(Click title to go directly to the review)
ALL NEW ALL DIFFERENT AVENGERS #1
SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN #1
THE VISION #1
WHERE MONSTERS DWELL #5
Indie Jones presents TOTEM #1
Indie Jones presents 18 DAYS #5
DOCTOR STRANGE #2
SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN #1
SECRET WARS #7
Marvel’s SECRET WARS BATTLE WORLD Travel Guide Part XXIII!
ALL NEW ALL DIFFERENT AVENGERS #1Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Adam Kubert
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
The All-New, All-Different AVENGERS are finally here! Not counting NEW, MIGHTY, UNCANNY, or WHATEVER AVENGERS, we've seen the AVENGERS relaunch five times in the past 20 years (and only launch in the 20 before). This time former JLA scribe Mark Waid gets the reins. And for the quick review, this is the best of those five #1 issues.
While we're still not sure how New Marvel Earth formed (a couple a more months before that question is answered), here we are. As reboots go this is like DC's ZERO HOUR, in which not much of anything really changed--though it turns out, despite there being a bunch of new Avenger teams, no one has yet to reform 'the' Avengers, so Waid's first story arc is building the team. And what a colorful team he has to pull together, which is loaded with replacement characters: New Nova, new Ms. Marvel, new Spider-Man, new Thor, new Captain America. Relatively speaking (or should I say writing, or should I write, writing), Iron Man is the only non-replacement hero on the soon-to-be team (there is The Vision, but based on his state of mind--shrug). Waid does have a little fun with this, mostly with the Fal- er, Captain America. It's all pretty cute and funny, as (we'll call him) Sam Wilson has to deal with political correctness (which, for the record, is about avoiding something that could be perceived as racist, which Sam had to do, and not claiming there isn't any racism, just political correctness). Mind you, if you are keeping the wings and the bird, and not wearing 'the' costume, then you're still the Falcon in my book (Green Lantern can't just put on red tights and call himself The Flash, IMHO).
Ok, back to the spoilers: so Waid starts things off with a Chitauri warrior (yeah, I'm thinking they might be a bit over used too) from NOVA, back for revenge, though his plans get complicated but not by The Avengers, but by the mysterious businessman who just bought the Avengers Tower--a businessman who appears to be far more than that. Miles, Sam and Tony all show up on the scene, where Tony does something cooler than anything in his current book, turning his car into a fig'n Iron Man suit--I dig it. Meanwhile, in a backup story, Nova has a run-in with Ms. Marvel where you could say they fight, in the classic superhero meets superhero context, except Waid changes it up by just having these two teenagers suck at talking to the opposite sex. Face it: boys are stupid.
So this a really nice book. Great character moments, niffy action, and a good build-up of the adventure to come. I say this after reading the Vision/Scarlet Witch teaser in the AVENGERS #0, which I didn't really care for. And for all the lip service BMB (and other writers) get for writing comic book Tony Stark like movie Tony Stark, Waid is the first to really nail it instead of writing a scatterbrained, uncharismatic dick. Waid's Tony is actually charismatic and captures the rhythm of his speech, making his topic-changing conversations make sense.
Artist Adam Kubert does a decent enough job of drawing this issue, far superior to the mess he turned in on AXIS. The Nova/Ms. Marvel backup story was drawn by Mahmud Asrar (former New 52 SUPERGIRL artist). He too does a fine job with his pages, so while the book might not look as awesome as the Alex Ross cover, it's good work.
Even though Mark Waid has been boring me to tears with Dynamite's pulp heroes, he totally kicks @$$ with the superhero genre here. All-New, All-Different AVENGERS looks to be the first All-New, All-Different book that is not disappointing me.
SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN #1Writer: Max Landis
Illustrator: Nick Dragotta
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: The Kid Marvel
For a while now, writer Max Landis has been extremely vocal about how he would write Superman in variety of videos on his Youtube channel. Landis is best known as the screenwriter of Chronicle and American Ultra, as well as the son of director John Landis. Personally, the way Landis has described Superman or Clark Kent and how he would write the character, has turned me from someone who had no real interest in the Man of Steel, to actually really liking the character and actively trying to read more Superman related stories. So naturally when Landis was announced to be writing this series and finally putting his money where his mouth is, as far as putting together a story related to Clark Kent and Superman, I was more than excited for the mini-series.
SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN is a seven issue mini-series, with each issue featuring a different artist for different points in Clark’s life. As Landis personally puts it, “This is not a Superman comic, this is not an origin story of how Clark Kent becomes Superman. We’ve seen it a million times and it’s been told cooler than I can do.” Landis has announced his story will focus on how someone, who owes the world nothing, goes out every day and risks his life against every sort of evil, without needing some sort of tragedy or enlistment to turn him into a hero. He does it on his own free will and choses to be Superman simply because he’s a good person.
In SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN #1, the book focuses on Clark and his new found ability of flight, as the center piece and main plot point. Clark can’t control his flight and the Kents, are trying to cope with this “new” aspect of their adoptive son. However, it’s not just focused on the Kents trying to cope, but Clark as well, who is only a child and is having his own difficulty dealing with how different he is. This takes the usual trope or relatable story about youth and acceptance, but adding in the factor of Clark’s alien heritage, as well as otherworldly abilities. By the end of the book Clark is finally able to control his new power and the Kent’s, seem to becoming able to handle their son’s power better as well.
If this book is any indication of the series, this is exactly what I expected from Landis, in telling a more personal story of Clark Kent and grounding the character as more human and relatable, rather than the typical limitless god, that has for many, been a character that is tough to connect with. Landis does a superb job of presenting the real emotional drama a situation of this magnitude, would bring to both the parents and the child. Clark feels like an outsider, questioning who he is and even to the point he becomes self-destructive out of frustration. Jonathon Kent feels helpless, but at the same time would do anything to help his son, even if he is plagued by nightmares of Clark as something otherworldly and even dangerous. Martha wants nothing more than to help her son and make him feel normal. Everything about the dialogue and scripting makes this feel real and how real people or a real family, would try to cope with this situation. SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN feels genuine and Landis delivered.
<br< Dragotta does a great job as the artist as well, creating a comic that reflects Clarks age, as well as the general emotional frustrations displayed by the characters in the book. He focuses on the characters and their expressions, capturing the needed drama that Landis’s script calls for. While the dialogue expresses the characters thoughts and feelings, Dragotta’s art brings it all together and presents the weight of these emotions into the visual medium. The art really ties together the script well.
Overall, Landis has been more than vocal about how he would write a Superman series and he did not disappoint. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, Superman fan or the most anti-Superman individual. This was just a really well done comic, from the writing to the art. I personally cannot wait to see what the rest of this series holds and what else Landis will create in a Superman story. This should be an amazing series and I would definitely check it out.
THE VISION #1Writer: Tom King
Artist: Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Lionel Putz
I’ve always found the comic book series that focus on what a hero does when he or she is not donning the costume to be much more interesting diversions than the actual superheroics—I’m thinking of titles like Peter David’s THE RAY (from the early ‘90s), Brian Michael Bendis’ ALIAS, or Matt Fraction’s more recent work on HAWKEYE. So when I heard that Marvel’s new THE VISION was a title about The Vision settling down and (quite literally) starting a family, I figured it was worth a look. I’m very pleased to say that not only is this book worth checking out, it’s easily the first truly “must read” title of the All New All Different relaunch.
This book finds The Vision living outside of D.C. and serving as an advisor to the President. We’re told in an opening preamble that he’s had emotions purged from his programming in order to keep his processing system running smoothly. With the Avengers no longer paying him a salary due to Tony Stark pulling his financial backing of the group and Deadpool taking over funding (“All New All Different, everybody! Even if we have to hit you over the head to prove it!”), The Vision has moved to the suburbs to start a family. Like, he’s built himself a wife, Virginia, and two children, daughter Viv and son Vin. It’s with this setup—and in keeping with the eight-months-after-Secret-Wars starting point for the new Marvel initiative—that we pick up the story.
Narrated by an unidentified, detached, and seemingly omniscient figure, THE VISION plays with our innate fear of the Uncanny Valley in ways eerily (and wonderfully) reminiscent of BLADE RUNNER, WESTWORLD, and A.I., among other genre classics. This issue eschews a more traditional plot-driven structure in favor of simply explaining where each of these four “synthezioids” fits into the world around them—and more hauntingly, what motivates them—through a series of vignettes about their day-to-day lives. For example, wife Virginia has the memories of an unnamed woman, and she spends most of her days sitting on the couch exploring them. We’re told that she’s amazed and how many of them make her cry. This moment should normally be heartbreaking; as presented, it’s only terrifying, and intentionally so.
There are similar story beats throughout the book that are scripted—and then beautifully drawn and colored—to be unnerving glimpses into the minds of these artificial beings who do not understand themselves or the nature of their consciousness, but most decidedly lack any recognizable humanity. This building, palpable sense of dread culminates when the Grim Reaper—brother of Wonder Man, the hero on whom The Vision’s original persona was based—shows up and brutally attacks Viv in an attempt to destroy this funhouse-mirror distortion of his sibling’s legacy. Virginia responds with a violent, uncontrollable outburst that leaves Grim Reaper seemingly dead. As Viv lies on the floor mortally wounded and crying out for her mother, Virginia mutters the books’ final, elegiac words, “Don’t tell your father.”
The strange, disquieting atmosphere that permeates this book immediately sets it apart from any of the other All New Marvel offerings to date, and really from any book in my recent memory. Whereas I can (and, in a growing number of cases, cannot) recommend a lot of the new Marvel titles based in large part on pre-existing love or appreciation of the character, this is the only All New All Different title that wins my undying admiration based solely on merit. Expertly written by Tom King and beautifully brought to life by artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta and colorist Jordie Bellaire, The Vision looks to be the early-frontrunner for the “prestige” slot in the Marvel line-up recently vacated by the end of Fraction’s HAWKEYE. Do not miss this book.
Lionel Putz is a lawyer by day. He watched Matlock in a bar last night; the sound wasn't on, but he's pretty sure he got the gist of it. Email him at email@example.com
WHERE MONSTERS DWELL #5Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Russ Braun
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
As the SECRET WARS tie-ins come to a close, I thought I'd give a run down of one of them, incase someone is trade interested: WHERE MONSTERS DWELL, the resurrection of an old Marvel title from the 70's which featured reprints of their classic giant monster stories from the 50's and 60's. Here, aided by knock out covers by Frank Cho, Garth Ennis revisits his old friend the Phantom Eagle (the World War I flying ace, created by Gary Friedrich in the 1968) toss him on 'dinosaur island'.
Originally, the Phantom Eagle was written like a superhero, like any other genre character created during the height of the Silver Age. When Garth Ennis first got his hands on him in 2008, he turned him into a Brit, and made him much more a real person in WAR IS HELL: THE FIRST FLIGHT OF THE PHANTOM EAGLE (with Howard Chaykin) for Marvel's old MAX imprint. Here, the war is over and Ennis has made Karl Kaufman an out right prick (which makes one think, well it is Ennis). Seriously though, any good character Kaufman may have had is all gone now- with no explain, except he's always been a thieving, lying, womanizing, cowardice, boob.
Now those us reading comics all have our weak spots (heck reading comics is probably one of them!). One of mine happens to be dinosaurs vs prop planes. Not sure why, but watching bi-planes or single engine fighters go up against pterodactyls or pteranodons always gets me excited. Heck, I even watched that rather lousy Syfy movie WARBIRDS (heh, as if Syfy ever made a non-lousy movie). So I jumped into WHERE MONSTERS DWELL, since that was the billing. Well as usual, the dino / WW I action barely lasted two issues as Ennis replaces them with jungle amazon babes.
The basic plot follows that Kaufman hooks up with Clementine Franklin-Cox, a damsel in distress, in need of a pilot. As Kaufman attempts to fairy her to Singapore, a storm knocks them on to good old 'monster island'(or whatever else you care to call it). As they run from dinosaurs and pigmies, they whine up at the mercy of some amazons, straight out of a b-movie (though I guess everything here is b-movie material). Kaufman soon learns men are pretty much property here and Clemmie is a bold face lying and perhaps a bigger cheat than he is. So can he escape the island, when Clemmie has no desire to leave?
The most interesting thing about this tale, is not knowing where it's going. The tale is rather unconventional, with no good guys or bad guys to speak of. Ennis also uses it to have frank talk about a woman's life in 1920's(?) and being gay. No preaching, just pain in the ass truth. The bad thing about this comic is, there's no one to root. Kaufaman's not a charming rogue, Clemmie is just passionless and the amazon have no personality at all. It's all fairly unlikable people having an unusual adventure.
Artwork wise, Russ Braun does a damn fine job of it. Good drawing and solid storytelling ability. But for a comic that focus on half naked women, it's rather uninteresting looking. I don't usually champion the need to have sexy women in a comicbook, but when that is clearly one of the goals of the story, it'd be nice if they were let. Let me put it this way, Braun can draw a woman in a bikini, Frank Cho can draw an incredible hot woman in a bikini.
Lastly, what does this have to do with the SECRET WARS, as marked on the cover? Not a damn thing. But if you are looking for something different, in just about every way, you'll probably dig this. If you are a more of a straight up adventure lover, you probably won't like this. As the story has a resolution but no real climax. So on the Masked Man's scale of Crap, Poor, Decent, Good, or Great, WHERE MONSTERS DWELL scores a DECENT.
TOTEM #1Writer: X.C. Atkins
Artist: Keith Ansel
Reviewer: Lionel Putz
Comic books present a really great opportunity to tell a story at least in heavy part visually. What’s often truly impressive is when a storyteller chooses to emphasize the visual elements to an extreme in order to tell a mostly “silent” story. The recent Bendis/Sorrentino SECERET WARS: OLD MAN LOGAN, for example, was extremely light on dialogue and narration in favor of a sparser, more contemplative presentation. My foray back into the world of indie books this week similarly presents a quietly visual tale in TOTEM.
Written by X.C. Atkins—who is a novelist and friend of mine whom I did not know was writing a comic book until he debuted his first issue and I asked if I could review it, so in the interest of full disclosure, do with this information what you will—TOTEM presents a story of, in the words of the creators, “spirit animals in a post-apocalyptic world who dream of their human counterparts”, but really this issue is much simpler than that, and blessedly so. We’re introduced to an unidentified polar bear who gradually over the course of the issue wanders wordlessly into increasingly stranger, more magnificent lands far from his icy waters of home. Confidently eschewing any written narration in favor of large, sweeping panels and subtle character work in the movement and facial expression of polar bear and the baboon he comes upon in a chance meeting, TOTEM presents a rich and playful world ripe for further exploration, and embodying a great deal of promise.
Visually, artist Keith Ansel and colorist/cover artist Eden Chubb more than rise to meet the challenge presented to them in this near-completely wordless first issue, beautifully illustrating polar bear’s travels from icy waters to exotic beaches, lush jungles, and endless fields with a steady build in scope and intricacy. It’s a subtle trick that’s used to great effect here as you find yourself steadily engrossed in the increasingly dreamlike world. By the end of the book when polar bear meets baboon, the full visual insanity increasingly implied in the previous pages is gorgeously realized and welcome. This is a story where the mystery and the journey are inextricably linked, and it’s well-executed here. I’m excited to see where this one heads next. If you’re interested in checking it out, click here. Artists Keith Ansel and Eden Chubb also have sites you can visit at keithansel.com and edenchubb.com, respectively.
DEADPOOL #1Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Mike Hawthorne
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: The Kid Marvel
One of a bunch of new series coming out of Marvel’s new line, Deadpool returns in his new book with “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!” plastered above the title. Set 8 months after Secret Wars, the same as basically every other Marvel series. Deadpool is now the one funding the Avengers and much like Peter Parker, has gone from loner to powerful business man.
DEADPOOL #1 established the new Deadpool status quo and what he’s accomplished over the last eight months, without any context to how he got where he is. Somehow in the new Marvel landscape, Wade Wilson has started “Deadpool’s Heroes For Hire”, a team of mercenaries dressed as Deadpool, tasked with accomplishing all of the jobs Wade would have normally took, as part of his new business empire. As well as what looks like some sort of merchandising, capitalizing on Deadpool’s new popularity. With again, no context as to how his character, at least within the Marvel 616 (It’s still the 616 after Secret Wars I think?) has become so popular to start merchandizing his image. Using this new found wealth, as I stated earlier and also shown in UNCANNY AVENGERS #1, Wilson has begun funding the Avengers in the absence of Tony Stark, with their home base in an old movie theatre, Wade has taken over. Most of the issue focuses on Wade’s Deadpools and giving alittle direction in what Wilson’s goals will be throughout the upcoming arc or at least, some hints.
Overall, DEADPOOL #1 was interesting to say the least. The direction in which Deadpool is being taken by Duggan, is definitely different for the character and could be a super entertaining run. I love Posehn and Duggan in the DEADPOOL run for MARVEL NOW, so I have all the faith in the world that Duggan will do great on the series. It’s just such a weird direction to see Deadpool as a rich business man, legitimately as far as I know from this issue, running his own team and funding the Avengers, again with everything legitimate from how everything has been presented. There is still tons of animosity towards Wade being an Avenger now, as shown in UNCANNY AVENGERS and even his wife Shiklah is pretty unhappy with her husband’s new way of life. I will say, the last panel of the book does give me the inclination that Deadpool will go back to his old habits at some point. Duggan has also brought Deadpool’s Original Sin, from the event way back and it seems like it will be a major part of the series going forward. Probably pushing Deadpool away from his current wealth and creating a huge riff between him and the Avengers in the future.
No complaints as far as the art goes and it’s basically the same style that was used in Deadpool, since the first issue in MARVEL NOW. Hawthorne uses a mix of more comic realism, with a hint of cartoonish figures to fit the Deadpool style, so this art is a perfect fit for the series. Nothing too outstanding, but not too generic, it works for the book.
To conclude, I’d definitely recommend the series for any Deadpool fans and if you are on the fence, it’s a pretty solid issue for anyone else. I wouldn’t say it’s anything absurdly special, but Duggan is a superb writer and Hawthorne does excellent on the pencils, with no obvious complaints. However, at the current time, nothing extreme pops out to make this book stand out as something amazing or unique. This could change as the story develops, but for now, it’s simply an entertaining read and strong all around.
18 DAYS #5Writer: Grant Morrison / Gotham Chopra and Ashwin Pande
Artist: Jeeven J. Kang
Publisher: Graphic India
Reviewer: Masked Man
After about too much set-up, the great war between the Pandava (the good guys) and Kaurava (the bad guys) has finally kicked into high gear. Grant Morrison's almost 4th World (as in New Gods) view of mythology turned super-tech is all starships and super warriors, with melee fighting that looks like the DYNASTY WARRIORS video games.
Now this is more of what we all signed up for, the epic battles. Mind you, it's very important to define the characters, especially in this story. But in monthly comicbook story telling, you can't really afford slow starts. Since you might get yourself canceled before the exciting stuff happens. Either way here we are. The grandfather of the two sets of cousins at war, Bheeshma (or Bhishma) has unleashed holy terror from his sky chariot/starship. As Bhima, with a super mace bigger than he is, bashes the hell out warriors. And the mad king Duryodhana fires off the super / nuclear weapon. It sucks to be a rank and file soldier in this war, let me tell you.
The key to what makes this a great story (the Mahabharata), as side from the epic fighting, is the political play of honor between the characters. As the more honorable Pandava's have been out maneuvered by their jealous cousins the Kaurava, in securing the best fighters in the world to their side- even if their hearts are with the Pandava. So characters like their Grandfather Bheeshma, teacher Drona and great uncle Shalya must all fight as hard as they can to kill the Pandava, because honor demands it. Gotham and Ashwin do a decent job of showing this, but they need to dig a little deep into the pathos of the characters to really make it work.
Kang's artwork is very bold, mature and confident. Reminds me a bit like Michael Avon Oeming. So it's hard to say a bad thing about it, because it's good work- period. But Morrison's original artist collaborator wasMukesh Singh (Google his work). Who is a mind blowing artist, and more fitting for this mind blowing tale. But hey, the Art Adams and Ivan Reis's can't draw every comicbook, and a good artist is always better than a bad one.
So fans of the Mahabharata, pick this up, it's a pretty nice bite size piece of this epic poem. For everyone else, if you long for something different than the current DC or Marvel- but still want some balls out superhero action, in line with Jack Kirby? 18 DAYS is good book to check out, especially now that the war is finally on.
DOCTOR STRANGE #2Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Chris Bachalo
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
As long as I have been reading comic books the Doctor Strange character has always had a wild appeal to me, though for all those years I barely recall much of my exposure to him coming in the form of his own ongoing title. I started on the comic book habit twenty years ago when the “Midnight Sons” were a thing and that aspect of the Marvel Universe hooked me for whatever reason, and even then a DOCTOR STRANGE ongoing was a fleeting thing for me because that whole SIEGE OF DARKNESS shebang occurred because 90’S COMICS!!! Even with a new look and attitude to hook new readers, the Doctor was out for a bit. That “bit,” according to some Comic Book Databasing, was until now. Nearly twenty years since then and outside of the occasional mini-series (like the awesome Brian K. Vaughan penned THE OATH) one of the most mysteriously alluring second tier characters in comics had no home, and I can kind of understand how this happens. When you have a character such as this, whose main hook isn’t so much wrapped up in his personality or a tragic and/or relatable past you use to moralize to an audience who tries to see the world in a variety of ways, you really have to find ways of coaxing charisma out of the tone to make up for this shortcoming. It takes a special writer and artist team with a special approach sometimes to make a character like this really “stick” beyond just the Cliff Notes “here’s this badass stuff they tend to do” version of them in an ongoing series form. And I think we’ve found such a team.
I was somewhat sold that this creative tandem had the goods to take Dr. Stephen Strange from the secondary character that either props up a team as the “mystical guy” or is the one the front line characters go to for help when the problem is beyond them in the debut of this new ongoing last month. It presented the Doctor as, well, kind of like “The Doctor,” of the Who variety that is. Dr. Strange, former vainglorious surgeon, humbled and then transformed into the role of “Sorcerer Supreme” is the last line of defense from metaphysical intrusions that would destroy our world. The brunt of that premiere was mainly to be a “day in the life” tale that makes something like other dimensional soul eaters invading a little boy’s psyche seem humdrum despite the rush at the time. He’ll immediately go from such astonishing exploits to a life where he’s kind of a recluse. He doesn’t know how to identify with a normal society, especially since he’s always seeing those “bump in the night” critters around everyone whenever he happens to wander the streets. That was the “in” that Aaron decided needed to happen to kind of bring a Doctor Strange to the masses and I felt like it was a good step. That was the personality hook, the lack of a role in a world that he defends with a different and possibly the most important role of them all, and then Aaron and Bachalo really drove that home with this follow up.
What happens here is that we get our “companion” in the form of a librarian named Zelma Stanton, that happens to have demonic mouths growing out of the top of her head. Y’know, that old chestnut. She then mainly becomes the everyman foil for our hand-waving protagonist as he puts his Sanctum Sanctorum essentially into lock down due to these beings escaping their cranial hideout, and that’s where things really get fun and the approach Aaron and Bachalo really seem to be vying for with this run comes into effect. Every little reaction and overreaction to all the creepy, crawly, drag you to hell type shenanigans inside the Doctor’s abode by Zelma really helps to sell the fantastical the life of Stephen Strange. Random doors leading to other dimensions, odd-ball critters creeping about, the bald-headed Asian gentleman cooking up a dinner that would make a Klingon blanche. This is the stuff that makes Dr. Strange a cool character and that you rarely get to see when he’s relegated to being a house call character for his peers in the Marvel Universe when magic comes into play and it really gives a fun vibe to the book in contrast to the aloofness that Stephen himself emanates. Yeah, at times it’s a little too on the nose a juxtaposition to a certain Call Box traveling pop cultural icon but if it work it works, and here it really gets the job done.
There’s also some real plot work being done here as well. It’s not all the every man lens being focused on the Doctor, there’s the occasional hiccup going on with Strange and his magic, the beings living in Zelma at the beginning of the issue are just the tip of a very scary magical iceberg that seems to be heading Earth realm’s way, and we get a big blast of foreboding as a cliffhanger with a being trying to reach Strange and failing. Ground work is being done here plot framing wise as well as working the in roads to making Strange a, not so much more relatable character, but showing why he’s an extraordinary character for the world he lives in and watches over. Given the success that Jason Aaron has enjoyed on this THOR run so far – a character that also tends to thrive more off the type of adventures he mounts more than his personality traits – I am definitely no surprised in the slightest by this development other than I feel the first issue meandered a bit more in achieving this direction before this follow up crushed it on the approach.
I also really like the Chris Bachalo compliment to Aaron’s scripts for this story as well. Here’s the thing about Bachalo art for me; I think it’s some of the most visually detailed and atmospheric art we have seen in comics for a good long while, but I also feel like sometimes his panels are too “cramped.” I know that’s an awkward complaint but it feels like the comic book page is too small for what he’s trying to achieve within it sometimes and things get lost. Not this time though. Yes, the pages are packed tight with ectoplasmic entities and their mischief and all sorts of odd trinkets the Doctor has gathered over the years, all of which you imagine have some sort of tale to go with their acquirement. What Bachalo is doing here is some really good tale within tale stuff and it’s a really great enhancement, and probably one of the best assignments for his skills from uniqueness of design standpoint I’ve seen since I put together a SHADE THE CHANGING MAN run. Between Bachalo channeling some “endearing horror” I guess you could call it and Jason Aaron’s knack for aggrandizing all paths of fiction, this DOCTOR STRANGE run is already geared up to be more than just another attempt at selling the character but establishing him as a must read star once the property comes to life on the movie screen in a year’s time.
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, The MySpaces, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.
SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN #1Writer: Max Landis
Artist: Nick Dragotta
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Lionel Putz
Despite the fact that he’s the most recognizable, iconic, enduring comic book character of all time, I still believe that Superman mostly gets short shrift amongst comic book fans. The things that make Superman great—his earnestness, his modesty, his unmistakable humanity despite completely alien origin—are not really “cool” in many ways, but there are great stories to be told with and about the character. And you know who gets that? Max Landis, son of John Landis, writer of CHRONICLE, maker of "Death and Return of Superman" Youtube insanity, and possible actual crazy person. But few people working today seem to genuinely care about character-driven storytelling today as passionately as he does, and seemingly none have the enthusiasm for Supes that Landis does. The result is a great book about a random day in young Clark Kent’s life (the first of seven random days in Clark’s life that comprise the planned miniseries, actually).
The issue opens with a grade school-aged Clark floating uncontrollably upwards in the middle of the night, screaming for a young Martha Kent who is clinging to his ankles as they both rise into the night sky. Clark is not the god among men that we know Superman is (and chooses not be)--just a scared boy calling out for his Mom in the night. The Kents have him checked out by the town doctor, who remarks that he’s okay but mentions to them again the strange radiation that he detects on the boy before suggesting that maybe a more thorough examination of their son would be appropriate. Martha refuses, and confirms that the family doctor won’t pursue the issue further. There are several moments like this throughout the book, where we’re not sure how much the residents of Smallville know about the young Clark Kent and how much they choose to ignore. All of these moments, though, like another wherein Clark again loses control of his flying abilities while sneaking into the drive-in with Lana Lang, paint a picture of the kind of supportive rural community that Smallville has always been presented as: a decent place filled with good people and an honest way of life worth protecting.
Visually, artist Nick Dragotta imbues the issues with an almost Japanese anime look whose cartoonish enthusiasm compliments the pre-teen Clark we see here. Each forthcoming issue is smartly done, with a different artist to reflect the emotional tone of the age of the subject and the story presented (and possibly to keep the publication schedule on track…your move, Marvel), so it will be curious to see how much the tone varies and changes with each upcoming vignette. Undeniable, though, is Landis’ voice as he chooses specific, small moments in this issue to expand Clark Kent’s story in ways previously untouched in his near 80-year publication history. The final two page spread—which seems to stand as its own back-up story—is equally illuminating and promising, with a glimpse into Martha Kent’s scrapbook/past/potentially-heartbreaking-struggle-with-clinical-depression, all conveyed with a few notes and headlines kept from over the years, along with some current prescription bottles. Lanids is updating the Clark Kent story by focusing on the most human of moments in the character’s life, and I’m certainly all-in for the remainder of the series. The small moments in this book at once expand and deepen the Kents’ story without once undermining or contradicting all that’s come before.
I’ve been rallying against comic book continuity for a while now, and if you’re bored/disinterested/angered by the continued shenanigans of the New52/DC You initiatives, just read this book about a hero learning to become a man before he becomes a Superman instead. It’s much more deserving of your time.
SECRET WARS #7Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Esad Ribic
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
Still playing catch up with the rest of the Marvel Universe is SECRET WARS. $hit is finally hitting the fan (oh boy, oh boy, oh boy) as the climax starts to take shape, although it really sucks that Hickman seems to be fudging his math.
Looking back at Hickman's last mega-crossover event, INFINITY, which was a tale of two cities--a good Thanos story and a bad Avengers story (the secret to defeating the Builders was just punch them harder?!?)--I was very curious how the even more mega-crossover event SECRET WARS would pan out. Unfortunately, it looks like it might be going down the same path. It started very slow, but very good, watching crazy Marvel Universe goodness unfold slowly, setting up a showdown between Dr. Doom and everyone else. Well, now it feels like he's forgotten to write some chapters, as events are happening with no build up to them. And remember, this is a slow moving story, which needs an extra issue to complete and he still couldn't cover every plot point?!? WTF?
To be fair, everything that is happening is cool. No complains about the action itself, which I will now spoil: On the fringes of Battleworld, The Prophet has emerged to build an army against the false god Doom. The Prophet is revealed to be Maximus, but who cares, since this is the first time we are really seeing him? Captain Marvel, Mr. Sinister and Goblin Queen head off to squash this rebellion, but for reasons unknown Marvel and Sinister switch sides. Soon Doom's army of Thors shows up, but they all switch sides too, for reasons unknown. Next, Maestro sends in an army of Hulks to fight Doom for, you guessed it, reasons unknown. Finally, Hickman steals a page from Tolkien and has Namor and Black Panther call up an army of the undead to fight Doom—which, believe it or not, was explained! This was all part of Dr. Strange's back-up plan after Doom killed him, so the world is really putting God-Doom in their cross hairs.
So a lot of cool action in here, all looking awesome as ever by Esad Ribic and master colorist Ive Svorcine. While Hickman may have lost his way with this story, they have not. Now, yes, a lot of this you can infer: Doom's a dick and his barons never loved him, so sure, it's all a powder keg. But that's also not a strong argument for good storytelling, and smacks of ex machina.
Finally, I'll take back every bad thing I've said if I'm shown the crossover issues that built up all these turns of events. But considering there is no editorial box from the five different editors on the book, trying to upsell me one of those issues, I guessing there are no said crossover issues. I'm still pretty confident Hickman is going to end this all with a very cool bang; it just bums me out that he got lazy with the build-up.
SECRET WARS BATTLEWORLD TRAVEL GUIDE PART XXIIIor
I'm just so happy that WHERE MONSTERS DWELL was a thing!
By Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
HOUSE OF M #4 (Dennis Hopeless & Cullen Bunn)
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA oooooh, HOUSE OF M Quicksilver, you’re such an idiot. Has Magneto EVER, in all of history, ever died whenever he was supposed to die? Throw in a pissed off Polaris, a rag tag team led by Hawkeye, Black Cat, Misty Knight, and Deathlocket, AND Namor just being Namor, and seriously, did you ever for a real moment EVER think you were actually win this one? You dummy. This was actually a really fun world to drop in and visit, and not just because Deathlocket shows up (an easy way to win my heart).
WHERE MONSTERS DWELL #5 (Garth Ennis & Russ Braun)
Karl Kaufman basically gets shat on this entire issue, and then he actually has to deal with an island of shit. It’s great. Garth Ennis and Russ Braun are an amazing team (seriously, Ambush Bug made me stop reviewing THE BOYS because I just wouldn’t shut up about it), and this book has been one of the best series in a VERY good crossover.
THORS #4 (Jason Aaron & Chris Sprouse)
On the one hand, this world ended up feeling MUCH more “Law & Order”-y than I expected. That means scenes of Thors talking for PAGES. And then sometimes, an army of Thors gets into a lightening fight with other Thors. And Groot Thor shows up. Groot Thor may tip the scales on whether this world is worth visiting or not.
SQUADRON SINISTER #4 (Marc Guggenheim & Carlos Pacheco)
Evil Superman and Evil Batman duke it out in the remains of a demolished city for the power to control a terrified populace. It’s the greatest potential of man versus the unending power of a God, and wait no, sorry, GodKingDoom just showed up and yep, okay, move along, nothing to see here.
INFINITY GAUNTLET #5 (Gerry Duggan & Dustin Weaver)
Can we bring Anwen Bakian into the main 616 universe too? Cause she’s pretty damn awesome. Seriously, her and her super powered Nova dog (henceforth known as StarDog) need to show up and team up with Squirrel Girl and just fuck. People. UP.
Seriously, Marvel. Get on this.
BATTLEWORLD TRAVEL TIP! When trying to cross Battleworld and you end up in Where Monsters Dwell Dinosaur land, remember - EVERYTHING wants you dead. ESPECIALLY if you're a dick.
Stay tuned, because coming up, the Secret Wars Battleworld Travel Guide Picks and Misses!
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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