It may seem crazy, at first glance, to take elements of “Peter Pan” and retell the story in a WWII setting. However, writer Kurtis Wiebe actually manages to pull it off incredibly well. The problem is that while he does a good job of selling the core idea, its execution is a little more problematic.
As someone who likes the “Knights of Sidonia” manga, I was planning on taking some time out from my *ahem* busy schedule of gaming and comics reading to check out the anime that’s being made out of it. Now, after the runaway success of the “Attack on Titan” anime last year, I was kinda hoping (as I’m sure “Sidonia’s” American publisher Vertical was too) that the “Sidonia” anime would be popular enough to spur sales of the manga in a similar fashion. So imagine my surprise when I read on Anime News Network the other day that the twelve-episode series has already finished its run and announced a second season. The “second season” part is encouraging, though the first seems to have come and gone in Japan without much fanfare. I find that disappointing, yet maybe the title’s English release on Netflix early next month will at least get some buzz for it going in the States.
Meanwhile, rumors of the Ultimate Universe’s end are starting up again. In the wake of “Cataclysm,” the line was three titles strong with “Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man,” “All-New Ultimates,” and “Ultimate FF.” Now, “Ultimate FF” is done and “Ultimates” is rumored to be on the chopping block again. “Ultimate Spider-Man” will likely continue no matter what universe it’s set in, though it looks like that might be the one everyone is familiar with. Why’s that? Well, it may be that one of the events (if not “the” event) in “Time Runs Out” may involve the Ultimate Universe making an incursion into the main Marvel Universe. I speculated on this possibility a while back, and now after actually reading “Cataclysm,” such an act almost feels like a mercy for this once proud Universe.
That title should give you a pretty good idea as to what we’re in for with this volume. After several single-issue stories, the dinosaur who is also a doctor and as dumb as he is clever gets a miniseries of his own. As Robo’s most noteworthy (read: only significant) recurring antagonist, this would seem to be the perfect time to show that the character is more than a one-note joke and capable of sustaining a longer narrative. The good news is that we find out that while Dr. Dinosaur is utterly incapable of anything resembling growth as a character, he’s still a fun and worthy antagonist for the title character. Unfortunately, the bad news is that the other recurring antagonist we see in this volume isn’t nearly as interesting.
Hellboy’s roots may have been in WWII, but we haven’t seen a whole lot of stories in the Mignolaverse set during that time. “Sledgehammer 44” aims to correct that with it’s story of a Vril-powered armored suit -- nicknamed Sledgehammer -- fighting on the side of the Allies during the war. What’s it’s job? To take out crazy Nazi mecha and their superpowered agents such as the Black Flame. The first story in the volume introduces us to the title character and the group of army grunts backing him up on a mission in France. Though the battle is won, the grunts wind up having to wheel Sledgehammer out of the area and right through Nazi territory. Mignola co-writes with John Arcudi, and the latter continues to demonstrate here, as he has in “B.P.R.D.,” that he’s got a knack for writing good “army grunt” characters and dialogue. If it wasn’t for that, then it’s not likely we’d care about the fate of the group through this story and the strange journey that Pvt. Redding winds up taking during its course. (That part is pure Mignola.) Jason Latour handles the art here, and his style -- full of sharp angles -- works well here as he gives us some nice, clean action sequences and makes the dramatic parts hit hard. The sequence involving Redding after the pitched fighting that opens the second half is particularly gut-wrenching.
The second arc, entitled “Lightning War,” has Sledgehammer dealing with the changes he underwent in the first part. As he struggles with his newfound status quo, we see Hitler himself paying a visit to the imprisoned Black Flame who then helps capture an experimental Allied plane and its pilot. Naturally, Sledgehammer finds the motivation to get back in the fight after being asked to aid in the rescue of the pilot and the plane. We’re into more B-movie territory here with lots of fighting, explosions, and melodramatic dialogue as our protagonist takes on the Black Flame. Though artist Laurence Campbell does give the story a darker look, and he makes the Black Flame look as sinister as he deserves to be, it’s harder to get invested in the events here than it was in the first arc. Those army grunts were quite likeable and most of the characters here are stock types meant to fulfill a particular need of the plot. Even Sledgehammer himself eventually winds up coming off like a second-rate Hellboy with his deadpan commentary on the action around him. Things do end in an unexpected way which suggests that this will be the only volume about the title character’s exploits (in spite of the “1” on its spine). If that’s the case, then I’m fine with it as these stories were diverting enough and any follow-up seems better suited to the pages of “B.P.R.D.” than another miniseries.
The best argument yet for shutting down Marvel's Ultimate imprint.
He’s been trying for years to create a series that could stand alongside “The Walking Dead” and “Invincible” as long-running comic series, and it looks like Robert Kirkman has managed to hit it out of the park with his latest. Early word is that his new horror series “Outcast,” with artist Paul Azaceta, has outsold the two most recent issues of “The Walking Dead” in sales to comic book stores. Given that his last effort, “Thief of Thieves,” launched with around 20K this is a monstrous success for the creators and for Image -- and without any variant covers for its first issue. The caveat here is that sales are likely to crash after this first issue after the speculators and the curious eventually decide that it’s not worth their time to follow. I hate being cynical about this, but this is ALWAYS the case and it’s going to happen here.
Well… it didn’t happen for “Saga,” so there are always exceptions. I’d like to be optimistic about “Outcast’s” chances except years of following comics sales charts have told me that’s a losing proposition.
It was announced today that Anime Expo would have another special guest at this year’s convention. Eiji Ohtsuka, the writer of “The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service” and “MPD-Psycho” will be giving a lecture and overseeing two workshops at this year’s convention. I’ll admit that his presence makes passing up this year’s convention just a little more hard, but I think I can make do with whatever summaries of his panels that come down the vine afterwards. (Those of you wondering who would get me to show up to AX or any other anime con that isn’t Fanime, I have one name for you: Hiroaki Samura.) Ohtsuka’s presence is noteworthy not just because this is his first visit to a convention out here, but also because Dark Horse is preparing to release the 11th volume of “MPD-Psycho” after a hiatus of more than two years. For those of you keeping track at home, “Kurosagi” hasn’t been gone for as long though it may not be until 2015 that we see a new volume. Assuming that this is now the standard wait time for new volumes of sales-challenged Dark Horse manga.
After two volumes, we finally get a traditional superhero story involving the time-displaced X-Men. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed seeing young Scott, Bobby, Hank, Warren and Jean interact with their modern-day counterparts and the rest of the X-Men, but even Bendis has his limits as to how long he can make superheroes sitting around and talking come off as interesting. So we get an appropriately old-school scheme from Mystique, Sabretooth and Lady Mastermind as they go on a worldwide crime spree to frame the time-displaced mutants and steal a ton of money to further their nefarious plans. It’s certainly not an original plan, but there’s a certain novelty to it in the sense that it’s the kind of plot the time-traveling mutants would’ve had to deal with back in the early days of their title’s run. Even though the volume kicks off on an anticlimactic note -- anyone who also reads Bendis’ “Uncanny X-Men” already knew which X-man would be defecting to Cyclops’ team -- things do pick up from there. We get an encounter between this group and the Uncanny Avengers, allowing Havok to meet his “younger” brother and for Jean Grey to freak out at finding out about the Scarlet Witch’s “No More Mutants” episode, and then the X-Men throw down against Mystique and company. So there’s some good action here and it allows artist Stuart Immonen to show that he’s great at handling these kinds of scenes, along with all of the talking heads.
That’s not to say that all of the dialogue and character interaction we get here is substandard compared to the previous volumes. Kitty Pryde gets a good sequence where she states her own thoughts on Havok’s infamous “M-word” speech, and it works as a nice takedown of such and character moment as well. With all due respect to Havok, it’s also nice seeing him bond with young Cyclops in a way that we’ve never seen the two do before. I’m less sold on some of the things we see in the final issue here, which has some nice art from David Lafuente and serves as a bit of downtime before the “Battle of the Atom” crossover kicks off. Though I can believe that Beast felt the way he did about Jean back in the day, she seems way too accepting of the feelings of his younger self for it to come off as plausible (unless she’s doing it as a way to derail her future with Scott, which would be a more interesting path to pursue). I’m also surprised that the girls Scott and Bobby encounter in Salem Center are so accepting of them, given the former’s status as an outlaw mutant revolutionary. These aren’t dealbreaking issues, however, and I found that there was enough quality material here to hold my interest and have me looking forward to seeing where things go from here.
Apparently Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter is so incensed at the terms of the deal struck between the company and Fox that allows the latter to make films involving the “Fantastic Four,” that the comic series would be cancelled in the run-up to the new film arriving next year. This has been denied by several people at Marvel, including senior editor Tom Brevoort. Brevoort’s denial was also given a very entertaining going-over by Rich Johnston to expose the many ways it didn’t actually deny that the basic story was true. Given how Matt Fraction’s relaunch of the series misfired badly and James Robinson’s take hasn’t set the world on fire -- yet, anyway -- one would think that taking the title off the stands for a while and then relaunching it later would be a good way to build interest in the Fantastic Four again. After all, that seems to be the company’s plan for Wolverine this month.
Who would’ve thought that the legacy of Han Solo would be less interesting to read about than Luke Skywalker’s. That’s something which continues to be true here as the story of Han’s granddaughter Ania doesn’t do much to improve on the first volume. After surviving Darth Wredd’s plans in the Carreras system, Ania Solo and Imperial Knight Jao Assam find themselves being escorted back to Coruscant so the Galactic Triumvirate can find out what they know. Unfortunately, the Triumvirate makes it clear they have no intention of pursuing Wredd at this time. If you think that causes Solo and Assam to decline their hospitality/disobey their orders, then you’d be correct. The two follow the Sith’s trail to the former Mon Calamari homeworld of Dac, which is now a poisonous ocean surrounded by remnants of the planet’s once-mighty shipyards. It’s within this broken ring that another Sith plot is being hatched and our protagonists are going to have to stop before it endangers the entire galaxy.
Business as usual for a “Star Wars” title? That’s pretty much the case here as the storytelling and plotting and predictable from beginning to end. Even though she’s descended from one of the most memorable rogues in science fiction, Ania still feels like a very bland protagonist. Her rebellious actions feel more like they’re serving the plot than her character, and the same goes for Assam as well. Yeah, Cade Skywalker may have come across as a drug-addled jerk more often than not, but at least he had an actual personality and character traits. Writers Corinna Bechcko and Gabriel Hardman at least give us a story that makes sense and takes us to some interesting planets, and that’s about it. The same goes for artist Brian Albert Thies, who manages stylistic consistency with Hardman’s style from the previous volume, and not much else. It all ends on a dumb note when Wredd pops up again to let Ania and Jao know that they’ve just helped him out in a big way. Nothing he does in this volume makes his Sith name any less silly, and I’m now left wishing we’d got more issues of John Ostrander and Jan Duursema’s “Legacy” instead of getting this new one.