Thursday, November 29, 2012

All Aboot the X-Men: Uncanny Avengers #2, X-Men Legacy #2, and All New X-Men #2

So first off, this is the most X-Men comics I've read in a single week in well, I can't even remember the last time I bought three X-Men related comics all at once.  And yet, here I am, absolutely loving the shit out of these books.

I know a lot of people were wary about Marvel NOW going into this relaunch, but if you're reading the same books I am, I don't know how you could not be excited about the future prospects of these titles, except perhaps if you're burnt out on superhero books altogether.  In that case, this week had a lot of alternatives for you, like: Nowhere Men #1, Prophet #33, and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #1 if that's your bag.  But me, I'm gonna talk about some X-Men comics.

Uncanny Avengers #2
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: John Cassaday

Yes, this is technically an Avengers book, but come on, this post-AvX title is mostly about the mutants.  Even though the Red Skulls super-powered S-Men are explicitly "not mutants," they act like mutants. It's an X-Men comic with Thor and Captain America in it: deal with it.  This issue was delayed somewhat because that's how John Cassaday works, and I don't know why anyone should be surprised by this.  Was it worth that wait?  Well, that I'm not so sure about.    

John Cassaday was one of those artists, along with Brian Hitch and Greg Land, who was on fire in the early 2000s.  They were some of the major artists to pioneer the widescreen format, and when you first saw their work, it really stood out as being hyper-modern.  Their comics screamed: this is the future!  However, history hasn't really been kind to any of these artists.  Of the three, Hitch has been the most consistent, Land is mostly hated now due to his inability to draw people that don't look like porn stars, and Cassaday, well, he hasn't drawn an ongoing series since Planetary ended.  Cassaday's art is not what it used to be.  It's still very good, and he has an inimitable style, but his minimalist style has grown into the tendency to look static and flat, and even worse, are some of his costume design choices.  Does Captain America need chain-mail armor?  Why is Rogue dressed like she is on her way to Yoga class?  These are the questions I find myself asking as I read Uncanny Avengers.

This is too bad, because the story is actually a lot of fun.  A clone of the original Red Skull has stolen the body of Professor X, cut out his brain, fused it to his own, and has been using Professor X's mind powers to create an army of mutant haters.  There is a real Silver Age feel to all of the scenes involving the Red Skull, and it almost seems like this would be a great book for Tom Scioli to draw instead of Cassaday.

Uncanny Avengers is a fun comic, but not extraordinary.  Remender's story hits all the right notes for a book that combines Avengers with a throwback to the classic X-Men, but I wouldn't call it a return to form for Cassaday.  If you don't mind following a book that is likely to be delayed again and again until Cassaday is replaced or the title is cancelled, I'd say give it a chance.  That's a pretty backhanded recommendation, I realize, but really, the concept is here for a fun, entertaining comic book.  I just wish it was drawn by someone who can stick to a schedule.

Story 4 Art 3.5

X-Men Legacy #2
Writer: Si Spurrier
Artist: Tan Eng Huat

X-Men Legacy is a comic that I don't even want to talk about, because I don't want to spoil what's inside for anyone.  What can I tell you to expect without going into detail.  Well for one thing: X-Men Legacy is weird.  Weird in the best way.  It's weird in a way that will open doors to other ways of thinking.  You'll think: "I never thought about my own mind like that before, thank you Si Spurrier, for making me think about my own mind again."  Superhero books don't normally go in for complexities: thematically, linguistically, or emotionally.  X-Men Legacy is all about the messy complexities.  It embeds manifestos within dialogue, cloaks raw emotions and psychology within weird fiction, and it unsettles the way you read, by forcing you to read in Scots dialect, which no comic has successfully done in ages as far as I'm concerned.

People often like to talk about how they "only read the books that matter."  I understand this sentiment while I disagree with it vehemently.  The stories that matter are the stories that should have some greater meaning, convey some deeper emotion or theme, and maybe tell us something about what it means to be human.

X-Men Legacy is a vital addition to Marvel's lineup, and an argument for it's continued relevance in spite of increased corporatization and the increasing homogenization of their product line.

Story 4.5 Art 4

All New X-Men #2
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stuart Immonen

I have had a love/hate relationship with Bendis for years.  I've loved Alias, The Pulse, Powers, Ultimate Spider-Man, and his early runs on Avengers/New Avengers, and I've hated his Moon Knight, and later runs on Avengers/New Avengers.  I was completely prepared to hate his take on the X-Men.  I had no intention of even buying this issue after the lackluster debut.  I would have been so wrong.

All New X-Men #2 is the proper debut of Bendis' all-new direction for Marvel's mutants, and it is a great start to what I'm optimistic will be a very interesting year for the X-Men.  In another writer's hands, this hackneyed plot of Back to the Future style time-travel would fall completely flat, but Bendis plays it all up for big emotional payoffs and fantastic dialogue.  Every one of the original five X-Men has a great moment, and their encounter with both the realization of their future selves as well as their increasing understanding of the future itself is beautifully realized.  I would never have thought that Bendis would make a great writer for the X-Men, but here he is, in all his Claremontian glory.

This is another book that I  really don't want to spoil for any potential new readers, which might seem like a lazy and impotent gesture when you can just go to any number of more popular blogs to spoil it for yourself, but let me just say this:  this was the best book I read this month.  If you ever loved the X-Men, and have been wanting the opportunity to start over with the mutants.  NOW is your chance.

Story 5 Art 5

Friday, November 23, 2012

Journey Into Mystery #646: "Stronger Than Monsters"

Journey Into Mystery #646
"Stronger than Monsters (1 of 5)"
Writer: Kathryn Immonen
Artist: Valerio Schiti
Color Artist: Jordie Bellaire

This review begins with a bit of a disclaimer: I don't really know anything about The Lady Sif, outside of her role in last year's Thor movie.  I've never really been much of a fan of Thor or the Asgardians until recently, and so I'm coming into this series as a complete newbie to the character of Sif and her world.  I'm happy to say that this didn't affect my enjoyment of this issue at all.

Journey Into Mystery #646 begins in media res, as Sif rescues one of Volstagg's sons from Asgard's library, set on fire by the demons of Surtur.  Sif explains to the mother of the boy that she's tired of constantly fighting battles after they occur, and this inspires her to seek out a power that can help her destroy her enemies before they attack.  Sif remembers the legend of the berserkers, and travels throughout the realms to find someone who can teach her the secret of the berserkers.  By the end of the issue though, it seems that Sif has received more than she bargained for.

I really enjoyed the first issue of this new arc.  Despite not knowing anything about Sif, I became invested and interested in her story.  High-fantasy can become cheesy if not handled well, but Immonen's writing contains enough modern self-awareness to balance out all the flowery speech of the Asgardians.  Speaking of which, there is a lot of text in this book.  If you find yourself constantly complaining about decompression in modern comics, this is the book for you.  There is tons of dialogue and narrative captions throughout this issue, and though it took some time to get through, it never felt overly cumbersome or threw off the pace of the issue.

Valerio Schiti's art was also very good, reminding me somewhat of Cliff Chiang's work on Wonder Woman.    Again, Schiti's art maintains this great balance between the Marvel fantasy style and a pop-art sensibility, brought out in these pages by Jordie Bellaire's bright colour work. I hope this art team decides to stay throughout the entire first arc, because after a first issue this good, I'd hate to see it drop in quality.

If you're on the fence about Journey into Mystery, or you're an Midgardian noob like me, give it a look.

Story 4 
Art 4

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Deadpool #2: "We Fought A Zoo"

Deadpool #2
"We Fought A Zoo"
Writers: Brian Posehn & Gerry Duggan
Artist: Tony Moore
Colours: Val Staples
Cover Artists: Geof Darrow and Peter Doherty

When Marvel NOW first announced a new Deadpool series, I was not interested. Deadpool has been more or less off-my-radar entirely ever since Daniel Way took over his title, and it wasn't until I found out that one of my favorite comedians, Brian Posehn, would be taking over the book with co-writer Gerry Duggan (Infinite Horizon), and that Tony Moore was going to be the artist.

"SOLD!" I said, as I slapped my money down on the counter at Comic Readers (lie: I paid with debit), and nearly pissed myself from laughing so hard as Deadpool slaughtered his way through two U.S. presidents (including a wheelchair-bound FDR) and a giant Godzilla-alike (with Mothra sized nipples).

The second issue of this series continues the chest-bursting (or was that "gut-busting?") one-liners from last issue, but the visual gags and excellent artwork by Moore really make Deadpool great sequential art.  It's one thing to tell a good joke in a word balloon, but the comedy in both the art and writing puts this on the level of MAD Magazine.

Comedy isn't often a respected genre in comics, and Deadpool isn't exactly a respected character either (I mean, he's a Deathstroke ripoff created by Rob Liefeld, fer cryin' out loud), but this is just a fantastic comic book. I'm dead serious.  Deadpool is exciting to look at, and a blast to read.

Story: 4 
Art: 5 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Christian's Week in Comics 11/14/12: Saga, Thor, Bloodshot and more!

OK.  Holy hell did I ever buy a bloody lot of comics today.  Right.  So instead of doing three or four mini-reviews in my "Week of Comics" thingy, I'm going to try and keep my thoughts on each book to a minimum, and assign a little number rating out of five (people apparently like numbers- I am allergic to mathematics).  Alright, enough with the preamble!

Batman #14
"Funny Bones"
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo

I'm just going to say it right now, this is the best Joker story in years.  Snyder and Capullo have stepped out of the shadow of Heath Ledger and a delivered a chilling new version of the Man Who Laughs that has more in common with Freddy Krueger than any former incarnation of the Clown Prince of Crime.

This isn't an issue you want spoiled, so go to Comixology or your local comic shop and read it for yourself, or else the Joker is going to keep hitting Alfred Pennyworth with his hammer, and God only knows what he's done to Alfred's eyes.   Story: 5 Art: 5

X-Men Legacy #1
Writer: Si Spurrier
Artist: Tan Eng Huat

People (if they can be so generously described as "people") like to complain a lot about how the Big Two never take risks, and then proceed to not support the books that Marvel and DC publish that challenge this preconception.  I hope I am wrong, because X-Men Legacy is one of the riskiest damn books Marvel could have decided to publish as part of its Marvel NOW event.

For starters, it's a book by a relatively unknown writer from the UK, Si Spurrier, drawn by another unknown artist, Tan Eng Huat, and stars David Haller, a mentally ill mutant with a serious case of disassociative identity disorder otherwise known as Legion.  It's also as mad as Spider Jerusalem's acid flashbacks.  Although careful readers will be able to make sense of what's going on inside and outside of Legion's crazed head, Spurrier and Huat seem determined to blur the lines between reality and the Qortex Complex, the brain-jail where Haller has locked up all the deviant psycho-personalities lurking in his skull.

This is a great book for new readers to get into, and if you find yourself pining away for the days when crazed men from across the pond like Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison used to scribe for Marvel, this is the X-book for you. Story: 4 Art: 3.5

Saga #7
"Chapter Seven"
Writer: Brian K. Vaughn
Artist: Fiona Staples

Ah, can you feel that? It's the collective sigh of relief from thousands of readers who can finally breathe easy because the greatest comic being published right now is back from its three-month hiatus. Yes, Saga is back, and despite the break, this book hasn't missed a step.  Picking right up from where issue #6 left off, Marko's parents have arrived and are not very pleased with his choice of life partner.  After a masterful look into the war-torn past of Marko's father, which really serves the anti-war metaphor that underlies the entire book, Vaughn and Staples split the parents up with the newlyweds, leading to some great moments between characters.

I'll admit I was little worried when Saga first went on hiatus, but now that it's back, I realize I had nothing to fear. If you haven't read the first 6 issues of Saga yet, you'll need to pick up the first trade before jumping on with this arc.

Also: giant swollen alien testicles.    Story: 5 Art: 5

Bloodshot #5
"The Rise and Fall Part 1"
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Artists: Manuel Garcia Arturo Lozzi

Bloodshot is not everyone's cup of tea.  I get that.  It's full of blood and nastiness and mixes its hard military SF with real sociopolitical overtones that can be hard to swallow.  But me, I like my tea bitter (which is kind of apt, since if Bloodshot were a tea, he'd be Earl bloody Grey). This issue finds Bloodshot storming the secret base of Project Rising Spirit, but finds more than he bargained for in the special ops nightmare that is Chainsaw: an early project of PRS' that also attempted to fuse human beings with sharp cybernetic objects.

I love Wolverine and The Punisher, but it seems absolutely redundant reading those books in a world where Bloodshot exists.  Here, you get the best of both worlds.  Bloodshot is basically an indestructible cybernetic Punisher with a head full of secrets that would make Julian Assagne blush.  If brutal, bloody action and modern day military SF sounds like your thing, read this book. Even though this is #5, the helpful back matter on the first page of the book will fill you in on everything you need to know about the series going into this new arc.  Valiant has been doing a great job of making each issue friendly to new readers, and Bloodshot #5 is no exception to that. Story: 4 Art: 3

Thor: God of Thunder #1
The God Butcher, Part One of Five, "A World Without Gods"
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Esad Ribic

Thor is a character who I've always liked as an Avenger, but haven't been interested in reading in his own book.  This changed when I saw preview pages of Esad Ribic's interiors for this new series.  The painterly quality of Ribic's art seems like it was transported out of the pages of some forgotten issue of Heavy Metal and into my Marvel comic, and I absolutely love it.  Sometimes art drawn in this fashion doesn't work as well sequentially, but Ribic's strength as a visual storyteller shines here. He and Aaron make an excellent pair, as Ribic's visuals compliment Aaron's story of Thor across three time periods.  The mood of this story is foreboding, and often eerie. Thor's anger and confusion when he arrives at the atheist planet is palpable, and his dismay when he finds the butchered corpses of the Sky Lords fills the comic with a overwhelming sense of dread and despair.  Epic is a word that gets tossed around quite loosely in geek culture, but in the case of this story, it thoroughly applies.  If I had to pick a favorite moment, it was when the old God-King Thor (heretofore known as O.G. Thor) asks for someone to bring him his metal arm, only to remember that all his servants are dead. Story: 4.5 Art: 5

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Shadowman #1 Review on's "Pick of the Week" podcast

Hey gang, Christian here.

I'm an occasional poster on and a longtime listener of their "Pick of the Week" podcast.  This week, I was lucky to have been selected by the iFanboy crew, who read a short review of Shadowman #1 I wrote on this week's podcast.

If you're not already a listener of the podcast, give it a shot.  It's like listening to a bunch of your friends sit around and talk about their favorite comics.  Also check out their "Don't Miss" podcast, where they talk to a comics creator about an upcoming book that you, well, shouldn't miss.  For example, last week they talked to Joshua Hale Fialkov about the surprisingly excellent Masters of the Universe: The Origin of Skeletor #1.

They're both great shows and I look forward to them every week.

Side note #1: I've learned something after listening to someone else read my review. I definitely need to make my sentences shorter and less wordy. I got the feeling that my long run-on sentences were a little hard to process.

Side note #2: I imagine our readers are a colorful gang of rogues, kind of like The Warriors.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thought Bubble Anthology: 2012 Edition

The Leeds Comic Art Festival Anthology 2012: Thought Bubble
November 2012

Once again, the cover caught me!  For those of you who don't know me, I'm writing my MA thesis on fairy tales right now and I have had a thing for the Little Red Riding Hood story lately.  You can read about that on my other blog: "Must I Write?"

The next thing I noticed was that this anthology contains stories from Kate Beaton, of Hark, A Vagrant (hilarious, and one of Christian's favorites) and Gail Simone (current writer of Batgirl).  So, I was curious and I picked it up.

There are some real gems in here.  Steve Reynolds tells a poignant but funny story about his dad's floating ear, Dave Johnson tells the hilarious story about how he met Bob Layton, and Gail Simone's depiction of a comic book store in the Victorian(?) period selling comics called "Bat Gentleman" and "Lady Wonder" is awesome.

But, I have to say that I had two big favorites: the first was Kristyna Baczynski's "Due Returns" and the second was Ivan Brandon's "I'm Through."  Apparently I also have a thing for portal stories.

Totally worth the $4!

Colder #1: "Like Lemons Frozen in Kerosene"

Colder #1 (of 5)
Writer: Paul Tobin
Artist: Juan Ferreyra
Letters: Nate Piekos
November 8, 2012
Dark Horse

This is not the kind of comic I normally pick up.  This is the kind of comic I look at from a distance and still have nightmares about later.  But instead, I picked it up and showed it to Christian:

"Look! What a creepy cover!"


"Oh my god! His finger is in his eye! Ew! I didn't see that!"  *puts comic back on shelf hurriedly, stares at it* ...*pick it back up, flips through* ...."Ok, I'm getting this one."

So, it was the art that sold me on this issue initially.  It made me think of Locke and Key, Stephen King stories, and Hellboy all in one.  The characters pop off the page and suck you into their world--particularly the villain--Nimble Jack.  You have to check out more of the art on Paul Tobin's blog: Every time I see the cover, I get that uncomfortable feeling at the back of my neck.  Also, the color leaking out of the panels during the murder of a prisoner by Nimble Jack is brilliant.

Even though I was drawn to the art right away, I had no idea that the writing itself was going to be incredibly reminiscent of Joe Hill's Locke and Key, and I love Locke and Key. Colder has just the right mix of contemporary life (people videotaping Reece's mugging, rather than helping) and supernatural occurrences (Nimble Jack stepping out of a portal into an asylum).

Also, good on Reece for not going down without a fight!  She's feisty, and I hope that carries on into the rest of Colder.  She won't be such an easy victim for whatever's coming her way.

My only nitpick is that it seemed a bit strange for Reece to open up so much to the police officer.  I understand that it was a good plot device to explain to us why she has this blue dude in her apartment but it was a little too obvious about being a device.  Also, was the cop flirting with Reece? It was just an odd conversation, even though I was totally absorbed by the mystery of Declan.

By the time I reached the last few pages of this issue, I knew I was going to have to keep following the next four issues in order to get some answers.  Like, what is it that Nimble Jack smells on Reece?  Something that smells like "lemons frozen in kerosene! Forty degrees below zero! Forty steps beneath the basement! Forty winks!" (the poet in me really liked those lines).  What did Nimble Jack do to Declan?  What are Declan and Reece going to talk about?  Is there more to Reece than meets the eye?

If you're a fan of horror comics, you need to follow this series.  I went into Comic Readers yesterday expecting not to find anything new to follow and boy, was I wrong.  I'll be picking up the next four issues of Colder!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What We're Reading: 11/06/12

So you might have noticed that it's been awhile since Courtney has posted anything on this site.  She still intends to write for the blog, but unfortunately, she and I have both been really busy as of late.  She just returned from the Sirens Conference a few weeks ago, and has been playing catch-up ever since. You can read about her experiences at the Sirens Conference here.

As I've probably said a dozen times before now, graduate school is just leaving us both feeling mind-wiped as we're working on our thesis projects.  We barely have enough energy at the end of the day to read our comics, let alone write about them afterwards.  She hopes to do more writing here in the future, and I'm not going to stop encouraging her to do so, but don't expect her to post regularly until the semester is over.

In any event, even if we're not going to review all of them, here's what we're looking forward to reading this month:
  • Animal Man #14 (DC)
  • Archer & Armstrong #4 (Valiant)
  • Batgirl #14 (DC)
  • Bloodshot #5 (Valiant)
  • Captain America #1 (Marvel)
  • Colder #1 (Dark Horse)
  • Deadpool #1 (Marvel)
  • Dial H #5 (DC)
  • Earth 2 #6 (DC)
  • Harbinger #6 (Valiant)
  • Hit-Girl #5 (Icon)
  • Masters of the Universe: The Origin of Skeletor #1 (DC)
  • Prophet #32 (Image)
  • Saga #7 (Image)
  • Shadowman #1 (Valiant)
  • The Secret Service #5 (Icon)
  • Swamp Thing #14 (DC)
  • Thor: God of Thunder #1 & #2 (Marvel)
  • Uncanny Avengers #2 (Marvel)
  • Wonder Woman  #14 (DC)
  • World's Finest #6 (DC)
  • X-O Manowar #7 (Valiant)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Review: Shadowman #1

Shadowman #1

Writers: Justin Jordan & Patrick Zircher
Artist: Patrick Zircher

Shadowman on the N64 was one of my favorite video games when I was a kid.  I've always had a thing for dark, supernatural characters, probably stemming from my love of Morbius the Living Vampire and of course, Spawn, who everyone was a fan of in the early-to-mid nineties.  The funny thing is though, I didn't even know Shadowman was a comic book character. The only Valiant titles I was aware of at the time were Harbinger, X-O Manowar, Solar: Man of the Atom,  Magnus Robot Fighter, and those Nintendo comics they used to publish.  It wasn't until I was in my early twenties when I discovered that one of my favorite writers, Garth Ennis, had written four-issues of Shadowman, that I became interested in the character.  I've since gone back and read much of the original Shadowman series, and I can definitely say that I am a fan.  As soon as the relaunch was announced, I've been anticipating the release of Shadowman #1 from co-writers Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher, with art from Zircher as well.

Shadowman #1 begins with a very strong opening scene.  It establishes several things that will become important to the series going forward (the Shadowman legacy, the villain, Master Darque, the threat of Deadside), but it's just a fantastic scene in its own right.  It is easy to see why Valiant chose to preview these pages, as they are just breathtakingly well-illustrated.  The first five pages of this comic are probably the best five pages you're going to see this week, if not this month.

After the initial scene, we meet Jack Boniface, and here is where I need to balance my expectations as a fan of the original incarnation of the character to this new version.  The original Jack Boniface was a jazz musician, and as such, he was a wild, unpredictable character who improvised his way through every situation.  That being said, in the original series we never really got to know much Jack very well, and he remained somewhat of a cipher throughout the series.

Shadowman #1 changes things as this all-new version of Jack is a self-described Jack-of-all-trades.  He never holds down a job for very long, we're told, and he's currently working in a museum that houses Voodoo artifacts.  The real depth of Jack's character though, is in his desire to know the truth about his parents.  It was this aspect of Jack's character that made me interested in his story.  Not only because it gave the book some basic human drama, but it brought forward the concept of Shadowman as a legacy or mantle that has been passed down through generations, something that hasn't really been effectively done in comics since James Robinson's Starman.

Jack was orphaned long ago, and the only memento he has to remember either of his parents by is an unusual pendant we see his father Josiah give his mother in the introductory scene.  This pendant is clearly going to be important, as later in this issue, Jack throws it into the ocean, prompting the Voodoo powers-that-be to seek him out again and reclaim his body for the Shadowman.  

We're also introduced in this issue to the major villain of the first-arc, Mr. Twist, a demonic entity composed of miscellaneous organs, teeth, and muscle tissue.  After reading the last thirteen or so issues of Jeff Lemire's Animal Man, I've become pretty desensitized to this kind of gruesome bio-horror, but Jordan and Zircher give Mr. Twist enough personality to make him stand out from The Rot in Animal Man and Swamp Thing.  As an introductory villain, Twist's a nasty looking, but impressively rendered character.  I'm just hoping Jordan and Zircher don't drag his story out for fourteen or so issues, and that we see some other villains in the coming issues that are as freakish and well-drawn as Mr. Twist.

This issue took a second read to really grow on me. On first reading it, I felt a little underwhelmed by Shadowman #1, but understood that was probably because I've been so inundated with preview material since the title was announced that at least a quarter of this book was spoiled for me.  Reading it a second time though, there is a lot to admire in this first issue.  It introduces the hero, gives us some of his backstory while teasing us with the mystery of his origins, and introduces the primary and secondary antagonists, and that's not even mentioning Zircher's excellent artwork.

The only thing that stuck out to me as strange about this first issue was the last page, when Boniface shouts, "I AM SHADOWMAN!"  It was cliched, hokey, and over-the-top. And besides, when did he decide to call himself Shadowman?  And why?  My guess is that is what the spirit who has possessed Boniface calls itself, but it was a little silly and tonally stood out from the rest of the issue.

Shadowman #1 has pretty much everything you could want in a first issue of a new ongoing series.  If you've never heard of the character before, only remember him from the N64 and PS2 games, or if you're a longtime fan of the character, I recommend you pick this up, especially if you've been looking for a new title that mixes action-adventure with supernatural horror. This is a new beginning for Shadowman in the new era of Valiant Comics, and if you're reading this blog, you've got no reason not to check it out.