So I looked at the titles in my “to review” stack and realized that some of them have been there for quite some time. In fact, it’s been over a month since I made a bulk order of new comics. Time to fix that, but what to do about the stuff I’ve been wanting to review? Hey, it looks like a good chunk of them are Image titles that I can bundle together in one go like I’ve done in the past! So brace yourself for brief reviews of “Isola,” “Regression,” “Sunstone,” “Seven to Eternity” and “Rumble.”
I look at the late, great manga writer's non-terrible and actually good collaborations with Ryoichi Ikegami.
Anyone looking to make a drinking game out of this episode is advised to take a shot each time I mention "female wish fulfillment" when talking about "Crying Freeman." It really wasn't something I was expecting to engage with before re-reading it...
This is a volume of two halves, one of which is considerably more problematic than the other. The first half introduces us to another group of survivors living out of an office building and led by the implausibly charismatic Asada. He’s set up his own cult of personality called Asada-ism which he wants to spread to the rest of the world. While the majority of the building’s inhabitants have subscribed to his doctrine, there is a minority who dislike the way he’s been running things. Their plan is to get behind former mangaka Korori Nakata and have him run things instead.
The series that ranked as my “Best of 2018” comes around for its latest volume and things couldn’t be better, right? Not quite. Things start off promisingly enough with a flashback to better, but still very murderous, days for Kretchmeyer back home and in Baltimore before segueing into the team-up from hell. That’d be the one between him and Beth’s mother, Annie. Sure, both of them could’ve used another month in the hospital to recover from her stroke and nerve damage to his left arm, but revenge and suitcases filled with cash and cocaine wait for no person. Especially when the people in possession of these items are blazing a trail of crime and debauchery through the midwest. That might sound like fun but the fractures are starting to show in the relationship between Beth, Nina, and Derek… I mean Orson. About that: Orson is still maintaining his ex-porn-star alter ego and while it’s giving him the confidence to do some crazy and disgusting things, the question remains as to whether these crazy and disgusting things are actually worth doing.
What this volume made me realize is that the three previous volumes of “Sunshine & Roses” all benefited from a strong sense of focus on the plot at hand. Whether it was reintroducing the world and characters, robbing the Cock’s Crow, or hiding out in Palm Court, the focus on these things kept the narrative focused while the craziness nipped around at its fringes. Here, it feels like creator David Lapham let things get away from him as Kretch and Annie’s adventures tackle a lot of different things and only tangentially intersect with everyone else’s. Meanwhile, Beth, Nina, and Orson feel like they’re spinning their wheels as they realize that stealing all this money and drugs hasn’t given them the freedom they’d hoped. What’s here isn’t truly bad and a lot of the individual issues, like the one involving Orson’s return to Baltimore, are quite good. I’m just left wishing that Lapham had picked one particular plot thread to focus on and stuck to that. Had he done that this would’ve been a worthy follow-up to the previous three instead of the very readable speed bump that it is.
I talked about the first volume of this series in the “On Horror” podcast. The short version is that while this horror-infused “Hulk” title isn’t scary, writer Al Ewing and artist Joe Bennett are still doing great, creative work best evidenced by one of its key revelations towards the end. That would be the fact that some evil Gamma-related force has it in for the Hulk and Bruce Banner, and it’s doing it with the face of Banner’s abusive father. What does it want? Banner isn’t sure yet, but he does have an idea of where to go next: home to where the Hulk was born. The problem is that there are lots of people who want to see the Green Goliath either in custody for his own protection or in custody for their own purposes. It’s a list that includes the Avengers, the new Gamma Flight team, and the Shadow Base team of military men, scientists, Bushwhacker, and Absorbing Man.
Does this mean that there’s a lot of fighting going on in this volume? Yes it does and it really allows Bennett to show how he can really deliver some impressive carnage. The Avengers brawl is first among equals here and it’s a satisfying rumble not just for the action, but for the way this new Hulk gets into the heads of his former teammates. Especially in the case of Jennifer Walters as his encounter with her represents the first worthwhile thing I’ve seen done with her new “savage” She-Hulk persona. The setup involving Gamma Flight isn’t that interesting, so it’s a good thing that the business involving Shadow Base makes up for it. From their unique method of Hulk containment, to how the character crosses a line in his escape, to the brief history of Absorbing Man and his horrific and tragic transformation, it’s clear that these antagonists are as interesting as they are worthy. Then you’ve got the business with the Green Door which closes out the volume and sets up a promisingly creepy storyline for the next volume -- in Hell.
As the latest volume in Tom King’s “Batman” run, there’s not a whole lot of the title character written by the writer in it. Three issues from the main series and a four-page short from the “Secret Files.” That’s it. In fact, this is the first volume where a writer other than King, Tom Taylor, has been credited on the cover. This probably sounds like I’m making a big fuss over nothing -- especially when the previous “Batman” run had two volumes credited to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo where they contributed a minority of the actual content to them. The reason I’m bringing it up is because “The Tyrant Wing” represents a triumph by DC to pad out a collection with additional material rather than put its main story where it belongs.
Kelly Thompson writing both Hawkeyes again with Gwenpool, Quentin Quire, and America Chavez in tow, and Stefano Caselli providing the art! SOLD!
...aaand it’s gone. That’s right, this latest incarnation of “West Coast Avengers” is a lame duck with its first volume after having been given the axe with issue #10. Which is TERRIBLE since this first volume was so much fun. Thompson has such a great handle on the core cast and writes such good banter between them that it’s fun to see a complete newbie like Fuse, Kate Bishop’s boyfriend who can change his body mass to whatever substance he touches, mix it up along with them. There are also plenty of fun, irreverent touches throughout the volume, starting with the recurring documentary crew interviews, the landshark attack, the appearance of angry mind-controlled 50-foot Tigra, and of course B.R.O.D.O.K.
That would be Bio-Robotic Organism Designed Overwhelmingly for Kissing and yes, he is a drastically and ridiculously revamped version of the M.O.D.O.K. that we all know and love. There’s a message in his arc about how outer change is no substitute for inner change, but it takes second banana to the absurdity of the main plot which culminates in Kate going big *rimshot* in order to stop the 50-foot Tigra and the other similarly-sized monsters which have joined her. Between Thompson’s winning dialogue and Caselli’s detailed artwork “Best Coast” is so much fun that its “cancelled” status doesn’t feel warranted at all.
Marvel has shown a willingness to give certain titles that sell well in collected form a miniseries reprieve -- looking in your direction “Iceman” and “Domino” -- so everyone should go out and buy this right away so “West Coast Avengers” can joint their ranks. Yes, this volume is padded out with the first issue of “The Unbelievable Gwenpool” and the Kate Bishop issue of “Young Avengers Presents.” They’re good issues in their own right, but they do feel a little out of place with the style and tone of what precedes them.
We’ve known for quite some time that the tendrils of the Nanyang Alliance under Sojo Levan Fu have infiltrated the Federation and Zeon forces. What this volume makes abundantly clear is just how for that infiltration extends. Things start off in a lighthearted fashion with the Federation forces headed towards some down time after successfully subduing the Rig. By lighthearted I mean we’ve got Io throwing a hissy fit in the process about not being able to cram as much ammo as he wants onto the Atlas Gundam, and the bridge crew dreaming about what food they’re going to eat. Meanwhile, the Zeon forces are making preparations to interrogate the newly captured Claudia Peer while Darryl has to play daddy some more to the still-regressed Karla.
Zeon’s possession of Claudia would appear to be a major win for them, if it wasn’t for the fact that mangaka Yasuo Ohtagaki tipped his hand as to how deeply they’ve been infiltrated by Nanyang in the previous volume. The infiltration goes so deep that they even manage to pull some power moves in regards to shifting the allegiance of certain cast members. Honestly, it’s impressive from a plot standpoint to see Zeon so thoroughly subverted as a result of all this and I’m curious to see what Nanyang plans to do with their power. I also want to see what’s going to happen with Darryl as a result of all this after his moment of recognition with Claudia that reveals what has really kept him going after all this time.
The infiltration on the Federation side isn’t as thorough, but it’s arguably more sinister. If you’ve been wondering who the identity of the hat-and-jacket-clad spy is then you’ll get your answer here. It’s going to be a bad day for Io when he finds out, and with his mental stability taking a big blow after finding out that Claudia is still alive in this volume I’m not sure what he’s going to do. So while this volume winds up being mostly setup for the next big storyline, it manages to still be pretty engaging while advancing the plot at the same time. Neat trick, that.
Alright, so that first volume of “Domino” left some room for improvement as it shifted between intense character drama and freewheeling action-comedy less-than-gracefully. This volume is an improvement in that regard as it focuses more on the latter than the former and the experience is a lot more enjoyable for it. It opens up with an annual that’s pretty much just filler, but at least has the decency to offer up three good stories (out of four) around the framework of Domino going about an average day. The kind that involves dressing up as a clown and going scuba diving in a swamp. Then we get to the proper issues from the main series which cover two quasi-separate stories. I say “quasi-separate” because they’re about jobs that Domino, Outlaw, and Diamondback have undertook at the request of a young Wakandan royal named Shoon’Kwa. The first job has them heading to Eastern Norway to retrieve a box, without looking inside. The second involves taking out Marvel’s other luck-based superhero before he winds up destroying all of humanity.
Writer Gail Simone does a good job of balancing Domino’s devil-may-care persona with strong morals. Which means that she’s always going to do the right thing, even if her way of doing things looks a little weird or even crazy. It’s how we have her following Morbius to take out the king of all vampires off the coast of Barcelona, and accompanying a somewhat disturbed Longshot back into the Mojoverse. Simone provides the quality banter and intriguing moral dilemmas while artist David Baldeon gives us some nicely detailed action and appealingly emotive characters. Mostly, as he’s supplemented in the final two issues by one, and then three other artists. Given that the series was abruptly cancelled with its tenth issue, it’s probably not surprising that there were some last-minute changes that warranted the extra artistic help. Still, the story doesn’t read badly for a “We gotta wrap this up now!” thing and it’s all the more surprising that it was cancelled given that it’s getting a miniseries reprieve with “Hotshots.” Which is something I’ll be picking up too given how this volume was an improvement over its first.
Here’s what I’m pretty sure is the last collected edition featured in the “Great Color Cull” of “X-Men” titles from last year. It also makes a better case for itself this time around as the talk of changing the world takes a backseat to some well-crafted superhero action courtesy of writer Tom Taylor and artists Carmen Carnero and Roge Antonio. By that I mean we’ve got Jean and her team staging a midair heist on a politician’s airplane that winds up going horribly wrong. There’s also a plan to spread hate via nano-sentinels, a tsunami attack on Genosha, Teen Abomination (no, really) smashing Atlantis, and lots of military forces being hijacked to spread the main villain’s hateful agenda. It’s all ably rendered by Carnero and Antonio, who also do a decent job with the many little character moments sprinkled throughout the volume.
My guess is that Taylor saw the writing on the wall and realized that he wasn’t going to be able to follow through on the world-changing story he had planned. He does nod to it a bit in the final pages, to little emotional effect. The change in approach is for the better as the story we get here is a good showcase for his character-writing skills and ability to serve up well-executed superhero action. By that I mean the issues here focus on setting up credible threats to our heroes, only for them to be foiled because the villain didn’t realize how resilient and clever they were. Seriously, there’s some good back-and-forth struggling here between both sides that helped keep my interest in the story high until the end. It also gets points for having its big climactic moment involve a team-up between Nightcrawler and Honey Badger where the former’s teleportation ability is utilized in a very unconventional manner. Good stuff all around, and now I’m just a bit sad we won’t be able to read more of it.