It should be immediately obvious to anyone reading this that without Stan Lee’s contributions to superhero comics this site and podcast would look markedly different. “X-Men,” “Avengers,” “Spider-Man,” “The Fantastic Four,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Iron Man,” “Daredevil,” and the list goes on. The characters Stan Lee co-created with artists like Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby have proved time and time again to be enduring as they’ve adapted to changing times and tastes and he co-created so many of them! That all came down to the fact that he had a genius formula for creating superheroes: make them relatable and fallible, human in other words. With his only real competition at the time being DC, Lee and his artistic collaborators were in the right place at the right time in order for their approach to go over like gangbusters and eventually earn them pop-culture immortality.
While the main goal of Sugimoto and co. right now is to get to Asirpa’s father in Abashiri prison, this volume shows that the series is in no hurry to get there as it splits itself into two halves. The first is about our group of protagonists and how they make their way to Sapporo and wind up staying at a hotel there. I know that doesn’t sound all that interesting, except that the hotel is home to one of the tattooed convicts who also happens to be a serial killer. Oh, and the ultra-burly Tatsuma Ushiyama also shows up to make things more interesting. Take this highly combustible gathering of characters and put it in a hotel filled with secret passages and trap doors and the end result is some top-notch screwball kineticism and the best action the series has seen so far. The only things dragging it down are that it does feel like something of a sideshow to the main story, and there’s some arguable transphobia attached to the killer’s motivations.
As for the second half, it takes things in a completely different direction as the series’ oldest badasses, Toshizo Hijikata and Shinpachi Nagakura, find themselves playing out a riff on “Yojimbo.” If you’re not familiar with the film, it’s about a samurai who plays two warring gangs against each other to help free a town. Toshizo and Shinpachi’s motivations are far less pure as one of the town’s gangs has managed to get their hands on a tattooed convict skin and they’re looking for the fastest way to get their hands on it. Especially after lone-wolf sniper Hyakunosuke Ogata shows up looking to claim the skin for himself.
The storyline gets by on the appeal of the concept rather than the strength of its execution. While it’s fun to see Hijikata and Nagakura show that “aging gracefully” can also mean “still kicking ass and taking names after all these years” the story jumps around in a chaotic fashion that’s more distracting than involving. There’s some solid action in these parts as well, but that chaos does diminish their appeal somewhat. Vol. 6’s back half at least makes a decent case for giving the series’ old-guy antagonists their own shot in the spotlight. Let’s hope for some sharper execution the next time it swings their way.
At the end of most Marvel events is a series of epilogues setting up the next big event. DC got into doing that kind of thing with “Metal” which set the stage for this miniseries, which in turn set up the three current “Justice League” titles. While I understand the need to keep the momentum going from one big event to the next, I do expect the main story of each event to be a satisfying one before it gets down to the business of setting up the next one. That’s where “No Justice” fails big time.
I’ve written before about the long and mutually beneficial series of crossovers between “Usagi Yojimbo” and the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” In fact, you should go back and read my review of their last crossover since my thoughts on it haven’t changed in the intervening year. Though the story wasn’t all that great, it did feature some fantastic color art and was apparently pushed the amount of crossovers between the two series to critical mass, resulting in this “Complete Collection” that we’ve been graced with.
Having all of the Rabbit Ronin’s adventures with the Heroes in a Half-Shell is undeniably handy. If it also gets new fans to check out Usagi’s adventures then that’s even better. However, if you’re a longtime “Usagi” reader like me, then you likely already have the comics that make up the majority of this collection in your library already. That makes this collection more for completists than anyone else, though the couple of stories I haven’t read before are not without interest.
Ah, it’s a new creator-owned series from Rick Remender. Will it be the kind that relentlessly grinds down its protagonists to the point where it starts being fun (“Deadly Class”), to where you start sympathizing with the antagonist (“Seven to Eternity”), or just plain grinds them down (“Black Science”). If nothing else the answer is still unclear by the time we reach the end of this first volume of Glory’s adventures. The title character was raised off the grid to be resourceful and fiercely protective of her freedom by her father, Red, who is now dying of liver failure. Though Glory doesn’t have the funds to get him the medical treatment he needs, she does have a plan to get them: Robbing her scumbag of an ex-husband who works with a surgeon-cum-butcher named Korean Joe in one of the shadiest kinds of businesses.
That this plan goes all kinds of sideways shouldn’t surprise anyone, but it does lead to a reasonably entertaining spectacle of colorful criminals and car chases. Though the characters don’t have much depth to them, Remender and artist Bengal try to compensate for that by layering on the style. It’s quite successful from an artistic perspective as Bengal serves up some impressively emotive characters and slam-bang action scenes. Remender’s writing facilitates the action quite well and even if the characters are shallow, they still have some quirks to help define them.
Where he starts to lose me is in his glorification *ahem* of Glory’s off-the-grid lifestyle as the “right” way to live as opposed to how everyone else does. I’ve seen Remender embrace that kind of moralizing before (looking in your direction “Tokyo Ghost”) and it’s not handled any better in this series. Still it’s impressive to see a first volume (or any volume, really) from the writer end the way it does here. I hope he didn’t hurt himself writing that kind of ending because, flaws and all, this first volume did get me interested in seeing where Glory’s story goes from here.
Aaron has been working within the Marvel Universe for long enough that seeing him finally get the chance to write the “Avengers” feels right. The good news is that his willingness to embrace the casual craziness of this particular universe serves this opening story well. What does it involve? Nothing less than the extermination of the Earth by a pissed-off host of Celestials. You see, a million years ago a group of superpowered individuals -- consisting of Odin, Phoenix, Agamotto, and a Hulked-out Starbrand just to name a few -- killed a Celestial themselves in what they believed to be self-defense. Now its descendants are here to finish the job with a little help from the guy who, among other things, loves to bring Avengers teams together.
This leads to a first issue that has Celestials dropping out of the sky, Doctor Strange and Black Panther confronting a horde of mysterious eggs underneath the Earth, and Ghost Rider fighting the spawn of said eggs even before the Final Host show up in the last few pages. It’s certainly an attention-getting opening and one that largely works because of Aaron’s solid grasp of the characters (save one) and his indulgence in spectacle. Said spectacle works because Ed McGuinness fully embrace the “go big or go home” challenge of the story he’s been asked to draw. His work is glorious action-heavy spectacle throughout these issues and ably backed up by Paco Diaz’s equally energetic contributions from issue #3 onward.
Where the story falters is in its climax, which is essentially one of those “all those heroes come together as one to blast the bad guys with their powers of specialness” deals. It also doesn’t give the impression that Aaron has any grand plans to his run beyond some next-to-last-page musings by Odin about the Avengers never finding out the rest of his team’s secrets. Then there’s the new characterization of Jennifer Walters as more Hulk than lawyer, which was likely started in her solo title, that just rubs me the wrong way even though I realize the writer is just playing the hand that he’s been dealt. Not a perfectly enthralling start to this new age of “Avengers,” but one that should improve now that Aaron has worked the attention-getting stuff out of his system and settles down to show us what his real plans are for this run.
The cover to this volume is best appreciated by looking at the version of it on the color insert on the first page. That’s because the contrast that glossy version affords allows you to see how creepy it really is. Not that Teacher means any ill will towards Shiva in this volume. Not intentionally, as we see the fallout from what happened to the girl’s aunt in short order here. It turns out that all Outsiders are fated to become trees at one point, with those who have had souls like Shiva’s Aunt succumbing to that fate much sooner. Unfortunately when Shiva finds out that Teacher was keeping her aunt’s memory loss from her the two of them have an argument that ends with the Outsider barred from the girl’s room. When he goes back to the Outsider who keeps losing his head for more information about their fate, Teacher finds out that the rulers of the Inside have sent some special soldiers to bring Shiva back to them. Very special soldiers indeed…
As with any volume of “The Girl From the Other Side,” there are more questions raised about the nature of the Outsiders and Shiva. We do get some answers along the way, which is nice. Yet as I’ve mentioned before the real reason to keep reading this series is the way it depicts the relationship between Teacher and Shiva, which enters a rough patch early on in this volume. It’s a little painful to see it play out because the series has invested so much in building up the relationship between the two of them to this point. Mangaka Nagabe doesn’t play this up for cheap drama, as it’s easy to understand why Teacher acted the way he did and why a little girl like Shiva would be so angry about it. While a little part of me will be disappointed if all of the mysteries regarding the Outsiders aren’t addressed by the end of the series, it’s something I can live with. As long as the relationship between Teacher and Shiva is treated with the same honesty we see in this volume I’ll be satisfied.
“Deadpool” miniseries have been so prolific over the past few years that you could probably walk into a comic shop and hit one simply by swinging a dead dog around. Now would be the perfect place for me to ask a rhetorical question like, “How do you know what one to read?” except that the answer is obvious: Read the one with a creator you like. Which is how I came to add “You Are Deadpool” to my library as it’s written by Al Ewing. Though it’s been disappointing to see excellent series he’s written like “Loki: Agent of Asgard” and “New Avengers: A.I.M.”/”U.S.Avengers” languish in sales, I know that I can always count on him for an entertaining read. That holds true here even though this wasn’t what I was expecting.
With a title like “You Are Deadpool” I was expecting some meta-take that tried to actually place the reader in the title character’s tights. What I got instead was a choose-your-own-adventure story with some light pen-and-paper RPG elements. The story is just some nonsense about Deadpool being asked to steal a time-traveling helmet which is just a plot device to allow Ewing to have fun skewering Marvel’s swingin’ 60’s, the supernatural 70’s, and gritty 80’s via the irreverance of the Regeneratin’ Degenerate. He’s helped along with some fun and energetic art from Salva Espin and Paco Diaz who deserve some kind of award for making the choose-your-own-adventure aspect play out as clearly as it does on the page. Most importantly, the comic is a lot of fun to experience whether or not you actually “play” it or just cheat your way through.
(And if I’m being completely honest, this comic is worth reading alone for Kieron Gillen’s cameo and the “combat roll” pun he brings along with him.)
An original graphic novella from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips? Yes, please take my money! This is a thing that I absolutely want to read. I’ve said it time and time again (quite recently, in fact) that these two are one of the best creative teams in comics and it’s honestly a relief that between the end of “Kill or be Killed,” this novella, and the upcoming “Criminal” miniseries that they’re still putting out new comics even as Brubaker is working on “Too Old to Die Young” for Amazon. However, there’s another detail about this novella that hasn’t been advertised as much which will make it even more desirable to fans of creators. That little detail is on the title page indicating that this is “a ‘Criminal’ novella.”