Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin’s weekly single issue review roundup.
(Geoff Johns / John Romita Jr; DC Comics)
When Geoff Johns and John Romita, Jr. took over this book in issue #32, the driving force was a rejuvenation of Superman’s humanity. This book continues with that theme, but in such a lackluster fashion that I am left rather unimpressed. Promotion for this issue revolved around two new things: suit and power. The suit changes were so insignificant, they may as well have just done the change and not said anything about it, but it’s a promotable change so you can pretty safely bet they’re going to promote the heck out of it.
The new power is what they have decided to call a “super flare,” and it is the act of Superman expelling his heat vision energy through his entire body. Literally, just cranking up the heat vision to 11 (or over 9000). To me, this new power represented one of the larger flaws of this book. Geoff Johns did a nice job developing the characters, and bringing some humanity back to Superman, but when it came time to write a climax for the arc with this freshly humanized Superman it seems all that was written was “Superman go BOOM! Boom good! Boom end fight. Boom destroy costume. Batman shows up!”
That being said, the conclusion of the story, and the final page reveal are still intriguing, perhaps just enough to keep me on board.
Detective Comics #39
(Brian Buccellato / Francis Manapul; DC Comics)
Francis Manapul and Brian Buccelatto continue to deliver one of the most gorgeous comics available. Everything from the vibrant watercolors to the explosive layouts is absolutely breathtaking. In their run on The Flash, the pair faltered quite a bit with the storytelling, losing focus quite a bit, especially in the middle of the run. But by the time they got to their final story arc, with Reverse Flash, they had a pretty solid grasp on the writing process. With this run on Detective Comics they have shown that they are more than capable of translating those skills to other characters/properties. Both the writing and art on this story are arguably stronger than any of the work they did on The Flash.
Manapul’s art style is very fresh, but I certainly questioned how well the style would fit with characters other than Flash. He’s done art for a run of Superboy and a couple issues of Superman/Batman in the past, but has primarily focused on one character for DC. Now, seeing the jaw-droppingly gorgeous artwork for Detective Comics, looking back at The Flash his art style feels slightly creatively stunted.
This particular issue does a really nice job driving forward the larger ideas of the villainous idea of Anarchy and the citywide riots that go along with it, while still staying very true to the more intimate character moments.
– Steven Cain
Ms. Marvel #11
(G. Willow Wilson / Adrian Alphona; Marvel Comics)
Jersey kids represent.
I just needed to get that out of my system. I don’t get to say that a lot. With Ms. Marvel #11, we’ve reached the conclusion of G. Willow Wilson’s, Adrian Alphona’s, and Ian Herring’s first arc in the series, and it’s a doozy of a finale.
Throughout the series, we’ve seen Kamala on a constant search for balance. How do you reconcile the Muslim culture you’ve been raised in with the American culture you’re immersed in everywhere else? How do you become a hero without compromising your life as a normal teenage girl? We’ve seen terrible things happen to Kamala when the scales tip too far in any direction, as she’s lost her family’s trust, distanced herself from her friends, rejected the help of the Inhumans, and seen her best friend and teleporting dog taken away from her by the devious Inventor (who, by the way, is “NOT a bird”).
In the first half of The Inventor story, Kamala’s powers literally turned her into someone else. Kamala can only use her powers without becoming Carol Danvers after she embraces herself. Once she does this, however, Kamala veers too far in the other direction, and we come to learn that Kamala has conflated isolation with independence. Kamala is incredibly protective of her newfound freedom. She doesn’t want to compromise herself to fit the expectations of others and doesn’t want to see others compromise their safety in her defense. At her lowest, Kamala isn’t fighting to save others, but to prove her own strength. She has become selfish.
However, Kamala discovers that being a hero means being selfless. When your job is to save the lives of others, you can’t simply separate yourself from society, no matter how hard you may want to. Wilson does a great job of expressing this by placing Kamala’s best friend, Nakia, in the clutches of The Inventor. The Inventor isn’t kidnapping generic teens anymore. He’s kidnapping people with names. Families. Friends. Kamala finally realizes that “some things are too big for one person.”
It’s poignant that the real heroes of this final battle are the “friends who are as weird ” as Kamala is. The Inventor knows Kamala’s weaknesses and shuts her powers off with an EMP. However, she isn’t the only hero in Jersey City anymore. Kamala’s already called her friend Bruno, who in turn has alerted the police. The kids who were being used as batteries arm themselves and free Lockjaw, who also gets his time to shine. By relinquishing ownership of the battle, Kamala finally achieves balance. She’s learned to let others in while keeping in touch with herself.
Amelia Cole #20
(D.J. Kirkbride / Adam P. Knave / Nick Brokenshire; Monkeybrain)
There’s nothing like seeing a creative team grow stronger and more cohesive. Amelia Cole #20, the second act of the book’s fourth arc, is an example of the creative synergy between co-writers Adam P. Knave & D.J. Kirkbride and artist Nick Brokenshire. What started as a light read focusing on a young woman’s adventures in a strange land of magic and technology has blossomed into a full-blown epic with three different plot threads running concurrently. The book has taken on a relentless pace as the assault launched by the Council has thrown Amelia and supporting character/male lead Hector into dramatically different situations. Knave and Kirkbride use this issue as a chance to advance the story while also touching base with the characters in a way that reinforces important aspects of some (Amelia) while branching out and showing a different side to others (Hector). And I must say, these recent painted covers and the colors in this issues represent a major creative evolution for Brokenshire that promises many good things for his continued development as an artist.
– Mark Stack
Action Comics #39
(Greg Pak / Aaron Kuder / Scott Kolins; DC Comics)
DC is putting out a really awesome Superman comic these days – and it’s not the one receiving a ridiculous amount of marketing hype. Since taking the reins near the end of 2013, Greg Pak’s Action Comics has become one of the best comics available at any publisher. Despite getting caught in the fun but nonsensical mess that was the “Doomed” crossover, Pak and artist Aaron Kuder have achieved success by telling straightforward and emotionally affecting superhero stories. Action Comics #39 sees the team reach the conclusion of their first post-“Doomed” arc, is a perfect example of why their take on the character works where so many others in the New 52 have failed.
Pak, Kuder, and guest-artist Scott Kolins conclude this four issue arc with the reveal their big-bad is actually a new take on a classic villain. Though this character is barely recognizable, Pak’s more abstract approach to character examination – through a villain that feeds on others’ fear – distills Superman down to his most raw, emotional core. Everyone fears something, even the Man of Steel. It is his ability to overcome that fear for the good of others that has made him a figure to aspire to, especially when his fear is wholly relatable – the fear of losing your loved ones and being alone.
It doesn’t hurt that Scott Kolins’ art (with an assist from series’ regular Aaron Kuder) is fantastic. The duo’s style gives the title an expressive and animated aesthetic that captures the fun and whimsy that a Superman title should have without cheapening the script’s more somber tones.
– Daniel Gehen
Sensation Comics #23
(James Tynion IV / Noelle Stevenson; DC Comics)
Upon her 1941 debut, Wonder Woman was one of DC Comics’ best-selling titles, enjoying success equal to her male peers. However, since her creator William Moulton Marston’s death in 1947, she has yet to see the same amount of success and has fallen behind her teammates—particularly Superman and Batman—when it has come to character exploration.
DC’s current digital-first Wonder Woman series, Sensation Comics, has offered a solution to this longstanding issue. In just a few short months since its beginning in August 2014, readers have seen Diana of Themyscira as a rockstar, a superhero in space, and within the imagination of a little girl among many other various situations. However, this week’s “Sensation Comics #23” by James Tynion IV and Noelle Stevenson blows the character out of the water.
Where Superman had snark in his original Action Comics run and Batman had his Adam West television show, Wonder Woman has never had her own project where she could just be fun. While Tynion and Stevenson are not the first creators to insert some humor into the character—most credit Gail Simone with that honor—they seem to be the first to throw all caution into the wind in order to let Diana loosen up.
In most Wonder Woman stories, it is assumed that Diana remains on Paradise Island until adulthood when Steve Trevor crash lands on her home. In “Sensation Comics #23”, however, Diana is a 15-year-old, and a rebellious one at that. Instead of obeying the wishes of her mother and Amazonian sisters, she makes good on her obsession with Man’s World and takes off on her own. She bumps into Riley, a girl in distress like no girl should be on her birthday, and resolves to befriend her.
Tynion and Stevenson’s approach brings a lot of questions to the original Wonder Woman mythos without necessarily bending it until it breaks. For instance, why should Diana have to wait around for Steve to crash on Themyscira before she enters the Man’s World? Doesn’t it give her more “spunk” for her to run off on her own? Why are most Wonder Woman arcs so bereft of humor unless there are creators on her books whose styles thrive off of humor (such as Stevenson’s)? Also, not every plot has to end the world so why not just make more of her stories about stuff like beating jerky teenage boys at Dance Dance Revolution?
“Sensation Comics #23” is a welcome addition to the series’, not only opening up new doors for Wonder Woman, but also pushing the boundaries on what we know the character could be. Creators have portrayed the character as wound rather tight over the years (and not in the very literal way Marston wrote it), but with the recent surge of varied depictions of female superheroes, Wonder Woman is finally fleshing out the way she deserves.
(Brian K. Vaughn / Fiona Staples; Image Comics)
And welcome back. Again.
In this, the 25th issue of Saga, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples return to their story about two star-crossed lovers whose species are locked in an endless war and whose child could be the key to ending it all. When I first started reading the series, I expected to see a tightly written story about the intergalactic Romeo & Juliet pairing of Marko and Alana. Obviously, Vaughan and Staples have other plans.
In this issue, we get a glimpse of all the major players introduced over the past four arcs. Dengo, the mourning father and homicidal maniac, is holding Alana, Klara, Hazel, and Prince Robot IV’s unnamed son captive on the Saga equivalent of Hoth. On Demimonde, a half-planet that is constantly leaking all over the galaxy, Marko’s ex, Gwendolyn, travels with the rescued slave girl, Sophie, and Freelancer The Will’s sister, The Brand, who is also a Freelancer, in search of dragon piss that will theoretically help bring The Will out of a comatose state. Elsewhere elsewhere, Prince Robot IV and Marko are on the trail of Dengo, using the bond between the sentient seal, Ghüs, and his walrus, “ol’ friendo,” as a guide. Oh, and did I mention that this issue closes with the introduction of a group of revolutions known as The Revolution, who look like they just escaped Prince’s sex palace?
Deep breath, readers.
True to its name, Saga has become a sprawling epic. This is both a blessing and a curse. To their credit, Vaughn and Staples masterfully give readers a sense of just how large this story is, and how important the existence of the interspecial pairing of Alana and Marko are to the fate of the universe. The opening pages of #25 detail an adult Hazel explaining how the war between Landfall and its moon, Wreath, spread from planet to planet until “everyone in the universe had skin in the game.” Ironically, as the war spreads, its center moves away from the planets that catalyzed the conflict until Wreath and Landfall only need support the war efforts in “abstract way[s].” Staples’ art is astounding, as always, and the visual juxtapositions she makes in that opening scene between a Landfallian mother mourning her fallen child and Alana being ear-sexed at the movies do a great job of showing readers how simultaneously close and far the ravages of war can be.
The sprawl is what makes Saga interesting, but it’s also what frustrates me about the whole affair. Speaking from the future, adult Hazel tells us that, even though Marko is hot on Dengo’s tail from our perspective, she and her father will not be reunited for “YEARS.” Clearly, Vaughn and Staples plan on developing their story for a while yet. However, it has already been three years. By no means is that a long time in the world of endless Batman stories, but there are times where I feel like Saga has a tendency to meander, throwing lines into its universe until it catches one that can pull the story forward. In the worst case, Saga ends up turning out to be a soap opera, with endless characters, meandering plotlines, and no coherent message. However, for now, I have faith that Vaughn and Staples have a plan. Let’s just hope they follow through.
Squirrel Girl #2
(Ryan North / Erica Henderson / Rico Renzi; Marvel Comics)
The ladies are killing it in the superhero biz these days. Some of the most readable titles at Marvel are the female-centric solos like Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, She-Hulk and Spider-Woman. And pretty soon we’ll have Silk, Spider-Gwen and the recently announced A-Force to add to the mixture. We can call it a PR stunt all we like, but it’s hard to argue with the content. It’s a bright future indeed. But if we want to name the best among these and, honestly, pretty much all of Marvel’s titles, Ryan North and Erica Henderson’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is certainly one of the top contenders.
In issue 2, Squirrel Girl is fresh off of her victory over Kraven the Hunter and the issue opens up with her newest challenges: find a college club to join and the question over whether her embarrassment in front of the dude she’s crushing on is going to require her assuming a new identity at a different school as Sally Awesomelegs. That is, until here squirrel confidante, Tippy-Toe, warns her of the impending arrival of Galactus. Though the devourer of worlds may have shielded himself from human detection, he failed to account for squirrels, who seem to make after-hours use of observatories more often than one might guess. When it’s clear the “Squirrel-A-Gig” isn’t space-ready, it’s time for Plan B: commandeer some of Iron Man’s armor. I hope you’re still with me.
The strength of Ryan North’s narrative is its over-all lack of cynicism. Often-times, the female-centric comic – having only recently achieved a more broad appeal – can be bogged down by the occasional proselytizing and winking nods to the fact that we are reading a book about a strong female figure who can kick as much butt, if not more, than the male heroes out there. There isn’t, inherently, anything wrong with this trend. It’s something that needs to be addressed, but there’s something about Squirrel-Girl’s irrepressible attitude towards her crime-fighting that makes this book stand out. The idea of a male-dominated society doesn’t seem to rate even a passing thought in her mind. There are butts to be kicked and she’s the girl to do it. After all, she handily defeated Doctor Doom and rescued Tony Stark from his clutches.
Erica Henderson’s art is also a standout here. Her character designs are expressive and cartoonish, pairing well with Rico Renzi’s colorful palette to fit the overall tone of the story. Faced with the trials of socializing, Squirrel Girl is neurotic and panicked, but when it comes time to unleash the inner squirrel, she’s all smirk and confidence (“Squirrel agility abilities, what what!”). Also, Tippy-Toe’s Iron Man armor is a glove and that’s just a wonderful sight to behold.
Squirrel Girl is unabashedly, manically, anarchically giddy in its inception and the tone is infectious. Marvel has unleashed something wonderful here and I’m excited to see what’s in store for this truly charming book in the future.
Star Wars #2
(Jason Aaron / John Cassaday / Laura Martin / Chris Eliopoulos; Marvel Comics)
Yes, yes, yes! This is what a Star Wars comic SHOULD be! Essentially this issue (and last month’s equally amazing debut) take all of the dynamic elements of the Original Trilogy; high adrenaline action, memorable characters and characterization, plus the amazing setting of that galaxy far, far away and translates it to a wonderful piece of sequential storytelling. Writer Jason Aaron and artist John Cassaday took all those aforementioned elements that have made the Star Wars brand the globally recognized and beloved brand that it is and skillfully, like Jedi Masters, provided a high octane story that fires on all cylinders.
I absolutely love where Jason Aaron and Marvel have taken this series already in its short life span. What has differentiated this from past offerings is a culmination of things. First and foremost is the fact that Aaron (much like most folks who grew up with the films) is evidently a raving fanboy who has obviously spent many a day dreaming of this incredible galaxy. Reading this issue brought back vivid memories of me sprawled out on the floor with my collection of Kenner toys spread out among me waiting to be taken away. Heck, three prequel films and years of Dark Horse comics could not take me back to that place but two issues in here and I can once again feel the Force flowing within me. It helps tremendously when you are given the opportunity to use the iconic characters that made Star Wars the juggernaut that it is.
These beloved characters are written exquisitely and bear such a strong resemblance to their cinematic counterparts. It permits the reader to easily immerse themselves into the story since it provides such a comfortable and therapeutic setting. That isn’t to say that this book is all kittens and rainbows however. How could it be when you have the epitome of evil, Darth Vader, as your main antagonist? This is the villain whom all other villains strive to be…the man who caused many a childhood nightmare. Oh how Jason Aaron writes him so succinctly too! Watching the lightsaber battle between Luke and Vader was fun a hell, but what made it even better is that we were shown how easily Vader evades every attack and parries with a verbal berating more so than physicality. Yet, when it comes time for power Vader deals in spades as he almost manages to rattle apart an AT-AT with his masterful control over the dark side.
Equally impressive is the use of Han Solo and Princess Leia, who reprise their flirting and bantering as if it were ripped straight off of the screen and onto the page. Their conversations allowed for a lighter side to the story and also provided some humor as well while still giving them a significant contribution to the tale as they are the ones piloting the AT-AT that Vader targets, escaping only by the assistance of everyone’s favorite astromech droid Artoo-Detoo. The only character that came across as flat was C-3PO, who for some odd reason is left alone to command the Millennium Falcon. This particular scene managed to momentarily take you out of the story for the briefest of time and was the only somewhat negative point of the entire book.
Visually, this was a truly stunning comic. Artist John Cassaday proves up to the task of making the Star Wars universe one of the prettiest comics to look at. His line work is sharp and clean, with a great amount of facial detail that perfectly captured the likeness of Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. Cassaday is an artist who is equally adept at action and dialogue heavy panels–managing to bring out the most in the story by his immaculate sense of storytelling. As beautiful as Cassaday’s art is it is the complimenting of colorist extraordinaire, Laura Martin, that truly makes the pages pop thanks to her amazing talent of being able to accentuate the pencils with the perfect color palette. Take a look at the lightsaber battle between Luke and Vader and Martin’s inclusion of saber reflections in Vader’s helmet to realize that this is indeed a master craftsman at work. This wasn’t an instance of simply splashing a dash of red and blue onto a page but instead a riveting use of those colors to infuse life and substance to the page.
This incarnation of Star Wars is a forceful triumph!
– Robert Tacopina
(Nick Spencer / Ramon Rosanas; Marvel Comics)
I should start by saying two things: I’m not a fan of Ant-Man, and Rosanas’s art is not my style. So when I say that this is a great comic you should know that they must have knocked it out of the park to win me over.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Marvel Studios is going to have another hit with the Ant-Man movie this Summer (because that’s what they do). But Ant-Man? His power is to get really tiny and talk to ants. That’s literally less threatening than an average human being. To make matters worse this series isn’t even about the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym. At least Hank Pym also regularly uses giant powers and has an interesting history. No, this is Ant-Man Scott Lang. And yet Nick Spencer has taken a character I cared nothing about and put out a comic that’s pure fun.
This issue continues off with Lang having moved to be closer to his daughter but as he tries to find a way to make some money problems keep getting in his way: From a bank not interested in giving him a loan to a villain mistaking him for someone else.
Spencer’s characterization of Scott Lang is half down-on-his-luck Peter Parker and half humorous rogue a la Chris Pratt’s Starlord that makes him enjoyable in every situation. The story has real life elements but with superhero adventure layered smoothly on top.
As I mentioned before Rosanas’s art isn’t my personal preference but that’s not to say he doesn’t do a great job. While his is a flatter look than I like he captures great action and tells Lang’s story well.
In short, this series made me a fan when I really didn’t expect to be. I highly recommend it.
– Bill Janzen
(Ed Brisson / Damian Couceiro; BOOM! Studios)
Creators Ed Brisson (Prophet, Sheltered) and Damian Couceiro (Sons of Anarchy, Planet of the Apes) really have the making of a masterpiece: A politician’s daughter, Samara, is taken to a sort of women’s prison in the distant future following a drunk driving fuck-up, to a different planet…with no escaping. When she meets an over talkative fellow prisoner, she starts to wonder if being sent to this place is a conspiracy. If you love The Terminator‘s Sarah Connor, then BOOM! has just the right intergalactic military comic for you.
Kudos to Brisson for writing yet another great female lead (hell, he writes a solid Gemma in the SOA comic) in Samara, who is as complex as they come. It should be interesting to see which route she takes among all the madness. Cluster #1 also left me with as many political questions, too, especially with the cliffhanger ending… And no, Sylvester Stallone doesn’t show up. This sci-fi venture is sure to be out of this world fun and a little bit trouble-making.
– Eva Ceja
(Joshua Dysart / Doug Braithwaite; Valiant)
Ever wish you could have superpowers? In the future, everyone can! (*Provided all freedoms are relinquished in favor of governmental servitude*)
Welcome to the world of Imperium, the utopian society created by “Psiots”: individuals with genetically activated superpowers. They differ from the X-Men because apparently everyone now has the gene, yet only a few choose to have their powers activated. Centered around one of the founding Psiots, we follow his birth and power activation in “old” Mumbai to a futuristic one straight out of Blade Runner, then off to an underwater suburb of Hong Kong, followed by a wartime flashback in Syria where a robotic soldier lectures the supers on civilian casualties. Joshua (Harbinger) Dysart‘s plot all happens before the old man boards a space elevator docking with a ship bound for Mars. If you’re baffled, that makes two of us. I read this comic twice before I got this much out of it. I still have no fucking idea what the main character’s name is.
That being said, let’s move on to the good stuff. Doug (Justice, Unity) Braithwaite‘s artwork – fantastic. Despite the literary portion being more confusing than IRS tax law, the penciling and color palate set the tone, providing much needed insight to the emotions of the scenes. The concept and visual quality are there, but the execution of it all falls a little short. There is potential in the series, mind you, in the way that general plot points would be better explained if SyFy picked it up for a movie-of-the-week. If that happens, call the Reverend. I have some suggestions.
– Ryan Ford
American Vampire: Second Cycle #6
(Scott Snyder / Rafael Albuquerque; DC Comics)
I’m the kinda girl that is drawn to vampires. There’s something incredibly sexy about them. I mean, depending on the story — the rough-and-tumble-leather-not-syrupy-cookie-cutting-Twilight-kind… — I can get hooked relatively quickly. Like some of Scott (Batman, The Wake) Snyder‘s previous work, the second arc of Second Cycle started off a little slow for this Sis; but, hell, it’s super comic scribe Snyder, so the story is fascinating nonethless. And those demon-bats, who arrive in the North Atlantic, are as creepy a humanized vamp could look.
This is a new spin on the Cold War, a cover-up origin story of the evil demon: The Gray Trader. With Rafael (Robin, Blue Beetle) Albuquerque‘s ominous landscapes and far more ominous vampire story, American Vampire: Second Cycle #6 is a fine jumping-on point for those who want to learn the history of vampires (especially if you missed the titular series’ Skinner and Pearl), their secret-ops predators and the countless number of ways to go about it all!
Sink your teeth into this.
– Jennifer Flatebo
(Grant Morrison / Chris Burnham / Nathan Fairbairn; Image Comics)
Ever want to see 80s Kurt Russell in a psychedelic feature film frothing of psychosis, whimsical space horror, and…fish…men? Yeah, me too. The dynamicBatman Incorporated tag-team of Grant Morrison (Annihilator, The Multiversity) and Chris Burnham (Officer Downe, Nixon’s Pals) match grappling hooks and batarangs again with Nameless, a comic that takes Morrison back into straight “WTF” mode. But as straight-forward a multiple earths superhero series The Multiversity has been, Nameless‘ headfuck elements — at least so far — appear far more complicated than they are, allowing the comic to move at a brisk pace without simplifying matters to.. well.. Batman & Robin/Batman Inc. status.
Nameless also isn’t a horror comic in the Snyder/look-who’s-behind-the-covers sense. It’s chiefly horrific because of just how dense it is. What is going on? (“I’m here to see a man about a key”) Why does this Nameless guy appear both strangely passive and anxiously afraid at the same time? Why are all of these wonderful – and intensely hypnotic – panels stuck in my subconscious? Yet, all those questions can be answered with one simple answer: These guys are kings of adventure. For Morrison, Burnham and the violet violence of Nathan Fairbairn‘s palettes deliver a comic more rivettingly Lynchian from panel to panel than dream to dream. Nameless is still the Morrison we all knew before, dreaded, and couldn’t stop reading.
– Travis Moody
Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex #1
(Sam Humphries / Ed McGuinness; Marvel Comics)
Sigh. I don’t know, guys. I’m sorry to have to sit down to type up another half-dozen reasons for you to not read a particular comic book, but as far as Marvel’s Saga of The Black Vortex goes, don’t bother.
Boasting the seemingly epic team-up of the last remaining X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy (rescued from the obscurity of comics’ pages by MCU counterparts banking it big-time at the box office), The Black Vortex #1 concerns good guys and bad guys wrestling for the possession of a classic comic book trope — the Macguffin. This time, said unexplainable plot device capable of absolute power and/or absolute destruction is the eponymous, “Black Vortex,” something like a cosmic vanity mirror, bestowed upon, and possibly responsible for destroying, a many-billion-years-old race of progressive, peacenik, eggplant-looking alien beings — the Viscardi — by a giant, robotic, rocket ship god.
Yeah, you know, that.
The Black Vortex, then, in this storyline, exists in many places in time, and falls into the hilariously incapable hands of Peter Quill and Kitty Pryde, who, along with the other characters in the issue, are drawn by Ed McGuinness (Hulk) to appropriately reflect the YA audience demographic he and writer, Sam Humphries (Avengers A.I.), are apparently writing for. 2/5 Bibles.
– Joe Tower
Stray Bullets: Sunshine & Roses #1
(David Lapham; Image Comics)
Like a shot aimed carelessly, the characters in David Lapham‘s (Young Liars) Stray Bullet universe slam into random targets. Sometimes they lodge into a wall or crack a windshield, and sometimes they hit an innocent. Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #1 is no different.
A stranger, Kretch, enters a late-1970s Baltimore underworld and upsets the entire balance of power with a single shot. The issue is filled with murder, arson, and doughnuts.
Lapham’s art is black and white. The characters are often illustrated only in hard black lines, so they’re faces disappear into negative space. The result makes the illustrations look empty, ghost-like, and incomplete. But, that’s who these characters are — ghosts. They are empty. They are incomplete. Characters like Spanish Scott, Monster and Beth, who are familiar to regular readers of the series, all return here; but, in Lapham’s Baltimore, there are no heroes, no one wins, and everyone loses eventually. 5/5 Misfires of Russian Roulette.
— Matthew McGrath
(Todd McFarlane; Image Comics)
In an era of constantly rewritten numerical comic issues, the longest running Image comic, Spawn, has remained surprisingly in a league of his own.
Franchise creator Todd McFarlane (duh, Spawn), finally sees his baby turn 250, and can add a feather to his hat, or rather a chain to the link! This issue marks the climax to current Spawn’s fate, and the return of the original Spawn.
As a comic reader that hasn’t touched a Spawn issue since the mid-to-late 90’s, it was nice to flip open the book and be 100% lost. Thank God for a back page recap — yes, at the END — that explained what happened to Spawn over the last 20-years, and why he’s suddenly not black.
Overall, I didn’t find this comic a bad visual read, but, oh, was it overly written; a convoluted mess; excruciatingly long. So long, that it could take a couple seatings just to get through it. The main problem this “Traveling Nerd” had was the apparent lack of understanding of true comic storytellings. The concept of “show, don’t tell” went out the window. More time is spent expositing than actually letting the medium do its work. On another note, the parallels to 9/11 seemed dated, and in poor taste.
As I said, visually Spawn delivers, especially if you had been a fan of Szymon Kudranski’s (Detective Comics) work on Batman in recent years. Only fitting since Batman was such an influence on Spawn, and Kudranski has a talent for bringing distortion and surreality to his work, which plays well in both those worlds. And, truly, one of the highlights of this anniversary issue was all the amazing pencil and ink work by McFarlane, Greg Capullo (Batman), Skottie Young(Rocket Raccoon), Jock (Detective Comics), Sean Murphy (The Wake), and Philip Tan (Batman and Robin).
If you’re a die-hard fan, this issue will be like hitting a Vegas jackpot. Unfortunately though, if you’re a fleeting follower, or just stopping by, this is not the Spawn for you. Even a $6 price tag is too much. All-in-all, for any few fellow nerds excited for a portal back into this world, I’d recommend holding out for next month’s Spawn Resurrection #1, marking the return of Al Simmons. Keep your money!
(Brubaker, Epting, Breitweiser, Eliopoulos; Image Comics)
A few steps further along in her quest to clear her name (or at least to stay alive while she takes out her enemies one by one), Velvet retains her iron core beneath the stylish surface. We’re only three issues on from my last review in July, and she’s only incrementally closer to finding her answers. This after the ballsy moves of tracing directors to their private homes, breaking into official headquarters and getting shot by an agent who knew what he was doing as much as she does. Bearding the lions in their dens, it’s a specialty of hers they’d all forgotten.
Brubaker isn’t trying to give us the glamorous side of the spy game, but he’s not giving us the alienated loneliness of Le Carré either. Velvet would have gone on with her life, keeping her wounds to herself, had they not come after her, whatever their reasons. And now to learn her husband may have been framed as well, and that the circles within circles are deeper even than she knows, she only becomes more focused on finding her targets.
That’s why it makes sense that she looks for allies among criminals and outsiders, and that’s what leads her to bust Damian Lake out of confinement. She doesn’t know if she can trust his story, and he doesn’t know if he can trust hers. But as they size each other up, we only see more evidence of the arcane games played by professional spies. Epting lulls us with shadows and drinks amidst the curtains and scenery on a moving train, Brietweiser’s colors give us that period feel without ever being too retro, and Brubaker shows the investigators closing in on Velvet’s trail. The more they learn about her and her mission, the closer they get.
I compared Velvet to some older progenitors last time, this time she reminds me of Agent Peggy Carter. Carter had the good fortune of being inspired by an ideal soldier hero, but remains willing to do the dirty work, too. Velvet has no such inspiration, just a duty and a sense of honor that’s been betrayed. Imagine if Steed ever turned for real on Mrs. Peel. This is something like her vengeance, and Brubaker is nowhere near slowing down. Every issue just ups the stakes.