July 31, 2017
Yeah… this arrived much, much sooner than I was expecting. It was even part of a Kodansha “Digital First” sale at ComiXology so I was able to pick it up at a discount. As glad as I am that I was able to read vol. 4 of this series, it does cast some shade on the answer I got from the reps at the Kodansha panel at Comic-Con. I doubt that they were trolling me because why pass up the chance to make one of your fans really, really happy by giving them an exact answer to their question. Much more likely is that none of them knew this would be coming out the following Tuesday. Given the volume of titles that Kodansha releases on a monthly basis, I guess that’s understandable. It can’t help but look just the tiniest bit unprofessional on their part, however.
As for the volume itself, it’s another very solid entry in the series. Vol. 4 kicks off the start of the Kanto Tournament which sees the title character and fighting comrade/rival Yudai taking part. The thing is that Yudai is entering the tournament at a disadvantage after Meguru tore a ligament in his right arm during a practice fight in the previous volume. Yudai thinks he has enough skill to compensate, which gives his matches a dramatic edge. Meguru, on the other hand, has to deal with his own lack of skill and strength. The former issue is front-and-center in his fight with an opponent who specializes in boxing and has enough speed to counter everything Meguru’s trained for. Fortunately our protagonist’s ability to think on his feet (and on his back while pinned to the ground) makes the fight a compelling experience right up to the final bell.
Mangaka Hiroki Endo continues to draw a lot of engaging drama from the strategizing before and during the fights as well as the battles themselves. While this means the subsequent tournament fights should be a lot of fun to take in, I have noticed a weakness in his style here. In this title he draws a lot of his male characters with the same facial and body type so it can be hard to tell them apart when the fists and the kicks start flying. It’s an issue that I’m willing to deal with in order to get to the quality action and drama this series has consistently offered.
July 30, 2017
I must’ve missed this when it came out but one of the covers to “Dark Nights: Metal” #1 had this fittingly badass illustration of the Justice League posed together in a way that made it look like they were throwing the horns. It’s very metal and Greg Capullo deserves major props for having it come off as well as it does. Much to my surprise, it seems that those at DC were not as appreciative of this image and considered it an affront to everything the company stood for. Fortunately for us the “Metal” creative team of Capullo and Scott Snyder have enough clout to say, “No, we’re doing it this way!” thanks to their extraordinarily successful run on “Batman.” Even better is that the buzz is building in their favor thanks to positive reviews and big sales for the two “Dark Days” one-shots leading into the event. For an image that comes off as “Just so crazy it might work” it’s great to see that it already has.
Also, I want to give Capullo another shout-out for having what is easily one of the best line-cap signs ever at this year’s Comic-Con. If you don’t get what song the text on the sign is referring to, then you’re honestly just not metal enough.
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July 29, 2017
Dark Horse had some notable media announcements during Comic-Con this year with three of its titles receiving TV adaptations. One of them, “Flutter” about a shapeshifting girl who turns into a boy to pursue a girl she likes, I haven’t read. Another, “Mind MGMT,” is one I’m very familiar with and kind of surprised to see it receive an adaptation. While it was said to be in development with Tony Scott before he passed away several years back, Matt Kindt’s experimental approach to the series was its main appeal for me. I honestly can’t imagine how they’re going to translate that to television.
The biggest news of all was that “The Umbrella Academy” will be getting a ten-episode Netflix series. While a date has not been specified for its debut, it’s entirely possible that it could come out during the run of the all-new miniseries from creators Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba. Yes, that’s right, after it was originally announced way back in 2009 “The Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion” will finally come out next year. It’s honestly been too damn long of a wait for this after how great the first two miniseries were. Better late than never as they say, so long as Way took all this time to make sure he’s written a worthy follow-up.
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July 29, 2017
Some people come back from Comic-Con with stories of the long lines they had to stand in so they could get into the panels they wanted to see. Not me, though. I stayed the hell away from Hall H and the other big media panel rooms and only went to comic-focused panels. So not only was I able to get into every panel I wanted to, I didn’t have to wait in any lines for them either. Which… was also just the tiniest bit depressing now that I think about it. Anyhow, what follows below the break is my recap of the panels I attended. Expect lots of Image and Dark Horse creators talking about their titles, what to do when the FBI tries to sting you with child porn, good news about a digital title I read from Kodansha, and no news from Dark Horse manga.
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July 26, 2017
Truly, madly, deeply uneven. Right up to the end.
July 24, 2017
True story: I started reading this volume the evening it arrived with the intent to find out how the cliffhanger from vol. 8 would be resolved and to finish up the rest of it tomorrow. A couple hours later, I had burned through the entire thing (and did it again before sitting down to write this). So “Vinland Saga” hasn’t lost any of its compulsive readability with vol. 9. The first half is a rivetingly tense hunter’s duel between Thorfinn and newcomer Hild, who has some very personal issues she wants the former raider to answer for. As the battle of wills and skills plays out, mangaka Makoto Yukimura reveals Hild’s past full of equal parts tragedy and invention. Trying to work an extended flashback into an action sequence might seem like it’s a recipe for disaster, but Yukimura makes it work and the payoff is an almost magical moment of forgiveness as the ghosts of the past intervene in the present. This is all followed by journeying through the Baltic where Thorfinn meets up with a beloved (by me at least) former member of the supporting cast and finds himself embroiled in the succession drama of the Jomsvikings.
While the new viking drama plays out well as it continues to test Thorfinn’s resolve, it does represent a potential issue for the series going forward. As compelling a protagonist Thorfinn is at this point, nearly everything in this volume revolves around him to the point of single-mindedness. Even Hild, who is introduced with her own issues, is quickly relegated to a supporting role that involves looking after Thorfinn for plot-specific reasons. There’s also the fact that with this new “War in the Baltic” arc, we’ve had the second consecutive story where our crew has come to a new location and found themselves dealing with the drama of Thorfinn’s past. At this rate “Vinland Saga” might just wind up becoming “The Thorfinn Show” if Yukimura doesn’t remember that he has a vibrant supporting cast with their own desires and dramas to contend with. Even if Thorfinn is its center, “Vinland Saga” has always been a vibrant ensemble drama at its core. I’d hate to see that part of the series done away with as it moves forward.
July 23, 2017
By all rights this story should have been part of Jason Aaron’s current run on “The Mighty Thor.” I understand why that didn’t happen as it would’ve required the writer to put the ongoing adventures of Jane Foster on hold for five months while we caught up with the Odinson, who we find here to be in a very bad place. After being informed by the Unseen (the Not-Watcher who is the-super-spy-formerly-known-as-Nick Fury) that another Mjolnir has landed in Old Asgardia. The Odinson takes off after it in a flash only to find that Old Asgardia has been stolen away by the Collector who wants to secure the power of the hammer for himself. Now a prisoner of the Collector himself, the Odinson finds himself in a daily struggle to reach the hammer in order to secure his freedom and worthiness. He’d better hurry because a mysterious figure has also pledged to secure the hammer as a tribute to Thanos for his aid in some undoubtedly evil plan.
Aaron probably pads things out with more fighting than he needs to here, even if Oliver Coipel (with Kim Jacinto pitching in here and there) does make it look appropriately weathered and violent. In between the fisticuffs, however, are some pretty important developments. Chief among them being that we finally get to find out what Fury said to Thor to make him unworthy. While it’s questionable that Fury had the authority to pull something like that off, the explanation actually fits well in the context of Aaron’s run. Particularly the bits involving Gorr the God Butcher. One of the more amusing bits from Kieron Gillen’s “Journey Into Mystery” run is imported here and there’s a most surprising hook-up between Thanos and a member of Thor’s Rogues Gallery that makes so much sense that I’m surprised no one had thought to do it before.
As for the matter of the hammer itself, the resolution is something of a cop-out. Even if there is an explanation provided for the Odinson’s actions it still feels like a delaying tactic. Albeit, a delaying tactic with repercussions as the epilogue informs us. So if you’ve been following Aaron’s run on “Thor” and were thinking of skipping this miniseries -- don’t. It’s very important to the ongoing story he’s been telling and full of the humor, heart, and brawn that have made his run so enjoyable.
July 22, 2017
Have you been waiting for current “Spider-Man” Miles Morales and “Spider-Gwen” Gwen Stacy to strike up some kind of inter-dimensional, quasi-romantic relationship? Then this is the crossover for you! If you’re like me and you haven’t been waiting for this, then the disjointed crossover that is “Sitting in a Tree” will likely only leave you disappointed.
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July 21, 2017
I was hoping for some kind of redemption regarding the “Abe Sapien” ongoing series with this volume. That title wound up being consistently mediocre with an ending that didn’t wrap up much of what had come before. Yet sprinkled throughout the ongoing title’s run were one-off stories featuring work from several different artists both known and unknown to me. Freed from the disappointing confines of the main story, I was expecting that Mike Mignola and Scott Allie (with John Arcudi co-writing a short) would be able to finally tell some compelling stories regarding the title character. That didn’t really wind up being the case here, but at least the art for each story didn’t disappoint.
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July 19, 2017
Grant Morrison was a huge influence on My Chemical Romance frontman/”Umbrella Academy” writer Gerard Way. So it’s probably not too surprising that Way has decided to put his own spin on Morrison’s groundbreaking “Doom Patrol” run as the inaugural title for his Young Animal imprint. It also means there’s a lot of hero worship for that run on display in this first volume even as it introduces us to plenty of new things, starting with ambulance-driving protagonist Casey Brinke. She’s one of the best out there, which is good because her life is about to get a whole lot weirder. It all starts with an exploding gyro in a trashcan which heralds the return of Cliff “Robotman” Steele only to see him smashed to bits by a garbage truck. This is only the tip of the weirdness iceberg as we find out that a cabal of alien corporations wants to use Danny the Street to provide an endless supply of meat for their burgers, Larry Trainor has had a falling out with the Negative Man and now subsists on negative energy, and a singing telegram girl causes Casey’s roommate to explode into a mix of birthday cake and confetti.
Way keeps piling the strangeness on throughout the volume, to the point where I imagine some people are going to find it hard to care about what’s going on let alone understand it all. This is even in spite of the fact that he does have the good sense to keep it all grounded in Casey’s journey of self-discovery which is easy enough to relate to. One good thing about all of the craziness of this volume is that it really shows what artist Nick Derington is capable of. Derington has a very appealing cartoony style that’s perfectly suited for the weirdness of the “Doom Patrol” and it’s very easy to appreciate his art in this story if nothing else.
It’s also worth mentioning that the shadow of Morrison’s run looms large over this volume. While Way isn’t content to simply rehash what that writer has done here, “Brick by Brick” is soaked in references from that seminal run. To the point where if you haven’t read it I think it represents a real barrier to entry here. Particularly since you’ll have no idea who the person is in the cliffhanger ending to issue #5 and why she’s important (to be fair, until you flip the page and read the next issue). Still, providing a reason to go back and re-read Morrison’s “Doom Patrol” isn’t necessarily a bad thing in my book. It does look like we’ll have to wait until vol. 2 to see if this series has anything more to offer than quality references, weirdness, and great art.