Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Marvel's digital code comics

I was going to write something here about Star Trek Discovery and my thoughts on it, given that I'd previously put it off in favour of airing my views on The Terrifics #1.

However, I'm not having the best week of it currently and so I'm not finding the time/inclination to delve deep into my thoughts on that series.

So instead, I thought I'd post this.

Over the last 6(ish) months, I have accumulated a wealth of Marvel's digital comics through the codes which they had in the back of Daredevil issues (as they originally offered some different books before changing that to the comic you bought plus one other). In all, I collected fifteen different comics in digital form and decided that I would write down my views on each so that those I liked I would remember and seek out and those I didn't, well, I'd remember what to avoid.

Now, I could have done one separately for each comic but I figured to save time (and most likely effort), and because I'm not sure I could fully analyse each one, I decided to bundle them all together.

So, let's get started.

First up was USAvengers #1, which felt like an introduction to a new "pro U.S." Avengers while they worked to stop a floating volcano base of the Secret Empire hitting the American coast. Unfortunately for this book, I really didn't enjoy it and struggled to get all the way through. I think the problem this issue had for me was that, while I liked the artwork, it's story which felt a little gimmicky and somewhat style over substance. Now, this might have changed over the course of the rest of the series (which I don't think lasted long) but, for me, it just didn't appeal and so I'd be inclined to give the rest a miss.
Next was the Marvel Universe vs Wolverine #1 which was basically what it said on the tin with Wolverine travelling around and taking out the heroes, villains and people of New York City as they succumb to a deadly, cannibalistic (or should we say 'zombie') virus. I've got to admit, I did enjoy this a little bit more than USAvengers, although the increase was marginal. I think that the idea would have been interesting to read about but the whole issue, from the story execution to the art style, reminded me too much of the Marvel Zombies series from last decade (or more?), which is something which didn't really interest me at the time. Had this have been set up differently, I might have considered looking into it more, but because it didn't I think I'd skip the rest unless it's on sale and/or I'm bored.
Invincible Iron Man #6 on the other hand, which was my next read, was a different story for me. This issue saw War Machine head to Tokyo in search of some Tech Ninjas (sounds very Ninja Turtles to me) which had attacked Stark's businesses previously. Meanwhile, Stark himself had his hands full as he gets to know a female scientist better while trying to deal with an intrusive Dr Doom. Now, I actually enjoyed this issues, despite the fact I was quite sure what was going on, with the story having a nice mystery vibe to it as Rhodey acts very Sam Spade throughout, while the Doom/Stark interactions were enjoyable. Meanwhile, I liked Deodato's art, which was interesting with a neo-noir/tech look. Normally I'd give Iron Man a wide berth (something about preferring underdog titles) but this issue does make me consider going back and checking out those connected to it.

I couldn't say the same about Spider-Man #12, which was my fourth read and saw Spider-Man Miles Morales jumping over to an alternate dimension in order to search for his missing father. Unfortunately, while there wasn't anything wrong with this issue I just found it difficult to get into the story, which was most likely because it's twelve issues in at this point while also feeling a bit too talky for my liking. On the other hand, I did like Sara Pichelli's artwork on this book but it, sadly, was not enough to get me over a seemingly unremarkable book. Therefore, I think it'd be safe to say that I'll won't go back to check out the rest of this series.

My next read was Inhumans vs X-Men #1, which I was hesitant about due to my growing aversion towards event comics in recent years. However, this issue, which saw the set-up towards the titular battle over the fate of the terrigen mists, I actually found to be rather enjoyable. It wasn't a perfect issue by any means as I thought the first third/half of it felt very slow but once the X-Men's battle plans were revealed, I found Soule and Lemire's story to be much more interesting. I also loved Yu's art in the issue which had a really moody vibe that perfectly matched with the plot, as well as a cool Emma Frost depiction which looked to have been ripped straight from the First Class film. By the end I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed this issue and may have to check out the rest some day.
Comic number six was Cage #1 by Genndy Tartakovsky, which was a more light-hearted take on the character as he takes to the streets to discover the truth behind the heroes of New York suddenly disappearing. Now this was a comic which, while hearing about, I hadn't really paid much attention to and had all but forgotten. However, after reading it, I've got to admit that I wasn't impressed with it, as the story was too light-hearted for my taste (that's not a bad thing, but I guess I'm just a dark guy) and seeming far too similar to a Deadpool comic (which I've never been a fan of). Meanwhile, the artwork in this issue just seemed 'wrong' for some reason which I can't put my finger on it. That's about all I can say on this because, beyond these points, it didn't really make an impression on me and so I probably won't get the following three issues.

Night of the Living Deadpool #1 was my next read, as Cullen Bunn and Ramon Rosanas gave us a story of the Merc with a Mouth waking up in a restaurant after an eating splurge to find that the world has crumbled due to a zombie outbreak. With this issue, I found that I really enjoyed reading it, something I was not expecting given my love/hate relationship with the titular character. However, in this book I really liked what felt liked a toned-down version of Deadpool as well as a story which seemed like a pastiche or parody of the Walking Dead with Deadpool filling in for Rick Grimes. Ramon Rosanas' absolutely awesome art kinda sealed this idea for me as his mostly black and white artwork gave me a real 50's B-Movie vibe while also reflecting WD's interiors. Also, a number of scenes seemed very similar to Walking Dead's initial arc, with Deadpool waking up amongst the chaos and even him exiting an alley. As I think about this, I realise that this could be the most enjoyable of all these comics so far (shock!!!) and has me tempted to pick up the rest of the mini if and when I get the chance.

My next read was The Unbelievable Gwenpool #5 which followed the titular heroine as she continued her superheroing after the defeat of M.O.D.O.K and ending up with a team up with a certain Spider-Man. However, this book was just to silly for me and I didn't enjoy it. There was nothing wrong with the issue as far as I could tell as the art looked solid and the story seemed (although one could argue that as it didn't draw me in). However, everyone has different tastes and, for me, this was a book I found enjoyable or could really follow (although being issue 5 might have something to do with that). I think I'd best avoid this series going forward.

After a bit of Hiatus, I then moved on to Iron Fist #1 by Ed Brisson and Mike Perkins which saw the Immortal Weapon seemingly travelling the world in search of his chi after the loss of K'un L'un. With Iron Fist, I've gone back and forth, loving the Fraction/Aja run but not doing so well with the Andrews arc. This issue, however, was incredibly enjoyable to me and felt like a nice middle ground between those prior two runs. If I had one problem it's that the comic looked too cinematic, like it was mirroring the Netflix show or something. However, that was a minor quibble as it was fun and seriously has me considering checking out the series as a whole.

(Since reading this, I have actually picked up the trade. Thank you Comixology's 99p sale!!)

Surprisingly, the same could then be said of my next read, The Mighty Captain Marvel #0 by Margaret Stohl, Emilio Laiso and Ramon Rosanas which, despite falling out of Civil War 2, surpassed my expectations and was a deeply interesting and enjoyable comic. This issue saw Carol struggling to deal with what happened in CW2 while continuing to run Alpha Flight and trying to deal with a barrage of incoming alien refugees. This was a book which I found to be beautiful in it's art and shockingly engrossing in its story. By the end I felt I may have tarred too many Marvel books with the same brush and, while it's been a while since I was following a Carol Danvers series, this issue certainly has me considering checking this one out.

Sadly, that positive run came to an end quickly with Secret Warriors #1 by Matthew Rosenberg, Javier Garron and Tradd Moore, which was sort of a Secret Empire tie-in as Daisy Johnson brought together a team consisting of Ms Marvel, Devil Dinosaur and Moon-Girl and a few other inhumans to stage a jailbreak. Now, this was an ok issue because, while the art was gorgeous and I really liked it, the story felt just too tied into Secret Empire for my liking. This wasn't helped by the retcon of Quake being an inhuman (which she isn't, is she?), obviously to tie into Agents of SHIELD and the MCU, something I'm never a fan of. As a result, while the art did look cool, I'm not sure this book is my thing and so it can join the list of titles of which I've archived.

Next came W.M.D. Weapons of Mutant Destruction: Alpha #1, a one-shot which opened the Weapons of Mutant Destruction mini event (thing) set over Weapon X and Totally Awesome Hulk as the characters from the two came together to hunt down and beat a fanatic group hoping to make Mutant Hulk/Wolverine hybrids (apparently). For me, this was an ok issue as, despite the premise seeming a little wish fulfilment-esque, Greg Pak does do some awesome writing to make the story interesting (such as Old Man Logan 'keeping the wheels on the bus' as he put it). Beyond that, it felt very by the numbers and, while not the worst digital comic I've read, it also didn't compel me to buy the others.

Afterwards came Chip Zdarsky's Star-Lord #1, which followed the Guardians of the Galaxy's acclimatising to Earth post-Civil War 2 as the Guardians find themselves trapped there. In truth, this is all I remember of the issue as, despite some gorgeous looking art from Kris Anka, I just couldn't get on board with this version of Peter Quill, who I think is a far cry from what I read of him in the Annihilation event way back when. As a result, given that the book focuses around Quill, I found the issue a struggle and not something which could convince me to check out to any other issues.

This was followed by Web of Spider-Man #31, which started the classic storyline of Kraven's last hunt. Unfortunately, I just couldn't get into this issue either as the story felt slow and the art just wasn't to my taste. I worry that this might have more to do with the age of the issue than the content itself, because up until now I've read predominantly current(ish) comics, and so can't get on board with either the writing or art style. That said, for the moment at least, I think I'll skip any future issues of this arc and archive this issue also.

Finally, the last read was Mockingbird #6, which saw the titular Bobbi Morse invited onto a cruise of cosplayers in order to get information to help defend her ex-husband, Hawkeye. With this comic, despite it being six instalments into its run, and despite it being a Civil War 2 tie-in, I have to say that I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this read. What I think was the selling point for me was primarily the story as Chelsea Cain seemed to get the right balance between superheroing and real life, serious and silly, while Bobbi herself was an intriguing character. The art, meanwhile, was cool although nothing special, with the story being the real draw of this read. As a result, this might be a run I need to check out in it's fullest in future.

So there we are (phew)!! All fifteen comics read with a nice broad selection of the good, the bad and the moderately ok in my opinion. In truth, it was a fun, if exhausting, endeavour to seek out something enjoyable which I wouldn't have necessarily tried off my own back and speaks to what a good concept offering a different comic as a digital code actually is.

However, with my Marvel Comics pull list now non-existent, I won't be getting any more to try out, although I have found a few here which I could always pick up if I need some reading material.

Friday, 9 March 2018

The Terrifics #1

It's been a while since I've written on here, despite my wish to post a little more regularly (ironically, the last time I did post was when I vowed to do just that).

However, while my head has been somewhat empty with anything I really want to talk about and time has been limited to simply non-comics life and Pipedream reviewing specifically, this last week or so has seen a couple of things crop up which I've really wanted to talk about and air my views on; Star Trek: Discovery and The Terrifics #1.

(Note: while I will try and avoid spoilers this isn't a review, just my thoughts, so I can't guarantee that. You've been warned!!)

So, first up of these two subjects I figured should be the Terrifics, though why I'm not quite sure (I guess just on a whim). The Terrifics #1 has been something I've been looking forward to since it was announced last July based on it's quite obvious (and almost constant) comparisons to the Fantastic Four as well as the visually interesting, albeit underused characters of Metamorpho, Plastic Man and (to some extent) Mr Terrific.

Therefore, if Marvel aren't willing to offer an FF book for me, then I'm more than happy to try a similar title from across the street.

Regardless of the rest of the book,
this cover sure lives up to the books
 name. Photo from Comixology.
Unfortunately, despite having read it through three times since I picked it up, I found myself really struggling to enjoy this issue, though I'm also struggling to figure out the why.

This first issue basically saw the forming of the team in a way as Mr Terrific goes to investigate a disturbance (taking Plastic Man with him) and encountering Metamorpho before being sucked into another dimension, where the three come face to face with Phantom Girl. Though the issue ends on something of a cliffhanger, what I've just said pretty much explains the story of this issue.
And this, I think is the problem. While I know as well as anyone that all new series need a degree of exposition and foundation to get the ball rolling, I think that The Terrifics' premier was focusing on the wrong aspects of both.

From the get go, the issue feels like it's trying to rush to get to a certain point by the end, with Mr Terrific steaming towards the problem at hand, barely focusing on recent upheaval to his life which is mentioned but not elaborated on. Then when we reach the focus of the first arc, not enough information is given again, and again, AND again.

Now some of these events, such as the opening predicaments of Metamorpho and Plastic Man (as well as Mr Terrific in that case) seems to be related, either directly or indirectly, to the recent Metal event which explains why they are glossed over. However, I do think that taking just a little bit more time even offer a little bit more information about the characters would have made it far more engrossing and connect me to these characters better. Like I said, though, it instead feels like the characters are just steamrolling to get where they need to go before the issue ends.

At this point, I feel like I'm really dumping on this issue and I don't want to be. It's not a bad issue by any means, as Ivan Reis' art is absolutely gorgeous and he pulls off the look of the individual Terrifics wonderfully (not to mention that body). Also, I absolutely love the already set dynamic between Metamorpho and Plastic Man which, despite it admittedly seeming a little too Thing/Human Torch, really connects with me as good fun (probably due my ever present love for all things Fantastic Four). However, something about it (most likely the issues mentioned) just keep me from thinking it's anything more than an ok comic.

In truth, maybe I just have had bad fortune when reading it. Maybe it read like it was over too quick because I now have a life where I have to read it at breakneck speed, so my reality has affected this fiction. However, I'm not sure re-reading it a fourth time will remedy that. That said, the first arc is only three issues long and, while I've not read much of Jeff Lemire's work, I get so many recommendations about his other stuff that, along with the good things I found, I'm happy to pick up two more issues and see if the whole (arc) is greater than the sum of this part.

I do hope that is the case too because, whether it's a Fantastic Four copy or its own beast, I really want the Terrifics to stay on my pull list and not be an ok comic, but be a terrific one!

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Star Trek Discovery

This'll be the third post which I've written in a little over a week (possibly fourth, as I have another set of thoughts in my head) and it is simply down to having so many thoughts to jot down at once.

Like buses, I had nothing for ages and they all hit me at once!

So, anyway, I today thought I'd write down a few thoughts on a topic I've out off for the last few posts, Star Trek: Discovery. Now, this isn't a comic book and probably doesn't deserve my time here (although, for the record, there is a Discovery comic series out, I think), but after getting through the series I did have a number of thoughts and wanted to get them aired rather than just stew on, and ultimately forget, them.

These reasons are also why I'm writing about it now instead of putting it off in favour of The Old Guard, but I digress.

So Discovery, the newest Star Trek series for those not in the know or caring about such things, is a prequel to most Star Trek shows and films (not Enterprise) which does the usual trek thing of following a group of humans and the odd alien on their adventures through space. This series differed though with a more ongoing story and a lead character who was not the captain but a subordinate (she had a couple of 'ranks' in this series but we'll get to that) as she joins this mysterious new ship.

Now, I initially tried to watch Discovery upon its release on Netflix way back when (I wanna say October). However, despite it trying to get everything right in terms of the ships, insignias, etc, for me it felt like I was simply watching a J.J. Abrams Kelvinverse film scaled down for tv. Now, there is now problem with the recent Trek films (I enjoyed them), but I'm old school and so seeing more of this world didn't really interest me. Also, the whole plot in the first episode felt slow, dull, boring with the characters, particularly the lead of Michael Burnham a real struggle to emphasis with.

And so I gave up on it and that should have been that. Obviously, though, that wasn't the end or this would be a short post. What happened next was a conversation with some folks on Twitter, who all convinced me that the first episode should not be what I build my views on and that a few of them needed to be watched to really get a feel for it.

Therefore, after a little time of watching other shows and drumming up the courage to go back, I did just that, and am I glad I did! With my second viewing of episode one, I found it a lot easier to enjoy it and that only improved into episode two. However, it was episode three which really showed me what this series was and could be when I saw the Discovery for the first time, specifically its shuttle bay. The reason for this was that, while the Kelvinverse shuttle bay was massive almost like a proper aircraft hanger, this bay looked like it had been pulled from a TNG episode. This was what convinced me that the series was going to be more prime universe than Kelvin.

From this point the series only got better in my eyes as, while obviously stylishly produced, the series became more Star Trek as I was used to, albeit with a darker slant with the backdrop of intergalactic war. What really felt like a turnaround most though were the characters, all of whom became more and more intriguing than their initial introduction.

Chief amongst those was definitely Burnham who, after the events of those first two issues, felt far better portrayed and more likeable onwards. But the rest of the cast we're equally compelling, with Stamet's 'changes' over the series in service to his work, Tyler's apparent PTSD which became something different by the end and Lorca's all round mysteriousness. Then there was Tilly, who for some reason I did find really hilarious after an initial adjustment period to her. In fact, the only weak link amongst the characters was Saru, who felt too bureaucratic but turned it around in the last few episodes with a nice St. Crispins day speech and other actions which really warmed him to me.

The episodes themselves, while also cool, showed a very Trek formula (again with a twisted slant) and I enjoyed them plenty.

And then we got to the Mirror Universe...

Now, I love the Mirror Universe and so might be a bit biased, the later episodes which saw discovery transported there were absolutely fantastic and really sold me on this show. The change in filming style (it looked like it had been shot with a harsher light) gave it its own style which really gave its own punch. What I think I enjoyed most about these episodes though was the amount of focus they gave the Mirror Universe and the depth of its background, tying up the storylines from Star Trek Enterprise (which series went out of its way to acknowledge) regarding the Defiant.

Also, as a side note, I think this series also implied that Phillipa Georgiou is Hoshi Sato from Enterprise's descendent, based on the events of the Mirror Universe.

I will admit that it wasn't all perfect, however, as the reveal of the mirror Georgiou and all other occupants being light sensitive came out of nowhere, and (to my knowledge) not really in keeping with what has been made canon previously. That said, this is a small quibble as it was necessary for a major
plot reveal and, hopefully, it'll be better absorbed into the canon in future stories (like IDW's Through the Mirror).

I think I've reached the end of my thoughts (I thought I had more and wish I'd written this sooner to air them) and so I'm gonna wrap this up by admitting that Star Trek Discovery is a prime example for me to always give things I didn't enjoy a second chance. This is because, while I didn't enjoy Discovery that first time, I stuck with it and gave it another shot and I am glad to say I don't regret it at all.

I now look forward to a second series and, hopefully, more of the same.