Witch & Wizard vol. 1

September 29, 2011

Let me start by telling you about the baggage I brought to reading this.  Long-time readers will know that I like Svetlana Chmakova’s work and I was looking forward to reading more of “Nightschool” after the first arc was done.  She teased at the end of vol. 4 that it wasn’t going to happen right away because of a “secret project” that had to come first.  When I read that I thought that whatever it was needed to be very special to overcome the, “Oh, let’s see what I’m getting instead of the next volume of ‘Nightschool,’” that I was going to apply to it.

Then it was revealed that this project was an adaptation of James Patterson’s young adult fantasy novel.

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The Astounding Wolf-Man vol. 2

September 28, 2011

Short version:  Yeah, I guess I will be picking up vol. 3 after all.

This second volume zips along quite well now that the setup is out of the way and Robert Kirkman can focus on developing the characters.  We see Gary teaming up with the werewolf who gave him his curse as he trains to find a way to kill Zechariah and find a way to deal with all of the government agents out to get him.  As for his vampire former mentor, we actually find out his origin and the reason as to why vampires haven’t taken over the world.  It’s a pretty simple and clever one and the way in which it’s revealed adds some depth and sympathy to Zechariah’s character.

The team-up with Invincible is also featured here and while I liked reading it when it was collected in vol. 11 of that series, it reads better now that I know what Gary’s deal is.  Though the series itself doesn’t break any new ground, it’s still very enjoyable and easy to get caught up in thanks to Kirkman’s smart writing and Zach Howard’s sharp art.  There are also more than enough plot threads in play to hold my attention and get me to pick up the next two volumes -- sometime in the future.

Ultimate Origins

September 27, 2011

I don’t think the Ultimate Universe really needed an origin story based on a few lines of dialogue that Brian Michael Bendis cooked up for Bruce Banner back in the third issue of “Ultimate Marvel Team-Up.”  Yet here we are anyway.  At first, it’s pretty boring as we’re shown the initial test of the super-soldier serum with Nick Fury and the creation of the mutant genome with James “Wolverine” Howlett.  There are some changes and tweaks to each character’s origin, but I can’t say that moving things more toward “realistic” actually makes them any more interesting.

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Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis

September 24, 2011

And that’s a wrap.  This is Warren Ellis’ last “Astonishing” arc and with it, it’s safe to say that not only has he done better creator-owned work, but better work with Marvel’s superheroes as well.  Though his arcs had ideas and his considerable wit behind them, they were either badly paced or felt stretched out to fill a collection.  “Xenogenesis” is no different as the team heads to Africa after a series of “mutant” births are reported.  Once there, they find out that a much deadlier threat is afoot which has its ties in not only one of Ellis’ previous arcs, but in deep “Excalibur” and “Captain Britian” history as well.  It’s competently told, with some interesting twists, and Kaare Andrews delivers some truly distinctive and eye-catching art.  His work really brings the African countryside and its surroundings to life, and delivers some intense action scenes.  Too bad that his Emma Frost is so ridiculous -- he was clearly shooting for self-parody and it’s not a style she wears well.

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Blood Blockade Battlefront vol. 1

September 23, 2011

“Trigun,” the anime, is a true classic of the medium.  Not only did it thrive on the sometimes whiplash-inducing shifts from comedy to drama, its creators also told a satisfying story after they adapted the entirety of the manga published at the time (something that all Shonen Jump anime seem to have a problem with).  I never got into the manga as much because I was borrowing it from the same friend who loaned me “Hellsing,” and, well, after the anime concluded, I didn’t really feel the need to find out how the “official” version ended.  Still, there’s no denying that its creator Yasuhiro Nightow has a gift for coming up with distinctive characters and art, so I figured I’d give the first volume of his new series a shot.

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Comic Picks #90: Star Wars — Dark Times

September 22, 2011

It's deja vu all over again!  I talk about another "Star Wars" series I picked up at Comic-Con.

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Sweet Tooth vol. 1: Out Of The Deep Woods

September 20, 2011

Believe it or not, I’m still going through the comics I’ve bought at Comic-Con.  Blame it on a mix of having games to play (like “Xenoblade” which is excellent and worth importing and modding your Wii), more new comics to read, and other stuff.  I can’t say that I wish I had gotten to this particular title sooner, but it does make me curious to see where it goes.  The story centers around Gus, a mutant survivor in a post-apocalyptic world distinguished by his deer-like antlers and ears.  He’s lived his whole life with his god-fearing dad never venturing beyond the boundary of their property.  That changes once his dad passes away and a man named Jeppard saves him from some hunters.  Jeppard tells him of “The Preserve,” a place for his kind.  Not having anything to keep him around, or knowing any better, Gus follows him into the world.

Writer/artist Jeff Lemire’s vision of the post-apocalypse isn’t that unique, though he knows enough to tease us with tidbits about its origin and the mystery of Gus and his kind to keep our interest.  The relationship between Gus and Jeppard isn’t all that different either, but he still manages to sell us on the fact that the man eventually does come to care about this strange little boy.  What sets this apart from the rest of its genre is Lemire’s style, with his sketchy, impressionistic art and use of silence in his storytelling.  Yes, that does mean there are a lot of panels with no text and people standing around, but Lemire is a good enough storyteller to give these scenes a convincing subtext to help further the story.  Imagine “The Road” directed by Takeshi Kitano and you’ll have an idea of the style on display here.  It’s different, but good.  Good enough to where the cliffhanger ending actually made me go, “I’d like to read more of this!”

Uncanny X-Men: Breaking Point

September 19, 2011

As I said last time, I’m expecting great things from Kieron Gillen’s tenure on “Uncanny X-Men.”  Everything he has done so far at Marvel has been worth reading if not outright excellent.  That said, the series is currently in a transitional period as the new direction for the franchise is being laid out in “Schism.”  Plans for that were likely in place before Gillen was brought on board, so you get the feeling that he was told to not start anything long-term with these issues.  After reading them, I can say that at least they show he’s quite good at killing time.

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Groo: The Hogs of Horder

September 16, 2011

When asked “What do you say to people who think that ‘Groo’ is a one-joke comic?” artist/creator Sergio Aragones responded, “They probably wouldn’t get the joke anyway.”  I believe the exchange can be found in the “Groo 25th Anniversary Special” and it underlines the series core concept:  Having the title character be dumber than any rational standard would allow for.  That being said, when you’ve got a character defined in such a way the entertainment usually comes from the situations they’re thrust into than any growth or development (see also:  “Golgo 13”).  It’s why “Groo” works best as a vehicle for satire, from the moral lessons contained in his early issues to making light of real-world issues in his latter days.

Keeping with that trend, “Hogs of Horder” is all about our current economic crisis and its origins.  Now, the last “Groo” story “Hell on Earth” failed in my opinion because it was too on the nose.  It felt like Aragones and writer Mark Evarnier were hammering the reader with their thoughts on what was wrong with the world and how it should be fixed rather than just telling us a story and letting us infer the meaning.  Here, while it’s still obvious what their targets are, everything is one step removed from our reality so it still functions as a proper “Groo” story.  There’s also a lot of fun to be had in figuring out who is representing what here, and the comedy works much better here too (especially Evarnier’s list of true facts that he made up at the end of the collection).

Wolverine Goes to Hell

September 15, 2011

If nothing else, I think this has the best title of anything I’ve read this year.  Think about it, “Wolverine Goes To Hell.”  There’s a beautiful simplicity to it that tells you exactly what you’re going to get inside.  Now I can understand that you might be concerned that this might be a bait-and-switch on Marvel’s part, but let me assure you -- Logan does wind down below with some bad, bad men, a few familiar faces, and lots of nasty demons.  It might not be the Hell that readers of the Marvel Universe are familiar with, but this is ultimately another good contribution to writer Jason Aaron’s run of Wolverine stories.

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