Sunday, October 23, 2016

Comic Shop Comics: October 19th

Archie #13 (Archie Comics) The thirteenth issue of a rebooted Archie might seem like an awfully early point at which to introduce Cheryl Blossom, who became an important player in Riverdale in 1994's "Love Showdown" storyline, upsetting the classic Betty-Archie-Veronica love triangle. After all, we haven't really had a love triangle established in the "new" Archie Comics just yet. Archie dated Betty, they broke up, then he dated Veronica.

Of course, Kevin Keller was introduced to Riverdale until 2010, and he's been in this new volume of Archie since the very first issue, so I suppose writer Mark Waid is simply employing characters as needed, rather than in any sort of particular order based on their first appearances or anything.

Veronica is the first to meet Cheryl, who is the current queen bee of an exclusive boarding school in Switzerland. The pair bond a bit over their vast wealth and social respectability, Veronica shares her recent heart break and then she gets a glimpse of the true Cheryl, who arranges a cruel prank that encompasses both a relatively poor classmate and Veronica.

And, of course, she's just getting started, as the cliffhanger ending reveals.

Waid continually checks back in with the gang in Riverdale, and how they're coping with the loss of Veronica and other recent changes (Betty lost her new boyfriend at the same time Archie lost Veronica).

Joe Eisma provides the artwork, and it is quite solid, conforming to the new look established by Fiona Staples in the first six issues of the series quite nicely.

The back-up is a five-page strip by pencil artist Dan DeCarlo and writer Frank Doyle, "Dare To Be Bare," in which Cheryl (and brother Jason) are both first introduced. It's from 1982, and is somewhat striking for its relative naughtiness, as Cheryl shows off her tiny string bikini on the beach to Betty and Veronica, and attempts to make this beach a topless one. Jason, in his own skimpy bathing suit, makes a lewd comment to Betty and then attempts to sneak a beer on the beach.

What's so striking about the short strip–aside from DeCarlo's always striking art, and his ability to find the perfect compromise between cartoony and sexy without going completely overboard–is that it hails from what we might now think of as the innocent, kid-friendly era of Archie Comics...and yet the content is a lot more daring than anything we saw in the more adult-friendly comic we just finished reading or, in fact, any of the twelve previous issues of this volume of Archie.

Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye #1 (DC Comics) "Cave Carson: Adventures Inside Earth" was a short-lived, on-again, off-again feature in DC's Silver Age anthology The Brave and The Bold, featuring the title character and his team of daring explorers as they encountered all matter of madness beneath the ground. Cave and his crew were one of the several post-Challengers of The Unknown team of adventurers that weren't quite superheroes, but came awfully close. At DC, think Suicide Squad, The Sea Devils or even The Time Masters.

Cave has been a frequent cameo-haver in DC Comics, but he's been long, long overdue for a feature of some kind, and it looks like Gerard Way is giving him one as part of his "curated" "pop-up" imprint, Young Animal. Way, who co-writes this new series with Jon Rivera, is obviously taking a lot of cues from the Vertigo imprint at its inception, as Cave Carson, like imprint mates Shade, The Changing Girl and Doom Patrol, are based-on off-beat old DC Comics...two of which Vertigo had previously reimagined. (Fun fact: Cave Carson was co-created by artist Bruno Premiani, who also co-created the Doom Patrol.)

What's the gimmick here? Well, I don't know if you've heard, but Cave Carson now has a cybernetic eye. In this first issue, drawn by Michael Avon Oeming, we meet a clean-shaving Cave and his adult daughter, as they mourn the loss of Eileen Carson. Cave's mourning process is further complicated by the fact that his mysterious cybernetic eye is causing him alarming hallucinations that may or may not be simple hallucinations.

Given that this is the first issue of a new comic book series, I am going to go ahead and assume that they are not simple hallucinations.

Placing the book in some singular version of the DC Universe, Doc Magnus and the Metal Men make a brief appearance (these hewing to their post-Flashpoint design), as does, more randomly, Mad Dog (here in his pre-Flashpoint design; I think post-Flashpoint Mad Dog is dead, actually).

There's a Mystery Science Theater 3000 riff.

Of the three first issues I've read so far, this is the most promising. That is in part because it feels the most original, as we've already seen Shade and The Doom Patrol get the Vertigo treatment (and so many reboots of various kinds over the decades), whereas Cave Carson has never even had his own title, let alone any sort of attempt to tell a relevant story before.

Also, Oeming's art is pretty great...although I can't help wonder if maybe the title wouldn't benefit from an artist with a more straightforward, representational style. Can you imagine, say, a Dan Clowes drawn story of a middle-aged, past-his-prime underground adventurer reeling from the loss of his wife and wondering if maybe he's losing his mind? Or, I don't know, Adrian Tomine? Surely neither of those guys would actually draw a DC super-comic of such length, but a style closer to that might have packed more punch. As is, this is just barely removed from the look of the rest of DC's comics line by the fact that Oeming doesn't draw as much like Jim Lee as 90% of the other guys drawing DC Comics these days do.

But forget all that.

The first 23-pages aren't nearly as interesting as the last three. See, Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye has a back-up feature and it is Tom Scioli (who you may remember from Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe, the best comic of the 21st century so far, and/or my ranting and raving about Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe) doing Super Powers, which, like The Transformers and G.I. Joe, was a cartoon/toy-line franchise from the 1980s.

It is exactly as amazing as you might think.

The first two pages introduce us to The Wonder Twins on their bizarre home planet of Exxor, while on the third page the action moves to Gotham City, wherein a small army of Joketroopers march on Jim Gordon and the Gotham Police Department, while a bike-riding Batgirl helps rescue he father. It's only one page, but it has 28 panels, so an awful lot happens on that page, including an incredibly dramatic opening in which a gigantic tank featuring the Joker's face appears over the horizon, and Scioli wrings an incredible amount of tension out of the The Joker's appearance by pointedly refusing to show the character's actual face on-panel, only his visage as it appears on the tank and the head of his mallet.

I'm not sure why Scioli's Super Powers isn't it's own book, but I have to imagine that Gerard Way and DC, like all right-thinking people in the universe, couldn't wait to see it, and so are publishing it as fast as possible, rather than waiting long enough for Scioli to finish 20 pages of it at a time.

Fingers crossed that it eventually gets collected into its own trade, featuring Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe-style commentary in the back.

Die Kitty, Die #1 (Chapter House Publishing) Well this is interesting. Kitty is a teenage witch and star of her own comic book series, not unlike Archie Comics' Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, as we see in in a four-page gag-strip "from 1956" that resembles a risque teen gag comic. But in 2016, sales have begun to dip on her long-running title, and she worries it might get canceled, a fate that befell her Casper-like friend Dippy The Dead Kid. At Kitty Comics headquarters, things are even worse than she feared: Her publisher decides to boost sales by killing the character off...and killing the real Kitty off too.

Now what makes this so interesting is its creators: Longtime Archie Comics artists Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz. If you've read an Archie comic in the years prior to the reboot, then you'll recognize their work; hell, this looks as much like an Archie comic as it can sans the red-headed, freckle-faced teen himself.

I kind of wish I knew more about Parent and Ruiz's relationship with Archie Comics, as while much of the humor is directed at comics publishing in general, some of it is particularly pointed toward Archie, and I can't help but wonder to what degree the trio of villains running the publisher–including Skip, a man whose hair is so messy and disheveled there is an actual bird living in it–are supposed to be based on real people.

That, then, is the premise; a couple of guys who used to work for Archie Comics with a high-concept take in which an Archie Comics-like publisher tries to kill a Sabrina-like witch, the creators free to tell sexier stories than they likely would have been at Archie (Kitty spends the last four pages in her underwear, and loses her clothes in a magic spell earlier in the book, however a wisp of smoke covers her nipples and her leg is posed just so; there's no actual nudity in the book).

Artist J. Bone provides a "Kitty's Katwalk" two-page spread in which the title character appears in four different outfits, and one of the several variant covers is drawn by the late Darwyn Cooke.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

DC's January previews reviewed

Oh hey, DC's solicitations for next January are out now!

Let's discuss them.

Art and cover by JOCK
“Cold to the Core”! Batman travels to Alaska to confront Mr. Freeze as he attempts to extract the world’s oldest ice core and bring humanity to a new Ice Age! Powerhouse artist Jock joins Scott Snyder to bring you another of the Dark Knight’s rogues like you’ve never seen him before.
On sale JANUARY 11 • 40 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

I'll be quite curious to see how this book adjusts to the varying artists. Right now, it has John Romita Jr. drawing a big, crazy action story involving only the third or so appearance of Two-Face since the 2011 reboot and guest-starring some of the most random characters Snyder could think of to make Romita draw. Jock, though quite talented, is not JRJR, and not someone whose presence on a Batman book alone is enough to get me excited to read it.

And Mr. Freeze? Well, Snyder's used him repeatedly already, and I haven't much cared for the character's New 52 iteration. He's one of those unfortunate characters that was done so perfectly once--in 1992's Batman: The Animated Series episode "Heart of Ice"--that subsequent stories almost always pale by comparison. I don't think I've ever seen or read a Mr. Freeze story anywhere near as good as that episode was, although I've enjoyed seeing the character's various redesigns in other cartoons. Basically, after you've done that tragic love story, all you've got left is a guy with cool ice powers for Batman to fight.

That's where I am with Mr. Freeze at the moment, anyway. I'm certainly interested in seeing what Snyder and Jock have up their sleeves though.

I don't see any mention of the Duke Thomas-starring back-up feature currently running, but I assume there will still be one, as the book is listed as being 40 pages long and costing $5 still.

Variant cover by KAMOME SHIRAHAMA
“Who Is Oracle?” conclusion! The new Oracle has put the Birds in an untenable position—do what Oracle wants, or their whole lives get made public! So how do they turn the tables? And now that Huntress has Fenice in her sights, can she pull the trigger? She’s never hesitated to kill before…so why now?
On sale JANUARY 11 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Wow, it's going to take all the way until February to reveal who Oracle is...? I got bored and lost interest in this story during the first issue. I guess that means we have to wait until February to hope for a better second story arc.

What mysteries are hidden in the book Ra’s al Ghul hired Catwoman to steal? And why does this caper lead Batman down memory lane—to his childhood fight against actual Nazis? Witness the Caped Crusader’s first encounter with one of the greatest heroes the world has ever known: Wonder Woman!
This epic team-up is brought to you by writers Marc Andreyko (WONDER WOMAN ’77) and Jeff Parker (BATMAN ’66), with fantastic artists David Hahn and Karl Kesel (BATMAN ’66 Meets the Man from U.N.C.L.E.). It’s a time- and space-spanning adventure unlike anything you’ve seen before!
On sale JANUARY 18 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $2.99 US • RATED E • Digital first

I like all of the creators involved in this, more so than even the iterations of these two characters, so I'll be picking this up. I'm particularly curious about how it will work, exactly, given the fact that the shows featuring these characters are like a decade apart. Although I guess Wonder Woman came out in the seventies, but was set in the forties? At least for the first season, and then got weird...? Anyway, "time-spanning" is promised.

Written by JON RIVERA
Art and cover by MICHAEL AVON OEMING
Backup story and art by THOMAS SCIOLI
Variant cover by ANDREW MACLEAN
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for details.
Cave and his team find the underground city of Muldroog, and it’s not what he expected. Plus, Cave has visions of his deceased wife, but are they hallucinations, or is there more to this than meets the cybernetic eye? Also features a Super Powers backup feature by Thomas Scioli (G.I. Joe vs. Transformers)!
On sale JANUARY 18 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • MATURE READERS

The worst thing about this comic, of which I've just read the first issue? It has only a few pages of Tom Scioli's Super Powers feature, compared to a mess of pages featuring Rivera and Oeming's Cave Carson.... And while, yes, the Cave Carson comic was pretty interesting, it was still not the guy who made the decade's greatest comic doing to the DC cartoon/toy-line of my youth what he did to two other cartoon/toy-line franchises of my youth in G.I. Joe Vs. Transformers.

Why on earth isn't Super Powers an ongoing series of its own, dammit?

Written by JIM STARLIN
Collected for the first time in a Deluxe Edition, COSMIC ODYSSEY assembles an eclectic group of heroes to race against time to stop a cosmic entity hell-bent on destroying the galaxy. Do they have what it takes? Or will one hero bring destruction to an entire world? Collects the original four-issue miniseries, featuring Superman, Batman, Orion of the New Gods, Darkseid and many more!
On sale FEBRUARY 15 • 208 pg, FC, 7.0625” x 10.875” $34.99 US

The price tag seems a little high to me, but, if you haven't read this yet, it's Mike Mignola drawing Justice Leaguers, New Gods and the Etrigan The fucking Demon and it's awesome.

“CHICAGO”! Jack Ryder, a.k.a. the Creeper, investigates a series of murders in Chicago…and comes face to face with Deathstroke, the World’s Deadliest Assassin. Christopher Priest is joined by guest artists Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz for an unflinching look at gun violence in America.
On sale JANUARY 25 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+

Priest, Cowan, Sienkiewicz, Chicago, Jack Ryder, Deathstroke and "gun violence in America"...? Wow. With a combination like that, this should be some read.

Note that it sure looks like the "classic" Creeper, rather than the weird-ass demonic-looking one rather randomly thrown out in the middle of the month of Forever Evil tie-ins.

Written by JEFF PARKER
When worlds collide, it’s up to Hanna-Barbera’s best-known action heroes to save the day! Johnny Quest, Space Ghost, the Herculoids and more are reimagined in this new collection! When Jonny Quest and his adoptive brother Hadji make a startling discovery in the swamplands of Florida, they are pulled into an epic struggle between the Space Rangers and a dangerous villain who threatens the galaxy. Now, it’s up to the combined forces of Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, the Herculoids, Birdman, Frankenstein Jr., the Impossibles, the Galaxy Trio and Mightor to stop him and save their universe! Collects FUTURE QUEST #1-6!
On sale FEBRUARY 15 • 176 pg, FC, $16.99 US

This is good right? Everyone likes this one? It is the only of the Hanna-Barbereboot books I haven't read even the first issue of...on account of the fact that I was so sure I was going to like it I thought I'd just wait for the trade. And it will be here in January!

Art and cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
“BOTTLED LIGHT” part five! Trapped and collected by Larfleeze, the Green Lantern Corps’ only hope is Hal Jordan and White Lantern Kyle Rayner—but can these two heroes save their friends before they all become playthings to the Avatar of Avarice?
On sale JANUARY 11 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Hmm, one of those guys doesn't look like he fits in with the others.

I've lost track of what they've been doing with Kyle Rayner of late, but in general I dislike the idea of always somehow separating him from the GLC. The cool think about that concept, and about Geoff Johns' original 2005, post-Green Lantern: Rebirth fix to the franchise, was that pretty much everyone who has been a Green Lantern could be one again. not that, and they seem to be making Kyle into Ion all over again.

SPINNING OUT OF THE PAGES OF JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. SUICIDE SQUAD! What happens to a super-villain on their last day in Belle Reve Prison? Against all odds, Killer Frost is up for parole from the Suicide Squad, but you can bet Amanda Waller isn’t going to make it easy for Frost to join the new JLA.
One shot • On sale JANUARY 25 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Huh. I imagine this spins out of the events of Justice League Vs. Suicide Squad, but Killer Frost is a pretty unexpected character to show up in a Justice League comic. Like, if you wanted to use a lady with ice powers, there's Ice, and if you wanted to use a villain with ice powers, well, whatever happened to Captain Cold? He was on the League at the beginning of "Darkseid War" and just kind of got lost in the shuffle (Same with Captain Marvel Shazam, actually). So there must be story reasons for this.

SPINNING OUT OF THE PAGES OF JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. SUICIDE SQUAD! Meet Ryan Choi, prodigious theoretical physics student with severe allergies
and crippling social anxiety. But little does young Ryan know, his first day at Ivy University marks the start of an epic journey into the very heart of the DC Universe!
One shot • On sale JANUARY 4 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Wow, that is a terrible costume. The Silver Age Atom has one of the all-time best superhero costumes, and this Atom, the Ryan Choi one, wore a slight variation of that costume. This appears to be based on the dumb suit-of-armor version that they stuck poor Brandon Routh in on the CW; the choice makes some sense in a live-action medium like TV, but this is comics, not live-action. The Atom shouldn't need a space-suit to shrink here.

It's rather unfortunate how screwed up The Atom's timeline is after The New 52, too, as I've read Ray Palmer's various appearances in books as diverse as Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE and Future's End and man, I can't even begin to tell you what the state of the character is at this point. The "Everyone Is Hawkman Now" reading of the post-reboot DCU seems particularly apropos when applied to The Atom/s.

SPINNING OUT OF THE PAGES OF JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. SUICIDE SQUAD! Locked indoors, raised in the dark and told his medical condition could be fatal to himself and anyone he meets, Ray Terrill is dangerous. A freak. Broken. Or is he…? Witness the amazing power of realizing your true self and stepping into the light in this moving rebirth of a long-lost hero for a new generation.
One shot • On sale JANUARY 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Fun fact: The Ray was on a fantasy line-up of the Justice League I imagined when I was maybe 19 or so, and, had I somehow magically replaced Grant Morrison after his run on JLA ended, The Ray (along with Maya and Anima) would have been inducted into the Justice League, as the Big Seven and friends would have wanted to work closely with the young heroes to make sure that turned out right.

I really liked this version of The Ray when he was originally introduced in the early '90s, part of a wave of young, DC superheroes who were around my age at the time, some of whom were gimmes (Robin III, Superboy, Impulse, Wonder Girl II) and others of whom were really rather odd (Damage, Anima, The Ray). In particular, Christopher Priest's work on the character's monthly ongoing and Justice League Task Force was excellent.

I'm hoping that his reemergence leads to Priest's series being collected...and I wouldn't mind seeing Justice League Task Force and that era's New Titans getting collected as well (Ray wasn't in the Titans team that starred in the book from #115-#130, but Impulse and Damage were for a bit, and I liked that line-up and was never able to track all the issues down). That would sure cut down on the number of old comics I have in long boxes! (Also, while I've read much of The Ray, I did so out of order, and there are still some issues I'm missing).

I would be about 2,000 times more excited if Flashpoint never happened and this was "the real" Ray, rather than a start-from-scratch second version of The Ray II, but then, that's been the case for pretty much every DC character post-Flaspoint, save maybe Batman and Hal Jordan.

I'll be curious to see if Orlando acknowledges that version of the character that Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray helped create, or if he will just pretend that comic never happened, just like the rest of us do.

Written by TOM TAYLOR
Two of comics greatest teams team up for the very first time! Something terrible has happened in Angel Grove! When the Command Center is breached and the teleporters are damaged, Zack is flung into another universe, where he’s mistaken for a villain by a mysterious masked vigilante. Can the other Power Rangers get to their friend in time to save him from Batman? Co-published with BOOM! Studios.
On sale JANUARY 11 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T

I'm having a hard time thinking of a semi-serious hypothetical crossover that would be more unexpected than these two teams meeting, given how little they have in common...or in contrast.

My first thought, after, "Huh? Really?" was that maybe they would do something cutesy and, like, give the Justice League Megazords of their own, but then, they kind of already did that, huh? I guess seeing the League in -style costume redesigns (The Super-Powers Rangers!) and Batman getting a bat 'zord would be kinda cool.

At any rate, I'm eager to see this, if only because I can't really imagine what it might be like.

Art and cover by FERNANDO PASARIN
Variant covers by TBA
Retailers: This issue will ship with three covers. Please see the order form for details.
[REDACTED BY ORDER OF TASK FORCE X DIRECTOR AMANDA WALLER] and [REDACTED] crew of unstoppable [REDACTED] besiege Belle Reve to take possession of the lost [REDACTED], and only the unbelievable team-up of the Justice League and the Suicide Squad can prevent [REDACTED] from taking revenge on Amanda Waller!
On sale JANUARY 11 • 40 pg, FC, 4 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T

Art and cover by ROBSON ROCHA
Variant covers by TBA
Retailers: This issue will ship with three covers. Please see the order form for details.
[REDACTED] has finally obtained that which [REDACTED] has sought all this time—it’s the means to utterly [REDACTED] the Justice League forever. Now, only [REDACTED] and the Suicide Squad stand in [REDACTED] path of total world domination. No pressure!
On sale JANUARY 18 • 40 pg, FC, 5 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T

Well that seems annoying.

Hey, Captain Boomerang's on that cover! He's not dead after all! Hooray!

Prepare to take part in one of the greatest adventures from the infinite future of the DC Universe, and join the industry’s top creative teams in a round-robin, no-holds-barred, storytelling extravaganza titled THE KAMANDI CHALLENGE!
Born from the mind of Jack “King” Kirby, the post apocalyptic Earth of Kamandi has been a fan favorite for decades, and now 14 intrepid teams of writers and artists build on this incredible foundation and take the title character on an epic quest to find his long-lost parents and travel to places seen and unseen in the DC Universe.
Each issue will end with an unimaginable cliffhanger, and it’s up to the next creative team to resolve it before creating their own. It’s a challenge worthy of “The King” himself! In this premiere issue, the Last Boy on Earth is dragged from his safe haven by a group of tigers, only to face the nightmarish threat of the ultimate weapon!
On sale JANUARY 25 • 40 pg, FC, 1 of 12, $4.99 US • RATED T

Join the industry's top creative teams...and Dan DiDio!

His presence in the credits reminds me of one of Abhay Khosla's many (many, many, many) points against DiDio's leadership of DC in his epic "The Case Against Dan DiDio", where he noted that DiDio has a weird tendency to give himself plum writing assignments instead of actual comic book writers who could presumably use the work (not to mention do a superior job).

I am hopeful this series leads to the collection of the original 1986 DC Challenge, a series I found a couple of random issues of in a back-issue bin and that kinda blew my mind a little. It features a who's who of DC characters (in both the colloquial meaning of that phrase and the "as in Who's Who in the DC Universe" meaning) and creative talent of that era.

Written by TIM SEELEY
Art and cover by MARCUS TO
“BLUDHAVEN” part three! The body count in Blüdhaven continues to rise! Nightwing will have to team up with the Run-Offs to discover who the murderer is and clear the name of the Defacer. But before they can even begin they cross paths with the killer, Orca, and her Whaler Gang.
On sale JANUARY 4 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Holy shit, it's Tom Spurgeon's favorite Batman villain, Orca, The Whale Woman! She got name-dropped in All-Star Batman, but didn't appear on-panel, so I'm glad to see she's going to be appearing in another Bat-book soon.

He might look monstrous, but the robotic Frankenstein Jr. is really a force for justice—at least, usually. But when the towering, super-powered android suddenly goes bad and terrorizes the city, it’s up to Scooby and the gang to figure out why. Yet, even if they solve the mystery, how can they stop the giant robot’s rampage? There’s only one possible chance: with some super-powered help from the Impossibles!
On sale JANUARY 25 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED E

While I'm still in awaiting a Blue Falcon and Dynonutt team-up in this book, I'm glad Fisch is finally getting around to doing some of Hanna-Barbera's super-hero characters. I wonder if Future Quest helped pave the way for this, by reminding DC Comics editors that some of these characters even existed...?

“MULTIPLICITY” part one! The New Super-Man of China has been taken! The Red Son Superman of Earth-30 has been beaten! And who knows what’s happened to Sunshine Superman! Someone is collecting Supermen across the Multiverse—this looks like a job for our Kal-El as he is joined by Justice Incarnate in this multi-Earth epic!
On sale JANUARY 4 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

“MULTIPLICITY” part two! Superman and New Super-Man fight alongside an army of Supermen from across the Multiverse against the threat trying to wipe them all out of existence! Plus, Jon and his neighbor Kathy investigate a hidden horror that seems to be growing in their town.
On sale JANUARY 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Wow, great cover. You know, with just about any other creative team, I'd be a little nervous about someone so clearly referencing a Grant Morrison concept (I mean, it's right there in the title), but in the past few weeks I've seen this team resurrect a character from Garth Ennis and John McCrea's Hitman for a brief appearance and reference a fairly well-known sequence from the late, great Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier and succeed with both, so I imagine they'll be able to get away with this just fine.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Marvel's January previews reviewed

Oh hey, Marvel's January solicitations are out! We should probably talk about them, huh?

Okay, let's!

Cover by ALEX ROSS
CIVIL WAR II rocks the All-New, All-Different Avengers! Has Vision chosen the right side in the conflict? He certainly thinks so, and his resolve will take him on a manhunt through time to stop one of Earth’s greatest evils! The all-new Wasp finds her loyalties torn by the war — and seeks guidance in the most unexpected place! And in her short time wielding the hammer Mjolnir, Thor has witnessed cosmic chaos — but how will her human half process the consequences of this latest struggle? Plus: You’ve longed for it, you’ve begged for it — now, because you demanded it, you’re going to get it! No Avenger will be safe from…internet fan fiction! View Ms. Marvel’s all-new teammates through her wide eyes — and those of an awesome assemblage of all-star creative talents! Collecting ALL-NEW, ALL-DIFFERENT AVENGERS #13-15 and ANNUAL #1.
112 PGS./Rated T+ …$15.99

Hmm...I'm hoping I don't have to read Civil War II to follow all of these trades that seem to tie-in to it. I have to assume an Avengers book like this will tie-in to it a lot more strongly than some of the other series I read in trade. I mean, I will read Civil War II eventually; I'm just not in as much of a hurry to do so as I am, say, this book (That is, I might buy this one in trade, whereas I can wait for Civil War II to show up at my local library.

I'm assuming this will be the last volume of this I'll want to read, as I was mostly interested in how writer Mark Waid integrated the younger Avengers with the older ones, and it looks like all of those younger Avengers are spinning-off into Champions anyway...

As a new Black Panther struggles to hold her country together against a backdrop of betrayal, she is set on a collision course with one of the Marvel Universe’s most feared and powerful despots! But when Doctor Doom stands triumphant, war in Wakanda will pit the world’s most relentless super villain against a collection of its most powerful super heroes. With the mutant Storm’s life in the balance, it will take the combined forces of the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Deadpool and not one but two Black Panthers to stand against Doom! As T’Challa makes his return to his former kingdom, will Shuri retain her title and throne long enough to once again face Klaw, master of sound? Collecting BLACK PANTHER (2009) #7-12, DOOMWAR #1-6, KLAWS OF THE PANTHER #1-4 and material from AGE OF HEROES #4.
408 PGS./Rated T+ …$34.99

Huh. I honestly can't remember if I read this in trade paperback already or not. It certainly sounds familiar, and a comic with Namor, Doctor Doom and Black Panther duking it out sure sounds like a book I would have read, but the cover looks unfamiliar. I wonder; is this just a new, expanded version of a trade I already bought? this what it's like to get old? I don't like it!

Chris Samnee's cover for Black Widow? Adorable.

• The unbeatable Taskmaster is back! And what’s worse for Cap is that he’s learned Steve Rogers’ greatest secret!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

"Unbeatable"...? Seriously? Laura Kinney took him down in like two pages in All-New Wolverine Vol. 1.

I can think of no greater argument for Netflix doing a third season of Daredevil than the fact that we haven't yet seen a live-action Stilt-Man.

Penciled by RON GARNEY
The creepiest Daredevil story of the century! Losing a big case has landed A.D.A. Matt Murdock in hot water with the city, leaving him less time to clean up the streets as DD. But as his protégé, Blindspot, tries to take up the slack, the young hero gets in over his head when he stumbles upon a horrific crime scene — one that will terrify even the Man Without Fear! Muse — a serial killer who turns his victims into works of art — is on the loose, and Daredevil and Blindspot are no fans of his “masterpieces.” But DD, for so long a solo hero, will have yet another partner on the case — an Inhuman! Muse’s sadistic art installations will strike close to home — and there’s nothing Matt can do about it! Collecting DAREDEVIL (2015) #10-14.
112 PGS./Rated T+ …$15.99

Oh good, Ron Garney's back. I didn't care for the second, Garney-less volume nearly as much as the first volume.

The Merc with a Mouth joins the non-team without a known lineup! But can a talkative guy like Wade Wilson keep things hush-hush? Following Deadpool through the ever-rotating door of the Secret Defenders are the Heroes for Hire and a future Guardian of the Galaxy! Luke Cage is among the first recruits for new leader Doctor Druid, taking on the malevolent Malachi! But will he and Deadpool dig Cadaver, their newest ally? Then, Iron Fist, Giant-Man, Iceman and Archangel will feel the sting of Swarm! Spider-Woman, Venom and U.S.Agent enlist for a showdown with Slaymaker, while the mysterious Shadowoman transforms into Sepulchre! Then, Dagger, Deathlok and Drax the Destroyer join the fun when the Secret Defenders battle…the Defenders?! Is this the end for comics’ most surreptitious super group? Collecting SECRET DEFENDERS #15-25.
280 PGS./Rated T …$29.99

Hmm...This one's gonna be a tough call. On the one hand, it's The Defenders, in one of their goofier iterations. On the other hand, this is Deadpool from the early '90s, meaning...well, jus tlook at him on the cover there. I'd much rather read a new series by this title with these characters than I would this collection, I think.

What do you get when you take one cynical anthropomorphic duck (named Howard) and cross it with the smelliest (and most annoying) mercenary in the Marvel Universe? DEADPOOL THE DUCK! When Deadpool is sent on a mission from S.H.I.E.L.D. to capture a high-profile E.T. that is rampaging across the high plains, the snatch-and-grab turns out to be much more complicated than the Merc with a Mouth anticipated. One unfortunate wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time accident later leaves Deadpool and Howard fighting for control of the cutest mercenary the Marvel Universe has ever seen! Brought to you with words by Stuart Moore (CLOAK & DAGGER, THANOS: DEATH SENTENCE Novel) and art by Jacopo Camagni (DEADPOOL’S SECRET SECRET WARS).
32 PGS. (EACH)/Parental Advisory …$3.99 (EACH)

"Deadpool The Duck"...? Hmm, surely "Duckpool" is better, isn't it, if not quite as marketable...?

* As JEN continues to struggle with the HULK (and anger) within herself, her newest client struggles with her own dark secrets.
* What happens when a terrified recluse is forced into the world against her will? When fear is pushed into the light?
* Can Jen reconcile the two halves of herself in time to help her client?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Is this a "What If...?" or something? I seriously have no idea why on earth anyone would want to do a serious She-Hulk comic, but nothing about this looks or sound like anything that lines up with the way She-Hulk has been portrayed over the course of the last few decades, nor does it look or sound all that interesting.

It’s all hands on deck with the AVENGERS, CHAMPIONS, GUARDIANS, X-MEN and the INHUMANS as they clash with monstrous threats that threaten to destroy every corner of the Marvel Universe. Who are the LEVIATHONS? Who controls them? How can they be stopped before Earth becomes another tragic, barren world in their wake? Written by powerhouse writer CULLEN BUNN and drawn by Marvel legend STEVE McNIVEN, this issue is the beginning of something big that you just can’t miss!
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

So I don't generally include all of the variants, but given that these were all awesome ones, it seemed appropriate. Also, those are some great gets; that one that looks like Mike Mignola drew it? Mike Mignola drew it!

 I like the pure simplicity of this crossover idea, which sounds a little like one a little kid might have proposed. The best Marvel events I've read since House of M have been the ones with the simplest premises ("What if The Hulk beat up everyone?" "What if a bunch of different people got evil Thor hammers?"), and while they generally get a little more complicated in the telling, "Marvel Heroes vs. Kirby Monsters" sounds fun.

I'm a little curious on how they will handle the continuity on this, given the long lives so many of these monsters have had interacting with the Marvel Universe, but, as it's not a continuity I can recall off the top of my head, it's unlikely to bother me much at all.

Penciled by JACK KIRBY
From Groot to Fin Fang Foom, Marvel is proud to collect Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby’s monster masterworks in two astonishing Omnibus volumes! Stan “The Man” Lee and Jack “The King” Kirby are known the world over as two of the most influential creative powerhouses of the 20th century. Before they created Marvel’s super heroes, they concocted a host of iconic monster menaces! As if driven by atomic power, Lee and Kirby—aided by scripter Larry Lieber—turned out page after page of action-packed classics, many hinting at the famous Marvel heroes and villains to come: Thorr the Unbelievable; a wooly, alien Hulk; the eight-foot-tall Magneto. These tales are the awe-inspiring crucible that created the Marvel Age of Comics! Collecting material from STRANGE TALES OF THE UNUSUAL (1955) 7; ASTONISHING (1951) 56; WORLD OF FANTASY (1956) 15-19; STRANGE WORLDS (1958) 1, 3-5; STRANGE TALES (1951) 67-70, 72-86; JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY (1952) 51-70; TALES TO ASTONISH (1959) 1, 3-21; TALES OF SUSPENSE (1959) 2-19; and AMAZING ADVENTURES (1961) 1-2.
872 PGS./All Ages …$100.00

So I turn 40 in March, and if anyone is wondering what a good gift might be, here's a good suggestions...

• It’s the 25th anniversary of Squirrel Girl! Twenty-five years ago THIS MONTH, she made her first appearance in MARVEL SUPER-HEROES vol. 2 #8, way back in January 1992!
• Then nothing really happened with her for like a decade, until 2005, when she appeared in – wait, what am I, Wikipedia? Wikipedia has all this stuff, and people don’t read comic solicits for a HISTORY LESSON: they read them for some SWEET SPOILERS on what will be in their comics several months from now! So let’s spoil some comics, huh??
• SPOILERS BEGIN. In celebration of 25 years of Squirrel Girl (SEVERAL of which actually featured the publication of comics starring her), we’ve brought back Squirrel Girl’s co-creator, Will Murray, to write only his SECOND Squirrel Girl story ever!
• It’s Squirrel Girl’s 15th birthday, and she’s gotten the greatest present of all: a run-in with THE INCREDIBLE HULK??
• Also, your regular Squirrel Girl team is here to also tell a story, so that’s cool too (Erica’s drawing both)!
• Two stories, two writers, one artist, and one quarter of a century with a character! It’s a special one-shot you won’t want to miss!!
• SPOILERS OVER. Now try to act surprised when you read it, okay??
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I basically just wanted to highlight that sweet cover, but the contents sound pretty great too.

Girl. Genius. Hero. Unstoppable.
Nadia spent the entire first half of her life a captive of The Red Room, but now this teenage super-scientist is on her own for the first time, and she’s ready to spread her wings! Hank Pym’s daughter has a lot of time to make up for and she’s determined to change the world. You know, if she can get her U.S. citizenship first. Guest-starring Ms. Marvel and Mockingbird!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Captain America, Hawkeye, Spider-Man, Thor, Iron Man, The Hulk, Power Man...are there at least two versions of every Marvel hero at the moment...?

I hope Thor's goats are in the next movie.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

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

All-New X-Men: Inevitable Vol. 1–The Ghosts of Cyclops

Some eight months or so have passed since the end of the previous volume of All-New X-Men, and something very dramatic has happened involving Cyclops, The Inhumans and the Terrigen Mists during that time–something that lead to Cyclops' death and the whole world hating and fearing him all over again.

That gap, and the mysterious events that occurred during it, have allowed writer Dennis Hopeless to begin his new volume of the title somewhat in media res. The first half of this six-issue collection is essentially a putting-the-team-together story, while the second half sets up their new status quo and sets them against some classic X-Men villains.

Hopeless has inherited not only the title, but also most of the cast of Brian Michael Bendis' series: The original five X-Men, who were pulled from the past to the present in order to try and talk sense to grown-up Cyclops, and not only did they fail, but they all got stuck here.

Of those five, Teen Jean is MIA (she's appearing in Jeff Lemire's Extraordinary X-Men, which is by far the less interesting and entertaining of the two books, at least in my opinion). Teen Iceman is hanging out in Austin, Texas. Teen Angel is still dating Laura, former X-23 and current All-New Wolverine, and they are hanging out in Vail, Colorado. Teen Beast is driving around the country in a VW bus-pulled camper called The Nerd Wagon, which has a Bamf-powered engine that allows them to teleport as need be. For reasons never made clear, recent Jean Grey School graduates Evan and Idie are with him (All that Teen Beast and friends would seem to have in common with these two X-teens are their relative ages; they never really hung out with them in the previous volume of All-New X-Men or in Wolverine and The X-Men).

Those two really stick out because, unlike Laura, who was part of Bendis' team, they are new, seemingly random additions, and Hopeless hasn't made much of a case for either of them being needed here. Idie at least brings some diversity to the otherwise all-white, mostly male team, but Evan? Well, I suspect he's here because the next collection will feature an Apocalypse-related cross-over, but I guess that remains to be seen.

Oh, and what of Teen Cyclops? Well, he's half laying low, dodging his friends and any attention, given the fact that his grown-up self went on to do...something pretty bad (And he'd already conquered the world and killed Charles Xavier in Avengers Vs. X-Men, becoming a wanted terrorist). But he's also tracking some new gang of mutants calling themselves "The Ghosts of Cyclops"; they don masks reminiscent of Cyke's last mask, speechify and basically just knock around tables and commit petty crime.

Teen Cyclops obviously takes that pretty personally, and sets about trying to take them down solo. He does pretty well too, given that they are just a group of untrained college kids with no real idea what they are doing, but he gets in over his head enough that the rest of the team unites to help him and, eventually, make him realize that he needs them after all.

From there, they become a more-or-less normal supehero team, teleporting all over the world to save people from natural disasters and the like. In Paris they run into The Blob, here given a fun, funny motivation for a life of crime, and Hopeless toys with the idea that their old enemy has had years to become a better, more experienced fighter, one used to trading blows with the more powerful adult versions of the X-Men, while they are still essentially "Year One" era teenagers who have yet to log many hours in the Danger Room (This is perhaps somewhat undercut by the idea that the X-Teens have been here a good long while now and should have gotten used to the idea of not underestimating the modern versions of losers from their past, and the presence of Laura and Angel's Black Vortex power upgrade).

The volume ends with a cliffhanger, as Toad too is in Paris, and attacks and kidnaps one of these X-Men, which seems to be in sharp contrast to the more benign Toad of Jason Aaron's Wolverine and The X-Men but, again, who knows what happened during the eight-month gap.

Hopeless seems very much dedicated to the idea of an old-school, classic superhero team comic here, as is readily apparent by the fact that he's not writing for the trade, as there's a three-issue arc and another that is at least four issues long, only the first three chapters of which appear here.

Additionally, each of the characters has a sub-plot of some sort that isn't bound to the particular story arc, but continues as a through line in all of these issues, and will likely to continue to do so. The most prominent of these is probably the tension between Angel and Wolverine; All-New Wolverine seems intent on taking point in any and all dangerous situations in a way that is reckless to the point of seeming insane. As when she throws herself off a cliff to beat Angel to the bottom of the hill while skiing. For fun.

Obviously, Angel has a hard time watching his girlfriend constantly taking bullets and setting herself on fire, and more than once vomits at the violence she subjects herself to, on the belief that her healing factor will help her recover from anything. Having also recently read the first collection of All-New Wolverine (and the annual, which was fun and funny), this portrayal seems somewhat at odds with how she appears in her own book, but, as with all of the sub-plots, it's a story-in-progress.

Hopeless is lucky enough to be working with pencil artist Mark Bagley (inked here by Andrew Hennessy), and not only has Bagley's career made him pretty much the ideal candidate for a Marvel comic featuring teen heroes and/or classic, old-school superheroics, but he's one of the few artists who is fast enough that he doesn't need fill-in artists to help him make a monthly, or even a more-than-monthly schedule, so that this collection is all Bagley and Hennessy, from start to finish.

I'm not sure why the book is called All-New X-Men: Inevitable on the spine and in the fine print but not the actual covers of the actual comics, but I suppose at the very least it will help separate it from the other collections of All-New X-Men with the same volume numbers on the spines of the collections.

Of the three books featuring X-Men teams Marvel is currently publishing, this is my favorite, and the one I would recommend, on the strength of its relative quality and its distancing itself from any X-Men mega-plot involving M-Pox and Inhumans and whatnot (The third, Uncanny X-Men, is drawn by Greg Land, so I didn't even bother looking at that one, nor will I).

Daredevil: Back In Black Vol. 2–Supersonic

So different was this second collection of Charles Soule's Daredevil run that I actually had to check the spine a few times to make sure that this was, indeed, the second volume of the series I had previously read, rather than the third. While that first volume read like a graphic novel, this one reads like a few chapters of one, and is different enough from that last volume that it honestly felt like I had missed a half-dozen issues or so.

Right from the first issue–or the cover, actually–we find ourselves in familiar, over-played Daredevil territory, with Elektra. In a two-part story, drawn not by Ron Garney, but Matteo Buffagani, Elektra attempts to kill Daredevil because she thinks he has done something with her daughter, who may or may not be Matt Murdock's. Matt, like the reader, didn't even know she had a daughter, and, it turns out, she didn't–it was some sorta mind control business to get her to kill Daredevil.

Blindspot, Daredevil's new sidekick introduced last volume, appears but briefly. Long enough to slow down a killing blow from Elektra, and get his arm broken for his effort. He later appears in a page set at Night Nurse's clinic. (Yay! Night Nurse!). With the post-Secret Wars Daredevil having his secret identity back, he and Elektra are on some particularly weird footing, as he knows she used to know, and now she doesn't, which he realizes puts her in sort of a horrible spot (She thought she was cheating on him...with himself). Soule commits a fairly cardinal sin of these sorts of soft reboot/continuity-altering shenanigans: If you have to deal with them at all, for God's sake, don't dwell on them. The next two issues, he dwells on them some more, however.

In those, drawn by Goran Sudzuka rather than Ron Garney, Matt goes to Macau to use his powers to win a ton of money at poker in a casino, which is all part of an elaborate–but fun to read!–plan to get to stay at a particular floor of a hotel, close enough to a briefcase full of something mysterious he needs, that has something to do with the Elektra story (He later says what is in the case, but it seems like he may have been lying). Spider-Man shows up for this story, as in the Peter Parker version, and Spidey knows something's not quite right with Daredevil, but he can't put his finger on it. Because Spidey too used to know Daredevil's secret identity, and know doesn't, and so there is still more talk of this (and a fun little game of keep-away as Spidey tries to press the issue).

This is actually the first time I've read a story featuring the new, post-Secret Wars Spidey and I'm not sure how I feel about that glowing costume. It's looked just fine on the Alex Ross-painted covers I've seen, but looks kind of weird and awkward here.

And that is that. Rounding out the collection if Daredevil Annual #1, which features a 20-page lead story written by Soule and a 10-page back-up by an entirely different creative team. They are unrelated to one another, an unrelated to the four issues of the main series that preceded them.

The longer, Soule-written story is a team-up with Echo in which they encounter a new form of Klaw, who spreads himself like an infection, transforming anyone who hears him into sound wave people. Echo, being deaf, is conveniently immune. She goes to Daredevil and the Emergency Broadcast System for help. It's a fine little story, mostly notable for artist Vanessa R. Del Rey's squiggly artwork and dramatic, elaborate lay-outs (My favorite part is a minor, silly detail, in which Echo seems to stop and take the time to tie feathers into the bandages she wraps around her forearms for absolutely no reason other than the fact that it's kinda sorta her costume; it's not like she dons a mask or any sort of identity-concealing, practical gear.

The 10-pager that closes out the volume is by writer Roger McKenzie and artist Ben Torres, and functions as a kinda sorta origin story for some dumb villain named Gladiator with circular saw blades mounted on his forearms. Torres only rarely seems to draw them in motion, which seems like it defeats the purpose of having such blades mounted on your forearms. It's not a bad story, but it's not a good one either; one imagines we'll be seeing the character in the future, as otherwise this is just kind of a head-scratching page-filler that helps justify using the Echo story in an annual instead of holding it as a fill-in issue.

So no Garney, almost no Blindspot, no complete story and predictable Daredevil enemies and allies–aside from the new costume and color scheme, this second collection was almost nothing that the first volume was, and suffered accordingly.

E Is For Extinction: Warzones

There is a sort of almost essential element of pointlessness to all of Marvel's 2015 Secret Wars tie-ins, which were almost all "What If...?"-style miniseries meant to kill time and fill slots in the publishing schedule, but that pointlessness could be insidious, as it could make one wonder what about these random, non-canonical miniseries was really any more pointless than any other super-comic? The whole endeavor, as much fun and as well-made as many of these series were, brought with it a sort of existentialist dread.

This one's a good example.

Its writers Chris Burnham and Dennis Culver and artist Ramon Villalobos doing an extended riff on Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's 2001 relaunch of the X-Men franchise, taking as its title that of New X-Men's first story arc. A decade and a half later, that three-year Morrison run (Quitely didn't stick around for much of it), seems stronger now than it was then, and then it was like a punch in the face (Here I might suggest you go read Paul O'Brien's review of this collection, as he is the best writer about the X-Men I know of, and does a far better job of contextualizing New X-Men in franchise history than I ever could).

But what's the point of it, other than to remind readers how great Morrison and Quitely's run was? To pull out old costumes and concepts, point at them and say, "This was cool, wasn't it?" To maybe try and condense the broad themes and storytelling models of that series into just 80 pages?

I'm not sure there is one. I'll be damned if it wasn't fun to revisit that era and its concepts, anyway.

Zagging where New X-Men zigged, Charles Xavier shoots himself in the head with two guns to get Cassandra Nova out of his head. Why two guns? Because that makes an artful, X-shaped blood splatter on the blank wall in one of those big, clean, Quitely-like settings.

From there, we jump ahead an undisclosed amount of years into the future ("X Years Later," naturally). Now Magneto  has opened "The Atom Institute," and he leads a new team of New X-Men: Beak, Angel, Glob, Quentin Quire, Basilisk, The Stepford Cuckoos, Dust, Ernst and Martha. Meanwhile, the surviving "old" New X-Men–Cyclops, Wolverine, Emma Frost and Beast–struggle with their fading powers and feelings of irrelevance. They are here cast as the Neanderthals, and Magneto's students as the homo sapiens in the evolutionary metaphor that Morrison pursued.

The U-Men, District X, Xorn, evil white Beast, the Phoenix business, Wolverine killing Jean Grey, plus all those other characters previously mentioned, plus the costumes and colors and concepts of New X-Men...this is the comic book equivalent of a cover song, maybe a concept album full of covers from another band. It works. But it makes me feel weird though, as I contemplate meaning vis a vis superhero comics books.

Included in the back, in large part to give this enough pages to be collected into a trade, is the first issue of Morrison and Quitely's New X-Men run. In part, this is a smart move, as it provides a great bridge. Like what you just got done reading? Well, here's the first issue of the run that inspired it. Like that? Then you, my friend, need to invest in some trades.

On the other hand, it underscores how different Villalobos art actually is from Quitely's, something that's not as readily apparent when you're not looking at them side by side. DC should get Villalobos to do his Quitely impression for some Superman and Batman and Robin books.

Power Man and Iron Fist Vol. 1: The Boys are Back In Town

Well this was a blast.

David Walker and Sanford Greene reunite the original Heroes For Hire for...well, for no reason, really. Mostly because Iron Fist wants to re-team with his best friend Luke Cage to have adventures together all the time again, but Luke's grown-up and has a wife (Jessica Jones) and kid (Danielle) to take care of.

The pair meet to pick up their old Heroes For Hire secretary or administrative assistant (depending on who you ask) when she's released from prison, take her out for dinner and help her recover a necklace of her grandmother's that fell into the hands of a notorious Marvel gangster.

It turns out to be a lot less simple than that, as their friend turns out to be in cahoots with bad guy Black Mariah (this version quite different than the corrupt politician version on Netfliex's Luke Cage) and the necklace turning out to be the fabled street magic artifact The Supersoul Stone. Suddenly, a bunch of minor Marvel villains of the mostly silly variety are gunning for Luke and Danny.

While the plot is played pretty straight, Walker seems to have taken some delight in rounding up off-beat characters to throw at his heroes, some of whom only make cameos. The dialogue is quick and clever in buddy cop movie fashion, with much of the tension coming not from any kind of racial dynamic, but because of the fact that the heroes are in such different places in their lives and, while they enjoy one another's company and have history, they aren't exactly on the same page any more.

Regarding racial dynamics, Walker touches on it with the whole idea of "street magic" and the Supersoul Stone, something that Luke insists everyone in Harlem has grown-up hearing about, but which rich white guys Iron Fist and even the Sorcerer Supreme himself Doctor Strange have never even heard of ("There are as many forms of the mystical arts as there are martial arts, and no practitioner of either can master all," Strange tells them, "Nor are all worthy of mastering.")

Luckily neighborhood magician Senor Magico is there to set them straight.

Greene's art, like Walker's dialogue and character choices, tends towards the light. His Cage is pretty much a walking sight gag, drawn as enormous, almost elaphantine in size, and generally stuck in small spaces, like a booth at the Excelsior diner or a tiny rental car that Jessica forces him to get when she needs the family car one day.

This is the kind of book where Ruby Tuesday and Gorilla-Man (not to be confused with Gorilla Man) are as likely to show up as Tombstone or Jessica Jones, where you can find a character referring to Strange as a "pendejo" or hear the words "Fistball Special" and jokes about how hard it is to brand something with the word "fist." I loved it.

It's the kind of comic that, had it been published 15-years ago, would have been relegated to a "street-level" comic, but here it's really more "neighborhood level," and while there is crime and violence in it, it's all cartoonish enough that it lacks the sort of grit and grime that it would have had back in the days of the Marvel Knights imprint. Rather, this books is spiritually closer to something like Ms. Marvel, All-New Wolverine or Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew actually  gets an amusing cameo, rooting for Luke's shirt to get ripped off during a fight), with one foot in the "funny" side of Marvel's funny book line (Howard The Duck, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Patsy Walker, etc) and one foot in the serious side of the line (Daredevil, the X-Men and Avengers books, etc).

That story about the Supersoul Stone fills up four-fifths of this collection, while Flaviano replaces Greene for the fifth issue, a done-in-one story. Centered around radio personality Jimbo's show, "The Yo, Jimbo Show," it's essentially a sort of Rashomon deal in which various callers and witnesses discuss the apparently reunited Power Man and Iron Fist team's battle against Manslaughter Marsdale. It culminates with Luke and Danny joining Jimbo inside the studio to set the record straight, and Marsdale coming there for revenge.

Flaviano's style is distinct from that of Greene's, but it has a similar flavor, and he sticks with the Cage-as-a-giant visual motif that leads to so many great visual gags, as in a panel here where one witness claims that Cage has the power of flight.

Also, in this issue Danny builds "a modified version of the Fantastic Four's Fantasticar" using instructions he found on the Internet. He intends to call it The Power-Fist Mobile, but Cage refuses to let him call anything "Power-Fist," so Danny settles for The Fist Mobile (The Fistasticar seems more natural to me, given its origins, but whatever).

Finally, I did want to mention Jessica Jones' role in this story, as I've heard some grumbling on the Internet that here she seems to be reduced to the role of nagging wife, like a character on a 1960s sitcom getting mad at her husband for going bowling with the guys instead of staying around the house with her and the family (Here's a pretty thorough piece on that, with lots of looks at Greene's great art). I don't want to say this reading isn't valid, and it was probably more striking if these comics were being read serially, where one might see just one scene with Jessica arguing with Cage about not wearing one of his nice shirts out since it was just going to get destroyed anyway every month or so. Especially since this series started coming out when Netflix's Jessica Jones was presenting a version of the character much closer to that from Brian Michael Bendis and Michal Gaydos' Alias series than to her post-Alias portrayal  (which was also mostly written by Bendis, but in the context of his variou Avengers comics).

Read now, though, and all in one sitting, her apperances didn't strike me as those of a wet blanket or nagging wife so much as the supporting character she serves as in this series. While she is usually angry and trashing Luke and/or Danny, that's Jessica's character in a nutshell, right? Angry and talking shit all the time? She's presented as the person Cage would rather be with than out getting into fights with his immature bachelor friend, and many of the jokes featuring her are among the stronger ones (Like why Luke has started saying "Fiddle faddle" now, and why she can swear as much as she wants, and how Luke can tell she likes Danny).

Her role is certainly smaller than that of Luke or Danny, but then, this is Power Man and Iron Fist, not Power Man and Iron Fist and Jewel, or Jessica Jones' Husband, Power Man and Power Man's Pal, Iron Fist, you know? Her relative lack of panel-time in the first five issues of a series starring her husband and his friend seems as natural as, say, Alfred seeming like all he does is serve Batman food and sass him. Jessica is here, like Alfred in Batman comics, a supporting character.

Perhaps the release of her own series, now entitled Jessica Jones for closer association with the TV show, will salve the irritation some fans of hers have felt at her small role here. I am curious to see how this book and Jessica Jones will read next to one another; I've only flipped through the first issue of Jessica Jones, but stylistically and tonally they are polar opposites and, of course, Gaydos' art is all dark and photo-referenced, so it seems to be set on an entirely different planet than Power Man and Iron Fist is.

Star Wars Vol. 3: Rebel Jail

This is the first of the collections of the Marvel's main Star Wars title that I didn't purchase for myself, more so because I had missed its release than because I was dissatisfied with volume two. I just noticed it on the shelves of the library one day, realized I missed it and supposed that meant I should maybe just start reading the trades from the library instead of buying them for my home bookshelves. Now that I have read it, I'm actually kind of glad I missed it at the comics shop. It's not very good, certainly not when compared to the previous two volumes and Vader Down.

Jason Aaron continues to write the series, and while his scripting is still relatively strong, the collection suffers a bit from two main problems. First is simply one of structure. The title comes from a four-issue arc that is the center of the trade, illustrated by pencil artist Leinil Yu and inker Gerry Alanguilan (whose somewhat bland take on the characters and world of Star Wars might make for a third main problem, actually). It's sandwiched between Star Wars Annual #1, by writer Kieron Gillen and artist Angel Unzueta, and another Younger Kenobi On Tattoine solo story written by Aaron and drawn by Mike Mayhew.

"Rebel Jail" features an antagonist leading a strike force of droids to a secret jail where the Rebellion keeps its worst prisoners, an antagonist who hides his face, says he sympathizes with Leia and wants her to win the war, but that he also wants to teach her that she needs to be completely ruthless, as he's seen the true evil of the Empire. His plan is to execute all of the prisoners in their cells, and to more or less force Leia to join him in doing so, or die.

Who is this mysterious character? Well, it's completely obvious in context. The annual, which immediately precedes "Rebel Jail," introduces us to rebel spy working deep undercover as an administrator on Coruscant. When he has to break cover to try to rescue some high-level prisoners and assassinate Emperor Palpatine, he learns just how evil Palpatine is ("I'm not even the same species of monster") and takes a blast of force lightning to the face. He survives, but just barely, and with a new appreciation of how Palpatine's complete lack of morals actually gives him a strategic advantage.

So when one turns the pages and sees this helmeted, masked character telling Leia he knows her, he felt betrayed by her, she needs to toughen up and so on, it's not difficult to imagine who it is. Aaron nevertheless presents it as some sort of suspenseful mystery to be drawn out.

The other problem? The early issues of the series were in part so successful because they focused on the core group of heroes from the first three films working together, as opposed to focusing on new, minor characters like so much of the expanded universe material has. Here the band is pretty thoroughly broken up.

Leia gets the majority of the focus, and here she is teamed with new character Sana and other new character Dr. Aphra, Darth Vader's new ally from the pages of Darth Vader (which I also gave up on buying, but that because I didn't like the art and found it unpleasant to read). When the prison gets attacked, Leia and Sana forge an uneasy alliance with Aphra (who turns out to have been Sana's former lover? Ha ha, take that Star Wars bros! This arc stars all ladies, two of of them "of color" and also lesbians!).

Luke and Han are off on their own side mission. Charged with buying supplies, Han loses all of the money gambling and so they are forced to try smuggling to earn back the money. Their scenes are all played strictly as comedy, making for a sharp and grating contrast to the more deadly serious business in the prison which, remember, is all about morality, war, crime and punishment and suchlike. Their plot line eventually intersects with that of Leia and the ladies, but not until the final issue, during which they are mostly unconscious.

The droids get even less panel-time; Aaron writes a funny bit in which C3-PO thinks he engages in fisticuffs, but its not particularly well-drawn. And as for Chewbacca, he's completely MIA; I am assuming this story is set during the events of his own (pretty damn good) miniseries, which I covered here.

So that thing that made the first volume so exciting? The heroes of the original Star Wars trilogy vs. the villain of the original Star Wars trilogy, a sort of high-quality, paper expansion from Episode IV in the manner of the original Marvel Star Wars comics, only with the level of care and respect that the material rates in 2016 vs. 1977? That's no longer here. The quality is, mostly (Yu's not as strong as John Cassady or Stuart Immonen, at least not with this material), and so this reads an awful lot like the sort of Star Wars comics that Dark Horse was producing right before they lost the license, specifically the later issues of the Brian Wood-written one.

As for the Kenobi story, it is as lovely looking as previous Mayhew/Star Wars comics...and about as dull, as really, there's only so much Aaron seems able to do with the "Kenobi just kinda hangs around on Tatooine for like 20 years" set-up, particularly in these only occasional, 20-ish page installments. It does look like he's setting something up for the next installment though, that will tie-in to the future/present a bit, but I was a little surprised by how uninteresting these Kenobi stories are, especially considering how awesome John Jackson Miller's prose novel Star Wars: Kenobi, which is set in this same basic time period, is. I wonder if Marvel should maybe just hire Miller for the Kenobi issues...?

Finally, it just now occurred to me as I was putting the cover into this post how bad a cover it is for this particular volume. As I said, Leia stars in the title story arc, which accounts for a good 80 or so of the 130 story pages in this collection, and yet it's those two goofballs from the comedy relief interludes that are on the cover. Probably on account of the fact that they are dudes.

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 3–The Sho-Torun War

The third-ish collection of Kieron Gillen's Darth Vader series (depending on how you want to place Vader Down in the timeline) consists of Star Wars: Darth Vader: Annual #1 and issues #16-#19 of the Darth Vader ongoing. Structurally then, it is akin to the Star Wars collection just discussed, leading off with an annual (drawn by Leinil Yu and inker Gerry Alanguilan) that serves as the first chapter of a story arc in the monthly series, still being drawn by Salvador Larroca (not a fan, although, as stated in previous volumes, he does well enough here, given how many characters have frozen metal faces, and how much of each page is technologically-driven set-dressing).

Vader is on a "diplomatic" mission to the titular planet, an important mining planet with an elaborate court culture that is toying with rebelling against the Empire. That makes it the sort of diplomatic mission that is perfectly-suited to an emotionless invincible robot space wizard like Vader. He basically kills a whole bunch of people (with some help from his droids; Triple-Zero's completely un-subtle attempts to encourage the court to drink the poison he's slipped into their drinks is particularly charming), and installs his own preferred puppet, giving her a damn cold reminder of what happens when planets piss off The Empire. And I mean that literally; he presents her with a gift that she could probably use as a paper weight or a conversation piece, but also performs the function of letting her and anyone who sees it know The Empire is totally cool with killing on a planetary scale.

Yu does a pretty great job on the art in this issue, and is particularly effective of portraying Vader as the kind of cool, never riled customer who just walks calmly through all kinds of terrible dangers, occasionally parrying a blaster bolt with his light saber or casually waving his arm to call upon The Force to fuck some shit up for him.

"The Shu-Torun War" begins in earnest after that, as Vader must return to the planet with a bunch of Stormtroopers and AT-ATs to aid his puppet leader in putting down a rebellion by the many mining barons who aren't down with this new world order. It's a pretty good Darth Vader story, playing him off of various other characters from The Emperor, to some of his surviving rivals that Palpatine set up for him in the first volume (his presentation of one of them to The Emperor is pretty cool), to a sassier-than-usual Triple-Zero, to his ally on Shu-Torun.

Gillen and Larocca also devise a pretty great set-piece in the war, involving giant, tower-sized drill-ships that fly through solid ground like rocket-ships. It's the sort of inventive scene that punctuated the first six films, but was missing from the seventh.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Comic Shop Comics: October 12

All-Star Batman #3 (DC Comics) The cover for this issue features Batman fighting The KGBeast atop a flaming semi, which begs the question: What did Chris Sims use the other two issues the genie apparently offered him when he freed it from the lamp? Scott Snyder and John Romita Jr. have slowed down in terms of throwing redesigned Bat-villains at the reader as their action movie of a Two-Face arc begins to settle into answering the questions and providing pay-offs for what occurred in the previous issues–The Royal Flush Gang gets a brief, awesome appearance here though, with their gradual arrival being even better than their immediate dismissal. I was pretty damn surprised to see the reappearance of Harold Allnut, the mute, hunchbacked inventor that Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle introduced, and who kinda sorta lived in the fringes of Batman comics with a version of Ace the Bathound until he was dismissed in maybe the most confusing way possible in Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee's nonsensical "Hush" conclusion.

At this rate, I fully expect Pagan, The Human Flea and maybe even Metalhead to show up before this story ends.

High-fives go to letterer Steve Wands too, for the way he renders death metal: A series of musical notes occasionally interrupted by skull and crossbones icons. The Snyder/Romita lead story "My Own Worst Enemy" is still not only the best Batman comic of the moment, but also the most awesome (Nice to see The Penguin being a real, hands-on, umbrella weapon-wielding supervillain again, too!). I'm already starting to worry about a time when JRJR isn't working with Snyder on the title.

The back-up, starring codename-less not-Robin Duke Thomas and drawn by Declan Shalvey, is fine, but obviously its events can't compete with those of the lead story.

Gotham Academy: Second Semester #2 (DC) I like how this issue's story reflects that of a manga/anime trope, that of the club rivalry. Here it's a little on the subtle side, I suppose, as the members of the unofficial Detective Club realize something strange is up and one of their number falls prey to the rival Witch Club, but the club vs. club dynamic certainly seems appropriate in the one Batman-affiliated book from a creative team that has apparently most thoroughly absorbed manga.

Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy #5 (Boom Studios) So it took the penultimate issue, but I've finally gotten to the point where I had to keep reminding myself that the kids from Gotham Academy aren't regular characters in the Lumberjanes comics. I suppose that can be seen as a strength of writer Chynna Clugston Flores' writing here, given how well she's integrated the two casts from the two disparate comics, or a weakness, given the fact that this has become a Lumberjanes story more than a Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy story. But then, I'm not sure how you keep such a crossover from inevitably becoming a Lumberjanes comic, given that the 'janes are married to their setting in a way the GA kids aren't (That is, I can't imagine the 'janes ever leaving in order to visit Gotham City; that would seem to break one of the core rules of the Lumberjanes comics).

In this issue, the mystery is more-or-less solved and the trickery more-or-less exhausted, so our heroes must resort to violence. Which, of course, means lots and lots of awesome violence against characters that are mostly cloak (a subject near and dear to my heart). It's definitely the most action-packed issue of the series so far, and there are some inspired scary visuals, as the lodge itself comes to life to attack our heros.

Oh hey, remember Olive Silverlock is pyrokinetic? I keep forgetting that. Gotham Academy should really address that, instead of occasionally raising and then forgetting it for months.

SpongeBob Comics #61 (United Plankton Pictures) The lead story in this year's Halloween issue, in which a witch curses the Krabby Petty for Mister Krabs' stinginess and blesses Patrick for his kindness, is a little weak, at least in terms of a spooky content, but the other stories make up for it. These include a Graham Annable silent story in which SpongeBob chases a jellyfish into a haunted house of sorts (and there's a Texas Chainsaw Massacre homage, of all things) and an elaborate Jim Campbell-drawn, Bob Flynn-written and layout-ed poster of a comic that you'd kind of have to see to appreciate, but its size prevents me from sharing here. Just make sure you turn to the third-to-the-last and second-to-the-last page of this month's issue when you're in the shop. If your local shop pre-bags and boards all their books, just tear it open, take it out and get your grimy fingerprints all over it. It's okay. I give you my permission, for whatever that's worth (Not much!).

Suicide Squad #4 (DC) Twelve-pages of Jim Lee-drawn Squad vs. Zod fighting (the "Die, Graphic Designer!" panel was pretty funny), followed by an eight-page Gary Frank-drawn Harley Quinn story. Can you believe they saved the Harley solo-ish story until the fourth issue? In this, writer Rob Williams has Rick Flag test Harley by taking her with him and a bunch of soldiers on a mission, wherein everyone gets exposed to Joker gas, and Harley talks to a hallucinatory Joker.

Captain Boomerang remains dead. :(

Wonder Woman #8 (DC) Uh-oh.

So it seemed inevitable that DC's accelerated publishing schedule would eventually cause problems for some of the books–I know Green Lanterns shipped late once, and there have obviously been some deadline-pushing books that required extra artists to get them out on time–but this one seems kind of drastic.

Greg Rucka's Wonder Woman, which is basically two different books shipping under the same title and numbering system, gets a kinda sorta fill-in here that breaks the "Year One" story by Nicola Scott, current story by Liam Sharp, "Year One," current rhythm.

It's still by Rucka, and it is drawn by the excellent Bilquis Evely, but it belongs to neither narrative. It's a kinda sorta origin story of Barbara Minerva–not of how she became a The Cheetah, but how she channeled her childhood interest in mythology into discovering The Amazons–and given that Barbara is a character in both narratives, it fits with both.

In other words, this is maybe an ideal issue for the serially-published Wonder Woman, as it fits with both, but it's not clear where (if?) it gets collected. I've been assuming that DC will eventually publish Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Year One and Wonder Woman Vol. 2: The Lies, but, if that's the case, where will they stick this one? (Me? I wouldn't collect it at all; I think publishers should occasionally not collect comics so as to encourage serial consumption, but that's just me, armchair publisher).

I'm just speculating, of course. I honestly have no idea how DC plans to collect Wonder Woman, nor how they will proceed once these first two story arcs are completed. Will alternating, Nicola Scott-drawn issues continue to be set in the past?

Anyway, no Wonder Woman in this issue of Wonder Woman. But plenty of Bilquis Evely art, and that's just as good!


And hey, up there where I mentioned The Human Flea? I wasn't just joking. I love The Human Flea. I used to want him to be a recurring Robin villain, maybe of the Anarky sort, where he was a sometimes-enemy, sometimes-ally type of character. I'd make that guy a Teen Titan, or part of the new Teenage Crimefighters Club that's starring in Detective Comics (he makes more sense than Clayface!). Hooray for the Human Flea!