February 28, 2018
This rambling and energetically chaotic volume finally catches us up to the Japanese release after a couple years of waiting. Now we get to wait some more as mangaka Kohta Hirano has never been known for having the strictest work ethic. He’s not in the same league as “Berserk’s” Kentaro Miura, but this volume shipped in Japan back in June 2016 so maybe that county will see a new one later this year and we’ll get it in 2019?
Enough with the speculation. Vol. 4 benefitted from the fact that it was basically a volume-length story about the Drifters capturing the capital city of Orte and allowed Hirano to focus the narrative accordingly. With vol. 5, things split off in multiple directions. We start off with a visit to the lands of the Black King and get some insight into how he’s running things and what his endgame is. Then we jump over to Nobunaga and his plan to turn two enemy generals against one another while Saint Germain negotiates with a rich merchant for the necessary funds and supplies for their war against the Black King. We’ve also got a Japanese fighter pilot teaming up with a Rear Admiral, the Black King’s Ends going out to war, and Toyohisa demonstrating cluelessness that transcends into brilliance as he tries to rally refugees for war.
With all that’s going on in this volume it should read like an impenetrable mess. Fortunately Hirano structures all of these plot threads so that the development we get from them is relatively self-contained and easy to digest. He’s still jumping all over the place throughout the course of the volume, but by the end it all starts to come into focus. I’d still kill for some kind of dramatis personae to kick off the volume because I’m not familiar with all of the Drifters/Ends in this series. It’s still a satisfying volume overall and one that allows me to keep faith in the series as we wait for vol. 6.
February 25, 2018
While there’s still no word on how the Disney/Fox merger is going to affect the comics based on Fox properties that Dark Horse publishes, it’s good to see the company taking steps to shore things up before that issue is resolved. Interestingly, one of these new licenses is coming from Disney itself: “Frozen.” Dark Horse will be publishing the first issue of a new “Frozen” ongoing series this summer, which should be enough of a head start to generate a decent amount of material to sell when the sequel hits theaters in November 2019. What’s also interesting is that the company has been rumored to be the publisher for Mark Millar’s “Netflix Comics” after the streaming giant bought out Millarworld last year. While Netflix is expected to get into the publishing game at some point, that’s still a ways off. It leaves them looking for an established publisher to distribute Millar’s comics in print and word is that Dark Horse is the front-runner for that job. This may not be a long-term position for them, but it looks like a good way to shore up marketshare in the short-term if nothing else.
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February 24, 2018
The first volume of Jeff Lemire’s run on “Thanos” was an unexpected surprise. Mainly because it gave the impression that he did have a story to tell about the Mad Titan and it involved the tortured relationship he had with his son. Now that we have the second volume, and conclusion to the story, I’m wondering if I wasn’t being overly generous with that assessment. That’s mainly because Thanos doesn’t really overcome the challenges placed before him through his own means: The plot does that for him. He starts off struggling plenty on the Ruins of Titan only for Eros, Tryco, and Nebula to show up and take him to the Witches of Infinity where he enters the titular God Quarry and comes face to face with his greatest desire: Membership in the Avengers! Meanwhile, his son Thane begins to realize that leaving his father to die on Titan probably wasn’t the smart thing to do and sets about to use his Phoenix powers to rid the galaxy of Thanos once and for all.
It’s not that there isn’t anything to enjoy in this volume. The opening scenes offer a compelling look at Thanos’ struggle for survival, seeing him bicker and fight with his brother Eros is also good for some laughs, and the art from German Peralta is really quite good. He may not be as dynamic an artist as the previous volume’s Mike Deodato, but he offers good detail and drama in his work. Particularly in the next-to-last issue where the Thanos vs. Thane action scales to “Dragon Ball Z” levels as they start flinging bits of planet at each other. Yet even while the action delivers, the storytelling falls flat because it fails to impart any kind of feeling that Thanos is succeeding on his own merits. It’s hard to tell which is the most disappointing storytelling contrivance here: The Mad Titan’s “escape” from the God Quarry’s dream world or the way in which the Witches of Infinity hand him the final win. I was honestly expecting better from Lemire after the first volume. Fortunately the word is that the new creative team of Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw are delivering a much worthier take on Thanos than what we got here.
February 23, 2018
I was worried for a while after starting this volume that the series had reached the point where it was losing its volume-to-volume appeal and a full re-read was going to be necessary in order to appreciate everything that was going on. The basics of the plot are easy enough to grab as the cast is primarily concerned with two things: Finding Sakhmet after she engaged in a bit of mass-murder at the end of the volume and setting up a massive concert as a means of generating some friendly PR and to power the mysterious machine Ananke left behind. There’s other stuff going on too, such as Dio’s attempts to connect with and help Baphomet, and Persephone’s near-volume-length turn as the (self) destroyer. Yet the larger picture of the plot and the characters’ role in it never felt as fuzzy to me as it did for most of the beginning of this volume.
Now, “The Wicked + The Divine” will always have Kieron Gillen’s dialogue that is as funny as it is sharp and Jamie McKelvie’s wonderfully emotive and dynamic art to soothe issues like this. What I wasn’t expecting were a couple of twists in the final issue that went a long way towards banishing the doubts described above. The first was a genuine surprise. All the more so for how it made perfect sense in the context of what had come before and how it’ll make re-reading the series a lot more interesting with the knowledge it imparts. As for the second, it’s of the “Should’ve seen this coming” variety in its reveals about a certain character and how death isn’t as permanent in this series as you’d have expected. It’s still excellent work by the creative team and it leaves the series in a very strong place as it heads into its final year.
February 21, 2018
John and I talk about the movie, and I go into what is widely considered to be the character's definitive run.
February 19, 2018
This is starting to drift into “Why am I still reading it?” territory. It looked for a while that the series was going to become more than a wacky rom-sit-com as Tsukimi, Kuranosuke, and the rest of the otaku AMARS gang branched out into making their own fashion startup. That completely fell through and now Tsukimi is on her way to Singapore with quasi-shady CEO Kai to design clothes for his company as part of a deal that saves her friends’ residence. Tsukimi’s ostensible fiancee, Shu, is off being his clueless self in Italy completely unaware of what’s going on thanks to a contrivance regarding his cell phone. Kuranosuke, however, is the only member of the cast who isn’t going to take Tsukimi’s plight lying down and heads off to Singapore, making his modelling debut in the process.
What bugs me the most about this series is that, as the plot progresses, its characters stubbornly refuse to change. They continue to act like they’re in a sitcom even as the narrative makes it clear that’s not what this story is. It’s especially grating when it comes to anything involving the AMARS girls these days, and more than a little depressing in the case of Tsukimi. Seven (actually 14) volumes in and she’s just about the same easily frightened wallflower she was when we first met her. To see her thrust into the harsh and demanding world of fashion, complete with shrill gay fashionista stereotypes, with little to no support feels like a recipe for disaster.
Particularly with someone like Kai watching over her. The CEO gets some of the best material in this volume as his backstory is detailed and he emerges as the kind of complex character this series needs. My enthusiasm here is tempered by the fact that his relationship with Tsukimi falls more toward the “predatory” scale of the romantic spectrum as he seeks to manipulate this new talent he has brought under his wing. Despite this, I’d still like to see Tsukimi really make a splash in Singapore and emerge as a notable talent in the fashion industry. It’d set up some interesting dramatic challenges for Kuranosuke and Shu as they try to win her back, if nothing else. Seeing Tsukimi flame out here, however, would at least offer me all the reason I need to stop reading this series.
February 18, 2018
Creators Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr (co-writer, co-writer/layout artist, and artist, respectively) managed to spark a mini-revolution at DC with their run on “Batgirl.” Their “Batgirl of Burnside” brought a real sense of style and fun to the “New 52” and enough buzz to get DC to follow their lead. It didn’t last, but the Fletcher/Stewart/Tarr run clearly established these creators as ones to follow. That they all re-teamed for “Motor Crush” at Image meant that I was definitely going to check it out (even if it took a little longer than I had planned). The end result features a lot of the style the creators had on display for their “Batgirl” run, but precious little of its fun.
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February 17, 2018
Adrian Padilla hasn’t been doing that great lately. He’s been plagued by hallucinations of insects and rot infesting the people and objects nearest to him. Though he’s not a junkie, his friends are about to write him off as one. Well, all of them except for Molly who recommends that he go and see a hypnotherapist to find out what’s plaguing his subconscious. They do this… and things get worse. The hypnotherapy awakened the memory of one of Adrian’s past lives, a psychotic English serial killer named Sutter who joined a cult in search of even greater pleasures of the flesh. Sutter’s soul was pledged to the dark god they worship and it’s determined to have him back along with his current host.
This isn’t a bad setup for a horror title but it doesn’t really rise above being “not bad.” Adrian makes for a sympathetic protagonist, even when he makes the occasional dumb move like lying to the police. While it feels weird to describe artist Danny Luckert’s style as appealingly clean, given all of the gruesome and… wriggly things he has to draw it’s still the truth and the first volume has a nice overall style to it. Where it goes wrong is in writer Cullen Bunn’s decision to lay on the horror bits with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Adrian’s initial hallucinations come on fast and strong and hardly a scene goes by without some kind of weirdness occurring. It gets predictable and even boring after a while, even with Luckert’s efforts to bring the creepiness.
What at least makes me amenable to picking up the second volume is the fact that it feels like real progress has been made in the story by the end of the volume. Adrian has an encounter with another hypnotherapist that goes better for him. Instead of revealing that it had no effect in keeping his protagonist’s demons at bay, Bunn has a new but still related threat emerge to drive the story. I’m not convinced that “Regression” is going to lead anywhere interesting yet, but it ends in a way that makes me want to give it the benefit of the doubt for now.
February 16, 2018
This volume ends on an amazing cliffhanger.
If you’ve been following Rick Remender’s writing for any length of time, you’ll know that he loves to grind down his protagonists. Sometimes this can get really wearying, but in cases like “Deadly Class” it becomes part of the fun. Still, when I was getting to the last few story pages of this volume I saw things take a turn for the worse with the main cast. The Saya-less King’s Dominion crew managed to reunite with Marcus and Maria in Mexico while the duplicitous scumbag Quan has managed to not only bring the Yakuza down on them, but Viktor and Brandy too. Everything was set up for the main cast to be totally screwed in classic, but completely expected, Remender fashion. That is, until the writer decided to flip the script on the very last page.
Now, I’ll concede that some parts of this cliffhanger could easily be walked back from. Not all of them, though. Unlike his previous attempt at a game-changing cliffhanger in vol. 4, Remender doesn’t go in for any obvious fake-outs and I’m looking forward to seeing how the stab wound and (assumed) loss of pride one character is no doubt feeling are addressed in vol. 7. It’s a textbook example of how stage an excellent cliffhanger all around.
While the ending of this volume is without a doubt its high point, there’s still plenty of fun stuff prior to it to make it another satisfying entry in this series. We do catch up a bit with Saya in Japan and learn about her origin in flashback, but it’s the exploits of the rest of the gang back in King’s Dominion which rightfully get the most time here. Remender and artist Wes Craig are still getting an amazing amount of mileage from their dementedly violent take on high school social politics while also finding new dimensions to their core cast to keep them from turning into stereotypes. In short, the business as usual stuff in “Deadly Class” is still pretty fantastic and vol. 7 can’t come fast enough.
February 14, 2018
This was billed as the first major “Descender” event, but it’s also going to be the title’s last. To my surprise, the back cover text told me that this is going to be the penultimate volume of the series. I was expecting “Descender” to have a longer run (50-60 issues is usually how long most creator-owned titles tend to run) and the fact that Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen are deciding to wrap this one up after five is probably for the best. At least, as far as I’m concerned. Five volumes in and this title still has yet to deviate from the familiar sci-fi playbook or develop a memorable cast on the level of Lemire’s other creator-owned works. Not helping matters is the fact that most of the dialogue in the series, and this volume in particular, can be described as “functionally expository.” There are also a couple character deaths that certainly look fatal but turn out not to be so. It leaves me to believe that the one significant death we get here might not be as permanent as its creators want us to think.
It’s not all bad for this volume. Befitting a storyline that was billed as a major event, Lemire and Nguyen do a decent enough job of raising the stakes and pulling out a couple game-changing moments. A planet blows up, characters are betrayed, Tim-21 meets a Harvester, and the Human Culls begin! It’s enough to raise the overall excitement level of the title from “okay” to “interesting.” I’ll also give the creators some credit for delivering a cliffhanger that at least sets up the possibility that we’ll finally get some answers to the questions kicking around since its beginning. Given the quality of “Descender” up to this point, I’m going to keep my expectations low. It would take some very special answers to get me to raise my overall estimation of this title. With only one volume left in its run, however, I might as well stick around to see what they are.