Another busy week – with some new series and also the end to one of my favourites. There were also some surprisingly good issues, too – not because I was expecting bad issues necessarily, but they just exceeded my expectations.
Reviewed: Catwoman #9, Cobra #13, Grimm Fairy Tales #72 & #73, Guild Fawkes (One-Shot), Irredeemable #37, Justice League #9, Magic: The Gathering #4, Mind MGMT #1, Neverland: Hook #5, Nightwing #9, Resident Alien #1, Smoke & Mirrors #3, Star Wars: Darth Vader & the Ghost Prison #1, Wolverine & the X-Men #9
Catwoman #9 (DC)
Night of the Owls: Catwoman and Spark are forced to defend The Penguin against the Court of Owls!
This issue picks up nicely from the end of #8, which set up Catwoman and Spark’s stakeout of the Penguin’s lair. They are after a complete set of five antique knives, of which they have four. The Penguin has the fifth. Only, little does our heroin know, the Court of Owls has targeted the Penguin in their night of assassinations.
The story offers some flashbacks – as with the other tie-in issues, it gives us some history of the Talon involved – but goes further back into Gotham’s history for this Talon (1665), who is a special case, in that he was disgraced member of the assassins. He’s tasked with taking out the Penguin. Just before Catwoman and Spark can spring their heist, though, the Talon attempts to kill the bird-brained villain.
This is a very different chapter in the Night of the Owls event –Catwoman, after all, is a little bit more of the dark side than Batman’s other allies, and she can somewhat relate to this Talon. The action is messy, frantic, and close-quarters, but Catwoman also engages with the Talon on a deeper level than just an “I’m here to kill you”-“Not if I kill you first” dialogue.
There’s a very nice, almost sad ending. I really do enjoy the variety of approaches the various authors have taken for this event. Definitely recommended.
Cobra #13 (IDW)
Writer: Mike Costa | Artist: Antonio Fuso | Colours: Arianna Florean
A NEW ERA BEGINS HERE!
With the JOEs fragmented, somebody’s got to handle the dirty work. Who will it be? Find out here! When G.I. JOE goes underground, the world will never be the same!
While Cobra Commander orchestrated and conducted a war in Southeast Asia, Cobra High Command began to fall apart: Tomax and Major Bludd plotted to eliminate the new Commander, but when Tomax discovered that the Cobra Council was being methodically eliminated, he fled. Bludd was also betrayed by Serpentor and forced to flee as well, ending up in the custody of UN troops. This issue, however, deals only with the Joes and Tomax.
The Joes have seen some of their facilities closed, its operating budget severely cut, and General Hawk was replaced by Duke as commander. Now, it’s up to Duke to rebuild the unit, including bringing in new allies and operatives, and rebuilding the Joes from the ground-up in a cell-structure. The issue opens with a six-page introduction to Ronin, a former Cobra operative hiding out in Japan – unsuccessfully, at it turns out, as she is forced to dispatch a squad of Cobra Vipers who have come to take her out. And then she’s found by Duke, too. This, to me, poses some serious questions about Ronin’s general ability to be a covery operative, but never mind. It’s a nicely put-together scene, with the simpler art and artistic dynamism very eye-catching. Very nicely framed images.
Things have changed a great deal for G.I.Joe, and as Ronin and Chameleon are re-located to Las Vegas, they are in for one hell of a shock. I like the way this series is shaping up, and I think this issue promises some interesting things to come in the future. The potential to go a number of ways is there, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re in for a bumpy ride.
Grimm Fairy Tales #72 & 73 (Zenescope)
Writer: Raven Gregory (& Joe Brusha) | Artist: Carlos Paul, Marcio Loerzer (#72) & Allan Otero (#73) | Colours: Sean Forney, Owen Jollands, Michael Spicer (#72), Ramon Ignacio Bunge & Bruno Cotic (#73)
#72 – Sela’s journey to find the place known only as the tomb of Death leads her to a small town that may hold the secrets to its location. There she learns the truth of the temple that was once the training grounds for the knights of the realm and the tragic tale of their corruption and downfall at the hands of the Dark One’s minion, the evil Winter Witch.
#73 – Sela sets off in search of the Tomb of Death and finds herself joined by an unlikely ally who is also searching for a way to redeem herself from the failings of her past. But will this new ally be enough to help Sela defeat the dreaded black ghost knights who guard the swamplands that lead to the Tomb? Meanwhile, Alicia, Baba Yaga, Venus, and the Goblin Queen begin the final stage of their mysterious plans to rule the four realms and the very nexus itself.
The Winter Witch has infiltrated the… um, “good guys” camp (their forces are never named, as far as I can tell – but they’re captained by the Realm Knights), and makes quick work of bewitching the garrison to do her bidding. It’s quick, it’s bloody, and its devastating to the forces who hope to stand up to the Dark One’s hordes of minions.
Meanwhile, Sela sets off in search of a portal, is joined by an unlikely companion seeking absolution, and together they are confronted by ghosts of their past. It almost doesn’t end well for them…
This series has really moved on since the earlier issues, and I like how the story is shaping up. I’m still not quite as fond of this as the Myths & Legends and mini-series Zenescope release, but that probably has something to do with lack of familiarity. Two worthy additions to the series, sure to please fans.
Guild Fawkes (Dark Horse)
Writer: Felicia Day & Wil Wheaton | Artist: Jamie McKelvie | Colours:
A brand-new story spotlighting Fawkes, the dashing, debonair, and douchey leader of the evil guild Axis of Anarchy! His relationship with Codex threatened to tear the Knights of Good apart until he was thrown off a balcony for his treatment of her. Set after season 4 of the show, this issue reveals how Fawkes deals with his split from Codex and navigates the aggressive personalities of the Axis, and follows his journey to his surprising state when he returns in season 5!
I must admit, I don’t really know what this is meant to be all about. As far as I can tell, it’s a story about two groups of MMORPGamers whose drama and obsessions bleed into their real lives. This is the first thing I’ve read properly related to this series, and I think it’s… kinda interesting. I think if I understood more of the references I would obviously get more out of it, but as it is, I thought this was just a quirky commentary on gamers and gaming culture when reality and virtual reality bleed together. But it’s also rather strange. Probably one just for established fans. This didn’t really win me over.
Irredeemable #37 (Boom)
Writer: Mark Waid | Artist: Diego Barreto | Colours: Nolan Woodard
The Final Issue of Mark Waid’s seminal superhero series!
Can the Plutonian, seemingly Irredeemable, find his salvation? What is the true definition of a hero? And can a world, ravaged by loss and carnage, ever believe in such an idea again?
This did not go the way I was expecting. That’s not to say I’m unhappy with the series ending, it’s just that this was a surprising one. Qubit and Tony have come to an agreement, and as is Qubit’s way, he has withheld some key information from the rogue demi-god. I really don’t want to spoil this at all, but it’s definitely worth reading, and the final epilogue-type final pages offer up a very endearing proposition for the creation of another character, in another dimension… A nice nod to super-hero history.
I’ve been lucky to read the whole of Irredeemable in a relatively short period of time – indeed, I devoured the first few volumes in very quick order – which meant I didn’t have to wait a month between the early issues. Irredeemable remains the only comic to bring a tear to my eye (chapter/issue 12 – which shows a moment of utter sadistic cruelty by Tony). It’s really very good. It dipped a bit in quality towards the end, but I think it remains one of the best comic series about super-heroes. It’s delightfully subversive and twisted. It’s thoughtful and thought-provoking.
Justice League #9 (DC)
Writer: Geoff Johns | Artist: Jim Lee & Gary Frank | Inks: Scott Williams | Colours: Alex Sinclair, Pete Pantazis, Gabe Eltaed & Brad Anderson
“The Villain’s Journey”: Part one of a story introducing an all-new major nemesis for the Justice League.
In part three of the SHAZAM! backup story, Billy Batson attempts to get used to his new life, new school and new family as Sivana unleashes an ancient evil imprisoned long ago.
This issue centres around two things. The first is a certain Mr. Graves, who wrote the book on the Justice League, “Gods Among Men”, which has popped up in past issues a couple of times. Turns out, he’s extremely unwell and probably dying, and has gone from viewing the Justice League as super-human near-godlike creatures to being embittered and resentful of them. The second story-line focuses on the Justice League members and how they are coping with being part of a team and also handling their alter-egos.
There are some really nice touches throughout this story – for example, it looks at the loneliness some of the League members feel. But also, it examines the extent to which the Justice League gives them almost a community base. There’s a great moment, when Batman texts Superman about his lunch plans – only, instead of going out for sushi or tacos, they put down some chaos at Arkham Asylum.
There’s a fun dynamic between the groups within the Justice League, which we see first-hand: Superman, Batman and Cyborg are very focused and results-oriented. Green Lantern and Flash have a little more fun, more patter and appear to take things a little less seriously.
Colonel Trevor, the League’s liaison with the world (and Wonder Woman’s former lover, apparently) goes through quite an ordeal in this issue, too. The final pages are particularly brutal, and it’ll be interesting to see where his story goes in the next couple of issues.
In the S.H.A.Z.A.M. back-up story, Billy’s still rebelling against life at his new foster home, but this doesn’t stop him from sticking up for his fellow foster siblings – even if it means getting into a fight with spoiled rich kids.
Magic: The Gathering #4 (IDW)
Writer: Matt Forbeck | Artist: Martín Cóccolo & Christian Duce | Colours: J. Edwin Stevens & Baileigh Bolten
Dack Fayden has finally caught up to the mage that destroyed his home village, but it might be too late: she has begun casting a deadly spell that will drain hundreds of their life force. And, now that Dack has arrived, he may fall prey to the same dark magic as the rest!
This is the final part of the first story-arc, and it’s a pretty good one. Dack has finally caught up with Sifa, the evil sorceress, who is preparing to drain the lives of another town – just as she did to Dack’s hometown. This issue is predominantly taken up by a large battle between the townspeople and Sifa’s ghouls ensues, and it’s anyone’s guess who’ll come out of this alive.
The artwork for this issue was particularly good – lots of dark hues, reds, purples and so on. Very atmospheric and gothic. I wish I could have shared some examples of the artwork, but the only images I have are watermarked, which obscures much of it.
Ultimately, this is a great, fun sword-and-sorcery-with-thieving fantasy comic, and I really look forward to reading more in the series. The ending won’t satisfy everyone, but I thought it suited the transitory and peripatetic nature of Dack’s lifestyle rather well. There’s no certain closure, but that’s ok.
Recommended for all fans of fantasy and comics.
The story continues in Magic: The Gathering – Spell Thief #1, which is coming soon from IDW.
Mind MGMT #1 (Dark Horse)
Writer & Artist: Matt Kindt
Reporting on a commercial flight where everyone aboard lost their memories, a young journalist stumbles onto a much bigger story, the top-secret Mind Management program. Her ensuing journey involves weaponized psychics, hypnotic advertising, talking dolphins, and seemingly immortal pursuers, as she attempts to find the flight’s missing passenger, the man who was Mind MGMT’s greatest success – and its most devastating failure. But in a world where people can rewrite reality itself, can she trust anything she sees?
The first four pages are a strange sequence of violent acts, all seemingly connected in at least location. Then the story switches to the “amnesia flight”, and the journalist’s attempts to find the missing 121st passenger who has eluded everyone. Meru, the journalist, believes she can track him down and discover the truth – all while floating the idea as a book to her sceptical literary agent, who is getting fed up of waiting for her to write the follow-up to her bestseller.
I must say, the artwork didn’t do anything for me. It felt incomplete and unfinished, like someone turned in their preliminary sketches, with added colour, and called it a day. I know it’s a popular style in some regions of comic fandom, but it’s not with me. Sorry. The story and premise are pretty good, though, as is the writing, and it will be interesting to see how it develops in future issues.
Neverland: Hook #5 (Zenescope)
Writer: Joe Brusha | Artist: Geoff Shaw | Colours: Derek Dow
Barre’s power continues to grow and its only a matter of time before Neverland falls to him and the earth soon after. Cross, Tiger Lily and Wendy are all that stand in his way but without Tinker Belles help they don’t stand half a chance of defeating the evil tyrant. Unfortunately she has her hands full battling the mysterious dark fairy and even if she manages to win and survive it may prove to late to stop Barre’s madness.
Barre’s ritual has allowed him to break through into the real world, pulling some of it into Neverland (perhaps – it’s not entirely clear), where he immediately begins feeding on the life-force of the population of New York City… Nathan, meanwhile, remains stranded in Neverland, not exactly at his best after the ritual and his fight with Barre. With the aid of Tinkerbell, he gets back to Earth, and together they try to return the monster to Neverland.
I find it kind of amused me that Barre seems to have morphed into a mixture of the Hulk and King Kong:
You know, speaking of the Hulk, there are actually a couple of other similarities with this final (for now) issue. Just some story points that they use that are similar, but in no way rip-offs or copying. It has the big-finish feel of a comic-book movie, with parts of New York being damaged, an inter-dimensional portal, big monster-man, evil pixies (eh?), and plenty of action.
I enjoyed this mini-series rather a lot. A couple of issues in the middle weren’t quite as good, but it started very strongly and finished very strongly, so anyone reading this as a collected edition (probably to be published very soon) should really enjoy this. One of Zenescope’s growing line of strong mini-series.
However, it is rather improbable that all the women in Neverland wander about in string-bikinis. I thought that was pandering too much to a teenage boy audience. It did make me chuckle, though, when I saw this panel:
That’s Tinkerbell, fighting Barre, and in case it’s not clear, she’s saying “Tell them to stay back. I’ll distract him” – I thought that pretty much a given, considering what she’s wearing…
Nightwing #9 (DC)
Night of the Owls: Nightwing faces another villain claiming to be The Talon at City Hall as the Court of Owls’ plans go into action – but will he be able to figure out what’s going on before it’s too late?
This issue picks up where #8 left off, in the middle of Night of the Owls and as Nightwing faces off against a particularly skilled and brutal Talon. Our hero has already been severely wounded by the Talon, William Cobb – who is his great-grandfather, as it turns out. The present day action is interspersed with flashbacks about William Cobb’s past, thereby filling out some more of the Court of Owls storyline and also the genesis of Dick Grayson’s surname.
I thought this issue was particularly strong among the Night of the Owls stories I’ve read thus-far, and is had a really good finale, too.
The artwork throughout is superb, with some highly dynamic spreads and pages. Definitely recommended to anyone reading the Night of the Owls cross-title event, but I’d also recommend Nightwing in general very highly.
Resident Alien #1 (Dark Horse)
A stranded alien seeks refuge in the small town of Patience, USA, where he hides undercover as a semiretired doctor, masking his appearance using his unique mental abilities.
Now known as Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle, all the alien wants is to be left alone until he’s rescued. However, when the town’s real doctor dies, “Dr. Harry” is pulled into medical service – and also finds himself smack dab in the middle of a murder mystery! He’d rather be fishing.
This is a pretty interesting series. The inclusion of a stranded alien in the middle of a small-town murder mystery was pretty original and a pleasant surprise. Harry clearly wants to get out of there, but feels a sense of duty to fulfil the role of town doctor whenever he’s called upon. Given his alien abilities, he is also able to tell whether or not someone is guilty or telling the truth (to a point), and seems unnerved by how easily everyone is turning on the first suspect they find (to be fair, the suspect did break into the murdered doctor’s office and steal a load of pills – certainly incriminating).
Also a surprise was that this is not the first issue. The story begins in issue #0… I have no idea why. It’s a little weird, and does mean I missed a little bit of the story set-up.
Nevertheless, this is a fun and intriguing story, with an original premise. It’s well-written, well-illustrated and generally well put-together. It’s kind of fun and absurd to see an alien going about his everyday business, with the people around him unaware of who he really is (I assume it’s a skill of his, explained in the previous issue).
Smoke & Mirrors #3 (IDW)
Writer: Mike Costa | Artist: Ryan Browne | Colours: Ryan Browne & Aaron Daly
Magic is real – but sleight-of-hand is king! Stage magician Terry Ward makes his way in a world of sorcery using only his skills and his wits! But will that prove to be enough when the dangers of the world start compounding?
This issue gives us some much-needed back-story on Terry Ward. We see what happened when he crossed over from our world into the world where everything runs on magic. We learn of how he managed (or didn’t, really) over the first few months in this strange world.
After the slightly disappointing previous issue, this one reaffirmed my interest in the series. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it develops in the future. It’s a great, original premise, and is definitely recommended to anyone looking for a different kind of comic about magic.
Star Wars: Darth Vader & the Ghost Prison #1 (Dark Horse)
Writer: Haden Blackman | Artist: Agustin Alessio
The graduation celebration for the first class of Imperial cadets is disrupted by a sudden terrorist strike! But the real targets of the attack are the new Emperor and his second in command, Darth Vader.
Only one man – a disabled, brilliant cadet who, up until the moment of the attack, was experiencing the best moment of his life – stands ready to fight alongside Vader for the life of his Emperor!
This story is set a few months after the events of Revenge of the Sith. And I must admit, I was not expecting it to be this good. Despite Darth Vader’s name being prominent in the series title, in this first issue he doesn’t feature so much, except in the background and the final few pages. The story mainly follows the class valedictorian – disfigured and missing an arm – who’s perspective this issue presents. He is in awe of Coruscant, and at the end he is faced with a choice: stand with his Emperor or his friends.
I really liked this issue, and can’t wait to read the next issues (this is part one of five). Like Agent of the Empire, this series appears to herald a period of better writing for the Star Wars comics franchise. This is very well written and very well realised on the page. The artwork is great (see the example, above), and everything from the dialogue to the plot progression feels natural and un-forced. This is easily one of the best Star Wars comics I’ve read.
Definitely recommended for all fans of Star Wars.
Wolverine & the X-Men #9 (Marvel)
Captain America arrives at The Jean Grey School Of Higher Learning to convince Wolverine to join The Avengers on the front lines! Logan’s choice will drastically alter the impending war between The Avengers & The X-Men, and Captain America needs him on his squad! Will Wolverine join Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, or will he stick to his X-Men roots?
Wolverine, torn between two teams. Will the Jean Grey School follow its leader?
Captain America has come to the Jean Grey School in order to talk Wolverine into joining the side of the Avengers, and to discuss the headmaster’s role in the upcoming events. Apart from this, the story’s pretty straight forward, so it’s probably best not to ruin anything. It’s very much a set-up for the wider cross-series ‘event’, so other than that it doesn’t serve much in the way of moving the Wolvering & the X-Men story forward. I’m not sure if this will be the case in the next issue. (Actually, come to think of it, I have no idea when the Avengers vs. X-Men event is meant to come to an end…)
This is a very busy issue, in terms of the art – there are lots of panels per page, which didn’t always make for a tidy read. There are plenty of funny, background gags and asides, though, which did make it a very fun issue. For example, when Captain America first turns up at the school, one of the glitches in the system meant he was automatically entered into a Danger Room final exam phase…
The issue does fill in some of the gaps left in the Avengers vs X-Men and AvX titles. It’s just a pity that this issue has to be read as well in order to get the whole story.
Again, though, this is a pretty fun series, and I think the team did a good job of fitting it into the Avengers vs. X-Men storyline.
Also Released this Week:
DC: All-Star Western #9, Aquaman #9, Batman Incorporated #1, Batman: The Dark Knight #9, Flash #9, I Vampire #9, Justice League Dark #9, Stormwatch Vol.1 TP, Superman #9, Teen Titans #9
Image: Chew #26, No Place Like Home #4, Netherworld TP
Marvel: Amazing Spider-Man #686
Vertigo: Dominique Laveau Voodoo Child #3