July 31, 2019
Immortal Hulk vol. 5: Breaker of Worlds
Collecting issues #21-25, the last of which is also featured in these solicitations. It’s also given a rather final-sounding solicit as the story is described as taking place at the heat death of the universe. No points for guessing who’s there to see the Ninth Cosmos off. I may not be into this series as much as everyone else, but I can appreciate its fresh take on the character. Also, the fact that its success may finally (FINALLY) vault Al Ewing into the ranks of A-list Marvel writers is enough for it to receive my eternal gratitude.
That final-sounding solicitation however, does raise a specific question: Are we headed for a relaunch next month? Given that this title has been outselling “Batman” in recent months, you’d think that’d be reason enough to not upset the cart. But you can never underestimate Marvel’s love for a quick buck when it comes to relaunching a buzzworthy series with a new #1. I’m fully expecting to see a new “Incredible Hulk #1” next month with the advance word being that the story of the “Immortal Hulk” is over and now Ewing has a new tale to tell us. Which I’ll be onboard for because, hey, it’s Ewing.
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July 29, 2019
On its own terms, this is probably the most entertaining “Mars Chronicle” has been so far. It starts off with a thrilling and creative fight between bounty hunters Dass and Gillum before segueing into the inevitably tragic end of Yoko’s mom/nanny Kyoko. There’s a bit there that chillingly illustrates how much of a psychopath Erica has become, but mangaka Yukito Kishiro manages to twist it around into something weirdly heartwarming by the chapter’s end. Then the climax kicks into gear as Erica and Yoko are brought back to Cydonia province’s capital so that the latter can be officially recognized as the daughter of its leader. If that sounds like a good fate for her, then you might be a bit concerned to know that this is exactly what Baron Muster has been planning for.
What follows is a ragged yet thrilling scream of triumph as the Baron gets what he wants. To the detriment of just about everyone in Cydonia. But hey, something, something about making an omelette… Seeing the Baron’s plan play out is a cynical joy in the unexpected detours it takes along the way. I can’t say that I expected it to play out the way it did, right up until its end. That included finding out the secret origin of Yoko/Alita along the way.
Whether or not Kishiro will be able to tie that origin into the sprawling “Alita” saga going forward remains to be seen. My money’s on “not” because while following Muster’s story has been fun, it’s not his name in this series’ title. In fact, the past four volumes now feel like the mangaka was using this series to tell a story that he was interested in, but didn’t have much relevance to Alita herself. The second volume also sticks out like a sore thumb in how it featured present-day Alita and Erica as a means of placating fans who were wondering when this series was going to follow up on the events of “Last Order.” That still seems like a ways off as the end suggest we’re finally, FINALLY, coming up on the scene that opened that series as the two cyborg girls prove that they’re more than just helpless war orphans. It’s about time, even if I wouldn’t put it past Kishiro to throw in another digression next time.
July 28, 2019
Grendel: Devil’s Odyssey #1 (of 8)
I didn’t expect this: Matt Wagner is returning to his other signature creation to push it forward. After the prose/illustrated novel “Past Prime” took “Grendel” to its farthest point in the future, Wagner left it there for a decade. He spent that decade looking into the past with its most famous/infamous protagonist Hunter Rose. We got to see his early exploits in a couple of Eisner-winning anthologies, an eight-issue miniseries, and a “Shadow” crossover both by Wagner himself. Now he’s back to… end it all?
“Devil’s Odyssey” finds the unstoppable cyborg Grendel Prime facing his biggest challenge yet. He’s been tasked by the current Grendel Khan to find a new home for humanity as the Earth is slowly dying. Easier said than done for someone like Grendel Prime, but is that what he really wants? The moral compass of “Grendel” the series is so skewed that the solicitation text can pose a hackneyed question like, “But will the deadly and relentless paladin ultimately save humanity . . . or destroy it?” and it’s actually hard for me to answer one way or the other with any certainty. Which is part of the series’ appeal too.
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July 27, 2019
The Sandman Universe Presents: Hellblazer #1
Oh, it’s a new series from DC featuring John Constantine… Wait, it’s under “The Sandman Universe Presents” banner. So that means it’s a Mature Readers book that’s going to take place in the same shared continuity as the long-running “Hellblazer” series! And it’s even going to be written by Si Spurrier, a writer who seems like a perfect fit for the character and his universe. Granted, I’m a bit worried about how the premise for this new series is more than a bit complicated: This version of Constantine is the one who was only featured for a couple of pages in the original “Books of Magic” miniseries as a casualty in the war that an evil Tim Hunter started in the future. Somehow, he’s found his way back to the present where Tim is just learning the rules of magic. It seems like Constantine has a binary choice to make, and I’m sure Spurrier has realized that too. I want to see what he’s figured out and that’s why I’ll be reading this series.
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July 26, 2019
Marvel’s “Endgame” victory lap and its unveiling of “Phase 4.” The future of “The Walking Dead” on TV and on film. The final “Game of Thrones” panel with the cast. I went to none of the panels that featured these things. As is the case with all of the Comic-Cons that I attend, my focus is generally on one thing only: The Comics. So I went to a lot of panels featuring comic creators, publishers of comics and manga, manga critics/fans, and even those offering scholarly analysis of manga and manga-influenced titles. Were they any good? Yes and no. Find out which was which below.
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July 24, 2019
John and I take a mulligan this week to talk about a series that's fun because it does things you won't see elsewhere, sometimes for good reason.
July 22, 2019
You know, I think you’ve got to go all the way back to the reign of Yoshimune -- maybe Ieshige if you’re being generous -- to find a time when it felt like the good women and men of this series weren’t constantly behind the eightball. Since then it’s felt like things have steadily become worse for those in power who try to do the right thing for Japan and its people. They’re constantly being outmaneuvered by those who would seek to wield power for their own ends or are acting on their worst instincts. For a while it looked like Iesada would buck that trend, until poor planning on her side gave the “Barbarians Out” contingent the upper hand in the previous volume. But wait! We found out that she was pregnant with her lover/consort Taneatsu’s child at the end of the previous volume! Surely this was a sign of better things to come?
It’s become clear that one of the things that Fumi Yoshinaga wants to say in this series is that people who want society to change for the better have to be vigilant. If they waver for even a moment then the bad guys are going to overtake them. This is a lesson that I’ve been reminded of whenever I check the daily news and to see it reiterated here with even more melodrama does not help instill it further. For comparison’s sake: The second significant death in this volume makes a certain amount of sense given the amount of resentment the character had engendered. The first significant death, however, is just plain mean. We didn’t need something like that to remind us that the world can be a horrifically awful place sometimes, but we got it anyway. There are some good tidings afterwards to raise the reader’s spirits before Yoshinaga gives us the ending cliffhanger with a twist to let us know the bad guys are still scheming. Which means she’s sending us out on that bummer note to let us know that things are going to get better with the next volume.
July 21, 2019
I wasn’t expecting to say that Gabriel Hardman, who helped give us the underwhelming “Star Wars: Legacy” sequel series, would give us a better “Aliens” series than James Stokoe, but here we are. “Dust to Dust” is a kid’s-eye view of a Xenomorph outbreak on a far-off colony planet. Young Maxon wakes up to chaos in the streets, a facehugger attached to his mother, and things only get worse for him from there.
Though the back of this volume says that this story mixes the horror of “Alien” with the action of “Aliens,” it really hews much closer to the latter than the former. “Dust to Dust” starts off as a horrific thrill ride and it doesn’t slow down until around two-thirds of the way in. That kind of relentless pacing does grow wearing after a bit, as does the fact that the series feels like an exercise in tormenting a little kid for most of its length. If that kind of stuff bothers you, then consider yourself warned.
None of this detracts from the fact that the action is skillfully executed by Hardmann who also delivers the straightforward story with a minimum of stupidity. Maxon winds up being an inherently sympathetic protagonist due to his age, and you wind up rooting for him to make it out alive after everything he winds up going through. Hardman, however, is smart enough to realize that even if the kid does make it out alive he’ll be living with this trauma for the rest of his life. This is solid work all around and a persuasive argument for me to give the creator another shot on his next project.
July 20, 2019
I was somewhat lukewarm on the first volume of Aaron’s “Avengers.” It was the kind of “Go Big” story that started the series off at full tilt, leaving you unsure where the series could go from there. Fortunately this second volume shows that the writer does have a plan for where he wants this series to go. The key words for that direction in this volume are “smaller” and “weirder” as it kicks off with an origin story for one of the “Avengers of 1,000,000 B.C.” before seguing into a nice, low-key downtime issue as the team gets to know each other inside their new headquarters inside a dead Celestial. This leads directly into a story about Namor and his new aquatic superhero team and their war against the surface, the introduction of the Squadron Supreme of America, and the establishment of the Agents of Wakanda.
None of these stories even attempts to match the opening arc’s balls-to-the-wall intensity and that turns out to be a good thing. Aaron makes it clear that he’s playing the long game here with lots of interesting setup for future storylines. This sense of planning elevates a quaint storyline like Namor’s as you recognize all the competing agendas which lie below its surface (pun intended). I also like the fact that he’s positioning the team as being generally successful in its agenda, with T’Challa giving it a leg up on operating intelligence thanks to his Agents, which makes the sinister plans occurring around them more interesting than frustrating to observe.
One thing that the first volume did better was artistic consistency. Ed McGuinness and Paco Medina worked well together to give the first volume a fittingly over-the-top look. McGuinness returns here, but only for parts of certain issues. He does solid work wherever he arrives, as do the likes of Sara Pichelli, David Marquez, and Cory Smith (with Adam Kubert, Frazer Irving, and Andrea Sorrentino pitching in on the anniversary issue). Their presences guarantee that this volume looks good, but at the cost of issue-to-issue stylistic consistency. Which is something that deserves to be fixed as the storytelling here deserves a more consistent artistic vision.
July 19, 2019
The Sangeryes used to be the greatest family of monster hunters out there. They were able to combat and cure the Jinoo, the name given to people whose souls were corrupted by hate, without breaking a sweat. That was until a falling-out between family members sent the gunslinging Ford to the Deep South, turned the researcher Enoch into a pariah, and left Ma Etta, Blink, and Berg to hold down the fort in Harlem, with the latter training aspiring Jinoo hunter Cullen. Now an even greater threat is on the rise which might force the family into reconciliation. A new kind of infection is spreading through the streets of Harlem and beyond. An infection which turns people into vicious demons and the remaining Sangeryes are unable to cure. Even after it claims one of their own.
I’ve read first volumes where it feels like the creators decided to jump straight to the storyline where everything goes wrong for the main characters. Co-writers David Walker and Chuck Brown, along with artist Sandford Greene apparently decided to one-up those series by starting with what feels like the final storyline for this series. Everything about this first volume of “Bitter Root” feels like things are coming to a head as the stakes keep getting raised with each issue until the nature of the threat feels downright apocalyptic. I can appreciate the writers’ ambition in that regard, and Green provides some very stylish art, but the end result feels like kind of a mess. It’s really hard to care about this large cast as the creators clearly prioritized slam-bang action over characterizations that don’t feel rote and familiar. While I’m sure there will be a second volume to conclude the story at some point, what’s here leaves me feeling like it’d be for the best if that was it for the Sangeryes family.