It’s finally here (in softcover) and yes, the title character does die at the end. I can’t say that I’ve been looking forward to it as the title has been as creatively strong as ever, as seen in its previous volume, and the editorially-mandated origin of the story is abundantly clear. I’ve read stories both good (“Schism”) and bad (“Flashpoint”) that have had that editorially-driven nature about them and this one comes off somewhere in the middle. The bottom line is that this whole story is a manufactured device to kill the main character, but it still manages some graceful and clever bits in its execution.
Rhane “Wolfsbane” Sinclair’s pregnancy was a plot thread inherited by writer Peter David when the character was written out of the Chris Yost/Craig Kyle iteration of “X-Force.” Since then he has managed to get some pretty good mileage out of it by using it as a catalyst for conflict between Rhane, Rictor and Shatterstar That thread comes to a head here as David brings in Feral, Werewolf-by-Night and a whole host of wolf-themed creatures from mythology to fight over who gets to raise the baby. Because he’s going to grow up to be immensely powerful and will be a great asset in this incredible mystical war that’s brewing, you know.
Scott Snyder co-writing something outside the confines of DC and contributing to the new Golden Age of Image is something I was all ready to celebrate (with a reservation or two). “Severed” had huge amounts of buzz going for it, good sales, a unique setting, and some spooky-looking art and covers too. Picking this up in hardcover was a no-brainer and I dove in almost as soon as it arrived from Amazon. Once I finished it, I was left with the feeling that this may wind up as one of the most disappointing things I’ve read this year.
Though the last volume left off on a very interesting cliffhanger, we don’t get to find out its resolution until towards the end of this one. That’s because writer Jason Aaron pursues a dual narrative here where one thread shows us Frank Castle’s time in prison and the forces gathering against him there in the present day. In the other, we get to see a time in the character’s life that I don’t believe has been explored at any length up until now. While we all know that Castle’s family was killed not too long after he came back from Vietnam, what happened during the time that he did spend with them? Aaron knows and the results are good, in spite of his efforts to clobber the reader over the head with his point.
“The Walking Dead” reaches issue #100 this month. It’ll be the fifth Image title to hit that milestone after “Spawn,” “The Savage Dragon,” “Witchblade,” and “The Darkness.” That might not be much to brag about, but not only is it the first title to do so that wasn’t from a company founder, it also outsells all of them right now. Disappointingly, there doesn’t seem to be any bonus content in the issue besides the fact that it’s advertised as being an extra-length installment of the current storyline. This is in contrast to issue #75 which contained a great bonus story from Kirkman and “Invincible” artist Ryan Ottley that showed us the SHOCKING TRUTH behind the zombie invasion. It’s the only issue of the series I own, and it was worth tracking down. There will be eight different covers to commemorate the event, plus a $10 chromium version which is about as decadent as you can get these days. However, if any series deserves it, it’s this one.
Consider this to be “Kick-Ass” done right, or at least in a way that’s not terrible. Luther Strode is your average dateless high school geek whose life starts to change once he gets a bodybuilding guide via mail-order. Unlike the Charles Atlas method of old, the methods in this guide not only make him stronger but also give him powers far beyond that of mortal men. As Luthor and his friend Pete are well aware that with great power comes great responsibility, it’s soon decided that the former’s new powers should be used for (what else but) fighting crime. The problem is that the reason these methods actually gave Luthor superpowers is because the guide is actually the textbook of an ages-old murder cult who have decided that the teen is to become their latest recruit.
So “Spider-Men” now stands revealed as the long-awaited (or dreaded, depending on your point of view) crossover between the “616” and “Ultimate” Marvel Universes. I can’t say that I’m pleased by this, but I guess it was inevitable after the latest round of relaunches failed to bring any real sales spark back to the imprint. The crossover itself should be good, being written by Bendis with art by Sarah Pichelli, but it’s essentially relegating the once-proud “Ultimate” imprint to being just another alternate universe in Marvel continuity. That ticking sound you hear in the background is the countdown to the “Ultimate Crossover” when the universe itself will be destroyed and all of its interesting characters wind up living in the 616 permanently. But I’m getting ahead of myself, that shouldn’t be happening for a couple of years at least. Cynicism continues after the break.
Unemployable students of a Buddhist university take odd jobs from the dead in a series that's as good as it is sales-challenged.
I wasn’t expecting this third volume to have less to offer than the second, but it manages to do just that. Harold Lorre is the sub-titular creature and after being rescued by an unwitting group of survivors, he proceeds to manipulate them for purposes of fulfilling his own sick needs. It’s the setup for a slasher movie, but it at least has the novelty of showcasing the slaughter from the killer’s perspective. For a while, that allows writer David Lapham to have some fun with the setup and show us just how hard it can be to get people to fall into those predictable scenarios -- splitting up, taking unnecessary risks -- that we see in these kinds of stories.
Two new manga series debut from Dark Horse in their latest solicitations. Well, one new one and one new edition of a series previously published by Tokyopop. As all of the collections are advance-solicited by two months, this means that a full year after “Eden vol. 13” came out there’s still no sign of the next volume. With that in mind, I’ll be hitting up the local Kinokuniya before the end of this year to see if I can get my hands on the Japanese editions so I can read the scanlations guilt-free. By doing this, I’m sure that this will cause Dark Horse to finish publishing the series in English to spite me for investing the funds to read it quasi-legally. I realize this comes off as terribly egocentric of me, but it worked when I imported “Xenoblade” from the U.K. Sooooooooo, maybe here too?