Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Ah, villains, hath that Mortimer escap’d?
With him is Edmund gone associate?
And will Sir John of Hainault lead the round?
Welcome, o’ God’s name, madam, and your son!
England shall welcome you and all your rout.
Gallop apace, bright Phoebus, through the sky;
And, dusky Night, in rusty iron car,
Between you both shorten the time, I pray,
That I may see that most desired day,
When we may meet these traitors in the field!
Ah, nothing grieves me, but my little boy
Is thus misled to countenance their ills!
Come, friends, to Bristow, there to make us strong:
And, winds, as equal be to bring them in,
As you injurious were to bear them forth!
Dorkin has done a pretty good job keeping these issues one-and-done stories while slowly building a big plot that comes to the the forefront in this comic, just in time for the mini-series to end! Oh, shazbot. The pets discover some dude who comes back from the dead and drops cryptic hints about something much bigger going on – as in, who brought him back to life, exactly? So there’s a big fight, and our furry friends realize at the end that they have a lot of work to do. Let’s hope sales of this series justify another one!
There might not be much to say about the story (Dorkin does a nice job with it, but it’s basically a big fight), but there’s plenty to say about Thompson’s art, which is, not surprisingly, excellent. For a series with a lot of horror, this might be the horror-est one, as we get the dog dragging an arm by its leash early on and then, later, Thompson really has fun. The flashback to how the dude lost his arm is extremely tense, and the final showdown between the resurrected dude and the pets is beautiful and terrifying, as Thompson shows us just how fragile domestic animals are. It’s an amazing-looking comic, because Thompson does such a nice job blending the horror with the cuteness of the animals. It’s an odd mix, but an effective one.
There’s a trade coming out soon, one that collects this and all the on-line shorts, which kind of pisses me off because I might have to get it even though I’ve already bought this. But if you’ve been waiting for the trade, I recommend you pick it up, because this is a very good comic book.
One panel of awesome:
The Black Coat: “… Or Give Me Death” #4 (of 4) by Ben Lichius (story/writer/colorist), Adam Cogan (story), Dean Kotz (artist), Chris Studabaker (letterer), and Diego Rodriguez (color assistant). $3.50, 29 pgs, FC, Ape Entertainment.
The second Black Coat mini-series comes to a close, and while it’s not quite as good as the first one (mostly due to the fact that Kotz, who does nice work, isn’t as good as Francesco Francavilla), it’s still a very entertaining read. Lichius seems to wrap it up a bit quickly, though – he spent a lot of time setting up a pretty good yarn, and it seems like he needed it done in four issues and had to speed it up a bit. The Black Coat comes face-to-face with the Big Bad Guy, and must fight to make sure that the American Revolution remains a local war between grumpy cousins rather than turn into a global conflagration that will hand power to the League. Kotz does a good job with the big fight, and Lichius does wrap everything up satisfactorily, but the idea of a big conspiracy manipulating world events has been done so many times that I kind of wish Lichius had gone a different way and kept the Black Coat as a spy for the Americans, simply fitting into events as they happened. Conspiracies are all well and good, but it seems like every writer has to make one up these days to make the story feel “more important.” It’s as if a mysterious masked hero fighting bad guys in pre-Revolutionary America just isn’t interesting enough, even though the story, taken without the context of the conspiracy, is perfectly entertaining. There must be something lurking behind the scenes! Lichius does a good enough job with it, and it doesn’t ruin the comic, but it feels a bit stale. I wouldn’t have even minded if the League wanted a war because of a mundane reason, like they were selling weapons to both sides. I know that would be more “boring,” but it would also make more sense than what happens in this series. But that’s just me.
I still think this is a worthwhile book to get. Lichius does a very good job evoking 1770s New York and Boston, and it’s fun to read. According to the web site, there will definitely be a trade, and much like Beasts of Burden, I definitely think it’s worth your time.
One panel of awesome:
One of the cool things about Chew is that Layman isn’t strictly bound by the confines of the story arc. Yes, this arc is “about” the weird fruit from the South Pacific that tastes like chicken, and that’s the main story in this issue. But it begins with a corpse in the Arctic and includes a reference to something that happened in the previous arc, so Layman is really piling up plot threads, and it’s very cool to see.
We get quite a bit in this issue – we meet Tony’s brother, who has a new job as a chef at a resort on the same Pacific island where the fruit grows, and Tony tags along to find out more about said fruit. Then there’s the woman on the cover, Lin Sae Woo, who’s a “covert operative for the United States Department of Agriculture” – I love that in the near future, boring departments of the government employ highly trained and deadly agents. Lin has trained her rat to surveil, and she discovers that Tony is on the island and has a bit of a tête-à-tête with him … which includes kicking. They come to a détente and agree to share information … but then Layman throws a spanner into those works, with the introduction of a character who’s been hinted at since the first issue. Well, I think it’s that character. I could be wrong. It’s a typically gleeful issue of Chew, with crisp writing and sudden (and fairly shocking) violence.
Guillory, naturally, is fantastic. His fight scenes (one relatively short, the other a bit longer) are marvelously choreographed, and the second one is brutal and extremely effective, especially as Layman sits back and lets Guillory do his thing – the entire fight is silent, which adds to its brutality. Guillory’s sense of humor adds nicely to Layman’s script, too, as when Lin gets on the elevator and, in two panels, we get Tony trying desperately not to stare at her enormous breasts and the old lady on her other side looking jealously on and then smiling in appreciation of the magnificent rack. Each panel is extremely funny, and no words are necessary. There’s a lot of little touches like that in this book, and it’s really nice to see that both Layman and Guillory are having so much fun creating this. It helps that they’re talented, but it’s also cool to see creators enjoying themselves so much. (Guillory is apparently drawing these very quickly, so maybe he’s not having too much fun, but it seems like he is!)
If you missed the first few issues of Chew, the trade is out now! This is one of those books, however, that is quite fun to read in single issues, so hop on board now!
One panel of awesome:
Another issue of Criminal hits stands, and I have another difficult time writing about it. Unlike the brouhaha over the extra issue of Captain America: Reborn and the screwed-up pacing the book apparently has (I read my Brubaker Captain America in GIANT OMNIBUS FORM, so I’m always a year or two behind the discussion, so I have no idea what the pacing is like), Brubaker on Criminal doesn’t have to worry about tying anything into Siege, so the pacing works well within the context of the issue, as Brubaker moves his pieces relentlessly into position. It’s always a pleasure reading something in which the writer has complete control over his work, meaning not that characters come to life in the middle of the night and write themselves otherwise, but that Brubaker knows exactly what he’s doing and he continues to drive inexorably toward the conclusion. I’ve written before that Brubaker isn’t reinventing the wheel with Criminal, but the way he simply takes his time and allows all the plot threads to come together is refreshing. Tracy continues to try to solve the big mystery, but Brubaker makes sure that everything is moving forward, including the unfortunate ride home Tracy gave to Sebastian’s daughter last issue. Reading Criminal is a visceral experience, because every page ratchets up the tension just a bit, and by the time we get to the end, we keep expecting to turn a page and see something truly dire. If we don’t get it in this particular issue, we know it’s coming, and it’s a fun reading experience (despite the tension). We know things are going to hit the fan, and it’s excruciating to watch the characters slowly move toward that point.
Oh, and if you’re wondering if the art is good, you should stop asking silly questions.
One panel of awesome:
Detective Comics #860 (“Go Part 3/Pipeline Chapter Two Part Two”) by Greg Rucka (writer), J. H. Williams III (artist, “Go”), Cully Hamner (artist, “Pipeline”), Dave Stewart (colorist, “Go”), Dave McCaig (colorist, “Pipeline”), Todd Klein (letterer, “Go”), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer, “Pipeline”). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, DC.
I hate to think this about anything Rucka writes, but did anyone else think that Renee and Helena were going to start making out?
I’m sure people reading this noticed, but isn’t it cool to watch Williams alter his style as the story moves toward the present? He’s still channeling Mazzuchelli for the first part of the book, as Kate begins her crime-fighting career. Then, as she trains, we get a finer line, more “Williams-esque” page layouts, but still pencil work with what looks like “normal” colors. Then, when we finally get to the present, we get the full-on Williams, with lush colors, wildly fun page layouts, and beautiful designs. Most artists won’t even try something different, but Williams not only tries it, he integrates it into the book as a whole. That’s why he’s one of the best in the business.
Rucka continues to spin his yarn, and while it’s not his best work, it’s a good enough origin tale. He “explains” Batwoman’s boots, which simply calls attention to the fact that she’s wearing heels to fight crime, which is dumb. I certainly don’t mind Kate wondering why on earth she has heels, but wouldn’t the better thing to do is redesign her costume so she wears flats? Anyway, that’s just a minor annoyance (and Rucka doesn’t go nuts and accuse women of not liking the costume, like Power Girl did) in an otherwise solid story of how Kate ended up in the costume. From a purely story angle, the Question back-up is actually a bit more interesting, and Hamner’s art, though not as exquisite as Williams’, looks better than it did in the early chapters of this story.
I’m still impressed that Williams has been able to crank out so many issues in a row on a monthly basis, and I’m not sure if next issue we finally get a fill-in (Jock is taking over art, so it’s not like there’s a a big – if any – dropoff) or if it’s the issue after that. But I’ve warmed up to Rucka’s writing on this book enough to stick with it. This is one comic, at least, that I don’t feel cheated from spending four dollars on it.
One panel of awesome:
Elephantmen #23 (“Dangerous Liaisons Part Eight of Eight: 7 Days of Smog Part Two: Consequences”) by Richard Starkings (writer), Moritat (artist), Chris Burnham (artist, epilogue), and Gregory Wright (colorist). $3.50, 30 pgs, FC, Image.
Starkings, as usual, sent this to me through the post, for which I’d like to thank him. It’s always nifty to receive it!
I’m not sure why I always think that Elephantmen is going to dip in quality, even if just a little. Whenever I get an issue, I think, “There’s no way it can be as good as what came before.” And then, of course, it is. It beats me why I think that about this book and no other ones. Do I still think of Starkings as a letterer and can’t believe he continually does such a great job writing this? It’s very weird. Shouldn’t I trust Starkings more? He’s a swell guy, after all!
Because, of course, this is another fine issue of Elephantmen. It’s the final part of the amorphous storyline “Dangerous Liaisons” and is itself the second part of a story from last issue, in which Vanity and the dude who was flirting with her last issue infiltrate Obadiah Horn’s tower. We also get the continuing plot of the hybrids somehow being activated to be weapons again – in fact, this story arc ends on a cliffhanger, which kind of wrecks the entire concept of a story arc, but I don’t really care. There are some nice surprises in the issue and an interesting epilogue that leads back to an earlier issue (I’d tell you which issue, but I can’t remember) and reminds us, once again, that Starkings has really plotted this sucker out tightly. Moritat does his usual nice job, beginning with the first few pages that look cartoonish (because they’re, well, a cartoon) to the creepy final page. Moritat does a nice job making each lady in the book (all three appear) look different because they’re different ethnicities. Too many artists make all their attractive women look the same (they have two settings: hot and ugly), but Moritat does a nice job making Sahara look African, Miki look Asian, and Vanity look Caucasian. Plus, everything else looks superb, too.
I will try not to be surprised when the next issue of Elephantmen is excellent. I shouldn’t be, after all!
One panel of awesome:
Fantastic Four #574 (“Days of Future Franklin!”) by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Neil Edwards (penciler), Andrew Currie (inker), Paul Mounts (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.
Should I be offended by this issue? Valeria calls Franklin a “retard” in it, and I really, really hate the use of the word “retard” when it’s used as an insult, even when it’s used lovingly, as Val uses it. One might say that it’s a child using it, but Val is, according to Hickman himself, smarter than Reed, which leads me to think she ought to be more mature than a child her age would be. I know why Hickman uses it – it kind of pays off later in the issue – but I really don’t like it. I know someone like Brad Curran doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with it, but would Val call Franklin the n-word? And would everyone be okay with that? Again, I know it’s kids using it, and if someone like Franklin used it, I’d be better with it because he’s a kid. But Val, I thought, was almost like an adult trapped in a child’s body. Shouldn’t she know better?
I’m also a bit bummed by the very end. I don’t really want to give it away, but if you read the issue, didn’t you have flashbacks of a certain event in Marvel history that we’d all like to forget? Come on, you can think it! Do we really want to revisit it? I’m not saying that’s where Hickman is going, but didn’t you have a little flash on that and think, “Oh dear God, NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!”
So I hated this issue, right? Well, of course not! Remember the good old days when a comic book could actually take an issue off and show the characters just relaxing? Hickman manages to set up future story arcs, but for most of the issue, this is simply a celebration of Franklin’s birthday. That means we get Artie and Leech, the Powers, that Dragon Man dude, and Spider-Man, all having fun. Plus there’s a clone of the Wizard. It’s the kind of issue we used to get when comics weren’t so obsessed with the Big Event and could take some time to show superheroes acting like real people. I wonder if this kind of book went by the boards because of the price increase – do fans want more bang for their buck because these no longer cost a dollar or less? “If I’m spending three dollars, someone better get raped, lose an arm, or kick someone in the gonads!” Is that it? I don’t know, but I love issues like this, where everyone gets to chillax. Even though Hickman ends the issue with premonitions of disaster (and I assume a reference to this “Doomwar” thing that’s coming up), it’s still refreshing to read an issue where everyone can just chat. How nice.
Unless I should be offended. But I don’t get too bent out of shape when someone uses that, I just flinch a bit. But that’s just me.
(Oh, and I know it’s the writer’s and editor’s fault and it sounds exactly the same, but I liked how the smartest guy in the world said “who’s” instead of “whose.” I’m just a tool like that.)
One panel of awesome:
The Incredible Hercules #139 (“Assault on New Olympus, Act II: Faithbomb/Godmarked Part 3: Jimmy and the Atlasnauts”) by Greg Pak (writer, “Faithbomb”), Fred van Lente (writer, “Faithbomb”), Jeff Parker (writer, “Godmarked”), Rodney Buchemi (artist, “Faithbomb”), Reilly Brown (artist, “Faithbomb”), Gabriel Hardman (artist, “Godmarked”), Guillem Mari (colorist, “Faithbomb”), Elizabeth Breitweiser (colorist, “Godmarked”), Simon Bowland (letterer, “Faithbomb”), and Tom Orzechowski (letterer, “Godmarked”). $3.99, 29 pgs, FC, Marvel.
This issue would be worth it based solely on the advertisement for Continuum® which appears on the third page. Mary Jane Watson, the spokesmodel for Continuum®, tells the readers that she’s just a regular woman. She struggles all day to make ends meet, and “when [she] get[s] home at night, too tired even to relax properly, [she feels] as though something is … missing.” Bwah-ha-ha-ha! The rest of the ad is funny, too, but that line is gold. GOLD!
Oh, and there’s a big fight. Van Lente and Pak do a nice job with it, but it’s still just a big fight. The only opportunity for laugh-out-loud stuff is in the sound effects, which are great as usual. The writers get some nice moments in (Zeus and Quicksilver taking a natural liking to each other is pretty keen), and Amadeus realizes that he figured something out incorrectly, and Hera explains more about Continuum®, but it’s definitely more just an entertaining superhero comic this issue than a brilliant one, which is usually is. I don’t mind, though – it’s still a fun read. It’s just difficult to really fire up the fun when people are just punching each other. Oh, and I like how tough guy Wolverine retracts his claws just as he’s talking about killing someone. Yeah, Logan, you’re a stone cold killer. Why doesn’t he just replace those claws with rubber? They’d be as effective!
And the Agents of Atlas, slowly moving to join up with the main group, also get in a scrap. It’s scrappin’ time in The Incredible Hercules! And the issue ends with a naked woman. There’s nothing wrong with that!
One panel of awesome:
Wood continues to write these little slices of beautiful comic book moments, either in this book or in other ones he works on (and yes, I do try to keep up with DMZ, through a program of purchasing collections of the single issues bound in one volume and numbered on the spine – it’s a pretty handy system!), and finding great artists to draw them. I’ve been raving about this storyline so far, and it’s interesting how Wood makes it a zombie story as much as anything else – the ravagers in this issue are infected with the plague, so they’re basically walking dead men. There’s also room to interpret this as a Western, with the fort besieged by crazy Indians (aren’t native Americans all crazy?) except in this case, the town is besieged by snow and plague. Wood does a nice job not making these things explicit, because he doesn’t need to. He has set up this entire story very well, and when the plague-ravaged Vikings leap out of their boats and charge the settlement, we see “zombies” immediately even though they’re not. The entire issue has this feeling of creeping death, from the exploding trees (seriously) to the appearance of the ships, to the way Odda treks across the frozen landscape toward the ships, to the final bloody confrontation. And it’s brought to astonishing life by Fernandez, who’s really killing on this arc.
This is such an amazing series. Wood is telling universal stories very well, always keeping in mind the times in which the stories are set. That’s a nice trick.
One panel of awesome:
Unlike Fantastic Four, I don’t think Hickman is making this book work too well. I get what he’s trying to do, with a lot of different plot threads all swirling around Nick Fury’s war against Norman Osborn and Hydra, but after the first arc, he seemed to spin his wheels a lot in the second arc, and now we get a new arc, and there’s more wheel-spinning. It’s one thing to relax for an issue and build the characters, but it’s another thing to give us a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. I mean, there are four pages in this issue dedicated to Gorgon turning someone to stone (yes, I read two Marvel comics this week in which someone was turned to stone – what are the odds?). Really? Four pages? This comic just feels extreeeeeeeeemely decompressed (not surprising, as Bendis was on board to help launch it), and although Hickman gets back to Fury and his army, it’s starting to feel a bit of an afterthought. I just have a feeling this is a book built much better for the trade, because Hickman is taking a very long view of the main plot, and if that’s the case, why should I buy the monthly installments? I know I could say that about almost every Marvel and DC title, but a lot of the books I do buy in monthly installments offer some kind of payoff each time out. This doesn’t seem to. So why shouldn’t I wait, if I really want to read it? So many questions …
One panel of awesome:
Speaking of Bendis, man! Spider-Woman moves glacially, doesn’t it? I mean, even the relative speed of glaciers in these climate-controlled days is still slow, and that’s what it feels like when you’re reading Spider-Woman. It’s another book I’d like to like, because I love me some espionage in my comics, and a Bendis-written character named Jessica digging around in the dark corners of the Marvel Universe worked hella good a decade ago, so I want it to work now. It’s not that this is a terrible comic, it’s just that it’s so danged slow. And why is Jessica so dumb? Madame Hydra says to her, “A space alien from the planet Gleep-Gloop that believes in God,” mocking the captured Skrull. Jessica narrates, “She’s right. Stop being right, you psycho!” I guess the implication is that murdering conquerors who look different than we do can’t possibly believe in God, and Jessica buys that. Hey, Jessica, let me introduce you to all the murdering conquerors who look just like you do who believe in God. I mean, why wouldn’t the Skrulls believe in God? Hey, Jessica – Madame Hydra is a bad guy! Just because she’s offering you a chance to kill a Skrull doesn’t mean she’s not a bad guy. Jessica knows this, yet she plays the tune that Madame Hydra calls. Way to go, dummy.
I mentioned last time out that Maleev is having some problems with the big cityscapes, possibly because the foreground action looks like it’s against a blue screen background, and guess what? this issue, which takes place mostly in a small room, looks a lot better, because Maleev can concentrate on the figures and not worry about the larger world. We’ll see if my theory holds water next issue, which seems like it’s going to take place in the outside world. But will I be around for it?
Well, I’d like to give this an arc, and I don’t know if next issue is the final issue of the first arc or if issue #6 will be. I don’t think I’ve seen any new issues solicited, so who knows if the book will even continue. I mean, I imagine it will – Bendis currrently has the option on Joey Q’s soul, so I doubt if Quesada will do anything to piss him off – but who knows if I’ll be there. I want to like this book, but I’m not sure I do yet.
One panel of awesome:
Ponticelli returns, and the art is different from before he left. I’m so inept at using art terms, but the lines are much softer and I assume there was some kind of washing done on the original pencils, either by Ponticelli or by Celestini. You know how Salvador Larocca’s art has changed recently from his early style? That’s kind of what this looks like, although I think it works much better here than when Larocca did it (I like Larocca’s earlier style a bit more). I’m not sure if Ponticelli is doing it just for the hell of it or if he’s doing it because of the story arc, which takes place in a IDP (Internally Displaced People) camp in northern Uganda when the hot winds are blowing off the Sahara, blurring the lines between everything with dust. If so, that’s pretty keen. And if he’s sticking with this style, that’s cool too. It allows him to do some very nice panels, like one of Moses alone in the camp as darkness falls, and Ponticelli gives us a close-up of his head slowly fading into the night. It’s creepy and beautiful and probably wouldn’t be possible with stronger lines.
Dysart decides to get all pulp noiry with us, as by the end of this issue, there’s a murder, corrupt cops (in the form of government soldiers), a (sort-of) femme fatale, and wild accusations throughout the camp. He handles it well, too, because he keeps everything focused on the plight of the Acholi, who have been displaced due to the civil war. Even as the story turns pulpy, it’s still about the horror that the people of Uganda are faced with and about Moses himself, trying to make his way through his life and resist what he’s become, especially after his ceremony last issue. I’ve always said the best issues of this comic are the ones in which Dysart tells “normal” stories because that means he’s less polemical and the terrible conditions in Uganda hit us harder because we understand how a part of life they are, and this looks like it will be one of those stories. Plus, there’s a murderer to find! Murder mysteries are always keen!
One panel of awesome:
Hey, it’s a John K. Snyder III cover! I got this variant just because it’s nice to see Snyder’s work. It’s not the greatest cover, but it’s John K. Snyder III!
Wagner continues with his Rashomon version of Zorro, as several laborers tell their tales of who our hero is. It’s mainly an excuse for the governor to listen in as he plots Zorro’s destruction, and while there’s nothing terribly amazing about the way Wagner tells the story, it’s still a good read. This is mainly due to Francavilla, who has been dynamite on the book since he came back, and he was good in the first arc, so that’s saying something. He gets to draw Zorro riding a tornado and wielding a snake as a whip and a lightning sword, Zorro as a hideous were-fox, and Zorro as a licentious dandy. Oh, and Zorro as his regular heroic self, too. And he kicks ass on every page. We shouldn’t dismiss his coloring, either, as he contrasts the muted campfire of the peasants with their wild tales by making the stories full of bright red, from the lurid sky to the skimpy outfits of the women who flock to Zorro the lustful and bored nobleman. Francavilla is tremendous on this book, and he’s getting better. Wagner, as an artist, knows when to get out of his way and let him shine, and although the story remains interesting but kind of standard (at least once the template for this arc was established), Francavilla is doing a wonderful job bringing it to life. I’d love for him to get more attention, but then DC or Marvel would steal him away from this book! We can’t have that, can we?
One panel of awesome:
Well, it’s the last week of the year that comics ship (unless you desperately want Blackest Night #6). It’s been a fine year in comics, and I hope you still enjoy them! I know I do! Let’s hope the next decade is just as good and that DC and Marvel get their heads out of their asses. Yeah, that’s probably not going to happen. Oh well.
Let’s jack up some totally random lyrics!
“‘Cause although you’re gone
I keep holdin’ on
To the happy times
Ooh, when you were mine
As I peer through the window
Of lost time
Looking over my yesterdays
And all the love I gave all in vain
(All the love) All the love that I’ve wasted
(All those tears) All the tears that I’ve tasted
All in vain”
Yeah, that’s easy. But after last week, when no one guessed “Feeding Frenzy” by Midnight Oil (from probably their best album, 1993’s Earth and Sun and Moon), I figured I’d give you an easy one. It’s Christmas!
With that in mind, I hope you guys have a good one. Thanks for making this gig fun and for making this the best damned comics blog on the block! Merry Christmas!
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