September 30, 2020
John and my schedules were completely incompatible this past weekend. So the podcast has been delayed to… hopefully sometime this weekend.
Knull may have been released from his prison at the end of “Absolute Carnage,” but at least the title character was stopped, right? Well, Eddie Brock only absorbed the Carnage symbiote into Venom, he didn’t actually destroy it. Which means that he’s got the mind of the mad symbiote trying to take control of him and his Other. So it’s a good thing that he’s been made an honorary Avenger in the wake of that event and is able to request a plane from Captain America -- with o questions asked -- so he can fly out to the island where he once thought he killed Spider-Man (long story, that) and take care of Carnage once and for all. The symbiote has other plans, though, and one plane crash later the Venom symbiote is at Carnage’s mercy, while Eddie has to figure out a way to take down the monster as an ordinary human being.
The first two-thirds of this story play out like “‘Predator’ But With Symbiotes.” It’s as fun as it sounds as we get to see Eddie rely on his wits and a lot of heavy weaponry just to stay alive. Mark Bagley is the artist for this arc, and he proves to be a great fit for “Venom’s” darker world and the craziness it entails. Said craziness involves a jungle full of symbiote-possessed animals and a climax that involves Eddie’s son Dylan remote piloting… well, I don’t want to ruin that surprise. Though it bears mentioning that the other half of this story involves Dylan working out how to use his new powers before things get really crazy and leave the volume’s initial setup in the dust.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and not the volume’s biggest problem. That would be how the story would have likely lasted for an issue if anyone had bothered to really talk to each other about things. Eddie to the Avengers about Knull and Carnage, and Dylan to his dad about his powers. I get that there’s not a lot of trust going around at the start of this story, but writer Donny Cates does show that he’s aware of this issue by the end of the volume. That’s because it ends on a note that I didn’t expect, which also effectively paves the way for the upcoming, “The King in Black,” event.
September 28, 2020
I really liked this volume. The problem is that I’m not sure I liked it for the reasons that mangaka Gamon Sakurai intended me to.
In a move that I hope surprised absolutely no one (And if it did, welcome to the world of fictional genre stories. Be sure to remember that whenever the author really, really wants to to believe that a plan has worked without giving you actual proof, it almost certainly hasn’t.) the plan to immobilize Sato failed. What made this more entertaining than frustrating was the fact that the reason as to why he survived was hilariously in-character for him. This does give the man a chance to have a final heart-to-heart with Kei, where he tells the high-schooler what his next plan is. Without giving anything away, I can only wish him well as he goes on to live his best life.
Then someone we haven’t seen much of in the series makes his surprise entrance. It’s a move that should have had some real emotional significance to it. Except that Sakurai has done a terrible job of building up any kind of friendship chemistry between these two characters. When Sato showed up again to take them both on, I was rooting for him.
That kind of sums up my feelings towards the story as a whole. Intentionally or not, Sakurai has made Sato the most interesting/entertaining character in the series. He’s a soldier who fights for civil rights not because he believes in them, but because he likes fighting and it’s the one war that will never end -- especially the way he’s running it. Add in the fact that his twisted gamer mind gives him more personality than the rest of the cast combined, and you’ve got me happy to see him getting the upper hand at the end of what feels like the penultimate volume for the series. I’m sure Kei and company will find a way to win in the end, because this series is nothing if not predictable. So, after they do, I’ll look forward to the inevitable last page reveal that Sato is still alive, somewhere, doing his thing.
September 27, 2020
The polar ice caps have melted and flooded New York. Regular citizens try to survive in makeshift communities, while the elites live it up on the fringes. The story’s protagonist is one of the former and he’s just concerned with living from day to day. Until he encounters a mysterious woman and a trapped blue whale, both of which promise to upend his current life. “Post York” comes to us from creator James Romberger, best known for his Vertigo graphic novels, “Seven Miles a Second,” “The Bronx Kill” (with Peter Milligan), and “Aaron and Ahmed” (with Jay Cantor). All of these are works grounded in real life, distinguished by the artist’s exaggerated and expressive style. That he’s taking on a post-apocalyptic story here is a noticeable departure from these works, yet it’s also one that I’m curious to see how it pans out given his considerable talent as an artist.
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September 26, 2020
All-New Wolverine by Tom Taylor Omnibus HC
There is only one Logan. But there are two Wolverines in my book. He’s one and Laura Kinney is the other. It’s her adventures that are chronicled here in this omnibus, and most of them are really good. From the opening arc “The Four Sisters” which had Laura taking down those seeking to use her genetic material to create new super-soldiers, to “Orphans of X” where she took down a cult of people who sought revenge on her without killing anyone, Taylor took stories that were familiar setups for Wolverine-style adventures and added some imaginative twists to them. He also gave us Gabby, Laura’s clone-sister, and a well-used source of well-earned pathos and comic relief in equal amounts.
This omnibus collects issues #1-35 of the series, plus an annual and “Generations” one-shot. A brief check shows that those two special issues weren’t collected in the six collections I have, so I’ll have to hit up ComiXology in the future to read them. That said, this omnibus should’ve found room to collect the “Hunt for Wolverine: Adamantium Agenda” miniseries, also written by Taylor with art from R.B. Silva. Laura plays a key role in it, and finds out something important about her past, which provided a surprising amount of closure for the writer’s run with the character.
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September 25, 2020
Reckless vol. 1 HC
“My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies,” “Bad Weekend,” and “Pulp” were just the warm-up. With “Reckless,” Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are set to give us their first full-length original graphic novel. It’s about Ethan Reckless, someone who’s willing to take on any job in the sun-drenched streets of L.A. for the right price. This time, the trouble he’s being asked to take on is personal. A friend from his radical student days has reached out to Reckless and he’s going to have to confront some aspects of his past that he thought he was done with before the job is over.
Brubaker has compared this to “The Rockford Files” and the setup sounds like it would make for a good 80’s-style detective series. I’m up for that, as I am for anything that this creative team has to offer. This series does have a couple things that distinguishes itself from their past work: The first thing is that this is just the initial one of three planned volumes set to release in the course of a year. I imagine there will be more if the hardcover OGN releases do well. The other is that the solicitation text tells us that Reckless is unique amongst Brubaker and Phillips’ protagonists in that he’s “a good guy.” I’m intrigued by this claim, even though I feel that the creators’ moral compasses are so skewed that calling him a “a good guy” may only be true in a relative sense.
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September 23, 2020
Legends of the DC Universe: Doug Mahnke HC
I’ve always thought of Mahnke as an underrated artist within DC. Even though he’s done quality work on lots of titles over the years, his most high-profile work was on the latter half of Geoff Johns’ “Green Lantern” run about a decade ago. Since then, he’s contributed quality art to lots of other series like “Superman” and “Justice League,” but no major runs on titles. This “Legends of the DC Universe” volume should go a long way to showcasing Mahnke’s versatility as an artist and why he warrants the title. This volume spotlights work from the length of his career at DC, from early work on “Superman: The Man of Steel” #87, to seminal work like “Action Comics #775” with Joe Kelly, and the mind-bending “The Multiversity: Ultra Comics” with Grant Morrison.
While it’s great to see Mahnke getting a spotlight volume, this $50, 416-page collection would still be worth reading for two specific reasons: One is “The Man Who Laughs” Ed Brubaker and Mahnke’s better-than-it-has-a-right-to-be sequel to “The Killing Joke.” The other is “Hitman/Lobo,” Garth Ennis’ most entertaining piss-take of a DC character, made all the more fun by Manke’s detailed art. Points off, though, for a couple of omissions: Relevance to “Final Crisis” aside, the Morrison-written “Superman: Beyond” two-parter was a wildly imaginative epic that took the Man of Steel from his universe to the end of time. I would’ve also liked to have seen “Stormwatch: Post-Human Division” #’s 7-8, where writer Christos Gage and Mahnke have the team using their wits to wrest back control of their station from the Daemonites. A thoroughly entertaining example of that series which, like its artist, was very underrated.
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September 21, 2020
It’s another war story from Garth Ennis, and not even the last one I’ll read this year: The deluxe edition of “Into the Blue” is currently en route to me. That this is another war story from Ennis should also tell you what you’re in for: A respectful tale of combat grunts trying to do the best with what they’re given against overwhelming odds. This time around the focus isn’t specifically on the men themselves. It’s on the plane they flew, the Faery Swordfish, a.k.a. “The Stringbag,” nicknamed for how it could carry just about any kind of armament. Like the string shopping bags that were in use at the time, as Ennis tells us in his informative afterword.
The writer also lets us know that historical accuracy was more of a focus for him this time around, and that the invention of his three protagonists -- Archie, Ollie, and Pops -- was mostly done to keep the narrative from turning into a dry history lesson. This produces mixed results as the battles covered here -- the attack on the Italian fleet at Taranto, the struggle against the Bismark, and the effort to stop a Nazi fleet during the Channel Dash -- do come off as engaging stories that showcase how the woefully outdated airplan was able to contribute to them and are enhanced by the writer’s attention to detail. Unfortunately Ennis doesn’t spare the same kind of attention to the three main characters as they’re more personality types than actual characters. That is to say you won’t see “Uptight and By-the-Books,” “Joking Lad Who is Only Serious When it Counts,” and “Old Veteran Who Has Seen it All” go through any changes, let alone character arcs over the course of this volume.
Ennis “Battlefields” and “World of Tanks” collaborator P.J. Holden illustrates the story and he provides pretty great work for the most part. He’s got a great eye for keeping the action distinct and easy to follow during all of the aerial combat scenes, and he’s great with the military hardware with his double-page spreads of the Bismark being particularly impressive. Though Holden is also good with the expressiveness of his characters, they also have a sameness about their looks. More than once I had to differentiate Archie and Ollie by comparing their chin sizes. All of this adds up to a volume that’s middle-of-the-road in terms of the writer’s oeuvre of war comics, a decent read that’s best enjoyed by his completists.
September 20, 2020
That this comic exists at all is surprising. “The Mask” seemed like a concept that had run its course in the years after the 1994 Jim Carrey film brought everyone’s attention to the comics. If you’re going to revive this property over a decade after the last comic saw print, then you’d best have a good reason for doing so. That’s true in this case as writer Christopher Cantwell and artist Patric Reynolds have something to say about our country at this time. What starts off as a bit of darkly comic revenge, as an awful mother is murdered via an excess of chocolate syrup, quickly takes on a political dimension as we find out that Kathy Matthews, Mayor of Edge City and ex-girlfriend to deceased original Mask-wearer Stanley Ipkiss, is running for president. It looks like she’s going to go all the way, until we see no-hoper candidate Abner Mead get his hands on the titular object.
Abner quickly goes from political zero to hero of the polls after he starts spouting off outrageous promises, engages in some wanton fear-mongering, and murders his opposing candidates in an expectedly cartoonish manner. It’s clear that Cantwell is trying to draw some specific parallels to our own cartoonishly monstrous president, and it mainly works because no one ever questions the fact that a green-faced living cartoon is running for president. That the Mask’s once outrageous behavior has become an accepted norm is something that constantly hangs over the story and gives it a queasy kind of power. Too bad that only Abner gets anything resembling a character arc, as the rest of the cast pretty much spends the story scrambling about at the mercy of the plot.
Worse is the fact that artist Patric Reynolds feels miscast on the material here. A frequent collaborator with Mike Mignola, he’s got a detailed and gritty style that handles the normal stuff just fine, but makes the Mask look boring. Maybe that might have been the point, yet it feels like the story’s goals would’ve been better realized if we’d had a genuinely garish and over-the-top cartoon-looking version of the character here. That said, the end result of this comic is that it’s likely better than you’re expecting from a revival of the character, even if it’s more interesting than genuinely entertaining.
September 19, 2020
According to sales numbers and demand for back issues, this could very well be The Next Big Thing in comics. With orders rising on each issue in a way that we haven’t seen since the earlier days of “The Walking Dead,” this new series from writer James Tynion IV and artist Werther Dell’Edera has clearly struck a chord with the comics readership. I’ve found the writer’s superhero work for DC to be as uneven as it is conventional, though I have liked what I’ve read of his earlier creator-owned title “The Woods.” So I was expecting to be in for a good time when I started reading this first volume. What I got was something that read like horror by the numbers.
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September 18, 2020
This volume arrived on Monday. If I had more foresight I would have had that WTH revelation lead directly into this review, because…
Revealing that charismatic Ainu revolutionary Kiroranke was one of the people who assassinated Russian Tsar Alexander II certainly ranks as one of the more outrageous backstories in this series. I’d go so far as to say “ridiculous,” except for the fact that when the identity of his conspirator is revealed… well, it actually makes a lot of sense in the wider plot of “Golden Kamuy.” Of which this is one of its more dramatically straightforward volumes. Mangaka Satoru Noda wisely dials back the wackiness after vol. 16’s circus antics and kicks things off with Asirpa’s gang mixing it up with a Russian patrol. The highlight of this is the sniper duel between Ogata and his opposite number on the Russian side, which is satisfyingly tense even as it observes all the conventions of this kind of engagement.
Less successful is what we learn about Ogata’s history in the aftermath as it involves trying to get his standard-bearer brother to violate his moral code so that Lieutenant Tsurumi will be able to control him for… reasons? Even if the reasoning here is shaky, Noda does provide good reasons as to why the rifleman would resent his brother, and lead him to do what he does. Which goes a long way towards explaining his cold-blooded demeanor.
Meanwhile, Sugimoto and company are still trying to catch up to Asirpa’s gang, only to get caught in a snowstorm along the way. They’re saved by an old Russian couple whose daughter has gone missing, leaving Sugimoto to promise to rescue her as thanks. This initially comes off as an unnecessary sidequest, until Noda manages to seamlessly work it back into the main plot. Which is going to involve a prison break to spring the biggest, meanest, and burliest female Russian revolutionary the world has ever seen. I’m sure everything will go just as well as it did when the cast broke into Abashiri, even if asking it to be as entertaining feels like a really tall order from here.