Hello, Beautiful–“House of X” #1 Instant Take Review

I’ve decided that the way that I’ll be handling the Hickman reboot of the X-Universe is with two reviews. The first, a knee-jerk initial reaction that I’ve dubbed my “Instant Take”, will be published the night of release for each book. The second, more in-depth review, will release within two days, after I (and you, Dear Readers) have had some time to digest what I’ve read.

So here we are. This is it. There was a palpable excitement at my local comic shop today when I picked up my copy of House of X #1. Issues Needed Comics in Apple Valley, Minnesota even had the animated X-Men show playing in the background as subscribers decided which variant cover to pick up. I stuck with the regular cover. Something about that image of Charles Xavier walking through what turns out to be a Krakoa portal really tugged at me.

The most striking thing about this first issue for me was the similarities between it’s format and Hickman’s Nightly News and similar creator-owned series. This isn’t Avengers, there’s a whole different set of stakes here. Mutants, long the subject of hate and fear, now have the upper hand. That’s scared the human population to such a degree that old enemies have formed alliances.

I loved seeing the FF in these pages. It really felt like the X-Men were back within the walls of the Marvel Universe proper. Too often in recent years, they’ve felt like second run players, given their limited marketability by Marvel Entertainment. No longer.

Cyclops’ words to Sue resonate with me. “Tell your son he’s got family on Krakoa.” Magneto’s as well. “You have new gods now.” Chilling. Mutants are the dominant species now. Humanity is on the verge of extinction. And while it feels like we’ve visited these parts before, it’s never felt more palpable than it does in Hickman’s capable hands.

Larraz and Gracia’s art is simply stunning. Probably some of Larraz’s best work, if I’m being honest.

Nice to see the handy reader’s guide in the last pages, and a (presumptive) complete list of Omega Mutants, along with their affiliations.

I’m going to have to re-read this one a couple of times, just to capture the scope of what I’m seeing. Lots of references to the long history of the X-Men. Needless to say, I’m already a huge fan of this new direction for the mutants of the Marvel Universe.

I’ll be back in a couple of days with a more full write-up of this issue.

The Pull List 12/5/18

The Pull List

Week of December 5, 2018

Quite the week this week, with the new Shazam series premiering, new issues of Uncanny X-Men, West Coast Avengers, Immortal Hulk and Green Lantern.  I chose to skip out on the Defenders one-shots in favor of Shazam, for financial reasons.  Some good stuff this week, some disappointment, but mostly good reads.

One note: with the holidays coming up, there may be delays in the new reviews getting out as the family goes to Christmas parties and visits with relatives, so bear with me.

Another note: one of the issues I’m reviewing, The United States vs. Murder Inc, has some mature content this month.  I can’t review it without talking about that content, so if you’re offended by frank discussion of sex and violence, go ahead and skip that portion of the review, because that’s what’s in that book.

Ok, let’s see what’s on the Pull List this week, shall we?

shazam 1

I’m gonna lead off with the new Shazam #1 by Geoff Johns, Dale Eaglesham and Mike Atiyeh.  I’ve never before read a Shazam solo title.  This is not to say that I’m completely unfamiliar with the character.  I’ve read him in other books here and there, most notably in Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come miniseries in the 90’s.  You new readers should read that series.  Kingdom Come is seminal.  Anyway, I’m slightly familiar with the character, and I wanted to know a little more.

This series starts off with a brief retelling of Billy Batson’s discovery of the Last Wizard, and how he got his powers as Shazam.  Billy is an orphan, sent to live with the Vasquez family, who foster several other children from bad homes, as well as other orphans, in Philadelphia.  On a school trip with his foster siblings, Billy witnesses a robbery at the Museum of the American Revolution by crooks wearing 70’s era Justice League member Halloween masks.  Billy turns into Captain Marvel, and taunts the baddies, while his foster sibs also have Shazam-related powers.  They take down the robbers, but when they can’t agree on a name for their team, the Philly PD just agree to say “Superman did it.”

Back at the foster home, the kids discuss the mysterious super-team with Mr. and Mrs. Vasquez, but still can’t agree on a team name, and hurry off to do “homework”, which turns out to be hanging out at their hero lair, the Rock of Eternity, source of the Shazam power.  They find a station, and a train, with a map to “the Magiclands”.  Freddie turns the train on, unleashing a power wave, while back at the Vasquez family home, a man shows up, claiming to be Billy’s father, wanting to speak with him.

A backup story, also written by Johns, with art by Mayo Naito, tells how Mary came to live with the Vasquez family, and how she first met Freddie.

Overall, this is a solid first issue, introducing us to Billy and the Shazam Family, giving us a little background and allowing the reader to ease into the feel of the new movie premiering in April.  Definitely aimed at a teen audience, but still appealing to older readers, Johns knows how to straddle that line between kiddie humor and more adult themes.  Eaglesham’s art on the main story is really good, reminiscent of his work on Green Lantern.

The art on the backup story is kind of manga-styled, which is not usually to my liking, but it works for what it’s meant to do:  introduce us to some of the other kids that the Vasquez family fosters, from the perspective of a young girl.

If you’re looking for a book with humor and heart, this one has you covered.  The kids are likeable and the story is interesting, with enough mystery to keep you interested for the long haul.  Who are these other kids, where did they get their powers, did Billy share it with them?  And is the bunny part of the team now that it apparently has powers, too?

I’ll give this one a rating of 4/5 for a good premier and a compelling cliffhanger in the main story, along with the charm of Geoff Johns’ writing and the talented Dale Eaglesham on the art duties.  Hopefully they will keep up the backup stories to give us more background on the other kids, as well.

wca 5

Moving over to Marvel, I’m diving into West Coast Avengers #5 written by Kelly Thompson, art by Daniele di Nicuolo with colors by Triona Farrell.  Wrapping up the previous arc, the issue opens with Kate on the phone with Captain America, explaining that they didn’t name themselves the West Coast Avengers, that was Jimmy Kimmel.  Turns out Cap doesn’t like the reality TV theme of the new team.  He is about a hundred years old, so I get it.

Later the team is taking on a new super villain named “Gridlock” on the 405 freeway.  Even those of us who have never been to Southern California know that that is a play on words.  Gridlock apparently can manipulate…metal?  Cars?  Not sure, he’s lame, and I think that’s the point.  He makes a Voltron-esque minion out of a bunch of vehicles that the team has to take down.  Which they do.

Later America goes on a date with Ramone, and the rest of the team gets called away by the mayor, to investigate a situation at a creepy old theme park.  They assemble at the park and quickly figure out that it was actually Madame Masque that lured them to the theme park.  Kate texts America to come help out, and she shows up with Ramone.  They discover that they are trapped by a dome and they are soon separated in pairs.  Quentin and Qwen are none too impressed with being stuck together, except that they kind of are.  Quire asks Gwen about her powers and she reveals that she can turn the pages of the comic book that they are in—or used to be able to—much to Quentin’s confusion.  They get knocked out as the focus shifts to America and Clint, in a funhouse.  Before they can do more than discuss who may be responsible for their being there, they are knocked out as well.  Kate, Fuse and Ramone are the final grouping, and Ramone and Fuse are knocked out by explosive ninja stars.  Kate is knocked for a loop and sees her dead mom, seemingly alive.

So this is a good issue.  I miss Caselli’s art, though.  I really don’t like manga-influenced art.  It’s not aesthetically pleasing to my eye.  If that’s your thing, I’m sure you will enjoy di Nicuolo’s work here.  It’ clean and the action flows really well, but I can’t deal with the pointy noses and kitty eyes and so on.

We get more of the talking head stuff, which I love, and a fresh new mystery.  Kate seems to realize who is throwing ninja stars at her, but I sure don’t know who the baddy is.  I’ll stick with it, because Thompson’s writing is just that much fun and fresh.  I’m giving this one a rating of 3.5/5 this issue.  Unfortunately I had to knock it down a little for the art, but the story is as strong as anything else I’ve read by Thompson.  Her work is what keeps me coming back.

uncanny 4

Let’s stick with Kelly Thomspon for the next book, Uncanny X-Men #4, co-written by Thompson, Ed Brisson and Matthew Rosenberg.  This issue the writers are joined by Pere Perez on art, with colors by Rachelle Rosenberg.

Continuing the Disassembled arc, this issue deals with the fallout of the Horsemen’s attack on the X-Mansion in Central Park.  The X-Men seemingly dead, Magneto, Angel, Blob and Omega Red leave to join their master, Nate Grey, who apparently is now an Omega-Level mutant.

But the X-Men aren’t dead—Armor was protecting them while Jean and Betsy tricked the Horsemen into believing they had killed them all.  They regroup and discuss strategy as Nate mentally broadcasts to the world that he and his Horsemen of Salvation will remake the world to their liking, making it a utopia.

The elder X-Men don’t listen to the younger team members, and knock Legion out when David begins to rant about how he is Nate Grey’s creator, thanks to his actions that created the Age of Apocalypse reality.  The younger X-Men think that Legion would be an asset to have on their side, while Jean and the elder team believe him to be a liability.  Jean instructs the younger X-Men to clean up while she and the others go to tackle the catastrophes hitting the globe, but Armor refuses to do as Jean orders.  Jean tells her to do what her heart tells her to do, and Hisako and the younger X-Men meet with Legion after the adult teams have departed.

They wake David and he tells them where to find X-Man after the kids vote to ask for his help.  Meanwhile the X-Men field teams tackle a Megalodon in the Gulf of Mexico and Chernayan soldiers and civilians after Magneto took all their guns and made the metal into a statue of Nate Grey.

The issue ends with Glob going to convince Jamie Madrox to help take down Nate.  After some convincing, he agrees to do so.

So here we have another solid issue, but it felt a little like filler in spots, sad to say.  The most compelling parts were the bits with the young/elder X-Men standing off.  I like these kids.  I’m not sure I’m ready to see them lead the Uncanny title, but they are good, solid characters. Especially Armor and Glob.  Hopefully we will see more of them when this is all over, as part of the main team.

The art, again, is serviceable, but I’ll renew my wish that they had one artist for the whole arc.  Continuity is important to me as a reader, not just in the terms of history, but in the art department as well.  This is not to say I don’t like new stuff—I mean, I really dig West Coast Avengers, and a middle aged male is not the target audience for that book—just that I would like to see the creative team have some stability.

I’m going to give this one a rating of 3/5 based on the filler-feel and the rotating artist door.

murder inc 4

The United States vs. Murder, Inc #4 by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming is where the shit really hits the fan for this title.  Valentine and Rose track down the President and, while she is receiving oral sex from one of her security team, assassinate her with a bullet through the head from a mile and a half away.

What follows is a rather confusing race across Tokyo to get away from the police and the Secret Service, through crowds of people at—I think—a dance club—and through the streets.  Somehow—I’m not sure exactly how—Valentine gets ID’d as the assassin, but not before slipping the authorities and escaping after splitting up with Jagger.

Three. Whole. Pages.  Three whole pages of the President getting head.  I’m no prude, really, but that just feels like filler to me.  Literally just her, head back, the guard, Gary, between her legs, and then a bullet, mercifully, putting both her and the reader out of our collective misery.

I get it.  Bendis is very cinematic in his storytelling, and this definitely played like a scene from a movie, but that would be my one gripe with how Bendis crafts his work sometimes—he leans too far on the movie aspect and not enough on the comic book aspects.  The middle of this issue dragged because of it, and the overall book is worse because of it as well.  Overall, though, this has been the only bad entry in this title so far, so it’s a forgivable lapse.

My other gripe here is Oeming’s art.  For some reason, Valentine and Jagger’s escape just comes off as muddled and confusing, so he lost me during that sequence.  I love everything else about his work on this issue, though, even the three page long oral-on-the-dead-president sequence.  The maze background on the pages where Gallo mentions that Tokyo is like a maze was a good effect as well.

I’m going to have to give this one a rating of 3/5 this month, I’m a little disappointed in the storytelling and that confusing bit of the art really threw me out of the moment.  I’m sure it’ll be better next month, this is a powerhouse team that has been together for many, many years and knows how to produce a compelling story.


That brings us to the most bizarre title of the week, The Green Lantern #2 by Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp, with colors by Steve Olif.

While the super-bad guys’ evil plan starts to take shape, Hal and some of his other Green Lantern Corps friends, including Volk—a Lantern with a volcano for a head—and Avian Lantern Tru, investigate and interrogate a Spider-Pirate about Component One.

Meanwhile, Evil Star turns up on the medical facility orbiting Planet Hippocrates, but he’s not the young, powerful member of Overmaster Zero’s cew—he’s a frail and dying old man, stripped of his Star Band by the commander of the Blackstars, and his life force sucked from his body in a very vampiric fashion.

The Blackstars sell their services, now powered by the Star Band—to the highest bidder, and a promise of mass production of Star Bands to create an elite group of soldiers.

As the issue draws to a close, Hal is surprised to find that Evil Star was dumped close to Earth, and decides to go back to his homeworld to continue his investigation.  But when he arrives…Earth is missing!

Ok, so…Morrison is definitely at PEAK Morrison here.  He relishes in being able to create universes of what could be considered gibberish, and this series is no different.  I’m going to have to see where this is going, so I’m on for at least the end of this arc, but I’m still no fan of space stories in comics, and this feels kind of jumbled.  Hopefully it will all get back on track, because I love the weirdness, but the story is hard to follow with the unfamiliarity of the characters and the strange alien races and so on.

The art by Liam Sharp is just stunning.  His vision of Oa is so incredibly detailed, one has to wonder how this guy gets a full issue done on time.  The volcanic Volk is visually interesting, as well.

This issue earns a rating of 2.5/5.  I remember disliking some of the outer space stuff Morrison did in New X-Men, so I’m not surprised there.  I’m hoping, though, that I will be able to follow along a little better once I have a handle on these characters.  We shall see.

hulk 10

Last up is—and I’m tipping my hand here—my Book of the WeekImmortal Hulk #10 by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett, with inks by Ruy Jose, Le Beau Underwood and Rafael Fonteriz.  AND an Alex Ross cover!

This issue continues the Hulk’s fight with Absorbing Man, who is split in two by the Hulk, in the New Mexico desert.  Hulk is shrunken by Creel’s siphoning of some of his gamma radiation, but Hulk reveals that they just keep siphoning it back and forth.  Meanwhile, Alpha Flight is zeroing in on the Hulk as Creel and Hulk continue to pummel each other.

Hulk gets the upper hand, but he is shot through the eye by a bullet from Bushwhacker—haven’t heard that name in a long time—and Creel gets away.  Hulk lashes out, smashing Alpha Flight’s ship, thinking that they were responsible.

Alpha Flight engages as the Hulk tries to stop Absorbing Man from reaching ground zero of the gamma bomb test that created the Hulk in the first place.  He can’t get any more gamma from Hulk, so Creel is going to absorb it from the sand and the air, but in doing so opens up the Green Door, which was partially opened when the original bomb went off.  Opening the Door all the way seemingly transports the Hulk and Alpha Flight to Hell, but Hulk insists that they have all been there all along, as the issue ends.

Okay, so this is the kind of stuff I like seeing in a Hulk comic.  Readers of my blog will already know that I love Hulk, and have for a long time.  This storyline feels pulled from the 80’s, which is perfect for me.  I love the Hulk’s reaction to going to Hell.  He’s been there before, he knows.  I’m reminded of the Crossroads, where he was sent by Dr. Strange so many years ago, and I can’t wait to see where this is going to go.

I know I’ve been hard on Joe Bennett’s art, but honestly, this is exactly what he’s built for.  The emaciated Hulk and the weird John Carpenter-like creature that once was Crusher Creel are exactly the kind of thing that Joe Bennett should be drawing.  His work excels here, and I’m glad for it.

If there was any doubt that the team at Shadow Base were bad guys, the fact that they have pulled yet another classic villain out of mothballs and enlisted him should cement that idea.

This book gets my highest possible recommendation this month, with a rating of 5/5, and an all-around amazing package put together by the creative team.

That’s going to do it for this week.  Stop by next week for a DC-heavy Pull List, when I’ll be reviewing the Bat-a-wang-free Batman: Damned #2, Uncanny X-Men #5 (natch), Alien 3 #2, Detective Comics #994 and Superman #6!

Keep reading comics,  support your Local Comic Shop, and, as always, thanks for reading!

The Pull List 11/28/18

The Pull List

Week of November 28, 2018

This week on the Pull List, we’ve got a mix of DC and Marvel books, which is much more to my liking.  Fair warning, as with all my reviews, I’m planning on spoiling the ever-loving heck out of these issues, so read at your own risk.

We’ve got Return of Wolverine, a title I’ve been lukewarm on at best.  We’ve got Action Comics, Uncanny X-Men, Heroes in Crisis, and an impulse buy that may just be my book of the week in Dead Man Logan.  All picked up from my LCS, Issue Needed Comics in Apple Valley, Minnesota.  If you’re a local, or just visiting, these guys will treat you like you belong there.  Stop in if you’re in the area!

return of wolverine 3

Well, let’s get down to it.  We’ll start with Return of Wolverine #3 (of 5) by Charles Soule and Declan Shalvey.  I’ve made no bones about it, this book has been a bit of a disappointment for me.  I’m not loving the artwork since McNiven bowed out, and even with the improvements on the story last issue, the taste of that first issue still lingers.  And don’t get me started on the heat-claws.  Anyway, I’m sticking this one out because I love the X-Men, and I love Wolverine as a character.

This issue picks up the pacing a bit, at least.  The X-Men figure out that Logan is alive, and Jean has pinpointed him with Cerebro.  They take a team of X-folks that know him well, including Kitty Pryde, Storm, Jean, Kurt and…Bobby Drake?  Really?  Not Colossus?  Jubilee?  Bobby Drake.  Because he and Logan were such good buddies.  Anyway, I digress.  The X-team goes to intercept Logan and bring him home.

They are met with anti-mutant sentiment and Persephone sets up a fight with Wolverine against the X-Men by sending in someone to suggest that the X-Men are agents of Sotiera.  Logan calls on his “inner Wolverines” to tell him who each of the X-Men are, and how to beat them.  He takes them all down with the exception of Bobby, who is putting Wolvie on ice.  Wolverine’s inner berserker is released as the issue ends, popping his heat-claws and prepping to take down Iceman.

I’m not gonna lie, that last scene would have had higher stakes if it had been Peter that Logan was up against.  But, this is the story we’ve been given.  I did like the interaction between Logan and his inner Wolverines.  That was pretty innovative, for this character, at least.  Similarly, it was nice to see some action that mattered.  The Sotiera folks Logan took down last issue were milquetoast, so seeing him pitted against people we care about as much as we do Logan was a nice change of pace.

Even with the bland art, this is the best issue of the series so far.  I give it a rating of 3/5 for solid action and fun twists, heat claws notwithstanding.

action 1005

Next up, Action Comics #1005 by Brian Michael Bendis and…Ryan Sook!  That was a pleasant surprise.  Sook’s a fun artist.  I loved his work on X-Factor, even if it only lasted a few issues.  Given his track record, he won’t be here long, but apparently he and Bendis have some major DC project coming soon, so that’s something to look forward to.

This issue opens with the Question beating up Gummy’s gang and taking the Dial “H” for Hero dial she was in the process of buying.  He’s looking for the Red Cloud.  Gummy escapes and goes to meet with Mr. Strong, asking him to have the Red Cloud kill the Question for the transgression.

Meanwhile at the Daily Planet (always hear that in the Super Friends voice in my head–you know “Meanwhile at the Hall of Justice,” only…only with the Daily Planet…anyway…), Clark is verbally sparring with Miss Goode when he gets a call from the Deputy Chief of the Metropolis Fire Department, Melody Moore.  She requests to meet with Clark, at Superman’s suggestion.  She tells Clark about an interaction she had with the mayor of Metropolis, wherein the mayor told her to stop investigating the mystery fires that had been cropping up in Metropolis.  Clark decides to investigate and flies to the mayor’s home to speak with him.  Before he can, though, he’s attacked by the Red Cloud.  Superman manages to escape, and the Red Cloud gloats about having chased him off.  On the last page, the not-so-well-kept secret identity of the Red Cloud is revealed: Miss Goode, of the Daily Planet.

I don’t even care that the big reveal was telegraphed from ten miles away.  I love Bendis’ run on this book.  I’ve mentioned before that it’s a street-level series, and it is, and that is where Bendis excels.  I enjoyed the H-E-R-O Dial showing up, I loved the 1980’s backup stories in Superboy.  I just had a random thought that maybe—MAYBE—Bendis and Sook’s upcoming project is a Dial “H” for Hero series.  I would read the hell out of that series.  Anyway, the mystery of the fires in Metropolis deepens, and it looks like it involves people at the top.  Hopefully we will see where that goes.  Knowing Bendis, we probably won’t know for a while, but I’m ok with that, as long as everything in-between is as good as this issue.

Hopefully Ryan Sook sticks around for a while.  His art is gritty and quirky and perfect for this type of story.  It’s why I liked his X-Factor issues so much.  Grounded story, grounded art.  Perfect match.  If not, hopefully whatever he and Bendis have cooking will be something as gritty as this issue feels.

I’m going to give this one a rating of 4/5 for great art and fun storytelling, even with a plot twist that was positively M. Night Shyamalan-ian in it’s moment of “duh”.

uncanny 3

Uncanny X-Men #3 is next, written by Ed Brisson, Matthew Rosenberg and Kelly Thompson, with art by Yildiray Cinar and colors by Rachelle Rosenberg.  Part 3 of Disassembled finds the X-Men in Montana wrapping up their fight with the dinosaurs and then hurrying to help the team in Kansas with the Madrox situation.  Jean arrives on the scene with the rest of the Montana team and discovers that none of the Madrox dupes are Jamie Prime.  She teams with Psylocke to shut down the dupes and scans their minds once they are knocked out.  She discovers that Prime Madrox is beneath their feet, in an underground bunker, chained up and beaten.  He tells them that Legion was responsible for his condition, and that of his duplicates.  Legion had implanted one of his personalities into each of the thousands of Madrox dupes.

The X-Men race home to discover that Legion is attacking the X-Men at the institute.  He was trying to maintain a calm façade but was unable to stop himself as the dupes were shut down and his personas returned to him.  He was trying to save the X-Men from Magneto, Angel, Blob and Omega Red—the Horsemen Peace, Life, Wellness and Bounty—who are there to stop the X-Men from making war with mankind.  They blow up the mansion as the issue ends, sending the X-Men and the protesters on their lawn scattering.

Another solid issue from Brisson, Rosenberg and Thompson.  The art by Cinar is  serviceable, but I really wish they had gone with one artist for the whole 10 issue Disassembled arc, for continuity’s sake.  The Jamie Madrox reveal was a stunner.  I didn’t expect that Legion was behind that, nor that he had placed his personalities into the Dupes.  And we get three knock-down, drag-out fights in one issue.

And the big reveal of the new Horsemen..what is up with that?  At least we don’t ever have long to wait with a weekly run.  I’ll give this a rating of 4/5.

dead man logan 1

Speaking of humor and weight, next up is Dead Man Logan #1 (of 12), written by Ed Brisson with art by Mike Henderson, of Nailbiter fame.  This series is designed to give Old Man Logan a well and proper end, and they start it off with a bang by having the X-Men find Logan in the wilds of Canada, next to a beheaded Maestro.  They take him back to the Mansion and warm him up, only to be told by Cecelia Reyes that he has 12 months to live (hey, that’s how many issues are in this limited series!).  Logan sets out to right some wrongs before he’s gone from this existence, starting with hunting Mysterio.  Logan hits the Bar with No Name and interrogates the villains hunkered down there, including Miss Sinister and Tarantula.  With no one giving him any info, Logan beats up on the villains and leaves to pursue other leads.  Miss Sinister mentally interrogates Tarantula and gleans the whereabouts of Mysterio from his mind.

Logan goes to Brooklyn, where he runs into Hotguy—sorry, Hawkeye—who knows where Mysterio is, and the two set off to find the villain.  But Miss Sinister gets to him first, enticing Mysterio out of hiding at the Bedford Hills Psychiatric Hospital just as Logan and Hawkguy—sorry, Hawkeye—arrive, only to be blocked out by the orderly who doesn’t recognize Clint as an Avenger.

Clint and Logan sneak in a window, which was Logan’s plan all along, and question one of the patients, who gives them a bunch of exposition but no location on Mysterio, who is on an island in the Pacific ocean, meeting up with Neo-Hydra, run by the Red Skull’s daughter.  Meanwhile, Forge builds a time machine and jumps into Old Man Logan’s future as the issue ends.

Lots to unpack here, Old Man Logan is dying.  He’s a recent favorite of mine since Lemire and Sorrentino’s run on his solo book.  The stuff with Hawkeye and the orderly is absolutely laugh out loud funny, and Mysterio’s self-imposed exile is understandable.  The story moves along at a good pace, and while I rolled my eyes at the all-too-predictable 12 months to live/12 issues in the series moment, it’s a solid read, especially for an impulse buy.  Brisson is making it difficult to not want to pick up his new X-Force series in January.  And the art by Henderson is amazing.  But fans of Nailbiter already knew that.

Not gonna lie, this one came very close to being my book of the week.  It fell just short, given the last review this week, which follows.  Still, I’m giving this one a rating of 4.5/5 for a fun read with excellent art.  Brisson really has a way with the X-Men.  Dang it, I’m going to end up picking up X-Force, aren’t I?

heroes in crisis 3

Last, but certainly not least is the ridiculously cerebral and tensely plotted Heroes in Crisis #3 (of 9). Written by Tom King, with art by Clay Mann (yay, he’s back!) and …Lee Weeks?!, this issue delves a little deeper into what the heroes at the Sanctuary actually do.  It’s a healing space, and it includes a…well, a holodeck, for lack of a better term, wherein the heroes can replay tense or damaging events to come to terms with their outcomes, or with their actions.

Booster Gold is having a hard time grasping the concept, but he’s trying.  He ends up fighting himself in a holodeck simulation.  Meanwhile Lagoon Boy is shot over and over with a laser, and Flash loses his family over and over.  Until they all notice that heroes at the Sanctuary are dying.  Then they die.  Apparently at the hands of Harley Quinn, but I’m not buying that.  The reveal is structured as such that it almost seems like it’s all happening in the holodeck at the Sanctuary, so it’s entirely possible that it really was Booster Gold that killed all the heroes and he’s dealing with that.  Or he watched Harley do it and he’s dealing with that.  The issue ends with the reveal of more super powered beings that were killed at Sanctuary, including Nemesis and Red Devil…and Poison Ivy?

Holy Hell, I have absolutely no idea what’s going on here, but I’m loving every minute of it.  It’s unfurling like a Chuck Palahniuk novel, and it’s amazing.  Tom King is perfectly weaving a story that will have lasting impact on not just the characters, but also the readers.  If you’ve read his Vision series, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  The man just gets how to manipulate a story in such a way that you’re not sure what is up and what is down, but it’s told in such a well constructed way that every panel is a gift.

And the art in this issue was amazing.  It’s not every day you pick up an issue with a living legend working on it like Lee Weeks.  I’m not sure where he’s been, but seeing his pencils brought me back to Ann Nocenti’s and his run on Daredevil.  It was both nostalgic and invigorating at the same time.  Hopefully he’ll stay on if Clay Mann (who drew the first and last pages of this issue) isn’t able to fulfill the art duties for the rest of the series.

This is my book of the week.  Rating of 5/5.  You’re missing out if you’re not reading this book.

So that’s what was in my Pull List this week.  Next week, we’ve got Green Lantern #2, Immortal Hulk #10, West Coast Avengers #5, and Uncanny X-Men #4, along with possibly some Defenders One-Shots and maybe another impulse buy, who knows.  See you next week, and thanks for reading!

The Pull List

The Pull List – Black Friday Edition!

I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving—those of you who celebrate such things—and are resting up after Black Friday shopping—those of you who engage in such things—while the tryptophan courses through your veins and you contemplate making a cold turkey and stuffing sandwich for lunch.  Thank you for your patience while set aside my reviews so I could celebrate with my family.

It’s a short week this week, and a Marvel-centric one at that.  I usually like to spread the love around between the publishers, but that didn’t happen this week, more’s the pity.  I did get a recommendation from reader Eric P on twitter for Skottie Young’s MiddleWest, but my LCS didn’t stock it.  I’ve got them on the case, though, and hopefully I’ll have it in my grubby hands soon.  What I DO have for you this week is a trio of my favorite mag that Marvel is putting out right now.  I’ll admit that Uncanny X-Men is young, but I really love the weekly treatment, and I like all three of the writers on this book.  We also have Immortal Hulk, the constantly-on-top-of-my-read-pile offering from Al Ewing and Joe Bennett, and the constantly entertaining West Coast Avengers by Kelly Thompson and Stefano Caselli.  So, let’s get into it, shall we?

wca 4

We’ll lead off with Thompson and Caselli’s West Coast Avengers #4, the wrap up to the team’s first adventure.  The team subdues Kate “Don’t Call Me Katie” Bishop (turned into a giant Hawk-Woman by B.R.O.D.O.K.) before turning their attention to Hawkguy’s discovery of the villain’s reversal technology.  Quentin and Clint team up to zap B.R.O.D.O.K. with the device and return him to his original form as M.O.D.O.K., who Kate, still in Hawk-form, hurls towards the sun.  They still have much to deal with as B.R.O.D.O.K.’s other monster-women are still attacking Venice Beach, including an apartment building where Fuse’s sister Ramone lives.  Ramone does her best to get the residents out, but she gets trapped inside when the team starts zapping the other victims of B.R.O.D.O.K. back to normal.  She’s rescued by America and they clearly hit it off.  Clint asks Tigra to join the team, but she has no interest, she’s going to hunt down M.O.D.O.K. for his crimes.  Quentin and Gwen hate each other but totally make out.  And Fuse may not be happy about America and Ramone dating.  The team goes on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Kate tells the world that the West Coast Avengers as various villains (one called Dutch Oven that I hope we haven’t heard the last of), including Madame Masque opine on the return of the team.

So here we are again with another genuinely funny look at super-heroing, mixed in with some great action and a satisfying conclusion to the obnoxious B.R.O.D.O.K. situation.  I can’t wait to not type B.R.O.D.O.K. for a while.  Caselli’s art is always eye-pleasing, and Thompson’s writing is filled with wit and a flair for the socially conscious, which suits me just fine.  Apologies to Matt Rosenberg, who I think will do a fine job, but I was really hoping that Marvel would give Thompson a solo shot at Uncanny X-Men when Disassembled was done.  Maybe someday.

In the meantime, this is a solid conclusion to the first arc, and I’m really looking forward to what this now-established team will get up to.  Including bumper cars, if the preview page for next issue is to believed.

Rating 4/5, highly recommended!

uncanny 2

Next up we have the aforementioned Uncanny X-Men #2, written by Ed Brisson, Matt Rosenberg and Kelly Thompson, with art this week by R.B. Silva and Adriano DiBenedetto.  Following up on the last issue’s dramatic attack on a US Senator, the X-Men are trying to contain the Jamie Madrox situation AND deal with various animals who were previously extinct returning to terrorize the globe.  The main X-Men split up, half going to Missula, Montana to deal with a dinosaur outbreak while the other half goes to Kansas to deal with Madrox…or about a few thousand Madrox dupes, leaving the newer X-Men to guard the Institute from racist protesters on the lawn.  Meanwhile Beast steals away to a lab in North Carolina to recover a mysterious canister.

In Kansas, the X-Men have their hands full as Psylocke cannot make heads or tails of all the Madrox dupes—it’s unclear who is the Prime Jamie Madrox, and they are all so confused that the X-Men cannot determine what their endgame is.

In Montana, Bishop realizes that something he found days ago may be related to the disappearances and disturbances happening all over the globe, and tells Jean he needs to discuss it with her.  Laura gets eaten by a T-Rex, only to claw her way out of it’s stomach.

Meanwhile back at the Institute, a clean-cut and well dressed man shows up and knocks on the door.  He announced to the X-Men that are left there that he—Legion, Professor Xavier’s son—is there to save the day.

So.  Legion.  And not the crazed David Haller that we know with the Kid-N-Play haircut, but a dapper looking gent who looks well and collected.  So what does that mean?  Have David’s personalities been merged and he’s a whole person?  Is this just one of his personas?  Is it a trick?  Thankfully we only have to wait a week, because I really wasn’t expecting to see Legion show up on the doorstep of the Institute.

The story continues at breakneck speed and a lot of action.  We don’t get a lot of character moments with the main X-Men, but this is a big story, so maybe when this is all settled down we can have some quiet moments and develop the characters a little.  The younger X-Men do get that development, which is nice.  You need new blood, and these guys are at least compelling story-wise.

The art by Silva and DiBenedetto is good, the action scenes being the centerpiece.  I really liked the arrival shots of both X-Teams in Montana and Kansas.

Still a developing story, and still in it’s early stages.  I wish for more, but I get the feeling there’s plenty left to tell, so I’m giving this book high marks again this week, based on it’s momentum and it’s charm.  It feels like we’re watching a two and a half hour film and we’re only 15 minutes into act one.  Buckle up.

Rating 4/5, a very solid recommend for a decent start to the return of one of my all-time favorite super hero comics.

hulk 9

And now we’ve come to what has been consistently my favorite book Marvel has been putting out in the last eight months: Immortal Hulk #8 by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett with Martin Simmonds and Ruy Jose.

Following up on last issues big escape from Shadow Base, the Hulk is on the run, headed for the Los Diablos Gamma Bomb test site, where the Hulk was created by the monsters in Banner’s mind and the radiation from Banner’s bomb.  He’s met there by Crusher Creel, the Absorbing Man, freshly upgraded by the team at Shadow Base to be able to absorb radiation from the Hulk’s body, much like the Hulk can absorb radiation from others.

Creel was recruited by Shadow Base to take the Hulk down, because they needed someone not just with the raw power to absorb, but also someone with the hubris and the pride to not allow himself to back down.

Creel and Hulk go at it, and Hulk realizes that Creel’s not just siphoning off his gamma radiation, he’s also managed to absorb whatever it was that was masquerading as Brain Banner in Hulk’s head.  That power proves too much for Absorbing Man to take and it changes his body into something demonic as the Hulk prepares for round two…next issue.

Okay, so the Hulk is, unashamedly, my favorite character in the Marvel 616 universe, and he’s been mistreated for a long time.  This run seems a return to form for him, and Al Ewing continues to knock it out of the park issue after issue.

Joe Bennett’s pencils are fine, again, when he’s drawing humanoid characters.  It’s when he’s drawing the Hulk that Hulk ends up looking like a mutated monkey-dragon-thing sometimes.  It’s growing on me, though.  What I did like about the art this issue was Martin Simmonds’ contribution to the issue.  He drew the Creel-centric pages, and they are rather good.  I’d like to see him get a chance to take over the main art duties for a few issues.  At least, then, I’d know if Joe Bennett’s work really has grown on me, or if I’m just being complacent about it.

My issues with the art aside, the story is what makes this Marvel’s best book and one of the best runs on Hulk in a long, long time.  For that I give it a Rating of 5/5.  Keep it coming, Al Ewing.

So that’s it for me this week.  I’ll be back next week with reviews of Action Comics 1005, Heroes in Crisis 3, Return of Wolverine 3, and Uncanny X-Men 3.  Keep your eyes peeled on the website and social media—we might have another guest video review of Teen Titans Go! #31.  We’ll see where the weekend takes us.

Thanks for reading!


The Pull List

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?

cap 5

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!

ff 3

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.

superman 5

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:

alien 3 1

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!

Reviews for the week of November 8th, 2018

I’m back, baby!  My wife dragged me kicking and screaming to Orlando, Florida, where I can assure you I did NOT. HAVE. FUN.  Not when we were lying on the beach at Cocoa, not when we were navigating Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights, and not when we were sitting in the hot tub.  Believe me, I did it all with a scowl on my face.

Anyway, as I mentioned, I’m back.  I missed a couple of weeks worth of reviews, mainly because it was hard to fit them in with the grueling schedule of vacation.  So this week seems like a good time to change it up a little.  I feel like I might have been betraying the reader a little bit by spending so much time recapping what came before.  I felt the need to do so because of the periodical nature of comics, but I think I have a better way.

One article, with all the reviews I’m doing each week.  Quick takes, if you will.  There will still be spoilers, so beware of that.  I’m going to try it, see how I like it.  See how you like it, too.  All this is in preparation of the next iteration for this blog.  I’m going to take it from a text review to a podcast.  I’m still prepping that transition, so it will likely be the beginning of next year before that happens, but this change in format this month allows me to play a little with how I want that podcast to flow.

Without further ado, and with my thanks for sticking with me, here’s this week’s reviews.

First up, The United States vs. Murder, Inc #3, by Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming and Taki Soma.

murder inc 3

I’ll be honest.  I missed the first volume of this series, so I was kind of in the dark when the second volume started.  But it’s all kind of starting to come together. We saw Jagger’s “origin” story in the last few issues, from her introduction by her Uncle Jake to her making her bones to her having to “take care” of Uncle Jake (though he did that for her) last issue.  This issue deals with what comes next.  It details the Bonavese family’s response to the President (presumably that deed that Don Bonavese asked Jagger and Valentine to commit last issue), and the President’s response, which is to bomb the hell out of the Bonavese family compound in New Jersey.  Valentine’s mother is wounded, and a lot of people are killed.  Valentine is brought from the hospital, where he is watching over his mom, to the airport, where he is flown to Tokyo.  There, he is reunited with Jagger and told by Don Bonavese that he and Rose will assassinate the President as retaliation for her bombing.  Why Tokyo?  Because the President is there.

This is classic Bendis.  Buildup, action, action, resolution.  He’s…I don’t want to call him the Michael Bay of comics, because that’s not fair. He’s far better than Michael Bay.  He’s like the…he’s like Quentin Tarantino and Tony Scott had a baby.  Another one.  After True Romance.  Point is, he’s good.  This story appeals to folks that appreciate action and intrigue and some really messed up stuff.

Oeming is truly on his game, here, too.  His art simply pops.  This book is the perfect place for his talents, even more so than was Powers.  He can do epic and he can do intimate, and the reader never gets lost.  This issue those qualities really shine, from the opening pages to the bombing of the Bonavese compound to the reunion of Rose and Valentine.  Oeming is on his game.

The real dark horse superstar of this book is Taki Soma, though.  The colors on this book are amazing.  You would be hard pressed to find anyone who could so vividly bring to life this comic with only a handful of colors.

Highly recommended, this issue, and this series.  United States vs. Murder, Inc #3 gets a rating of 4.5/5 from me.

Next up on the pull list was Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp’s relaunch of The Green Lantern.  Emphasis on the “the”: The Green Lantern #1.


I’m a Grant Morrison fan, while I’m making confessions, and also—last confession for this week, I swear—I’ve never been a Green Lantern fan.  Space stuff just doesn’t do it for me in comics.  I’m not sure why, but I think it has something to do with enjoying more grounded (as much as you can be, given the subject) comics.  Stuff that happens here, on Earth, with real ramifications for us.  Oddly, I like “space” movies and TV shows.  Apparently just not in my comics.  But, I digress.  Never been a GL fan, love Morrison’s work as a whole, so obviously I’m going to give this one a whirl.  I’m glad I did.  While I have no idea what’s going on in the space portions of this book, it has that trademark Grant Morrison lunacy that I love so much, down to a Green Lantern that’s basically a virus.  “Floozle Flem doesn’t catch you…you catch Floozle Flem.”

So, a Lantern dies and his murderers take off for Earth, where Hal Jordan has been on leave until further notice.  He encounters a colony creature and defeats it with his bare hands, because his ring isn’t charged.  As luck would have it, he finds a crashed spaceship and a Green Lantern inside, who is wounded.  He uses the felled Lantern’s power battery to recharge his ring and chases down the killers from earlier in the issue.  Once he has them in custody, he’s called back to New OA, where the Guardians tell him there is a traitor in their midst.

The issue ends with Controller Mu’s Blackstars gathering components to construct the Anti-Matter Lantern.

I have absolutely no idea what’s going on here, but I kind of love it.  It’s cheeky and absolutely bonkers in a way that only Grant Morrison could make it.  I’ll stick around with this book for a while at least.  All the best Morrison tales suss themselves out in the end.

Liam Sharpe’s are is amazing.  It’s incredibly detailed, and he can go from epic space battle to intimate moments without missing a beat.

THE Green Lantern #1 gets a high rating from me this month.  4/5, recommended.

Which brings us to my book of the week.

Immortal Hulk #8 by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett is simply amazing.  Incredible, you might say.  It is both the culmination of the first two arc of the book and a new beginning.

hulk 8

At Shadow Base, Dr. Clive does what villains do best.  He monologues.  Clive goes into gruesome detail, explaining just how the evil geniuses at Shadow Base carved up the Hulk and put him in so many jars of formaldehyde.  Of course, what he doesn’t know is that the Hulk simply allowed them to cut him up—he was testing his own limits.  In a gruesome scene, the Hulk smashes out of the jars and re-constitutes himself, absorbing Dr. Clive in the process.  This is where Bennett’s art, which I’ve been hard on in previous reviews, actually shines.  The Hulk’s murder of Clive is gory and chilling.

Meanwhile, Carol Danvers enlists the now-Sasquatch-free Walter Langkowski to lead her newly formed Gamma Flight for the express purpose of tracking down the Hulk.  Danvers realizes that Thunderbolt Ross might have dubious plans for the Avenger.

The issue ends as the Hulk transforms back to Banner—and Bennett’s art should be commended here, too—in a seemingly John Carpenter-inspired sequence, as Banner realizes that the Hulk murdered someone, and he’s left to his (mostly) own devices in the New Mexico desert.

Interesting stuff in this issue.  I particularly like that Hulk made a point to tell Clive that when he hurt Banner, Hulk took it personally.  He even steals Clive’s labcoat so Banner will have clothes when he emerges at daybreak.  Interesting, too, are the parallels to Brian Banner, he who has haunted Bruce in one way or another for many years in the Hulk continuity.  We become our parents, and it seems that that’s where Bruce—or the Hulk—is heading.

Al Ewing is still knocking it out of the park with this book.  He’s consistently, for 8 issues now, been the writer of my favorite comic on the shelves.  Which says a lot.  I’m mighty protective of the Hulk character, and Ewing is doing something we’ve not seen in a long time.  He’s made the Hulk scary.

Joe Bennett…I’m still lukewarm on him overall, but those sequences I mentioned earlier do stand out as well suited to the story these folks are telling.  I’m not coming around on him just yet, but I might.  I was reminded while reading this issue of Jeff Purves, who drew the Incredible Hulk from issue 347 to around 367.  When I first saw his art, I was appalled.  Of course, we were coming from McFarlane to Purves.  I hated it.  Proportions seemed off (not in a good way, like McFarlane’s) and everything seemed shiny.  By the end of his run, I had warmed to his work, but then we jumped into Dale Keown’s tenure and I summarily forgot about Jeff Purves.  I feel like that’s where I’m going to land on Joe Bennett’s run on Hulk.  Time will tell, I guess.

The art notwithstanding, this is again my book of the week, earning a rating of 5/5.  Highest possible recommendation for this issue, and this series.

So, what do you think of this format?  Should I keep it for the time being, until the podcast is ready to go?  Should I go back to the “old” way I did them, with a post for each issue reviewed?  Let me know in the comments here, or on Twitter or Facebook.  I’ll see you next week for some more four-color hijinks, with reviews of Superman #5, Captain America #5, Fantastic Four #3 and–drumroll, please–Uncanny X-Men #1.


Return of Wolverine #2 (of 5)

return of wolverine 2


Written by Charles Soule

Art by Declan Shalvey

The Story So Far:

Wolverine, after dying a few years back, has mysteriously returned from the dead.  Resurrected by someone named Persephone via unknown means, Wolverine meets a scientist, Ana, whose son has been kidnapped by Persephone’s group, the Sotiera.  Ana and Wolverine set out to pursue Persephone and recover Ana’s son.

Spoilerific Review:

Issue two opens with Wolvie and Ana in a speedboat, in hot pursuit of Persephone and Ana’s son.  Their boat is faster, but Persephone’s has a headstart, and Logan muses that he and Ana won’t be able to catch them before the reach land.  Nevertheless, he promises Ana that they will save her son.

Persephone sends two agents to intercept Wolverine, and a fight ensues.  One of the agents appears to be Omega Red, but he is dispatched pretty easily.  The other agent and Logan fight an extended battle, which culminates in Wolverine’s claws heating up.  Logan realizes that his claws can ignite the boat’s fuel, and he cuts the line, sprays the Sotiera agent with it and ignites him, ending the fight.

In his rage, Logan almost attacks Ana, but comes to his senses and apologizes as he and Ana reach land.

The issue ends with Jean Grey finding Logan with Cerebra and alerting Kitty Pryde.

What Works:

Ok, I’m going to backtrack here a little.  Maybe I was a little harsh on Soule’s story in my last review.  I said that it felt like he was just checking off boxes, but I’m going to back off on that a little.  Soule’s first issue was a decent set up to what happens in this issue.  The extended fight scene was balls to the wall excitement.  The mystery of Omega Red is something to ponder.  And who was the other agent who had claws like Logan…but a little different?

The most exciting part of the issue was the appearance of the X-Men, at least a couple of them, as this signals a big turn in the story coming soon.  I murmured an audible “yes!” when I turned to that last page.

What Doesn’t Work:

The artwork.  What happened to McNiven?   It felt like a fill in issue, or a backup story in an annual.  Apologies to Declan Shalvey, but this is a drastic dropoff in quality.

Overall better in the story and a de-evolution in the art department, leading to another uneven, however improved, issue.

Rating 3/5

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