it did a good job at getting across the tension the Ultimate Universe must be going through, the checkpoint crossing was excruciating stuff. This story is off to a good start, let's hope that Ultimates brings the levels of shit blowing up that we demand. Maybe some more characters could be injected with Giant-Man serum?
Superboy #11 – Once again, an issue of Superboy begins in a completely disconnected way to the previous one. Last month we left Superboy and Wonder Girl on a mysterious island about to fight a dinosaur, and now he's completely fine, living it up in New York with the purple dude from the Teen Titans. No mention of Wonder Girl, no mention of any dinosaurs or islands. I realise that the answers to my questions can be found in the most recent issue of Teen Titans, but is it too much to ask for Superboy to stand on it's own as a title even a little bit? I don't mind interconnected titles, but this is silly now. That said, this issue wasn't actually that bad. RB Silva was back on pencils, which is always nice, and Bunker wasn't nearly as bad a screaming gay stereotype as I had been led to believe. I also liked how Lobdell and DeFalco continued to show Superboy as a truly alien character, he doesn't have the morality of a human, and it leads to him doing bad things like robbing banks. The villain, Detritus was pretty lame though. So yeah, this title is still so very frustrating for me, when it's good, it's very interesting, but more often than not, it's way too linked in with other titles.
Batman #11 – Was this issue inspired by The Incredibles? Thomas Wayne Jnr spent the entire issue monologuing, and it heavily involved an aeroplane propellor. I'm guessing it wasn't intentional, but it did remind me of the Pixar classic. This was a strong issue, even if I did find Thomas' speechifying a little tiresome. I really like how Snyder has kept the shocking revelation of #10 ambiguous, we still don't really know whether or not 'Thomas' is who he says he is, or just part of a more elaborate plot to fuck with Batman. I'm personally leaning towards it being true, that he is Bruce's brother, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was revealed to be a lie. I just don't know, and that's a good thing. I really liked the scene at the end with Bruce and Dick chatting, and how everything tied back in to Gotham City, and nobody, not even Batman or the Owls, can claim ownership of the city. Greg Capullo out-did himself with the maze page at the end there, a really cool idea. This whole story is a maze. The back-up was once again interesting, with more hints about 'Thomas', but still... will we ever know for sure? I'm interested in seeing what's next for this book, we've had 11 issues of one story, hopefully Snyder can maintain the momentum, it certainly looks like he'll be able to with a certain Clown Prince of Crime getting involved.
Swamp Thing #11 – Oh yes, it's beginning. Animal Man and his family show up on the last page and what we've been waiting for all year is kicking off. Rotworld bitches! But first, there's the small matter of Anton Arcane and his Un-Men trying to kidnap Abbie. Arcane was just so creepy in this issue, with little mouths everywhere, that's the kind of shit that haunts you late at night 20 years later. It was very cool to see the souped-up Swamp Thing take on a version of his arch-nemesis who has also had his powers increased, it's taking things to the next level. Marco Rudy's art was good, he's not quite as polished as Paquette, but he does a solid job, I really liked the scenes set inside the Parliament Of Trees, who are now cute little Swamp Thing babies. Aaaaaaw. It did seem like Arcane was defeated a little easily, but I'm sure he'll be back soon enough as part of 'Rotworld'. I really hope that story lives up to the hype. Roll on August the 1st!
Frankenstein: Agent Of SHADE #11 – Matt Kindt has done a really good job at stepping onto this book and maintaining its increasingly weird tone. I love the idea of 'Leviathan' the SHADE retirement community located inside of a giant whale-monster, it's just so out there. Although, is it just me or are there too many Leviathans in comics these days? There's the ones in Secret Warriors, Batman Inc, The Unwritten and now this book! Leviathan-overload! Alongside the madness, Kindt keeps the focus on character, and on Frankenstein in particular, as he struggles with who he is, and his monstrous nature, reminding us that Frankenstein is not his name, his name is 'It' or 'The Monster'. I loved the little insert panels of the lives of his various parts before he died, it's a great technique and it adds a lot of mystery and also sadness to the character. I wonder if we'll be given more details about these scenes, or if they'll remain cryptic? Ponticelli does his usual solid job on art, but it's even more impressive when you consider he had an issue of Animal Man out last week!
Grifter #11 – This title continues to be a crazy, fun, if not a little stupid, ride. It is a little jarring how different the book is now to how it was under Nathan Edmondson, but different is good I suppose. This issue features Grifter, Deathblow and the rest taking on 'Synge' a villain so completely Liefeld I'd say it was taking the piss if this book wasn't co-written by The Rob himself. It's weird to see Grifter have such powerful telekinesis so quickly, but it did make for a cool scene with him collapsing an entire forest on top of Synge, this book has just become like a comics version of the Expendables or Crank or something, crazy stuff happens and it's awesome. Niko betraying the team kind of came out of the blue, but I'm interested to see what happens now that Helspont is involved, are we going to get a crossover between Superman and Grifter? That would be weird. Marat Mychaels draws this issue, and it was interesting, his style is like the exact half-way point between Scott Clark's and Rob Liefeld's. Did they work it out mathematically?
Demon Knights #11 – It was very interesting to get a glimpse of the 'essential' versions of the various characters. I particularly liked seeing that Shining Knight was essentially a man, and MODOK Al-Jabr was pretty funny. The main thing in this issue was the introduction of King Arthur, who even when he's a zombie is pretty bad-ass. I also like that Cornell added yet another danger to the involvement of the Demon, he's had a taste of infinite power, and he wants more. He's a really good wild-card presence on the team, you don't know what he's going to do. The revelation of Morgaine Le Fay being the villain was cool, especially since she mentioned that she's been manipulating a lot of these events, was she involved in Alba Sarum? Was she behind The Questing Queen?
The Shade #10(of 12) – This issue was mainly just talking, and after about page 5 I knew what was going to happen, but it was still enjoyable. I don't think anybody writes posh pompous British people like James Robinson and this issue was full of witty repartee between Shade, his great-grandson and Miles St Aubrey. It was inevitable that the Egyptian Gods would escape, but when they did it was immensely satisfying and I'm very excited to see just how Shade will defeat them, it's going to be a momentous task indeed. I'm guessing it will involved all those people he and that gypsy character killed last time. Frazer Irving's art was very strong once again, his style really fits this character, I loved the way he was transitioning into shadow. There's only two issues left, am I the only one who'd like to see a Shade ongoing series? I don't know how long you could sustain it for, but certainly for more than 12 issues.
Saucer Country #5 – The first arc of this title comes to an end, and I'm still not really sure about whether or not I like it. The central concept is good and I love the layers and layers of ambiguity that are surrounding everything, you're never sure about what's real and what's not, but there's still something not quite right. I think it may be that there's just too much going on and that Cornell has not really nailed down who everyone is and what they want. I guess that's part of the ambiguous nature, but at the moment I have no idea what the motivations are behind Doctor Glass, or the Radio Host, or that Major, or Astelle and the Blue-Bird Group. It's confusing. That said, each issue does have great scenes, particularly the flashbacks with the aliens, which are very very creepy. Hopefully now that this first arc has established all of the characters, we'll be able to slow down and focus on one or two of them at a time and things will become a little clearer.
American Vampire: Lord Of Nightmares #2(of 5) – This mini is really shaping into something great, I love Snyder's take on Dracula here. Along with Dustin Nguyen's brilliantly atmospheric artwork, this issue managed to deliver a lot of exposition about who this version of Dracula, but make it gripping and exciting. I thought it was cool how this was done using text and artwork from outside the story, perhaps a nod to Stroker's Dracula being an epistolary novel? I also really liked how Snyder tied in Dracula to Jack The Ripper and the theory that Jack was actually a member of the Royal Family. It's also very exciting that Dracula is causing this level of trouble for the VMS before we've even seen him, he can control all of the other Carpathian Vampires. I wonder if we'll even get to see him in the story? It could be more effective if his evil influence is all we get. He can even control Gus, who only used to be a Vampire.
Punk Rock Jesus #1(of 6) – I'm a huge fan of Sean Murphy's artwork, so any chance to read anything of his I'll jump at, and... wow, he really is awesome. Even in black and white he just provides something unique. In fact, I think that his art may look even better in b&w. But Murphy is also writing this story, and it's really good. Is he the complete comics package? The story here is about a clone of Jesus and a reality TV parody, but there's more to it than that, especially with the main character Thomas, who's an ex-IRA terrorist. I thought it was very interesting that this issue was all set before the birth of 'Punk Rock Jesus', we only see him as a baby, I think we can expect a lot to happen in this series, we're only just getting started. I'm hoping this evolves into more than just a reality tv satire, because Spaceman mainly stuck to that, when it could have been much more.
That was fun!
I think my favourite comic this week was probably Spider-Men, or maybe Defenders. I just don't know.
Make sure to join me next week, where I promise not to rant about San Diego, instead I'll be looking at the new Captain Marvel series, Saga and Justice League.
Review by: Niam Suggitt