Friday, October 12, 2012

Christian's Week in Comics 10/10/12: Uncanny Avengers, Frankenstein, Archer and Armstrong and More!

I liked doing the mini-reviews so much last week that I think I'm going to stick with this format for a while, although, given how fickle I am, we'll see. So, what did I read this week? Well, let's find out!

Uncanny Avengers #1
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: John Cassaday

For someone who never read AvX, I got into Uncanny Avengers really quickly. Cyclops is the new Magneto, The Red Skull is experimenting on Mutants and has the brain of Charles Xavier, and Captain America approaches Havoc about leading a new team that will represent Xavier's dream of cooperation between mutants and humans. As someone who has been waiting for both an Avengers and an X-Men title to jump into, this is the perfect book for me. The team hasn't really been formed yet, but I'm loving the mix of old-school Avengers with classic X-Men. It's also nice to see Scarlet Witch in an Avengers book again. Please Marvel, don't let Bendis anywhere near this character ever again.

While I'd never read anything by Rick Remender before, what sold me on this comic was the art of John Cassaday. Cassaday is one of my favorite artists. His run on Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men is maybe some of my favorite X-Men art ever, and Planetary is one of my favorite comic book series of all time. Needless to say, I have high hopes for this series as well. Some people have complained about the look of Captain America's costume, but I didn't mind it, nor do I have any issue with Thor's costume being the redesign from the Avengers film. My only gripe with this issue was Wolverine's speech. I'm not sure what Remender is going for with Wolverine's voice. He doesn't sound Canadian, that's for sure. Again, it's a minor gripe, but I'm hoping he'll find the character's voice soon, since that lackluster bit of exposition was overshadowed entirely by Havoc's conversation with Cyclops, who is looking like a future-shocked Hannibal Lecter in that containment helm they've got covering his eyes. Overall, I am really optimistic about this series and can't wait to see what Remender and Cassaday deliver next.

Phantom Stranger #1
Writer: Dan Didio
Artist (s): Brent Anderson and Philip Tan

I was going to pass on this issue after being bored by last month's Phantom Stranger #0, until I flipped through the book and saw the art. Brent Anderson and Philip Tan's collaboration on art duties here gives this issue a very old-school DC horror vibe. It looks like a comic from another era. The problem is that it reads like one too. Nothing really happens in this comic. Phantom Stranger shows up, saves Raven from Trigon's followers, only to hand her over to...Trigon? Why? Phantom Stranger is apparently doomed to betray people for a greater good, but when you know that's the setup going in it makes for a very boring comic. This is a series that I want to like. I love DC's classic supernatural characters, like Phantom Stranger, Dr. Fate and The Spectre, but this comic is just DULL.

Archer & Armstrong #3
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Clayton Henry

I had some reservations about this series when it began. It seemed like Fred Van Lente was picking on Christians as an easy target for broad satirical comedy. This issue rectifies that and solidifies the premise and the bond between these two characters in a way that anyone, Christian, Atheist, or otherwise, can get into provided their open-minded enough. A sense of humour also helps. The issue continues where the last one left off, with Archer and Armstrong fighting off Lilith-worshiping ninja nuns beneath the Vatican in search of one of the pieces of The Boon.

Clayton Henry's pencils are very good. He doesn't try anything too crazy, but manages to change up his art style as the tone of the book demands, whether it's an action-packed page or a slapstick joke that lasts only a panel. I especially enjoy his clean lines, which Matt Milla's colouring compliments very nicely. This is a really fun book, and I think even those who aren't interested in the other Valiant titles might find something to enjoy here. If you were a fan of Fred Van Lente's Incredible Hercules run at Marvel, this is the book for you.

Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #13
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Alberto Ponticelli

I read the first couple issues of Frankenstein when the New 52 came out, but quickly lost interest. I only picked up this issue because it ties into the Rotworld crossover taking place in Animal Man and Swamp Thing, but I'm very glad that I did. Basically, Victor Frankenstein was resurrected by the competing powers of The Red and The Green, but decided instead to serve Arcane and The Rot. He has a mystical object called a "Soul-Grinder" that he used to create Frankenstein (the monster), and Frankenstein now has to get the Soul-Grinder and help fight the Rotworld invasion. Why? Because Frankenstein is already undead and therefore the Rot can't corrupt him.

I don't know when exactly Matt Kindt took over this title, but he managed capture the voices of these characters very effectively. Victor is exactly the kind of pompous egoist that he should be, and Frankenstein is great as the reluctant hero. He's less talkative in this issue than in the ones I read by Jeff Lemire, and reminds me more of his portrayal in Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers of Victory, which I love. I don't know if Ponticelli is the regular artist on this title. I'd never seen his art outside of Dial H, but I really like the work he's doing here. I'll keep reading these Frankenstein Rotworld tie-ins and see whether I want to keep reading after that.

Can we quit putting those Arrow advertisements on the cover though, please DC? Pretty please?

The Secret Service #4
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Dave Gibbons

I didn't even realize that I still had this comic on my pull list. After trashing the last issue here on the blog, I thought I'd dropped it. Well, I'm glad that I didn't. I don't know what it was, but this issue really turned the series around for me. After stealing Jack's spy car and taking it for a joyride, Gary is given a second chance at turning his life around, but he has to make it all the way from Columbia in his underwear to M16 headquarters in London by midnight. Mark Millar hasn't been relying on the same shock tactics in this series as he has in other recent works (see: Kick Ass 2, Super Crooks), and its refreshing here. This is a classic James Bond spy adventure that openly engages with the politics of class implicit in the British spy genre. It's also a not-so subtle dig at contemporary British youth, in the book's comparison between one generation's idealized figure of masculinity with the contemporary urban English male. Dave Gibbons art here is masterful. Like Steve Dillon, he's one of those artists who favors minimal lines and realism over a more flashy comic book style, but here Gibbons is really able to showcase his talent for realist comic book storytelling. Great stuff and I look forward to seeing how this series concludes.


  1. I love the Frankenstein series. there's just so much monster-related ass kicking.

    also: the Cyclops lobotomy in Uncanny Avengers was crazy.

    all that being said, Batman #13 was the best thing to come out this week.

  2. Yeah the one panel with Avalanche getting lobotomized was easily my single favorite page of any comic this week.

    I love the covers to Batman and Batgirl, but as you can probably tell from my other post today, I loathe the advertisement on the back of Batman #13 with every fibre of my being.

    I also loved Bloodshot #4, but was too tired to write about it. Great conclusion to the first story arc.

  3. that was Avalanche getting lobotomized eh? wow! that makes way more sense. I saw the phoenix in his eyes and just assumed it was Cyclops.

    I guess all the revitalized mutants are all gonna have crazy phoenix eyes then. the ones who are lobotomized, anyway.

    also: I don't remember the ad on the back of Batman. maybe it wasn't on the digital copy. I'm guessing it was for Arrow, which I'm totally ignoring.

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  5. Yeah I'm positive that was Avalanche, since when he shows up he's got stitches across his forehead. I don't really know what the Phoenix fire in his eyes was about, but as you said, perhaps it has something to do with the Phoenix Force giving them their powers back.

    I linked to the ad in my post "Geekdom is a Nation with Open Borders."

    Are you reading all your comics digitally?

  6. mostly digitally, aside from TPBs.

    and I definitely missed that ad, or maybe stopped reading before I got to it. tasteless shit. college humour is pretty terrible, so that makes sense.

  7. Yeah, it's just really disheartening given DC's already shoddy track record when it comes to its female fans.

    Interesting. I've been holding off on going digital. I think I'm too connected to the concept of having a physical comic book collection with storage boxes and everything.

    1. I don't have time these days to go down to any local shops and stay current week to week. so once day-of digital became the thing, my iPad became a super-awesome for reading comics.

      it's not such a good experience reading comics off a laptop, but larger tablets are great for it. paper will always be a better experience, but digital is just way more practical for me.

  8. That makes a lot of sense, and I can totally get behind reading comics on a tablet. Valiant sends me preview copies of their upcoming books occasionally and I read them on my iPad, and after reading a few recent Image Comics first on a tablet, and later in issue form, it became apparent to me that some creators are designing their books more for the digital format.

    It's an interesting transition period for comics. I just hope the Big Two don't abandon paper copies entirely, but if they start pricing every issue like it's a variant then I'll eventually go all digital too.

    1. ya. exactly. there's little value in having a physical copy for me these days. TPBs are the keepsakes for me now, and I can see how digital sales could become the primary medium and eventually drive what's chosen to be printed in TPB.

      mind you, it's not like I'm trying to have a valuable collection. so I'm coming from a different view on things. and I'm a technologist by trade, so yay digital!

      and, really, Walking Dead terrifies me just as much when I'm reading it on my iPad, as when I was going through the TPBs for the first time. same w/ Scott Snyder's work. that 2nd piece this week featuring Harley being circled by a predatorial Joker was so cool , even w/out the paper experience.

  9. Yeah, I love collecting TPBs too. My thing is that buying single issues of certain comics lets me collect whole runs of certain series that I wouldn't necessarily buy in TPB format.

    I think you're probably right now. A lot will depend on the success of digital-first titles like Legends of the Dark Knight and Batman Beyond Unlimited. I think the more these .99 cent per issue titles sell on Comixology before ever seeing a printed version, the more we'll see comics start to follow the publishing schedule you suggested.

    That being said, I'll always prefer to have a physical collection I can spend hours sorting through.

    Oh man that back up feature with Harley was chilling. Sweet lord.