December 20, 2014
When your miniseries has been built around a specific revelation, it’s probably not a good idea to have said revelation spoiled in the hype for its release. Also, if you’re like me, saw Jason Aaron’s name listed as a co-writer (co-plotter, actually) and thought “Hey, this might be of some significance to his run on ‘Thor,’” then you’re going to be disappointed that there’s no obvious payoff yet. This appears to be of more importance to co-plotter and scripter Al Ewing’s “Loki” series, and it actually makes me somewhat interested in checking it out. Ewing’s characterization of the God of Mischief hews pretty closely to what Kieron Gillen established in “Journey Into Mystery” and “Young Avengers.” He’s also given the character a compelling status quo: At some point in the future Asgard will enter into a golden age, contingent on Loki becoming just like his old self. You know, the one he had to let die and then murder the mind of his younger self in order to escape the chains of fate. Yeah, Gillen’s run with the character was weird, but completely awesome! Anyway, Old Loki is back from this future to screw with his younger self.
Wait, I was meant to be talking about this “Original Sin” tie-in, wasn’t I? The length of that digression should give you a pretty good idea as to how good a job it did at keeping my attention over the course of its five issues. Long story short: It turns out that there’s a secret Tenth Realm that was divorced from the others when its ruler killed Freya and Odin’s daughter, Thor and Loki’s sister. After being hit with the Orb’s “Eye Bomb of Secrets” Thor realizes this and recruits his brother to break into this realm and find out what happened to their sister. The story that follows is decently constructed, features some nice art from Lee Garbett and Simone Bianchi, and was completely undermined by the fact that the revelation of Thor and Loki’s sister was revealed even before the start of this miniseries (the cover also kinda gives it away too). Not helping matters at all is the fact this “sister” happens to be a character I have yet to find a compelling reason to care about. Deeply skippable for anyone without an interest in the characters involved, “The Tenth Relm’s” main selling point is that it may finally get me to check out Ewing’s run on “Loki.”
December 19, 2014
“Rat Queens” is getting a new artist after its current one, John “Roc” Upchurch, has left the title amidst allegations of domestic abuse. This would be bad news for the title, except that it already has a new (temporary?) artist in the form of Stjepan Sejic. Having worked at Top Cow and on “Witchblade” for most of his career means that I’ve been safely able to ignore his superhero work. However, he does some great superhero comedy art on his Deviantart page and there are two projects of his that I’m interested in picking up. There’s his fantasy series “Death Vigil” and his BDSM-themed romance “Sunstone,” the latter of which is due out in comic shops next week. Just in time for Christmas! He also illustrated one of the “Tavern Tales” in the most recent volume of “Skullkickers” and that showed he can handle fantasy comedy too. So while the series is in good artistic hands now, we just need to see if the writing can turn its four leads into proper characters as well.
Also, “East of West” joins the New Year’s Stragglers the week after next when issue #16 arrives. With seven covers to hype the start of its new storyline, which is restrained compared to what’s going on with the new “Star Wars” series from Marvel. The seven combine to form a poster-worthy image; so, even though I’m not going to buy any of these individual covers, I would be willing to put down money for the poster they combine to make.
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December 18, 2014
While the three issue miniseries that tied into “Cataclysm” was actually quite good, the past two volumes of Miles Morales’ adventures as Spider-Man were weighed down by Bendis’ decision to put him through various situations without developing the character or his cast properly. Venom isn’t as interesting without a direct connection to the title character, and the fourth volume of Miles’ adventures was way too early to do any kind of “Spider-Man No More” kind of story. Especially when it was reversed in the following volume. Regrettably, that trend continues here as Miles encounters Peter Parker, alive and well, and also wanting his web-shooters back. If bringing the new hero face-to-face with the one he replaced wasn’t enough, the writer also saw fit to throw in Norman Osborne’s latest return as well. All of this stuff screams “IMPORTANT ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN STORY,” and yet I’m left wishing that it had just been all about Miles in the end.
That’s because the stuff centering around him is generally pretty good. As always, he remains an appealing presence and the scenes where he’s agonizing about whether or not to tell his girlfriend Katie are really quite good. This particular plot point also goes off in a fairly unexpected and intriguing direction by the end of the volume. There’s also the mystery of the twin criminal “Spider-Men” robbing Stark Industries sites which is handled well enough that it could’ve been developed into the main story. Also, after thirty-two(!) volumes Bendis finally ends one on a genuine “To Be Continued” cliffhanger. As it’s something he’s never done before in this series, I’m actually curious to see how things play out from here. I’d be even more excited if the central elements of this story were more compelling. Nothing here is actively awful, it’s just disappointing that Miles can’t seem to have a story that’s all about him these days.
December 17, 2014
DC has been running themed variant covers for a while now, but I think their gimmick this month is the best one they’ve offered up yet. Certain titles will be getting variant covers based on iconic movie posters. So you’ve got “Flash” riffing on “North by Northwest,” “Detective Comics” aping “The Matrix,” “Green Lantern” taking on “2001,” and “Grayson” drawing on “Enter the Dragon” for inspiration. There’s no doubt that many of these are poster-worthy; though, the two I’d be most interested in picking up for myself would be the “Superman”/”Super Fly” and “Action Comics”/”Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” covers. Those were truly inspired. As was the “Justice League”/”Magic Mike” mash-up which gets points just for having the guts to serve up that much superhero beefcake. I give it a facepalm, but that’s just me.
Also, DC cancels thirteen titles this month in the run-up to “Convergence!” Out of all of them, I’m only reading one: “Swamp Thing.” After forty issues, writer Charles Soule’s exclusive contract with Marvel, and declining sales, I’m betting that everyone involved realized that this would be a good place to wrap things up and deliver a proper ending for the title.
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December 16, 2014
“Tragedy? Or one last moment of triumph?”
That’s what I wrote last year when the previous volume left off with wrestler “Scorpion” Shiratori preparing to head back into the ring. Never mind the fact that his rehabilitation unfinished, the man is unable to even stand up without assistance. How the hell is someone like that supposed to wrestle his longtime friend and rival in front of a packed auditorium? By doing exactly what professional wrestlers are best at: faking it.
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December 15, 2014
If you’re reading both of Hickman’s “Avengers” series (And if you’re not, then why the hell aren’t you? You’re only getting half the story if you read one and not the other.) be sure to read this one after “Infinite Avengers.” This volume takes place shortly after the confrontation between Iron Man and Captain America and shows things quickly building to climax for “Time Runs Out.” While the hype for this arc centered on the Illuminati taking on a thinly-veiled version of the Justice League, that particular thread isn’t as well developed as it could have been. Fortunately, it does allow for this volume to have a much stronger narrative than the one from the concurrent volume of “Avengers,” and it features one of the best endings I’ve read all year.
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December 14, 2014
“Original Sin” was pretty “meh,” though it stands a better chance of being remembered for its tie-ins than the miniseries proper. In fact, Jonathan Hickman uses the event as a springboard for his latest volume of “Avengers” while also furthering his own storylines in the title. What we get here is deeply weird and bizarre in the way we’ve come to expect such things from the writer. It’s an interesting read, save for the fact that between answering questions previous volumes and setting things up for future ones the story lacks a genuinely cohesive narrative.
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December 13, 2014
Ugh. If you’ve ever wondered about the boundaries of my love for the work of Garth Ennis, you have them right here. “Dicks” is his series with artist John McCrea about two nitwits from Belfast, Ivor and Dougie, who get into the most disgusting kind of sexual and scatalogical adventures you can imagine. This volume has them trying to save the world from a bunch of penis-headed aliens known as the Dong, saving Christmas by having the antichrist baby chopped up by a oblivious Chinese chef, and stopping the revenge murders of a real piece of shit. Actually, make that a literal piece of shit. Along the way you’ll see them mix it up with a loan shark who’s into genital mutilation, a recording exec who likes to have sex with a blow-up doll of himself, George W. Bush pissing and then trying to shit himself, and a giant orgy between supporters of the I.R.A. and British Army.
Ennis certainly succeeds in consistently topping himself with how disgusting things can get, but it’s all just scatology for scatology’s sake in the end. There are a few amusing moments scattered throughout and they don’t even begin to salvage this jizz-encrusted, fecal-laden trainwreck. At least “The Boys” had a decent story and interesting characters to balance out its outrageous parts. “Dicks” has none of these and it’s ultimately just an example of a talented writer and artist team wallowing in the freedom of being able to do whatever they want in a comic. If you want to let Ennis and McCrea know how much you like their work, please, PLEASE go buy the “Hitman” trades instead of this. As for me, I’ll just be here regretting that I rescued this from one of the half-off bins at Comic-Con.
December 12, 2014
With the four issues of the main series collected here, writer Nick Spencer decided to advance each of the core stories being told here in its own issue. So you have Hyperion leading the assault against the insurgent A.I.M. Island, Falcon meeting up with Chinese superheroes to deal with the Madripoor island dragon, Starbrand waiting to be rescued from Morgan Le Fay by his teammates in the City of the Dead, and Cannonball and Sunspot time-traveling to stop A.I.M. and save the kids of today’s superheroes. It’s an approach that works well enough for a collected edition, except I can’t help but think that it annoyed the hell out of people reading the single issues since it’s hard to get any traction on a story when you have to wait months to find out what happens next. It’s still an entertaining read, if you liked the first volume, and while Stefano Caselli only does two issues here, Marco Checchetto proves that he can do big, epic-level superhero action after years of working on smaller-scale titles like “Daredevil” and “Punisher.”
The collection is rounded out with issue #34.1 (really…) of “Avengers” which was a one-off from writer Al Ewing and artist Dale Keown. It’s a Hyperion solo story whose grounded tone is distinctly at odds with the rest of the book as the superhero works to rescue a kidnapped child from the Mauler while pondering his own role in the world. As a member of the Squadron Supreme, Hyperion is essentially an ersatz version of Superman who can interact with the Marvel Universe. Knowing that makes the story more interesting to read, but it’s still pretty good even without that knowledge. If you can get through Hyperion’s somewhat rambling ponderings, there’s a really well-done confrontation between him and the Mauler where the villain is defeated without the hero throwing a single punch. Art comes from former 90’s superstar Dale Keown, who is employing a less over-the-top style these days. His art here reminds me of Steve Dillon’s in its clarity, and while Keown isn’t as good with nuance, he offers more detail and is better at making the superheroics work in the context of things. This was certainly an odd choice to round out an “Avengers World” collection, but it proves to be satisfying nonetheless.
December 11, 2014
A middle-of-the-road Marvel event that vaguely gestures towards the Marvel Universe.