Week of November 14, 2018
What a week. Starting off with the death of Stan Lee is not a good foot forward for any week, but here we are. Some good books out this week, and some great reads. Some stuff that I’m dropping, and some books that I’m adding.
Also, I have a new title for the weekly reviews. I’ll keep it when I move over to podcasting the reviews, too. I kind of like it; it makes sense. I’m reviewing my pull list, why not just call it what it is?
First up this week, I’ve got my surprise pick of the week. Captain America #5 by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Lenil Yu. Winter in America continues, and this issue is all out action. Cap fights Taskmaster and Selene and rescues Sharon, but that’s not the best part. The meat of this story is the return of (SPOILERS) the Red Skull. Aleksander Lukin is resurrected by Alexa, using what appears to be an Infinity Gem, and he is revealed to actually be…the Red Skull. Which longtime readers will realize isn’t really that much of a spoiler at all. But Lukin’s return and his (seemingly) inevitable return to power at the head of the Power Elite spells trouble ahead for Cap.
The writing is solid. Action scenes can be so hard to get right, but Coates and Yu move the story along fluidly. Steve musing over how dumb some of his most brilliant opponents can be was a treat. I like when the tropes are subverted a little, and this issue gives us a chance to see not the bad guy espouse his evil plan, but Steve opine on how dumb evil plans really are.
I really love Coates’ willingness to take jabs at current affairs. In the prologue, we see that Alexa is using Ross to her own devious ends, stating that “a few useful idiots” are all she needs take over America. This book is by far my top pick for this week. I’m loving what Coates is doing here, and Lenil Yu’s art is always amazing.
Rating 5/5, book of the week, but not by a long shot, as I first thought, because…
Next up, the relaunch of Marvel’s flagship X-book, Uncanny X-Men #1 (or #620 by Marvel’s math). Written by Ed Brisson, Matthew Rosenberg and Kelly Thompson and drawn by Mahmud Asrar, Mirko Colak, Ibraim Roberson, Mark Bagley and Andrew Hennessy (whew!), this issue kicks off the 10 part, weekly, “X-Men Disassembled” arc that relaunches the title after a few years of dormancy. It features thirty-something variant covers (I chose the Dave Cockrum variant because it’s Dave Cockrum, and I’m a sucker for nostalgia), and two stories, split into multiple parts. This is the book I really thought was going to be my book of the week. It almost was, but Coates and Yu’s Captain America eeked out the top spot.
Jamie Madrox shows up at the Xavier Institute looking for Kitty Pryde…well, he does so in Jean’s vision, anyway. Turns out Kitty is taking a team of younger students on a training mission to take down the ever-Liefeldian Mutant Liberation Front, who are attacking a biochem lab that is creating a mutant “cure”. Kitty is mysteriously disappeared, and lots of jokes about dollar store Wolverines and Forearm ensue before Laura takes down the MLF.
The main story deals with Jamie Madrox, who may be mind controlled, sabotaging Jean Grey’s debate with anti-mutant senator Ashton Allen in New York. The X-Men save the day but, of course, they are blamed for the whole mess to begin with. In the fray, Angel abandons the X-Men, seemingly also mind-controlled. As the X-Men try to protect Senator Allen, he is disappeared, just at Kitty was.
I enjoyed the Multiple Man plot, and it’s nice to see some of the younger X-Men in the main book for a change. The writing is strong, but the subplot of the “cure” is a little too Brett Ratner for my taste. Maybe that’s just my gut reaction to that God-awful movie, because I do like the idea of the mutant “cure” as a main plot point. I’m conflicted. We’ll see where that goes. Interesting that the X-Men Black titles were tying into this relaunch with the Apocalypse story. I mean, who is strong enough to hold Apocalypse?
The “backup” stories are interesting, with decent art for the most part. Mark Bagley seems off his game, but it might just be the inker they chose to pair him with. I’m used to seeing him inked by Scott Hanna or Art Thibert. The standout art of the backups is Ibraim Roberson. Hopefully he will get a shot at the main story at some point, his work is fantastic, and paired really well with Kelly Thompson’s story.
Rating 4.5/5 A great re-start for a great series, and a very high recommend for Uncanny X-Men #1!
Next, we have Fantastic Four #3, by Dan Slott, Sara Pichelli and Nico Leon. I’m still lukewarm on the FF. I want to like this book, given the fanfare and the fact that it’s been missing for so long. And just given that my tastes have changed over the course of 40 years of comic reading, I thought there might be a chance that I could finally get into the FF. Sadly that’s not the case.
It feels like this book is trying to be smarter than it is. I’m not trying to take pot-shots at Dan Slott (that rhymes. Heh.) but I don’t know that this will be the book to turn me around on him. He might just be my new Frank Tieri or Howard Mackie.
There are leaps of logic in this story that are mind-boggling, and misinterpretations of the main characters powers that just don’t make any sense. So, Sue becoming invisible can “phase” her kid through the hands of their new nemesis? That’s new. I mean, if they established that somewhere—or even explained it within the context of this story, I could go along for the ride, but there’s no explanation.
This is to say nothing of the way the Hulk is used. So, he just…found his way into this universe, no one else knows he’s here, and he’s acting completely out of character? No thanks.
And the Glaive just…gives up? It’s an embodiment, and yet, Reed Richards can trap it by threatening to take it’s ship away? So it can’t create, gotcha. So it’ll be trapped in this one universe. Gotcha. It’s the embodiment of destruction. The ship has only enough power to get the Glaive back to it’s native realm. Check. Why wouldn’t the Glaive just destroy the FF first, since she is the embodiment of destruction, It should be fairly simple—all the other embodiments can act in the blink of an eye—and then take the ship? Nope, just an idle threat that “they haven’t seen the last of” her, and *blink* she’s gone.
I thought this was supposed to be the high concept flagship title of Marvel Comics? Right now, Black Panther and Captain America have this title beat.
Rating 1/5 I’m going to be dropping this from my pull list. Not recommended.
Up next is Brian Michael Bendis and Ivan Reis’ Superman #5. This issue continues the trend of giving us what probably should have been the cover of issue #6 rather than our current issue, as it has nothing to do with issue #5. A small quibble, I know, but you promise one thing on the cover, and don’t deliver…
Anyway. This issue continues the story of the Unity Saga. It opens with Zod’s dream of a united Krypton. His kid tells him Earth has disappeared, and Zod sets off.
Supes runs from Rogol Zaar, while Adam Strange tries to find out what happened to the Earth. It becomes apparent that it has been shrunk just as Zod arrives. The Atom re-sizes the planet, and Strange ends up in Metropolis while Zod ends up in the Persian Gulf, right where Ray Palmer is lying unconscious. He asks the Atom to zap him into the Phantom Zone, where Clark is debating using all his power to destroy Zaar. He’s convinced otherwise by the memory of his Earth parents Jonathan and Martha, so he goes to Zaar and confronts him, only to see Zod show up for revenge on Zaar, leading to next issue, which, I’m sure, will have Supes and Zod vs Zaar.
Not a bad issue, overall. Obviously leading up to the big knock-down drag-out bawl between Superman and Zaar with a splash of Zod. It makes me wonder where Bendis is taking this after his introductory arc. Will we see this alliance between Zod and Kal-El, like Zod was dreaming about in the opening of this issue? I kind of hope so, but I also kind of dread that, because the fanboy tears will be hard to take. Better get my mug ready, just in case.
The art be Reis is awesome in this issue—specifically during the contemplative period Clark goes through. There’s several panels of just his face with voiceover, and you can really get the feel of the internal struggle that Superman is going through just from those panels. Fantastic work here, I can’t wait for the all-out fisticuff that I’m sure will happen next issue.
Rating 3.5/5 Not a bad issue, not the best. I just want to know where this is going, as with all Bendis’ work. You tend to not really know how to best judge his arcs until they are complete.
That leads us to our surprise book of the week:
When I saw the next item on the Pull List, my jaw dropped. I had completely forgotten that Dark Horse would be publishing an adaptation of William Gibson’s unproduced Alien 3 script, so Alien 3 #1 was a surprise treat for me. Written and drawn by Johnnie Christmas and colored by Tamra Bonvillain, this story details what could have happened to Ripley, Newt, Hicks and Bishop after the big showdown on LV-426.
The Sulaco is found by a salvage crew, much as the Nostromo’s escape pod was found at the beginning of Aliens. They find a Xenomorph egg growing out of Bishop, and the three humans alive and in stasis. One of the crew get the old facehugger to the helmet treatment and the others run off with what’s left of Bishop.
So begins the first chapter of William Gibson’s Alien 3. There’s a lot of talking early on, establishing how long it’s been—4 years—since the Sulaco was last heard from and who everyone is. The Sulaco docks and the humans are revived, Ripley attack and Hicks smokes. We don’t see much of Newt.
The best part about this issue is it had me muttering things like “uh-oh” and “don’t do that…” as I read. A sure sign that the story is pulling me in. I can’t wait for the next issue, because we all know what happens when you have a dude with a facehugger on his head…
The art and script are both commendable, but I think that the best thing this series has going for it is that hardcore Alien fans have always wondered what could have been with Alien 3…and now we will get to find out.
Rating 4/5 The nostalgia is strong with this one, and the story is well paced. High recommend!