July 30, 2018
What we have here is an action-centric volume and thankfully a gimmick-free one this time around. After the Spartan crosses the border of the Nanyang Alliance’s territory combat breaks out between the two sides. While that sounds simple enough, there are two complicating factors at work here: One is the Alliance’s efforts to get onboard the Spartan by any means necessary in order to deliver a message to their agent there. The other is that the Alliance forces are being commanded by Io’s childhood friend and former captain Claudia Peer. Whenever the action focuses on either of these two things, it has a real charge to it that’s genuinely captivating. It also helps that mangaka Yasuo Ohtagaki clearly had fun choreographing Io’s crazy ship-to-ship fighting efforts in normal gravity towards the end of the volume. Whenever the volume isn’t focusing on these things, it’s just fine. I just find it hard to care about the crew members whose names I can’t recall and effectively come off as redshirts at this point.
While Claudia’s return helps drive the drama during the battle, Ohtagaki also delivers some key developments to open and close the volume. We check back in with Darryl at the start to find out that he’s helping Karla Mitchum, creator of the Reuse P. Device, recover from the trauma she sustained during the fighting in the Thunderbolt sector. It’s kind of a gut punch once we find out the nature of her trauma and see how Darryl copes with it through the chapter. Then it’s revealed at the end just what the crew of the Spartan is up against when Capt. Humphrey lets everyone know about her personal connection to the leader of the Nanyang Alliance and how he’s also a member of an elite club of “Gundam” characters. It’s a moment that raises the stakes for everyone going against the Alliance at this point while also raising some interesting questions going forward. It’s a very solid effort all around from Ohtagaki and one that gets things back on track after the shenanigans of the previous volume.
July 29, 2018
The latest volume of the title character’s early years with the organization features a three-issue miniseries advancing its running plots bookended by two one-off issues, courtesy of regular writers Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson. “Secret Nature” comes first and features the slick art of “Thief of Thieves” Shawn Martinbrough who shows that he can handle a demonic throw-down as easily as a heist gone wrong. The story itself is pretty standard issue by “Hellboy” standards, nods to the racism of the time and “Abe Sapien” boogeyman Gustav Strobl help keep things interesting, but it’s Martinbrough’s work which carries the story. Fortunately the division of labor is a bit more evenly handled in the second story, “Burning Season,” as Hellboy, Prof. Bruttenholm, and psychic Susan Xiang investigate what looks to be a case of spontaneous human combustion in the Florida woods. It’s not that simple, of course, but the explanation behind it and the methods the team use to deal with it were unexpected in a good way. Paolo Rivera returns to the pages of this series for this one-off and again delivers detailed work that makes me wish he’d show up more often around these parts.
“Occult Intelligence” is the centerpiece of this volume and it follows three different plot threads. The main one involves Hellboy and some of his B.P.R.D. buddies stopping off at an Air Force base in the Marshall Islands on the way home and finding themselves smack in the middle of some secret experiments being run by a shadowy government organization and a Russian agent’s plan to interrupt them. Meanwhile, over in England, Susan works on honing her precognitive abilities, and Prof. Bruttenholm hits up some old friends to find out who else aside from the B.P.R.D. is investigating occult activity in the world. It’s solid work, with the Hellboy bits delivering some satisfying action and conspiracy drama while Bruttenholm’s activities connect the main story to a plot point set up in the previous volume. Only Susan’s plotline feels a bit extraneous as it feels like it’s there to set up future storylines. We do get some excellently loose and wild art from Brian Churilla tying it all together leading to a volume that, even if it doesn’t excite me in the way the best Mignolaverse stuff does, still has me interested in seeing where it’s all going.
July 28, 2018
It’s the penultimate volume of Dan Slott’s run on “Amazing Spider-Man” and how does it start? With a bit of filler in “Annual #42” as Peter Parker helps Betty Brant investigate an old case that her deceased flame, Ned Leeds, was working on. It involves a statue in the middle of town memorializing a battle that may not have existed and it’s got both the Enforcers and the Maggia mixed up in it together. Cory Smith delivers some nice art throughout the story, but it’s a pretty disposable affair that left me feeling like the only reason for its existence was that Slott wanted to give Betty a win before he left and bring another character back into play. The stories that were published along with it were better. Christos Gage and Todd Nauck have Spidey facing off against newly unreformed villain Clayton Clash in “Police & Thieves” only to find out that maybe Clash isn’t as unreformed as he first seems. David Hein and Marcus To’s “Spider-Sense and Sensibility” takes an interesting look at one of the title character’s defining abilities and all the headaches it causes him when it isn’t busy letting him know he’s about to be punched in the face.
The stories from the monthly title, co-written by Slott and Gage, are a good deal more entertaining. Even though they’re ostensibly an arc called “Threat Level: Red,” they’re mostly stand-alone stories as Spidey mixes it up with Zodiac after punching him into next year back in vol. 2, has a consultation with new “Sorcerer Supreme” Loki, and tries to foil the Goblin King’s latest scheme along with Anti-Venom. They’re all enjoyable even if Stuart Immonen’s work elevates the Zodiac story, and Mike Hawthorne’s pencils on the two that follow are just perfectly serviceable. What’s (loosely) tying them together are the subplot bits in each that show us how Norman Osborne has managed a team-up with one of Spider-Man’s deadliest foes. If you don’t know who it is already, then the title of the arc will give you a clue. It’s a very promising setup for the final volume as seeing what these two psychos can do together actually feels a little dangerous. No wonder the final arc is called “Go Down Swinging.”
July 27, 2018
Another year, another Comic-Con. While it’s still an insanely crowded experience where you have to line up incredibly early if you want to have a chance of getting into the biggest panels, there’s still plenty of fun to be had with the smaller panels on offer. Which were most of the ones that I wound up attending. So if you’re interested in the difference between a Dark Horse Manga panel featuring Yoshitaka Amano and a Yoshitaka Amano Spotlight panel put on by Dark Horse, finding out how Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti convinced Garth Ennis to write “The Punisher,” and whether or not we’ll see another digital volume of “All-Rounder Meguru” then read on!
Read the rest of this entry »
July 25, 2018
BEHOLD, the manga sitcom that wants to tell a serialized story but with characters too one-dimensional for it to work!
July 23, 2018
Apparently this series isn’t going to progress in a straight line, chronologically speaking. Vol. 3 takes us back to the time period of the first volume, and while I’m kinda disappointed that we’re not going to follow up with what Alita is up to in the present, we get some good backstory development here. Not in regards to Alita’s younger self, Yoko, but to her former friend/current nemesis Erica. We learn about her extremely unhappy childhood and how she dealt with her no-good parents and then see her separated from Yoko who winds up being reunited with her mother. While it seems like a happy development, it’s clear that there’s more going on there than it seems. From there, Erica winds up becoming first a captive of, then the apprentice of the infamous Baron Muster. A self-professed villain in a dapper tuxedo, he’s out for revenge against those who gave him a horrific disease that has left the man with a little over a year to live. It’s in Erica, however, that he senses a kindred wicked spirit that he can nurture with the appropriate training.
Erica’s history here was quite illuminating and it becomes a lot easier to see how she turned out like she did in the present. If mangaka Yukito Kishiro is going to keep jumping back and forth between time periods with every other volume, then character developments that inform both eras are going to be key to holding my interest here. Also, introducing a character like Baron Muster goes a long way towards making the parts of the story set in the past a lot more interesting than they were in the first volume. Kishiro has a long history of creating interesting madmen -- from Desty Nova, to Zapan, to Mbadi -- who also have their sympathetic sides as well. Muster is no exception to this as he’s self-aware enough to see that his actions set him as the villain in this story, yet realizes that there’s no reason the wicked shouldn’t be happy as well. It’s this philosophy that wins Erica over and sets her down what looks to be a dark but compelling path. I may know where it ends, but I want to see what else Erica encounters along the way.
July 22, 2018
Even if vol. 3 didn’t quite end on a cliffhanger, it ended on a real downer note for the series. It was even more of a bummer for the fact that I was expecting it to be the final volume given that the sales of “Rumble” have never been all that great. So when it was announced that there would be a new series, with artist David Rubin stepping in for James Harren, I was really excited for it.
The good news is that even with the change in artist, “Rumble’s” brand of entertaining weirdness remains intact with vol. 4. While monster-slaying- spirit “Conan”-in-a-scarecrow-body Rathraq’s body was destroyed at the end of vol. 3, his bones were not. Now he’s wearing them as he begins a ruthless crusade of vengeance against the Esu and their queen, Xotlaha. That actually turns out to be the easiest part of his current situation as Rathraq has managed to alienate his only human friends, Bobby and Del, in the process. While Bobby works with his girlfriend Timah to find out what’s eating the living scarecrow, Del has it out with Rathraq at first, but then looks to get back into his good graces by introducing him to the new monster-hunting neighborhood watch that has sprung up following the events of the previous volume.
All this and I still haven’t gotten around to discussing what the mischievous/manipulative Cogan has been up to. Writer John Arcudi still has plenty of time for weird in this series, whether it’s showing us how Rathraq lives between the cracks in our modern era, or in the epic adventures he used to have in the days when monsters freely roamed the Earth. He still knows how to keep it all accessible by focusing on the human stakes in each conflict, and Rubin absolutely knocks it out of the park with the art in this volume. Rubin has a flatter, more animation-friendly style than Harren, but he’s a masterful caricaturist when it comes to showing us human or monster expressions and can detail an epic action sequence without getting the reader lost in its chaos. I think Rubin is on “Rumble” only through it’s next arc, but I’d love to be wrong about that because I’d love to see more of his work (and the series in general) after this volume.
July 21, 2018
The cold war between the organizations which watch over Earth and Space is starting to heat up. International Operations thinks that Skywatch is making a move on them because the tech used by Jacob Marlow’s Wild Covert Action Team is suspiciously like that group’s. Never mind the fact that Angela Spica, who is now with Jacob’s team, and her high-tech exosuit were made from tech that I.O. purloined from Skywatch. While I.O.’s Chief of Analytics Jacklyn King cooks up a plan to raid Skywatch’s data servers for any info that will make them back down, Skywatch head Henry Bendix is all but visibly licking his chops at the thought of finally going to war with his most hated adversary. While all this is going on, Jacob’s team is working its own independent agenda and doing his best to bring Angie into the fold by giving her the “easy reader” version of the history of his alien race. Meanwhile, Shen Li-Min and Jenny Sparks meet, go out for drinks, have some sex, and share their unique histories.
I could go into even more detail, but this second volume of “The Wild Storm” is really easy to sum up. It’s very much one of those reads where if you liked what Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt were doing with the first volume then then there’s more of that to appreciate here. Conversely, more to hate or be bored by, but I liked what they did there. They continue to deliver some impressive action scenes, intriguing digressions (Jacob’s alien history! John Colt as a samurai!), and further the slow burn as things start to ignite in the conflict between I.O. and Skywatch. We also get to see more familiar WildStorm characters integrated here as some are brought over wholesale like Jack Hawksmoor, gender-swapped in the case of Jacklyn King, or conflated as Shen is now the Doctor instead of just being Swift. All this and even a brief nod to a bit of “Planetary” history, so maybe we will see Elijah Snow and company in here after all. The way things are going now, I’d say that’s something to look forward to.
July 20, 2018
One thing that never ceases to annoy me in comics is when we get an extended sequence where people are talking in a foreign (or even made-up) language without a translation. Yes, O great writer, we see that you’re proficient enough in this language to write in it for an extended period, but it doesn’t add anything to the story and creates the feeling in the reader that we’re missing out on key parts of the plot. I’ve seen it in “100 Bullets,” “Queen & Country,” and now the first “Empowered” miniseries which has the title character mixing it up with a magical girl who has an axe to grind with the power of love. After entering into a contract with a magical armadillo as a girl, the adult Soldier of Love is now out to show the world what crock the concept of love is. Unfortunately for Emp, the Soldier has accepted a commision to show all of the capes in her town just how aggravating love and the many, many hook-ups it leads to can be.
Gripes about writer Adam Warren’s need to show off his fluency in Spanish aside, this is still another quality “Empowered” tale. While the setup does provide some on-point jokes about superhero hookups, what winds up resonating are the emotional stakes at the end of the story. Particularly those of Ninjette as she confronts her daddy issues in a way that leads to hatred and vengeance saving the day. The absolute best part of this miniseries, however, is the art from Karla Diaz. While she’s not the first artist who isn’t Warren to tackle “Empowered,” she perfectly captures the manga-influenced slapsticky glee of the series in her own distinct way without being slavish to the style of its creator or manga in general. She’s done a lot of webcomic work according to the volume’s backmatter, so I’ll have to check it out in the near future.
The volume is rounded out with a Warren-illustrated one-shot, “Pew! Pew! Pew!” which is mainly an excuse for him to draw lots of big guns being fired off by some angry supervillains, and then his heroine. Or is it? As always there’s a bit more going on here than it appears as Emp finds out that maybe she’s not as well-adjusted to the rampant supercape douchebaggery she encounters on a daily basis. Which, when combined with the title miniseries, adds up to another spin-off volume of “Empowered” action that’s as enjoyable as the main volumes.
July 18, 2018
No, this isn’t “Thanos vol. 3: Thanos Wins.” So successful were these six issues from new writer Cates, and his “God Country” collaborator Geoff Shaw, that this volume was rebranded (on the copyright pages at least) with his name. Deservedly so, if the sales of this arc were any indication. This latest “Thanos” series was looking like an also-ran at the end of Jeff Lemire’s twelve issues, and then these six issues from Cates and Shaw piled on reorders -- issue #13 went through five printings the last I heard -- and sales increased in a way that you just don’t see for a Marvel comic, or really any comic, in this day and age. So, was “Thanos Wins” as good as I had been led to believe? The answer is a qualified “Yes,” because for all that works about this arc you’ve got to be onboard with the idea of Thanos as one of the Marvel Universe’s big bads in order to get the most out of it.
Read the rest of this entry »