Immortal Hulk #7

hulk 7

“The Avengers”

Written By Al Ewing

Pencils by Joe Bennett

Inks by Ruy Jose

The Story So Far:

After dying and coming back to life, it’s apparent to Bruce Banner that the Hulk is immortal—he cannot die.  Roaming the countryside in an attempt to “aim” the Hulk in the direction of danger, or where he can be the most help, Banner runs into Walter Langkowski.  Hulk and Sasquatch, who is somehow possessed by Bruce’s father Brian Banner, fight and in the end, Hulk wins by siphoning off the gamma radiation that makes Langkowski become Sasquatch.  But he seems to have brought Brian Banner with him.  Bruce is trying to get Hulk home to New Mexico when he is confronted by the Avengers, who mean to take him in by any means necessary.

Spoilerific Review:

Captain Marvel evacuates a small town in Iowa as the rest of the Avengers fight the Hulk.  Everyone’s efforts seem to fail, Thor’s, T’Challa’s, Iron Man’s.  Hulk shrugs them all off, his power is off the charts.  His fight with Thor leaves the God of Thunder rattled, and he confides in Captain America that perhaps the Gamma Bomb that unleashed the Hulk actually created a new god.  Or Devil.

The Hulk seems to like the idea of “Devil Hulk” and he proceeds to continue beating on his old teammates, overloading Black Panther’s suit and ripping Tony’s Hulkbuster armor to shreds. Stark wants to use their last resort: Code: Helios, but Carol Danvers objects.  While they argue the pros and cons, the Avengers send in their own Hulk—Jennifer Walters.  Walters and Banner go toe to toe, and Banner taunts her, telling her that she is becoming more and more like him, which gives her pause and allows him to get the upper hand, launching her two miles away with a punch.

The area is cleared of civilians and Tony fires the Helios laser at Hulk, as the evacuees mourn the loss of their town from a safe distance.  Captain America stands with T’Challa over the remains of the Hulk, and mourns the loss of a friend.  A friend that they killed.  Black Panther points out that without the sun lamp drones preventing him from regenerating, the Hulk would come back from the dead.

The issue ends with the Hulk having been delivered to Shadow Base by General Ross and it is revealed that they have managed to chop him up into pieces and are keeping those pieces in jars, separately, to prevent him from regenerating.

What Works:

The story kept me genuinely engaged, as has every issue of this series so far.  Ewing certainly does know how to write an action scene.  The exploration of the Hulk as a god-being is an interesting perspective.  I’m not sure where it is going, but that makes for the best mystery.

The ending.  What an ending.  While the Shadow Base operative was talking to Hulk, and Hulk is off-panel at the very end of the issue, I didn’t know what to expect.  Why is the art upside down?  Why is it off-color?  I couldn’t wait to turn the page.  The payoff when the page was turned was perfect.  It leaves you with a real sense that the “Immortal” Hulk is in a real tough spot.  How does he come back from that?

What doesn’t work:

The art, still.  Sorry, Joe Bennett, I just can’t deal with the wacky proportions you use.  I’m sure there are some out there in comics-land who love this art, but it’s not for me.  I’m coming back for the writing, much as I did for Peter David’s writing when Jeff Purves was handling the art chores in the late 80’s.

The story is fantastic as usual, but the art drags the book down.

Rating 4/5

 

Superman #4

superman 4

“The Unity Saga Part 4”

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Pencils by Ivan Reis

Inks by Joe Prado and Oclair Albert

The Story So Far:

Earth has been shunted into the Phantom Zone.  Rogol Zaar and Jax-Ur, criminals placed in the Phantom Zone by Superman, are launching an attack on the Earth and Superman while the planet is at its most vulnerable.  Meanwhile, what remains of the Justice League are trying to find a way to get Earth back out of the Phantom Zone…

Spoilerific Review:

Rogol Zaar and Jax-Ur attack! Superman fights them as Zaar taunts Superman.  Zaar punishes Kal with mighty blows, and finishes with a punch that sends an unconscious Superman hurtling towards the earth’s surface.

As he lands, Clark is remembering a moment with his son, Jon.  Jon is upset over an interaction with unseen aggressors, and is smashing cars in a junkyard (in a clever homage to Action Comics #1, Reis has him holding a green car over his head as his father once did).  Superman explains to his son that even though he himself gets upset at people, given time, will do the right thing if you trust in them.

Meanwhile Clark battles Zaar still, hoping that the Justice League can find how to get the Earth out of the Phantom Zone.  Superman challenges Jax-Ur, someone who wanted to save Krypton, asking him how he can ally himself with a person who wanted to wipe out all Kryptonians in Rogol Zaar.  This gives Jax-Ur pause.  Ray Palmer has the Flash run as fast as possible as he shrinks the Earth and Superman funnels Zaar’s army out of Earth’s atmosphere, and the Earth is hurtled out of the Phantom Zone, leaving Kal-El to face Rogol Zaar on his own.

Meanwhile Adam Strange, who has been waiting at the former site of the Earth for word on what’s going on, still waits, as, though the Earth has seemingly been sent out of the Phantom Zone…it is not back where it belongs.

What Works:

The last three issues of buildup have been worth it.  I’ve said that I’m liking Bendis’ Action run more than his Superman run, because it seems more down to earth, and it truly does.  Those are my favorite Superman stories, when he is interacting with people on this planet, when he’s protecting his adopted homeworld.  This issue gives us something else essential to Superman.  His hope.  He’s the eternal optimist, and his interaction with Jon epitomizes his outlook.  He is hopeful that people will make the right choices, and his words to Jon are reflected in his interaction with Jax-Ur.  I loved that parallel.

The art is perfect for this issue.  Reis’ sequential storytelling is very good here, especially in the pages that intercut Superman’s conversation with Jon and his battle with Zaar.

What Doesn’t Work:

The end seemed a little rushed.  It wasn’t quite clear what Flash’s role was, or that Superman was going to get the whole Zaar army off-planet before the Atom shrank it.  There was a lot of “Bendisian” “Can you do this?” “Yeah, let’s do it” without a lot of explanation at the end of the issue.

Overall, a bit of an imbalanced issue, with some things that worked and some that didn’t.  The buildup to the action was worth the wait, but the ending was a little rushed and, I think, suffered for it.

Rating 3/5

Captain America #4

cap 4

 

“Winter in America Part IV”

Written by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Pencils by: Lenil Francis Yu

Inks by Gerry Alanguilan

The Story So Far:

Cap is fighting to earn back the trust of the nation after Hydra took over America with an alternate universe Cap as their leader.  The people no longer trust him, and he is left to his own devices while battling The Power Elite, a new group bent on world domination.

Steve turns to Wakanda and King T’Challa for help to infiltrate and take down a Nuke facility, where he discovers that Sharon Carter’s latest mission was a setup, and she has been taken prisoner by the Power Elite.

Spoilerific Review:

Cap parachutes into Albania, where Sharon is being held captive.  As he infiltrates the base, he muses that he knows that Thunderbolt Ross is responsible for the setup.  He reflects on the nature of being a patriot, a believer, as he fights his way further into the base.  He muses that people like Ross used to be someone you could take at his word, and the irony that many in the world would probably say the same about him.

Meanwhile, Sharon’s captor reveals that she is a Russian agent, bent on turning middle America into the next Russia.  Her captor, Alexa Lukin, is the wife of Aleksander Lukin, whom Sharon killed in a previous mission.  Lukin reveals that she will have Selene torture Sharon.

Cap discovers that the Taskmaster is defending this outpost, and engages in combat with him.  He is hit with an arrow tipped with a serum designed to slow Steve down, and he realizes that he’s in over his head as the issue ends.

What Works:

Again, the social commentary on this book is astounding.  The writing is stellar, as is expected from Coates.  Interspersing the action of Steve fighting his way to Sharon while Sharon’s captor divulges her reasoning for taking Sharon in the first place is balanced perfectly.  This book asks the hard questions, and doesn’t presume to answer them for you.  You must come to your own conclusions, as is the case with the best art.

The art is again amazing.  Yu is knocking it out of the park every month with this book.  His Taskmaster is a vision to behold, and the action sequences again stand out as the highlight of the issue.  I hope he stays on this book after the first arc.  I know Marvel has a tendency to swap out the art team on series more often these days, but I’d like to implore them to keep Yu on, as he is the perfect pairing with Coates on this series.

What doesn’t work:

Nothing.  This book is almost perfect.  Some might think this series is getting preachy, and to those who say that, I say this:  go back and read Marvel comics from the 1960’s.  The 70’s.  The 80’s.  Know your history.  Marvel has always been about social commentary, and the best art makes you think.  That’s what this series does.

Rating 5/5

X-Men Black: Mojo #1

x-men black mojo

“Mojo Rising”

Written by: Scott Aukerman

Art by Nick Bradshaw and Andre Lima Araujo

The Story So Far:

Like last week’s X-Men Black: Magneto #1, this issue is part of a lead in to the hotly anticipated Uncanny X-Men relaunch coming next month.  This one deals with Mojo, the alternate-universe, dimension traveling, reality TV show producer from Mojoworld.  Again, I won’t be reviewing the backup stories until we have all five installments published.

Spoilerific Review:

Mojo is sick and tired of all these “new” X-Men, and yearns for the day when characters weren’t designed to appeal to changing demographics.  He despises the inclusive nature of these new heroes, and espouses that he doesn’t mind if they changed a little, but too much is not good for him.  Declares a reboot, with no more “new” mutants.  Before he decides to use his newest weapon, though, he decides that he must go on another recon mission to our dimension, a thought that causes Major Domo to become suspicious.

Mojo dons a trench coat and fedora, and ventures out into the world, where he finds acceptance at almost every turn.  Many people he meets compliment him on his “spider-leg chair”.  Mojo is searching for his “beloved”, a woman he bumped into two weeks earlier at a coffee shop on another recon mission.  He runs into Glob, one of the new X-Men, who talks Mojo down from his murderous intentions and suggests that he should just go and talk to the pink-haired woman of his dreams.  While hanging out with Glob, Mojo saves a little girl from being run over and receives a kiss and a compliment on his chair yet again.

He walks his new friend Glob back to the Xavier Institute, and Glob jokes about Mojo not trying to kill the X-Men, which gives Mojo pause…as the attack of his newest weapon, The Half-Sentient, commences.  Mojo, having not ordered the attack himself, looks around to see Major Domo.  Domo ordered the attack, assuming that Mojo was lulling the X-Men into a false sense of security.  Mojo, covering up his activities while on recon, quickly agrees that this was, in fact, what he was doing.

Meanwhile the X-Men fight Mojo’s new weapon as Mojo gleefully tells them how it was created.  Major Domo, assuming Mojo was faking his feelings for the pink-haired woman, has kidnapped her and assumes that she was meant to be a diversion for the X-Men.  He throws her into the battle to Mojo’s despair.  In a split second, Mojo attacks his creation, saving the woman and destroying the Half-Sentient.

In the aftermath of the battle, Mojo finds the courage to ask the woman out, and she accepts, much to his surprise.  Realizing that he can’t let Major Domo see that he’s having a change of heart, Mojo threatens the X-Men and leaves Central Park.

Two weeks later, as he is planning his next attack on the X-Men, he receives two texts: one from his new friend Glob and one from his new girlfriend, Ann N.  He decides that his newest plot needs revision as the issue ends.

What Works:

Not much, honestly.  To be fair, I don’t really like Mojo as a character.  I find him obnoxious and kind of ridiculous.  That being said, I did greatly enjoy the opening few pages where Mojo is describing his disdain for diversity in comics.  That meta-commentary is quite welcome in this comics-gate era.

I also LOVED the shoutout to Ann Nocenti, co-creator of Mojo.  I like when comics are referential and reverential.

The art is acceptable, with a few flashes of brilliance.

What Doesn’t Work:

The humor.  Most of it falls flat, and feels like a teenager’s idea of what humor is.  And maybe that’s just Mojo.  To be honest, though I dislike the character, at least he was more sinister back when he was introduced.  This fish-out-of-water tale never really finds its footing, and feels like it flops around a lot.

Overall, this was a chore to read, and not something I’ll go back to, if I’m honest.  The few pages at the start were not enough to save what is really an unlikeable character, and a poorly paced, throwaway issue.

Rating 1/5

 

X-Men Black: Magneto #1

x-men black magneto

“The Stars, Our Destination?”

Written by Chris Claremont

Pencils by Dalibor Talajic

Inks by Roberto Poggi and Belardino Brabo

“Apocalypse: Degeneration part one”

Written by Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler

Art by Geraldo Borges

The Story So Far:

This is the story so far.  X-Men Black is the five issue lead in to the relaunch of Uncanny X-Men in November, each focusing on a separate X-Men adversary, with a backup story featuring Apocalypse.

Spoilerific Review:

This one’s going to piss people off.  Maybe not in the whole “Cap was a Hydra agent” way, but I think that conservatives might have a problem with this ripped-from-the-headlines story that longtime X-Men scribe (and living LEGEND) Chris Claremont has spun here in the main story.

Magneto, fresh from a spell in his Danger Room-esque training facility on Asteroid M, is told be one of his followers (and Nanny, who makes a reappearance!) that the US Government is rounding up mutant kids and putting them into detention facilities in Texas.  He decides to intervene.

On his way, he stops at The Gold Star café, where he meets Kate, the daughter of an American soldier who died while deployed.  They share a meaningful conversation about the mutant detention facility, but are interrupted by a group of people who support the government’s move.  Kate tells them that Magneto–whom she only knows as Erik—is a Holocaust survivor, and the aggressors back down.  Magneto tells Kate that with more people with her ideals, humans can reach the stars, as he leaves to confront the guards at the detention facility and free the mutant children there.

A battle ensues, and Magneto defeats the guards, who wear powered, Sentinel-like armor.  He goes to the children, announcing that he is freeing them, rescuing them, and wants to take them to Asteroid M.  One of the kids gives Magneto pause when he mentions that the US ideals are worth fighting for, rather than running from.

Magneto takes the whole facility with him as he leaves, lecturing the guards that they have betrayed the ideals of the United States, and telling them to treat everyone with respect or face the consequences.

Back at the Gold Star café, Kate receives a piece of artwork from Erick, depicting the two of them floating among the stars.  The inscription thanks Kate for helping to restore Magneto’s hope as the lead guard from the detention facility voices over their intent to strike back, but only when the mutants are not expecting it, as the issue ends.

The backup tale is the beginning of a five part story about Apocalypse and his quest to obtain a body that can hold his consciousness while not deteriorating.  He has created a device he dubs the Finch, which he uses to try to make the cells in his body regenerate by creating copies of themselves constantly.

He is testing the Finch on one of his human lab rats when something goes wrong.  He feels his mind traveling through time, and he witnesses his own birth.  There is a power flash and his test subject whispers that he saw his own death.  When the surge subsides, Apocalypse finds himself on what he believes to be another planet.

He notices that he is bleeding, which he should not do, given his regenerative abilities, and discovers that, wherever he is, the Finch has come along for the ride.  It is inoperable, however, and he muses that he doesn’t know how he will fix it.  While he ponders this dilemma, he is attacked by a strange creature.  He subdues it, noting that his body is refusing to mutate.  As this chapter ends, Apocalypse discovers that he is degenerating into a human being.

What Works:

In the main story, the part that really sells it is the ripped from the headlines plot.  It’s what the X-Men have been missing for literally years.  For decades, first under Stan Lee and then under Claremont’s direction, the Uncanny X-Men were allegory for minority rights, be it African Americans, gays, Jews, or anyone else who was marginalized.  I’ll admit, I was a little nervous about Claremont writing X-Men again.  Sometimes, you can’t go back.  But Chris can.  He has, in one issue, taken hold of the X-Men franchise and shaken it awake.

Magneto and Kate’s relationship is a touchstone of this tale, and exemplary of the allegorical nature of the X-Men universe as a whole.  I liked how Claremont made Kate’s family a “Gold Star” family, while to Erik, a gold star means something entirely different.  Their understanding is, indeed, hope for us all, as they prove that even though we have differences, even differences in genetic makeup, we can in fact get along.

As for the backup story, it’s hard to judge what will be, when all told, a total of one issue.  This gives you just enough of a tease to make you want to come back.  As someone who dislikes Apocalypse as a character, that’s saying quite a bit, really.  I do want to know how this will lead in to the new Uncanny X-Men series premiering next month.  However, I will save whatever praise I have for when the full story is out.

What Doesn’t Work:

In the lead story, I’d have to say that the use of a random guard at a detention center kind of deadens the impact a little bit.  If it had been a major player (and maybe she will be, time will, of course, tell), I feel like it would have felt a little more meaningful to have her voiceover at the end of Claremont’s tale.  Though, perhaps that’s meant to make it more chilling, the fact that it wasn’t some high level government official making these hateful statements.  It’s an ordinary person.  An Average Jo, if you will.  I think I would have liked it to be a more prominent figure.

For the backup, again, hard to see where things go right or wrong, so I will save my criticisms until the final part of this story.  Suffice to say, I think that what backup stories have against them is that five page increments is an excruciating way to tell a story.

Rating: (main story only, for now) 4.5/5

United States vs Murder Inc #2 (of 6)

murder inc 2

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by Michael Avon Oeming

The Story So Far:

Jagger Rose is the first hit woman in the Bonavese crime family.  She was trained and groomed by her uncle Jake, a made man.  She makes her first hit, and then is brought to Don Bonavese, who pits her against a made man five times her size, as her last test.

Spoilerific Review:

The issue opens with a direct continuation of the last, with Jagger’s fight-to-the-death against Don Bonavese’s hitman.  He appears to get the upper hand, but Jagger wins out, first gouging out the guy’s eye and then smashing his head.

Flash forward to a month ago, as Jagger arrives at the Bonavese compound to receive a new hit.  One of the family’s own has been skimming off the top for years, despite warnings from the Don and others.  Jagger notes that they have never before given her details beyond a name and location, and she is told it’s because she is becoming more essential to the Family.

Jagger goes to the London Hotel to confront the offending party, only to discover that it is her own mentor, her uncle Jake, who apparently has a heroin problem.  Jake is understanding, even accepting, of his fate.  He knows what he’s done, and what the punishment is.  Jagger tries to convince him to run away with her, to Italy, to try and get himself straight, but he refuses.  Jagger cannot bring herself to kill Jake, so he does it for her, but not before telling her that he was glad it was her that came for him.

Jagger returns to the Bonavese family compound and asks that Jake’s name be kept off the record.  Don Bonavese agrees, as a favor to Jagger.

In the present day, Jagger and her partner Valentine discuss their being hung out to dry by the Family and the issue ends with them trying to decide what to do about it.

What works:

The action in the first five pages is pure Bendis.  It’s grindhouse-long and graphic.  Just what you would expect from a mature-rated Bendis book.  Oeming’s art accentuates the violence, theirs is a purely symbiotic relationship that, obviously, has long standing.

The time jumps also work well for the story, giving us just enough background to inform what’s going on in the present and future.  The entire issue is backstory for the present day, which, in a very JJ Abrams way, works very well for this story.

What Doesn’t Work:

The only qualm I have about this issue is that it’s a little hard to tell if Jagger paid for Jake’s name to be kept clean, or if it was a favor.  I took it as the money that was on the table was the money Jake had been skimming, or at least some of it, and that the agreement was a favor, but you could see it either way, with no clear direction from the storytellers.  Other than that, there’s very little wrong with this issue.

Rating 4.5/5

Action Comics #1003

action comics 1003

 

“Invisible Mafia Part 3”

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by Yanick Paquette

The Story So Far:

Lois Lane is gone.  She’s traveling with her and Superman’s son and Jor-El.  Clark, of course, is the only one who knows the truth about where she is, everyone else just thinks Lois left Clark.  He had contact with them up until a recent battle, and now he doesn’t know where his family is.

A rash of fires has taken Metropolis by storm, and Superman is the prime suspect.  Turns out that the kid who fingered Superman was paid to do so.  By someone attached to Mr. Strong’s criminal gang, which includes a new enforcer, the Red Cloud, who can…well, can turn into a cloud and choke people.

Oh, and one of the Daily Planet’s newest reporters, Miss Goode, appears to be working with Strong’s crew to get ahold of a piece of Kryptonite for reasons unknown.

And Superman figures out that Lois is back, and in disguise.

Spoilerific Review:

This issue opens with Goode meeting with a person called “Candy”, who is connected to Mr. Strong and can get Kryptonite for her.  Goode appears to want to be able to ward off Superman if she should have to, but her intentions are still not fully known.

She returns to the Daily Planet with the Kryptonite in her purse, and when she does, Clark, of course, appears to have an episode.  No one knowing the truth about him, of course, he plays it off as a migraine.  Perry sends Ms. Goode to wait for the ambulance that was called, and as soon as she leaves, naturally, Clark starts feeling better.

While waiting for the ambulance, Goode is confronted by Batman, who takes the kryptonite from her and asks her how she got it, and why she has it.  She claims it’s for a story.  A Pulitzer level story.  Bats takes the kryptonite with him and leaves.

Batman and Superman meet so Bats can tell Clark what he learned.  As Batman leaves, Superman hears a mention of Kryptonite, which turns out to be Goode going back to Candy, claiming that Candy set her up.  The Red Cloud kills Candy as Superman arrives, and Goode plays the part of damsel in distress.

The issue ends with Lois, typing furiously away in an apartment, when the doorbell rings.  Lois opens it to find Lex Luthor.

What Works:

I appreciate what Bendis is doing over on Superman.  It’s not really my cup of tea so far, but it’s interesting enough.  But this story, this “ground-level” action in Action Comics is where Bendis REALLY shines.  It’s where he did his best work for Marvel, with Daredevil and Ultimate Spider-Man, and this really is his best Superman story of these two opening arcs.  It’s dark and gritty, and naturally for a dark and gritty Bendis comic, involves the Mob.  And I love it.

The comedy, though off-putting for some, works for me for the most part.  More on that in a minute.

The art was a high point.  I like Pat Gleason, but his work wasn’t missed with the stellar Yanick Paquette stepping in for art duties.  I feel like Gleason might be misused in the previous issues, because Paquette’s art really fits the street-level feel of this book.

 

What Doesn’t’ Work: 

As I mentioned above, some of the comedy didn’t work for me.  Batman joking around with Superman seemed a little out of place.  I did laugh, but it didn’t feel like Batman to me.

Rating 4/5

Heroes in Crisis #1 (of 9)

heroes in crisis 1

 

“I’m Just Warming Up”

Written by Tom King

Art by Clay Mann

Being that this is the first issue of a mini-series, there’s not really a “story so far” to speak of, so I’m just going to jump right into the summary and review.

Spoilerific Review:

Harley Quinn and Booster Gold eat apple pie in a diner as Superman streaks overhead.  They talk a bit and Harley attacks Booster with a knife, and a fight ensues.  Inter-cut with this fight, we see Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman investigating a disturbance at the Sanctuary, a home for super-powered individuals who have mental health issues of one sort or another.  Like Blue Jay, who can’t control his shrinking ability, or Arsenal, who is an addict.  Turns out someone has killed all the metahumans at the Sanctuary, including Arsenal and Flash, along with the Sanctuary itself, which is not just the farmhouse in which the treatment was being offered, but a robot built with Kryptonian tech and given the will of Batman, the compassion of Wonder Woman and the honor of Superman.  The Trinity finds the Sanctuary with a message written above it: “The Puddlers are all dead”.  Diana explains that a puddler was one who works in iron, skimming the molten metal to remove impurities and make the iron strong.  Bruce surmises that someone who was being treated at Sanctuary did the killing.

During Harley and Booster’s fight, which goes on the whole issue, intercut with scenes of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman finding corpses of dead heroes, Booster implies that Harley murdered all the heroes at Sanctuary.  Harley tells Booster that he, actually, is responsible.

The issue ends on a creepy “talking head” scene of an obviously troubled Booster Gold being interviewed by the Sanctuary, and asking for help.

What Works:

Tom King is not a writer with whom I am very familiar, having only read his amazing Vision series for Marvel, but after reading that series, I had wanted to read more from him.  I was going to go back and read his run on Batman, but when this series was announced, I decided to wait for it.  The story is amazing.  The plotting, the inter-cut with Harley and Booster’s fight and the Trinity’s investigation, and even the talking head moments, are masterfully manipulated.  Tom King does not disappoint.

The art is also amazing.  I can’t say that I recall having read anything with Clay Mann’s art before, but it’s a breath of fresh air.  So many artists today seem to lack definition, but Mann’s art is very detailed.  He reminds me of Greg Land, but—dare I say it?—better.  More dynamic. Which is not to say that Greg Land’s are is bad.  Quite the contrary, actually.  Mann’s work seems better suited for sequential art, and Land seems at his best on covers and splash pages.

The depth of the story is incredible, as well.  On my second readthrough, I noticed little hints and intricacies in the artwork that I didn’t see the first time through.  Re-readability is high on this issue.

What doesn’t work:

Not much.  It’s a little confusing about who—or what—Sanctuary is.  This may be a known quantity to others, but as someone who hasn’t read DC monthlies since the mid-2000’s I felt a little lost.  But it all comes together in the end.  Such is the peril of coming back to a universe that is unfamiliar after 10-15 years of continuity.

One thing’s for sure, I’m going to go back and pick up King’s run on Batman for sure, now.

Rating 4.5/5

The Sentry #4

sentry 4

Sentry #4

“Sentry World Part 4”

Written by Jeff Lemire

Art By Kim Jacinto and Joshua Cassara

The Story So Far: 

The Sentry can’t find balance between himself and his alter-ego, Bob Reynolds.  He can’t seem to be the Sentry without risking unleashing the Void on an unsuspecting world.  Tony Stark and Stephen Strange help Bob find that balance with a device called the Confluctor, which creates an imaginary world, called Sentry World, where Bob gets to be the Sentry and the Void can be free at the same time.  Meanwhile, Bob gets to live a normal life out here in the “real” world.

Bob’s former sidekick Billy, also known as Scout, is jealous of Bob’s ability to be the Sentry again, and he teams up with Cranio to steal the Confluctor and re-create the serum that makes Bob the Sentry, so Scout can become the new Sentry in the real world.

But Bob somehow transforms into the Sentry in the real world and Bob was sent into the Sentry World…

Spoilerific Review:

Cranio tells Scout, that Bob was sent to Sentry World, and Billy realizes this must mean that the Sentry is in the real world, so he dons his costume and sets off to confront the Sentry.

The Sentry is already being confronted by Iron Man, however.  Sentry tells Stark that he knows something is wrong with the Confluctor, and insists that he must go find Cranio and get the Confluctor from him and fix it.  Tony tries to stop Sentry, to disastrous ends.  Misty Knight offers to get Iron Man some backup, but Tony changes to his Hulkbuster armor to try to stop Sentry first.  This, of course, does not work, and Bob is on the verge of defeating Tony when Scout arrives.  Only Billy claims to be the NEW Sentry, not Scout, and he and Sentry fight as Iron Man calls Misty Knight to get that backup she offered before.

Meanwhile, Cranio is pursuing Bob in the Sentry World.  Bob pleads with Cranio to help him, as his mind is split between Sentry World and the real world, but Cranio won’t help.  He tries to kill Bob, who runs.  Bob finds the Void, who he asks for help.  While Billy and the Sentry beat each other senseless in the real world, Bob comes to realize that he has been denying the other half of himself—the Void is that other half.  He joins with the Void in the Sentry World and manifests in the real world as an all new Sentry, finally whole for the first time in his life, as the issue ends.

What Works:

The story.  I’ve never been a Sentry fan.  I found him to be a boring and derivative character.  But I’ll read anything Jeff Lemire writes, and when I heard he was taking on a character I didn’t like, I knew I had to read this, too.  He does not disappoint.  No amount of words that I can put on a page can do justice to the intricate plot that Lemire lays out here.  Suffice to say, I’m a convert.  This story is compelling.  Bob Reynolds is finally interesting, with a writer that treats him more like a guy with a problem than a guy who can smash stuff.  Come to think of it, once Al Ewing is done with his Hulk run, I think Lemire should jump on that book.  I’d LOVE to see what he can do with Hulk.

The art.  They picked artists who very much compliment Lemire’s storytelling style.  It even reminds me of Lemire’s own work, in spots, on Sweet Tooth or The Underwater Welder.  Very appropriate to the story.

What Doesn’t Work:

Nothing, honestly.  Which is quite amazing to me, because I started my journey four issues ago thinking that this would be the one Lemire book that I didn’t like, because of the Sentry, but it’s one of the best comics being published by Marvel today, and my pick for best book of the week.

Rating 5/5

Extermination #3 (of 5)

extermination 3

 

Written by Ed Brisson

Art by Pepe Larraz

The Story So Far:

Ahab has returned!  He’s come from the future to kill the time-displaced original X-Men.  A younger version of Cable appears to have other ideas.  He has also time-jumped to the present and killed his older self and appears to be snapping up the young X-Men, starting with Iceman and Angel.  He’s also abducted Mimic.  No one is sure why these two time travelers have appeared.

The remaining young X-Men; Scott, Hank, and Jean, have been split up and are being guarded by various groups of elder X-Men.  Scott is with Jean Grey at Searebro, Young Jean took off with X-Force on the offensive, and Young Hank is at the Xavier Institute.  Ahab attacks the Institute, and mysteriously, instantly, turns Old Man Logan into one of his Hounds.

Spoilerific Review:

The action picks up right where last issue left off, with Logan standing over a cowering Young Beast, who is saved by Beast…let’s just call him Henry.  Frankly, I hope this story really does solve the young, displaced X-Men situation.  It’s just confusing to have multiple versions of the original five X-Men hanging around.  Well.  Except Cyclops.  Anyway, Henry fights Old Man Logan to protect Young Beast, while Ahab does his villain thing and explains that the two French mutant children the X-Men saved back in issue #1 were actually planted by Ahab, and their powers allow Ahab to implant psychic “bombs” in people’s minds.  These bombs are info dumps of several years’ worth of torture.  Rather than the old fashioned way of actually performing the torture over years to create a Hound, Ahab can now simply activate a sleeper Hound whenever he pleases, which is exactly what he did to Logan, and which is exactly what he does to Nightcrawler, who is at Searebro with Young Scott and his other protectors, and Shatterstar, who is with X-Force on an X-Wing looking for Young Cable.

Kurt “bamfs” Scott out into the deep sea, and Shatterstar attacks young Jean.  Old Jean saves Scott, telekinetically bringing him back to Searebro.  Cannonball grabs Shatterstar and gets him as far from Young Jean as he can.

Meanwhile, Young Cable shows up at the Institute and abducts Young Hank, while Henry appears to succumb to injuries sustained in the fight with Ahab and his Hounds, who teleport back to Ahab’s appropriately-named flying base, the Pequod, where Ahab is informed that Cable is also abducting young X-Men.  Ahab orders his crew to head for Searebro.

Domino lectures Jean that X-Force does things a little more bloody than the rest of the X-Men are used to, but it appears that Young Jean has a dark side, because she just doesn’t care, and instead leads X-Force to Young Cable’s base of operations, where the issue ends with X-Force and Young Jean confronting Young Cable.

What Works:

Again, the story is stellar.  It’s moving along at a breakneck clip.  Though I dislike the move towards a more cinematic scope that Marvel has seemingly taken since the early 2000’s, I can say this:  it works here.  This is how an event comic should feel.  This should be epic, and fast and explosive.  And it is.  Brisson’s take on Ahab is spot-on.  And though I’ve never liked him as a villain before, he certainly feels formidable here.

The Art:  Larraz continues to impress.  Ahab is suitably creepy, and the action flows very well.  He’s got a great handle on visual storytelling, which seems evasive to many artists these days. (I’m looking at you, Daniel Acuna).

What Doesn’t Work:

Ugh.  Ok, so I’m hard pressed to find much to complain about with the actual story or art, which is nice. This has been one consistently consistent mini-series.  So I’m going to talk about something here that neither Brisson nor Larraz really has much to do with:  the time displaced original X-Men.  Ok, it was quirky for Bendis to bring them to the present during his run, and I appreciate that he didn’t just put the genie back in the bottle when he wrapped his run on the X-Titles, since that trope is pretty played out, but I think in this case I wish he HAD done just that.  It’s not so much that it’s confusing (unless you’re writing about them, see above), it’s that…well, I’m just done with it.  Either kill off the older versions, or send the kids back to their time.  One set of Original X-Men for me, please.  I’m hoping, like I said earlier, that Brisson cleans this timeline mess up once and for all.

Rating 4/5