Hi guys! Welcome to an absolutely mammoth edition of this column. I first want to apologise for the slight lateness this week, I’d like to blame it on the Holidays, but I’m neither American or Jewish, so… it’s just a combination of laziness and the sheer number of comics.
This is a big week, including a lot of endings, there’s the final issue of the epic Infinity, the last Avengers Arena and Geoff Johns wraps up his run on Aquaman. But there are some new beginnings too, as Rick Remender launches his new Image series, Black Science. Speaking of Remender, this week’s Uncanny Avengers is absolutely insane. Throw in an appearance from Venom in Superior Spider-Man, a special anniversary issue of Nova, more Saga and Pretty Deadly, 2 issues of Wolverine & The X-Men, more Hawkeye and Damian: Son Of Batman, and this is, as I said already, a huge week.
So let’s not waste any more time, remember to click the links, and let’s go!
Superior Spider-Man #22– The next big arc of Superior Spidey begins, with what is, I was surprised to learn, the first meeting between Flash-Venom and a Spider-Man, of any variety. I could have sworn that he and Peter Parker had tangled before, but apparently not. I was a huge fan of Rick Remender’s run on Venom, so I’m very glad to see this version of the character returning, and for Dan Slott and Christos Gage (this issue is co-written, but it doesn’t miss a beat, Gage and Slott mesh really well) to pick up pretty much where Remender left off (I haven’t read much of Cullen Bunn’s tenure and I have read nothing of the new Thunderbolts).
Flash Thompson is called by his ex-girlfriend Betty Brant to investigate the return of the Crime Master. This calls back to Remender’s run, as the conflict between Venom and the Crime Master (who turned out to be Betty’s brother, Bennett) was the main storyline, and it seemed to be wrapped up pretty finally, with Bennett dying. So who is this new Crime Master? Is Bennett back from the dead? Of course not, as Slott cleverly ties this plot in with the ongoing ‘Original Hobgoblin franchises out old villain codenames’ plot, and this guy is just a scrub who bought the name. That’s what’s so good about this book, Slott is always looking at ways to link seemingly disparate plots together. Venom isn’t just showing up randomly, there’s a purpose.
Since Spider-Man is also monitoring organised crime in the City, he and Venom run into each-other at the Crime Master’s warehouse, and because SpOck doesn’t know that Venom is now a good guy, he proceeds to blast him with fire and sonics to take him down. It’s interesting that this kind of interaction probably would have happened if Peter was still Spider-Man, as he also has no idea what’s currently going on with the Symbiote. However, Slott throws another wrinkle to it, as Flash tries to reveal to Spider-Man that, hey, it’s me, Flash, your biggest fan! Peter would of course recognise Flash and probably stop the fight, but Ock… he didn’t go to high school and become friends with this guy, he doesn’t care! The issue ends with Spider-Man about to strike a finishing blow on Venom, and it’s a great way to set things up for this story. This is two of my favourite Spider-Man related things from recent years (Superior and Flash-Venom) coming together, and I love it.
As usual with Slott’s Spider-Man, there are plenty of other things going on in this issue, chief among them is the opening day for Parker Industries, with Otto giving a delightfully villainous speech. I can’t wait to see where this story goes, especially since it’s having a knock-on effect on a lot of other stuff, and just like with Crime Master being one of Hobgoblin’s franchises, connecting things. So we see that Cardiac is working as a consultant for Parker Industries, and that he and Peter are working on a cybernetic fix for Aunt May’s leg. Added to that, Peter’s relationship with Anna Maria is continuing to get closer and closer, and very soon she’s going to meet his family. The scene where May notices her in the lab was a little odd, is May going to disapprove of her nephew dating a dwarf? That would be odd, she’s normally so perfect.
Throw in some more frustration for J. Jonah Jameson and Captain Watanabe/Wraith noticing that Carlie is missing and blaming Spidey, and things are continuing to creep towards the big finale. Spidey may have Venom on the ropes, but there are worse things coming for him!
Humberto Ramos returns to pencil this issue, and he does his usual excellent job, I think he draws the best symbiots in the business too, so he’s perfect for this storyline.
Indestructible Hulk #16– Only a week after the last issue, Mark Waid’s Hulk returns for an issue that for some reason is labelled as an ‘Inhumanity’ tie-in, but actually has nothing at all to do with the Inhumans, which is odd, unless I wasn’t paying attention to the real reasoning behind the threat Hulk fought in this issue. What this issue is instead is a great way to refocus the title on it’s core mission statement after the (very fun) time-travel diversion story, as well as shed some spotlight on one of Bruce Banner’s lab assistants that hasn’t already had some.
The issue begins with Banner realising that, because of his jaunts through time, he’s fallen behind on his pledge to ‘build’ and deliver a new invention that will improve mankind every week. So he gets to work, only, in a brilliant series of scenes, every time he nears completion of a project, he discovers that another one of Marvel’s big brains, be it Tony Stark, Hank Pym or Reed Richards has beaten him to it and invented the exact same thing! Not only is this very funny, but Waid does a good job of showing us just where Banner ranks in the Genius tables, he’s almost as good as the others, just not quite there.
This of course makes Banner angry and you know the rest, he starts Hulking out and tells Jessup to call up Maria Hill and give him something to smash. She tells him there is a situation down in Mexico, but she doesn’t need the Hulk for it. Even though Jessup has manage to calm him down through the power of gum, Banner still wants to go punch something, so he and Jessup use some awesome invisibility hoodies to sneak on board.
Throughout all of this, we are treated to brief flashbacks of Jessup’s backstory, his mother was an alcoholic, and when he refused to answer her calls, it somehow led to both her and his dad being dead. I can’t tell if it was a suicide pact or what, but it was dark stuff, and it explains why Jessup is so eager to help Banner and not let him down. He let his mother down once, and it killed his whole family. Even after 16 issues, I still don’t feel like Waid has defined Banner’s various assistants as characters, so stuff like this is very welcome, even when the end of the issue implies it probably won’t matter in the long run.
Banner and Jessup arrive in Mexico, sneak into the pyramid where the weird shit is going down, and Hulk proceed to smash up a big lizard-monster that is coming out of a portal for some reason. Mahmud Asrar’s art comes into it’s own with these action scenes, which really get across the appropriate sense of scale and impact of a Hulk-sized fight. I’ve been a fan of his art since Supergirl, and I’m glad he’s on this title now.
In the end, Hulk and Jessup use their brains and brawn to defeat the monster, and Jessup manages to sneak away the weird sphere that opened the portal, and reiterates that he’ll never let Banner down, which is true, as Banner’s narration reveals that in a week’s time from this moment, Jessup will die to save humanity. Dammit, just when we learn who one of these characters is and start to like him, Waid kills him! I’m excited to see just how all of this will go down, and that this title is back on doing what it set out to do, make the Hulk work as a hero and a part of SHIELD, and rehabilitate Bruce Banner.
Nova #100 (or Nova #10)– This special over-sized anniversary issue of Nova serves as both a wrap up for Zeb Wells’ run, and the beginning of Gerry Duggan’s, as well as a celebration of the character’s history as a whole, and yes, that includes Richard Rider.
The opening story comes from Wells and Carlo Barberi, and opens with a hilarious imaginary scene where Sam Alexander uses the Silver Surfer’s surfboard to defeat a Mjolnir-wielding Doctor Doom and impress all of the Avengers, making the female members declare their love for him, and best of all making the Punisher crack a smile for the first time since his family was murdered. Why is this scene happening? It’s because it ends with Sam having to call his mother, as this whole story is Sam objectifying to the ground rules his mum, Justice and Speedball have come up with if he’s to join the New Warriors. And to make matters worse, Sam doesn’t even want to join the New Warriors! He was asked to join the Avengers, by fucking Thor no less, and his mum forbade it, but now, she’s willing to let him join a team of Z-list scrubs? It’s just not fair! I continue to love how realistic Sam’s personality is, too many superheroic teenagers are way too nice and reasonable to be real teenagers, but Sam is much more life-like with his mood-swings, sometimes he’s incredibly nice and sweet, but at others, he’s totally unreasonable and a dick, and him badmouthing the new warriors is the best example of it.
To make matters worse, Justice and Speedball have nowhere else to go, and steal his bed, shoving him onto the floor! Wells continues to develop the romantic subplot between Sam and Carrie, in another very good scene, Sam is about to fully reveal that he’s Nova, only he says he can’t trust her, which pisses Carrie off no end, she kept his secret about helping his dad by doing janitorial work for him, and he still doesn’t trust her? Again, it’s great to see Sam be an unfeeling jerk, like a real teenage boy would be.
After another lecture from his mum, Sam bursts off into space to talk to the one guy he really can, the Watcher. He explains his issues, about not wanting to be a New Warrior, but an Avenger. In response, Uatu treats Sam (and us) to flashbacks of some of Richard Rider’s greatest moments as Nova. We see him battle alongside the original New Warriors, against Annihilus and the Phalanx. It wouldn’t be right to celebrate 100 issues of Nova without the man who starred in 90 of those issues, so it was great to get this return of sorts, and for it to serve a storyline purpose as well. Uatu also shows Sam the events of (I think) Infinity Gauntlet, where Rich teamed up with the Avengers to fight Thanos, and wasn’t really involved, as the big names just ignored him, as with their firepower, they didn’t need him. Sam realises that it’s better to be where he’s needed, and agrees to join the new New Warriors as a reserve member if they go up against something Nova-sized. I’m still not sure I’m going to read that series when it begins, but I reckon I’ll at least try #1.
The second story is the first from new ongoing writer Gerry Duggan, and shows Sam off in space fighting some aliens, whilst at the same time his school principal visits his mum to tell him that if he keeps skipping school, he may have to redo the year. I think this kind of thing shows what makes Nova different from other teen heroes. Even though the likes of Spider-Man are fighting crime, they rarely leave the city, let alone the planet! Nova’s superheroic exploits are farther afield, and will have a bigger effect on his home life. I’ve probably talked a bit too much about how Sam is a jerk in this review, so to balance it out, this story showed how cool and different a hero he is. He even goes as far as to learn about morse code so he can use it to communicate with aliens, which is pretty damn great. Just as the principal informs Mrs Alexander about the problems with her son, and also that her husband’s benefits are running out, Sam himself crash-lands back on Earth, after seeing some strange lights that have rendered him blind. Blind! Oh dear, that’s unfortunate, but an interesting path to take. With Gerry Duggan, it looks like Nova is in good hands, this story has the same light-hearted tone that Loeb and Wells have established, and given that Duggan is a comedian, it makes sense that it would be funny.
The artwork for this story comes from regular artist Paco Medina, and I liked how well it flowed from the first one, Medina and Barberi have similar cartoonish styles.
Throw in a fun two-pager featuring a grown-up Sam and his son as Nova, and the usual nostalgic cover gallery, this was a great way to celebrate Nova’s centennial. It’s taken a long time to get to 100 issues, here’s to 100 more!
Hawkeye #14– Picking up where the Annual left off, this issue focuses on Kate Bishop (aka Lady Hawkguy) as she quite literally lives out her Rockford Files dreams on the West Coast by becoming a Private Investigator to earn some money. With the main Clint Barton story remaining fairly static for the past 4 or so issues, these Kate stories are a nice injection of something new and a lot of fun.
Kate is bumming around the beach, living in a caravan and chilling, only she’s running out of money, fast. The solution to this is to become a Hero For Hire, which makes sense to me. She stumbles across her first case when she knocks on her neighbour’s door to use their printer. It turns out that her neighbours are a gay couple who are about to get married, only the orchids they want for their wedding have been stolen. Kate heads to the flower shop to investigate, and discovers that it has been burnt down. Kate finds out that the man behind this and the orchid thief is a local drug dealer called Flynt Ward, who wanted to buy the special flowers for himself, but when the shop owner refused to sell, stole them, and then burned the shop down.
The best scenes for me in this issue involved Kate going to see the local police department. The back and forth between Kate and Detective Caudle was a lot of fun, and the way Fraction poked fun at detective fiction clichés whilst at the same time totally doing those clichés was a lot of fun.
Kate cycles all the way up to Ward’s house to ask about the orchids, but he turns her away because she’s a crazy teenage girl on a bicycle. Kate then busts into his greenhouse to get the plants back on her own, only to run into the Bellboy henchmen from the annual, they and Ward quickly throw her out, so it’s on to plan C, which is follow Ward around and take photographs. Even then, this plan doesn’t really work, as he easily spots Kate tailing him, and the way she actually solves the case is because he hits her with his car and she takes a photo. Kate really does bungle her way through this entire case, and it’s a lot of fun, she really is Hawkeye in more ways than just being good with arrows, she’s just as much of a well-meaning fuck-up.
But in the end, it’s all worth it, as she gets an orchid back from her neighbours and saves their wedding. I think the fact that this was all in service of a gay wedding was a clever idea, it makes the flowers that much more special, as the two characters have been waiting a long time to be able to do this, just as you wait a long time for orchids to bloom, and it adds a sense of modernity. Without it, this whole issue feels like something out of the 70s, which isn’t a bad thing, but you know, it’s good to be current.
I also found the conversations Kate had with the mysterious coat-clad man in the supermarket interesting, it’s meant to be Jim Rockford right? But it was all in her head? I like that this issue was a homage to that classic TV show, but I’m not sure I buy a modern teenage girl hallucinating James Garner in the catfood aisle. I know that Fraction has name-checked that show when talking about Clint Barton as a character, but it is odd to see it here. Or was it not Rockford at all but Elliott Gould? I dunno, I need to brush up on my neo-noir. But I suppose Kate Bishop is no ordinary teenage girl, this issue continues to develop her unique character and inner monologue, which is a lot of fun.
The artwork here comes from Annie Wu, who has previously appeared in these pages drawing those hilarious romance comics parodies. She’s just as good at full-on sequentials, delivering a great, stylish comic with a lot of particularly great facial expressions. You can tell she works on the Venture Bros, as her art has a similar look. If Aja can’t draw every issue, than having Wu on board for alternate months, and having a few more awesome shaggy-dog Kate Bishop crime adventures is a perfect solution.
This issue ends with Madame Masque on the phone to Flynt Ward, so it looks like that rivalry is going to continue. This is just a unique book for Marvel, I love it, this was in no way a superhero comic at all, it was a crime comic just with a superhero, it was funny, it was clever, and it was heartfelt. Oh man, Hawkeye, even when you’re not about Hawkeye I love you.
New Avengers #12– The aftermath of Infinity begins now, as the various members of the Illuminati pick up the pieces and move on, in another excellent issue of this title.
The best scene of the issue for me comes at the beginning, as Black Panther is confronted by his sister Shuri about what’s been going on in The Necropolis and some of that truth actually comes to light, as the fact that Namor has been visiting T’Challa whilst their two countries have been at war is revealed. The ongoing conflict between Namor and Black Panther as well as their respective kingdoms has been my favourite part of this series, and the fact that Hickman used this big event to move it on even more is really cool. When Shuri discovers this collusion, and T’Challa does not explain himself, he is banished from Wakanda, which is of course a big deal for the former king. The capper to this is Namor coming in and applauding T’Challa for not revealing the truth of the Incursions and all that. Hickman writes one of the best Sub-Mariner’s ever, he such a glorious tool, I can’t wait to see just how much further he can push the Panther before they come to blows again.
Elsewhere, Black Bolt and Maximus The Mad are still in hiding after blowing up Attillan, Inhumanising the whole world and faking their own deaths. It is revealed that Black Bolt’s powers have been severely diminished by his fight with Thanos. I’m excited to see where they are going with Black Bolt, it looks like in Matt Fraction’s stories, most of the other Inhumans will believe he’s dead, but he should still be an interesting player in this title, even with less power.
Doctor Strange’s scene in this issue was very intriguing indeed, it looks like being mind-controlled by the Ebony Maw has pushed Strange to try something new, he’s tired of sitting on the sidelines when he has so much power and he’s going to be more proactive. He locks himself in his room (in a non stroppy teenager sense) and delves into the ‘Blood Bible’. I’m looking forward to where this goes, Strange is obviously one of Marvel’s best characters, but as he says here, he’s often off in the margins, it’s going to fun to see him take a more central role in this book, and is it too much to ask for a Hickman-penned ongoing or mini-series? That would be amazing.
Finally, Beast, Iron Man and Mr Fantastic are finishing up their check-up of the various weapons and secrets that may have been damaged in Thanos’ attack, last on their list is Black Swan, who although I still dislike her character as the living embodiment of everything bad about Hickman’s writing, does set things up very nicely for the future. She points out that they didn’t actually defeat Thanos, that it was Thane who stopped him, and they also didn’t stop the most recent incursion themselves, that was the Builders. The Illuminati keep getting through these scrapes by the skin of their teeth, but sooner or later, their luck will run out and they will have to make the choice to blow up another world properly and on purpose. Black Swan also tells them that there are things worse than The Builders out there. There are the Mapmakers, who we’ve seen before, and giant cosmic dudes called The Black Priests, or The Ivory Kngs, and other intimidating names. Basically, defeating Thanos and The Builders wasn’t the ending of what Hickman has planned… it’s only the beginning, which… yeah, that’s big, I’m pumped.
Infinity has, as I’ve said before, moved the Avengers titles into a cosmic zone, and this issue shows that it’s not stopping, things are going to get even better. It’s good to see that, even though the crossover may be over, that huge cosmic scale is still there, and, that combined with interesting character directions for Namor, Black Panther and Black Bolt (Iron Man, Beast and Reed aren’t changing as much, but they have other titles for that), this book really is getting bigger and better.
Mike Deodato’s artwork was once again excellent, the little glimpses of the future cosmic threats were great, as were the weird demons Doctor Strange summoned. He nails the quieter moments too, especially with Black Panther.
Uncanny Avengers #14– Ho-Lee Shit. This was amazing. I’ve been enjoying Rick Remender’s Uncanny Avengers a lot so far, especially as it gets crazier and more epic, but in this issue he moves things up a gear, as he goes full-on mental and kills 3 of his main characters!
Yes, in this issue, Rogue, Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man all bite it, and it’s truly shocking. Now of course, given the nature of some of these deaths, I’m betting that at least 2 out of these 3 will be back before this storyline is over, but at this moment, I can’t quite figure out which 2. But even though resurrections are inevitable, the experience of reading this crazy issue was good enough on it’s own. Killing characters gets a bad rap, but you really do need it at times to ramp up the tension and scope of a story, and with this issue, Remender did that. (As an aside, I was disappointed to see Remender accused of misogyny online for killing of 2 female superheroes, when he killed of a male at the same time, it’s getting to the point where you can’t do anything to a female character without being accused of fridging or branded as a sexist, some people need to look at themselves and realise that not everything can be viewed through the gender-lens.)
Anyhoo, how did these controversial deaths actually happen? Well, it’s pretty well done. After a very interesting opening few pages with Kang travelling to a variety of alternate futures to recruit a team of his own (including Stryfe, that Venom-Spider-Girl from Earth-X, Doom 2099, Iron Man 2020, a Deathlok, Ahab and that Psylocke from the future in Uncanny X-Force), we’re back on the Akkaba ship, with Rogue and Sunfire trying to find Scarlet Witch so they can stop her from rapturing the Mutants. It’s pretty tragic and fitting for this series that all of these big deaths are the result of miscommunication. The Unity Squad has failed to get along, and here, the fact that Rogue doesn’t know Scarlet Witch’s true plans (or that Wanda doesn’t confide in her) leads to shocking results. Uriel and Eimin fly off, leaving Wanda and Simon free to do their real plan, summoning all the mutants up to the Ark in fight mode and win the fight. They start the spell, but just as Rogue and Sunfire reach them, they are intercepted by Daken and Grim Reaper. These fights are a lot of fun, particularly Daken’s smack-talk to Sunfire, it’s easy to forget that Daken is actually half-japanese, so him knowing that Sunfire is seen as a bit washed-up there was a cool moment. Sunfire is saved by a returning Wolverine, which allows Sunfire to grab Wonder Woman, leaving Rogue free to go kill her.
I know a lot of people have issues with the way Remender writes Rogue, but he did a good job here of justifying why she thought she had to kill Wanda, that she is to blame for M-Day, and therefore to blame for everything that’s happened since, up to and including Charles Xavier’s dead. We as fans know that Wanda was being manipulated and not in her right mind, but Rogue doesn’t know, and it makes sense for her to hate the architect of a mutant genocide anf gut her with some bone claws. What makes this scene even better is what Daken says to Wolverine, about how it’s his fault Rogue has become a killer. Much of this title has actually been Remender and Wolverine dealing with the fall-out of the bad stuff that happened in Uncanny X-Force, and the legacy of the violence. We’ve seen that play out on a wide canvas with the Apocalypse Twins, but now we’re seeing it a bit more personally with Rogue.
So, Rogue has killed Scarlet Witch, but she’s not around for very long, as the Grim Reaper come back, rams his scythe into her and fucking fries her into a skeleton. Man, this issue did not hold back, especially as, only a page later, a dissipating Wonder Man finds the dying Wanda, and with the last of his power, allows her to finish her spell before she too collapses. To top it all off, it looks like the spell failed, no mutants show up at all… yet. I’m betting that #15 starts with something like that.
This was a truly brilliant, shocking issue, it’s not often that you get 3 important deaths in such quick succession, and I loved it, you didn’t know what was happening next, and even though some of these will be reversed, it doesn’t diminish the crazy ride. Heck, the likes of Thor, Captain America, Wasp and Havok don’t even appear in this issue, what’s going to happen with them? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this title doesn’t get enough praise, each issue brings epic grandeur and new ideas, and this was no exception, it just tied it all off with some glorious death.
Steve McNiven comes on board with this issue, and I’m a big fan of his art, and he delivers his usual hyper-detailed, clean, classic superhero work. This is the kind of artist this book should have, he was called upon to do some seriously big, game-changing scenes here, and he pulled it off.
Avengers Arena #18– This is it, the big finale, and I think Hopeless delivers here. This story has always been a finite one, the kids were to be trapped in Murderworld for 30 days, and now Day 30 has come, and it’s time to wrap things up, as well as set up the upcoming sequel, Avengers Undercover.
Surprisingly, the big villain of the series, Arcade, is mostly absent from this issue, as he leaves Katy in charge of the console, and in charge of the destiny of all the other characters. Katy has chosen to kill everyone else off so she can be in control of the narrative once she escapes. Katy sees that there are tons of weapons that Arcade still hasn’t used, and she has all of those at her disposal, which is bad news. Worse news is that, whilst everyone is fighting each other, Hazmat is about to go into meltdown, and nobody’s noticed except for Chase, who is trapped on the beach with broken legs. If they don’t stop this, they’ll all die even without Katy’s intervention.
Luckily, at the last minute, everyone else cottons on, and Reptil grabs Hazmat, swimming out to see, where she can blow up and not harm anyone else, including, surprisingly, Reptil. I originally thought he had died, but we later he see him being fished out of the water with a SHIELD agent giving a ‘thumbs up’, so he’s OK. It’s weird that he could survive a nuclear explosion, but hey, he’s magic. After seeing Hazmat blow up, everyone realises they need to stop fighting, which causes Katy to do unleash all of the other weapons at her disposal, Sand Monsters, evil wasps, claws made of water, all that shit.
It looks like this is the final battle, as all of our heroes are surrounded, but Katy forgot own thing… Deathlocket. Tim has enough power to disable his sister’s control and allow Deathlocket to break free and fight back. In a truly powerful scene, Tim tells Deathlocket that the only way to defeat Katy is to shoot their body whilst he’s in control. Deathlocket initially refuses, but in the end, she shoots the boy she loves in the head. Luckily this is done off-screen, but still, it’s tough to watch. I was surprised that the only death in this issue was the villain, but I think it works out well this way, after all the shit this book gets, it’s worth noting that it’s not really a gleeful slaughtering of teenagers, it has thought behind it.
So, with Katy gone, the island shuts down, and our heroes are left standing. The only question is, what to they say when the heroes come and rescue them? Do they admit to trying (and in some cases succeeding) to kill each other? Their answer is to just keep quiet, to not reveal anything. If they keep schtum, nobody knows that Arcade is no longer a loser, nobody knows what he did, and really, that was what he wanted, to improve his reputation. Fittingly for this vow of silence, the pages that follow, with SHIELD, the headmasters Wolverine, Hank Pym and Captain Britain coming to the rescue are kept silent, apart from a quotation from Sun Tzu, which was very effective.
Oh, I forgot to mention, X-23 is not a part of this pact, she is missing in the woods, I wonder where she’ll turn up? Heh.
In a pretty cool twist, Hopeless shows that this pact of silence may all be for naught, as we see Arcade in a hotel room, uploading videos of what really happened to Youtube and watching a news report condemning the very existence of teen superheroes. It looks like this truth coming out is the spark for Undercover, and I could not be more excited for that book. Hopeless has introduced some great new characters in this title (ironic that a book about a death-match has given more than it’s taken away) and their continuing adventures are a must-read.
This was a satisfying conclusion to a brilliant series. It delivered high drama every issue, great art fom Kev Walker, brilliant character work and true surprises. Look past your tumblr outrage and now that it’s all over, give this book a shot, it’s one of Marvel’s best, and in a medium with too few endings, does actually provide one, albeit, one with room for the future and different kinds of stories.
FF #14– Lee Allred continues to do a fantastic job of balancing humour and seriousness as Scott Lang and the rest of the team prepare for the final battle against Doctor Doom.
The issue begins with Alex Power apologising to everyone for his betrayal and then quickly moves on to Doctor Doom interrogating his parents, and being dissuaded from killing them by Ravonna. The way that Doom found out everyone else was alive was pretty clever, Black Bolt has a psychic link with his son, and since he doesn’t look upset, it’s obvious that Ahura and the rest are still alive. The only question for Doom is… where are they? Kid Immortus is picking up strange anomalies in time, but the reasons for these aren’t explained until later in the issue, because the FF haven’t done them yet. The preparations for Scott’s plan are pretty wide-ranging and weird. They recruit Sun Tzu (who like Julius Caesar, is actually a pink cloud alien), the miniature tiger from a previous issue is involved, Bentley is sent to steal some superhero robots from the Mad Thinker, She-Hulk picks up an Awesome Android (just a shame it’s not her old pal Awesome Andy) and Medusa is sent back to recruit a Golden-Age magician called Dakor. Is this a real character from Marvel history? If so, that is awesome, but even if it’s new, it’s still pretty good.
Perhaps the best scene of battle-preparation is when Dragon Man volunteers to be cloned, which leads to everyone shrinking down, and Ant-Man teaching a lesson about the ethics of cloning. In the end, they decide that because Dragon Man has a consciousness, and is their friend, it would be wrong to clone him. The fact that this book takes time out to do weird stuff like this is what makes it so unique, and even with Fraction gone (I love that he appears as a missing person on a milk-carton), his off-the-wall tendencies are being continued by all of the Allreds. So, Scott has everything assembled, I’m still confused about how this fight is going to look, but in the meantime, there’s one last opportunity for fun, as the Watcher allows everyone except Ant-Man to use his hot springs (they were built for Sue Richards on her honeymoon).
The conversation between Scott and Uatu was very interesting, with Scott challenging the very nature of Watchers, although it is strange to contrast the very chatty Uatu we see in this book with the silent version in Nova, and it all makes me very worried for the upcoming event where he’s going to die. I love that big bald weirdo.
I also love Bentley, the little psychopath, as he drills a hole in the wall to allow the boys to see what’s going on in the women’s bath (it is pretty sexy thanks to Allred’s art. She-Hulk has never looked better than when he draws her) and wants to charge $1 to look, but doesn’t get any takers. Bentley is such a great character, and he can get away with being a creepy sleaze and have it be funny because he’s so young. Dragon Man is outraged by Bentley’s perviness, and as he tries to stop him, he trips and smashes into the wall, inadvertently seeing all the ladies naked, and being branded as a perv himself, despite having no genitals.
Again, it’s just great to have this weird comedy in a superhero comic that also gets serious, like in the next scene, where Scott confides in Darla about the first time he killed someone. This is a pretty brutal prison flashback, but the tonal shift actually doesn’t feel jarring, thanks to Michael Allred’s art, his pop-art style encompasses all tones really.
After a quick scene where Ahura decides to don a mini-Black Bolt costume and join the fight, we get a very intriguing meeting between a whole bunch of alternate-universe Dooms, where they discuss what’s going on with the ‘real’ Doom, and a Namor-Doom raises an interesting point, why is Doom Prime teaming up with a non-Prime version of Kang? Could all this be a double cross? Kid Immortus was once Iron Lad of course, and he was in love with Ant-Man’s daughter. After this, Doom Prime steals Annihilus’ cosmic control rod, beginning the first steps towards becoming Doom The Annihilating Conqueror, and then the adults of the FF teleport to Latveria for the final battle.
Oh man, I can’t wait for the next 2 chapters of this series, I really have loved this strange comic, both under Fraction alone and now with Lee Allred doing the heavy lifting, the humour is perfect, the art is fantastic, and you care about the characters. Just look at the faces of those kids on the last page, how can you not feel for them?
All-New X-Men #19– Brian Michael Bendis’ run on both X-Men titles has been very talky, and whilst I love me some Bendis-talky, it can get a bit repetitive, even for me, which is why an issue like this one, which brings the action instead, is a very nice change of pace.
The original X-Men, along with Shadowcat (aka Professor K) and Magik are in Miami to help protect a new mutant from the attack of some anti-Mutant religious zealots, probably The Purifiers, but it doesn’t really matter. It turns out that this new mutant isn’t actually that new, and as she says, she’s not actually a mutant. It’s X-23, the clone of Wolverine, who has recently escaped from the events of Avengers Arena, has a nice shiny bald head, and is not in a good mood. What follows is a very enjoyable battle between the X-Men and the bad guys, as well as Kitty trying to chase down X-23 so they can look after her.
This battle is full of cool moments, especially because the original X-Men didn’t have religious hatred coming at them back in their day. This is played mostly for laughs, with Angel in particular finding it strange that, even when confronted by a guy who looks like, well, an Angel, these guys still don’t rethink their views on Mutants. But once everyone is back at the New Xavier school, Jean Grey stops the laughs, she’s been inside the head of one of these zealots and has seen just how deep the hatred goes. The rest of the X-Men, particularly Cyclops, who tries to actually talk to the cops, don’t seem to realise how much anti-mutant feeling has, ironically, evolved since their time. I’m very interested to see Bendis explore this difference, between regular hatred and relgious bigotry, it will be thorny, but it will be worth it.
The issue ends finally with the full reveal that it’s X-23 (the name ‘Laura’ is used before this, but probably a lot of people don’t know that X-23 has a name), and her revealing that she doesn’t want to be touched. It looks like Murderworld really has done a number on her, she had softened up quite a lot, but now she has that edge back, and it’s going to be interesting to see her as a part of this book, particularly from the cover to next issue! X-23 kissing Cyclops, that is mental.
Brandon Peterson’s artwork was very good in this issue, and interestingly, it was a bit like a halfway point between the style he used in the 1990s on X-Men, and the computerized stuff he was doing more recently, I really like it.
So, whilst this issue wasn’t your typical Bendis X-Men, it was action-heavy and a lot of fun, and it also sets up some very cool stuff for the future, particularly with the reintroduction of X-23, she is going to be a regular character in this isn’t she? I’m sure I read that somewhere.
Wolverine & The X-Men Annual #1– Jason Aaron has introduced (or reintroduced) a lot of great new characters during his time on Wolverine & The X-Men, and perhaps my favourite of these was Kid Gladiator, the over-the-top, cocky son of Gladiator from the Imperial Guard. Kid Gladiator is just hilarious, and I was actually really quite sad when he left the book to go back into space with his dad. But good news! This Annual brings him back, and it is all about him! It is glorious.
The Annual begins with Kubark in Imperial Guard school, giving a report about his time on Earth, where we see him finally admit to actually enjoying his time at the Jean Grey School. Kid Gladiator certainly is not enjoying his new school, everything is very conformist, every student is in training to become one of the regular Imperial Guard members, there are loads of Smashers, loads of Mantas, etc. But he’s the only Strontian, the only Guardian, so he’s all alone. It’s a nice contrast to the JGS, where everyone is different, but that means nobody is alone. So, Kid Gladiator is bummed, until… Infinity begins!
Due to the scale of the battle against The Builders, all of the various Subguardians in-training are called into action, but Gladiator forbids his son from fighting in the war, as he doesn’t think he’s ready. Obviously, Kubark doesn’t take kindly to this, so he takes out the Warbird guard assigned to him, and sneaks off to war, where he gets involved in one of the massive laser battles we’ve seen in the pages of Avengers and Infinity for the last few months, fighting alongside all of the other Superguardians and the Avengers.
After seeing how powerful his son has become, Gladiator allows him to stay and fight, but he still doesn’t agree to allow his son to go back to Earth, that has to wait until the end. After a surprisingly powerful scene where a group of Smashers bow to Kid Gladiator, showing how he’s growing as a leader, we’re back to more laser-montage fun, including Kid Gladiator trying to arm-wrestle Thor, and even the Kid getting a smooch off of a smasher. The capper to this is Kid Gladiator sitting next to the Hulk and just staring at him. Perhaps the proudest moment of Kubark’s life was when he punched Red Hulk during AvX, and getting a call back to that, with him wanting to punch the Green version was absolutely brilliant.
Just before the final push to Earth to stop Thanos, Gladiator finally tells his son that he can stay behind on Earth and go back to the Jean Grey School, and that’s where the issue ends, with Kubark giving another report, this time to the other JGS pupils about his adventures during Infinity. It’s a great character moment that he continues to pretend he hates being on Earth, and that this is a punishment.
This was a very enjoyable annual, featuring one of my favourite new characters, and it did a good job of bridging the separate worlds of Infinity and Wolverine & The X-Men and making it all seem like one cohesive universe, which really, is what we all want.
Nick Bradshaw is pretty much the quintessential W&XM artist, so it was brilliant to see him return here, his cartoon style is a perfect fit for the OTT Kid Gladiator, and since he’s coming onto Guardians Of The Galaxy next year, this cosmic story was damn good preparation.
Wolverine & The X-Men #38– It’s a double-dose of W&XM goodness this week, as not only do we get the Annual, but there’s a regular issue too, and it is damn good, as Jason Aaron moves things on from Battle Of The Atom, as well as returning this title to focusing on the kids just as much as the X-Men themselves.
The issue kicks off with a bang, as the SHIELD heli-carrier descends on the School, just as Wolverine is about to give a guided tour to two new students. Whilst these new kids are shown around by Broo, Wolverine and the rest of the teachers confront Maria Hill and Dazzler: Agent Of SHIELD about what went on at the end of BOTA, when it was revealed that SHIELD have their own army of Sentinels. Everyone is pretty pissed at everyone else, and Maria Hill basically reiterates her point from Bendis’ titles, that she doesn’t really understand the X-Men and she can’t tell who’s good and who’s bad, which really, can you blame her? I lose track myself! What I find interesting here is that pretty much all of the X-Men hate Dazzler now, and view her as a traitor. Of course, Dazzler is actually Mystique, it’s certainly going to be fun when the real Dazzler comes back. Unless she’s dead, I’m not sure where the real Dazzler is. The SHIELD ladies fly off, and Wolverine decides that he needs to go and punch and stab some stuff, and in particular, some SHIELD stuff.
Meanwhile, inside the school, the new kids (they are twins, one has like, a Squid face, the other has 3 heads and multiple limbs) are being shown around by Broo. These scenes are a nice refresher on what a strange place the Jean Grey School is, as well as the weird characters who populate it, and Aaron gets to showcase all of the kids who dropped off the radar during the crossover and the Hellfire story. So we see Eye Boy, Kid Gladiator, Shark Girl, Pixie, Idie, Evan and more. I love these characters, so it was great to have them back in a prominent role, but their weirdness was pretty overwhelming for the new kids. Of course, Quentin Quire plays a prominent role, as he is brought to detention with Wolverine to use his psychic powers to sniff out info about SHIELD and their Sentinels.
I was surprised by what Aaron did with Iceman in this issue, ever since Kitty broke up with him, he is not the same jovial guy we all love, he’s become the most feared teacher in the school. I can’t decide whether I like this idea or whether I hate it.
So, Wolverine gets Quire to help him find out some SHIELD data, but it turns out this is all a trap by Dazzler/Mystique, she deliberately made this info easy to find in order to lure Wolverine to a warehouse, and to make things worse, she’s leaked the same information to Cyclops’ team. They work out it’s a trap, but even so, Cyclops is going to check it out alone. It looks like next issue is going to be a Cyclops/Wolverine confrontation and unwilling team-up, which should be fun.
The final page of this issue is another win for Dazzler, as it’s revealed that the seemingly wimpy new kids… are actually undercover SHIELD agents! It makes sense that Mystique would be good at being a spymaster, but she is even better than I would have thought. That said, she doesn’t win anything, as Quentin does manage to steal 2 million dollars from SHIELD (he uses the name ‘Carlos Danger’, I love this character), which is a great example of this book’s humour.
This was a great return to form for this title, as, even though the crossover issues were good, they weren’t really Wolverine & The X-Men. Here, Aaron is back doing what he does best, and when combined with Pepe Larraz’s strong art, it’s a winning combination. I’m very sad that there are only a few issues left of this book, but it’s going out just as strong as it came in.
Infinity #6(of 6)– It’s the epic conclusion of Infinity and… I don’t really know what to say. There’s not a lot to really write about. The Avengers arrive home, and basically, defeat Thanos and save the Earth.
I could go through it beat by beat, but that would be boring, so I’ll just list my favourite moments; finding out the back-story of Supergiant, Lockjaw and Maximus saving the day, Starbrand totally owning everyone out in space, Captain America deflecting Proxima Midnight’s lasers into her husband, the whole Thor Vs Thanos fight and then the way Thanos is actually defeated.
All of these moments are suitable epic and perfectly pitched to serve as a grand finale for a truly wide-screen story, and both Jim Cheung and Dustin Weaver draw them perfectly. I particularly like the end of Thanos, with his son, Thane, encasing him and Proxima inside a cube of eternal life. For a character that famously courts death, having him frozen alive forever is the perfect punishment, even though it obviously won’t be forever. I’m actually surprised I liked this element, as I really complained last week about how it wasn’t the Avengers who killed Black Dwarf, but some other aliens, and the same thing happens here. I don’t know why I view this differently, perhaps because there’s that familial connection. Thanos came to kill Thane, but in the end, Thane did worse to him. Thane certainly is going to be an interesting character going forward, he seems like a good person, but now he’s got the dastardly Ebony Maw in his ear, and as the narration teases, he could be worse than his dad.
This ending really did set up a lot of good stuff for the future, and it’s not just Thane. Of course, you’ve got all the Inhumans stuff, and the scene between Maximus and Black Bolt was very intriguing indeed, but Hickman is also planting other story seeds out in the cosmos. The Accusers are back under the banner of the Supreme Intelligence, and the Kree could be out for war. The Skrulls too are looking dangerous, as Super-Skrull is now their Emperor, and most worryingly of all, Annihilus has kept open a portal to the Negative Zone and taken over a planet in the main universe. Hickman really has moved the Avengers up into a cosmic-level force, and I’m excited to see these threads followed up on in the coming months.
And let’s not forget that there are troubles closer to home with the Illuminati, they came very close to destroying the Earth here, and their secrets are still hidden. Throw in the fact that they are keeping Thanos prisoner, and that’s a lot of shit, New Avengers is definitely going to interesting places, I can’t wait to read the next issue. Oh, yeah, it’s out this week!
This was a fantastic ending to a truly excellent crossover. The story Hickman has been telling has truly been epic, and with this issue, the two sides of the story collided brilliantly. The fact that it was all so tightly plotted, with Hickman writing every important issue just makes it all the better. This is a true achievement, and one which sets the bar very high, not just for Hickman’s Avengers run from now on, but also for all other superhero crossovers. Hell, this story didn’t even resort to shock deaths, it was good on it’s own terms. If Hickman can keep this up in his 3 Avengers titles, then we really are looking at something special. If you felt burned on previous events like Age Of Ultron or Fear Itself, do yourself a favour and read Infinity, it’s an event like no other, it’s epic and brilliant, it may actually have changed the Marvel Universe as we know it, and it stuck the landing.
Kick-Ass 3 #5(of 8)- In this issue of Kick-Ass 3… no Kick-Ass! Yep, throughout this issue, Dave doesn’t don the famous green wetsuit even once, because he’s spending all of his time having sex and hanging out with his new girlfriend Valerie.
It’s certainly weird to see weedy old Dave getting some (and even weirder to see John Romita Jnr draw sex, it just feels strange, this is the man who defines the Marvel Universe in my head, drawing boobs and BJs, odd), but it did something interesting in that it showed perhaps the real reason why Dave became Kick-Ass in the first place, because he wasn’t getting laid. Now that he is, he doesn’t have time to hang out with the rest of Justice Forever, and instead is living a normal life, even as he channels some of that old Kick-Ass to (I assume) beat up some annoying kids. All of this happiness for Dave and Valerie has a double-edged sword though, as it’s only going to make it even more tragic when she either gets killed or is revealed to be working for Rocco Genovese in the next few issues. If there’s one thing we know from Mark Millar comics, people don’t get to be happy for very long without something grim happening.
The rest of this issue sees crooked cop Vic Gigante’s plan to break free of the Genovese clan take centre stage, as he and the rest of his Cop buddies don skull masks, shoot up a Mob counting house, put it on Youtube and basically ramp up the heat on masked vigilantes. Rocco has no idea that the cops he thinks he has on the take are the ones ripping him off, so he instead decides to kill all of the other superheroes out there, and even asks Gigante to help. Insect-Man is killed, so does The Juicer (I was glad to see him go, but surprised, I thought the ‘Civl War’ between him and Kick-Ass would be more important, but I guess it was just a way to push Dave more towards Valerie). We also see a poor guy who’s just in a costume raising money for charity get shot.
The final scene sees poor old Doctor Gravity, Kick-Ass’ first real fellow crime-fight get lured into a trap and shot in the head, with a brutal dollop of brains on the floor. All this, and Hit-Girl isn’t even in the issue! It looks like these deaths are what’s going to bring Kick-Ass out of his sex-crazed semi-retirement and back into action, and I can’t wait for that.
As I said, I expect only bad things for Dave and Valerie, but I’m excited to see just how messed up this can get. There are only 3 issues left of Kick-Ass, so it should get plenty messed-up. This was a violent, surprising issue, but it was necessary, the stage is set for a brutal final few instalments, but first, we need to get Hit-Girl out of the can!
Aquaman #25– This issue marks the end of Geoff Johns’ run on the title, and it’s a solid conclusion that positions the character firmly as the King Of Atlantis, whilst at the same times setting up some interesting possibilities for the future, both for Jeff Parker’s tenure, and also for Johns himself in the pages of Justice League.
After last month revealed the truth behind the Dead King and Arthur’s lineage, now it’s time for action, as Aquaman and Vulko swim through the sea in order to find the Dead King’s sceptre, which Aquaman had hidden, and which can be used to control The Trench and turn the tide (gah, I didn’t mean that pun, I swear) of the battle. According to Vulko, all that’s left of the Seven Kingdoms of Atlantis are the current Atlanteans, the Xebels and the Trench, but Aquaman believes the other races might be out there. From the end of this issue, it looks like Johns has a lot planned for these other races, and even though I’m not sure it’s a big enough story for a Justice League ‘event’, it should be cool. Before the big battle, Johns provides a nice character moment between Vulko and Aquaman, with Vulko revealing that the reason he wanted Arthur on the throne so badly was not because of his blood, which makes sense, given that his ancestors were bad guys, but because of his character. I like this, it shows that Aquaman isn’t King just because, but that he deserves it.
It turns out that, in the 6 months Aquaman has been in a coma, the Dead King has been ruling with an iron fist (well, it’s more of an icy fist), locking up those people who disobey him (like Mera) and forcing Nereus and others to hunt for those other Seven Kingdoms, which Nereus says are lost. I think Johns has done a pretty great job at introducing a whole lot of new characters to the world of Aquaman in his run, on the good-guy side you’ve got The Others, and now, both the Dead King and Nereus are formidable foes.
Most of the issue is taken up with Aquaman coming back, leading an army of Trench, and freeing everyone who was on his side, like Mera, Tula etc. The central fight between Aquaman and the Dead King was very cool, it was surprisingly violent in fact. I think this issue featured some of the very best artwork of Paul Pelletier’s work, everything here looked fantastic. It takes a lot to follow up Ivan Reis, but Pelletier has done it. I’m very glad he’s sticking around with Parker. So, in the end, the Dead King is melted away and Aquaman is King of Atlantis again, but even then, it’s not perfect.
He and Mera have a conversation that cuts right to the core of the Aquaman character, should he be on land? Or should he be under the sea? Aquaman wants to stay as King, but Mera believes that, after all the shit that’s happened to him since he took over, he’s best to cut his losses and go back to the surface and just be a superhero. Long-time readers of my reviews will know that I’m not a very big fan of Mera, so I was actually pretty excited by the tease of them possibly splitting up, but it’s only brief, as, after seeing that Aquadog is happy on land, she rejoins her husband, on one condition, that he shave his beard. Which just shows how terrible Mera is, everyone knows bearded Aquaman is the best Aquaman, to think otherwise is, well, outrageous.
So, it looks like it’s all happily ever after for our heroes, but of course, as I mentioned, Johns has a Justice League story to set up, and the epilogue here was very cool indeed. We catch up with Ocean Master, who has shacked up with the woman he saved in his Villain’s Month issue, and seems to have, like his brother, warmed to the surface world. But, given that he’s a wanted terrorist, his happiness can’t last either, and so it is that his wall is busted down, not by the JLA, but by Nereus, who tells him that the other 4 kingdoms are out there, and that they should team up to find them and overthrow Aquaman. I’m certainly excited to see how that plays out next year.
Overall, I think Johns’ run on Aquaman has been a success, at first, he laid on his attempts to defuse the character’s jokey reputation a bit much, but it soon developed into a very strong traditional superhero series, with great art, exciting new characters and cool moments. If nothing else, this run has made Aquaman relevant again, let’s hope the excellent Jeff Parker can keep it up.
CONTINUED IN THE COMMENTS!
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About the Author - Niam Suggitt
Niam Suggitt, Punchy to his friends, is the most humblest of all the Outhouse writers. His easy going manner and ability to see and recognize the point of views of those who he disagrees with has made him one of the most sought after members of our community to resolve conflicts. Although he likes all of you, and considers everyone to be his friend, Punchy would prefer you use “Niam Suggitt” when quoting him for the front cover blurb on your book. Follow this wonder of a man at @NiamSuggitt, if you want to, he’s cool with you either way.
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