Friday, 23 June 2017

(Some of ) June 2017's Pull List

June isn't quite over yet and I have a few comics on my pull list which are still to be picked up. However, while books are still to be read for me, the majority of them are the beginnings of (or in the case of Star Trek, early into) new story arcs.

Because of this, and because I kind of enjoyed talking about the Lazarus Contract in it's entirety, I decided I would hold off on Daredevil, Black Magick and Star Trek: Mirror Broken and talk about them in regards to the full stories.

Therefore, there were only two comics for me to talk about and both of those were released in the same week, early into this month.

First up was Titans #12, which was another little one-shot issue between arcs as Omen made a visit to Psimon in his cell in order to find out what had happened to Bumblebee's missing memories, only to have all of her teams problems thrown back at her by her nemesis, along with a terrible revelation to set up the next arc. Now, I have to admit that after the let down that was the Lazarus Contract last month, I was expecting an improved outing this time around. However, I don't think I was expecting this much of an improvement as this issue was fantastically written and totally had me hooked as all the revelations, secrets and frayed dynamics were shown. I also loved that Kenneth Rocafort is providing the art on this issue as I've always enjoyed his work since first seeing it on Action Comics (although I don't recall seeing it since then.) His work really works well here as he has a very similar style to Booth, meaning I don't find any transition in styles (which works for me). I've said before that Titans is a guilty pleasure more than a great book, as it has as many hits as misses, but this issue is certainly the best yet. I'm now eager for the 'Judas Among Us' arc and to see if my guess of who is the traitor is right. My guess: It's Garth.

Next was Copperhead #14, which saw the end of the current arc with the Sheriff closing in on the Mayor's killer, while Hickory causes more problems for Boo behind the scenes and Clay finally makes his way to his destination. Unfortunately, while I had hoped for something of a miraculous ending to this arc to regain my interest, this issue really turned out to be very forgettable. This issue, while tying up all the loose ends the arc had revealed as well as set up for what was to come next, just felt so boring to me and was just in no way captivating, while the characters of Clara and Boo just felt flat and shells of their earlier selves. Meanwhile, while I like Drew Moss' art, it's just not Scott Godlewski's and really doesn't make this book look like it did (in truth it doesn't look as gritty), something which really appealed to me when I first picked up this book. As a result, I'm kind of glad this issue is out as my time on Copperhead has come to an end. It had a good start in it, but it's hiatus seemed to be it's undoing and, as such, it's a comic I would rather not spend my limited funds on.

And so, I guess that's June done. I have to admit that I'm sad that Copperhead was such a let down and kind of sad to see it go, but when a book is no longer enjoyable then why spend good money on it? Thankfully, Titans more than made up for both it and it's previous instalment, so I guess it evened out overall.

For now, I won't be posting these breakdowns of my pull list for a while due to my grand plan of talking about books by arcs. In the meantime, I'll have to try and find something else to write about (but, in comics, that usually isn't too hard).

Friday, 16 June 2017

The Autumnlands Vol. 2

Like I said previously, last weekend I got to go on holiday and, due to circumstances beyond my control (well, kind of, I could have kept my son up I guess), I was given the gift of time to read some trades which I hadn't yet gotten around to. The first evening was taken up by the Mark Millar superhero book; Huck.

On night two, I decided I'd have a read of The Autumnlands Volume 2: Woodland Creatures by Kurt Busiek and Ben Dewey. This was another book which I had been given the opportunity to review when it had initially been released. Now, as full disclosure, I hadn't originally enjoyed this comic but, when convinced to give it a second try (because it's Kurt Busiek), I did find Tooth and Claw (It's original title) to be much better than I had first thought and decided to give that first trade a try.

Well, volume 1 was read and thoroughly enjoyed and so when volume 2 was released, I snapped it up (which was helped as Comixology had it selling for a discounted price), but had yet to read through it, until now.

The Autumnlands volume 2 follows on from the first trade with Learoyd and Dustain recovering after their battle to defend the (former) floating city's inhabitants from Seven Scars and his Bison tribe. No lost and alone in the wilderness, the two set off for survival and civilisation when Learoyd has an encounter with a being unlike anything he's so far seen in the Autumnlands. This encounter leads the great Champion and his dog-wizard companion deep into the Woodlands and up a nearby mountain as he attempts to gain more answers as to how he got here and why.

Much like the first volume, however, this was a bit of a struggle to get into initially. That said, unlike the first volume, this had more to do with a lack of a recap page being included in Volume 2, meaning finding the memories in my rather full mind of the previous read. This, as is usually the case with a non-recap page book, made it a bit of a slow start to get into.

Of course, as I read and the first book came flooding back to me, I really got more and more engrossed into this story, which also saw the duo attempt to help a sheep's village and pick up a new companion in the form of a Goat called Albert as they made their way up the mountain. I have to admit that, once the comic's pace picks up, the entire story begins to feel incredibly mythic.

The thing I enjoy most though are the characters and their interactions as, free from the more political characters of Volume 1, Learoyd and Dunstain really come across better as the former shows his hidden depths beneath his rather crude first impression and the latter feels a lot more confident here with both his skills and his overall demeanour. Meanwhile, I enjoyed the rendition of the Sheep village, showing a simpler, more comprehendible aspect of the this world while Albert, although a little annoying in places, I thought helped give the story some levity with his arrogant and humorous nature.

Meanwhile, I do love the art, which really goes with the mythic quality of the overall book and it has some good colours to help bring it across really well (which you come to expect when it's Jordie Bellaire.) What's really great about the art in this book though are the truly mesmerizing landscape scenes at the start of each issues which make me think of Oil Paintings or the art you may see in ancient texts (although the actual text which goes with them feels a little long.)

In truth, this book is a seriously terrific book, but not just for the things I've mentioned above. I've always considered that there's some unknown quantity on every book which can cause you to love the worst made or hate one of the highest quality. With Autumnland, it is the better of those two options as I find this book incredibly epic and, despite having to have worked to remember what was going on, the pay off was worth the effort.

I could have picked a few other things to read in my precious free time, but I'm glad I chose this. I look forward to volume 3!

Monday, 12 June 2017

Huck Vol. 1

I'm on my first day back to work after a nice long weekend with my family down to Paignton and the 'English Riviera' (It's a lot nicer than Fawlty Towers ever implied it to be). Back to the daily slog of entering numbers after the high of (occasional) sun, sea and sand. For someone who doesn't like holidays, I've gotta say it was pretty good.

What made it good (amongst other things) is the fact that, due to my son going to sleep early and thereby limiting my wife and I's evenings, I got to read two full trades (one a night). This is something that has long been a pipedream for me given my having to help look after a demanding one year old. However, this weekend gave me the chance to catch up and I'll be damned if I was going to lose it.

So, for the first night I got to read volume one of Huck, which I've had for a good few months and have been wanting to read since I reviewed the first issue way back when. This book told the story of the eponymous character, a gas attendant in a small rural town with a secret only the locals know. Huck is super strong, super resilient, hero with a heart of gold who spends each day trying to do at least one good deed for those around him. However, when one local spills the beans, Huck finds himself in the spotlight and one a path to find his family, while sinister forces mean to capture him for themselves.

Now this may sound a little too epic for what it is but, when looking back at it, I'm not sure I could describe it any other way. I've rarely been a fan of Mark Millar throughout his career; Civil War was good but Fantastic Four was not. Meanwhile, most of his creator owned works have been too crude, gruesome and bloody for my tastes. But with Huck, Millar has written such an earnest, lovable story that I can't help but to be engrossed in both the character and his adventure. In fact, Huck the character is the key to pulling me into this series as he is so Superman-esque, uncomplicated and easy-going that I can't help but envy him and root for him, even without his super powers.

And then there is Rafael Albuquerque's art which is just so incredibly fitting with Millar's story in my eyes. I loved this art just as much as I loved the story with every panel in the early issues just imbuing such a rural, rustic look that it just helped sell the slice of life nature, before the tone shifted in the later issues and Albuquerque seemed to effortlessly change the tone without changing the style and giving me the feeling of a book which was the same but different. I remember how much I enjoyed Rafael Albuquerque's work on Uncanny X-Force way back when but, with this, it felt just inch perfect.

I remember how much I enjoyed the first issue when it came out but, with the trade, it's fair to say that I really loved this story. While, given how it ends, it could be reasonable to assume it is a single story with no continuation, I really hope the 'Volume 1' on the cover implies otherwise. Huck is a terrific story (which I'm surprised to be saying about a Millar book) which is gorgeous and something I really want to see it continue.

Bring on Volume 2!!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

May 2017's Pull List - The Lazarus Contract

As I'm writing this, the UK is having it's General Election and it has my whole office up in arms. I've just read an article about how the Tories have it won and, quite frankly, it's putting a downer on my whole day.

Therefore, I figured that I'd get my head away from all that seriousness and talk about my thoughts on the Lazarus Contract, the DC crossover story which crosses into four books; my pull list comic Titans #11Teen Titans #8, Deathstroke #19 and finally the Teen Titans Lazarus Contract Special #1. While initially annoyed at the announcement of this story (who wants a crossover with books they don't read?), enough time has passed for me to be rather excited about the idea, especially after other crossovers like the Button and Superman Reborn (which I hear were very good).

The Lazarus Contract (obviously named as an homage to that famous Teen Titans story 'the Judas Contract') follows all three sets of protagonists from the included comics as Deathstroke, the world's greatest assassin, decides to make amends for the mistakes of his past, starting with the death of his son Grant Wilson, otherwise known as the Ravager. Unfortunately, there is only one way that World's Greatest Assassin can do this and that's time travel. Therefore, this begins a mission which involves the abduction of the Wally's West in order to understand and harness their ability to time travel. Unfortunately for Slade the Titans and Teen Titans are hot on his trail as both teams, somewhat grudgingly, work together to save their respective teammates.

As I read this back it looks like a bit of a simple plot for four issues. However, the story is really that simple and this I found a struggle to handle as synopsis for this titles seemed to imply that this story would be more related to Titans' Flash and his return from limbo and how Deathstroke could use that to save his son. Unfortunately, it wasn't although that didn't mean it wasn't a good story because it was. It just wasn't as epic as I believed it was going to be.

Some of the reasons for this had to with the writing which, while itself was pretty solid overall, I struggled with, maybe due to differing writing styles from the three different writers. As usual, I enjoyed Abnett's issue (which I've obviously gotten used to) and Percy's instalment was ok. However, with Priest's issues (or issues as he did the script for the special) there was such a shift in how they were broken down, with lots of time jumping and 'chapter' breaks (for want of a better word) that I think that's where the story lost my interest.

Of course, that wasn't all the problems I had, as I felt like a lot of information was missing which was rather important to the plot. The majority of it seemed to stem from the Deathstroke series as Slade continued to know and do things that weren't fully explained. Of course, on the plus side, there were plenty of moments which piqued my interest for the Deathstroke series as a whole, as well as the first Teen Titans arc, although the latter was almost immediately reversed by Damian Wayne who, despite already being a vile character in my eyes, really came across as an even bigger villain here than I thought possible.

On the plus side, I did enjoy the art across the board. Also as usual (as like with Abnett's writing), I really loved Brett Booth's art, as it grows on me more and more with each new Titan's issue. I also really enjoyed the art in Teen Titans, as Jonboy Meyers and Khoi Pham offered up this really unusual, deep coloured style which was almost horror like in its overall look, something that really made sense with a nice panel of Kid Flash's very creepy shadow which I enjoyed as it worked nicely with his past.

Sadly, I wasn't quite as impressed with the art in Deathstroke, as it looked a little flat to me, even though it wasn't that different to the other two styles to be a problem. Fortunately, this bump in the road was made up for in the special as the great Paul Pelletier got to provide the pencils, which is always a treat in my eyes. I was also happy with the various 'post-credit' sequences (for want of a better description) which set up a few new story points in the various comics, although I was heart-broken by the revelation that was given in the Titans segment, giving me even more of a dislike of the current Robin character (why, oh why, couldn't Rebirth have caused him to be erased?)

Overall though, the Lazarus Contract was a fun enough story but it wasn't as epic as I was hoping for. While it gave me a bit more of the Titans (who I'm really getting more into), this whole thing really felt like a mega Deathstroke story and not an equal division between all three casts. If this crossover did anything for me then it made me tempted to go and pick up Deathstroke trades, but beyond that it didn't really resonate all that much for me (which is a shame) and look forward to a return to the regular schedule.

And hopefully, no other crossovers like this for a good long while.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

May 2017's Pull List

May 2017 has quickly become my busiest month in a good long while.

With Free Comic Book Day, a couple of delayed comics finally being realised and DC doing a load of crossovers which have affected the series of theirs I pick up, my pull list for the month has increased by six times it's regular size.

Anyway, with the free comics having been read through, I figured my regular pull list be crammed through next to get my thoughts down on those before the big (DC) crossover.

My first (proper) read of the month (and by far the longest) was the Lazarus Sourcebook #2, which focused only providing the detailed information regarding Carlyle's bitterest enemy. I have to admit, while I enjoyed the first sourcebook, this second was even more enjoyable (while also feeling like it took far longer to read) and I really found myself engrossed in the inner workings of the good doctor's Kingdom. Once again, this sourcebook was displayed on some great page design and, as such, this book is another reminder to me about how rich the Lazarus world is and it now has me pumped for X+66, the series proper and maybe even more of these sourcebook down the line (maybe Morray next time).
Next up was Copperhead #13, with Sheriff Bronson moving ever closer to finding the old Mayor's killer, while his replacement plots Hickory in order to keep the Sheriff under control. Unfortunately, once again, Copperhead really failed to capture me with yet another lacklustre issue. The problems seemed to show from the start with the cliffhanger from last issue skipped over to move the story on, so much so I actually went back thinking I'd missed something. The plot itself is rather simple and fine enough but it's overpowered by the new dynamic between the Sheriff and Boo, one I really can't get on board. Finally, the art by Drew Moss Doesn't have the same flair as Godlewski's did and does look considerably rougher. By the end of this issue, it's safe to say I'm done here. It's been fun while it lasted but unless something amazing happens in issue 14, then that'll be the end of my time in Copperhead.

My third read was Star Trek The Next Generation: Mirror Broken #1, which followed on from the Free Comic Book Day issue by returning us to the Mirror Universe and seeing Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his crew of the I.S.S Stargazer decide to take action in the wake of the Empire's dire circumstances; by stealing the new advanced warship Enterprise. Now I've got to admit, I'm in two minds about this book after issue one. On the one hand, I love the artwork, with J.K. Woodward's style having the same photo-realistic, dark tone of the FCBD issue and I also really like the concept regarding the universe and the story arc. However, this issue did seem a little slow to get off the ground (although, admittedly, it took me three attempts to actually read the thing). One other, small thing which bothers me is why on Earth would the Warlike Empire call a ship the 'Stargazer' or the Shipyards 'Utopia Planitia'? That said, these are minor gripes compared to the pacing but, hopefully, this is a book which will pick up from the next issue.

Anyway, moving on from all the relatively middle road books, next up came possibly my favourite comic of the month up until this point, Daredevil #20, which finshed the 'Purple' story arc and completed the story about how the Man without Fear got his secret identity back into the bottle. I've got to admit, I know I have had problems with this run in the beginning, but this issue and the arc in general were outstanding. I loved the story during issue 20 and, while I kinda saw how it was going to play out beforehand, it nevertheless still pulled me in when it happened. I think Charles Soule has finally gotten comfortable with the character in this arc as he read exactly how Murdock seems to me while the artwork continued to be fantastic and exactly as a Daredevil book should look (while I did enjoy Garney's initial style in the early issues). Also, while it was still sad to see the end of Kristen McDuffie, I'm glad that Soule didn't kill her off as it gives the chance for her to return in the future (although hopefully a little better written than in this arc. This just didn't read like her). This was a great issue and it's tease in the last few pages now has me pumped to see what the next arc brings.

Next came something of an anomaly as while not released in May, I did happen to pick it up during the month (on Free Comic Book Day) and that was Justice League of America: Rebirth - The Ray. This issue, one of four set up issues for the new JLA comic, introduced us to Ray Terrell as we learned about his life from child who was allergic to light all the way to the introduction of his light powered alter ego, The Ray. Unfortunately, while I had high hopes for this issue, I really found the story to be a struggle to get into, something not helped by a lack of clear explanation behind his powers. However, it wasn't all bad as I really enjoyed how Steve Orlando put across Ray's isolated life as well as Stephen Byrne's always awesome artwork, which did make up for the books shortcomings. In the end, despite its issues, I think the book was still somewhat of a worthy purchase, if not my strongest read of the month.

Finally, I got to read Black Science #30, the final issue of this most recent arc which saw Grant and Brian fighting to survive as their world comes under siege from two evil alien races which then begin gunning for each other, with the McKay brothers stuck right in the middle. Once again, Remender, Scalara and co, steal the best comic for the month title in my eyes, easily outstripping the other books I picked up (some of which were also fantastic) with a fantastic story running at a frantic pace which didn't hinder it as I devoured this issue. Remender continues to dump more and more on his characters, with more chaos and trouble being added with no end in sight. That said, there were a lot of great moments in this issue, like Chandra's moment of reflection, Block long awaited departure and a nice throwback to issue 17 (I think). What was really great about this issue was the art because, while it continues to be top notch, the fact that Matteo Scalara can deliver this level of quality with a bust hand is incredible and he continues to earn my respect for that. It's a shame that this book is going on hiatus now because issue 30, like every other before it, just leaves me needing more immediately after.

And so that's the Pull List proper done and, while there was one book which didn't measure up to my high standards, it was a relatively good month with three great ongoings, a fun little one-shot and a mini-series which holds some promise.

However, I'm not done yet for even after 13 three comics, 6 bought comics and who know how many reviewed comics over May, next up will come the Lazarus Contract.

And I'm going to try something a little different there.