...was the name given to the 90’s era initiative that saw Marvel hand over some of its most prominent heroes -- the Fantastic Four, Captain America, Iron Man, and the rest of the Avengers -- over to Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, and their studios to remake in their image (or Image, if you will). The fact that this happened, and that Liefeld’s contract was cancelled halfway through with everything being handed over to Lee, is the most memorable thing about it. Everyone remembers this event because of the business dealings and talent involved, and not because of the stories that came from it. By that standard, Jason Aaron has a relatively low bar to clear as he repurposes the “Heroes Reborn” name for an event series that’s spinning out of his “Avengers” run.
While I liked the past four volumes that told the story of Baron Muster and his influence on Erica, they still felt like a diversion from why I’m reading this series. Which would be to find out Alita’s backstory from when she was known as Yoko on Mars. Mangaka Yukito Kishiro does take some steps in that direction with this volume as Yoko and Erica try to track down Keun the Kaufmann. Keun was mentioned by Dass as someone who could help them in the last note he gave the girls before he died. Once they arrive at his place of employment, the girls quickly find themselves caught up in a battle between factions over some information that may still be hidden in a spaceship that crashed to Mars nearly fifty years ago.
As for what that information is… you’ll still be wondering when this volume gets to its end. What you’ll find along the way is an engagingly violent adventure that picks up steam as it goes along. Part of that is due to Erica’s enjoyably ruthless nature as she has clearly taken the lessons learned from Muster to heart. This means that she’s now willing to screw over anyone who gets in her way while expressing zero remorse about it. She may not be likeable, but it’s never dull with her around. Nor is it with Yunie, the seemingly absent-minded girl who takes a shine to Erica and Yoko, while also displaying some impressive fighting skills whenever she gets stressed. Keun also has some mad skills, and his even come with a direct link to the series’ past.
The last third of the volume is essentially all-out action and we get a volume-ending double-splash page that promises even more next time. It’s quality work, even if most of the violence is being perpetrated against generic mooks. While the new additions to the cast here are nice, the new antagonists we see here are still pretty generic by “Alita’s” standards. There’s room for things to get better in that department, so long as you’ve still got patience for this series. I can’t say that this volume has turned “Mars Chronicle” into the prequel series I was expecting but it’s getting better in that department and still a solid read, regardless.
The last series John Arcudi wrote at Image was “Rumble.” It was a story about a monster-fighting barbarian whose soul was imprisoned and then thrust into a scarecrow body to continue the fight against them in the present day. The series ran for 32 issues over two series, and I was honestly surprised it came back after that first one as the series was more well-liked than best-selling. I was one of those people who liked it too, and I’ve been a fan of Arcudi since his work on the “Aliens” franchise and especially “B.P.R.D.” over at Dark Horse. So when word came out that the writer was teaming up with Italian artist Valerio Giangiordano for another uncommercial-sounding series, I knew I had to check it out.
The great thing about the Greek Gods is that their personalities are well-defined yet malleable enough that you can put them into any kind of story in any genre. Which is how we’re getting the romantic comedy version of the story of Hades and Persephone in “Punderworld” by Linda Sejic (wife of Stjepan, incase you were unaware). He’s the serious and gloomy workaholic. She’s the bubbly up-and-comer struggling to get out from underneath her mother’s thumb. A chance meeting showed that they had potential together, but their responsibilities (and one overbearing parent) keep them apart. That is until Olympus’ biggest bro, Zeus, hears about this from Hades himself and figures it’s his godly duty to give the lord of the underworld some assistance. What can go wrong when taking advice from a deity whose game plan involves turning into a bee to give someone “the stinger?”
I might be overselling Zeus’ role in this story, as the focus is squarely on the adorkable couple of Hades and Persephone. Sejic has great facility with body language and has the characters’ many emotions play out memorably in their interactions. Their respective hang-ups also come off believably as well, making their hesitancy come off as natural extensions of their personality rather than a way to draw out the romantic tension. Sejic is also good with making the many mythic landscapes of this story come off as appropriately magical, inviting, or dangerous as the story demands.
Though I liked this first volume of “Punderworld,” there was one aspect of the storytelling which didn’t work for me: its pacing. I don’t know if this is a hangover from how it was serialized on Webtoon, but the story in this first volume felt like it was going in slow motion. While this allows for more adorkable interactions between Hades and Persephone, the pacing does its best to sap the fun out of that and allow the dull stuff -- just about any interaction between Persephone and her mom, Demeter -- to really drag. I hope that things pick up with the second volume, because this version of the timeless couple’s story is charming enough to deserve better.
Well, that was quick.
Not only is this Hickman’s third proper volume of “X-Men,” but it’s also his last. The writer had a big three-act plan for the franchise and he decided to walk away after the majority of the creators on the other X-titles decided to stay in the first act. There doesn’t appear to be any actual animosity or bitterness on the lead writer’s part as his departure as Head of X appears to have been quite amicable. Hickman read the room, saw that he was no longer needed, and decided to make a graceful exit after wrapping up his outstanding plot threads in the upcoming “Inferno.” Before that happens, we have these five issues which involve more payoff than setup for his run.
Remender grinds another of his protagonists down, but in some interesting and beautifully-rendered ways.
The main goal of the characters in this series has been to find the tattooed skin of many convicts that, when combined, will lead to a massive treasure trove of gold. After twenty-two volumes, we’re told that there are only four skins left to find with one of them being a notorious river pirate and another being (yet one more) serial killer. The catch is that Sugimoto, Asirpa, and Shiraishi may have figured out a way to circumvent the need for these skins, which I’m sure won’t blow up in their faces when they go looking for that pirate. Meanwhile, Lt. Tsurumi and Hijikata’s groups are also hot on the trails of these last few skins, with the lieutenant sending Kikuta and Usami to investigate the killer in Sapporo. This is notable because we finally get the backstory behind this volume’s cover boy and how his insanely jealous nature bound him to Tsurumi for the rest of their lives.
Usami’s backstory is twisted even by this series’ usual standards, and it would be the most disturbing thing in this volume... If it wasn’t for mangaka Satoru Noda’s decision to turn Sugimoto’s chapter-length relationship with a long-tailed tit into a comedy with a pitch-black punchline. There’s also plenty of the title’s signature goofiness in store as Nikaido discovers meth, and Shiraishi has a late-night encounter with an unfortunate swan. Though it appears that this volume might be all over the place in terms of plot and tone, holding it all together is Tanigaki as we find out the hold that Tsurumi has over the grizzled soldier. It’s the kind of hold that’s tight enough to leave Tanigaki determined to squeeze through it with the woman he loves, which leads to a thrilling escape in the volume’s last third. Said chase takes some unexpected turns which reveal that Tsurumi’s hold on his men might not be as absolute as he thinks. This is something that also leaves me anxious for vol. 24’s arrival, if only so I can see if everyone’s all right after its ostensibly uplifting finale.
Sir Edward Grey: Acheron
I imagine that a lot of people are excited for this one-shot as it represents the first full comic that Mike Mignola will be illustrating after he finished “Hellboy in Hell” five years ago. What interests me more than that is that this is the first Mignolaverse comic to take place after the end of “B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know” which effectively ended the saga of Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. Sir Edward “Witchfinder” Grey was in Hell at the time of these events and “Acheron” sees him still there, but now working to take on an old and familiar foe who is threatening the transition of worlds.
My guess is that the existence of this issue is to bring an end to Sir Edward’s story more than anything else since he was still in Hell once “The Devil You Know” wrapped up. What I’m hoping is that Mignola will use this story to provide some additional context for the ending to that series, which wrapped up in a straightforward, surprise-free fashion. It’d be nice if we get that, even if this issue is mainly here to snip off a loose continuity threat. The act of which should still make for entertaining reading with Mignola writing and illustrating it.
One-Star Squadron #1 (of 6)
Mark Russell is a writer who has done a lot of work at DC over the years on titles like “The Flintstones,” “The Snagglepuss Chronicles,” and “The Wonder Twins,” where he takes these old characters and uses them to tell modern satire. He’s since branched out to doing creator-owned work at other publishers with titles like “Second Son” and “Not All Robots,” but I’ve never made it around to actually reading anything that he’s done. Mainly because his work seemed easy to shrug off with critical praise for his work failing to translate into breakthrough success. Still, he’s been doing this kind of thing consistently in the industry for years, which suggests he must be doing something right.
So the time has come to find out what that “something” is with this series. “One-Star Squadron” is a series about B, C, and D-List heroes who find themselves working for a superhero-service app that promises “Superman-Level Service at Bizarro Prices.” Be it an alien invasion, cat rescue, or children’s birthday party, you can count on heroes like the Red Tornado, Power Girl, Gangbuster and Minute Man showing up to help you out. It’s a satirical take on the modern gig economy set in the current DCU. This is a solid premise, but what really convinced me to check this out is that Steve Lieber is providing the art. While I’m curious to see what Russell’s comedic chops are like, there’s no question that he has the best artist to realize them after his work on “Superior Foes of Spider-Man” and “Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen.”
Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton vol. 1
Trigger Keaton’s action stardom was only equaled by his potential to act like a jerk to everyone around him. It’s why no one was surprised when he wound up dead with a pool of potential suspects a mile wide and deep. Taking up the task of solving Trigger’s murder are the titular six sidekicks, former stuntpeople who all had an axe to grind with the man and are maybe doing this so they can finally step into the limelight themselves. Considering that this is coming from a writer whose last projects involved a host of oddball assassins trying to protect another assassin and a former basketball player turned vampire hunter, one has to wonder if Kyle Starks is playing it safe or just holding his cards close to his vest. I’m certain that the latter is the case and that he and artist Chris Schweitzer are saving the really crazy stuff for those curious enough to give this a look. Which is something that I’m very willing to do in the hopes that this will be able to live up to its potential in the way the unjustly ignored “Assassin Nation” was not able to.