Saturday, April 21, 2012

Comics Round-Up (Apr.18) the 2nd


Some big things happening in this collection of comics – we have the next salvo in the battle between the Avengers and the X-Men over the fate of Hope and the Phoenix Force; two introductions to the Night of the Owls Batman event; some voodoo shenanigans in New Orleans; the beginning of an adaptation of a mega-selling crime thriller; a continuing epic space opera; UFOs and American politics; and a broken mutant. All-in-all, an excellent week.

Sadly, with my new strict budget, I wasn’t able to get the other exciting issues released this week – specifically, Justice League #8, Catwoman #8, Red Hood & The Outlaws #8, Defenders #5, Dawn of the Jedi #3, No Place Like Home #3, Secret #1 and Manhattan Projects #2. Maybe in the future, during a quieter week.


Reviewed Herein: Avengers vs. X-Men #2, Batman #8, Nightwing #8, Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #2, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo #1, Saga #2, Saucer Country #2, Wolverine & the X-Men #8

Avengers vs. X-Men #2 (Marvel)


Writer: Jason Aaron | Artist: John Romita Jr. & Scott Hanna | Colours: Laura Martin

As the opening shot is fired, the Avengers storm the beach of Utopia, and the Phoenix draws ever nearer to Earth!

But which side will Wolverine fight on? And what choice will Hope make that will change the direction and scope of the conflict dramatically?

Captain America to Cyclops: “I’ve never seen you be this foolish before.” I’ll second that, but address it to every character in this issue, because this story escalated way quicker than it should have. I’ll admit, I don’t have as much experience or knowledge of the wider Marvel Avengers and X-Men mythos and history, but despite whatever minor differences the groups had in the past, this whole war feels overly-contrived. Everyone’s wearing arrogance and ego on their sleeves – since when did everybody become trigger-happy? Maybe that’s the hook of the story – someone’s made everyone a moron...? They talk about each other’s pride, but... I don’t know. This has been kind of underwhelming so far. I don’t think I’ll be buying any more individual issues.

Maybe I’ve missed something fundamental that would let me understand why this is happening – I get why they say we’re suppose to buy it, but I’m just not convinced.

The cynical half of my brain is just telling me that Marvel was jealous of the success and attention DC received for the New 52, and decided to cook something up to steal the spotlight back. They’ve succeeded in doing that, but I don’t think they’ve pulled it off as well as DC did. Maybe, once the dust settles and the story has played out in full, then I’ll be able to get it, but not now. Sorry.

The art’s very eye-catching, though. Lots of fun action scenes, vivid colours, and so forth.


Batman #8 (DC)


Writer: Scott Snyder & James T Tynion IV | Artist: Greg Capullo & Rafael Albuquerque | Inks & Colours: Jonathan Glapion, FCO Plascencia & Nathan Fairbairn

Broken and beaten, Bruce Wayne has retreated from Gotham City – the city of Owls – to Wayne Manor. But no place is safe, because the Court is about to strike at the heart of city, and nothing will ever be the same.

Be there for the start of the battle for Gotham City’s soul…and the prelude to “The Night of the Owls.”

And in the first chapter of a new backup story, learn the secret history of The Court of Owls – as well as the secrets of Gotham City and the Wayne family!

This is a fantastic issue! Bruce is recuperating at home, when an army of Talons storm his manor. With Alfred’s help, he devises a strategy to combat them, and things are set in motion for the momentous Night of the Owls event. The back-up story is “The Call”, in which Alfred sends out the plea for help to the Bat allies in Gotham, telling them of the Owl Court’s wider plans – sentencing all of Gotham City’s leaders for death.

The issue is brillaintly realised, with great artwork, which really heightens the atmospheric and moody feel of the story. There are some good action scenes, and a rather cool final page, too. Overall, this series is just getting better and better. Highly recommended.


Nightwing #8 (DC)

New52-Nightwing-08Writer: Kyle Higgins | Artist: Eddy Barrows | Inks & Colours: Paulo Siqueira & Rod Reis

A lead-in to next month’s thrilling Night of the Owls Batman event!

With the Owls descending upon Gotham City, the fate of the city’s leader rests on the shoulders of Nightwing! But as our hero embarks on a mission to rescue Mayor Hady, just how do Cameron Kane and turn-of-the-century Gotham City factor in?

Plus: the untold story of William Cobb – the Talon who’s hunting Bruce Wayne!

This issue is another Night of the Owls prelude, although it does throw Nightwing right into combat with a talon. Nightwing hears Alfred’s call for help, while investigating a murder (which, I have no doubt, will be picked up again after the Night of the Owls), and quickly heads to City Hall to save the Mayor, getting there just in time to battle a Talon who has already put paid to the Mayor’s security team. There’s a shocking, cliff-hanger ending, too (although, given that this is an on-going series, it’s not really that much of a cliff-hanger, but I’m definitely excited for the next issue). Really fantastic.

There is some nice cross-over with the Gates of Gotham graphic novel, which Higgins co-wrote with Snyder (review pending – I’ve finished it, and it’s excellent). The Talons, as effectively resurrected dead killers, have long memories, and all are in some way connected to the great families of Gotham. This allows writers to delve a little more into the past of Gotham and its elite. Really love this idea, and I hope we see more of old Gotham in the future.

The artwork’s superb – a very clean and detailed style, quite realistic. Really love this team’s work. Can’t wait for more.


Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #2 (Vertigo)


Writer: Selwyn Hinds | Artist: Denys Cowan | Inks & Colours: John Floyd & Dave McCaig

Still reeling from her bloody introduction to the supernatural horrors of New Orleans, Dominique gains an unexpected ally when she’s rescued by the shade of a long-dead prize-fighting jazz drummer. Finally, she begins to make sense of her insane new reality. But between her and the truth, there’s a whole mess of trouble: New Orleans’ lost souls, the unearthly hunters of an enraged demigod, and the descending blade of a killer in the shadows.

This is a pretty weird-and-wonderful comic. The voodoo, the N’Awlins atmosphere and vibe. The artwork, with a sketchiness still about it that gives the story an extra grittiness. The story’s just getting started, so there are a lot of questions raised, but so much cool stuff is hinted at. This is definitely a keeper.

As per my new Two Issue Test policy, this definitely passes. Next review for it will be the first collected edition, to be published in December 2012.


Girl with the Dragon Tattoo #1 (Vertigo)

GirlWithTheDragonTattoo-01Writer: Denise Mina & Stieg Larsson | Artist: | Colours:

Just in time for Free Comic Book Day, a FREE advance look at the upcoming graphic novel adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s international best-selling thriller!

This opening chapter introduces the dark mystery of the Vanger family, as disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist is hired to uncover the truth behind a teenage girl's disappearance over forty years ago. But before Blomkvist can take on the case, he's going to be thoroughly investigated by hacker extraordinaire Lisbeth Salander...

A free first issue? Why thank you, kind Comic Book Retailer Person. Ok, so it’s not going to be an on-going series of monthly issues, but rather a series of graphic novels (not sure how many). It’s pretty good, and it’s interesting to compare the events covered by this preview with the same in the Swedish and Hollywood versions of the movie (I haven’t read the novel) – to see the little details they included and which they didn’t. I think this manages to include more information for the second and third novels’ stories than the two movies did.

The cover features gorgeous art from the infallible Lee Bermejo (DC’s Batman Noel, and also the covers for Marvel’s Winter Soldier). The internal art is a little less stylish and crisp, but it does the trick and I think this could end up being a pretty good graphic novel. We know the story’s good, so now we just have to wait and see if they come up with anything interesting to make it further stand out from the near-endless versions of this story. Certainly, this being a free issue will make it easy for anyone with access to a comic shop to give it a try. A pity, actually, that we must wait until November for the rest of the story (in this format, of course).


Saga #2 (Image)

Saga-02Writer: Brian K. Vaughan | Artist: Fiona Staples

The on-going epic continues!

After deserting their galactic armies, former soldiers Marko and Alana must now protect their new-born girl from the lethal killers dispatched to destroy their family.

This series is so WEIRD! But I kinda love it. I just can’t put my finger on exactly why. How about because it’s funny? And there are characters that appear to have TV sets for heads? Or that The Stalk is an insane, freaky assassin-creature? Or that the artwork is wonderfully zany and eye-catching? Oh, ok. All of the above.

The writing is superb, with a lot of original and weird shit thrown into the mix. I tend to prefer my comics a little more “normal”, but this is delightful in its own, twisted little way. Highly recommended for everyone looking for something a little different.


Saucer Country #2 (Vertigo)

SaucerCountry-02Writer: Paul Cornell | Artist: Ryan Kelly

Arcadia Alvarado is the Governor of New Mexico, she’s running for President, and she just released a bombshell: She was abducted by aliens. As her campaign tries to deal with this startling new information, they must seek help from a disgraced Harvard UFO-ologist who might not be completely sane. The West Wing meets The X-Files in an adventure through the strange and fascinating world of UFO mythology.

A strange comic, but another one that I really enjoy. (Seems to be that kind of week for comics...) It’s sort of a mix of The X-Files and The West Wing or something along those lines. Alvarado tells her advisor and Chief of Staff about her possible abduction, and one of them doesn’t take it well at all. With a pretty sweet deal, though, she manages to convince her strategist to stay on.

Alvarado and her chief of staff investigate the area in which she thinks she was abducted, her ex-husband goes to therapy (which doesn’t end as he had hoped), and an academic with special interests is offered a job on the campaign.

Overall, this is a really good comic, with a fantastic premise. Cornell’s writing is superb, and Kelly’s artwork is excellent. I can’t wait to read more of it. Definitely a keeper. The collected volume one will be published in November 2012. Highly recommended.


Wolverine & the X-Men #8 (Marvel)

Wolverine&XMen-08Writer: Jason Aaron | Artist: Chris Bachalo & Tim Townsend | Colours: Chris Bachalo

Sabretooth vs. Beast in the most vicious fight set to paper! Angel goes on a mission to repair a broken Wolverine.

As you may know, if you’ve been reading my comics round-ups for a while, I have a bit of a cool feeling towards this series. There are moments of brilliance interspersed with moments of silliness. This issue leans more towards the awesome side of the scale. The writer’s and artist’s sense of humour is on good form again, which I was very happy about – it’s excellently timed, and I chuckled aloud on a number of occasions.

The issue opens with Sabretooth, Wolverine’s nemesis, training Kade Kilgore – the 12-year-old CEO of Kilgore Arms & head of the Hellfire Club. (Yes, I found it difficult to swallow, too, and think this is one of the worst narrative elements of X-Men.) Sabretooth is teaching him how to take down the X-Men.

Once again, the school for X-Men has a headmaster in a wheelchair, only this time it’s Wolverine, who was on the receiving end of some intergalactic casino justice (they tried to scam a casino in order to get the money needed to keep the school open). Hank – aka “Beast” – is attempting to help reverse the effects of the “transmutator” that mangled Logan's legs. In order to do this, he makes a visit to The Peak, the orbital HQ of S.W.O.R.D. Little does he know, that Sabretooth has made the same trip and has taken Beast’s girlfriend hostage.

I really enjoyed the balance of the story – there’s some great X-Men action (in space!), but also some story centring around the new students at the Jean Gray School. Warren Worthington III, also known as “Angel” and sometimes “Archangel”, is still a little nuts, believing himself to be an actual angel (his attempts to heal Logan are very funny). This leads him and his fellow classmates on an unsanctioned trip of their own. This issue made me really want to read the Dark Angel Saga, which was a central story-arc for Uncanny X-Force (recently published as two collections). Broo is still my favourite new student. He’s like a young, alien Niles Frasier...

There’s a fair bit of jumping around in time, which seems to be a phase many comic writers are going through at the moment... It’s not bad at all, but the prevalence feels like it’s definitely on the rise.

There are some pretty cool, eye-popping visuals in this issue, too. Bachalo’s art is still more manga/cartoon-esque than I normally like, but it’s definitely growing on me, and adds an element of fun to proceedings that is certainly welcome and not to be missed.

The issue ends on a potentially worrisome note with regards to a beloved, furry, blue favourite of mine. Despite the occasional issue I’ve not been too keen on, Wolverine & The X-Men is a pretty strong Marvel title. There was a mini-spin-off of sorts, which I think looked at how Wolverine was able to apprehend Kid Omega – Wolverine & the X-Men: Alpha & Omega (written by Brian Wood, which makes it ever-more enticing) – and I’ll be getting this when it’s compiled into a single book (July 25th).


Next Week: All-Star Western #8, AvX VS #1, Dark Knight #8, I Vampire #8, Justice League Dark #8, New Deadwardians #2, Road Rage #3, Snake Eyes #12, Star Wars: Boba Fett is Dead #1, Supercrooks #2, Superman #8

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