Sunday, August 28, 2016

These are some of the Marvel collections I've read lately:

All-New Wolverine Vol. 1: The Four Sisters: Thor is a white woman now. Captain America is a black man. The Hulk is a still a big green guy, but now he's a Korean-American teenager when he's de-Hulked. Spider-Man is still a white guy, but there's also a second Spider-Man, who is a half-black, half-Latino teenager (and there are, like, three female Spider-People, each starring in their own comic book series). Pretty soon, Iron Man is going to be a black teenage girl.

While one could argue the merits of the particular method for increasing the diversity of Marvel's heroes–I've personally never thought that simply handing the codenames and costumes of middle-aged white guys to black characters, for example, was the best way to go about creating compelling superheroes of color–but Marvel Comics has clearly been devoted to creating a line-up of heroes far more reflective of the world we live in today, rather than the world of 1960s pop culture, from which all these characters originally sprang (or re-sprang, in Cap's case). As far as I've been able to tell, it's all worked pretty well so far, in large part because so many of those comics have been so good.

The one example of this diversification-through-legacy trend I personally was the most ambivalent about, however, was that of turning Wolverine into a teenage girl.

Marvel killed/"killed" Wolverine quite a while ago, in a sort of temporary death that seems way too easy to come back from to create even the illusion of semi-permanence (He lost his healing factor, and then was encased in molten adamantium, which cooled around him, not unlike a fly in amber. It doesn't take much imagination to think of ways to get him out of that situation and back into circulation when it becomes desirable to do so).

Wolverine may have been popular, but he wasn't the sort of hero who played a big, symbolic role within the Marvel Universe (like Captain America), nor did he have a particular job that couldn't be left vacant (like Doctor Strange, The Sorcerer Supreme), nor did he have a particular turf that needed the protection of a particular superhero (like Daredevil or Spider-Man). In other words, Wolverine is not a character that anyone would need to replace for any reason upon his death.

Marvel replaced him with two Wolverines, though. The first is an alternate universe version of himself from the pages of Old Man Logan, who, given the fact that Wolverine is already an immortal character, is basically just Wolverine with different hair. And then they made Laura Kinney, Wolverine's clone with the always lame codename X-23, Wolverine, giving her Wolvie's blue-and-yellow X-Men costume.

In the broadest sense, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense in-universe, and I don't think there was a very convincing rationale ever offered in-story, although in terms of marketing it makes perfect sense. It gives Marvel a literally "all-new" Wolverine to star in All-New Wolverine, it finally gives Laura a superhero name rather than a number (Sorry anyone who was hoping she would eventually take the name Wolverine Girl or Wolverina) and it makes for an interesting juxtaposition with the time-lost, teenage X-Men that Brian Michael Bendis introduced to the modern Marvel Universe during his All-New X-Men/Uncanny X-Men run (Laura appears alongside most of them in the pages of the rebooted second volume of All-New X-Men).

All that said, and given my general apathy towards Marvel's mutants (surpassed only by my apathy for its Inhumans), I was prepared to skip this series entirely–until my friend pretty much insisted that I read it, as it was such a great comic book and, in her words, maybe her favorite comic book of the moment (Of course, she doesn't read Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe, the actual greatest comic book of the moment*).

So writer Tom Taylor is teamed with artists David Lopez and David Navarrot (with Nathan Fairbain on colors) and tasked with turning X-teen X-23 into the new legacy version of Wolverine. The first six issues comprise a rather tidy single story arc, with just the last two pages of cliffhanger providing any kind of loose end. Tear that page out of the trade, and this reads like a complete graphic novel.

Taylor wisely makes this story more about Laura's past than Logan's, and our first, issue-length adventure features her attempts to take down an assassin in Paris, debuting her new Wolverine costume and getting an assist from fellow All-New X-Men and boyfriend Angel (the teenage one from the past, now with fire wings, not the grown-up version who...actually, I lost track of him again. Sorry).

It's a pretty great issue–although it would have annoyed the fuck out of me if I paid $4 for an action scene and had to wait a month for the next scene–detailing Laura's common powers with all-old Wolverine and a major thing that will separate them. This Wolverine, though built to be a weapon just like the original, won't kill. As a hallucination of her clone-daddy tells her, "You're the best there is at what you do...but that doesn't mean you have to do it." It also illustrates the thing that makes the book a worthwhile read: Its sense of humor (The scene where Angel expresses his relief that Laura did not die was pretty priceless, and the point at which I felt the book hook me).
The assassin, it turns out, is a clone of Laura...of sorts. She was part of a series of Laura clones, all of whom look like her, and all of whom were trained to be killers like her, but none of whom have the claws and healing factor. They've also got a fast-approaching expiration date, and they've formed a sort of terrorist cell to lash out at the world before they go.

Meanwhile, the shady company that created them, Alchemax, wants them back, and they want Laura's help in doing so. Naturally, she's torn, but agrees to help, seeing as how her clone sisters are a terrorist cell assassinating folks now.

The rest of the volume then is concerned with Laura's attempts to find and save her sisters, and her trying to figure out who the worse of the two groups of bad guys are, and which she should throw in with. Spoiler alert: She sides with the clones, who have been through the same horrible stuff she has but want to fight back in a proportion greater than that which Laura does at this point in her life.

In a sense, it's almost a cliche sort of Wolverine story, despite the fact that this Wolverine isn't the old one, but Laura's struggles to be better than the weapon she was made to be, than the weapon she's been and than the weapon Wolverine himself all-too willingly was, gives this a somewhat different spin. As does its sense of humor, much of which comes from the very welcome (if early) guest-star appearance of first Dr. Strange and then The Wasp. And the near-constant presence of Gabby, the youngest and most innocent of Laura's clone sisters, who is to this book as Molly was to Runaways. (Taskmaster also makes an appearance, and I've gotta call bullshit on how thoroughly and how quickly Laura kicks his ass. I'll buy his inability to see the foot-claw coming, but the rest? I guess we'll just put that down to Laura having home-book well as being a hero fighting a villain).

On the subject of foot-claws, one of the many things I never really liked about the character was that in what seemed to be a rather random differentiation from Logan, she had two rather than three hand claws, and one claw in each of her feet (Similarly, Wolverine's biological son Daken, who I have also lost track of, had two claws in each of his hands, and one in each of his wrists.)
Taylor and company rather consistently make good use of those foot claws throughout, essentially retroactively justifying the character's original design. If you have a super-power, however weird it might seem, than you have to use that super-power pretty regularly, and it has to make sense within that story. In fact, I'm pretty sure Anton Chekov wrote something about foot-claws once...

Captain America: Sam Wilson–Not My Captain America: Remember the last collection Marvel released featuring the newer, Sam Wilson version of the character? The entire six-issue, 2015 run by Rick Remender, Stuart Immonen and company? (Sure you do; we talked about it right here fairly recently.)

Well, you can go ahead and forget about it. That "ongoing" was canceled with the rest of Marvel's line for a few months last year as part of Secret Wars, and then came back with a new number #1 issue–and, in this case, a new creative team, new title and new direction–and is all but ignoring the last comic featuring this character with a big "1" on the spine.

It's not that writer Nick Spencer is contradicting or ignoring the events of Remender's run miniseries All-New Captain America, exactly. Former Falcon Sam Wilson is still the new Captain America. His avian partner Redwing is still ambiguously vampiric (just like Jubilee!). Sam is still working with Misty Knight. Rather, Spencer is ignoring the cliffhangers that Remender's All-New ended with.

Those cliffhangers? First, that Hydra had so thoroughly infiltrated the world that there was now a Hydra agent on every single superhero team. That's a fun idea, and could have had the makings of a fun crossover story, leaving fans to wonder which member of The X-Men, The New Avengers, The Pet Avengers, etc were secretly bad guys working for the Nazi analogues. The other? SHIELD told Sam that Misty Knight, who had claimed to be working for them throughout the entire story arc, was not an agent of SHIELD, implying that OMG she too might be Hydra!

It takes Spencer and Daniel Acuna, who draws the first three issues of the new series, all of two issues to set-up the new status quo which, to be fair, does have Wilson quitting his formal affiliation with SHIELD after they tied up all the Hydra business (Whatever Remender had been planning then seems to either happened off-panel in the months that passed between the end of All-New Captain America and the launch of Captain America: Sam Wilson, or Remender plans to go forward with it somewhere else at some point).

None of that is necessarily a bad thing, just a rather odd thing, and it further makes reading (certain) Marvel comics difficult. Like, Marvel's frequency of reboots have gotten to the point that it's quite possible for a book to leave an interested reader before the reader can even consider dropping the book.

All that said, I really rather liked Spencer's take on the character, which involves not only writing Sam Wilson as a very, very different Captain America, but one who doesn't really struggle with the legacy in a way that too few comics starring (let's face it, temporary) legacy characters ever do.

Spencer also rather boldly has his Captain America, and his Captain America comic book, wade into politics. At least, that seems like a pretty bold move considering Marvel's general reticence when it comes to publishing anything that can be seen as political, and thus offensive to some (I'm thinking especially of the scene in the first issue of Fear Itself in which writer Matt Fraction seemed to be discussing the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" nonsense without actually using any details, just enough to imply that he was writing about it).

Sure, Spencer is still somewhat coy about Sam's specific politics–he never uses the words liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican–but it's not too difficult to see where Wilson stands on many issues, and to figure out what those positions are in contrast to the people who are opposed to him, be they passersby, TV talking heads or villains.

There's a pretty great passage in which Sam narrates the hell out of the dawning realization that America was just as divided as ever, and that even though Steve Rogers may have stayed above the fray, that doesn't mean he has to: "If I really believed I could make a difference–If I really believed I could change some minds, do some good–then wasn't I obligated to try?"

And then there's this great transition from the last panel on one page to the first on another. In one panel, Sam is calling a press conference, and stands at a podium, saying "Good evening, I'm gonna read from a statement–"

And in the next, we see a bunch of headlines reacting to that statement, like "Cap Versus The Constitution?," "Sam Wilson: Captain Anti-America" and so on.

Of course, in other places, it's much more clear exactly what Sam might think about certain issues. His first case is busting The Serpent Society (The Marvel Universe's KKK stand-ins), who are attacking illegal immigrants trying to cross the southern border (although, this being a superhero comic, it's a little more complicated and weird than it at first seems). Later, the major villain of this first volume, a ruthless businessman literally dressed like a snake, expresses a bunch of Randian/Republican economic philosophy, culminating with "someone has to make America marvelous again–"

So yeah, not too subtle. And all the better for the (relative) lack of subtlety.

These six-issues basically constitute one big story arc, establishing the still new-ish Cap's new status quo.

Without SHIELD funding, he's set up shop with a small team that includes Misty Knight, former D-Man Dennis Dunphy (in a new, "cooler" costume with no mask, but a sweet beard; I liked the old look better, and with Wolverine dead and Wolverine II rocking the yellow and gold, this is the perfect time for Dunphy to bring back his Wolverine mask!), what appears to be another comic book analogue to the hacker group Anonymous (here it's The Whisperer**) and...Redwing, sometimes ("Redwing Approval Still Sky High At 93 Perecent" a headline shortly after the panel revealing all Cap's bad press assures us).

Not unlike what he was doing with Luke Cage's Mighty Avengers, this Cap is trying to be a little more of the people, and is fighting crime and injustice via hotline tips. The first takes him to Arizona, where he encounters the Sons of the Serpent.

Turns out they are working with a minor Marvel mad scientist who is splicing people with animal DNA, which will gradually bring about the new Falcon...and, awesomely enough, brings about the return of Capwolf. Even more awesomely, Sam Wilson temporarily being a werewolf is here treated like little more than if he had a head cold. It's nothing to angst about, it's nothing to even worry about, Sam Wilson is just randomly going to finish off the story arc as a giant werewolf, giving Misty something to make fun of him about for the remaining four issues of the book.
And it turns out the mad scientist is working for Serpent Solutions, snake-themed supervillain Viper's reconstitution of The Serpent Society as a slightly-more-evil-than-average corporate entity with a finger in everything, leading to plenty of fun visuals like Viper on the golf course, cartoon golf clothes on over his snake suit, and the line about how America needs someone to make it great marvelous again, "and I say I'm just the super villain in a snake suit to do it."

It is fantastic.

Spencer's script is funny, to the point that I would be tempted to call the book an outright comedy, but when compared to some of the other books Marvel is currently publishing (i.e. most of the rest of those in this post), it has more in common with their traditional fare. Rather, this is a superhero comic book with a sense of well as a rather unique point of view. It's Spencer's take on the Marvel Universe (previously seen in books like The Superior Foes of Spider-Man and Ant-Man/Astonishing Ant-Man), only here applied to one of the characters at the center of that universe.

The artwork is a bit of a step down from what Stuart Immonen was bringing to Sam Wilson's adventures in the previous Captain America comic. It takes four-to-five artists to draw just six issues; Acuna handling the first three (with a "with" credit on #3 going to Mike Choi), Paul Renaud draws #4 and #5 and Joe Bennett and Belardino Brabo pencil and ink the sixth issue.

Based on their past work, I'm not a huge fan of either Acuna or Bennett, but in both cases this is by far the best work I've seen from either. Surprisingly, it all kind of flows together remarkably well, too. I prefer a comic like this to have a single artist, with a strong "voice" that allows the artist to make the book as much theirs visually as the writer might make it theirs verbally. That's gotten harder and harder to find these days, and sometimes the best we can hope for is a single artist per arc. We don't really get that here either, but, like I said, everyone involved in drawing or coloring this book does a pretty remarkable job, and they all blend together better than expected.

I'd highly recommend this anyone who likes fun and/or funny superhero comics, regardless of how they might normally feel about Captain American and/or Sam Wilson.

Howard The Duck Vol. 1: Duck Hunt: Because Marvel just can't help but relaunch their books at an alarming frequency, the second collection of writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Joe Quinones' Howard The Duck comic is labeled "Volume 1." Whatever happened to Howard The Duck #1-#5, the first Howard The Duck #1-#5 of the Zdarsky/Quinones run, not the second Howard The Duck #1-#5, which also exist? They are in Howard The Duck Vol. 0: What the Duck. Wouldn't it be easier to label the first volume with "Vol. 1" and the second volume "Vol. 2"? Yes!

But if there's one thing that Marvel, as a publisher, is opposed to, it is the logical use of numbers. If there are two things they are opposed to, the other is making it easy for readers to find and enjoy their comic books.

And so welcome to the second collection of the Zdarsky/Quinones Howard The Duck comic, Howard The Duck Vol. 1.

I'm going to go lie down for a few minutes.


Okay, I'm back.

So it's eight months after the events of Secret Wars, and there are several changes in Howard's life, although Zdarsky and Quinones will explain those in the course of this volume. It opens "three months" ago, at the conclusion of the Howard The Duck/Unbeatable Squirrel Girl crossover, which is the last story in this collection.

Not feeling as fulfilled in his new life as a private investigator, even with the help of "Aunt" May Parker as his administrative assistant or Skrull-shape-shifted into a tattoo artist Tara as his friend, Howard decides to try and return to his own dimension. To do this, he consults with Doctor Strange (who really gets around, it seems) and then takes The Abundant Glove to The Nexus of All Realities in Man-Thing's Citrusville swamp.

Things...don't go well, as Howard and Tara encounter first The Wizard and Titania, and then female clones of Howard and Rocket Raccoon (made to be breeding partners for them by The Collector when he briefly had the pair of them in the previous collection) and then they all get involved in a big, weird, epic space adventure that ultimately includes The Silver Surfer, a would-be Herald of Galactus named Scout, Galactus himself, The Guardians of The Galaxy (now up one Thing and down one Peter Quill) and, of course, a fight with The Collector.

It's all as weird and wild as one might expect, especially since all of that takes only about four issues. As he proved so able of doing last issue, Zdarsky manages to fill just about every panel of every page with a joke, deeply embedding Howard in the Marvel Universe without ever really resorting to parody of the characters and the setting as the source of the humor. The Marvel Universe, particularly after so many decades of existence, is such a weird place that one need not make fun of it to find the humor in it. One need only have its characters observe that strangeness as they wander around in it.

Zdarsky also does a fine job of nailing Howard's particularly jaded voice, which makes the character a particularly good guide to the universe (And, as annoying as Marvel's renumbering practices are, Howard, like The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, at least observes that as well; Quinones' variant cover for the first issue replaces the new tag-line "Trapped In A World He's Grown Accustomed To", itself a riff on the original tag-line, with "Trapped In A Renumbering He Never Asked For!" A tiny little "Again" appears beneath the "#1").

Howard's attempt to get home, which takes he and Tara and their allies to a high-stakes battle in outer-space, is interrupted by a one-issue origin story of the new humanoid duck and raccoon characters, drawn by Vernoica Fish. Quinones draws the rest of the book...except for the Erica Henderson-drawn Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #6, which is included herein, as it is one half of the "Animal House" crossover between the two.

It should perhaps prove unsurprising that a crossover between two of Marvel's three best comics at the moment (Patsy Walker, obviously), is pretty great.

Howard is hired to find a missing cat, and since all cats look the same to him, he tries to abduct Nancy Whitehead's cat...but Nancy is the roommate of Doreen Green, AKA Squirrel Girl. Then Kraven the Hunter rolls up in the Kra-Van, tosses Howard in a sack and takes him to the estate of an eccentric, superhero memorabilia-collecting lady who would like to hunt "the most dangerous game."

But since hunting people is illegal, she's decided to hunt potentially-dangerous game that falls into a legal gray area, like people-ish animals or animal-ish people. So when Squirrel Girl goes to rescue Howard, she finds him imprisoned alongside Rocket Raccoon, Beast of the X-Men, a not-even-disguised version of the cat from Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's We3 and Weapon II, which is basically Wolverine, if Wolverine were a talking squirrel rather than a mutant (He's got the little Barry Windsor-Smith eye-piece and wires and everything).

Squirrel Girl and Kraven find themselves in the hunt as well, and it is awesome. There's so many great things in this, but probably my favorite part is the gag on the last page, which comes after Kraven has decided to re-think his life, and becomes a hunter-of-hunters. It sure seems easier than hunting Spider-Man!

The crossover spans an issue of each of the titles, and they are each done by their respective creative teams. It's pretty damn weird to see someone other than Henderson drawing Squirrel Girl these days, since her version of the character is so incredibly distinct (especially compared to the Barbie doll figured-version of the older Great Lakes Avengers comics), but I enjoyed seeing the characters in the hands of the other creative teams and, especially, seeing Zdarsky trying to do those weird "alt-text" style jokes that Unbeatable Squirrel Girl writer Ryan North does in his book.

As I read both Howard and Squirrel Girl in trade, I guess that means I'll be paying for the same content twice, but heck, at least the content is good content.

Ms. Marvel Vol. 5: Super Famous: Good news! While Marvel may have idiotically rebooted the Ms. Marvel ongoing after Secret Wars despite the fact that nothing at all about the creative team, the cast or direction of the book had changed, when it came time to collect the second issues of Ms. Marvel numbered 1-6, they kept the number of the collections, meaning that Ms. Marvel's sizable collection-reading audience need not do the mental gymnastic required of readers of, say, Mark Waid's run on Daredevil. Huzzah!

This volume picks up months after the end of Secret Wars, as each of the post-Secret Wars books did. There were two big changes in Kamala Khan's life during that time, one of which took up so much of her time and mental energy that she barely noticed the other. That first is that she joined the Avengers (the All-New, All-Different squad, which was and still is the flagship team at the moment), while the other is that her best friend-with-an-unrequited crush on her went ahead and fell in love with a classmate. That Bruno now had a girlfriend is something that Kamala was literally the last person to know about, which is a neat, somewhat sly way to handle the time-jump Marvel's books were all forced to incorporate, and of illustrating the confused world of teenage relationships (Despite having rebuffed him and all but encouraged him to find someone else, Kamala is nevertheless hurt, annoyed and confused that Bruno actually went ahead and did just that).

These six issues, drawn by regular artists Takeshi Miyazawa and Adrian Alphona, plus Nico Leon, roughly divide into two storylines. In the first, drawn by Miyazawa and Alphona, we are introduced to Kamala's new, Avenging status quo (Tony drops her off at her house after missions, and gives her advice on her physics homework) and her slow-dawning realization that Bruno has a new girlfriend. Meanwhile, she fights the forces of gentrification–quite literally, since this particular case of gentrification includes mind-control and is being carried out by a villainous organization (G. Willow Wilson does a pretty great job on this story, making the driving conflict that is at once both a real-world concern and a silly supervillain plot, in the best tradition of old-school "relevant" comics).

In the second, Kamala gets still more obligations when her older brother seeks to marry, and she decides the best way to try and be in several places at once is to 3D printer clones of herself. It obviously goes completely wrong, but in a rather amusing fashion that can only be sorted out by the intervention of her hero Carol Danvers and a hug from Iron Man. In this story, Wilson gets to simultaneously work Kamala's family dramedy with superhero shenanigans about as hard as she has yet during her run on the title (Er, including the previous volume, not just the first six issues of the new volume).

The artwork is a little more all over the place than I'd like, but all three artists are really great ones. And color artist Ian Herring, who handles all six issues, does as good a job as possible of making it look as if all of the pages herein belong together. I most enjoyed Miyazawa's contributions. Not only do we get to see him draw the whole All-New, All-Different Avengers line-up in his particular style, but he does a fine job of presenting a frazzled Kamala visually; her hair is a mess throughout the first issue, and she looks delightfully out of it.

Leon, however, probably gets the most fun bits, as it's that second half of the book devoted to Kamala's ever-increasing number of dim-witted, barely functioning clones, all of which are drawn with an emoticon-simple expression, gifted with a word or two of vocabulary, and subject to horrifyingly melt at the most inopportune times.

Marvel's got so many high-quality funny books these days, but Wilson and company's is perhaps the best of those that keeps one foot in the serious supehero genre. Ms. Marvel is the Spider-Man of the 21st Century. Which I'm fairly certain I've said about at least one other super-character before, but unlike that character, Ms. Marvel is a Marvel character. So maybe I should say instead that "Ms. Marvel is the publisher's Spider-Man for the 21st Century."

Whatever. It's fun, it's funny, it's melodramatic, it takes superheroics more seriously than the publisher's outright comedic titles, it's always well-drawn–it's pretty much exactly what one would want from a superhero comic book.

Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat! Vol.1: Hooked on a Feline: I think a great deal of the delight I took in this comic book came from the fact that unlike every other book on this list, I had no idea what to suspect from it. I wasn't familiar with the work of either writer Kate Leth or artist Brittney Williams, and while I liked Hellcat because of her weird, real-world origin and her association with various Marvel characters I've liked over the years (Son of Satan, The Defenders and She-Hulk, whose last title she was featured in), the last Hellcat comic I read was the baffling Kathryn Immonen miniseries.

As it turns out, Leth is a hilarious writer, who packs the book with jokes broad and subtle, and takes the same approach to Marvel Univers humor that Chip Zdarsky takes in Howard The Duck. As I said above, the setting is so weird that it's pretty much inherently hilarious; one need only frame it correctly to mine it for comedy. And mine Leth does.

And as for Williams, she is an amazing artist, her style looking akin to a compromise between those of Erica Henderson and Gurihiru, retaining flexibility to be tweaked in either direction as needed, so that the characters can occasionally become even more cute than they are usually designed, or even slip into super-deformity.

And as for Hellcat? Leth incorporates her real-world origin as the star of a pre-Marvel, Archie-like teen gag comic into the present storyline, incorporating characters from those comics into this one (Her rival Hedy Wolfe has control of those comics, and is re-publishing them to great financial success, which Patsy is unable to share in; in a perfect world, Marvel too would be doing so, or at least publishing a story per issue as a back-up, just as Archie Comics has been doing in their rebooted line). The story picks up right where we last saw her, working as a freelance P.I. for She-Hulk's firm...until she's not.

She has a business plan, though, a sort of staffing agency for super-powered people who don't want to use their powers to either fight or commit crime, but, in the meantime, she takes a series of low-paying jobs that she is terribly suited for. Meanwhile, an obscure Asgardian villain is in town, and it's up to Patsy to take her down.

While she reconnects with old friends and makes new ones, She-Hulk, Valkyrie, Doctor Strange (him again!), Howard The Duck and Tara all guest-star, and a bunch of supeheroines put in cameos when Patsy invites them to lunch.

That accounts for the first five issues. The sixth and final one collected here is a done-in-one drawn and colored by Natasha Allegri, who has a perfectly darling, manga-inspired style that makes everyone look simultaneously completely adorable and like they are from modern fan art from some lost 1970s children's cartoon from Japan no one's ever heard of.

In that story, Patsy and her new friends cajole She-Hulk into joining them for a day off at Coney Island, where they run afoul of Arcade, and must best him in various deadly amusement games or forfeit their lives. As darling as Allegri's Pasty and company might be, it's her Arcade and her Jessica Jones that are really mind-bending, given the fact that those aren't characters anyone ever sees in a style anything like this. Also, She-Hulk reverts to her Jen form, which...I can't actually remember the last time I saw her not Hulked out.

The only thing wrong with these first six issues? Williams' cover for the sixth showed Hercules on a float in The Mermaid Parade, and yet Herc is nowhere to be found in the interiors. Something to work into future issues, ladies.

And speaking of covers, the variants filling up the final pages of this collection include variants by some of my favorite artists: Sophe Campbell, Erica Henderson, George Perez, Marguerite Sauvage and Kevin Wada.

If you're a fan of any of the books covered in this post and haven't read Patsy Walker yet, please do so. You'll love it.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 3: Squirrel, You Really Got Me Now: Despite the cover of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 (Vol. 2), which Marvel also used for the cover of this particular collection of the series, The Avengers team that dominates so much of it don't really appear within the book much.

Squirrel Girl may (rather incongruously) be part of Robert Da Costa's A.I.M./Avengers merger team (the one appearing in New Avengers at the moment), but that is really only acknowledged at the end of the first issue herein, in which Dorreen takes her friends Nancy, Chipmunk Hunk and Koi Boy with her to Avengers Island's food court, which is full of restaurants with Avengers pun names (Soup Thor Salad, for example, or Foods That Are Rich In Iron, Man). So if you were hoping to see artist Erica Henderson draw the hell out of all those new New Avengers, sorry. (Speaking of the cover for the second Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1, it bears the words "Only Our Second #1 This Year So Far" on it; again, at least they have a sense of humor about it...and at least Marvel put the numeral "3" on the spine rather than "1," making this an easy book to read in trade.)

The first issue finds Doreen Green getting a new, Nancy-designed costume and a visit from her mom. The last 40-pages are devoted to the "Animal House" crossover with Howard The Duck, which I mentioned above. In between them is a fantastically convoluted time travel story involving Squirrel Girl's first and perhaps greatest enemy: Doctor Doom. Through a series of weird circumstances, Squirrel Girl finds herself marooned in the 1960s. She quickly discovers that she's not the only person from her time period there, and not only must she find away to return to her own era, but she must save the time stream itself from Doom, who is armed with Doomipedia, which tells him exactly how he conquered the world...and, of course, proceeded to name everything after himself.

It's...complicated. But Ryan North sure writes a hell of a Doctor Doom, his arrogance both perfectly, hilariously demonstrated and, here, the key to his defeat. It's buried in one of those computer programming jokes I don't really get, because I am dumb, but unlike every other computer-smart person, Doom never learned a traditional programming language, but rather invented his own, where all of the components are variations of "Doom," meaning a bunch of computer programming students speak a language he can't comprehend.

It is awesome, and there is so much good stuff in the Squirrel Girl Vs. Doctor Doom story arc that it rewards multiple reading. The first time is, after all ,full of some very weird, very unexpected surprises.

I remain convinced that the "Unbeatable" in the title doesn't refer to the character Squirrel Girl herself, but the comic book Squirrel Girl itself, which really can't be beat.

While I'm at it, I suppose I should link to reviews of other recent-ish releases I recently read (and reviewed) that are also Marvel collections. I covered Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Vol. 1: BFF and All-New, All-Different Avengers Vol. 1: Magnificent Seven for School Library Journal's Good Comics For Kids blog. They're both pretty good, the former more so than the latter, as the Avengers book has some slight structural problems. All in all though, Marvel seems to be in a pretty good place creatively these days, at least with books for younger readers and lower-tier characters (Other parts of the line are, of course, a mess).

*Please note that Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe was still being published both at the time my friend said that and at the time I wrote this review, which has been sitting around in a draft for a while now. I suppose that I could change that now that Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe has ended, but why pass up an opportunity to remind everyone that Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe was pretty much the best thing ever?

**Whose true identity was revealed during the "Standoff" crossover story, which I read after I wrote the Captain America review above, but before I posted this post.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Marvel's November previews reviewed

Marvel also intends to publish a bunch of comics in November of this year. Do I have thoughts, feelings or snarky remarks about any of them. Why yes, yes I do!

I think that's the All-New X-Men Annual #1 cover; I like the photo strip in which Iceman buries someone--Cyclops, I imagine--in snow.

Cover by ALEX ROSS
The time has come! Their ranks shattered by Civil War, their spirits weighted down bya toll both personal and spiritual, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes must find the resolve to stand united one final time against their greatest foe! Captain America! Thor! The Vision! The Wasp! Spider-Man! Hercules! When the dust settles, not a one of these valiant heroes will make it to the final page alive! This is KANG WAR ONE!
48 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

Well, that's a pretty different line-up than that of Mark Waid's All-New, All-Different Avengers. I hate when they change titles and numbering on books that contain what are presumably continuing stories, as it makes it so difficult to follow them in trade.

I liked All-New, All-Different Avengers Vol. 1; hopefully I'll be able to continue to follow Waid's Avengers storyline, wherever it appears and however it is presented and sold.

I really like Chris Samnee's Black Widow cover.

• Because you (okay, a very small percentage of you) demanded it — D-Man gets his moment in the sun!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

Well I didn't demand it, but I'll be happy to take it.

The cover image is one instance in which D-Man's old costume would definitely look better and more appropriate than his new one.

Wwwwwwaaaiiiiiit a minuted...Is that the new Champions logo? Because that "C" looks kind of familiar. Where have I seen it before...?
Oh yeah, fucking everywhere, constantly, all year long. (I live about a half-hour east of Cleveland at the moment.)

48 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

Sounds great!

Tradd Moore made a great cover for Deadpool #22, huh?

It’s hell on wheels as the Spirit of Vengeance makes his roaring return! A mysterious object from space crash-lands in southern California, drawing some of the brightest minds in the Marvel Universe to Ghost Rider’s backyard – including Amadeus Cho, the Totally Awesome Hulk! What mayhem will be unleashed as the High-octane Hothead comes face-to-face with the Jade Genius? And with Robbie still possessed by the ghost of his evil uncle Eli…who’s really in the driver’s seat? Then, meet the newest speed trap in Ghost Rider’s life as his original creators Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore reunite for a special backup story and the debut of an all-new villain. Strap in and start your engines, True Believer, this one’s gonna be a scorcher!
40 PGS./Rated T …$4.99

I'm not familiar with Beyruth, so I hope the art remains of as high-quality as in the last volume of Smith's new Ghost Rider, a title I ended up really enjoying. I'm glad it's coming back. I suppose we have that Hayley Atwell-less Shield show (i.e. the one I don't watch) to thank for this, indirectly...?

Variant Cover by JEFF DEKAL
From the violent streets of Chicago, a new armored hero rises! Clad in her very own Iron Man armor, Riri Williams is ready to show the Marvel Universe what she can do as the self-made hero of tomorrow. But is she ready for all the problems that come with stepping into Iron Man’s jet boots? Where’s a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist when you need one?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

This is one of those things that people were mad about, right? I don't see why. Everyone in Iron Man's immediate orbit who isn't his butler gets an Iron Man suit eventually, right? The only thing that seemed off to me upon the announcement was that there would be a teenage girl going by the name "Iron Man," but that turns out to not be the case--she's apparently going to be going by the name Ironheart, which is actually a pretty cool name (Cooler than War Machine or Rescue...or Iron Woman or Iron Girl).

Based on the variant cover by Dekal, which is th eone I put up there because I like it better, it looks like Tony Stark will be appearing in the series via an A.I. operating system, akin to Friday in the previous volume of Invincible Iron Man by Brian Michael Bendis (goddam rassin' frassin' renumberings making it all hard to follow Marvel's stupid series in stupid trades grumble grumble).

And, based on the solicitation copy, Stark is missing? That sucks. I will miss his social media interactions with Squirrel Girl in Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.

IVX #0
This issue sets the stage for the upcoming Inhumans vs. X-Men mega-event! Learn who the major players will be, plus the seeds of the incredible plan that will unfold in IVX #1. Beast and Iso travel the world to learn a desperate truth, the X-Men assemble their ranks and the Inhumans prepare for the war to come. It all begins with one choice — see it here.
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

Based on the cover above, I thought maybe this was a Pet Avengers Civil War II tie-in. I guess it is actually one of the three different covers for a IVX comic, which is probably like Avengers Vs. X-Men, only much more boring, because The Inhumans are much more boring.

(Except for Lockjaw, of course.)

LOGAN will have to team up with the supernatural HOWLING COMMANDOS to unravel the mystery of why Jubilee has disappeared…but is he prepared for what this investigation will uncover? Follow the old man to ROMANIA and find out!
32 PGS./Parental Advisory …$3.99

It looks like Lemire may have forgotten what book he was writing and accidentally turned in a script for his New 52 Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE book, the first collection of which was subtitled "War of the Monsters." Huh.

• No cat puns here, I promise: Hellcat and Black Cat face off as our heroine and friends fight to save the city from cat-astrophe!
• They — oh, wait. I did it, didn’t I? I cat-punned. Dangit! Okay, okay, hear me out: Patsy puts Felicia’s schemes on paws when she — WAIT, I SWEAR I CAN DO THIS. DON’T PRINT.
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

This cover is a pretty good example of why Patsy Walker is one the two best Marvel comics on the stands.

• The Hand has resurrected the Hulk, and the only ones standing in the way of the undead rampaging brute are the former Avengers of the Unity Squad.
• The first bullet point of this solicit is so damn compelling that a second selling point is completely superfluous.
• Steve Rogers gave an order that the Avengers did not follow. We’ll find out how that works out for everyone!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

I was excited about this issue when I saw the cover and that it would be a comic book about a mummy who is also The Hulk. I'm less excited after having read the solicitation, as I'm not really sure how The Hulk can actually die in order to come back to life (Oh, and spoilers for Civil War II, I imagine?).

Thursday, August 25, 2016

DC's November previews reviewed

DC Comics plans to publish a bunch of comics this November. Are any of them worthy of comment? Yes.

One man pulling open his shirt to reveal his superhero costume beneath it is cool. Two guys standing side-by-side doing it just look like a stripper act. (This is Clay Mann's cover for Action Comics, BTW).

Written by HOPE LARSON
“BEYOND BURNSIDE” conclusion! Batgirl faces down Teacher in the streets of Shanghai, but will fists be enough against the intelligence—enhanced foe? Babs will have to conquer the pathways of her own mind in order to defeat this vicious predator once and for all!
On sale NOVEMBER 23 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

As I mentioned the other day, after the first two issues, I've realized I am more of a Babs Tarr fan (and a Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher fan) than a Batgirl Barbara Gordon fan. Larson and Albuquerque are doing an okay job here, but it just doesn't have the same vibe as the previous run.

“Who Is Oracle” part five! Batgirl, Black Canary, and Huntress come face-to-face at last with the new Oracle…and unlock a mystery they never saw coming!
On sale NOVEMBER 9 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

I'm afraid I couldn't keep this on my pull-list long enough to find out who the new Oracle is. I hope it is either the pre-Flashpoint Barbara Gordon running some kind of big, elaborate scam in which she's only pretending to be helping the bad guys, or that she's the Earth-3 Barbara Gordon.

Written by TOM KING
Art and cover by MIKEL JANIN
“I am Suicide” part two! Batman now has his team, but are they ready for the most dangerous mission of their lives? As the Dark Knight prepares his squad to infiltrate Santa Prisca, he may find that it’s up to him alone to face Bane.
On sale NOVEMBER 2 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Other than Catwoman, I don't recognize anyone on Batman's Suicide Squad. I suppose glasses could be Hugo Strange, although I can't imagine he'd be terribly useful to have around, and the masked characters? New 52 Punch and Jewlee? Is that lady perhaps Duela Dent, or The Joker's Daughter wearing a new mask? No idea.

Batman running his own, temporary Suicide Squad for this mission seems like an all-around weird move, too, based simply on the fact that between the Justice League, his sidekicks and allies and Batman Inc., Batman has a veritable army on his friends list. Well, there's that, and the fact that Batman's respect for human life means he can't really consider anyone expendable, which is kind of the point of Suicide Squads.

Anyway, I'm interested in this upcoming story arc to see how King navigates all of that, and to see him paired with Mikel Janin again rather than David Finch (boo!), who drew the first story arc of the new Batman, which has read good and looked like garbage.

“SILENT NIGHT”! A hush of winter snowfall has fallen over Gotham City…but a quiet night in this place is never truly quiet. Batman and his allies—and his many foes—stalk the streets in this icy showcase of top talent.
On sale NOVEMBER 30 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

Oh hey, speaking of Finch, why on earth is he drawing a cover when there are so many good Batman artists available, some of them even contributing to this very annual!

Maybe it's just the presence of Paul Dini, Batman and snow, but this reminded me of the 1995 Batman Adventures Holiday Special, one of the Batman Adventures issues that was so good, every Batman fan should have read it.

Art and cover by SHANE DAVIS and BEN CALDWELL
It’s mayoral election time in Gotham City, and while the city is up in arms, Catwoman couldn’t care less! But when the candidates get personal, the Feline Fatale decides to get involved—much to the detriment of...well, everyone! This issue contains a special bonus story featuring the return of President Beth Ross from the critically acclaimed PREZ miniseries.
ONE-SHOT • On sale NOVEMBER 2 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

Well this is a pretty weird little book, which looks to be shoving two almost completely unrelated books into a special because they both have something to do with American electoral politics, I guess...? That, and I guess it keeps the now book-less Catwoman around, and gives Russell and Caldwell at least a few more pages of their DOA Prez reboot.

You know, if DC did decide to do another Legends of Tomorrow anthology series, that might be the place for the rest of Prez...and maybe a place for the further adventures of Catwoman, too.

Written by JOHN SEMPER JR.
Variant cover by CARLOS D’ANDA
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for details.
“THE IMITATION OF LIFE” part five! Cyborg loses control of his robotic form when it begins attacking his friends and family at S.T.A.R. Labs. Trapped in a virtual maze of ominous visions and forgotten memories, can Vic Stone hack his way through the cybernetic gauntlet that is his own mind?
On sale NOVEMBER 2 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

I am currently watching Teen Titans Go! Season 3, Part 1: Eat. Dance. Punch!. It is pretty much the best thing ever. For some reason I am perfectly able to compartmentalize the various versions of some DC comic book characters who appear in various media incarnations, but I just can't seem to accept a Cyborg who doesn't have telescoping limbs like Marvel's Machine Man, excitedly shout all of his dialogue, have a meatball gun and The Old Shablammo in his arsenal and is obsessed with "The Night Begins To Shine." The "real" Cyborg just seems hella boring these days.

It likely doesn't help that in the post-Flashpoint DCU he's basically been reduced to the League's switchboard operator and teleportation device, and divorced from his original friends and relationships, there's not much too him, aside from metal parts and the old, dull "Am I man, or am I machine?" conflict that The Vison and The Red Tornado have made so tiresome over the decades.

“The Victim Syndicate” part three! Batman is trying his best to hold his team together, but Spoiler might have every reason to walk out the door…and others might follow!
On sale NOVEMBER 23 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

So, what do you think Steph's cussing out Batman for on this cover? Did she just find out that he never built her a display case after she died in the old continuity? Is she yelling at him for not insisting that her boyfriend Red Robin get a non-dumb costume to wear? Is she yelling at him for not letting Cassandra Cain have her bat-ears, cape and one of her old codenames back? If they can't call her Batgirl and don't want to use Black Bat any more, perhaps for legal reasons, can't they just call her "Cassandra" or "Ms. Cain," similar to the way they're just calling Duke Thomas "Mr. Thomas" over in Batman and All-Star Batman now...?

Whatever the issue is, you tell him, Steph!

Written by GERARD WAY
Art and cover by NICK DERINGTON
Casey Brinke has stepped through to the other side—but where exactly is that? Given all the bizarre, unexplainable things that have come into her life over the last couple of days—robot men and talking ambulances and a guy who literally thrives on negative energy—surely this new and surprising world she has uncovered can’t be any weirder. Right?
On sale NOVEMBER 9 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • MATURE READERS

Am I the only one who thinks it's weird that Marvel's Captain Marvel is apparently on the new Doom Patrol roster...?

Cover by CARY NORD
Split from his other half, Jason Rusch, Ronnie Raymond will need to retrieve Professor Stein’s stolen research from Danton Black. But if Jason can’t fuse with Ronnie by the Firestorm Protocol…who can? The answer: his old friend, Professor Martin Stein! Collects the Firestorm stories from LEGENDS OF TOMORROW #1-6.
On sale DECEMBER 7 • 144 pg, FC, $14.99 US

So it looks like the other three features from Legends of Tomorrow--Firestorm, The Metal Men and Metamorpho--are all getting their own trade collections as well. I'm not sure why these three are coming the month after the Sugar & Spike trade, but here they are.

I'm a little curious why the Firestorm isn't numbered, as it seems to follow the New 52 Firestorm story in a way that it's more of a straight continuation, whereas the other three Legends features were all standalone stories.

Anyway, I've been curious if they were going to collect these features and, if so, how, so now I need wonder no longer. If DC did lose money on that bargain format, perhaps they can make up enough of it to at least break even with the trades. (Again, I definitely recommend Sugar & Spike: Metahuman Investigatipons, and maybe the Metal Men collection, if you're a fan of those characters at all. The other two features did nothing for me, and I can't imagine they will make for compelling reads once collected, which will divorce them from both their bargain-pricing and the promise of more and more interesting stories around them.

“THE SPEED OF DARKNESS” part one! A villain from The Flash’s history returns for the first time in years when The Shade visits Central City. But what does Opal City’s master of shadow want with Barry Allen and the newly christened Kid Flash?
On sale NOVEMBER 9 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Okay, so James Robinson didn't create The Shade, although he did re-create him. James Robinson doesn't own The Shade, and DC Comics and their employees have every right in the world to use that character. Still, it does seem a little funny to see The Shade popping up in a comic book that James Robinson has nothing at all to do with, doesn't it...?

But then, if the publisher is so gung-ho about making Watchmen prequels and building up a Watchmen vs. The Justice League event, it's hardly surprising to see a character so closely associated with one particular writer being used in very retrograde way by an entirely different creator.

Art and cover by JUAN FERREYRA
“MURDER ON THE EMPIRE EXPRESS” part one! Queen Industries’ new Trans-Pacific Railway is an undersea vehicle that symbolizes world peace—which makes its maiden voyage the perfect place for the Ninth Circle to stage a high-profile assassination. Luckily, Green Arrow, Black Canary and John Diggle are on board as outlaw stowaways!
On sale NOVEMBER 2 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+

"Trans-Pacific Railway"...? That's never going to work, Ollie. If there's one thing I've learned from this election cycle, it's that American's hate things that start with the word "Trans-Pacific"...

Cover by ED BENES
“THE PHANTOM RING” part two! The Phantom Ring was never supposed to return from the place where the Guardians of the Universe hid it. Can Jessica and Baz control and contain its ancient power before it falls into the waiting hands of an unexpected new foe?
On sale NOVEMBER 2 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

I don't know about the rest of you, but I like all the rainbow ring business Geoff Johns brought into the Green Lantern franchise, much of which I feel has achieved the perfect balance between "awesome" and "stupid" that is Geoff Johns' exact wheelhouse, when he's doing his best work.

Written by BRYAN HITCH
“OUTBREAK” part one! Someone is hacking into the Justice League’s computers, causing the Batcave’s weapons and security systems to turn against the Dark Knight and the Watchtower satellite to plummet to Earth—with Cyborg trapped on board.
On sale NOVEMBER 2 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

This is why I liked Grant Morrison's lunar Watchtower base so much. The problem with a satellite HQ is that is constantly falling out of orbit, or at least in danger of falling out of orbit. If someone wants to attack the League's base, then they should have to commit to going all the way to the moon.

I wonder who the mysterious villain could be..?

Written by BRYAN HITCH
Variant cover by YANICK PAQUETTE
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for details.
“OUTBREAK” part two! The Justice League is under attack from an unseen foe with a vendetta against Earth’s greatest heroes—someone with the power to reprogram Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz’s Green Lantern rings to kill any member of the Justice League.
On sale NOVEMBER 16 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Oh, nevermind. It must be Weapons Master.

Written by STEVE ORLANDO • Art by FERNANDO BLANCO • Cover by ACO
Midnighter’s got Henry Bendix in his hands at last-but will he have to let him go in order to join Apollo’s battle against the deadly Mawzir?
On sale NOVEMBER 2 • 32 pg, FC, 2 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T+

"The deadly Mawzir"...? Like, this guy?

Written by JODY HOUSER
Art and cover by TOMMY LEE EDWARDS
Meet Violet Paige, a celebutante with a bad attitude and a temper to match, who no one suspects of having anything lying beneath the surface of her outrageous exploits. But Violet isn’t just another bored heiress in the upper echelons of Gotham City’s elite. Motivated by her traumatic youth, Violet seeks to exact vengeance on her privileged peers as the terrifying new vigilante known only as Mother Panic.
On sale NOVEMBER 9 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • MATURE READERS

Oh good, a Gotham City vigilante motivated by a traumatic past. DC certainly doesn't publish enough comics about such characters. This is part of the new Veritgo-esque Young Animal imprint though, and it's rated "Mature Readers," so maybe Mother Panic will be different from Batwoman, Batman, Batgirl, The Huntress, Black Canary and the other dozen or so male and female vigilantes because her adventures will feature on-panel nudity and f-words.

In this new one-shot, Wonder Woman unleashes her true god of war against a parade of monsters! Superman discovers a new threat that might be bigger and badder than the joker himself! Hawkgirl solves crimes in the weird weapons unit for the GCPD! Carol Ferris and Kyle Rayner fight about ice cream in space! You’ll find all of this and so much more in NEW TALENT SHOWCASE #1, where recent graduate writers from the inaugural DC Talent Development workshop showcase some of their strongest work yet! See what they’ve learned from masters of the craft Scott Snyder, Jim Lee and Klaus Janson.
ONE-SHOT • On sale NOVEMBER 30 • 80 pg, FC, $7.99 US • RATED T

Oh snap, is this the result of that outreach DC did to try and find new writers? I...thought about looking into it, and never did, figuring the best way to get a gig at this point in my life is to publish my prose book/s and try to transition to comics from there (That said, now that the DCU is unmoored from history, I lost a lot of interest in so many of its characters; like, the books I used to dream about writing as a teenager and 20-something can't even exist at this juncture.


Anyway, I'm a little surprised to see the name "Joelle Jones" among the writers, if only because it is a name I recognize. As for the artists, I recognize all of them except for Bagenda, so I'm assuming these stories are by new writers paired with experienced artists...?

Well, at $8 this looks like a big-ass purchase, but then, it is 80 pages, so I guess this is about the price-point of Legends of Tomorrow, which felt like a steal to me.

Personally, I might have just called this book Showcase, since that's a DC word the publisher probably needs to entitle comics on a semi-regular basis, but no one asked me. No one ever asks me anything!

Art and cover by DARIO BRIZUELA
“Gulp! Space WHAAAAT??” A threatening specter from outer space? That’s the call that gets Scooby and the gang on the case. But they don’t suspect that the “specter” is really Space Ghost, or that setting Mystery Inc. against him is a trick to keep the spacefaring hero busy while some of his most formidable villains invade the Earth!
On sale NOVEMBER 23 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED E

Well it's nice to see Scooby-Doo Team-Up venturing beyond the DC stable of superheroes to explore some of the Hanna-Barbera heroes, all of whom have recently gotten a new lease on life, thanks to DC's Future Quest, the least weird book in their new Hanna-Barbereboot line. I'm still waiting on Blue Falcon and Dyno-Mutt, but Space Ghost will certainly tide me over.

Sixpack and Dogwelder: Hard-Travelin' Heroz #4
Written by GARTH ENNIS
Cover by Steve Dillon
Sixpack and the team are under attack by mummies! Only the flame of Dogwelder can save them, but will he light his torch in time? And what great mystery will his torch reveal beneath the mighty pyramids of the Egyptian desert? Could Dogwelder be the greatest hero the world has ever known, his welding of dogs the noblest of pursuits?
On sale NOVEMBER 23 • 32 pg, FC, 4 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T+

Ennis already made Dogwelder into a legacy character in All-Star Section Eight, but I must admit to some fascination with this cover's intimation that not unlike Ghost Rider, there has always been a Dogwelder, going back through the generations to a time when welding equipment had not yet been invented, and if you wanted to weld a dog's corpse to someone's face, you had to sear it there using a torch...? I guess...?

Yeah, comic book Enchantress looks pretty dumb compared to scary-ass movie Enchantress.

As for comic book Harley vs. movie Harley, I see Jim Lee has been giving her tight T shirts not unlike the one Margot Robbie rocked in the movie, but he's also been letting her wear pants. I'm still not 100% sure why movie Harley Quinn wasn't given any pants.

Art and cover by PATRICK GLEASON and MICK GRAY
“IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER” part one! For the first time, the Man of Tomorrow and the Boy of Steel team up with the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder in a father-son adventure you won’t want to miss! Damian Wayne has been hearing a lot about this mysterious new Superboy, and now’s his chance to find out who he is...
On sale NOVEMBER 2 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Okay, I kind of love this cover. Batman and Damian look like they're totally ready to fight, Superboy looks confident and incredulous that Damian could fight him and Superman he's about to softly kiss Batman...? I feel like that may not be the right emotion and pose for this cover.

Art and cover by ART BALTAZAR
Aw yeah, the World’s Greatest Heroes are back in a new, all-ages miniseries—except for Batman! Superman helps out by cleaning up in Gotham City, where he discovers a clue that sends Wonder Woman into space to find the Caped Crusader. Her journey brings her a step closer to Batman, but can she uncover the truth behind his disappearance? From the award-winning creative team that brought you TINY TITANS and SUPERMAN FAMILY ADVENTURES!
On sale NOVEMBER 23 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $2.99 US • RATED E

Weird. I assumed that a Justice League comic would be Art Baltazar and Franco's next series from DC, as the Justice League featured rather prominently in their last efforts towards the end, and it felt as if they might be transitioning from the Superman Family to the League.

I guess I was right, but I'm not sure why there was such a long delay. I also wonder if maybe this wasn't completely way back then and just never published, as that cover looks already dated. Note Wonder Woman's pants, which were teased and then abandoned back in the summer of 2011 as part of her New 52 redesign.

Art and cover by CLAY MANN
“BETTER TOGETHER” part three! The deadly White Mercy has Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman in its terrifying grasp! But who would dare to orchestrate this attack—and why? All will be revealed as the three most powerful heroes in the DC Universe fight for their very souls!
On sale NOVEMBER 16 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

The White Mercy...? Let me guess, that's a flower that does stuff to people's minds. Post-DC Universe: Rebirth, it becomes all the more hilarious every time DC uses one of Alan Moore's decades old concepts. Here Manapul seems to be riffing on the Black Mercy from "For The Man Who Has Everything," which has been done so often in the comics (let alone in multi-media adaptations) that I've actually lost count.

Anyway, the irony of DC's steadfast refusal to just quit fucking around with Watchmen because to hell with Alan Moore while simultaneously continuing to sequeeze every drop of story potential from minor detritus from the comics he wrote for them forever ago is at this point as hilarious as it is incredibly depressing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Comic Shop Comics: August 24th

Archie #11 (Archie Comics) Woah, woah, woah, woah, woah. Woah. I saw something truly shocking in this issue of the ongoing Archie seriew by writer Mark Waid and rotating artists, this time the team of Ryan Jampole and Thomas Pitilli. On the last page, in an orange box in the lower right-hand corner, are the words "To Be Concluded."

Those are the sorts of words you put in the penultimate issue of a miniseries, not the eleventh issue of an ongoing series. If the new Archie, which launched a year or so ago with 12,000 variant covers for its #1, was only going to be a limited series all along, well, no one told me personally. And if they announced such information, I somehow missed hearing it/failed to retain such information.

But the contents of this issue in large part point towards a conclusion of much of what we've seen in the series thus far, with Archie Andrews and Betty Cooper finally finding some resolution to the conflict that drove and kept them apart throughout the preceding ten issues. Additionally, Archie's standing in school and in town is at something of a crisis point. And, looking at real-world factors, next issue will be the 12th, a good place to end a limited series, allowing for a series to be easily divided into two six-issue collections or three four-issue collections, and, perhaps, Mark Waid can't continue to write this series forever, although I was hoping he would at least write this red-headed, all-American protagonist as long as he wrote Marvel's red-headed, all-American protagonist Matt Murdock.

It is, of course, possible that the "To Be Concluded" is simply acknowledgment that the events in the last two panels will be dealt with and resolved next issue, as there's quite a little cliffhanger here, one that could re-set the status quo of Archie Comics' core love triangle back to a more familiar arrangement (although "to be continued" works just as well for that) or that the story arc is going to be concluded next issue, followed immediately with a new one in Archie #13. The thing is, this issue was presented as the first part of a story(or the 11th part, for that matter), as there is no story title included.

At any rate, I am now deeply worried that either the book will end, the book will be renumbered with a new #1 for a new "season" of Archie, or that Waid will move one, and while I'm sure he's not the only writer capable of writing a winning Archie, the fact of the matter is that it required a bit of a risk to convince readers to try the new Archie and, well, now we trust Waid in a way we didn't before. As I've recently discovered–like, this week–a creative team change can be enough to make a reader drop a book entirely, even when the new team is doing a good, quality job (I dropped Batgirl after reading this week's second issue by Hope Larson and Rafael Albuquerque; it turns out I was much more of a Babs Tarr fan, and Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher fan, than I was a Batgirl fan, it turned out. I'll still keep an eye on the book and keep up with events via library trades and what not, but I pulled it off of my pull-list).

Hopefully I am fretting over nothing, though, and the little orange box just chose to use the word "concluded" instead of "continued."

The artwork this issue comes from Mega Man artist Ryan Jampole, credited with "breakdowns", and Thomas Pitilli, credited with "finishes." Curiously, both are described on the back cover as "rising star artists," and Pitilli's credits listed are Entertainment Weekly and New York Times, which would make him an illustrator rather than a comic book artist, no?

They do a fine job. In fact, if you hadn't told me, I might not have noticed that it wasn't Fish drawing this particular issue; I might have just thought she was in a hurry or had help with the layouts, which are a little stiffer and more formal than those in her previous issues (but only on, like, a few pages). The faces are slightly rounder, slightly cuter, but each page has the somewhat scratchy, ink-heavy look of Fish's artwork.

Now I'm really curious for Archie #12. Because this issue involves our characters divided into two opposing garage bands competing in a school talent show, Mark Waid gives us a one-page article about The Archies, the real band that pretended to the band of the Archie Comics characters and generated that very popular if very annoying "Sugar, Sugar" (best known to me personally for the Mary Lou Lord and Semisonic cover of it that was one of the tracks on 1995 album Saturday Morning: Cartoons' Greatest Hits, a favorite cassette tape of mine at the time, pairing as it did many favorite bands and artists with cartoon theme songs).

That is then followed by a six-page strip from 1968, featuring Archie, Jughead and...Reggie, I think?...trying to find a place to rehearse their terrible, terrible music.

Harley's Little Black Book #4 (DC Comics) For the fourth issue of the Harley Quinn team-up book, writer Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti turn to a rather unexpected title to find their heroine playmates: DC Comics' Bombshells, with its Harley appearing with their Harley on the cover (In truth, the two share less panel-time than Harley spends with other Bombshells).

It's unexpected only in that she's only teamed with three DCU heroes so far–Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Zatanna–so it seems early to turn to an out-of-continuity, digital-first series based on a line of expensive, collectible statuettes. On the other hand, Bombshells is exactly the sort of book that would interest these creators; hell, Palmiotti previously co-wrote another regular series for DC based on a line of expensive, collectible statuettes (the less-successful Ame-Comi Girls, the failures of which were do more to the inconsistent artwork, which rarely adhered to the design style of the statuettes).

The $4.99, 38-page issue has our Harley using some sort of time-travel ball she acquired from Superman (in, um, the next issue of the series) to travel into the Bombshells-iverse, where she comes into physical contact with herself there (yes< of course the two Harleys kills; you know these creators well) and creates an alternate timeline, allowing Conner and Palmiotti to do whatever they like without worrying about how their story matches up with real World War II history (a pretty silly concern, really) or the events of Bombshells. Such a set-up is perhaps unnecessary, as the plot itself builds in a degree of equivocation, as Harley's friend and Danzig thinks she simply dreamt the entire experience.

The plot is this: Harley travels "back in time" to World War II, where an unnamed Sgt. Rock and a couple of the bombshells (Amanda Waller, Batwoman and Big Barda) all assume she is their Harley and take her with them on a mission to infiltrate a German castle and kill Nazis. Along the way, Catwoman and Zatanna cross their paths and, in the climactic battle, Supergirl, Stargirl and Wonder Woman put in appearances.

A plot complication comes up when the real Bombshell Harley enters the picture. She has gone deep undercover as a Nazi doctor/interrogator (who, for some reason, wears clown make-up) and is being sent to the same castle that the other Bombshells were planning on infiltrating, to perform the same basic mission.

Oh, and Hitler shows up.

The artwork is mostly by Billy Tucci, he has an affinity for the material, with Flaviano drawing the three-pages set in Harley's regular, DCU reality. Additionally, the great Joseph Michael Linsner (who I kinda wish could have drawn all 38, or at least 35, pages) shows up to draw a completely random and unnecessary five-page dream sequence in which Harley confronts Count Jokula, a composite of The Joker, Dracula and Hitler. It allows us to see Linsner drawing Harley (mostly in her Mad Love get-up), but it really feels grafted-on as a page-filler, being a dream sequence in what is essentially already a 30-page dream sequence.

At the climax, Harley comes face to mustache with Hitler, and tells him off while slapping him around until he finally puts a gun to his head and takes his own life, as she's so annoying he would rather die than be around her any longer (Now, I hate to agree with Hitler on anything other than vegetarianism, but he was right about the fact that Harley is hella annoying. While I had the luxury of shutting the comic book, and thus wouldn't put a gun to my temple over it, I don't know how many more formulations of her "Holee Whateverlee!" declarations I could have personally taken).

All of the artwork was strong, but this is an issue that it's really too bad Conner couldn't drawn any more of than just the cover; pin-up style superheroines are pretty much exactly her jam, you know?

I'm not a fan of she and Palmiotti's take on the character, but I'll still be sorry when this bi-monthly team-up title ends, as its six issue-run (which will include a Superman team-up drawn by Neal Adamas and a Classic Lobo team-up drawn by Simon Bisley) has included/will include some interesting pairings and great, unexpected artists.

Sixpack and Dogwelder: Hard Travelin' Heroz #1 (DC) There are only three problems with this comic book:

1.) The price: It's $3.99 for just 20-pages, not even 22 pages, in strict violation of DC's "Holding the Line at $2.99" pledge from a few years back, which they seem to have re-devoted themselves to as part of the "Rebirth" initiative. I suppose it's so expensive because writer Garth Ennis is expensive and sales are so low, but making a comic 33% more expensive than the rest of the line doesn't strike me as a good way to make it more desirable, but then, what do I know? Marvel, Boom, Dynamite and IDW seem to do just fine with their $4/20-ish page books.

2.) The spelling in the title: I will accept one of those intentional misspellings, but not both. That's just crazy.

3.) John McCrea is, sadly, not drawing it.

Otherwise, it's a fairly perfect continuation of Ennis and McCrea's All-Star Section Eight, a kinda sorta spin-off of Hitman that managed to use the setting and some minor character's from that title without really revisiting the story itself...while also managing to pretty savagely parody various New 52 iterations of DCU characters because the narrator and protagonists is as unreliable as one can get.

The cover is by Steve Dillon, the artist who actually partially created Dogwelder (even if Ennis and McCrea are the ones who wrote and drew him into a comic book), so it's cool that he draws him here (even if this is Dogwelder II and not the original). The interior art is by frequent Ennis collaborator Russ Brawn. He's hardly the first artist to draw these characters or this setting, and he does a fine job of it, adhering to the designs closely enough that many of the Noonan's Sleazy Bar characters look as if McCrea did draw them, but even still, if there's one thing I want from a Section Eight comic, it is John McCrea artwork.

That is especially true given all of the guest-stars here, as part of the fun of Hitman, and part of the very premise of All-Star Section Eight, was seeing Ennis and McCrea tackle DC Comics characters. Here Power Girl, Catwoman, Starfire, The Spectre and John Constantine all appear...although the Constantine is off-panel the whole time.

Based on the title and logo, it appears that the book will eventually congeal into a road trip comic starring Sixpack and Dogwelder. Sixpack first appears reading an upside down trade paperback collection of Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams' Green Lantern/Green Arrow comics and declaring "Rashism ish bad--an' shuperheroesh are the answer...!". Additionally, Adams himself provides a variant cover that is a direct self-homage to one of those covers.

In this issue, Dogwelder II looks in on his family and is confronted by a character who seems to be Constantine ("Oh, whatcha fink yer gonna do, Son...? Weld a dog to me face?"). Meanwhile, Sixpack is struggling to keep Section Eight going. As Hacken points out (in his second appearance in the last few weeks! I have a post on New 52 Hacken's two unlikely, not-written-by-Ennis appearances so far planned, but in the meantime, Chris Sims has some info on his latest), Section Eight is down to just five members (Sixpack, Dogwelder, Guts, Bueno Excellente and Baytor) and, as Sixpack himself realizes, he's the only one who can talk (Well, Bueno says two words, and Baytor rarely strays beyond the three).

Presumably the two title characters will seek to resolve their conflicts together, but first they each have to face magical characters from the darker corners of the DCU.

I was a little surprised by at least one of the gags in this issue, given how taboo "the R-word" is...
...but now that I'm typing this, I realize that alcoholism jokes have been considered in poor taste for even longer than that, and, well, jokes about alcoholism are at the very core of Ennis' Section Eight comics.

Also, one of the stars of this book welds dead dogs to people's faces, so referring to DC's own Convergence as "Retardance" isn't really out-of-bounds, is it? I'm pretty sure this book was never mean to have bounds to go out of, you know?

Although it it is rated "T+" rather than "Mature Readers," which explains why all the swear words appear as asterisks. So I guess that's the boundary that can't be crossed here: Swear words.

Snotgirl #2 (Image Comics) Credit where credit's due, writer Bryan Lee O'Malley is doing a hell of a job drawing out suspense and making me relate to his protagonist Lottie Person: Like her, I feared her new friend died right in front of her in the club bathroom at the end of the last issue, and spent all of this issue wondering if she was really dead or what, hoping she wasn't. Me? I was hoping that was the case because the book is so early in its story that I'm not entirely sure what kind of comic it's going to be, and I'm not sure I want it to be about a dead girl. Lottie, obviously, has different reasons to worry.

O'Malley and artist Leslie Hung continue to draw us deeper into the world of Las Angeles fashion-bloggers, as Lottie withdraws from the world out of fear of what she may have witnessed and be held responsible for, while her "friends" seek to draw her out and she realizes she may have an enemy responsible for her new problems and her boy problems from the first issue.

A new character, who will almost certainly become a love interest, is introduced in the final pages. I really liked LAPD Detective John Cho ("No relation to the beloved actor"), who dropped out of fashion school to honor his dying father's wish that he go into law enforcement, and who applied himself in order to make detective, allowing him to wear nice, fashionable suits to work, rather than a uniform.

I'm still not sure what exactly to expect form this series, but at this point I've come to expect beautiful art, and much less snot than I feared when I first heard about the book.

Wonder Woman #5 (DC) Now featuring minor character and one-time Bruce Wayne bodyguard/love interest Sasha Bordeaux, created in 2000, turned into some kinda goofy cyborg in an Infinite Crisis tie-in a decade ago, and then appearing in Rucka's short-lived Checkmate revival that I never read. Man, if Rucka makes them all fight Whisper A'Daire and the goddam crime-worshipping were-people I am out.

Other than that odd call-back to his own comics from 10-20 years prior to "Rebirth," this issue was fine if slow–the accelerated schedule and the alternating chapters of two different storylines actually serve Rucka's pacing pretty well. Were this a monthly, I probably would have dropped it in favor of trade-waiting with this issue (if I didn't do so last issue).

This is one of the Liam Sharp-drawn issues, set in the present. Cheetah and Wondy are still trying to save Steve Trevor, his team and a bunch of kidnapped African girls from the same evil African deity that turned Barbara Minerva into a were-cheetah (oh man, I just realized Rucka did get to work in an animal-person already after all!). They're getting pretty close now! During one scene, Wondy confides in Barbara that she's been having trouble with her continuity lately, and there's a large panel showing a bolt of lightning shattering glass over a black field, the largest shards of glass showing scenes of Wonder Woman: I recognize an image referring to Gail Simone's pre-Flashpoint run on the character (the armored gorillas make it easy to do so), there's an image of the "Rebirth" Wonder Woman in front of a red sky, an image of the George Perez design of Ares before a Kirby dot dotted red sky and then two images I don't recognize. Well, one of these is Wonder Woman wearing her basic costume being hurled backwards by an explosion, and the other shows her in the same costume, but with a red "W" painted on her face and a bloody trident in her right hand.

I'm sure the continuity rejiggering will all be explained eventually. Heck, maybe it will even make sense!