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

Return of Wolverine #1 (of 5)



return of wolverine 1


Written by Charles Soule

Pencils by Steve McNiven

Inks by Jay Leisten

The Story So Far:

Wolverine died.  When a virus effectively shuts off his healing factor, Logan’s enemies all try to kill him. Wolvie confronts Doctor Cornelius, the man who gave him his adamantium skeleton, and discovers that Cornelius is trying to replicate that very experiment, but he needs Wolverine’s healing factor.  Cornelius loses it and unleashes his latest creation when he discovers that Logan no longer has his healing factor.  Wolverine defeats Cornelius’ creation, but he is covered with molten adamantium, which hardens on Logan’s body, and he suffocates.

Spoilerific Review:

Wolverine wakes up in a destroyed laboratory, with no memory of who he is, or what he is.  He’s attacked by a sabre-tooth tiger, but is rescued by a woolly mammoth.  He sees different reflections of himself—Patch, Wolverine, Weapon X–telling him who he is, but he doesn’t believe it.  He finds his way outside and discovers a motorcycle and gun from a downed soldier nearby.  He takes them and heads towards a camp in the distance.

The camp is overrun by mysterious, mute soldiers, who are hunting and killing what look like scientists.  Wolverine bursts onto the scene and shoots a guard, who bears the markings and powers of Omega Red.  That guard gets up and snipes Logan’s motorcycle, throwing him into a rock, and into a fever dream where he meets Persephone, who tells him that nothing in the prison block they stand in can get out unless Wolverine lets it out.  She hands him a key and suggests he do just that, telling him that she’s the one who brought him back to life as he is being shaken out of his stupor by  a female scientist who tells him he is Wolverine.  He still doesn’t know who that is, but notes that his wounds heal, except for one on his side.  The scientist offers to stitch him up if he will help her retrieve her son, who the Sotiera have kidnapped.  The facility they are in is a Sotiera base for cloning.

The scientist recounts an encounter Wolverine had, and why he wears blue and yellow—to draw attention to himself from villain’s victims—as Logan gets dressed in a black uniform he finds in the medical bay.  He decided to let out Wolverine in his mind, with the key that Persephone gave him, and he mentions her name to the scientist.  Turns out Persephone is the architect of Sotiera, and the scientist calls her the devil.

The issue ends with Wolverine popping his claws, suggesting that he and the scientist go and meet Persephone.

What works:

The ART.  Holy cow.  McNiven is absolutely on point with this book.  His style is reminiscent of Barry Windsor-Smith’s in the Weapon X serial from the old Marvel Comics Presents series.  Definitely puts you in a nostalgic mood, and it is very evocative of that 80’s to 90’s feel of Wolverine.  Back when he didn’t remember his past, and it didn’t matter.

The Pacing.  The book read fast, and slick.  Like an action movie on steroids.  You really don’t know what all is going on, but I’m sure we will have some answers by the end of the mini-series.

What doesn’t work:

The story.  Sad to say, it kind of felt like we were just ticking off boxes on a list.  “Ok, Wolverine has to get a motorcycle, because that’s what Wolvie does.”  “Ok, now he’s got to pop his claws.”  “Ok now we need to make sure he knows he can heal.”  It felt very rote.  At first I thought I was opposed to the idea of bringing Wolverine back at all, but I warmed to the idea.  I had a visceral reaction to Logan not knowing who he was, similar to the whole “stuffing the rabbit back in the hat” of Spider-Man’s identity post Civil War I back in the early 2000’s.  That passed and I’m willing to go along for the ride, if only to find out where this is all going, but I really hope this gets better from here.

Rating 2/5


Immortal Hulk #6

hulk 6



Written by Al Ewing

Art by Lee Garbett

The Story So Far:

Since coming back from the dead, Hulk has manifested when Banner dies, which resurrects Banner each time.  Bruce wanders the country, looking for ways to strategically use the Hulk for good as a way to atone for his past crimes.  He is confronted by Sasquatch—Walter Langkowski of Alpha Flight—who was apparently losing control of his animal side.  In the battle it becomes apparent that Sasquatch is possessed by the spirit of Brian Banner.  To defeat Langkowski, the Hulk absorbs the radiation that created Langkowski’s alter-ego…and Brian Banner came along for the ride.

Spoilerific Review:

Since the showdown with Walter Langkowski, Bruce has kept the Hulk wrapped up tight in his psyche, because he fears something else came over with the radiation that Hulk absorbed.  He tries to commune with the Hulk in a new way, by allowing his unconscious mind  to write out a message with pen and paper.  He gets a one word response: “home”.  Bruce, as if he doesn’t know, ponders where home is, as the scene shifts to Betty Banner in California.

She is watching news reports of a Hulk sighting.  She doesn’t want to believe that it’s Bruce, and while she tries to convince herself of that, we come to realize that she is being watched, along with Leonard Samson and Rick Jones’ gravesite, for any appearance of Bruce Banner by a creepy shadow organization.  Turns out that these Minority Report inspired psychics are controlled by General Fortean, Thunderbolt Ross’ hand-picked successor to oversee Hulk Operations.  In this secret base, a team of scientists work on a man named Del Frye—a nod to “The First” from the old Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno Hulk TV series from the ‘70’s and ‘80’s.  The scientists, in order to make progress on their experiment, need a Hulk, or a Hulk-like being.  Fourtean suggests they find Sasquatch.

Langkowski is being checked out by Alpha Flight’s Shaman, who tells him that Sasquatch was possessed by a primal force, “creation’s other face”, a force of darkness.  Carol Danvers shows up to tell Walter that he is being extradited for crimes committed while he was Sasquatch, but that General Fourtean is willing to leave him be if Alpha Flight can bring in Bruce Banner.  Carol suggest that without Langkowski on the team, they can’t take the Hulk…but the Avengers can.

The issue ends with Carol and the Avengers confronting Bruce, heading to New Mexico from Minnesota.  Captain Marvel says that she knows that the only way the Hulk can save Bruce is if Banner dies, and she’s not about to let that happen.  “That’s my secret, Captain,” Bruce says in a callback to the first Avengers movie, “I’m already dead,” as he transforms into the Hulk, ready for a fight.

What Works:

The callbacks.  Wow, this run already feels like the old Bixby/Ferrigno TV series, but with things like hitching a ride at the end of the issue, and the sneaky reference to “The First”, this issue gave me a nostalgia trip.  And I loved every second of it.

Bringing in the Big Guns:  Always nice to see the Avengers, and that ending was perfect.  Now I’m spoiling for a fight, and ready for the next issue to come out already.  I love seeing Captain Marvel in a leadership role, too.  And Iron Man in his “Hulkbuster” armor.

Betty Banner:  She’s essential to the Hulk.  Her character is a wonderful counterpoint to Bruce, and she’s the Hulk’s outrigger, his stabilizer.  Or has been in the past.  It was a short cameo, but she’ll be back, I hope, for the inevitable showdown with Bruce.

What Doesn’t Work:

Not much, again.  This series is knocking it out of the park every single issue.  It’s the best book Marvel is offering right now, bar none.  I literally have no complaints about this issue.  Even the guest art, which is usually a failing of many a title, is on point.  Moody and dark.  Brooding, just like this book.  And that is the best possible way to present the Hulk.  This series feels at once like a revisiting of all the best Hulk runs in the past, Peter David’s, Al Milgrom’s, Bruce Jones’, and at the same time a refreshing take on one of Marvel’s longest running and most beloved characters.

Rating 5/5

West Coast Avengers #2

wca 2


Written by Kelly Thompson

Art by Stefano Caselli

The Story So Far:

Kate Bishop has assembled a new West Coast Avengers team to combat the rising wave of super crime on the…well, the west coast.  To get funding for her new team, Kate agrees to let a film crew follow them around.  The team is put to the test when Tigra shows up…but she’s giant.  And mad.  And doesn’t seem to recognize Clint Barton.  Kate is just about to let Quentin Quire shut down Tigra’s brain when a new hero appears: B.R.O.D.O.K.!

Spoilerific Review:

The issue opens with the battle against Tigra, which is not going as well as it could.  B.R.O.D.O.K. offers to help and flies up to Tigra while the team watches and discusses how B.R.O.D.O.K. is obviously M.O.D.O.K. in disguise.  Everyone is in agreement that this is the case, even Fuse, who has no idea who M.O.D.O.K. is.  Quire notes that B.R.O.D.O.K. has mental blocks in place, which are very similar to the ones that Tigra has in place.  Meanwhile B.R.O.D.O.K. (man, that is a pain to type out each time) manages to convince Tigra to leave, which she does.  Kate, invites B.R.O.D.O.K. back to the WCA’s HQ, where Pizza Dog is waiting!  He doesn’t do anything else, I just love Pizza Dog, and feel like he should get a shout out.

At the HQ, the team grills B.R.O.D.O.K. about who he is and where he came from.  He claims to be the owner of “Advance Image Mechanics”, a company that plays into the self-image conscious west coast population “realize their most perfect selves”.  B.R.O.D.O.K. discovered that, after many not-dates looking for a soulmate, his true calling was to become a hero and when he sees the West Coast Avengers battling Tigra, he decides to make that dream a reality.

The team is skeptical, and decides to split up, with America, Quire, and Gwenpool babysitting B.R.O.D.O.K. while Kate and Clint go investigate his AIM facility and see if they can find out how B.R.O.D.O.K. is controlling Tigra.  The team staying behind watch “Weekend at Bernie’s 2” with B.R.O.D.O.K. and the Hawkeyes set out on their mission.

While at the AIM facility, Kate and Clint find only patient files written in code before they trip an alarm and have to vacate the premises, but not before a joke about how Kate’s super hero costume doesn’t have pockets.

Back at the HQ, Quentin and Gwen are in a heated argument about whether they should watch the original Weekend At Bernie’s.  Quire doesn’t think it will do any good, and Gwen thinks that it will clear up questions she has about the motivations of the sequel.  They end up making out, even though they claim to hate each other, which sends the rest of the team out of the room.

Kate and Clint arrive, as B.R.O.D.O.K. is getting ready to leave, but Kate, thinking that they need to keep an eye on him, offers him a bunk at the HQ.  She orders Clint to stand watch first.

Early in the morning, B.R.O.D.O.K. snoops around the headquarters and finds his files in one of the desks, which pushes him over the edge to villain-dom, claiming he has been betrayed.  He calls his “Pretties” to him, which are revealed to be…Giant Size Tigra and some other, shadowed, large figures, as the issue ends.

What Works:

The humor, for the most part, still drives the story.  If you’re looking for a brooding, dark, dissection of what it is to be a hero, or how a team is going to work together, you should probably look elsewhere.  This is not the book for that.  B.R.O.D.O.K. is annoying, but he’s meant to be.

Kate as the leader.  She’s come into her own in recent years, and this is the culmination of that character growth.  Though she is good at second guessing herself, she’s an effective leader with good instincts.

Pizza Dog!  That is all.

The Gwen/Quire love-hate thing.  Ok.  Like I said last issue, I really don’t like Gwenpool.  Or Deadpool.  But giving me a character like Quentin who obviously feels the same way…but obviously doesn’t.  That?  That is classic comedy.  I wasn’t expecting it, and I kind of love it.  Highlight of the issue for me.  Since I felt the same way about Gwenpool that Kid Omega did, and he’s really got the hots for her, what does that say about me?

Who are the “Pretties”?!  Two if the outlines kind of look like Ant-Man and the Wasp.  Can’t tell for sure, and the others are too vague to know.  I’m definitely looking forward to the next issue!

What Doesn’t Work:

Some of the humor, like the “no pockets” joke, seem played out.  I’ve seen enough memes and so on shared around social media that the “women’s pants don’t have pockets” joke is literally becoming a trope now.  And I realize it’s a real thing, but it’s treated as a joke, which makes it tired.  It feels cheap when held up to the earned humor in the other areas of the issue.

B.R.O.D.O.K. mostly because his head is so big.  And because his name is hard to type so often.

Overall, a really solid issue.  Comedy and action, which is always good.  Solid writing for the most part, and a personal revelation along the way.

Rating 4/5