The X(-Men) Files

New Mutants: Dead Souls #1
“Chapter 1: New Dawn Fades”
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Adam Gorham
Colors: Michael Garland
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Ryan Stegman (regular)/Marcos Martin, Billy Martin and John Tyler Christopher (variants)
Editor: Darren Shan
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

Marvel appears to be pushing something of a renaissance of its mutant hero team titles as of late, so it comes as no surprise the publisher has revived this spinoff property as well, especially since there’s a New Mutants movie on the way. I was drawn in by Matthew Rosenberg’s script and its accessibility, and Adam Gorham’s art suits the eerie tone of the plot. But that plot feels like a rather familiar one, something even the script seems to acknowledge. Marvel has tried many times to revive the New Mutants concept over the years, and this one, while fleetingly entertaining, seems just as likely to be as forgettable of those that came before it.

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Grin and Baron It

Sitcomics Presents The Blue Baron Bing Book #1
Writer: David Baron
Pencils: Ron Frenz & Craig Rousseau
Inks: Sal Buscema & Craig Rousseau
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: Marshall Dillon
Publisher: Sitcomics
Price: $3.99 US

This comic book and Sitcomics in general is the brainchild of TV writer Darin Henry. It seems as though Henry’s a comic-book fan who’s making his dream of writing in the medium come true. As a writer, he makes some missteps here, but as a publisher, he makes a couple of moves that make his comics worth a look. What he does right is talent and value. He’s tapped industry veterans Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema to bring his bombastic Blue Baron and his super-hero colleagues to life, and it’s hard for a longtime genre fan such as myself to resist artwork crafted by those two talents. Furthermore, Baron offers 72 pages of comics content (including the “Startup” origin backup story) for a mere $3.99 US. There are 63 pages of Blue Baron material in this comic, which means the audience gets three issues’ worth of content for the price of one. Not a bad way to invite oneself into a reader’s home, though I wonder if it’s sustainable, especially since Sitcomics appears to be self-distributed.

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It’s Not Easy Being Green

Green Lantern: Earth One Volume One original hardcover graphic novel
Writers: Corinna Bechko & Gabriel Hardman
Artist/Cover artist: Hardman
Colors: Jordan Boyd
Letters: Simon Bowland
Editor: Kristy Quinn
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $24.99 US/$33.99 CAN

DC almost invariably grabs my attention with these Earth One graphic novels, with the promise of innovative reinterpretations of familiar characters and some strong talent. I was looking forward to this one, in part for Hardman’s art, but moreso for the fact that the creators here toss out Hal Jordan as a cocky test pilot and reinvent him as a disillusioned astronaut. There’s no denying that Hardman and Bechko have completely turned the Green Lantern Corps concept on its ear, transforming it into a story of corruption and war. But after reading the book, I felt like something was lost along the way. I’m fine with a new take on Green Lantern, but what’s missing here is the sense of wonder.

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Jonesing for the Next Fix

Marvel’s Jessica Jones Season 2
Actors: Krysten Ritter, Rachael Taylor, Eka Darville, J.R. Ramirez, Carrie-Anne Moss, Janet McTeer, Callum Keith Rennie, Leah Gibson, Rebecca Demornay, Terry Chen & John Ventimiglia
Directors: Uta Briesewitz, Rosemary Rodriguez, Mairzee Almas, Deborah Chow, Anna Foerster, Liz Friedlander, Zetna Fuentes, Jennifer Getzinger, Neasa Hardiman, Jennifer Lynch, Millicent Shelton, Minkie Spiro & Jet Wilkinson
Writers: Melissa Rosenberg, Aïda Mashaka Croal, Lisa Randolph, Jack Kenny, Jamie King, Raelle Tucker, Hilly Hicks Jr., Gabe Fonseca, Jenny Klein & Jesse Haris
Studio: Marvel Television/Tall Girls Productions/ABC Studios

Ahead of the March 8 release of the second season of Jessica Jones on Netflix, I scrambled to finish watching the first season of Marvel’s The Punisher, as these Marvel Netflix shows can boast minor connections. It turns out there was no such link to be found, but it made for an easy comparison to how the two shows were constructed. Punisher suffers under the standard 13-episode structure for these shows, as there just wasn’t enough plot there to justify them. The first half of the season was drawn out and terribly slow, which was even more frustrating given how clearly it telegraphed where it was going. And then you have JJ S2, which was far less predictable and much more engrossing. Aside from a single flashback episode, I didn’t find any of this season to be lagging or obvious.

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Microsoft Approves of Piracy in This Case

Sea of Thieves #1
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Artist: Rhoald Marcellius
Colors: Sakti Yuwono
Letters: Jaka Ady
Cover artists: Rhoald Marcellius, Game Art and José Carlos Silva
Editor: Tom Williams
Publisher: Titan Comics
Price: $3.99 US

There were two things that caught my eye when I saw the solicitation information for this comic book. One was the fact that the title suggested nothing else than a pirate comic, and it’s been ages since I had one, and the second was the fact it’s written by Jeremy (The Unstoppable Wasp, Princeless) Whitley, who’s developed a solid reputation for fun storytelling in the medium. That reputation is in no danger, as Sea of Thieves is replete with everything that makes pirates colorful and fun, and an array of larger-than-life characters that really grab the reader’s attention. Whitley is also well known for crafting stories featuring strong female characters, and that holds true here as well. In preparing this review, I discovered this is apparently an adaptation or spinoff of a Microsoft video game. I had no idea such a game existed, but I’m pleased to report knowledge of the game isn’t at all necessary to enjoy this comic book.

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Hiding in Plain Sight

I was reading the sixth issue of writer/artist Sean Murphy’s superb Batman: White Knight when something on the cover caught my eye. I hadn’t noticed it before on the covers of any of the previous issues I’d read. I checked into it, and I realized the reason: I picked up the regular cover editions of the all previous five issues, but for #6, the variant cover (also by Murphy) had been tucked into my pull slot at my local comic shop.

I looked online at the other variant cover editions for the previous issues, and I spotted the same thing. A subtle little trick: the variants boasted a different masthead, specifically, the part reading “Batman.” And there’s something hidden in Batman’s name in those sans serif logos: Batman himself.

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Get the Heck Into Dodge

Dodge City #1
Writer: Josh Trujillo
Artist: Cara McGee
Colors: Brittany Peer & Cara McGee
Letters: Aubrey Aiese
Cover artists: McGee (regular)/Natacha Bustos and McGee (variants)
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Boom! Box imprint
Price: $3.99 US

Boom! Studios has become home to a number of licensed properties, albeit perhaps quirkier ones with greater nostalgia appeal. Nevertheless, the publisher also has a solid reputation for indy-type comics, especially those appealing to all ages. Dodge City is one such comic book. Populated by diverse cast of well-realized characters and brought to life by stylized artwork that conveys a lot of action and personality, Dodge City strikes me as the sort of thing we might have gotten if movie director John Hughes was still alive and looking to craft a teen sports comedy. Twenty years ago, this comic book likely would have been printed at a Kinkos on photocopier paper, still finding a fan base but on a smaller scale as a mini-comic. I hope the publishing under the Boom! banner will expand its reach, because it deserves it.

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Flea-Market Finds: Convergence comics

It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since DC Comics undertook its ill-conceived Convergence event. While it did bridge the publisher’s ailing New 52 brand for its superhero line to the successful Rebirth reboot, Convergence and its “who’d win” approach to character conflict was handled inconsistently and illogically. That being said, the extensive array of two-part spinoff titles, focusing on different characters from different eras of DC’s history, offered some entertainment value. There were so many of them, though, demanding a hefty price ($3.99 US per issue), that there didn’t seem to be any point and trying to collect them all. I picked up a handful, mainly those featuring a few characters and the work of creators that interested me.

Like many comic shops, my local retailer had quite a few leftover Convergence comics lying around. Not long ago, they bundled a bunch of those two-part series together at discounted prices, and a subsequent blowout sale of those marked-down bundles offered me a chance to sample some more of these Convergence titles at pennies on the dollar. As was the case the first time around, I found a mixed bag. Some stories were compelling and novel, while others were scattered and confusing. Here my some thoughts on some of them…

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Seeing Red

X-Men: Red #1
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Mahmud Asrar
Colors: Ive Svorcina
Letters: Cory Petit
Cover artists: Travis Charest (regular)/Dan Mora and Charest (variants)
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

It’s been three years since I read an X-Men comic, and Marvel’s line of mutant Comics hasn’t interested me as of late. I know it basically relaunched that line with a number of new titles, none of which really grabbed me. However, I try not to review only the comics I think I’ll like. If I did that, I wouldn’t really be reviewing comics, but rather serving is a cheerleader for select corner of the industry. So I decided to take a look this week at one of these new X-Men titles. With X-Men: Red #2, I was surprised and impressed with what I found. Writer Tom Taylor has crafted a story here that gets back to the roots of the property as an allegory for social change and justice. While those concepts are handled intelligently though, what really grabbed me were the powerful personalities of the characters and the delightful sense of humor that Taylor has instilled in the script.

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Frankly, You’ve Made a Mistake, Ms. Jones…

Like many devotees of great comics and great TV, I sat down today to begin viewing Season 2 of Jessica Jones on Netflix. The first season was my favorite Netflix show to date (thanks in no small part to my love and appreciation for Alias, the Brian Michael Bendis/Michael Gaydos comic series upon which it was based).

I loved the first episode and how the writers took the Golden Age concept of speedster hero the Whizzer and adapted him for Jessica’s gritty, oddball world.

I always watch all of the end credits for each episode, in part to see what actors played certain roles, but also to see the customary note of appreciation for the comics writers and artists whose past work was adapted in some way for the show as well.

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Whiz Kid

The True Death of Billy the Kid original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Letters/Cover artist: Rick Geary
Publisher: NBM Publishing
Price: $15.99 US

Cartoonist Rick Geary has a strong reputation for his focus on historical subject matter. After reading this graphic novel, I can see it’s a well-earned reputation. Geary approaches the subject matter dispassionately, offering the facts and various theories about a story that’s rooted both in history and in legend. Despite the matter-of-fact, impartial presentation here, Geary nevertheless conveys the incredible drama, personality and action that have made William H. Bonney one of the most fascinating and noted figures in the history of the American West. My past exposures to Billy the Kid have been mainly through fiction, and I’m surprised to see how many elements from history made it into those aspects of pop culture.

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Ghost Storey

Infidel #1
Writer: Pornsak Pichetshote
Artist: Aaron Campbell
Colors/Editor: José Villarrubia
Letters: Jeff Powell
Cover artists: Campbell (regular)/Jae Lee (variant)
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Promotional material from Image Comics about this new release suggests that this comic book marks the first time that Pornsak Pichetshote — a respected editor in the industry, formerly with DC’s Vertigo imprint — has written one. That’s actually a mistake; Pichetshote penned Flashpoint: Green Arrow Industries #1, published back in 2011. Given the strength of the characterization and plotting in this new project, I think maybe I might have to go back and look at that one shot from DC Comics. Pichetshote offers a riveting story that blends the ugliness of bigotry with the supernatural scars of murder. He achieves a tremendous balance between grounded elements and surreal ones, but it’s really the former aspects of the book that will ultimately win over readers.

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