Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin's weekly single issue review roundup.
Not everything gets covered in Singles, so here are the comics that got reviewed separately:
- The Age of Ultron Real Talks continue! Here's #4.
- Jason turned in a review of the entire run of Glory.
- Jamil took on the first six issues of Deadpool and has his reservations.
- Jason also reviewed the upcoming Dash Shaw floppy 3 Stories from Fantagraphics.
- Jamil, Keith and Nick took on Helheim, Aliens vs. Parker and Guardians of the Galaxy in the latest Two for #1.
Harbinger Wars #1
(Duane Swierczynski, Joshua Dysart, Clayton Henry, Clayton Crain, Mico Suayan; Valiant)
When Danny Djeljosevic asked me to review Harbinger Wars #1, Valiant Comics' first crossover event of their relaunch, I instantly thought I must have done something to offend him, something unintentional — maybe he doesn't like sandwiches.
Because, you see, I don't know all that much about the Valiant Universe, I'm no real reader of superhero comics, and crossover events in comics have always left me feeling corn-holed by a corporate marketing team with dollar signs for cocks.
Then I find out that Harbinger Wars #1 has two writers and THREE artists working on it, and my entire body tensed expecting to have to snow shoe through a shit-storm only to find myself drowning in somebody else's toilet.
While preparing my revenge on Djeljosevic (calling FedEx to see how much shipping a 14-pound meatball sub to San Diego would cost), I cracked open Harbinger Wars #1 with gritted teeth and thick expectations.
I guess Djeljosevic doesn't hate me after all.
Harbinger Wars #1 is a slick, fast-paced, collect-your characters-and-GO! kind of book. It does a great job of taking a outsider like me by the hand, introducing all the players, and letting the audience watch as some serious shenanigans are brewed. Let's put it this way, Harbinger Wars #1 is the kind of comic that knows how to let one of their characters call another character an "ass clown" and it's all good. It's the kind of book that, with a straight face, defines "the Quantum Stream" as "a continuous flex of patterns across relativistic space time" and I'm so down with that, that I screamed, "Damn Right It Is!" and fistpumped like a dudebro.
But seriously, Harbinger Wars #1 is a fine piece of comic book making. Hell yea there is all sorts of disparate things going on filled with a plethora of personalities involved, as you would expect from these "events," but Swierczynski and Dysart do a fine job of keeping you in the loop, reminding you who's who, and explaining what's going on without becoming overly didactic. For the amount of characters and story lines they pack into 30 pages, I never once felt lost as to who was who or what they were doing. And to be able to do that for a guy like me, well… that's saying quite a bit.
Having three different artists on the book also wasn't as much of a clusterfuck as I thought it would be. Whichever one of them did the art on the section about Project Rising Spirit's use of Psiots to clear up a biological weapon problem in China is pretty awesome (yeah, I just wrote that sentence). I wish they had told us which artist worked on which pages, though, as it would be nice to give props where they are due. The rest of the art in this book is respectable/serviceable superhero comic book drawing, which is what you would expect in a book like this, and you'll find sometimes, it's what you need.
So, am I actually giving a Crossover Event Comic Book four out of five stars? I think that is testament to what Valiant has been up to with their relaunch. This is now the third Valiant book I've had the opportunity to take a look at, and I've enjoyed reading all of them. Valiant has been hyping Harbinger Wars hard, and if the rest of the event continues along these lines then the kit and the kaboodle will live up to it.
Then I can look back upon this time with a reflexive smile, thank Djeljosevic for dropping this in my lap, and still wonder how much shipping a 14 pound meatball sub to San Diego would cost.
– Daniel Elkin
(Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan, Scott Koblish, Val Staples; Marvel)
In 1997 the best issue, nay, the best Deadpool story of all time hit the stands. Many are familiar with Deadpool (v2) #11, the issue where Wade Wilson masquerades as Spider-Man in a story from the '60s. The Joe Kelly issue has a special place in the character's history, showing the anti-heroes unique range and ability to tell a fantastic tale in comic form.
Deadpool #7 makes for a spiritual successor. That is, it puts Deadpool in an era previous to his early '90s debut. This time it's the "end of the Bronze Age of comics," approximately 1979. "The Insufferable Deadpool," equip with a cape and "DP" across his chest, runs across a generous handful of cameos (I think I missed a few actually), and it all centers around getting a recently down-and-out Tony Stark to start doing body shots off super models again.
Duggan and Posehn produce their best script yet. You can tell these dudes grew up reading comics in the '80s. The gags are appropriate and the tone near-perfect. They even manage to introduce a new character for their upcoming arc. However, the issue succeeds because of Scott Koblish and Val Staples. The art looks so retro that, if not for the paper quality, one might mistake it for a Reagan-era relic. From aesthetics to specific images the effort by Koblish is notable, and Staples uses every clever method to bolster the dusty, faded look. Word is the writers want to continue the trend of "throwback" one-shots. Yes. Please. Thanks.
With an Iron Man promotional push coming up this comic actually features, and honors, the Armored Avenger in a funky fresh way. I don't want to spoil anything but I will reveal one guest star: Angar the Screamer. Yeah, that makes this a keeper for me.
– Jamil Scalese
Indestructible Hulk #6
(Mark Waid, Walter Simonson, Andres Mossa; Marvel)
Nobody does it like Walt Simonson, don't you ever forget that. I've never seen him not crush it when illustrating a comic book, and his craft is astounding — the dynamic figures, the way he almost naturally figures out ways to lead the eye across panels. The patter of sequences like this:
It's incredible, and he makes it all seem so easy — did you ever read his Robocop vs. Terminator with Frank Miller? Besides being awesome, that shit is a staggering masterclass in comic book storytelling. His paneling abilities go above and beyond what's expected out of any comic book artist, and he's also capable of big splash moments like this motherfucker:
Thankfully Simonson's paired up with a colorist who understands him, as Andres Mossa doesn't try to hard to add a lot of noise to Walt's line work — imagine if Sunny Gho colored these pages! Mossa is clearly using modern digital colors that are striking, but they're also flat (texturally speaking) enough not to bring attention to Simonson's distinct, more old-school style of art.
Mark Waid's script is the first of a three-parter, but he fills the pages with enough to make this not feel decompressed — there's character interaction, fighting and a worthy cliffhanger. Come to think of it, Waid's another cat who makes it seem so goddamn effortless.
– Danny Djeljosevic
Animal Man #19
(Jeff Lemire, Steve Pugh, Lovern Kindzierski; DC)
After 18 months of battling "The Rot," we have our first post-"Rotworld" issue of Animal Man and thus the second phase of the series. I was honestly expecting a dreary 20-page funeral that attempted to milk child death for all it's worth, but Lemire is a pretty good writer and this is a mainstream superhero comic published by a branch of Warner Bros., so things move forward as they must and we transition into the new status quo of Buddy Baker, which seems pretty dire, as Buddy Baker's life usually must. I wasn't sure if I'd stay around after Rotworld seemed like it would never end but DC's token "good book you don't have to go through mental gymnastics to justify reading" has me wanting to stick with it.
Even with artist changes and such, Animal Man has been able to maintain a decent quality — especially when you study the artwork of Steve Pugh. With his ability to draw convincing animals (harder than you'd think, and consider here that Pugh has to draw a realistic cat that can also talk) as well as character acting and Animal Man's trademark "weird shit," Pugh is the total package and the book's greatest asset.
Next issue is a return to the Aronofsky-esque Tights film that Buddy Baker starred in, so that might be cool? I had my very specific comics writery problems with it, but I'd like to see how it turns out.
– Danny Djeljosevic
Red She-Hulk #64
(Jeff Parker, Carlo Pagulayan, Wellington Alves, Val Staples)
Red She-Hulk is shit.
Did you mistake that as an assessment? No, it's a recap. Betty and Aaron get poo
ped out by a giant subterranean monster. In the underground world the duo meet up with Mole Monster and discover another piece of the Terranometer, a computer that runs the world or something. I'm not exactly clear what's going on but it's neat looking.
This issue represents part two of Scalese's Voyage on the Red Sea-Hulk and the book's groove is becoming more apparent. It's a buddy action movie at its core. The series should be titled Red She-Hulk/Machine Man. The android, who is basically Inspector Gadget now, balances the impatient and aggressive Betty, and they're on the same page in terms of mission and attitude. Harmonious mayhem in the pursuit of one child's safety.
SHIELD plays the antagonist and that places "Redty" in an anti-hero role, just like her dad. Parker, having written both, has entertained during his considerable run writing the scarlet Hulks, but the stories have suffered from a similar flaw, lame plots and a lack of drama. What carries a Jeff Parker venture is high level dialogue, tight management of characters and weaving his stories into the Marvel quilt. In this installment the Hulk and robot come face-to-snout with Mole Monster, son of Mole Man (and a Deviant), who is kind of the star of the issue. The little dude is pretty funny.
The uneven art is the area that has me most uneasy. Pagulayan and Alves have worked together before, and Marvel pairs them because their styles are ridiculously similar. Carlo Pagulayan has a crisper, Deodato-like method. Alves' style is scratchier, and his forte is the grim and grotesque. I prefer Pagulayan, but my distaste for the pencils isn't about preference — it's that Marvel has these two artists working in tandem on single issues. In Parker's great Thunderbolts run he managed to work with two regular artist (Kev Walker, Declan Shalvey) very well, crafting scripts for their strengths. Two creators doing about ten pages each isn't a effective formula. I'm not sure what Marvel is up to here, but it's not working.
The end of Red She-Hulk #64 presents a very compelling reason to pick up the next issue, so it looks like I'm setting off onto another leg of my journey with Betty Ross and friends. As long as this series stays $2.99 I think I'll stay on board.
– Jamil Scalese
Thanos Rising #1
(Jason Aaron, Simone Bianchi, Simone Peruzzi; Marvel)
Seems like nothing takes the wind out of the sails of a badass character like seeing him as a child. You like the Wolverine, the Canadian Ninja mutant with knives for hands? Well, he used to be a sad little boy in a mansion named James. Darth Vader is the scariest motherfucker in fictional space, you say? Naw, dude — he used to be a little boy who invented beeping trashcans and, later, a really creepy teen with a rat-tail.
Now, via Jason Aaron and Simone Bianchi, Marvel's scary death-fetishizing cosmic supervillain Thanos is getting his own prequel series where he, too, was a little boy — one who, as Tucker Stone already pointed out, wears the same outfit he did as a child. Before checking Wikipedia just now, I was unaware that Thanos' origin was relatively in place, but here Aaron and Bianchi expand on it to make him a quiet nerd who falls to the temptations of a woman.
It's okay stuff — not nearly as bombastic or entertaining as something involving a purple guy from space named Thanos should be, and nicely illustrated by Bianchi who dials back the crazy intricate layouts he's generally known for. Then again, it's not necessarily for us, but for the curious audiences who will pick up the trade come Guardians of the Galaxy and/or Avengers 2. With the knowledge that Aaron more successfully writes the metal-as-fuck Thor: God of Thunder, pairing Aaron's straight-faced, teen-angsty script with Bianchi's marble-carved artwork brings Thanos Rising dangerously close to Linkin Park.
On a vaguely related note, during Wrestlemania my friends and I decided that, considering the casting of Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer, Marvel Studios should totally get Brock Lesnar to play Thanos. But, of course, they'd need a separate voice actor because that particular talking pile of muscles is not good at saying stuff.
– Danny Djeljosevic
(Kieron Gillen, Canaan White, Keith Williams, Digikore Studios; Avatar)
Best known for clever comics about dancing, Kieron Gillen shows his dark side with Uber, which is about Nazi supermen, death camp experiments, spies and — as you might expect from Avatar — ultraviolence.
At $3.99 for 42 pages, Uber #0 covers a lot of ground — so much that it's a bit overwhelming, a challenge I gladly accept. It's not a cute ironic thing like Gillen's previous work, which is more of an intriguing element than a detraction. That said, I found it hard to follow, possibly because Digikore's colors shoot for "realism" and hit "murky earth tones." While Canaan White's pencils are fine in that nasty Avatar tradition, I'd have loved to have seen more visual flair with Uber — there are a lot of ways to portray historical events in fiction, and I feel like once you introduce Nazi superpeople you can open up your visual toolkit a bit. I don't want candy colors, but I'd like not to struggle when looking at the pictures.
The end of the book contains a mini-essay by Gillen about the origins of the book and what his approach is going to be — available to read here — and that gives an important bit of context for me as a Gillen fan who wasn't expecting this kind of story.
Even though Gillen himself touts this as the first issue, it's still a zero issue which often comes with its own stigma and expectations — that it's just a prequel and isn't hugely necessary to being able to follow the story. I'm curious to see what #1 (and #2 and #3 and…) is like, so take my rating as a tentative one.
– Danny Djeljosevic
GEOFF JOHNS GREEN LANTERN DRAWN BY DOUG MAHNKE > GEOFF JOHNS GREEN LANTERN DRAWN BY ANYBODY ELSE
Dial H #11
Memorial: Imaginary Fiends #2
All-New X-Men #10
Action Comics #19