When we last saw him, Wolverine had beaten the Devil and crawled up out of Hell back into his own body. It should’ve been a triumphant victory for everyone’s favorite Canadian berserker mutant, but it turns out that the demons that were inhabiting his body while his soul was in Hell are still there. Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magneto and Namor are also on hand to put him down, if necessary. Hoping to play the host of last resorts are his girlfriend Melita, Daimon Hellstorm, Ghost Riders Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch, and Mystique (no, really...). Will their combined might be able to put down the hell-spawned fiends which inhabit their friend/comrade/lover’s body? Nope. It’s going to take much more than that, and even then some people are going to have to come back from beyond the grave to lend a hand.
As the last volume finally caught up to what was covered in the anime, this one should be completely AWESOME since I’m finally reading all-new content! Or at least, that’s what I think it would’ve been if pages weren’t wasted on pointless sidequests or rehashing “Dawn of the Dead.” I was afraid that rehashing George Romero’s definitive zombie movie was going to be the order of the day after reading the description on the back cover, but that’s only true up to a point. Though they are in a mall and the societal order does start breaking down, the kids wind up providing a stabilizing influence on the panicking adults in the mall. Then they go off to raid a nearby clinic to save an elderly woman who needs a blood transfusion, dither some more about what to do next and that’s it.
The majority of this volume is actually given over to making overweight otaku Kouta look like a badass in front of new character Asami, a police officer deeply lacking in confidence who also feels the need to constantly refer to herself in the third person. Glamorizing Kouta doesn’t come off as annoying as you’d think since everything he does here is really an extension of what we’ve already seen him do in previous volumes. It does seem curious that after trying to build up his relationship with Asami so much that the creators would tear it all down in the end instead of having him be the first cast member to actually get some. Apparently they’re convinced that constant sexual titillation only works without providing any kind of release. Even so, while the energy that has driven the series is still present to an extent here, this is easily the weakest volume released to date.
As I write this, the future of “Generation Hope” has been all but announced as its absence from the most recent issue of “Previews” has led many to conclude that new writer James Asmus’ first arc will also be his last. Sales for the series started out mediocre and only got worse from there, save for the “Schism” tie-ins collected here, so all that’s left is to consider why this well-written series didn’t connect with readers. Much like Joe Casey’s “Wildcats,” I think the reason is that the series departed from-- or rather, didn’t embrace the superhero paradigm enough.
The worst thing that can be said about this title is that it’s an editorial mandate in its purest form. Somewhere along the line, someone decided that the X-titles were kind of directionless and needed an event to re-shape the line’s focus. You’d think that would’ve been the aim of events like “Messiah Complex” and “Second Coming,” but as good as they were these crossovers were only of importance to the overall narrative of the line post “M-Day.” Contrary to what I thought at the time, they didn’t necessarily leave the line in better shape as whatever plot threads they left to be followed up on were either quickly resolved or fizzled out. So now we have “Schism” which sets the tone for the franchise and the direction of the relaunched “Uncanny” and the new “Wolverine and the X-Men.”
I return to the well of "Star Wars" comics yet again with my thoughts on why the John Ostrander-scripted series is one of the best.
Correction to the Podcast: According to Wikipedia, artist Jan Duursema is NOT married to Ostrander, but actually to his frequent collaborator Tom Mandrake. Which probably explains how they got to know each other in the first place.
“Avengers vs. X-Men” kicks off this month and as it’s the next major X-event, I’m committed to picking it up in hardcover. That said, I’m having a disconnect between the fact that this twelve-issue series requires five different writers (Bendis, Brubaker, Aaron, Hickman, and Fraction) in order to see it to completion. Theoretically this shouldn’t be a problem for me since it’s basically the same format as “Messiah Complex” and “Second Coming” and countless other crossoves, only told in a single mini-series as opposed to over several different titles. It could be because all five writers involved have very different styles of writing and are coming to this from very different areas of the Marvel Universe so I’m bracing myself for a style clash between issues the likes of which have never been seen! I’ll see how it turns out... unless the word is bad enough to make me wait to pick it up in softcover at Comic-Con (see also: “Fear Itself”).
DC obviously sees something in the man as he will soon be taking over writing duties on “Deathstroke,” “Grifter,” and “Hawkman” after “Hawk and Dove” is cancelled. For myself, and I suspect many others, that just gives us a reason we can safely avoid these titles for the forseeable future. What’s more interesting is the news that “The Infinite,” the time-travel series written by Robert Kirkman that Liefeld was also illustrating, would be ending due to “creative differences” between the creators. The differences in question appear to center around the artist’s use of an inker and how the finished product wasn’t “Liefeldian” enough for Kirkman. That’s entirely plausible, but what these reports have left out is how the book’s sales have been sinking like a stone since its debut, with November’s issue selling only 20% of what the first one did. It’s one of the swiftest demises of a comic I’ve ever seen, especially when you consider the high-profile creators involved. Saying that the series was finished due to “creative differences” not only works in the context of Liefeld’s history as a creator, but allows him and Kirkman to bow out of the series without admitting what a bomb it was.
At the other end of the spectrum is the Extreme Studios “soft” relaunch which kicked off last week with the arrival of new issues of “Prophet” and “Glory” after an almost decade-long hiatus. The completion of Alan Moore’s “Supreme” run is also a part of this, but the early word on the two aforementioned titles was good, and the buzz has only gotten louder now that they’ve arrived. Unless something goes horribly wrong, I’ll be picking up both once they’re collected. What’s interesting to note is that these two titles have been relaunched with the aim of letting indie creators Brandon Graham and Joe Keatinge do whatever they want with the characters. It’s essentially the same tact that Liefeld took when he got Alan Moore to write “Supreme” back in the 90’s. I don’t know what took him so long to realize that the same approach could be applied to other characters he has created, but I’m glad he finally did.
Steve Rogers and company team up with Shang-Chi in order to take on the Shadow Council and the “Master of Kung-Fu’s” mostly-resurrected evil dad. Then Rogers dives into the mind of a former comrade from WWII to find out what happened to him after the mission they were on went to hell. Though the first volume had the energy to power its high-stakes story, this one is the lesser work in both areas. It’s competently put together, but you need more than that if you’re going to stand out in this market and “Eyes of the Dragon” doesn’t have much to recommend it. Maybe if Shang-Chi’s role had been leveraged to make the arc into something resembling a Hong Kong martial arts action movie by way of the Marvel Universe, it could’ve been more interesting. Or maybe that’s just my sense of wish fulfillment talking. Mike Deodato and Will Conrad provide the art, and they try their best to liven things up while also impressesing me with the consistency between their styles.
This volume also marks the end of Brubaker’s run on the title. It’s interesting to note that he apparently didn’t come onboard with the plan to tell one over-arching story through these twelve issues. His remit was apparently to show that the team could work together and introduce the Shadow Council as a recurring antagonist. While the was successful in the former, the Council still feels a bit too generic to be an actual threat. Evil organizations with lots of secrets are a dime a dozen in the Marvel Universe and at this point, the most interesting thing about them is Max Fury, the sentient life-model decoy of Nick Fury that’s working for them. So even though Brubaker is leaving, it’s not a bad thing for the title by any means.
It's not an unpleasant surprise, but it's still truly baffling nonetheless. After none of the previous volumes even cracked it, vol. 10 of "Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Shinji Ikari Raising Project" is now a #1 New York Times bestseller. I believe it's also the first Dark Horse title to have that distinction and one of the few -- if only -- titles to crack the list in the past year. For something like this to come out of nowhere... well, now I REALLY hope that Carl Horn returns to Fanime this year because I'd love to both congratulate him and find out how it happened in the first place.