“Sandman” and “Preacher” are two of my all-time favorite comics and they both employ very different approaches to storytelling. The former is a literate foray into the supernatural and otherworldly that effectively creates its own world with constant experimental and genre-defying approaches to the stories it tells. As for the latter, it’s a far more straightforward modern-era Western that only dips into the supernatural when necessary and one whose outrageous bits of comedy and violence are grounded by the strong characterization of its cast. I’m not sure that combining these approaches would make for anything good, but that’s what the advance hype for “Pretty Deadly” said it was going to do. The first time I read it validated my fears. Surprisingly, it came off better on the second read, but not enough to make me think that this is anything special.
This volume collects one full arc, “Godkiller,” and the start of the title story. When I heard that this was how Marvel was going to package things, I found it a bit odd. After all, how compatible is a story that deals with the fallout from “Avengers vs. X-Men” going to be with one that looks to be expanding on/retconning the character’s origin story. It turns out to not be that big of a deal in the end as Kieron Gillen has the first arc dovetail into the next quite nicely. That, the change of scenery to outer space, along with the increased stakes and scale of this volume help lift it above the quality of the previous one.
Pretty self-explanatory I should think. Part one can be found here.
Now I know I expressed some concern about the upcoming finale of this series in my thoughts about the upcoming volume. After reading this one, I’m happy to report that they’ve been effectively dispelled. Things start off with an effective epilogue to Abayama’s battle in the previous volume as we find out about the time he first met Anotsu as well as the fate of a minor character I never expected to see again: Anotsu’s crazed grandfather Saburo. Last seen way back in vol. 3, it quickly becomes clear that he has not become more sane with age. Yet the way Abayama deals with this is illuminating both for his character and the series as a whole. This opening then gives way to Kagimura’s crew and their slaughter of the crews of all the ships in a fishing village in order to stymie Anotsu’s escape and flush out the remaining Itto-ryu. Their plan is only half-successful as they only manage to flush out the sword school’s deadliest and most tuberculotic member -- Makie.
While this gives way to some fantastic fights as Makie shows us once again why she’s the most skilled fighter in the entire series, the ante keeps getting upped from there once Manji arrives on the scene, along with Anotsu himself. It’s the latter’s speech after arriving on the scene which provides a catalyzing element for the title’s climax as he acknowledges the futility of the Itto-ryu’s goal as well as the fact that none of the players here can command any kind of moral superiority with all of the blood on their hands. This is pitted against Kagimura’s stubborn insistence that such things are determined by the shogun, and that everyone here now has to die as a result. The ideals of the new pitted against the stubbornness of the old in a fight between people who know no other way to reconcile these differences -- that sums up this series quite well. Well, that, along with the fact that we may yet see Rin show everyone that there’s more to vengeance than living and dying by the sword.
Assuming she and Manji live through fighting that heavily-armored westerner with iron curlers in his hair. As ridiculous as that sounds, the buildup this guy has got for the past few volumes means we’re in for one hell of a fight. October and vol. 30 can’t come soon enough.
(Now that I'm back from Fanime and no longer posting these through my phone, I've gone back and re-done the formatting for the previous four posts. For Comic-Con, I'll just schedule these through the site itself -- which is what I should've done here.)
So it seems that Image’s success has bred competition. BOOM! Studios has been publishing lots of new creator-owned comics over the past year to increasing orders for each #1 issue. Image, while they still sell more comics overall, have been on something of a downward trend during the same time. As of yet, I don’t think I’ve read anything from BOOM! that wasn’t written by Mark Waid, though at the rate they’ve been launching titles I figure it’s only a matter of time before they hit upon a series that’s right up my alley. This competition, however, is a good thing since it can only mean better deals for creators as publishers promote themselves as the place to be for creator-owned work, and find better ways to promote titles in a crowded market place. Ways that will hopefully involve as few variant covers as possible.
There has been a lot of interesting information coming out of the Diamond Retailer Summit being held in Las Vegas this past week. Probably the most interesting bit (don’t worry about spoilers, they’re flagged at the bottom of the page) is the fact that Marvel is successfully teasing the fact that they might finally reboot their comic universe. Granted, this was done in the form of announcing a new “Avengers” event called “Time Runs Out” where the titles will jump forward eight months and the threat of the universal incursions in “New Avengers” finally comes to the attention of/becomes a threat to everyone in the adjectiveless title. While a new event is business as usual, this event was said to involve something Marvel has never done in its 75-year history and given the universe-destroying nature of the threat here “rebooting” looks to be the go-to idea here.
Let me put my cynical fanboy hat on now and say that this sounds like a TERRIBLE idea. While the history of the Marvel Universe is filled with lots of contradictions, plot holes, and plenty of stuff that people would love to forget, it still works a lot better than the mess DC has made with theirs over the years with all of the reboots of varying success they’ve had. To throw all that out in the hopes that it’ll produce some sustained sales growth, well… the people at Marvel may want to take a closer look at how DC’s line is doing these days. The fact that a lot of the “New 52” has lost steam since the reboot is probably a pretty good indication in itself that this buzz Marvel is generating for “Time Runs Out” is clever misdirection if nothing else.
It seems that it’s time for one of DC’s periodic culls of its ongoing titles. With this latest batch of solicitations, the company announced that “All-Star Western,” “Superboy,” “Birds of Prey,” “Batwing,” “Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger,” and “Trinity of Sin: Pandora” will all be wrapping up in August. If you’re guessing by the fact that this is the first time I’ve mentioned some of these titles in a while (if not ever) I’m not exactly broken up about this, then you’d be right. I didn’t find Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s take on “Jonah Hex” to be nearly as compelling as Joe Lansdale’s, “Phantom Stranger” was apparently quite dire until J.M. DeMatteis took over for DC Publisher Dan Didio, and the rest I’ll just give a *collective shrug* to. The cancellation of these titles opens up some room for more new ones in the same “throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks” approach the company has been employing since the start of the “New 52.” Expect to find out what DC has in mind for this at Comic-Con if not sooner.
It’s the end of an era as the final “Star Wars” comics from the company are solicited here. Though I’ve already written plenty about this subject, the fact that they're doing it now makes a good amount of sense. Not only are the actual issues solicited here, but the final trade paperbacks are being advance-solicited for October. Getting them out then will allow the company enough time to make one last, deserved batch of cash before these volumes either go out of print or are reprinted with the “Marvel” logo on their spine. Given that the “Star Wars” novels from the “expanded universe” are going to be kept in print under the “Star Wars Legends” banner, is there a similar plan for the comics published by Dark Horse? Maybe we’ll find out at Comic-Con. However, if the convention comes and goes without any word about this then you’re probably going to want to see about picking up whatever “Star Wars” comics you can before they’re gone for good.
I believe the title here is pretty self-explanatory. While there are a few titles I plan to give a full review of at some point, there were several things that I at least wanted to write something about. Also, with the solicitations coming out this week instead of the previous one, I needed to start banking posts in advance of my trip to Fanime. I’m still going strong there after twelve years! So what can you expect to find after the break? Just some Ennis, Aaron, Arcudi, Hine, Kane, Garney, Robinson, Jimenez and more.
IT’S TIME TO BRING THE THUNDER -- GOD! That’s right, we get a team-up with Thor in this volume as Banner and his lab rats make a trip to Jotunheim in search of a mythical liquid that’s said to only exist at subzero temperatures. Of course, this being Jotunheim that means the Frost Giants are going to get involved in the action sooner rather than later. Though writer Mark Waid does a good job at making the action move at a fast pace, along with a surprisingly heartfelt subplot about the medical problems being faced by one of Banner’s assistants, the real star of this arc is Walt Simonson’s art. Always the definitive writer/artist of “Thor,” the man shows he hasn’t lost a step with the character or his world and serves up some wonderfully intricate art as proof. The energy in Simonson’s work elevates the story as a whole and makes it into a very entertaining ride. This is even though it’s most fantastic moment -- two words: “HULK… WORTHY!!!” -- winds up being a bit of a fake-out.
Unfortunately the second arc here doesn’t have nearly the same level of energy or excitement. It may be another team-up, but it’s one that features a character that Waid knows very well right now: Daredevil. ‘Ol Hornhead and Hulk blaze a trail through New York looking for a missing weapon from a high-tech arms shipment. Even though this story features a character who Waid has been doing great work with, it feels ill-suited to the title character. While the weapon may be “Thor-level ordinance,” the chase through Manhattan for it is decidedly more subtle and low-key than you’d expect from a “Hulk” story. Though a change of pace like this can be a good thing at times, it never quite clicks here. Not helping matters is that Matteo Scalera’s dark and gritty art feels like a real comedown from what Simonson delivers. So between the two arcs, this volume isn’t bad but it does leave you hoping that this downturn in quality doesn’t become a trend.