May 31, 2020
I’ve waxed poetic about Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “Batman” run enough on this blog that you all should know I think it’s pretty great. So it should come as no surprise that I was really looking forward to this volume which was billed as their last word on the character -- well before the back cover advertised as much. That they were given plenty of time and freedom to tell this story, under DC’s Black Label mature-readers’ superhero comics imprint and over three oversized issues, was only more encouraging…
...so if you’re thinking that this is all buildup to me saying that this was kind of a disappointment, you’re pretty much right. “Last Knight on Earth” does have a lot to like about it. Capullo’s dynamic and detailed art to Snyder’s crazy ideas and firm grasp of the title character guarantee that this story isn’t going to be anything less than “good.” It’s just that I was expecting more from a team that routinely gave us “great” over the course of their run.
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May 30, 2020
The first volume of the flagship series of the “Dawn of X” era has arrived. As written by “House of X/Powers of X” mastermind Jonathan Hickman, it’s not unreasonable to expect that the stories being told within this series will be driving the line as a whole. So the expectation is that we’d be getting the biggest, most exciting -- really, the most superheroic -- stories of the whole line.
That’s not what Hickman has delivered with this volume.
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May 29, 2020
The history of the Marvel Universe is a living, breathing thing that changes with each new comic published. It’ll look different from one year to the next, and possibly even unrecognizable between decades. So the idea that someone was going to do a comic that was going to outline it all, up to the point that its final issue was published in December, does kind of seem like an exercise in futility. Despite the best efforts of Mark Waid, a writer who respects continuity and does his level best to integrate previous stories into his own, it succeeds in laying out the history while also making for a pretty dull read. The history is framed as a story that Galactus is telling to Franklin Richards at the end of time, and it effectively boils down to a series of splash pages with dialogue that goes, “First this happened. And then this. And then this…” So while it’s interesting to see what made the cut as “significant” for the Marvel Universe’s history -- I’m happy to see Slott and Allred’s “Silver Surfer” acknowledged -- the actual reading isn’t all that fun.
There is, however, one good reason for people to pick this up: The incredible art from Javier Rodrigues. The artist always made a good impression when I saw him in the pages of Waid’s “Daredevil” run or in the one Annual of “Superior Spider-Man” he did. “The History of the Marvel Universe” is effectively a series of splash pages chronicling these events, and Rodriguez looks to have viewed it as a challenge to completely cut loose. There’s a incredible Kirby-esque energy that has an obvious place in the early days of the Universe, but feels perfectly at home as things strive towards the present day. While some of his compositions may be hard to follow, the majority of them capture the eye and demand that you unpack how he made them work on the page. It’s stunning work and it deserves to be seen in the oversized treasury format the volume was published in. Just be advised that you’re getting a really good-looking history lesson with this volume (and one whose page count is half footnotes in the back) and not a proper story.
May 27, 2020
We may not have recorded this at Fanime, but that's not going to stop us from talking up this classic series about life in the quirkiest boys' dorm.
May 25, 2020
With this volume, Kodansha has now published as many volumes of “All-Rounder Meguru” as Dark Horse has of “Eden: It’s an Endless World!” Which is still something that I highly recommend EVERYONE who visits this blog to check out. Especially now as comics emerge (slowly) from lockdown.
As for the volume itself, it’s another solid entry for the series. We pick up with Meguru cleaning the clock of his latest opponent in a way that causes Maki to become just a little awestruck. Will she ever get the moment or nerve to confess to him before the end of the series? Almost certainly given the way romances in sports manga tend to go. Not here, though. Certainly not before Meguru gets to go up against Kyosuke Masuoka, a.k.a. The Leglock Lunatic. That’s his signature move and he’s made plenty of fighters submit to it. Our protagonist just happens to be the next one on his list.
I’ll give Endo this, he commits to the idea of making Kyosuke seem like a credible threat to Meguru in this tournament. Which is all we can ask for at this point in the arc since, barring some surprise upset, it looks like it’ll conclude with the title character going against his childhood friend Takashi in the finals. So while it’s nice to see Kyosuke try to put some pressure on Meguru, it becomes clear early on that he’s mainly here to show how much the main character has grown as a fighter by this point. There’s some nice moments in the fight where we get to see Meguru display his now trademark on-the-spot ingenuity, though the fight as a whole is just aggressively fine. That doesn’t make this a bad volume by any means, but I probably would’ve skipped writing about it if I wasn’t running out of stuff in my “to review” pile.
May 24, 2020
I wasn’t sure why we needed another random “Amazing Spider-Man” one-shot when this was solicited, but the creative team attached to it sold me on the idea of picking it up (eventually). Contributing to this story are (deep breath): Jonathan Hickman, Chris Bachao, Gerry Duggan, Greg Smallwood, (current Spider-Writer) Nick Spencer, Mike Allred, Kelly Thompson, Valerio Schiti, Al Ewing, Chris Sprouse, Chip Zdarsky, Rachel Stott, Jason Aaron, Cameron Stewart, and Mark Bagley. How did they fit all these creators together for this one-shot? By doing a vastly scaled-down version of the “Kamandi Challenge” with each creative team putting their spin on their part of the story and setting up a cliffhanger that the next one had to resolve.
The end result for “Full Circle” is the kind of crazed fever dream that you’d expect from setting this many creators loose on a Spider-Man story. It starts off in space with Nick Fury and an A.I.M. plot and then quickly crashes to Earth to rope in a ferret theme park, a highly contagious werewolf disease, the High Evolutionary, more Spider-Hams than you can shake a stick at, and a disembodied voice talking to Peter behind several locked doors and a manhole. Yes, this barely functions as a proper story, but it wasn’t really intended to. All of the writers feel liberated to get as crazy as they can -- with Ewing and Aaron’s sections getting special points in that area -- while all of the artists look to thrive on it. Things even manage to stick the landing in a finale that smacks the reset button in a fun and interesting way.
Is this all worth $10, I’d say so. Just be advised that even though this is advertised as an 126-page collection, you’re only getting 82-pages of actual comics. What takes up the rest of the collection? The expected selection of variant covers, the full script of the one-shot, and (best of all) a text chat between the creators as they discuss how to end the damn thing. Not a bad selection of extras to pad things out. Just be sure to pick this up in its original paperback form or digitally. I liked this, but not enough to recommend paying $30 for it in hardcover form.
May 23, 2020
Aliens are invading! Los Angeles is doomed! The world is next, unless its superheroes can convince the one man capable of saving it to do so! That man: Peter Cannon, a man who is capable of seeing nine times more than others due to the scrolls of a dead people who were unjustly wiped from the Earth. Peter may not care for civilization much, but he realizes that the continued survival of people are its best chance of actually turning into something worthwhile. So he helps the heroes out, the world is saved, and nations that were on the brink of war are now talking peace to each other. It should be reason for everyone to celebrate. Peter knows better, however. He knows that this interdimensional attack was an attempt to artificially provoke unity on a divided earth. How does Peter know this? Because the person who orchestrated it all was… him?
Peter Cannon was a superhero created in the 60’s and originally published by Charlton Comics. He was also the inspiration for Ozymandias in “Watchmen” and that’s what writer Kieron Gillen is taking specific aim at here. This five-issue series isn’t his rebuttal to that series. It’s his rebuttal to an industry that never quite got past that seminal work. So the writer, and artist Caspar Wijngaard give us a protagonist and an antagonist who can both wield the form(alism) of comics against each other. The difference being that one is married to the work that made him God in a hermetically sealed universe, while the other is trying to find new ways to grow. No points for guessing who wins in the end.
Still, wringing a story about the medium of comics and “Watchmen’s” impact would likely be a dull read if it were just about that. So it’s good that we’ve got someone like Gillen who wields wit and pathos like razor blades here. There’s funny stuff spliced in amongst scenes of bloody violence, and genuine emotion wrung out of things like Peter hanging out in a bar for a whole issue. Which is both a jarring but impressive stylistic homage on the part of the creators to one of the seminal indie creators of the 90’s. The whole package is like reading an essay in comics form, but one where the creators haven’t forgotten the need to tell a good story at the same time. Packed with bonuses, including Gillen’s original pitch, and printed in an oversized format that does great justice to Wijngaard’s art, this hardcover is absolutely worth its $30 cover price.
May 22, 2020
In the years since I finished with Eric Powell’s signature series, “The Goon,” he’s returned to it and is two volumes into the latest series. While I’m not about to see if it’s worth reading again, his Image miniseries with Tim Wiesch, “Big Man Plans,” made it clear that I should still make time for him on other creator-owned projects. Now, years after its debut, I’ve finally read through the first volume of his Backwoods Appalachian “Conan” series “Hillbilly.” If that description doesn’t immediately captivate you, know that it’s about Rondel, a prodigiously hairy black-eyed man who roams the region while wielding the Devil’s Cleaver and taking vengeance against the witches that inhabit the woods.
It’s not just witches, though they factor prominently into the stories of the first three issues. There are also magical and cursed MacGuffins to drive the stories and even a cameo by Buzzard from “The Goon.” Most of these stories are also pretty straightforward as they involve the title character encountering some trouble, dealing with it using his cleaver, and either sussing out the real cause afterwards or lamenting his sorry state. It’s all pretty straightforward without much backstory or hint of an overall plot. Though I’ll sympathize with Powell’s regret that he wasn’t able to get further into Rondel’s history with tomboy Esther.
What makes this first volume worth reading is the character that Powell invests into these stories. His art is just as impressive as I remember it, as he gives these backwoods a very lived-in and memorably creepy look to them while Rondel himself cuts an imposing yet sympathetic figure. The volume is also littered with memorable bits like the origin of the Iron Child, young Esther and Rondel hunting a giant boar with a bow-harpoon, Rondel’s conversation with the hanging tree, his encounter with genuine hospitality. What I’m saying is that what the comic lacks so far in inventive plotting, it makes up for in artistry and an abundance of character. It may be pricey -- this collection of four issues plus extras will run you $18 -- but it shows to me that Powell is still a creator worth following. Time to catch up on reading this one…
May 20, 2020
How successful was the launch of this new series from Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora? So successful that initial orders to comic shops cracked the 50k barrier. So successful that the first issue went into EIGHT printings. So successful that what was originally going to be a miniseries, was upgraded to an ongoing series. That “Once and Future” comes from one of my favorite writers and a fantastic artist made it certain that I’d pick up this collected edition when it came out. The only catch being that the first volume of “Die” showed me that not everything Gillen is involved with is a complete home run. “Once” is better than that, especially after we find out what its female lead has really been up to.
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May 18, 2020
I really liked the first volume of Bendis’ “Superman,” but vol. 2 sees him falling back into some of his bad habits. Specifically, wanting to enact major plot developments without putting in the work to make them feel earned. This starts off with the return of a now-teenaged Jonathan Kent, last seen when his grandfather Jor-El (and remember everyone, he’s the grandfather of the original “New 52” Superman, not this one that came in from the previous universe) offered to take him to space so he could learn how to be a proper Kryptonian/superhero. Unfortunately his grandfather turns out to not be as stable as he initially seemed to be, and Jon finds himself wanting to go home. Before he can do that, they fly too close to a black hole and wind up in another universe. The one that happens to be inhabited by the Crime Syndicate -- the evil version of the Justice League.
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