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:
Uncanny Avengers #3
(Rick Remender, John Cassaday, Laura Martin; Marvel)
The first two issues of Uncanny Avengers were quite good, picking up from AvX in by making the newly introduced mutant population perceived as an immediate public threat pretty much off the bat (X-People should NEVER have it easy) and offering a new and exciting hook involving a Red Skull armed with the late Charles Xavier's brain. A very Rick Remender start, especially considering this is Marvel NOW's flagship book.
Uncanny Avengers #3 has Remender stepping up his game in an intriguing way. It's a fight issue, pretty much, but he paces the thing with third-person Claremontian narration that offers an emotional weight to all the pretty punching that John Cassaday illustrates. It's a big surprise, because this device has fallen out of favor as comics have taken a more cinematic approach to storytelling. However, reading this issue it's clear why that kind of narration was ever a popular option. The captions work with the art to give the fight scenes an emotional weight they might not have sans words, because these things are 20 pages long nowadays and there's a limited amount of space to paint these characters — especially the villains, who have mostly been background characters for two issues. There was a time in my teens where I'd have hated the wordiness of the thing, back when Widescreen Comics were king, but in an age where these things are four bucks a pop I kind of want to have a lot to read in a given issue. Also, the narration is probably a good way to get someone who's reading Uncanny Avengers (or reading comics entirely) for the first time engaged with Thor being hurled into a butcher shop.
For a second I was about to refute all of the above because I'm a writer and the narration is a novelistic, writery thing to do and maybe I was just being completely wrong, but the thing about this narration is that it isn't redundant — it underscores the context of a given panel, making us feel for these random mutants being killed or making clearer the threat of Captain America approaching a brainwashed SWAT team. If it wasn't there, this comic would be 700% less accessible, and superhero comics should be the most accessible genre. They make movies out of that shit now, y'know?
Also, I might be wrong but I think the following might be some classic panel material:
Not gonna lie, I'm pretty much reading every Avengers book at this point. I'd be embarrassed if they weren't all so distinct and interesting and I'm never going to fit in with any comics crowd anyway, so fuck it — I like everything.
– Danny Djeljosevic
(Brandon Graham, Giannis Milonogiannis, Simon Roy, Sloane Leong; Image)
So I hadn't read Prophet in awhile. I'd picked up the first couple of issues of this book, loved those comics, and then wandered away from the series, thinking I might want to check out another issue at some point in the future. That point in the future is now and I gotta say: I have absolutely no idea what the fuck happened in this comic.
Prophet is science fiction in the tradition of the great Moebius crossed with the new creativity of the great Brandon Graham, master of creating bizarre and amazing landscapes in comics. Graham simply thinks on a different level than most of us do. Our friend Brandon somehow has the amazing ability to create worlds that aren't just strange and unique, but almost completely alien; they're weird and amazing and breathtaking and strange and — even more — the kind of brain busting thrills that only good science fiction gives you. And Giannis Milogiannis delivers those thrills in gorgeous, unbelievably creative and thoroughly unique ways.
I loved reading Prophet #33. Adored
it. Despite, that is, the fact that I had absolutely no idea what in the universe I was reading.
– Jason Sacks
Uncanny X-Force #1
(Sam Humphries, Ron Garney, Danny Miki, Marte Gracia, Israel Gonzalez; Marvel)
There are too many problems in the world we haven't solved yet — war, famine, getting The Man's foot out of your ass. I don't think "not enough comics called X-Force being published contemporaneously" was very high on that list, but if nothing else we surely have some time freed up to bang out a quick genome map of something small.
But, on the real, it's okay to have two X-Force comics, provided that one of them is Uncanny X-Force by Sam Humphries and Ron Garney. I just wish the Dennis Hopeless/Salvador Larocca one was called X-Statix just to mess with people. This first issue seems to pick up some of the pieces from Rick Remender's run, which I didn't finish, but that doesn't seem to completely matter to understanding what's going on in this comic, as Humphries scripts an incredibly enjoyable X-Book with a mix of oddball characters like Puck and Spiral, the return of Storm's mohawk and some sexy clone makeouts. It's clear that Humphries is having fun, and that shit is infectious.
On the art side, Ron Garney and Danny Miki render Uncanny X-Force in a more traditional superhero style that gives me a weird nostalgia for the similar looking Andy Kubert-drawn X-Men comics of the '90s, made stylish by the occasional fun layout and the colors by Marte Gracia and Israel Gonzalez — heavy on the neons, which I'm never NOT into.
To this very day, I'm still incredibly confused by Bishop's heel turn, so I'm curious to see what this team does with that.
– Danny Djeljosevic
The Massive #8
(Brian Wood, Garry Brown; Dark Horse)
I recently had a chance to catch up on the full story arc of The Massive thus far and was tremendously impressed by the world that Brian Wood and his artists have created in this book. Even more than his terrific work in the much-missed DMZ, Wood in The Massive has created a world where everything is tremendously uncertain – and not just the obvious political and ecological struggles of a world where the Earth seems to have risen up in an attempt to exterminate the entire human race.
No, Wood has created a world where really everything is up for grabs; where nothing is certain, no friends are fixed. It’s a world where paranoia is a way of life and where uncertainty haunts every character at every turn.
Which makes the cast of characters in this book so ideal for the story that Wood has created. The crew of the Kapital are incredibly strong people – strong emotionally, that is, not necessarily super-human in their strength as much as in their ability to change, to adjust, to be able to smartly navigate the world that has been forced upon them.
In the middle part of the intense "Subcontinental" story arc, the crew of the Kapital find themselves onboard a manmade island of oil rigs essentially strapped together in the middle of the ocean. And what the crew finds there are things that they — and we readers — could never expect and anticipate. The world is unpredictable. It's scary. And that makes for good comics.
Kristian Donaldson has left the book, at least for this arc, and is replaced by Garry Brown. Brown's art has a grit and intensity that fits this story well. In a book that is so focused on human interaction, Brown does a nice job of bringing drama to his depiction of people. I honestly kept wishing I could see Donaldson's art in this arc rather than Brown's, because Donaldson had done such a great job of bringing these interesting people to life. But that's more a compliment to Kristian Donaldson than a complaint about Garry Brown.
Where is this arc leading? What will all this amount to? In a world of uncertainty, who knows what the answers are to those questions.
– Jason Sacks
Mind MGMT #7
(Matt Kindt; Dark Horse)
I think (?) there was a brief hiatus after Issue #6 and the one-shot special, but now Matt Kindt's sci-psy-spy comic Mind MGMT is back for a new story arc, one that lays out the premise for the series really well (for
new readers and the confused) while delivering a mostly self-contained story involving letters that kill the recipient and even more meta-stuff happening in the margins of the pages, which always adds fun extra elements to make the experience more satisfying.
And here's a nice bit — the recap page is basically a comic, which I think is a really wise way to get readers caught up before they read a comic book. I'll probably write a separate column later this week just about that because this comic (and Avengers #3) both use that device and it got my brain a-thinkin' about how comics can better use recap page (short version: do something like this).
This was actually the only creator-owned comic I bought this week (if you don't count Prophet, which Rob Liefeld owns but Brandon Graham and co. work on), but it's a potent example of one. This is Auteur Comics, where we're witnessing a distinct vision that could only come from its creator — not editorially mandated or made by assembly line.
– Danny Djeljosevic
(Matt Fraction, Michael Allred, Laura Allred; Marvel)
You can never go wrong when your comic has a plea to the reader to save the characters within said comic. It worked for The Flash, Flex Mentallo and now FF. Or maybe it ain't nothin' but an F thang. Who knows, I don't make the rules.
There's loads of fun to be had in FF #3 — the high-five that doomed the Fantastic Four, Moloids being weird, more Yancy Street Gang hijinx, Wyatt Wingfoot and pretty much everything Ant-Man does because that guy's awesome. And all of it's illustrated by Mike Allred in what might be the perfect pairing of artist and superhero property. It may look Silver Agey, but it feels very modern, which is Allred in a nutshell (to be unhelpfully reductive).
I've seen few people mention that they prefer FF to Fantastic Four, which makes sense because here Fraction's thrown a few disparate characters together Defenders style and quickly made it his own while over in the other title he's trying to figure out how to work with decades-old character dynamics and cosmic craziness on a comic dozens of people have defined and redefined before him. He'll get there, and FF is proof of that.
– Danny Djeljosevic
Hell Yeah #6
(Joe Keatinge, Andre Szymanowicz; Image)
Why are all the super-beings on Earth so nice? Because the bad guys went to Mars. So our hero Ben, shaking off a nasty bender after the end of his first arc, is sent to Mars to investigate a new settlement that has recently come into existence there. Could it be a tribe of bad guys? And if it is, what kind of evil could the bad guys be planning?
You know that any arc with the awesome title "The Lost Super-Villains of Mars" and written by uber-superhero fan Joe Keatinge is going to be a fun thrill-ride. So when Ben ends up getting his ass kicked by a nasty robot villainous woman, you just know it's going to lead to some spectacular adventures.
Yeah, it's kind of all set-up, but Andre Szymanowicz draws the villains of Mars really purty and Joe Keatinge is clearly having a ball with all of this.
– Jason Sacks
Indestructible Hulk #2-3
(Mark Waid, Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, Sunny Gho; Marvel)
It's weird, I thought you people loved Mark Waid again. Yet I don't hear much buzz about Indestructible Hulk. Is it that you only like Mark Waid when he's writing characters you already like, like Daredevil? I thought the creator-driven era didn't work like that.
Motherfuckers need to know: Indestructible Hulk is highly entertaining comics, mixing a new take on the character — Banner joins S.H.I.E.L.D. so he can do s
omething constructive when he's being destructive — and ensuing overarching plot stuff with self-contained comic book storytelling. And it's incredibly true to the premise: in issue #2, Hulk fights Iron Man. In issue #3, Hulk fights a big robot. That's all you need to know about the story, and Mark Waid's scripts (as we should expect) have a lot of fun with it, thanks to his requisite snappy dialogue and jokes to go along with the solid superhero action. The result is a cool middle ground for Hulk comics, as it's a semi "back to basics" approach (there aren't countless Hulk offshoots, nor is Banner separated from Hulk) combined with the aforementioned high concept twist on the character.
– Danny Djeljosevic
Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #3
(Brandon Seifert, Lukas Ketner; Skybound/Image)
Dr. Vincent Morrow is a sick man. Okay, sure, it's fair to say that Dr. Morrow has kind of been a sick man for a long time, dabbling as he does in the nasty mystic evil beings that he protects us from.
But now Dr. Morrow is actually physically sick, with a horrific disease called strigoism that has been forced upon him. And despite his attempts to come to terms with his impending doom — starting to write a will and such — the not-so-good Doctor will not go gentle into that good night. No, like all great action heroes, Vincent Morrow will fight for his life against all odds.
Except the odds are damn long and damn discouraging and one of Morrow's best friends and allies attempts to help the Doc and instead seems to be in major damn danger herself because she's trying to help him and oh yeah the bad guys have the most multi-leveled, nasty, pernicious plans that you could possibly imagine.
If you've read a Witch Doctor comic before, you know that this story is fast-moving and exciting, with cool references thrown in (oh, so that's what strigoism means!) and some fantastic art by Lukas Ketner. And if you haven't, you're missing out on one of the most purely fun and crazily upsetting comics on the market today.
Seifert drives this comic to high levels of spooky lunacy, but Ketner delivers on the story in a thrillingly dramatic way that emphasizes the drama in really clever and interesting ways. I love the way that Ketner draws Dr. Morrow in his ectoplasmic form — it's not like Dr. Strange's ectoplasmic form but it works really well in context and there's no doubt what Ketner is drawing. But Ketner always has been great at drawing incredibly bizarre creatures in the most matter-of-fact way possible – which of course only makes them feel spookier.
I love the whole unpredictable and exciting cosmology of Witch Doctor.
– Jason Sacks
(Jonathan Hickman, Jerome Opeña, Dean White; Marvel)
Hickman and Opeña conclude their inaugural story arc with a big fight scene, a universe ex machina and some intriguing seeds for future story arcs — all beautifully illustrated. Cool stuff, but I seriously feel like this arc could have been a two-parter or a hyperdense Batman Incorporated style single issue and retained most of the same effect. You lose the tension of the core Avengers being captured on Mars for a couple of issues but c'mon, we all know they're getting out of that. Never forget: these things cost four dollars.
I was gonna do a big compare/contrast thing with this and Uncanny Avengers #3, but there's actually less fighting (page count-wise) than I remembered after reading it the first time. I suppose it speaks to the number of characters the team's working with and Opeña's ability to get a lot of mileage out of a single panel of brightly colored humanoids throwing their hands. But on the scripting side, watching this interesting set-up (gods come in, terraform Mars and create new life albeit at the risk of Earth) devolve into people hitting one another is a bit of a bummer when it seemed like it was going to be a bit smarter than that entire section of AvX where the X-Men turned the world into a utopia and the Avengers decided to Taliban it up all over the place. To their credit, the Avengers seemed to learn from that experience and are a bit more willing to leave well enough alone for now.
But, f'real though, I expect this title to get a whole lot meatier with #4.
– Danny Djeljosevic
Steed and Mrs. Peel #4
(Caleb Monroe, Yamin Liang; BOOM!)
Steed and Mrs. Peel # 4 takes up from where issue three left off. Having prevented the
Hellfire Club from enslaving Parliament, our plucky couple look forward to a night off from adventure. What better opportunity to unwind than a masked ball held in honor of the author, Llyod Cushing?
And that's where we find our titular characters, off to the masquerade, dressed to nines, looking for a relaxing night of fine food, dancing, and conversation.
But of course, this is Steed and Mrs. Peel, so it can't be just a quiet night of fun frivolity and fabulous festivities. Wouldn't be much of a comic book, would it? Of course not. There must be ACTION! There must be murder most foul and weirdness afoot.
And so there is.
Monroe and Liang have put together some sort of something in this book that bends without breaking and gaks without wagging. Out of nowhere comes Mr. Blackwell and his Butch Dancers, preeminent in Butch-Fu, a “mimetic technique” that uses a “series of hypnotic mental images used to affect the nervous system without conscious input.”
You can only try to imagine what this all leads to. Let's just say that Steed and Mrs. Peel have to try out a new dance at this ball.
Steed and Mrs. Peel #4 is a book that should work. It's got so much going for it and yet, it just doesn't quite pull it off. What should swoop only flutters in these pages, and I was left feeling like I had watched a master chef carefully choose choice ingredients to make a bowl of bland cereal drowned in skim milk.
Liang's art is mostly static and flat, while Monroe's writing seems to try too hard to be witty and urbane. All of this leaves the book with the stench of artifice and undermines its intent. What could have been a wild romp with a bit of polish is, instead, teetering on the verge of hackneyed and foolish. It's readable, certainly, and has moments of possibility, but overall the bowl is full of a soggy mess and it ends up kind of ruining your morning routine.
Oh, and to think, how lovely Mrs. Peel looked in her gown.
– Daniel Elkin
All-New X-Men #3-6
(Brian Michael Bendis, Stuart Immonen, Dave Marquez; Marvel)
Okay, snark-free caveat: I'm not hate-reading this book, but I have some weird attachment to the X-Men — they were the first non-Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles property that I was obsessed with — so there are a lot of things in All-New X-Men that bug me. I think it's mostly legitimate stuff, and I curbed any outrage at New-New Beast's evolution because that kind of thing is built into the character at this point even though the newest iteration (which looks a bit like Lon Chaney's Wolfman) isn't as cool-looking as the giant kitty. I can live with that.
It's a good idea to read this book in chunks, as All-New X-Men still has pacing issues where a given issue always feels like it ends halfway; you know the score and I'll let you wonderful people know if there's ever really single issue that fulfills on its own terms. Despite that, each issue at least hits one or two major plot developments even if it feels like I've hit page 11 when It's actually page 20. It begs trade-waiting, but if you need your X-Fix you'll get enough to work with on a biweekly basis.
What grates the most about All-New X-Men is the story logic and characterization, and not even in a "he's writing my favorite characters wrong!" kind of way.
So, this is a story where a dying Beast's last effort is to go back in time to bring the original five X-Men to the present to show teen Cyclops what he's going to become in order to prevent it — to wit, Cyclops grew up into a guy who just brought back the dwindling mutant population and then goes out every day to rescue endangered new mutants while the regular X-Men just futz with the time-space continuum. Once in the present, teen Cyclops gets shunned by everyone around him (including his fellow time-lost teen X-Men) and Wolverine announces his intention to murder him in front of an entire school of teenaged mutants even though he's a guy who started his own school because he was so worried about what Cyclops was subjecting the poor children to back in Schism. Either way, plucking him out of his era to make him an immediate outsider is kind of a terrible way to prevent someone from becoming the so-called bad guy. So yeah, Cyclops continues to be the CM Punk of the X-Men world and I don't understand why a reader would ever root for Wolverine and Beast. Is this how Steve Morris feels?
The one thing that remains consistent about the book is the art. Stuart Immonen needs no introduction, because he will always be the underrated best at drawing mainstream comics without any apparent deadline drama. Issue #6 has Dave Marquez coming in for the next chunk of issues and he completely makes it his own. His style is distinct from Immonen, adding a different visual flair that I'm really into.
– Danny Djeljosevic
Mrs. Krabappel and Principal Skinner were in the closet making babies and I saw one of the babies and the baby looked at me
New Avengers #2
(Jonathan Hickman, Steve Epting; Marvel)
Wonder Woman #16
(Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang, Matthew Wilson; DC)
(Scott Lobdell, Kenneth Rocafort, Sonny Gho; DC)
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions) and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his comic with Mike Prezzato, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics and check out his other comics at his Tumblr, Sequential Fuckery. His webcomic The Ghost Engine, with artist Eric Zawadzki, updates twice a week.
Daniel Elkin wishes there were more opportunities in his day to day to wear brown corduroy and hang out in lobbies. He has been known to talk animatedly about extended metaphors featuring pigs' heads on sticks over on that Twitter (@DanielElkin). He is Your Chicken Enemy.