This turned out to be a longer post than anticipated, just because I was so slow about reviewing things on time – for a pleasant change, other commitments got in the way of my comics-reading this week. Better late than never, though, so read on for a bumper comics round-up! There were some great issues this week, too.
Reviewed: Alice #5, All-Star Western #8, AvX: VS #1, Catwoman #8, I Vampire #8, Grimm Fairy Tales: Myths & Legends #15, Justice League #8, Justice League Dark #8, New Deadwardians #2, The Portent #4, Road Rage #3, Snake Eyes #12, Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi #3
Alice #5 (Zenescope)
Writer: Raven Gregory | Artist: Robert Gill, Daniel Leister, Sheldon Goh, Martin Montiel & Vic Drujiniu | Colours: Jason Embury, Jeremy Colwell, Thomas Bonvillain, Roman Ignacio Bunge & Michael Garcia
The Queen of Spades stands fully revealed as the grand manipulator behind the events of Alice’s escape from the Jabberwocky. But what are her intentions? The answer is revealed and it will set Alice on a path to insanity from which she may never return…
Elsewhere the armies of Wonderland are closing in on Alice and in order to prevent the madness of Wonderland from escaping into our world, Alice will have to lead an army of her own against the very creature she fears the most.
First off, the cover variant on the left is just fantastic.
The issue starts off with five pages not set in Wonderland, but which give us just a few tantalising hints of something larger going on with regards to the connection between Wonderland and the real world. We’re then transported back to the story, as Alice and the Queen of Spades discuss their plan to kill the Jabberwocky.
The stakes are raised, and Alice acquires some new abilities from the mysterious Red Queen. The battle-lines are being drawn, and Alice is ready to bring the fight to those who have tormented her in Wonderland.
A good issue again, with a lot of ground covered, and plenty of world-building and intriguing developments. This is certainly one of Zenescope’s best series, and one I’d definitely recommend to anyone who loves their fairy tales and classics twisted into new and wonderful shapes.
All-Star Western #8 (DC)
Amadeus Arkham has been arrested in a New Orleans opium den! Jonah Hex has joined an anarchist group called the August 7!
Nighthawk and Cinnamon are nowhere to be found, and they’re the ones who dragged Hex and Arkham into this conflict in the first place! But someone must have a plan, right? Right??
Plus: Being trained by a samurai in the desert might have been a strange beginning for a cowgirl vigilante, but Nighthawk and Cinnamon are in for an even stranger twist as they search for a way out of this trap!
Hex’s bout in the ring leads to entertainment and dangerous employment out of the ring... Dr. Arkham “researches” the local opiates and foreign women, and gets arrested when the Opium den is raided – this, rather amusingly, leads him to offer unsolicited psychiatric help to a fellow inmate who clearly has mommy issues. Meanwhile, Nighthawk and Cinnamon are looking into the August 7, the terrorist group that’s attempting to usurp control of New Orleans and shape the city, its politics and racial make-up as they wish. Turns out, they’re very well-connected in the city, so things don’t go so well for the Doc and the bounty hunter.
In the back-up story, we get Cinnamon’s brief origin tale, why she’s chasing the outlaw Robertson to New Orleans, and also how she and Nighthawk got their cool, magic necklaces. Not bad, and it is much better than the first back-up story they had.
This is still a great series overall. Recommended.
AvX: VS #1 of 6 (Marvel)
Writer: Jason Aaron & Kathryn Immonen | Artist: Adam Kubert, Stuart Immonen, & Wade Von Grawbadger | Colours: Morry Hollowell & Jim Charalampidis
The premier tie-in to Avengers vs. X-Men! All-out action featuring cover-to-cover battles, each issue expanding on fights from the main AvX book in ways you can’t imagine!
This issue: Iron Man vs. Magneto & Thing vs. Namor!
“I count... Two million neodymium high-grade magnets...” Oh do you, now? Apparently, Magneto, alongside his powers over magnetism, has mad math skills, too… This was just one of the problems I had with this issue. Magneto versus Iron Man? We know it’s not going to end in a death or any particularly debilitating injury, so it’s completely robbed of any possible tension. I also couldn’t tell you why the “winner” won, either. The battle between Namor and Thing is equally underwhelming. Ok, they fight underwater, which was an interesting development, but other than that? Completely underwhelmed. Again.
The action is over the top, so in that respect the issue lived up to expectations. But that’s also all there is to this issue. There are no other redeeming features. There are a couple of tantalising story-hints, but I really don’t think this is worth the cover price ($3.99 + tax). Maybe, once it’s all collected together, we’ll be able to understand why we should care about this series and the 12-part Avengers vs. X-Men series, off which this is spun. Until then? I remain extremely underwhelmed. My cynicism is proving to be very well-founded.
As far as I’m concerned, this series is utterly pointless, and I wish I hadn’t wasted $4 on it.
Catwoman #8 (DC)
Catwoman has a new running buddy named Spark, and together, they’re taking Gotham City – literally! And when these two thieves team up, it’s twice the haul and twice the trouble. Electricity is in the air…
Catwoman has a new partner, Spark, who can “keep up” with her, and they seem to be really hitting it off. Also, things seem to be working out very well with Selene’s new fence, Gwen. All in all, then, things are really looking up in Catwoman’s life – it certainly makes a nice change from the bleak, bleak events of the first six issues of the series, when she was really put through the ringer.
Our two thief protagonists are on the trail of a set of five 300-year-old knives. They find four in a collection, but the set is worth a hell of a lot more complete. The only problem? The remaining knife is in the hands of the Penguin. While scoping out his movements, Catwoman and Spark witness the abduction of a hooker by what turns out to be a gun-toting psychopath. Action, violence (for our “heroes”) and fun (for the reader) ensue.
I like the work of the new art team – there are some stylistic similarities with the previous team, but they’ve made a good go of adding to the artwork in nice ways, and it’s really great. I particularly love that they have maintained the dynamism of the series. Catwoman remains one of my favourites of the New 52. Our heroine is a little less deranged, which is not really surprising, when you consider that everyone she knew has been targeted or killed, and she just kept getting into trouble. A lot of trouble. She finally seems to have slowed, if not halted, her downward spiral.
Grimm Fairy Tales: Myths & Legends #15 (Zenescope)
Writer: Raven Gregory | Artist: Deivis Goetten & Fabio Jansen | Colours: Steve Downer
Jeff’s transformation is finally complete as his thirst for vengeance grows stronger. And there is only one person left for him to make suffer for his brother’s death. The girl who broke his brother’s heart and drove him to suicide. But Jenna isn’t going down without a fight and only one of them will be making it out alive.
This is the final part in this retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story. Jeff has completely transformed into the beast. Incredibly, this does not, apparently, have an impact on his role as a bad-guy and the need to speechify… There’s a lot more to the story than just the beast’s confrontation with Jenna (which is dealt with pretty quickly in the issue), as other powers confront Jeff in his beast aspect, and attempt to exert control over him. Little do they know, his rage is too pure…
This is a great mini-series. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next in this series. Definitely my preferred of the two main Grimm Fairy Tales series, although this had a rather abrupt ending without much in the way of closure. Still. A pretty good comic.
Justice League #8 (DC)
Writer: Geoff Johns | Artists: Carlos D’Anda, Ivan Reis & Joe Prado | Colours: Gabe Eltaeb & Alex Sinclair
In the five years that the Justice League has been a team, Green Arrow has never once been a member. And he intends to rectify that right here, right now! One member against his candidacy: Aquaman!
Plus, in “The Curse of Shazam” part 2, Billy arrives in his new foster home just as an ancient evil is uncovered halfway across the world.
Green Arrow is the kid on the outside, wanting to get in with the cool kids/clique – in this case, the Justice League. They are as reticent to allow new people in as the in crowd is at school. Thought this was an amusing, familiar theme. But it was also an interesting approach to the League – they actually came across as seriously inflexible, and even like assholes. There was no specific reason for them to wholeheartedly reject Green Arrow’s involvement, save that they didn’t want to share the limelight with anyone else. Seemed exceptionally douchey for the World’s Greatest Heroes…
I have no idea why the synopsis focuses on Aquaman’s opposition to Green Arrow’s membership – it seems to be shared by all of the team – well, Wonder Woman doesn’t appear to have much of an opinion (or be too aware of the issue), Batman and Green Lantern are the most vocally opposed, while Superman and Cyborg just seem to be a little reticent. This probably shows my general lack of familiarity with the Justice League mythology and back stories. And that I’ve stopped reading the New 52 Aquaman series (a victim of my much-tightened financial situation).
The story contains a little cross-over with both the Night of the Owls Batman event, and also events in the forthcoming ninth issue of Justice League Dark: the Justice League teleport onto a plane filled with Talons trying to execute a fleeing, high-profile Gotham official, and at another point they are fighting against some mysterious berobed monks. I’m not sure what the point of this issue was, except to play around a little bit, giving us hints of wider events that are going to take place in the New 52 titles, and also hints of upcoming Justice League stories.
Green Arrow follows the League around, getting on their nerves as he makes an appearance at a number of fights and ops the League’s conducting. The issue’s a fun diversion, I suppose, but I do wish they’d just get on with the story proper.
This issue contains another back-up story, continuing the tale of Shazam (artist: Gary Frank; colours: Brad Anderson). Billy moves into his latest foster home, and is introduced to his large new family. His siblings appear as antisocial and borderline sociopathic as Billy, so this could be an interesting development. At the end, we get a small glimpse of Billy’s character when his defences are down, and see that he is not actually as much of a dick as he would like others to believe. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops, as I’m otherwise unfamiliar with this character.
Justice League Dark #8 (DC)
The crossover with I, VAMPIRE heats up as Zatanna and Shade stand alone against an army of single-minded vampires, with their most powerful teammates out of the action!
Plus: Constantine and Deadman have gone to the ends of the earth and beyond in search of the only two powers who can put a stop to the bloody rise of Cain – but what they bring back will change the face of sorcery forever!
In purgatory, Constantine and Deadman confront Bennett in purgatory. He comes across a little angsty, and I think his reasoning is the first thing in this series to feel unoriginal and disappointing. The explanation for not accepting Constantine and Deadman’s offer of resurrection he gives have been said and written by and for vampire characters so often:
“I lived for six-hundred years... And all I did was hurt people... How many died because of my selfishness? Whatever I was died a long time ago. I’m sorry, I’ve got not fight left in me.”
Oh, boo-hoo. It’s time to get off the mat! The primordial evil, Cain, is running rampant up in Gotham, and there’s stuff to do! While we’re on the subject of that scene, the page look pretty cool:
The rest of the story’s pretty good, so Andrew’s emo moment at the beginning was only a momentary bump in an otherwise great, gothic ride. Xanadu’s dialogue felt a little less natural in this issue, somehow. Not sure what it is about her, she just didn’t seem as good a character as usual.
The artwork really is great – alternately gothic and psychedelic (thanks primarily to Shade, whose M-Vest seems to be a ’70s acid-trip exaggerated and made real…) – but always eye-catching and vivid. Really very good.
The Rise of the Vampires story line concludes in...
I, Vampire #8 (DC)
As the Justice League Dark team faces the end of all magic – and perhaps life itself – only one man can challenge the dark force known as Cain: Andrew Bennett. He’s back from the dead, but whose side is he on?
Regardless of the answer, nothing will be the same for either series when “Rise of the Vampires” is over!
The tables are well-and-truly turned against Cain with Bennett’s resurrection. It was a bit surprising when he returned, actually, as he really did seem to be completely uninterested in the fight, and more interested in sitting in a purgatorial corner and moping. Just how powerful he is now, too, is pretty surprising. Regardless of how it happened, though, it’s certainly better than the moping emo-vampire we saw at the beginning of Justice League Dark #8 – he definitely rediscovers his inner bad-ass. The extent of Bennett’s new powers also reveals for us what Xanadu’s cryptic warnings and hesitance were all about in the previous part of the story.
It’s an intriguing ending, one that builds the blocks for some future cross-over and also where, at least, I Vampire is headed in the immediate future. I assume there will be a bit more cross-over between the two series, too.
On the strength of this issue, this series looks like it’s just going to keep getting better. Really fantastic, and I love Sorrentino’s artwork –take a look at the samples I’ve included and see how wonderfully gothic and atmospheric the style is.
New Deadwardians #2 of 8 (Vertigo)
Someone is killing the dead! Inspector Suttle’s investigation continues as he pursues the identity of the victim and attempts to determine the method of murder. But he must work circumspectly, because the answers he is seeking are literally matters of life and death, and they will rock the very cornerstones of Deadwardian Society.
In this issue, while waiting for the results of the autopsy on the dead body from the debut issue, our hero, Inspector Suttle, ponders the nature of “the Cure” (vampirism), and how is saved society from the rampaging Restless, who were eating altogether too many people. It appears as if the zombie plague came out of nowhere, although it may be linked with England’s foreign adventurism of the time. The background is well presented, and catches us up to events in this reality rather nicely. Here’s a slice of that story, as well as a good page to display Culbard’s distinctive art style:
This is a great story – there’s a very substantial feel to the issue, despite it not being longer in page-number than any other. I really enjoy the world Abnett’s created, and Culbard has done a great job of bringing it vividly to (un)life on the page.
This is a frightfully British zombie tale. And it’s extraordinarily good. Very highly recommended.
The Portent #4 (Stranger)
“There would come a day when you would have to fight.”
As Milo selflessly enters the spirit realm to do battle against the evil spirits who seek dominion over the living, Lin struggles with the power that resides within. For she is a faerie, and as such, carries the magic of the old world. After fighting against Alkuin, who has risen in darkness, Lin must join Milo in the Land of the Dead and conquer her greatest fear, the demon lord, Guishen.
“I think it’s time you tell me what’s going on” one of the characters say early in this issue. Yes, please… In this final issue, we get a full explanation of what’s been going on in the spirit realm. I don’t want to spoil the story, though, so I won’t go into any detail of the plot of this issue. With its bittersweet ending, The Portent finds another commonality with Japanese Manga, and the four-part mini-series is brought to a pretty good finish.
Anyone who likes Japanese manga should find a lot to like here, and the artwork is pretty great.
Want to know more? Check out The Portent’s page on Stranger Comics’ website.
Road Rage #3 (IDW)
The focus turns to the inspiration behind Throttle, Richard Matheson’s classic tale of isolation and terror, Duel! See the story that inspired Steven Spielberg’s movie come to vivid life here, courtesy of adapter Chris Ryall and artist Rafa Garres!
Moving the series away from Joe Hill and Stephen King’s story, Ryall takes a look at Hill’s and King’s inspiration – the story by Richard Matheson. In this story, a lonely travelling salesman, Mann, is bored on his journey to San Francisco, when a truck starts driving erratically and obnoxiously on Mann’s stretch of the highway: overtaking, hemming him in, apparent attempts to veer him off the road or cause accidents… After a long, frustrating trip, Mann thinks he’s escaped the crazy trucker when he pulls into Chuck’s Cafe (after nearly being run down by his tormentor). Little does he know… Well, you’ll just have to read it yourself to find out.
This is an interesting issue. There’s a good, sinister air about the story, and I can see why Hill and King decided to take the theme and make it their own. Pretty cool, and I think I prefer this to the first two issues of the series.
Snake Eyes #12 (IDW)
Writer: Chuck Dixon | Artist: Beni Lobel | Colours: Zac Atkinson
Cobra Command Aftermath: The most dangerous Joe is presumed K.I.A. – but we know different! Snake Eyes returns to the Hard Master to deliver some shocking news as only the silent Joe can. But someone Snake Eyes cares deeply about has been harmed and someone else is going to have to pay for that. It’s ninja action in the urban jungle and plenty of new surprises!
This issue was a bit more moody than some previous Snake Eyes stories. It also seems to draw us away from the Cobra Command Aftermath story, as Snake Eyes is taking care of some personal business before heading off to join Storm Shadow in their new alliance to take out Zartan for his part in the Cobra Command power struggle. Snake Eyes has gone to visit the Hard Master, but I must admit to not having a clue who he is – our hero’s clearly come for intelligence and to explain his alliance with Storm Shadow and the Arashikage ninja group (of which he used to be a member, with Storm Shadow). While visiting, the Master’s ward and apprentice, Alondra, is attacked by a local gang, the “Bang Sixers”, and Snake Eyes decides to give them a lesson.
One hoodlum discovers that even in this day of firearms, bladed weapons can be even more deadly when wielded by the right person: “A sword? Dude. For reals?” As it turns out, yes. Knowing the Bang Sixers are but a part of a larger organisation, however, his solution to the problem doesn’t stop with them and he takes his mission higher up the criminal totem pole.
The artwork is pretty great in this issue, and I really liked the atmospheric and moody feel the team were able to bring to the story. Here’s a typical example, from early on in the issue:
Overall, this was a good issue and a decent diversion from the main storyline. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing how Snake Eyes’ new alliance works out, and to see how he manages joining back up with the ninja clan. Definitely still a recommended series.
Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi #3 (Dark Horse)
The balance of the Force on Tython has been thrown into turmoil. A ship has fallen from the sky, bringing with it a strange, dark, and hostile individual. Three young Je’daii who felt “called” to the site of the crash now fight for their lives with their swords and the Force. But live or die, the storm that will engulf the homeworld of the Je’daii has already begun!
Xesh, the “Force Hound of the Rakata” (whatever that is), has crash-landed on Tython and is battling with the young Je'daii who were called to the landing site. They’re not faring well against his superior skills and also his lightsaber (which none of them neither have, nor know how to counteract). It quickly becomes clear that Xesh is far more gifted and powerful than the young Je’daii, and his Force techniques far superior in almost every way.
A group of elder Je’daii set out to find and rescue the younger ones, as well as to discover what’s really going on, and what’s causing the rising levels of Dark Side energy on the planet.
It’s not a bad issue, but as with seemingly most #3s, it’s a bit of a transition point, before things really kick off. The ending does suggest that the next couple of issues will be pretty momentous, too.
The issue contains typically reliable Dark Horse/Star Wars artwork. It’s not bad, but nor is it anything particularly special. It does the job as it’s supposed to.
I’m still a little on the fence about this series, and don’t think I’ll be able to form a better opinion of it without being able to read a decent amount of story in one go. I think I’ll wait for the collected edition before reviewing any more.