Monthly Archives: November 2012

Four Times Two

Variant coverFF #1
“Parts of a Hole”
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Mike Allred
Colors: Laura Allred
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Mike Allred (regular)/Mark Bagley & Mark Farmer, Arthur Adams and Skottie Young (variants)
Editor: Tom Brevoort & Lauren Sankovitch
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $2.99 US

I had a rather lukewarm reaction to the first issue of the relaunched Fantastic Four title earlier this month. While I’m a fan of both writer Matt Fraction and artist Mark Bagley, I thought it was a serviceable but rather ordinary issue installment in the ongoing adventures of Marvel’s First Family. Nevertheless, I was eagerly anticipating the debut of this sister title thanks to artist Mike Allred’s participation. Furthermore, I figured the more unusual, oddball leanings in Allred’s style and sense of design would spark Fraction to include some more surreal and off-the-wall elements in his plots. It remains to be seen if that’ll be the case, but what I found here was a somewhat inaccessible and humdrum gathering-of-the-team story… albeit one that looks fantastic.

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Quick Critiques – Nov. 25, 2012

Variant coverAmazing Spider-Man #698 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Dan Slott & Richard Elson

This issue is quite Shakespearean in tone, and by that, I mean it’s much ado about nothing. The big reveal at the end of this issue (which I won’t spoil) has a lot of readers talking and boosted demand for the comic book. And honestly, I don’t know why. It’s kind of a ridiculous concept that lacks any real tension, as any major change to the title character’s status quo is bound to be temporary. But more importantly, it’s hardly the newest idea for a super-hero plot. I was immediately put in mind of the premise behind DC’s Silver Age event from 12 years ago, which was wisely crafted as a fun, fleeting diversion rather than a serious story, as is the case with Slott’s plot (hee, rhymes). To give credit where credit is due, Slott’s script is pretty accessible even though it’s founded on several recent changes in Spidey’s world in recent years. Accessibility is a smart move for this issue, as the publicity it’s generating is bound to attract new or lapsed Amazing Spidey readers.

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History Channelled

Mankind: The Story of All of Us Volume One
Writers: Marv Wolfman, Nathan Edmondson, Shawn Brock, Neo Edmund, Devin Grayson and Joe Brusha
Artists: Tom Derenick & Bill Sienkiewicz, Dennis Calero, Giovanni Timpano, Lara Baron, Javier Aranda, and Matt Triano & Mike DeCarlo & Wes Huffor
Colors: Dash Martin, Dennis Calero, Falk, Stephen Downer, Vanessa Banos, Alberto Muriel, Marc Reuda and Josera Bravo
Letters: Jim Campbell
Cover artists: Neal Adams, Bill Sienkiewicz & Dennis Calero
Editors: Joan Hilty & Shawn Brock
Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Price: $14.99 US

Zenescope Entertainment has developed a reputation for and a niche market with its bad-girl comics, offering buxom heroines and villains from fairy tales and fantasy, so it’s easy to overlook it when the publisher offers something outside of that milieu. This anthology — spinning out of the History Channel’s documentary series of the same name — features a nice mix of experienced talent and newer creators. The overall tone of the storytelling suits the brand nicely. There’s a matter-of-fact approach to the narration and dialogue throughout the book, but some of the stories offer a strong, personal tone that makes it easier to relate to characters that are far removed from the audience, both in terms of time and culture.

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Smash Mouth

Variant coverIndestructible Hulk #1
“Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
Colors: Sunny Gho
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: Yu (regular)/Joe Quesada, Yu, Scottie Young & Walt Simonson (variants)
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

One of the reasons Mark Waid’s Daredevil has proven to be such a critical hit was his tempering of the dark edge that had defined the character for the past few decades with a lighter, more playful tone reminiscent of his Silver Age origins. DD is a must-read for many, and I’m sure there were plenty of people who were eagerly anticipating Waid’s foray into the world of Marvel’s iconic rage monster/hero. The overall tone of Waid’s script and plot here, though, is far more modern. The script dwells on solving ills that plague the planet in the 21st century, while the plot presents a mad scientist has a terrorist threat. Nevertheless, despite the title character’s bestial nature, what makes this an engaging read is the intellectual quality of Waid’s dialogue. He’s crafted a smart script about a ridiculously smart man, and while it didn’t quite click for me on the level of Daredevil, I remain interested and plan on following Waid’s run on this relaunched book.

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Anything You Can Do, I Can Do, Banner

Variant coverAvengers Assemble #9
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Colors: Rain Beredo
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Steve McNiven (regular)/Bobby Rubio, Joe Quesada & Avengers movie still (variants)
Editors: Tom Brevoort & Lauren Sankovitch
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

While I think Marvel and DC’s constant relaunching and renumbering of its ongoing super-hero titles is irksome and offers only short-term gains, I feel it’s a shame the debut of this new creative team for Avengers Assemble won’t benefit from the spotlight of a new start like so many titles that make up the publisher’s Marvel Now! campaign, because it’s one that not only Marvel fans should check out, but anyone who enjoys super-hero genre comics. Kelly Sue DeConnick’s sharp sense of humor and her exploration of parallels and polar differences between two founding members of the team make for a thoroughly entertaining and intelligent read. This is the sort of accessible and fun Avengers comic that should’ve been ready for viewers of the Avengers movie when they emerged from theatres this summer, and it reminded me a great deal of the classic Justice League run by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire. Don’t miss this Avengers comic. I almost did.

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Quick Critiques – Nov. 17, 2012

Variant coverFantastic Four #1 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Matt Fraction, Mark Bagley & Mark Farmer

This is another one of the Marvel Now! relaunches that caught my attention with the creative team. Matt Fraction has proven himself with several projects at Marvel, but his best to date has been his run on Invincible Iron Man, in which he demonstrated his skill at conveying futurism, among other things. His script here is in keeping with traditional FF storytelling; longtime fans of Marvel’s First Family will no doubt enjoy what they find here. After I read this issue, I had the same thought I had after reading the first issue of Kieron Gillen and Greg Land’s new Iron Man title: other than an attempt to boost sales, why is this a first issue? Fraction’s story is quite consistent with what we saw from Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four and FF. The plot driving this first story arc appears to be the waning of the title character’s powers — again, hardly the newest concept for the team. The family aspect is properly emphasized here, as is the adventure-seeking goals of the group. But if I had to sum up my reaction to the story in one word, it’d probably be, “Eh.” There’s nothing technically wrong with the storytelling here, but there wasn’t anything about it that excited me either. Mind you, I do like that the premise here is opening the door to an oddball new FF, to debut in a couple of weeks in the relaunched FF title, with art by Mike Allred.

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You Don’t Know Jake

Where Is Jake Ellis? #1
Writer: Nathan Edmondson
Artist/Cover artist: Tonci Zonjic
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.50 US

Who Is Jake Ellis? was one of the most fun, intelligently written and stylistically impressive comic books I read last year, so I was eagerly anticipating the property’s return with this second limited series. Writer Nathan Edmondson has crafted an international intrigue comic that feels like something Greg Rucka could have written, spiced up with superhuman/supernatural elements. It’s interesting to note the indicia page for this debut issue labels it as the sixth chapter of an ongoing story, but a shift in the dynamics and a jump ahead in time from where we left off with Who Is Jake Ellis? allows this to stand on its own. It’s also quite accessible. While I definitely got a charge by revisiting with these characters and seeing how they’ve changed, Edmondson offers a two-page “Previously in…” spread consisting of pages from the previous series, a novel way to bring new readers up to speed and to refresh the memories of those of us who’ve been along for the ride from the start. There’s a fun and undeniable Jason Bourne riff at play in this book, but the fantastic elements Edmondson’s added and the understated intensity that artist Tonci Zonjic instills in the characters set it apart as well.

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Blast From the Past

Variant coverAll-New X-Men #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Stuart Immonen
Inks: Wade Von Grawbadger
Colors: Marte Garcia
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Immonen & Von Grawbadger (regular edition)/Joe Quesada, Paolo Rivera, Skottie Young & Immonen (variants)
Editor: Nick Lowe
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

While I lost interest in his Avengers comics in recent years, I remain a fan of writer Brian Michael Bendis, and Stuart Immonen’s always been one of the better and more adaptable artists in comics. But it wasn’t the creators that drew me to this new X title, but rather the weirdness of the premise. Marvel aims to shake up the world of mutants by bringing together the distorted, darker, modern versions of its mutant heroes face to face with their original counterparts from the Silver Age. It’s an odd story concept… odd enough to pique my curiosity. It’s also a potentially risky venture, as the juxtaposition of the old and the new could make and support the argument Marvel might have lost its way with the characters that served as its foundation for success in the 1960s. Maybe revisiting the original X-Men as teens might suggest to some readers the Marvel magic has been lost. There’s no concern about that happening in this issue, though, as the premise that drew me really isn’t to be found here, at least not until the last couple of pages.

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Quick Critiques – Nov. 13, 2012

Variant coverBefore Watchmen: Moloch #1 (DC Comics)
by J. Michael Straczynski & Eduardo Risso

Unlike the other Before Watchmen titles, this two-issue limited series explores a title character that’s essentially a blank slate. In the original Watchmen series, Moloch was more of a means to an end; he served to advance the Comedian’s and Rorschach’s plotlines. Writer J. Michael Straczynski develops an origin story that makes it easy to relate to a villain, that explains why he’s opted for a life of crime. Edgar Jacobi is painted as a sympathetic figure here (not unlike his aged, cancer-riddled self was in Watchmen) despite the murders, drug trade and other ills he lets loose on the world. His background doesn’t excuse his crimes, but it does explain them. Now, Moloch is probably portrayed as a little too self-aware in this story, but that’s in part the byproduct of casting him in the role of narrator of his own story and the introspective turning point that serves as a framing sequence. It’s easy to sympathize with and even relate to the young Eddie Jacobi. Everyone can relate to some form of pain he’s had to endure in a life defined by emotional, physical and social abuse.

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I Call Shotgun

Hobo With a Shotgun #1
Writers: Dave Howlett, André Myette, Josh Rodgers, Shawn McLeod & Jay Arnold
Artists: Mike Holmes, Andy Cotnam, André Myette, Patrick Burgomaster, Josh Rodgers, Shawn McLeod, Mike Campbell & Jay Arnold
Colors: Nathan Boone, André Myette, Patrick Burgomaster, Josh Rodgers & Shawn McLeod
Cover artist: James White
Publisher: Yer Dead Productions
Price: $2.99 US

Like the uber-violent B-movie of the same name, this comic book is regionally produced. Starring Rutger Hauer, Hobo With a Shotgun is a little known film that was shot and produced in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the material in this anthology comic inspired by the flick was also crafted by Halifax creators and those from surrounding regions. Several of the creators boast a strong connection to award-winning comic shop Strange Adventures, and this comic was made available at my local Strange Adventures store as well. Despite having not seen the movie, I decided to give this comic a glance, in part to support independent and local comics talent. Like many anthologies, Hobo With a Shotgun is a mixed bag, boasting some strong, professional material and some that pales in comparison. Given the fact I was generally unfamiliar with the source material, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed some key stories. And given the strength of those stories, I was surprised by the inclusion of far more crude and amateurish efforts as well.

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The More Things Stay the Same, the More They Stay the Same

Variant coverIron Man #1
“Believe, 1 of 5: Demons and Genies”
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Pencils: Greg Land
Inks: Jay Leisten
Colors: Guru eFX
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Greg Land (regular)/Adi Granov, Carlo Pagulayan, Joe Quesada & Skottie Young (variants)
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

While the piecemeal approach to the repackaging of the publisher’s line of super-hero comics with its Marvel Now! branding seems rather inconsistent and awkwardly staggered, I have to admit many of the creative teams announced for the retooled line piqued my interest. Invincible Iron Man was one of the few regular Marvel titles I was buying month after month as of late, and with the relaunched, I honestly expected to stray away from the property. But when Kieron Gillen was announced as the new Iron Man writer, it was easy to decide to stick with the ongoing adventures of Marvel’s Armored Avenger. I expected something intelligent and different from him here, and while he fulfills the former promise, I was surprised at how the latter aspect was lacking. I still see a lot of potential here, but the plot and tone here seem rather recycled. The result is a first issue that doesn’t seem like a new starting point for the title character at all.

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Quick Critiques – Nov. 4, 2012

Variant coverVariant coverA+X #1 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Dan Slott, Ron Garney, Danny Miki, Cam Smith & Mark Morales/Jeph Loeb, Dale Keown & Miki

I had no interest in Marvel’s Avengers Vs. X-Men crossover event, but when the publisher solicited this title, I have to admit my curiosity was piqued. I’m a huge fan of the Marvel and DC teamup titles of yesteryear — DC Comics Presents, Marvel Team-Up, The Brave and the Bold and Marvel Two-in-One — and this new series, pairing individual members of the Avengers and X-Men, seemed to promise the same kind of fun. Still, I was leery, but the two stories featured here do boast that kind of fun, traditional super-hero storytelling I so enjoyed in its afore-mentioned teamup title predecessors. The opening story — a Captain America/Cable teamup set during the Second World War — had a solid premise to bring the two distinctly different heroes together. It’s a rather inconsequential story, but that’s the sort of fare that seemed to work best in teamup books. Most of all, the first story brings artist Ron Garney back together with Cap, the character that really put him on the map in mainstream comics.

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