There really isn’t that much to talk about with the publisher right now. It’s been one of those months. However, they did announce at Kumoricon that they’ll be releasing the “Fate/Zero” manga that was adapted from the prequel novel for the popular series. Adaptations like this are usually of inconsistent quality, so I don’t see any reason to get excited about it. It is, however, another conservative license for the manga publishing side of the company. Let’s hope that whatever success it enjoys allows them to fund the acquisition and release of more esoteric titles in the future. Like the Mamoru Oshii/Satoshi Kon joint that’s mentioned in this month’s solicitations.
It was recently noted by DC co-publisher Dan Didio that it has been almost ten years since the “Countdown to Infinite Crisis” one-shot that heralded one of the publisher’s most successful crossovers. “Success” in this case being defined in the amount of sales it racked up along with the buzz it generated. The actual quality left a bit to be desired, but we did get two good miniseries and (eventually) one good ongoing from it so things weren’t a total wash. Anyway, with all the time that has passed, Didio teased the idea of doing it one better now. Given how we’re still living with the changes from the last universe-altering crossover I can only hope that he’s kidding. Or at least trolling his audience in much the same way that Marvel is trolling theirs with talk about their own reboot.
Meanwhile, Darwyn Cooke delivers double-page covers to a grip of DC comics this month. All of them look fantastic in their artistry and how they suggest a more wholesome and less violent comics universe than what we have right now. It’s odd that the company would commission work like this from a creator whose style is almost diametrically opposed to what they’ve been publishing (and yes, I know that Cooke has illustrated a couple issues of “All-Star Western,” but that’s anachronistic in its own way). Yet the results are undeniably great, so I’ll try to deal with the inconsistency by not thinking too hard about it.
Hrm… Had I realized that this was going to be the last volume of this title, I probably would’ve postponed the podcast for another year. The issue is moot now, as mangaka Motoro Mase’s drama about a society where people who are randomly injected with a capsule as children will die early deaths as adults has finished in much the same way as it has carried on through its run. Are parts of this volume overwrought? Oh yes. Does it contain more than a little bit of silliness? Most assuredly. Is it satisfying if you’re willing to look past these two issues? If you’ve made it this far into the series, then the answer is “Yes.”
There’s only one more volume left in this series and it’s going to be painful to buy. Why? Because it’s only going to collect the last three issues of this series plus an “updated handbook of the ‘Legacy’ era” according to Amazon. I’m also not encouraged by the fact that the online retailer isn’t listing the page count for this forthcoming vol. 4. I’ll be buying it anyway more for the fact that it’s likely to go right out of print after it’s published and the rights revert back to Marvel. While Marvel has already announced that they’re going to be bringing some of the Dark Horse “Star Wars” comics back into print, their first announced collection is a Darth Vader-centric one. Which suggests that they’re going to give priority to the stories that aren’t likely to be kicked out of continuity by the forthcoming “Episode VII.”
Now, if you’re thinking that all of this is more interesting to me than the actual contents of “Wanted: Ania Solo,” you’d be right. Co-writers Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman’s exploration of the “Legacy” era has been fairly underwhelming so far and what we get here doesn’t do anything to change how I feel about that.
There are times when a creator is telling a story that goes in a direction that you think is a really bad idea. Kieron Gillen was doing this in the previous volume of this title as Tony Stark found out from crafty Rigellian Recorder 451 that his genius had been genetically engineered to give humans a fighting chance to join the interstellar community. The idea that Stark’s greatness was not his own, well… it diminishes the character. Of course, there are also times when the creator reveals that the direction he was going down was just a swerve to throw you off the track and you feel silly for not realizing what he was doing sooner. Gillen also does this here and I feel appropriately chastised for thinking that he was going to diminish Stark’s character. The revelation is actually set up pretty well 451’s plans being undone by some clever misdirection on the part of Tony’s parents, Howard and Maria Stark. It leads the A.I. to a disturbing end as he considers his monstrous actions, and some more surprises for the title character.
One of them shows him to be more like Steve Jobs than before, while the other… will be interesting to see how Gillen develops him in the remaining issues of his run. My gut feeling is that he’ll be pushed to the background after this, but the writer clearly has plans for this guy and I’ve learned to trust his instincts over the years. Aside from these character-and-origin-changing revelations, the rest of the volume gives us some good sci-fi action as Stark and his armory have to find clever ways to hold off 451, and the always-welcome-in-a-Gillen-book Death’s Head. All of this is well-drawn by Dale Eaglesham and Carlo Pagulyan, with Greg Land continuing to surprise at how well he does sci-fi. Overall, “The Secret Origin of Tony Stark” was a great action/adventure story with a lot of twists I didn’t see coming. It left me entertained and I can’t complain about that.
What we get here is a real letdown compared to the excellence of the previous volume. That’s mainly because Marvel decided that this collection could be better served by reprinting the Dardevil team-up from Waid’s run on “Indestructible Hulk.” If you’ll recall, I found that particular story to be fairly underwhelming. It’s a shame that it has to pad things out here because the stories we get from “Daredevil” proper are really great.
This volume has a bit more going on in it than the previous ones. In the four issues collected here from the main series, the cast deals with the fallout of “Battle of the Atom,” and tangles with the Purifiers. Then, to pad things out, “X-Men: Gold” is also collected here. It’s a one-shot featuring work from some of the most well-known writers to work on the “X-Men” over the years and is very much a mixed bag. Fortunately the Bendis-written issues that precede it offer up some more consistent enjoyment.
Mia Fleming hates Suzanne, her new stepmom. So when she goes along with Mia’s dad on his annual mountain retreat, Mia makes it her business to find out just what kind of person has wormed her way into her family. With the help of some friends, and a stolen addressbook, they find out that Suzanne has more than a few skeletons hiding in her closet. The suitcase full of cash and bloody knife in the ziploc bag are going to take some explaining, but they don’t have a fish whispering in their ear to kill whoever upsets them like her ex-boyfriend Daniel does. While what Mia and her friends do could be filed under the aegis of “dumb teenagers in a suspense movie” writer/artist David Lapham actually gives his cast more personality and depth than they likely would’ve gotten if this had been a screenplay. Not only are their actions easier to accept, you really feel for Mia and her sister Stacey when things start going bad.
Actually, the movie analogy is pretty appropriate for this title too. Lapham is working very much in the style of “Stray Bullets” with ordinary people getting caught up in twisted crime stories. In fact, this original graphic novel feels like a movie-length episode of a story from that series with its adherence to an eight-panel-page layout and grounded this-could-happen-to-you feel. There is no denying that the story and the way it plays out are very conventional, but Lapham gets around that with his suspenseful execution that wrings tension from even the most contrived scenes. The only real false note here is the too-cute ending which really doesn’t feel true to the creator’s style. If it weren’t for that, I’d have no problem saying that anyone who’s interested in picking up “Stray Bullets,” but isn’t quite sure about shelling out for the trades or omnibus edition, would do well to check this out and see if it works for them. As it is, “Silverfish” is still pretty entertaining though not entirely representative of Lapham’s best work.
What does the ongoing battle for the Wolf’s Maw hold for us in this volume? Why nothing more than the high point of the series so far. It hasn’t been the easiest ride, sticking with this title, but I can now say that my patience has been rewarded with all of the enthralling battles contained within this volume.