June 30, 2015
There’s no denying that Marvel has a lot of interesting creative teams lined up for their post-”Secret Wars” relaunch: Bendis/Marquez on “Invincible Iron Man,” Soule/Garney on “Daredevil,” Lemire/Ramos on “Extraordinary X-Men.” I could go on, but what gets me about this whole event is how many of these titles are simply relaunches of ones that debuted in the past year -- or even this one! Getting new #1’s are “Thor” from Aaron/Dauterman, “Captain America” from Spencer/Acuna, “Ms. Marvel” from Wilson/Alphona/Miyazawa, and “Amazing Spider-Man” from Slott/Camuncoli. This is before I get to titles like “Howard the Duck,” which got a volume’s worth of issues out before getting a new #1, and the ridiculous “Uncanny Avengers” which already had a relaunch in the wake of “Axis” and is getting ANOTHER one this fall courtesy of Duggan/Stegman. It makes you wonder why Marvel even bothered with these particular launches/relaunches in the first place rather than simply making them miniseries.
I say that last sentence rhetorically because it’s actually pretty clear. Unless they’re part of some kind of event -- like “Secret Wars” -- most miniseries don’t sell nearly as well as another regular issue of the featured character or team’s main title. I can only assume this is why we’re getting that arc of “Amazing Spider-Man” by Gerry Conway as a series of “point one” issues of the main title rather than as its own thing. So, instead of promoting a lot of these titles that launched recently as miniseries to test out new ideas, like the new female Thor or the “Superior” Iron Man, and simply not bringing back the ones that don’t do well, the company gave them the full-fledged series launch because that’s what’s best for sales.
In the short run, anyway. Even though the new #1’s will certainly spike sales, I wonder how this approach is going to work regarding titles that are already successful. “Amazing Spider-Man” was already selling over 100k an issue and sales of the new “Thor” title were up 25% over Aaron’s previous run. Will these titles continue to enjoy such success, or will the interruption prior to their latest relaunch derail their momentum? I would think that the latter scenario would be more likely since most of these titles have wrapped up with “final issues” and you’ve got this publication gap due to “Secret Wars” which will allow them to fade from fans’ memories a bit. Yes, Marvel is beating the promotional drum pretty hard right now, and if they beat it hard enough up through October I could be proven wrong. Except that publishing ongoing comics is a marathon and not a sprint. October will be huge for Marvel, but expect to see diminishing returns hit them hard in the months that follow as all these titles try to get their momentum back before the next relaunch.
June 29, 2015
I was hoping that the assassination duel between Ms. Jelavitch and her teacher was going to have the end result of making her into a worthwhile character. I was wrong. If anyone comes out of this looking better, it’s Karasuma. Not only does he take down the senior assassin, his capitulation to his fellow teacher shows that he has a soft side after all. Then again, the fact that Ms. Jelavitch had to beg him to win… It does not reflect well on her at all here. Fortunately the next arc kicks off after a fun Hawaiian interlude and we’re introduced to Koro-sensei’s brother. Yes, brother. He’s a new student at Kunugigaoka -- Itona Horibe -- and not only is he super-strong, and super-fast, but he also has his own set of tentacles as well. That particular fact causes Koro-sensei to become visibly angry for only the second time in this series. As to why that’s the case and how he’s going to avoid being assassinated by this kid, only one will be successfully answered in this volume.
It’s that personal connection which gives the brief battle between the two tentacled combatants some real drama, and Itona’s smug handler Shiro -- who has all the answers -- makes for an enjoyably despicable addition to the cast. I was somewhat disappointed to learn one tidbit about Koro-sensei’s origin, as that kind of puts a wrench in my theory of this series as an analogy for a “Superman” story. Then again, I guess that makes it a metaphor now! (Is that how those things work? I forget…) The volume ends with a transition into the next arc, a sports battle between Kunugigaoka’s varsity men’s baseball and women’s basketball teams against Class E’s. As far as good news goes: Class E has a genuine desire to win and Koro-sensei on their side. The bad news is that Principal Asano -- Kunugigaoka’s very own “Lex Luthor” -- decides to get in on the action to make sure Class E remains at the bottom of the school’s pecking order. Asano is a character I’ve wanted to see more of since he was introduced as while his administrative methods are undoubtedly cruel, they still achieve their desired results. Better to see if his potential is realized in the next volume than to hope that Ms. Jelavitch finally becomes a character worth reading about.
June 28, 2015
Even if I’ve yet to be blown away by something that Charles Soule has written, I appreciate the fact that he keeps his comics going at a brisk pace and never stops throwing new things at the reader. While this approach can get ridiculous, as seen in his crazy-train creator-owned comic “Letter 44,” his work on “Swamp Thing” manages to entertain without going off the rails. In this volume alone we find out about the titular organization which is a human support group for avatars of the Green, the kingdom of the fungi known as the Grey, what a kreuzbluter is and what it has to do with the destruction of the Parliament of Trees in the previous volume, and what happens when a demon is unable to fulfill its end of a contract. This is in addition to the human drama involving Capucine’s origins, watching Swamp Thing throw down physically and verbally with Aquaman (with help from that title’s creative team of Jeff Parker and Paul Pelletier), seeing how former avatars Jonah, Wolf, and Lady Weeds acclimate to their new human forms. It’s this last part which drives most of the action as there’s a fair bit of duplicity going on between the actions of the former and current avatars.
All in all, what we get here is good fun. Even if the machinations of the humans are fairly predictable, it’s interesting to see how Swamp Thing reacts to new things like the Grey and the threat of the kreuzbluter. That is, when he finally gets his head into the game. The biggest problem I have with this volume is that the title character is behind the curve on EVERY threat he faces. He’s like a boxer who gets smacked around a bit at first before warming up and winning the match in the end. I do like seeing how the character deals with these threats, but this kind of structure gets repetitive after a while. It would’ve also been nice to see Soule dig into some of these threats a bit more. Maybe we’ll see the evil corporation come back at some point since it feels like they were dealt with way too casually here.
Jesus Saiz and Javier Pina continue to do solid work on this title as well. They’re certainly game for whatever crazy concept Soule throws at them and the detail they provide is a real asset to this series. It’s also neat to see that the volume ends in a way that keeps the momentum going as even though the crisis at hand is resolved, a new element is introduced that will no doubt cause further complications for everyone in the series. Even though the next volume will be the last one for this title, it’s nice to see that this flow of new ideas and concepts will likely continue through the end.
June 27, 2015
Even though Bendis has been setting up a lot of things in his run so far -- Mystique kidnapping and replacing Dazzler, the sentinel attacks from unknown sources, tension between Scott’s team and S.H.I.E.L.D. -- I wasn’t sure if he was actually going to pay off on any of that or if things would have to be left for the next writer to follow up on. Turns out I didn’t need to worry as he deals with most of those threads in the opening story for this volume. The whole “Vs. Shield” bit. It’s actually a pretty solid wrap-up that goes to show that the writer does know what he’s doing with this series. Then we dive straight into the next story and I start waiting to be convinced again.
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June 25, 2015
Despite having died in his first storyline, original “Grendel” Hunter Rose has had quite a prolific publishing afterlife. Among the miniseries and anthologies chronicling his exploits, the character even found the time to take on Batman in a two-part story from original creator Matt Wagner. I mention “Batman/Grendel” because without that precedent, this miniseries pitting Hunter against The Shadow would be far harder to swallow. As it is, the two play quite well off of each other and into Wagner’s street-level pulp instincts. After the requisite bit of hand-waving to set things up -- a spell in an old Chinese urn sends Hunter back in time to the 30’s -- the story is off and running as The Shadow finds out that this latest crime wave hitting New York is led by a masked man known only as Grendel. Meanwhile, Hunter Rose is the new talk of the town with his bestselling book and keen wit that goes great at parties. At lot of the fun of any “Grendel” story involving Hunter is in simply watching him work a room with his charm or dual-pronged spear. He may be utterly evil, but you’re won over by the man because he makes it look like so much fun!
As for the opposition, The Shadow doesn’t really do “fun.” The most interesting thing about him in this story is seeing this normally untouchable avenger confounded by Hunter’s skills both in and out of costume. He does give as good as he gets, and that gives the story some dramatic tension as you’re never quite sure who is going to come out on top in their encounters. Ultimately, all of this fighting doesn’t really add up to a whole lot. The battle between the two characters is effectively a zero-sum game, and you pretty much have to have read “Devil by the Deed” in order to understand just why Hunter would be undone by nostalgia in the end. (If you haven’t, then go pick up “Grendel Omnibus: Hunter Rose” right now!) Wagner still makes this an entertaining affair as he’s clearly invested in the material. The writing is sharp and the art is filled with lots of detail specific to the era and in the actions of the characters themselves. If you’ve never read a story featuring either of these characters, then this isn’t the best introduction to either of them. (Seriously, go read that omnibus!) For the converted, it’s not essential but still great fun.
June 24, 2015
Myron joins us to talk about what may be Dan Slott's last major Spider-event. It's marred by predictability and some weak antagonists, but at least it has some great goofy stuff around the edges.
June 23, 2015
With the final issue of Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin’s “Satellite Sam” due out any day now, the setting for the second series has already been announced. It’ll be jumping coasts to L.A. and instead of focusing on the making of a sci-fi TV show, the action will be centered around a western. I’m honestly a little surprised that we’re getting another series of this since the first one didn’t exactly set the sales charts on fire. The second volume, however, was better than the first. I’d like to see that upward trend continue for the final volume, which will make this news a lot more exciting in retrospect.
In the meantime, the second Image Expo is set to kick off the Thursday before Comic-Con in San Francisco. If you can’t make it to that, they’ll be putting out a preview book featuring all the titles being spotlighted there the following Wednesday -- preview night for Comic-Con -- for a dollar. Sounds nice. But it’ll be more interesting to hear how much people are going to be able to sell it for in the days afterward.
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June 22, 2015
There’s been a major development for this series in the time since my last review. It was announced that “Ajin” will become an anime film trilogy in Japan sometime soon. While this is good news for creator Gamon Sakurai, I can only hope that whoever is making these films uses this as an opportunity to clean up the messy narrative of the series so far. Things haven’t gone off the rails yet. However, Sakurai is closing the gap between the story he wants to tell, and the story he’s actually been telling through means of brute force rather than organic elegance.
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June 21, 2015
For me, “Battle of the Atom” was the most underwhelming “X-Men” crossover in recent memory. Even though it had some interesting ideas, there weren’t enough to sustain what was basically a fourteen-issue fight scene. There was plenty of nice art, however. So the idea that Bendis is revisiting the characters he created for that arc -- the group of evil X-Men led by Charles Xavier Jr. and Raze (son of Wolverine and Mystique) -- didn’t sound like something I’d particularly enjoy. Except that this concept being reduced down to a four-issue fight scene does make for a more focused and exciting experience. Particularly when you’ve got Stuart Immonen illustrating it.
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June 20, 2015
Who here remembers the good old days when “Civil War” was being serialized? Specifically, the delays between issues that caused corresponding tie-in issues to be delayed themselves in order to not spoil the events of the main series. Like the Punisher’s dramatic return to the Marvel Universe after spending some time away in MAX-land with Garth Ennis. Those days are back now with “Secret Wars” as the Hickman/Ribic event series has come into its own set of delays. Over a dozen tie-ins have been pushed back a week or more, though it doesn’t look like the main series will miss a month. Yet. It does look as if the November ship date for the collected edition may be in danger, but that’s just a problem for trade-waiters like me.
Of course, if you needed a reminder of why I like to wait for the trade in the first place… now you’ve got it. That said, neither “Civil War” or “Secret Wars” has anything on the delay the title kicking off Marvel’s solicitations has enjoyed.
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