Thursday, May 31, 2012

Comics Round-Up (May 30)


A few catch-ups and one really early review of a new series by one of my favourite comics’ writers. This was another pretty busy week, so while I tried to get as many of the comics reviewed as I could, some nevertheless had to be culled from the list. Some of these I was sent for review, so they will be read and reviewed at a later date. I just wanted to get the reviews of these issues up ASAP.


This is also one of the last weeks I’ll be reviewing individual DC issues for a while (I may do a couple more next week), as I’m heading back to the UK mid-June. I’m still working on coming back to the US if possible – Alyssa’s here for another four years, so my desperate quest for employment in or around New York continues! I’m almost at the point of begging, but that would be rather unseemly and undignified.

[*cough* … Please help … *cough*]


Anyway, on with the reviews!

Reviewed: Avengers vs. X-Men #4, AvX VS #2, Batman: The Dark Knight #9, Batwoman #9, BPRD: Hell on Earth – Transformation of J.H. O’Donnell, Call of Wonderland #1, The Defenders #6, Massive #1, Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow #13, Star Wars: Blood Ties – Boba Fett is Dead #1-2, Superman #9, Wolverine & the X-Men #10

Avengers vs. X-Men #4/12 (Marvel)


Writer: Jonathan Hickman (script) & Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction | Artist: John Romita Jr. | Inks: Scott Hanna | Colours: Laura Martin

All across the globe – in the Savage Land, in Wakanda, in Tabula Rasa and more – Avenger battles X-Man for the fate of the world! Hope has a suicide mission to propose to Wolverine! While in space, the Avengers’ away team meets the Phoenix head on!

This starts off with a... Well, a rather shocking, gruesome and (sadly) ingenious way to protect oneself from the cold: Wolverine, who has been dumped in the Antarctic, has been using a polar bear as a cloak. Not its pelt – a full-on dead polar bear. Then, Hope finds him, and tries to convince him that killing her isn’t the answer. So, off they go, and he helps her find a much bigger ship. His allegiance in this Avengers vs. X-Men war is also properly revealed, and must admit I was a little disappointed.

Thor accidentally kills a planet.

Then, everyone goes to the Moon! Which, apparently, has a “blue side”, which has an artificial atmosphere... Just as the Avengers and the X-Men are squaring off against each other, the fight is interrupted by a surprise arrives, as does the Phoenix Force.

Overall, I still think this is whole event is being stretched out. The escalation of hostilities is also still unfathomable for someone not steeped in Avengers and X-Men lore.

Still, things are starting to happen and develop, so it is still rather fun.


AvX VS #2/6 (Marvel)


Captain vs. Gambit – Writer: Steve McNiven | Artist: Steve McNiven | Inks: John Dell | Colours: Morry Hollowell

Spider-Man vs. Colossus – Writer: Kieron Gillen | Artist: Salvador Larroca | Colours: Jim Charalampidis

Avengers vs. X-Men tie-in – featuring the fights that couldn’t fit in the main series.


If you’ve read Avengers vs. X-Men #4, then you know the outcome of the first bout (I believe this issue was released first, but I was slow getting around to it). Also, there’s just no way Captain America was going to lose, so... Yeah. Gambit does give him an absolute kicking, first, and I liked that he was central for a bit again. Haven’t read anything of him since Zero Tolerance.


In the second bout, we get another inconclusive “victory”, this time for Colossus – as Spider-Man books when Daredevil informs him that Hope’s not there. So, another example of “Don’t hold your breath for anything ‘shocking’ to happen in this series”...


Batman: The Dark Knight #9 (DC)

BatmanDarkKnight-09Writer: Judd Winick | Artist: David Finch | Inks: Richard Friend | Colours: Sonia Oback

Night of the Owls: Red Robin is back in Gotham City just in time to face off against Talon and The Court Of Owls!

This issue is guest-written by Judd Winick (one of my favourite comics writers, who is handling Catwoman for the New 52 titles), and starts pretty explosively, as the Talon pursues his objective: killing mayoral candidate Lincoln March. Things don’t go well, as Batman crashes the party.

The synopsis is probably the most misleading one I’ve ever read. This is because, despite Red Robin gracing the cover so prominently, he appears in only one panel, and in it he isn’t fighting the Talon. I don’t know how this particular thread is going to be tied off, actually... March and Batman’s storyline are also in Batman #9, which I’ve reviewed previously, and is set after this issue, but it didn’t give us much of that story either.


Instead, this issue is almost entirely about the Talon, one who made mistakes in the past and was forcibly retired by the Court. I really liked this perspective, just as I’ve enjoyed the other issues that have focused (or at least included) the histories of the Talons in questions – for example, Gail Simone wrote a great, Japanese Talon in Batgirl #9.

It is a very good issue, and one that is very well written. I really enjoyed it, and Finch’s artwork is excellent throughout. Another great addition to the Night of the Owls mini-event.

[As of issue #9, Batman: Dark Knight will be written by author Gregg Hurwitz – which bodes very well, as I thought this series had started to lose steam, a little.]



Batwoman #9 (DC)

Batwoman-09Writer: J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman | Artist: Trevor McCarthy | Colours: Guy Major

The next chapter in “To Drown The World.”

An unconventional spy thriller of six interweaving lives with only one thing in common: Batwoman.

Right from the start, we’re thrown back into Batwoman’s on-going battle with the psychotic Falchion.

The issue jumps around in P.O.V.’s again – Batwoman, Maro, Maggie, Chase. It once again makes the story feel a little messy and jumbled, especially as the panels aren’t uniform, either. That being said, I do really like that they’re doing something innovative and unusual with the page layouts, rather than the obvious, easy, linear panel progressions. It’s just unfortunate that it sometimes makes the pages look very busy:


At other times, though, the artwork looks amazing, and the gothic atmosphere is really brought to the fore:


At the end of the issue, Batwoman’s fidelity is tested, and circumstance may lead her to be found wanting...

A good issue, but I really think this series will benefit from being read all at-once, rather than in monthly instalments.


BPRD: Hell on Earth – Transformation of J.H. O’Donnell (Dark Horse)

BPRD-HoE-TransformationOfJHODWriter: Mike Mignola & Scott Allie | Artist: Max Fiumara | Colours: Dave Stewart

Twenty-four years ago, Hellboy took mild-mannered Professor O’Donnell to the secret library of a recently dead necromancer. Since that day, O’Donnell has been the Bureau’s expert on the powerful ancient forces intent on ending the age of man. Find out what O’Donnell saw in this supernatural thrill ride.

I’m a newcomer to the world of BPRD – I’ve watched and enjoyed the Hellboy movies, but beyond that, last week was the first time I read a BPRD comic (Hell on Earth – the Devil’s Engine #1).

O’Donnell – who we are introduced to in the first couple of pages as a bit of a crazy old man – was sent to collect the library of a newly-dead Necromancer, back in 1987, with Hellboy in tow.


I must say, I really like the feel of this series – it’s gothic, with plenty of action, has an Urban Fantasy horror/supernatural premise, a touch of good humour, and is very well written. I’m really going to have to try out more BPRD, Hellboy and Baltimore. Definitely recommended.


Call of Wonderland #1 (Zenescope)


Writer: Dan Wickline (with Raven Gregory, Joe Brusha & Ralph Tedesco) | Artist: Matt Triano & Nacho Arranz | Colours: Stephen Downer & Thomas Bonvillain

The Jabberwocky has been defeated, the Queen of Hearts is dead and Wonderland is in a state of chaos. But the one called the Red Knight is back and he’s about to unleash a deadly, ancient force long thought to be gone. Meanwhile on earth, a literary student researching Lovecraft discovers a long forgotten secret linking Wonderland to the famous author known for his stories of horror. It’s a secret that could very well damn all of mankind.

This was an unexpected surprise. The story seems to have far more to do with H.P. Lovecraft than it does Wonderland, despite the fleeting appearance of the character on the cover. Julie, the student, is given Lovecraft’s diary, which supposedly reveals some of the secrets of where he came up with his ideas. Weird things start to happen the more she reads, though, and the story ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger.

Not at all what I was expecting, but a very good opening shot for this mini-series. I’m definitely interested to know where it goes in the future.


The Defenders #6 (Marvel)

TheDefenders-06Writer: Matt Fraction | Artist: Victor Ibanez | Inks: Tom Palmer & Terry Pallot | Colours: Chris Sotomayor

Who is trying to kill the Immortal Weapons and can Iron Fist stop them? Why did the world forget about the Confederates of the Curious? How does the Concordance Engine tie all these threads together?

This is a very wordy issue, with lots of exposition. This isn’t a bad thing, as we get a fair bit of background on Iron Fist and the other members of the Immortal Weapons. Including, for example, this big fella:


Immortal Iron Fist (“Danny” to his friends), is researching the strange devices the Defenders have been finding in various parts of the world (in mountains and underwater, actually), and discovers a link with the line of Immortal Weapons. Then he is forced to confront a former team-mate/friend about it.

An interesting issue, but I do wish I’d managed to read issue #5, as I felt like I’d missed something rather important. Still, it’s a pretty good series, but it does also seem to be one that has ups and downs and is just a little inconsistent.


The Massive #1 (Dark Horse)

TheMassive-01Writer: Brian Wood | Artist: Kristian Donaldson | Colours: Dave Stewart

In a post-war, post-crash, post-disaster, post-everything world, the environmental-action trawler Kapital scours the earth’s oceans for its mysteriously missing sistership, The Massive.

Captain Callum Israel, a man who has dedicated his life to the ocean, now must ask himself — as our planet dies — what it means to be an environmentalist after the world’s ended. Callum and his crew will come up against pirates, rebels, murderers, and thieves as they struggle to remain noble toward their cause. Can you save a planet that’s already doomed?

This is a pretty tantalising introduction to Wood’s new series. Long-time readers of the site will know that I’m a huge fan of Wood’s DMZ series, and pretty much think he can do no wrong. With The Massive, he returns to politics and current events (more so the latter), and we learn about the devastating climatic events that have sent the world into turmoil and upheaval. The crew of the Kapital are searching for their sister ship, in the frigid northern waters, when they are attacked by pirates.


This issue lays the groundwork for the rest of the series, introducing us to the key players and also giving us their background and background on what’s been going on globally.

The artwork is great, and it’s nice to see Wood reunited with Donaldson, who sometimes worked on issues of DMZ. It’s very clear, crisp, while also being stylish and distinctive. Really nice-looking comic. The issue also has a couple of extras at the end, presented in Wood’s distinctive graphic-design-style.


I really enjoyed this, and I hope it continues to live up to my expectations. Early signs suggest it will, though. Definitely recommended.

[The Massive #1 will be released June 6th.]


Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow #13 (IDW)


Writer: Chuck Dixon | Artist: Robert Atkins | Inks: Juan Castro | Colours: Simon Gough

“Serpent’s Shadow” Part 1! Snake Eyes returns to Japan to re-join the Arashikage clan to team with Storm Shadow. Their target: the new Cobra Commander! Will the most dangerous Joe turn his back on his loyalties and his friends just to bring down the new Cobra leader? Only he knows!

This is a pretty good issue, although Snake Eyes is singularly un-sneaky in his first attempt on Zartan’s life, not to mention rather easily out-foxed by his target. It was quite a nice change of scene, though – it takes place on a train.

Layout 1

The ‘present’ storyline is interspersed with flashbacks to Snake Eyes’ and Storm Shadow’s ninja training when they were younger. It’s interesting to see how the two ninjas’ relationship has been so intertwined for so long, only for them to frequently end up on opposite sides. Given their different ideologies, though, it’s not surprising that they should be enemies – their shared past, though, explains why they have so much difficulty in killing the other… At the very end of the issue, we also learn of how Snake Eyes got his unorthodox name (it used to be Heitai, which translates as “warrior”, not to be confused with hentai, which means… something entirely different and inappropriate).

Layout 1

The artwork is great, it’s very sharp and clear, as you can see from the samples. Another solid addition to the series, despite the niggles I have with the attempted assassination.


Star Wars: Blood Ties – Boba Fett is Dead #1-2 (Dark Horse)


Writer: Tom Taylor | Artist: Chris Scalf

#1 - The news spreads from one end of the galaxy to the other like wildfire: Boba Fett, the galaxy’s most feared bounty hunter, is dead. But when members of the team that killed Fett are themselves picked off one by one, Connor Freeman – the son of one of Jango Fett’s clones – gets pulled into the action in a most unexpected way!

#2 – Boba Fett is dead, and whoever hired the hit squad had better run – as fast and as far as possible! A mysterious avenger is on the trail of Boba Fett’s killers. Connor Freeman – a clone relation to Fett – has been drawn into the whodunit. Freeman, who feels like he could use some protection himself, has been recruited against his will to find and protect a particular bounty hunter on a distant world – in Mandalorian space!

This series kicks off with quite the arresting opening page:


This is a pretty cool revenge story – someone, as the synopsis states, is taking out the people who took part in Fett’s death (oddly, the death was reported on the news, complete with the members of the kill-team reported as well… Seems like a considerable oversight). The first issue ends on quite a momentous, violent note, as we learn that Connor Freeman is not, in fact, the revenge-killer.


The man who ordered the hit on Fett has expanded the remit of the hit to include everyone even remotely connected to Fett – which includes Connor Freeman. Freeman, however, appears to have a mysterious guardian, who turns up at the last minute to save his life. In the second issue, Freeman is dropped off on a random planet by his benefactor, while said guardian goes off to continue his vendetta against those who killed Fett.

The artwork is great, each panel looking more like a painting than comic art. There is, however, a rather strange continuity mistake on page five of the second issue (it’s to do with a prosthetic arm, but it’s important to the story, so I won’t ruin things).

I rather enjoyed this, and is another Star Wars title that does it right. I’m glad they’re getting good writers and artists to work on this series. For a while, there, the quality was starting to dip a little.



Superman #9 (DC)

Superman-09Writer: Keith Giffen & Dan Jurgens | Artist: Dan Jurgens | Inks & Finishing: Jesus Merino | Colours: Tanya & Richard Horie

Superman faces new super-villainess Masochist! How can Superman fight an opponent he can’t touch? And Lois Lane faces a turning point in her career as a journalist.

This is a pretty packed issue, with plenty of things going on. First off, Superman rescues a Russian sub with mysterious mission, who want to hide their mission from their saviour. Lois Lane, the Executive Producer of PGNews (I like that she’s been promoted, finally), is approached by someone who claims to have information about Superman’s secret identity. Naturally, she thinks it’s a hoax, and passes on what could be a huge story.


After rescuing the sub, Superman heads back to Metropolis, is reamed out by Lois for forgetting to pick up her sister, and then the blogger’s exposé of Superman’s “real secret identity” is released! To much confusion and promise for future mess… On top of this, Superman gets beaten up by an untouchable bank robber... The way this issue ends bodes well for the future.

I’ve said it before, but I do really like that the evolution of journalism is so close to the centre of the story, and how it presents problems and obstacles for our hero.


Wolverine & the X-Men #10 (Marvel)

Wolverine&XMen-10Writer: Jason Aaron | Artist: Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza, Al Vey & Victor Olazaba | Colours: Chris Bachalo

Cyclops comes to the Jean Grey School! Will Wolverine’s X-Men join Cyclops against the Avengers?

Nice to see Logan showing some emotion about the AvX situation and his choice of allegiance.

This issue starts off just after the brawl on the beaches of Utopia. Wolverine’s back at the school, beaten and bruised, recovering from the fight.


What I really liked about this issue is that Wolverine finally starts showing some emotion about the whole fiasco.

“Logan? I saw it all on TV. Are you all right?”

“I popped my claws, Kitty. And then I used ’em against people I once considered family. People who called me traitor to my face. So no, I definitely ain’t all right.”

Then Cyclops & the Utopia mutants appear, and there's a bit more of a confrontation.


Meanwhile, the School’s faculty members continue dealing with their ‘normal’ concerns, such as the state of Angel (who doesn’t appear to have any of Warren Worthington III’s mind or memories anymore), who seems convinced he’s a real honest-to-God Angel and wants to prove it. Evan “Genesis” is searching the ‘Super-Villain Database’, and researching Apocalypse (his dad), and he’s not happy with what he’s found out.

Cyclops and Wolverine go off and talk about the upcoming conflict, and their respective beliefs of how best to deal with the oncoming Phoenix Force. At one point, the leader of the Utopian mutants voices something I’ve been thinking ever since the Avengers vs. X-Men snafu kicked off:

“No matter our differences, no matter which side of the country you chose to live on or how many other teams you decide to join, I always thought that at the end of the day, when push came to shove... Nobody was more of an X-Man than Wolverine.”

Wolverine&XMen-10-Internal1The end of the issue is quite poignant and difficult, as the X-Men’s faculty discuss with Logan what to do. Most of them are not on his and the Avengers’ side:

Rachel Grey: “You’re not the only one who wants a piece of this fight.”

Wolverine: “Good. I’m sure the Avengers can use all the help they can get. So long as the school’s covered, you’re all welcome to come with me.”

Iceman: “Yeah, that’s the thing though… We won’t necessarily be fighting on your side.”

I thought this was a great issue, actually. Probably the best in the Avengers vs. X-Men cross-over issues, and shows Aaron really knows how to pull out all the stops, and can write a thoughtful and nuanced issue just as well as he can write more amusing, playful issues. Well worth reading.


Also Out This Week:

DC: Animal Man Annual #1, Batman Annual #1, Batman: Death By Design HC (review imminent), Batman: Prey TP, DC Nation #1, Diablo #4, Flash #9, Green Arrow Vol.1: Midas Touch TP, Ravagers #1, Starman Omnibus #1 TP, Wonder Woman Vol.1: Blood TP

Dynamite: Bionic Woman #2, Game of Thrones #8

Image: America’s Got Powers #2, Grim Leaper #1, Spawn Compendium Vol.1 TP, Xenoholics Vol.1 TP

Marvel/Icon: Daredevil Ultimate Collection 2 TP (Ed Brubaker & Michael Lark), Kick-Ass 2 HC, Supercrooks #3, Villains for Hire: Knight Takes King TP, Wolverine & the X-Men #11, X-Men: Phoenix Endsong/Warsong Ultimate Collection TP

Vertigo: Fables Deluxe Vol.5, New Deadwardians #3

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