Sunday, 30 December 2012

2012, the year indie comics defined my life (well, my pull list).

It's been nearly a year since I started this blog, writing about the comics I'm so addicted to and my opinions of a lot of the books I've picked up in that time, and what a year it's been. Comics has seen some great stories and big shake ups to the big two as well as its fair share of controversy regarding the writers and artists of the works that line the shelves of comic book shops. It's also seen a lot of new talent funnel through image and the more independent publishers, some ending up at the big two while, on the the flip side, some more seasoned writers have left DC and Marvel to work on more of their own stuff.
For me however, 2012 was the year that saw me move away from the the mainstream storytelling of both Marvel and DC and engross myself more in the independent titles produced by Image and Dark Horse. Since picking up the fantastic Who is Jake Ellis? by Nathan Edmondson at the tail end of 2011, I went into 2012 with a new perspective and, with the help of my local shop, have gone on to pick up the incredible Harvest by A.J. Lieberman, the terrific Punk Rock Jesus by Sean Murphy, the engrossing post-apocalyptic title the Massive by Brian Wood and the fantastic Think Tank by Matt Hawkins (which is without doubt my favourite of the year, though not by much) as well as Nathan Edmondson's sequel Where is Jake Ellis?
So why have I become so enamoured by indie titles? In truth, the reasons have been twofold; first of all, these indie titles are just so good! When, each of these books was sold to me (except for Where is Jake Ellis?) I was convinced to reluctantly pick up each title after being told that each book would be award-winning (or words to that effect) and though, not all recommendations hit the mark, the large majority impressed, which was a surprising notion for me.
However, this may have been influenced by the second reason; which was that while indie books impressed, many books from the big 2 failed to have any impact on me. For DC, only three titles spent the year on my pull list; Action Comics, Demon Knights and Earth 2. Throughout 2012 not only did no other title impress me enough to become a permanent fixture, but the titles I did get felt so bad that all three are in danger of being cut next year. Marvel fared a little better, with the early year presenting some quality story lines. However, as the year progressed many of the books fell short and some got cut while others teeter on the brink.
So why has my pull list gone a full 180 from mainstream to indie? The reason, I think, is that the inherent freedom in story telling is far more apparent in the indie books than the mainstream. In the year, a lot of stories have come out (on Twitter mostly) of editorial interference at both Marvel and (to a greater extent) DC, which has appeared apparent to me in the books I read. This results in stories from creators not being used to their fullest. Also, due to the characters used being the companies property, very little character progression or evolution is possible, stunting the story somewhat. Indie titles however, do not have the same constraints, as the characters used are creator owned and can be used in whatever way they imagine, giving them unlimited freedom to just go nuts with their books.
With 2013 round the corner, I'm seeing a big culling of my pull list in regards to the big two coming round the corner and further influx of independent books replacing them. Although, Marvel and DC continue to fight with quality books still coming out (the new Indestructible Hulk springs to mind, that is an awesome book), for me, unless their storytelling improves, the indie publishers will be getting the lions share of my comic budget from here on out.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

An uncertain start for the new Thunderbolts #1

So, this week, along with my standard entries of Earth 2, Action Comics and Daredevil: End of Days I decided to pick up yet another new addition to the Marvel Now stable in the form of Thunderbolts #1. Now I was a big fan of the previous incarnation of Thunderbolts by Jeff Parker (well, up until those pesky Dark Avengers turned up) and with a cast consisting of the Punisher, Venom, Elektra, Deadpool and ,Rulk himself, General "Thunderbolt" Ross, I figured this was certainly worth a look.
This first issue focuses mostly on Ross' recruitment of the Punisher. Having been captured while doing his usual killing of criminals, Frank Castle is approached by the General with an offer: Join his team to help take out the bad guys of the world!! However, Frank is on a ticking clock to make a decision as every crook in town knows he's in a jam and is on the way to come and finish him off. While this is going on, the story is interspersed with Red Hulk's efforts to recruit the other members of his team; from Venom in the middle east, to Deadpool in France, Elektra taking out a sheik and a final, unknown member being broken out by the boss himself, every single one of these characters is given the same offer.
Now, I was really enthusiastic for this book when I heard it mentioned on the net. I thought "a book called Thunderbolts led by Thunderbolt Ross. Now that's what I'm talking about". However, after reading this from cover to cover twice, I have to say my feelings on it were mixed to say the least. The biggest problem in this first issue is the story itself, with the majority of the focus being the Punisher/Rulk dynamic. Now, while there is focus on the other members of the team, there is far too much focus on this particular recruitment, and of that there is little action. Also, the book doesn't really define itself sufficiently in this first issue. Very little of the writing makes clear what exactly this book is all about, which for me is a stumbling block. I want to know where the book is going if not long term, then at least as a general mission statement.
The artwork also doesn't help endear this title to me. Now, don't get me wrong, Steve Dillion is a great artist with his work on the Garth Ennis Punisher series more than proves his chops, and while there is nothing wrong with the art in this issue, my only quibble is that this work is identical to that Garth Ennis series and in a world of Esad Ribic, Kenneth Rocafort and Adi Granov, this artwork just feels very old and dated.
At the end of the day, I'm torn about this book. I really want to like this book, given its history and the characters included, however this first issue has not convinced me that it's anything special. That said, an issue 1 is not always the best barometer of a books quality so maybe issue two will show it in a better light.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Aquaman is actually pretty awesome!!

My birthday was yesterday and, as a treat, my missus took me to my local comic book store and offered to buy me something (Now isn't that true love?!). After some umming and arring, which included the rejection of an Incredible Hulk bust, as well as recommendations by the guys behind the counter, I finally settled for Volume 1 of Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis' new 52 run on Aquaman. Having now read it I've realize two things; 1. Geoff Johns really can make a great character out of nothing and 2. Aquaman is actually pretty awesome!!
Volume 1 is called the Trench and essentially that is what this first arc deals with, both as a main focus as well as the aftermath. When people of some small town (coincidentally just down the road from Aquaman's lighthouse) are attacked by a race of unknown sea monsters, it falls to the king of Atlantis (and his other half Mera) to chase after these creatures, save the people they kidnapped and save the day. This first arc then leads into, what I assume will be the overlying story arc in this run, as a message from beyond the grave informs Aquaman that Atlantis may have been attacked, though it is unknown by who...?
Now, the story is pretty average for how stories go (there are certainly better AND worse in the world of comics, certainly the ones that I've read), however, the reason to read this is not the stories themselves, it's the characters and their dialogue amongst themselves. Aquaman has had the mick taken out of him since he was created (which always makes me think of Raj in Big Bang Theory dressed as the character and hating it) and some of this abuse might be justified. However, Geoff Johns not only accepts these points, but uses them to full effect. During this book, Aquaman is constantly insulted, ridiculed and mocked multiple times for various reasons (the "you can't eat fish" bit in the diner is my personal favourite), but yet he is still portrayed as a hard working, selfless hero whose only problem is the fact he talks to fish (well, he doesn't but that gets explained). This is where the talent lies in this book, as Johns not only does this but also creates a nice supporting cast for his hero (and heroine) based on the people who come to realise once you look past the jokes, Aquaman is pretty bad ass.
Of course, that isn't to take away from the artwork and Ivan Reis and Joe Prado. Reis, who was on task for Blackest Night and Flash: Rebirth, pulls another blinder here with stunning panels on every page. From the brightness on land to the darkness of the trench, every panel is so striking with deep colours and no disparities that it only enhanced my enjoyment.
At the end of the day, I have realised that I've been seriously missing out when it comes to this title, especially if the quality of this book has continued since these first 6 issues. The big question for me now is, do I get on board at the next available jumping on point or simply get all the issues I've missed?

Friday, 30 November 2012

FF #1 is far from Fantastic (Four)!!!

So, this week's light week for my buy pile saw the release of Marvel Now's most newest entrant to it's banner, Matt Fraction's and Michael Allred FF #1, no longer starring the First family (well it was a little bit), but a new foursome who's connections run deep to the gang from the Baxter Building. However, unlike previous new release Fantastic Four #1, after reading this book a couple of times over, I was not as bowled over by this issue as I had been previously.
Following on from Fantastic Four's first issue, Mr Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch and The Thing have gone to speak with Ant-Man Scott Lang, Medusa of the inhumans, Johnny's girfriend Darla...(something) and She-Hulk Jennifer Walters respectively with an offer; Take over their position within the Fantastic Four and lead the Future Foundation for exactly 4 minutes (although it could be longer). Meanwhile, as these requests are made, all the members of the Future Foundation are being interviewed, giving their views and explaining what the FF is.
Now, this issue is obviously an introductionary issue (what issue 1 isn't?), but unlike Fantastic Four, FF #1 lacks the same kind of humour and light-heartedness that I found in the sister book. In fact the book, which is mostly an Ant-Man focused story, feels rather morbid as a result of its focus. Also, after reading it, I didn't feel that the book went anywhere or that I learned anything new about the characters or the world. In fact, the stand-out part was the Bentley/Dragon Man interview, which was hilarious (I'd totally read a solo book starring just these guys. Just saying). The art by Michael and Laura Allred didn't help matters, with the book looking and feeling very much like a children's book. In fairness, given the characters included this might have been what was going for, and there wasn't anything inherently wrong with the work, it just didn't appeal to me and took some of the enjoyment of reading.
After the enjoyment I felt of the final issues of the last FF run and the first issue of Fantastic Four by Fraction, this is a bit of a disappointment. That said, I'm in two minds whether to give the book one more chance or drop it for superior titles (See Indestructible Hulk). A part of me suspects that improvements will be apparent next time, but I'm just not sure if I wanna risk the money to find out.

Indestructible Hulk #1 was smashing!!!

Although its been a week since its release, Indestructible Hulk #1 called out to me during an incredibly light week in terms of comic book pick-ups (only FF#1 came out from my buy pile, but that's a whole different thing). However, after reading through this book twice, from cover to cover, I've got to confess that the decision to buy this book was totally justified because this book was, in an apt word, incredible.
The book begins with Maria Hill, the new Director of the reformed S.H.I.E.L.D. intelligence agency, sitting in a diner waiting to start a mission while fretting over where the Hulk is. Lucky for her the Green Goliath's alter ego, Bruce Banner, has just walked up to her and sat at her table. He's come with an offer for her; let him come work for her and let him be a scientist who can help make the world better and in return she gets the Hulk to send on missions that are too dangerous for anyone else. Banner thinks this is a fair deal and just to prove it to Hill, offers to deal with the mission she is currently waiting to complete.
And so, this is the basic premise of the issue, and the title going forward. I'm a big fan of Mark Waid (please let him return to Fantastic Four soon) and I'm so glad to see that he's bringing the vibrancy he has instilled to Daredevil over to the Hulk as well. The story, while mostly backstory and catch-up to prepare for the new status quo, feels fluid and much more compelling than the action scenes later on (not that they're bad either). The constant ticking clock, helps maintain a pace and provides the story urgency in it's completion. Meanwhile, Leinil Yu's art is not something I've actually seen in books before (despite him not exactly being new to the game), however, I am regretting it now as the he draws with so much energy and provides so much detail, which go hand in hand with the deep colours (The Hulk reveal panel was fantastic).
In all honesty, I'd made a decision regarding what Marvel Now books I was going to give a try, but I'm annoyed by that mistake as this new Hulk wasn't one of them. Now though, I have every intention of adding this to my buy pile just to see what happens next.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Matt Fraction's Fantastic Four is actually pretty good

For my first foray into the new Marvel Now, I decided (or rather, it was decided for me what with release dates) that I would start with a book that is close to my heart; the Fantastic Four. Now my collection of FF issues goes back a long way. I have the run's by Waid, Straczynski, McDuffie, Millar and Hickman and have seen the great, the good and the very bad (yes I'm talking about Millar's run). Although I was hesitant after the greatness of Jonathan Hickman's venture on this title, I've now read the new issue 1 of Marvel's first family, written by Matt Fraction and art by Mark Bagley and Mark Farmer, twice and I've gotta admit, it's actually pretty good.
This issue saw Fraction re-introduce the Fantastic Four for the benefit of new readers, as well as set up the premise which will no doubt define much of his run. After starting with a tease of what the future may hold, the story focuses on the present, where the Fan four are under attack by a dinosaur back in the distant past. Upon returning to the present, and realising how much of his children's lives he is missing, decides to take them, along with the rest of the team, on a road trip of time, space and any other dimensions that happen to show up on the way. A sweet gesture you might think, wanting to spend more time with his family. Unfortunately, the reason for this trip has less to do with family bonding and more to do with something that might finally finish off this team....
In truth, I thought Fraction pulled off a great first issue here. While maybe not as good as others in the FF's long and illustrious history, this first issue of his run has Fraction not only set up what is going to happen, but has him beautifully define each character and what makes them tick, sometimes with hilarious effect (I really liked the Ben vs Yancy Street scenes). While the issue doesn't focus too much on the prior run by Hickman, there are nods entered in there, some of which help move the book forward, which is a nice touch and makes me thankful that the past isn't being ignored (DC should take note here).
Mark Bagley and Mark Farmer, have really brought a strong game on this book, based on the first issue artwork at any rate. The characters look and feel more real and more themselves, which is a plus after some of the more outrageous concepts from the last run. The art here, however, isn't perfect and does feel a little off in places, but this is most likely settling in on the title and will no doubt improve, but the fact this art looks more reminiscent of the art from the Waid era seals it for me.
At the end of the day, this book isn't perfect, but then what is? To me, Fantastic Four gives away exactly what it is that I've enjoyed from this series over the years; a light-hearted adventure series starring a lovable dysfunctional family told right with good art. For this, I am more than happy to come back in a month for the next issue.

Monday, 12 November 2012

This weeks comics (finally)

After a bit of a wait (damn life getting in the way), I was finally able to get round to reading the books I picked up this week and it was a mixed bag as to what was good, what was bad and what was just plain average.
First up, I read Uncanny X-Force #33 which continued seeing Wolverine and his gang of assassins trying to stop Daken and the brotherhood from corrupting Apocalypse clone Evan from being corrupted. Sadly it didn't seem to be going well with the gang separated and AOA Nightcrawler selling his allies out for a shot at revenge.
That said, despite how exciting it sounds, I could really take or leave this issue. Now I don't there is anything with the issue itself, with Rick Remender still writing the crap out of the book and Phil Noto's art looking better with each passing month. However, I don't worry that the story is overly long and in the age of advanced solicits, the suspense is removed a little. Overall, Uncanny X-Force is a greats read, but I suspect, based on this, that the end of Remender's run might fall flat.
After that though, I received a pleasant surprise when reading Earth 2 #6 which, finishing off the books first arc, saw the Flash, Green Lantern and the gang finish off the threat of Solomon Grundy (like there was ever any doubt, so this isn't a spoiler), while Sloan continued to be a dark presence behind the scenes.
To be fair, while issue 5 wasn't really that bad, I found the issue 6 was so much better. The story was much tighter and more engrossing and the had a far quicker pace than before, which is what's needed during an action scene. The resolution of the villain was a unique twist while the final panel also defied conventions, which I really liked. I'm glad the James Robinson decided to try something a little different than what I was expecting.
I then continued the reading of quality with Harvest #4, which brought Ben face to face with his former employers after he goes after their clients to secure justice for the victims of his organ harvesting. However things (naturally) don't go to plan and end up with Ben on the run with an organ that needs a recipient, who's been kidnapped and, oh yeah, he's been shot as well.
I gotta admit that I love this book, with A.J. Lieberman not only upping the ante, but also beating the crap out of his protagonist. With one issue left, I'm totally intrigued as how this is all gonna end, which is how all great stories should be written.
Sadly, my run of reading good comics came back to earth with a thud after that when I got to Action Comics #13, which saw Superman travel to Mars to defend a colony from attacking Metaleks, who happen to be running from something far worse; the Multiitude.
Unfortunately, this story did nothing to entertain me. After issue 13 and the issue zero I though this title had turned a corner but now I suspect that Morrison is sacrificing the option of staying true to the main character and offering him appropriate challenges in favour of employing his own agendas. Though the final pages offer the opening to the conclusion of his run, I think it is too little too late for a run that's been just terrible.
Thankfully, after that harrowing read, Daredevil End of Days #2 rectified the situation and brought hope back to my day, with Ben Urich continuing his investigation into the death of Daredevil and trying to find out who or what is "Mapone". This lead him to interactions with important people from Murdock's past (and even Nick Fury).
Now I'm not the biggest fan of Brian Bendis, but the guy can write one hell of a Daredevil story. After the somewhat long winded setup of issue 1, issue 2 told a story that was intriguing, gave as many questions as answers and even gave me some insight into the marvel U on the whole in the future. With the final confrontation possibly leading to Urich's end, I'm looking forward to next months instalment.
And so that was it. Five comics which gave me the good, bad and ugly in varying degrees. To be honest, not a bad week (except for Action Comics). Just bring on next week and the new start of Fantastic Four.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

DC Universe Presents #13: Black (Lightning) and Blue (Devil)

So, this week, while I was picking my newly released comics and realizing that all I had was Action Comics Annual #1 (which I've already talked about), I figured that I'd give something else a go. In the end I thought "you know, Black Lightning was such a cool character before the reboot" and given that he'd just appeared in the newest issue of DC Universe Presents I decided, what the hell, it might be worth a look.
Issue 13 introduced two classic characters to the new DCU, the aforementioned Black Lightning as well as the somewhat unknown (to me) Blue Devil, who were both working (seperately) to take down the Los Angeles drug trade run by villianous businessman Tobias Whale (Who is, it seems, a classic supervillain. I'm learning all kinds of things with this book). After the story's initial bust,and their subsequent meeting of each other (and yes, there was a superhero smack down), the story then focuses on the heroes private lives and their interactions with their respective father figures. Meanwhile, the angry Whale turns his forces towards finding these pesky heroes and taking them out (and that's NOT dinner and a movie) to prevent them interfering in his business.
To be honest, this is a story I've read/seen/heard a thousand times before (I'm sure it's also the plot for the original Lethal Weapon movie, only without powers and stuff) and it isn't made any more compelling now than any of those other times. Marc Andreyko does a solid job of portraying these two characters as two sides of the same coin; Blue Devil being a very Peter Parker-esque type of hero, while Black Lightning is more the serious, no-nonsense kind of heroics. In fact, the highlight of this is shown during when the two square up at the beginning, with Black Lightning eager to fight and Blue Devil trying his best to talk his way out of this. This is a refreshing take on the superhero team-up fights that have been flogged to death over time.
The art also doesn't improve the impact of this book, which is a bit of a shame because Robson Rocha's work is actually really good., with gorgeous panels that can't be faulted and are enhanced by the vibrant lines and colours Oclair Albert and Gabe Eltaeb bring to the table. Unfortunately, this is the same style I feel like I've seen in dozens of DC books, and maybe hundreds of titles within the medium, which really reduces the impact it has on me. There's nothing wrong with the work and it ticks the boxes as good art should, but I just wish it looked a little different to convention.
All in all, I don't think this is a bad book, but that's it. I found myself intrigued as to what happens next for this dynamic duo, but not enough to warrant spending hard earned that I don't really have. Maybe I'll be tempted back, but when you're on a budget you don't want just an ok book taking up what little you have to spend, you want a great book to know you've invested your cash. It pains me to say it, but I suspect there's greater books to invest my dosh on.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Action comics annual #1

So, yesterday I had to make a difficult choice when it came time to pick up my weekly comic books because all that was in my file waiting for me to pick up was Action Comics Annual #1. This choice was ultimately difficult because, up until now with this series, Grant Morrison's work hasn't exactly made me enthusiastic for the book in either the majority of the stories offered or the portrayal of the man of steel. However, on the flip side, I have got every issue so far and the collector in me desperately wants to have a full collection. Fortunately, Sholly Fisch's story in this annual certain doesn't make me regret the decision to buy.
Fisch's story takes place (as stated in a box on the first page) after issue 8 of the regular series and focuses on the aftermath of events spinning out of that first arc, with Superman visiting John Henry Irons in order to better understand their working relationship while General Sam Lane confronts Lex Luthor over his involvement in the attack by the Collector of Worlds. These two plot threads are then joined by the origin story of the new Kryptonite man, who agrees to become this in order to exact revenge for Superman's prior involvement (which I'm sure was in a prior issue but just couldn't find it).
Honestly, after reading this story, I found myself totally shocked at how good it was, expecting something of a similiar nature to what I had read of the regular series so far, but Sholly Fisch has come in with this book and made an issue that blows Grant Morrison's stuff out the water. The story is incredibly engaging, with aspects which were apparently ignored in the regular series like Luthor's treason and Steel's future being given centre stage here. Also, the characters are written better in this, with Luthor and Gen. Lane having more depth in this one issue than the rest of the series so far, but the main change being Superman himself, who seems closer to how, I think, Superman should be portrayed. He's proactive like he has so far been in this series, but he's much less aggressive and confrontational and more optimistic, as well as coming off more wary where, in other titles, he just seems overly paranoid.
As for the art, Cully Hamner has brought his A game here and improved the title tenfold, though I'm not sure how he did it. His art is a very different approach to what a lot of books are going for these days, but Hamner's work, while not overly counter-culture, is just off centre enough to give it style. The characters in here just radiate a whole new level of class. It's an art that I couldn't tell you why I like it, but it doesn't matter when at the end of the day I think if this art was here all the time I'd be more inclined to read this book first every time.
At the end of this book, after realizing that it was a great book, I had a bittersweet thought: sweet in that I enjoyed this book so much, but bitter because I knew the quality would drop again upon returning to issue 14. All I can say is that this book is the best Action Comic I've read since the series launched and if DC put the Fisch and Hamner on the book full time, they wouldn't hear any complaints from me.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Review - FF #23: Run

And so the time has come. Issue 23 of FF was released yesterday (Wednesday) which saw the end of Jonathan Hickman's 3 year run (or, in truth, it could have been more) of guiding Marvel's First Family through some crazy adventures through two books and as this second run ends, all I can say is "Boy what an end".
For reasons that don't make sense, I was expecting a big loud action packed issue, but what was given was something better; a small intimate tale about Franklin Richards, both old and new. Running concurrently with Fantastic Four #611, the time has come for Franklin and Val to leave and while Val does her thing in the pages of the sister book, Franklin stays behind to spend just a little more time with his younger self and teach him just a last few nuggets of advice regarding the amazing powers which were returned to him during this run. Once this is done, older Franklin goes about saying goodbye to all the family members (his parents, uncles and even little Val) before departing their lives for good.
I read this book twice, and despite thinking very little of it first time round, I've realised that that was a grave mistake on my part during the second pass at it. This story is just a beautiful epilogue which emits such emotion between the members of the first family, especially between older Franklin and the other characters, who makes clear the love he realised he has for every single one of them, knowledge he did not know of when he was younger. As Hickman, mentions in his letter at the back, his entire run has been about love within a family. This is what I've enjoyed about this run in general and this issue in particular; despite the fights, the differences in personalities and (in the FF's case) the unbelievably outrageous adventures, they are a family who always has each others back.
The art in here just makes a good book better. I'm not normally a fan of Nick Dragotta, but here he's used a very clean, simple style which just works perfectly for no other reason than that it just does. The panels are so clear and give a feeling of bittersweetness which the story eventually gives, except for those set in Franklin's pocket universe, where you know that Hickman let Dragotta off the leash and told him to go nuts. Those are zany, outlandish and and just totally insane, but they show you the range of Dragotta's talent and gives a clue to the premise of the book in a nutshell, This is a book that has crazy ideas.
And so it's over. Jonathan Hickman has completed his stewardship over the Baxter Building and he's done it with a gorgeous, elegant epilogue. The run as a whole hasn't been perfect but it's been one hell of a ride and when all is said and done, it allows me to throw down the gauntlet to new writer Matt Fraction and his artists by saying "You've seen what's come before you Mr Fraction, so show us what you got!!!"

Friday, 19 October 2012

C'mon Marvel, what's with all the double issues a month?

So I was just going through the newly released Marvel Solicitations for January and something caught my eye: Issues 1 AND 2 of New Avengers will be released.
Now this doesn't seem like a big deal on it's own but as I went further down the listings I discovered that Dark Avengers, a book I'm currently collecting, has issues 185 and 186 released that month as well. Not to mention the new Thunderbolts series, a book I'm interested in picking up, has issues 1 and 2 released in December.
Now I'm sure there are lots of offers in the solicits for these two months, for now I'm just focusing on what I collect and what I'm interested in. However, this is not something new from Marvel as they've been doing it for most of the year, if not longer. Uncanny X-Force, Daredevil, FF, Thunderbolts/Dark Avengers, Incredible Hulk, Hulk, Wolverine and (I think) Deadpool as well as others have all had two issues released in a month at some point this year, in fact by my estimates, all these titles have had this a minimum of 3 times in a year, making 15 issues released a year.
Now, I'm all for plugging the gaps between issues because who the hell wants to wait a month between issues. However, while 3 extra issues of a book may not be so much, a single title isn't all someone will buy. At the moment I pick up 5 marvel books, which is the 12 standard issues each. So I'm picking up 60 issues and then an extra 15 on top of that. It's very costly and a little unfair.
So all I'm saying is, Marvel should learn to cut down this need to intermittently release additional issues of a book because one day it may cause some of their more loyal fans to, out of frustration, decide to take their money elsewhere.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

A quiet week, but a good week (comic wise)

So this week was a quiet week for me as all I picked up was Daredevil #19, Dark Avengers #182 and The Activity #9. Having gotten through them all first thing this morning (because, apparently, there just isn't any time on new comic book day), I was surprised to find myself rather realizing that I actually enjoyed everything that I picked up.

Of course, that view was gonna go without saying when it came to Daredevil #19, which saw the Man without Fear continue to investigate the death of a mobster while, at the same time, possibly going crazy. Since the beginning of his run, Mark Waid has taken a character that is usually very noir-esque and made him more "swashbuckling" (as I recall Waid putting it in an interview). But that looks like it's all change as the series has taken a darker turn of late. Waid has made this so compelling now, especially with the revelation of who is responsible for both murder in question as well as Murdock's questionable mental health coming completely out of left field, but fittingly tying in from the first issue.
And while the story is compelling, the art just elevates it and brings a very macabre beauty in. Chris Samnee's stuff I just couldn't get into initially, but here it looks like he's picked up the beats from his predecessors seamlessly. The book is just gorgeous from cover to cover, with the the neo-contemporary look that Paolo Rivera introduced along with the radar sense never looking better.

And then there was The Activity #9 from Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads, which continues to act like my guilty little pleasure, a book of one-shot stories that makes a refreshing change from the continuing plot-thread style books I normally get. This issue saw Team Omaha take part in a hostage extraction along with a British SAS team which, while not out of the ordinary (well, for them anyway), occured while higher powers were bringing in to question if someone is giving up intel and comprimising all their ops.
For a book Nathan Edmondson has established in my eyes as a episodic comic book, it is actually refreshing and intriguing to follow this whole traitor conspiracy angle that he has subtley implanted in various issues through the run. It gives the series something of a focus regarding it's overall narrative and makes this book all the more of a must read. Sadly, the art here does the opposite as it looks very rough at the beginning although it does improve. I can only surmise that Mitch Gerads has simply had an off issue and hope he'll be back to his best next time round.

Then I was hit with a big surprise this week when I delved into Dark Avengers #182, as Earth's deadliest heroes had (to some degree) made up for the last few months and issues in my eyes with a much improved end to the story. This is because, unlike most of the arc so far, detailing the Dark Avengers attempting to steal the power of a mad man while the Thunderbolts attempted to return to the present, this final part felt more like I was pulled into the story, with more action given and greater urgency inferred. I found this issue far more exciting than any of its previous entries which carried the Dark Avengers name, Jeff Parker appears to have found his groove again and Neil Edwards pencils certainly look good in here, providing a nice style that is what made Parker's run good in the first place. This book is a vast improvement to what's it's been of late, just in time to see off the Thunderbolts who, sadly, are not staying in this book.

Though it's been a quiet week in terms of what I buy, it's definitely been a good week. It's also brought with it a troubling dilemma as Dark Avengers, which I had convinced myself to drop, has fought tooth and nail to prove itself worth my coin, while Daredevil and Activity, though certainly not perfect, I feel still deserve a place on my pull list. I guess I'll just have to try and make some cuts with something else.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

All change at DC (Well, the titles I care about anyway)

So, yesterday, while scanning through Comic Book Resources as I seem to do on a daily, almost religious, basis, I found a post detail the future of Action Comics; Andy Diggle, the man who created the Losers, would be taking over from Grant Morrison as of issue 18. Then, late last night, before hitting bed I jumped on Twitter, finding changes relating to one of my other DC pull list titles; Demon Knights writer Paul Cornell, the man I consider God due to the fantastic Captain Britain and MI:13 run (it's really that good), would be stepping down from the title as of issue 15 (or 16, I'm not quite sure), to be replaced by Robert Venditti (who, in truth I have never heard of)
Now, I'm not big on the DC front, having stuck with only three titles from the new 52 (only two of which were from the initial line-up), so these two announcements have a big impact on my pull list and DC comics' prescence within that list. The reason for this is that, of late, I've been trying to decide what titles to cut in order to streamline my collection and save some pennies (because saving pennies is important) and so while my third DC title, Earth 2, gets a save due to it being so damn entertaining, both Action Comics and Demon Knights have been entered on the "at risk" list (which does also contain Marvel and indie books, but that's not what I'm on about here).
So, what do these annoucements mean? Well, prior to the revelation of Diggle coming in, Action Comics was scheduled to be cut in the new year. I keep hearing such good things about Grant Morrison's stuff but I've read every issue of Action since the relaunch and, except mybe issues 13 and 0, they have all been a struggle to find enjoyable. I could think of no valid reason to continue reading an unenjoyable book and spend money that could have gone elsewhere. However, the news of Andy Diggle taking over has changed my stance. Diggle, who (like I've said) wrote the Losers, formed a pretty enjoyable run on Daredevil in my eyes (although the whole possessed by a Demon thing did kinda sink it) and based on his previous work saying, as he said in an interview, that he's an "action writer" gives me hope that the book will be easier to follow. Also, the art by Tony Daniel is tempting enough on it's own to have the book reprieved.
Demon Knights, on the other hand, is a book I've been reading due to the fact Paul Cornell was writing it. That's maybe not the best reason to read but, like with Action I was reading because of the book title, here I was reading based on the talent attached. Unfortunately, Demon Knights has been hit and miss and while I've enjoyed the characters that have been created, the stories themselves have felt a little dragged out. With Paul Cornell leaving, I no longer have much reason to hang around on this title (as much as it pains me to say). However, I've never heard of Robert Venditti and if my increased purchasing of indie titles has taught me anything it's never discount creators you've never heard of.
When all is said and done, I'm tempted to give both these titles a fair crack of the whip and make me realise that their prescence on the "at risk" list was a mistake, but that "fair crack" is only one issue each. Can both these titles convince me they have the chops to stay in one issue. Well, my bank balance is hoping "no", but I'm remainig optimistic.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Review: Action Comics #13

So, Action Comics #13. After the last year's worth of books in this title I was again expecting an installment which I could not care for....well, was I wrong.

This issue, which felt more like a one shot than part of a larger story arc, sees the Man of Steel attacked by the original prisoner of the Phantom Zone within the Fortress of Solitude through the Phantom Zone projector. Trapped within Krypton extra-dimensional prison, Superman must find a way to fight off the remaining prisoners while, at the same time, return to the real world to recapture the escapee. However, despite the challenges, he has the help of what looks to be the Phantom Stranger and a certain large white Super-dog.

This is still not the best book in my buy pile (not by a long shot), but Grant Morrison appears to have momentarily ignored all that he's built in the last 13 issues (12 and the zero issue) and focused on a tale that is more of the classic Superman that I enjoyed prior to the reboot. This is what I like. Superman feels, acts and speaks more like Superman should. Gone is the brooding, vigilante-esque Superman and here is the much more calm, rational, level headed Man of Tomorrow. The story itself is written much like a horror, and it's a valiant attempt but the appeal to me here is the references to the pre52 Superman; The calm, wiser outlook, the focusing on disasters around the world, the Fortress of Solitude (yay), the idea that he never gives up. This is what I like and I hope we see more of it (thought I'm skeptical on that). The back-up too, while somewhat throwaway, is a sweet tale that provides something of an origin to Krypto and gives greater emphasis as to why he's so important. This was a better back-up than recent ones.

As for the art, Travel Foreman is more than welcome by me in the pages of this title. I remember when he was drawing the Immortal Iron Fist and the images of Kun'Lun (I think I spelt that right?) in that looked so otherworldly and that is exactly what is needed here. With a brief look at Krypton at the beginning and a lot of focus on the Phantom Zone, Foreman provides the etherel look that is needed for this places. This is a unique look for a Superman book but thanks to Foreman, and colorist Brad Anderson who provides very cold, ghostly colours, it is a look I like and hope to see again.

Before I read this I sensed I was just counting down the issues until I could drop this title. Now though I have come away with three questions; 1. What is the Multitude? (Came up early in the issue) 2. Who the hell is this little man who again appears? and 3. Am I being a bit hasty in wanting to drop Action Comics? I might not be, but this issue has certainly got me wondering it.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Review: FF # 22 - You are whatever you want to be

After a few weeks of waiting, issue 22 of FF was finally released, allowing me to finish reading this final story about the the Wizard and his "son", Bentley 23 of the Future Foundation.

However, unlike what I was expecting (a continuation of the last Fantastic Four issue), here we saw a story which moved concurrently with part 1 of this tale, occasionally crossing paths with it's big sister title. This side of the story focused more on Bentley 23, who has been dragged away from the Baxter Building by Val Richards to follow the first family to Barbuda in order to get to the Wizard before he escapes. This story then continues until it reaches Bentley's showdown with "father" in the prison cell as depicted previously.

In all honesty, this is a really sweet issue. It's a quaint story that not only focuses on one of Hickman's own additions to the lore of the Fantastic Four, but also focuses on the writers opinion to the answer "What makes you who you are? Nature or Nurture?" However, this is very quiet for a Jonathan Hickman book for my liking and a little bit short, although I think this may have something to do with many action scenes having already been seen previously. I liked this novel way of having a cross-over, but it just didn't feel as action packed. Despite this this issue held a lot of emotion and I really enjoyed it for that and the journey that Bentley 23 has finally concluded (after it started all the way at the start, remember?).

The main problem with this issue could be the art.Andre Araujo creates some beautiful panels and Cris Peter provides very fitting colors, but Araujo looks to struggle with realistic faces, which is a little off-putting. Despite that, he still puts in a good attempt as many of the set pieces have already been shown in the related Fantastic four issue, though with these Araujo is creative enough to put a new spin on them

I had expected an end where young Bentley becomes the new Wizard, which would be in keeping with Hickman's recent stories which appeared to have undone all his work to return things to the status quo. However, I'm pleasantly surprised and fully enjoyed the resolution. With one issue left before Hickman's tenure ends, I certainly can't wait to see how this book finishes it's term.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Who I want to see in the cast of Earth 2

Since being released in May, I've really been loving Justice Society relaunch Earth 2. Brought to us by James Robinson and Nicola Scott, this book has brought some of the classic DC characters from comics golden age and given them a revamp and modern day facelift. It is also a book which is separate from all other books amongst DC's new 52 and, as such, provides Robinson and Scott a certain freedom in what characters they use and how they use them.

The gang so far (Well, most of them anyway)

So far in this series we have seen revamped versions of the Flash(Jay Garrick), Green Lantern(Alan Scott), Hawkgirl(Kendra Saunders), mr Terrific(Michael Holt & Terry Sloane) and the Atom(Al Pratt). But as the series, and the stories, will continue to grow, what other classic characters should appear and be part of the team? I think the following should, one day, appear:

1.Sandman (Wesley Dodds) - I remember when the Justice Society episode of Smallville aired a few years back and I got to see a lot of the JSA characters in the flesh (so to speak). At one point, Wesley Dodds appears and, kitted out in his costume and Gas mask, awaits the end he has just dreamed. Seeing this made me realise just how much of a noir character Sandman is, in a similiar vein to the Shadow or the Green Hornet. Now, while I'm not sure if this Sandman is the same one from the Neil Gaiman epic (Yes I've never read Sandman, let the stoning commence), I think adding Wesley Doods to the ranks would give this current colourful cast of Wonders a darker tone. He could be the JSA equivalent of Batman (Justice League) or Rorschach (Watchman)

2.Wildcat (Ted Grant) - Now if this character doesn't show up in this series in the very near future, then you know that there is no justice in the world (no pun intended). The backstory is that Ted Grant is a boxer who dons a black cat-like costume to fight crime. He has no powers, just grit and determination (and sometimes a gruff attitude). While, he has already been hinted at in this series (A boxing poster seen in issue 2 or 3), to see him take his rightful place as a part of this teams big three would make me go nuts over it. Also, as a more "human" character he would be a great way for readers to jump into the series and relate to the world rising up around him.

3.Dr Fate (Kent Nelson) - In all honesty, this might be a bit of a given, seeing as Hawkgirl did mention Fate guiding her to the Flash in issue 3 and that Fate was a he. That said, Dr Fate is iconic and I think he really provides the aged wisdom and gravitas that would nicely balance by this rather young team. Also, given the worlds more mystical focus (Hermes and the green light of the planet), it seems like a perfect setting for the helmet of Nabu.

Hope they bring back the round table too

4.Red Tornado (Abigail Hunkel) - So, this one might be a little out of left field compared with other characters but this character is synonymous with Justice Society, as Abigail Hunkel has been, like, the Jarvis of the JSA for who knows how long. Also, it would be nice to have a little bit of diversity in a team which is predominatly an "all-boys club" (Yes, I'm throwing down the gender card. I hate doing it but sometimes it does have a point). In truth, the original Red Tornado looked a bit silly, but using the Red Tornado from Kingdom Come (which I think was Maxine Hunkel), it would maintain the youthful appearance of the book.

5.Power Girl (Karen Starr) - Now this one might be a bit difficult to implement but is definitely worth doing. In past incarnations of the team Power Girl has been the resident faux-Superman, and has often been chairperson. Now in the new 52 she, along with Huntress are stranded on Earth 1. But how difficult is it to return them to their rightful home? By bringing her back and inducting her into the JSA fold, it gives the team that powerhouse element as well as the Superman connection. One provision would be to change her costume to something similiar to what it used to be, not a fan of the current one.
Also, while not actually a hero or a member of the Justice society, I think this character deserves a special mention for inclusion. The Shade (Richard Swift) is a terrific classic comic book villain who (I believe) has tackled with several members of the JSA in the past. Now, I know the there was a recent maxi-series for him (Which Robinson wrote, I think?), but it didn't specifically connect him to the DCnU proper. This allows him to appear in Earth 2 with a minimum of effort. I mean, we have Solomon Grundy in this book so shouldn't we deserve a villain with a little more class (and how can a guy with a top hat not have class).

Now these are only my choices and there are still a couple of others who wouldn't go a miss (Dr. Mid-Nite, Liberty Belle etc). But to see these characters take their rightful place in this book would be unreal and (I think) make the story even more epic than it has already been.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Why I buy the Activity.

This week I've looking long and hard at all the comic book series I collect in the course of a month. Some have been no brainers as to why I pick them (Fantastic Four, Uncanny X-Force and Earth 2) while others I've had no clue and have resolved to remove from my buy pile as soon as possible (I mean you Action Comics and Dark Avengers).

If this isn't the comic book version
 of "The Unit", I dunno what is

And then we come to the Activity. Deciding to base all my decisions on the most recent issue of each series, I had decided that this book just wasn't cutting it and so needed to be cut (funny play on words there). However, something told me I was being rash and so, with today (mostly) spare(That was a Sunday), I decided to read the entire series so far, issues 1 to 8. In doing this I realised something about this book.

With Art and story like this, I dunno
why I considered dropping this book.

What i realised was The Activity, about a military unit of covert operatives who go about partaking in missions that require a smart, subtle and covert touch, is not so much a comic book than it is a guilty pleasure for someone like me who enjoys something with no major continuity. This book is, essentially, the comic book equivalent of the A-Team, a kind of "the Unit" meets "CSI", with each issue practically a self contained story that may, only partially, have an impact on future instalments.

Reading through the series so far made me realise that I had been simply blowing through each issue and savouring each instalment as it came. In a world where every comic series is designed from inception to contain an ongoing, 20 issue, slowly growing in importance story arc, it is actually refreshing to be reading something that doesn't rely on this but instead tells a single story in a single issue, which would allow anyone to pick up any issue and get into this.
Now this doesn't mean that each issue has absolutely no relevance to future instalments, the world doesn't work that way (and in truth neither does the military I'd wager), but it's most likely how these kinds of teams work in the world; do a job, go home, move onto the next. This also the book to maintain the illusion of believability while, at the same time, retains it's format and style.
In the end, reading this series from beginning to present was the smartest thing I've done. It reminded me not just why I bought this book (because after "Who is Jake Ellis?" Nathan Edmondson is a REALLY smart writer) but, most importantly, why I continue to buy it. It probably also gives a clue that I'll be buying for a fair while to come.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Review: Fantastic Four #610 - The Wizard

Fantastic Four #610 continued to wind up Jonathan Hickman's incredible run, this time with the beginnings of a crossover with sister book FF featuring the return of the Hickman run's premier Fan 4 foe, the Wizard.

The issue sees AIM, who are basically Microsoft with weird beekeeping outfits, takeover a small island called Barbuda (which I suspect is another Marvel-only country) with the plan of becoming legitimate. Cue Mr Fantastic (requested by the President himself) and his fantastic entourage travelling to the new AIM island to meet with their "head of state", who makes them quite the offer; the US consider them a sovereign state in exchange for the Wizard.

In a nutshell, I loved this issue. The story has very classic feel that I remember hearing Hickman speak off in an interview prior to starting the run.  The whole issue feels like a throwback to some of the Mark Waid issues, and even the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby issues at the beginning. Sure, compared to prior arcs by Hickman, this is a very simple tale, but it still emits an abundance of over the top ideas and fantastical (pardon the pun) plot elements that just makes this book something that is more than needed.

This is made all the more clear by the art, which is, in a word, gorgeous. Vibrant, dynamic and loud, Ryan Stegman is a perfect fit for this title making the book feel as fantastic as the title suggest. The colours by Paul Mounts help with this as they just bounce off the page, making each panel just blow up in your face. Not since the initial issue with Dale Eaglesham have I been so in love with the art on this book. It's actually a real shame there is only one issue left.

If there is a downside to this issue, it is that it is part of a crossover. To be honest, I despise crossovers, why should I buy an issue of a book I don't normally buy to complete a story. It's simply another way to extort money as where would be the harm in putting out one more issue. Nonetheless, this isn't that big a problem here as I already pick up FF and the story is written in such a way that, while it's a crossover, I don't foresee it being a necessary one.

With only 1 issue left, I'm as in love with this title now as I was at issue 571 (wow, that was a long time ago). I'll be looking forward to next months finale, but I'm gonna miss it when it's over. I just wonder now if Matt fraction can meet the high bar set from this run.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Review: Action Comics #0 - The boy who stole Superman's cape

If there was ever an issue which could convince me that there is a turning point in Grant Morrison's Action Comics series, it is most definitely issue 0.

Split between Action comics main story and back-up, the main feature in this title details Clark Kent's arrival in Metropolis and his first exploits in the occupation of superheroics. From getting his now famous "S" t-shirts and getting his job at the Daily Star to making his prescence known to the to the criminals of Metropolis, this is a telling of day 1 in the New 52verse. The story is pretty much explained in the title, during the events of this issue a boy steal Superman's cape. What follows is, not only the Man of Steel's daily interactions while setting up life in Metropolis, but also what happens to the young lad now he has an indestructible cape. Meanwhile, the back up story focuses on the previous arcs villain Adam and his encounter with Erik Dresden, the squid like creature from the Legion arc before he became squid-like.

After the massive fail I felt that came from the previous issue, and indeed much of this run, this "prequel" certainly provides a ray of hope, being much more engrossing and providing deeper emotional connection than previously. Morrison wisely focuses on the titular boy who, apparently coming from a broken home, is the kind of innocent that was going to be the focus when the title was announced last year. Also, the interactions between Superman (as Superman) and both the boy as well as some armed thugs feels more like Superman should be; he takes no prisoners with the guilty but will do everything for the innocent. This kind of depiction has been missing so far in my opinon. However, this book is not without its problems and they come in the form of the back-up story. I did not like this story, feeling that it was unnecessary and a little forced. I struggle to understand why DC continue to add back-up stories in this title because, apart from the Steel origin, they have been mostly a disappointment. If they read this, I'd much rather spend less on the title of get more pages of the main feature.

The art by Ben Oliver is fantastic. The digital art he provides for the main feature feels much more futuristic, and is incredibly fitting for a character known as "the man of tomorrow". The art for the backup feature is also solid and certainly keeps things vibrant, however it wasn't enough to save the story in my opinon.

If I'm lucky Action Comics may have turned a corner with this zero issue. However, if I'm not then this was a fluke and the run will return to its confusing, uninteresting worst. I'm willing to take a risk on the former, although I'm unsure how many chances I want to keep giving this book.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Review: Think Tank #2 - Hook, Line, Sinker

Think Tank issue 2 kicks the story into high gear as it begins to focus on the main plot of the book after its introductory first issue.

Following on from issue 1, the book begins with a flashback of one of the many inventions the David Loren has invented over the years and the damage it causes. The story then bounces back to the present as David has returned to the lab (or rather has BEEN returned to the lab) to be given a dressing down, a smack in the face and the realization that all his stuff has been taken away. From this point on it's decided that enough is enough and that David wants out. Cue the planning, MacGyver style, as this heroic brainiac brings together all his inventions to implement an escape plan that he has, apparently, been planning for quite some time.

Two issues in, and what I know is this, this story is incredibly well written and is SO much fun. Matt Hawkins moves this story forward at a nice pace while occasionally stopping to fill in the necessary gaps in the back story. This allows for a terrific start to the new plot of the book as the story remained totally engrossing throughout. This is achieved primarily through the writing of the books protagonist, Dr David Loren. Hawkins has made this guy into quite the dick, but he's also a dick that can be related to. This makes him easy to invest in as he attempts to free himself from this high-tech prison.

As for the art, well that, like the writing, is fantastic. The panels are clear to follow and beautifully rendered, with incredible detail every where I looked. The art isn't perfect, but I feel that's more by design than poor skill as Rahsan Ekedal gives this book a really unique look which really suits its sci-fiesque genre fit.

After Issue 1, I thought this book had the chance to be great, but after issue 2 I don't think it; I know it!!!! Whatever happens from here on in, the imagination put towards the environment and the intrigue of the story will keep me hooked for a good long while.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Review: Earth 2 #0 - A Hero's Tale

Earth 2 issue 0 takes us back to the beginning as James Robinson returns focus to the events that preceded and led up to issue 1 and beyond

The story focuses on Terry Sloan, the original Mr Terrific and the man who captured Michael Holt during issue 2, as he provides the narration for himself and the original wonders (Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman to name a few) as they battle to defeat the armies of Stepphenwolf and Apokolips. Sloan's story describes the players on his side, and the casualties caused by the other-worldly invaders before moving towards his plan to gain victory, which most likely will not sit well with his super-powered allies.

Despite being difficult to get into at beginning, this issue did eventually grow on me as time went by, for which I am glad. While expecting this to be more of a focus on the Trinity and their differences and similarities to their Earth 1 counterparts, Robinson side-steps this by focusing more on the one character who, we know is still relevant to this world, Terry Sloan. The issue provides a deep insight in Sloan's personality, displaying him as a very cold and calculating individual whose ends always justify the means and is more than willing to sacrifice anyone to achieve his objectives. This makes the character a much more interesting foil for the noble "JSA" that Robinson is putting together during this series.

As for the art, all I can say is that Tomas Giorello's work here is gorgeous. Every panel, every set piece and even every character felt vibrant and epic, which given what is transpiring through this story, is absolutely deserved. While I would attribute regular artist Nicola Scott's work as a movie level produced tv series, Giorello's stuff is most definitely summer blockbuster stuff in a way. Not to reduce the talent of Scott's artwork, which is consistently awesome, but daammmnnn, this work here is good.

Overall,  this story was intriguing and beautiful to look at. If there is one downside to this book it's that Robinson leaves more questions that can only really be answered in another issue zero. That said, although book may not be essential to overall story, it does provide more depth to the series and is well worth reading.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Review: FF #21 - Ronance

Jonathan Hickman continues the process of tying up his loose ends with issue 21 of FF, as the battle between the Inhumans and the Kree is brought to a close.
Following on from previous issue's set up, Black Bolt and Supreme Intelligence have brokered a peace which requires one concession, the return of Inhuman's Crystal's new husband of Ronan the Accuser. But the Accuser must return alone. As a result, Reed and Susan (with Johnny and Spider-man in tow) are called in to (individually) persuade Ronan and Crystal respectively that their parting is what must be done. Meanwhile, as this story is told, flashbacks tell the story of the meeting between Black Bolt and the Supreme Intelligence and shows us how this agreement was reached.
Jonathan Hickman continues to tie up the loose ends from his run, with plenty of throwback moments which reference to the previous issues in the series. This obviously includes the main story, but also reminds us of Johnny Storm's time in the Negative Zone as well as Johnny's apartment share with Spidey. However, despite these moments of continuity, the issue felt pretty boring for a Hickman book. With no big adventures, this book feels more like general housekeeping before the creative teams departure and the launch of Marvel Now. Despite that, I did enjoy the flashbacks which unveiled the point behind the story as it went along, which gave greater focus on the dynamic between the leaders of the Kree and the Inhumans. I continually find myself engrossed by Hickman's depiction of Reed Richards, who continuously feels like the hero every book should have. Genius, Envoy, Leader. I totally love the way this characters has been written in this run.
Nick Dragotta's art work in this book at first glance felt rather child like and wrong for the book. But more I look at it the more I realize that it suits. The panels look very pastoral and soft and indeed child like, but given what this book follows, a super class of genius children, it doesn't hurt to look like that. It feels like a throwback to the early years of modern comics (the two pages of dialogue between Mr and Mrs Richards stick in my mind) which inspires this awe of wonder which the book deserves. Not all the panels are perfect, depictions feel off for a couple of panels, but overall it's an ok job.
Unlike the big sister book of the Fantastic Four, which feels like it's trying to end as big as it began, FF gives me the impression of ending with a whimper rather than a bang, with issues focused more on clearing up rather than telling a story. Hopefully, with two issues left the title following Marvel's first family will prove me wrong.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Review: Uncanny X-Force #30 - While you were away

Issue 30 of Uncanny X-Force sees Rick Remender taking a slight breather from the main story arc to bring a small tale which focuses on the other side of the battle.

Following on from the events last seen in issue 27, the newly reformed Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (Well, Daken, Sabretooth and Shadow King anyway) have taken Apocolypse clone Evan on the worst road trip ever as they attempt to breed distrust in him of Wolverine and Fantomex and attempt to bring out his dark side and allow him to return to his rightful place. This involves mind games from Shadow King, attacks on innocent people by Sabretooth and revelations by Daken.

With the exception of a brief scene involving Fantomex (where he, quite literally, is part of the furntiure) there is absolutely no focus on x-force. in this issue. Remender instead decides to provide an interlude to main story to allow the book to catch its breath and see the other side of the equation. This is a bold move which, i feel, pays off beautifully as Remender shows us the Brotherhood's main intentions regarding Evan, making their previous action all the more legitimate. Also, many revelations are revealed to Evan as to his upbringing and where he come from, which, while series readers like me will already know, its nevre-racking to see Evan learn it too and see just how he reacts to this new info.

These reactions are enhanced by issue artist Dave Williams. Williams' work is well suited to this story, much like Noto's stuff enhanced the future based story last time round. Williams gives the issue a very light, optimistic feel which suits the landscape the action is happening in, if not the actual situations taking place. Of course, this would most likely not be the case without inker Sean White, who doesn't recieve enough credit for his role on this book, as he continues to colour the books perfectly, constantly knowing what each panel requires to make it great.

In truth, this issue is interesting look at the villains of the piece that, while by no means feels necessary to the overall story, is a reminder as to why these guys need to be stopped. The issue with a nice cliffhanger that implies the end of this story for the Apocolypse clone could go either way, it's just a shame for me that I will have to wait another 2 weeks to see what happens next.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Review: America's got Powers #3 - Behind the scenes

America's got Powers, the limited series from Jonathan Ross and Bryan Hitch, returns after a long hiatus (about 3 months I think) with issue 3, as the real intentions of those backing the show start to become a little more known.
In this issue, Tommy is finally taking part in the contest as everyone wants to know what he can do, but as he (and everyone else) prepares themselves for the upcoming elimination round, a new group of previously unknown powers have their own plans for him as they make plans to break Tommy out. As all of this progresses, we are left with the question of what are the government up to in their plans for the powers, as we see that those in charge are trying to transfer the abilities of the powers generation into others that they can trust, and do so on a regular basis.
The first thing that really bugs me about this book is the long wait. A 3 month break has been an absolute pain as it really causes issues such as struggling to remember what happened previously. This is to be expected in a medium where you have to wait a month between installments, but this delay has really upset the tempo of the story. As for the story itself, there continues to be lots of set up and world building which, while provides greater depth to this world, does feel like it hinders the the immediate story. Despite this some of the overall plot threads are certainly intriguing and the big reveal at the end of this issue is a nice touch.
As for the art, well Hitch's work is (as always) terrific. This book is a reminder that this guy helped startup the ultimate universe and brought back Cap from the dead, his work he certainly enhances the books reality tv-esque feel. All I can wish for now is just that he could get his work in on time.
As a single issue is not the strength of this book. As a whole series though, this book is a very interesting different take on the superhero genre. It's mesh with the reality tv craze is refreshing and the threads left hanging are to enticing to leave unanswered. My only wish for this series is that the remaining issues come out very quickly from here on in.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Review: Uncanny X-Force #29 - No trust in tomorrow

Issue 29 of Uncanny X-Force leaves our band of killers in a race against time in order to save one of their own.

Having performed seppuku at the end of the final issue, both the future and present versions of X-Force race to find and save Psylocke before her life, along with the future timeline they inhabit, perishes. Unfortunately for them, Psylocke will not take any answer other than death as she continues to evade and take down her would-be rescuers, all the while inch ever closer towards the end. Will she die, or will her own future self help see the error of her ways?

This issue contains (again) a very Psylocke-centric story. Rick Remender should have this retitled "Pyslocke and the Uncanny X-Force" because at the end of the day it is this character who is put through the ringer most often. Remender continues to channel through Psylocke the various philosophical questions that this book continues to raise, doing so with tremendous depth and gravitas. Remender continues to make this book, and it's overall theme, compelling, never missing a chance to imply deeper meaning in the writing while at the same time providing a clear idea of each character who has their own voice. He also, continually provides much needed comic relief given the subject matter, with the panels where Deadpool and Punisher interact coming off to me as absolutely hilarious.

The art is good and continues to aid the story, but in honesty, I do miss Jerome Opena on this book. Julian Tation Tedesco's style is incredibly moody and evokes a very Blade Runner sense to this issue (which is ultimately what the story is going for), and while it is good, it struggles to compare to the early stylized issues of the series which Opena provided. That said, the "time quake" sequence at the beginning of the issue is incredibly surreal and definitely is a great way of showing time falling apart.

Gearing up for a conclusion to it's second major storyline of it's run Uncanny X-Force is feeling a little more like it used to for me; deep, compelling and epic. If Remender will end this arc as fantastically as he did with the Dark Angel's saga is anyone's guess, but it's certainly one I'm want to see.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Review: Dark Avengers #179 - Gods and monsters

Jeff Parker begins what may be the final arc of the old Thunderbolts in issue 179 of Dark Avengers.

This issue continues its two concurrent stories, with the Dark Avengers, having done a runner from Luke Cage to complete their mission, one their sponsors seem unwilling to divulge. Meanwhile, the Thunderbolts, having arrived in a very Judge Dredd inspired future (which may have some connection to the other story), may have finally found a way to their own time, though it means undertaking in one last mission.

This issue is certainly an improvement in the series, which has sadly dipped in quality since the title change from Thunderbolts to Dark Avengers. While the Dark Avengers story feels superfluous, the T'bolts story has become very intriguing. Also, I'm curious to find out the answer to the question, What are FACT up to?

The art continues to be a high point in this book with Kevin Walker receiving assistance from Gabriel Hernandez Walta on the pencils, who's style resembles Walker's identically, which is no bad thing as the art has helped define this book.

While the overall story thread hint surrounding a FACT conspiracy keeps me intrigued, the degradation of the series, coupled with the upcoming exit of the Thunderbolts team gives me half a mind to make similar exit when that team finally finished their adventures.

Review: Daredevil #17 - The Great Divide

Issue 17 continues Mark Waid's fantastic run on Daredevil as Matt Murdock begins to picks up the pieces following the last issue's revelations.

Having been ousted from hispanic practice from angry Foggy Nelson, Matt Murdock takes a moment to vent his anger and understand how things have come to this. This includes remembering a previous event before Foggy knew his secret identity and was keeping secrets from him. These secrets come to a head when Stilt-man attacks.

After the rather over-long Omega drive related story, this done-in-one story is a welcome change of pace to refocus the story. What Waid's created here is a beautiful bromance story, which not only sets up next arc nicely, but also explains rather legitimately why Foggy and Matt are best friends, even after all their years of troubles.

The Art in this issue is provided by Michael Allred and while it is ok and looks suitable for the flashback as a more golden age feel, Rivera's departure from the title and the loss of his fantastic visuals is being felt.

Nonetheless, this issue is beautiful entry to an award winning series which gets me excited for what is to come in the near future for the man without fear which, if this issue is anything to go by, is going to be well worth a months wait.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Review: Demon Knights #12 - When old Camelot witches just get in the way!

Demon Knights issue 12 continues this medievel groups quest to resurrect Merlin as they face off classic Camelot (and essentially DC) villian Morgaine Le Fey.
Following on from the previous issue, morgaine le fey, who is fundamentally responsible for the dark magic that the Knights have been facing so far in this arc, wants merlin's body for herself. Her objective; to transfer her soul into Merlin's body, because the magic she uses has all but destroyed the one she has. Naturally, it's up to DC's medievel magnificant seven (along with the resurrected king Arthur) to put a stop to this and continue with their quest to Avalon.
Unfortunately, much like Action Comics before it, I struggled to remember what happened in the prior issue, which certainly left mea little puzzled at the start. In truth, DC really need to open with a recap page. Nonetheless, both Cornell and Neves continue to deliver a top-notch book with both the writing and he art respectively. Cornell, continues to prove why he's such a good writer, with in depth portrayals of the characters and the incredibly quirky and funny writing (the moment where Etrigan begins a grand speech, only to be cut off continues to stick in my memory). Neves, continues to deliver his own top rate art, with the panels continuing their consistency as work that belongs in this book.
With a last issue cliffhanger that was so funny, this book continues to be a worthy read, despite the opening confusions brought on by having to wait a month and the feel that this issue was quieter than most. Nonetheless, cliffhanger at the end of this issue certainly makes me curious for more and for the question; What happens next for the Demon Knights?

Friday, 10 August 2012

Review: The Massive #3 - Back to where it all started

Issue 3 of the Massive brings about a close to Landfall, part 1 of Brian Wood's new story charting the adventures of a group of environmentalists at the end of the world (A contradiction I still end up laughing at).
Concluding from the first two issues, the Kapital continues to escape the band of pirates they encountered, before heading home to the only safe port they now of, Unalaska. This issue continues the theme of flashbacks, with the ones in here taking place after the excitement in HK. This issue continues to flesh one member of the main cast, with the spotlight falling on Mag, who we discover is a very gung-ho individual who is very much a fish out of water within an otherwise non-violent group.
I have no idea what it is about this book that makes it so compelling, as it has an incredibly slow burn story. But this slow burn is actually working, making the story so interesting. The cutscenes displaying what has happened in the world, while I initially considering a hinderance, are enriching the worldthe book is based in, giving greater depth and constantly giving clues as to the cause of all these events. Wood also leaves questions for the future regarding the Massive and it's emergency signal, with which we ask is there to it more than meets the eye?
The art by Kristian Donaldson continues to be top notch. I love his distinct style which continues to remind me of my favourite series Who is Jake Ellis?, and that's for all the right reasons. His Panels come across as crisp and clean, and just ooze charm. The coice of colours just improves on this perfection, with present day and flashbacks having different schemes, but still managing look the same.
This book was recommended to me and now I'm glad it was. A book which asks more questions than it answers, The Massive continues to be an execptional title month in, month out. I already find my salivating for issue 4.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Review: Punk Rock Jesus #2 - Being the mum of Christ can not be easy.

Punk Rock Jesus returned to the shelves this week for its' second installment as the story continues to unfold surrounding the birth of the clone of Christ and the consequences of doing so.
This issue mainly focuses on Baby Chris's (the new Messiah's name) mother, Gwen, who is starting to feel the strain. While Chris is doing messiah like things and (supposedly) performing miracles, his mum is starting to feel the pressure of fame and being isolated at J2. Meanwhile, Slate and Tommy begin to butt heads over Gwen and Chris' treatment.
After reading issue 1, I found myself hating my local comic book shop for recommending such a great book. Now, though, I find myself considering them the greatest people in the world based on how great this book is. Sean Murphy has put together an incredible comic book, with characters appearing incredibly well fleshed out with plenty of room to grow. The main example of this is main protaganist Tommy who, while being very closed off and pushed to the back in the first issue, is brought to the forefront of the book and allowed to expand his personality and character and, in essence, become an amazingly intriguing character. Also, the growth of Slate, who is quickly becoming the closest thing to a villain this book can have is fantastic. I can't get enough of loving to hate this guy.
The artwork, also by Murphy. is also of a very unique style. It clean but gritty aesthetic is so incredibly good to look at. There are places where it looks rushed but, all in all, this work is fantastic and I could just look at it all day long.
If there is one thing this book seems to be missing it's the questions, Where is the story going? It is a title that doesn't seem to have a real plot of sorts, but then that doesn't matter. Reading this, I think this title is so good, it's easy to just go with the flow and enjoy it for the fine piece of storytelling it is.

Review: Fantastic Four #609 - Return of the Defenders

Defenders from nu-world return during issue 609 of the world's greatest comic magazine, Fantastic Four, as count down continues to the finale of Jonathan Hickman's four year run.
This issue picks up from the plot thread left hanging at the end of the "Death of Johnny Storm" storyline, with the Defenders having escaped from Nu-World as it was consumed by Galactus. Now homeless, out of place and out of time, these heroes from 500 years in the future have come back to Reed Richards for help in fulfilling their new plan: using the future dead body of Galactus!
Ever since the "Return of Johnny Storm" storyline, Hickman has been using his final year's worth of issues to tie up loose ends with simple single issue stories. This continues that tradition with an enjoyable story done in one regarding a plot thread that I'm glad hickman didn't forget. Hickman is obviously enjoying himself as he winds down his run, adding fun little nods and in jokes throughout this story. It's been a long time since I've seen a Thing/Hulk fight (must've been JMS's run on Fantastic Four) and so it was a nice reminder of the rivalry between the two, even if it wasn't the real Hulk or even a very long fight. It was also incredibly funny to see the Defenders using a Moloid construction crew. Hickman has done well in his run to use classic villains in new ways, and this twist is welcome and actually makes a bit of sense.
As for the art. Well, I really liked the art. it reminds me of Fantastic Four stories of yesteryear a little bit. Stegman's style is well suited to the story, aptly making the unbelievable feel very much believable. Hopefully, we'll be seeing his work for the rest of the run.
With only two issues left, it makes me sad that Hickman's finishing. This, and pretty much all of his run, is what a Fantastic Four book should be like; humourous, emotional, unbelievable, out of this world, fantastic. I do find myself wondering if the new creative team will ever reach the bar Hickman has set, but for now I can't wait to see how his run ends.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Review: Action Comics #12 - Return of the Forgotten Superman

Action Comics returned to its disappointing run of form in issue 12, as the Man of Steel ended his battle with the forgotten Superman.
Following on from the previous issue, the book opens with a daydream sequence of the life Superman wishes for before returing to reality to find Lois dying and the people of Metrpolis under the thrall of his opponent beginning to attack him. His chances of victory are further complicated by the Forgotten Superman's talent to control his thoughts, though he does learn a surprising revelation and connection between the two.
I've heard the Grant Morrison's work can be, for the most part, hit or miss and I have to admit that, despite hoping for the best after the last two issues, this series from him is definitely miss. The story was difficult to follow (a "previously in Action Comics" page wouldn't have hurt), with no real explanation as to the reasons behind what was going on. Even worse was the handling of the Death of Clark Kent story, which is poorly resolved in this issue. I was interested to see how Morrison would deal with resurrecting the character (metaphorically speaking) and was expecting a very interesting an compelling method. Sadly, what was given was a "we'll just have an alien change reality and pretend it never happened" answer. I think that is a cop out, I didn't like it with Spidey's marriage and so there's no chance of me liking it here.
The art was, as usual, very good by Rags Morales, although some of the panels were very dijointed and crowded, which didn't help with my inability to follow the story. Despite the talent which goes into the art, it does sometimes feel as though too much needs to be provided that can fit into an individual panel.
This doesn't neccesarily mean that the entire issue was mithout merit, because there were still some good parts, like Superman reading the entire medical library and then performing surgery, which I thought was funny and inspiring. Sadly, this isn't enough to save the book.
This issue has left me very curious as to who that little man is and what he wants regarding Superman. Unfortunately this is barely enough to keep me invested in this title. The numerous problems that show up do not keep me invested and I now find myself very uncertain about coming back for next issue.