As I mentioned in brief last week, this third season of “The Walking Dead” is off to a strong start. While I still liked season two overall, there was no denying that it had plenty of dull spots and too much soap opera for its own good. It also wrapped up with a final dramatic speech from Rick that was ostensibly meant to paint him as a man on the edge, about to spin out of control, but the rest of the cast had been so whiny up to that point that it was easier to sympathize with the man. Hence the start of the “Ricktatorship.” Three episodes in and it’s clear that democracy was overrated. (Spoilers for these episodes abound after the break)
When the “Schism” happened, Cyclops wound up with nearly all of the “X-Men’s” heavy-hitters, who also happen to be the ones with the most personality an “likeability” issues. This is great for when you’re facing the dual threat of a Celestial invasion and the hive mind of Mister Sinister, and when you’re trying to instill a kind of “Get off mutanity’s lawn!” fear in humanity. Wolverine, on the other hand, wound up with the mutants who weren’t powerhouses, but had the easygoing, friendly nature that kept a team of (sometimes) violently different personalities together all these years. In terms of actual storytelling, this gives Jason Aaron a clear advantage over Kieron Gillen, especially when the task these mutants are committed to involves creating a new school for mutant youths. The good news is that Aaron plays up this edge to the fullest, and manages to project enough character to triumph over the derivative parts.
Way back in February I said (not exactly) that the premise for this series had the potential for mass appeal and that I hoped that it wouldn’t be doomed to an early death because of its title. “Mind the Gap” not only doesn’t roll of the tongue, it doesn’t give the reader any idea of what the story behind it is about. In case you were wondering, no it doesn’t take place in or around a construction site. You’re left wondering what writer Jim McCann was thinking when he came up with it. After reading the first volume, I can’t say that I like it any more mainly because it takes on a more “punnish” meaning now that I have. Then again, I’m not sure I have the patience to give this series any more of my time. Read the rest of this entry »
Though the Robert Kirkman/Tony Moore dustup from earlier in the year appears to have been resolved amicably, there appears to have been one minor consequence from what I can see. “The Walking Dead: Cutting-Room Floor HC,” which was originally solicited for May of this year, is now scheduled to arrive next July according to Amazon. Advertised as providing an in-depth look at Kirkman’s plots for the early issues of the series, it’s likely that Moore’s involvement in those early issues scuttled any plans to release it after he initiated the lawsuit. Now that it’s over, we apparently have to wait that much longer. It’s rare to get what I hope is going to be a guided tour of Kirkman’s creative process from the man himself, so I’m prepared to pick this up whenever it arrives. If nothing else, the commentary between him, Ryan Ottley, and company at the back of each volume of “Invincible,” indicates that it should be funny if nothing else. Speaking of which...
Regular readers will know that I’ve been looking forward to this ever since it was first solicited. In addition to his quality superhero work, Brian K. Vaughan gave us two of the best creator-owned titles of the last decade in “Y: The Last Man,” with Pia Guerra, and “Ex Machina,” with Tony Harris. After the latter series wrapped up, Vaughan took some time off to work on assorted TV and film projects before his space opera was announced last year. Now, after the first six issues have come out to stunning sales and near universal critical acclaim, did I find it worth the wait? Yes.
What, you were expecting more enthusiasm? Well it’s not that good yet.
The numbers are in and despite the best efforts of Marvel to make “Uncanny Avengers #1” the best-selling comic of the year -- twenty covers, getting John Cassaday to illustrate it, twenty covers, pricing the collected edition high enough to discourage tradewaiting, twenty goddamn covers -- initial orders will not top those for issue #100 of “The Walking Dead.” Somewhere Robert Kirkman is laughing. While I have yet to read any of the issue in question, the buzz on the first issue of “Uncanny” is that it’s good, but not the kind of knock-your-socks-off-good that would justify the hype behind it. Though “The Walking Dead” also had certain factors in its favor -- ten covers, a wildly successful TV show that is off to a great start in its third season -- it also had quality in its corner as well. You don’t get those kinds of numbers for your anniversary issue by being “okay,” you get them by being really good, consistently, for an extended period of time. In short, “The Walking Dead” has the kind of momentum that is in woefully short supply for a lot of Marvel series these days and will be in extremely short supply for “Uncanny” if the delays keep stacking up.
This concludes the Jason Aaron/Steve Dillon run on the title, and effectively closes the door on the story of the “MAX” version of the character as well. The “Untold Tales of Punisher MAX” doesn’t count because it comes off as an inventory-clearing initiative than an actual effort to expand the title’s audience. Now that this is the end, it’s safe to say that Aaron did do a worthy job of making his run distinct from Garth Ennis’ definitive take. Even with its heavy-handedness at the inevitability of it all, this last volume also delivers a fitting end for the character as well.
The latest volume of “Blade of the Immortal” is announced for March 2013 in these solicitations, and that’s always cause for rejoicing around here. That said, it has also given me cause to think about how conservative Dark Horse’s manga releases have become over the past few years. It has gotten to the point where we’re only getting reissues of CLAMP titles that sold really well for Tokyopop, “Evangelion” spin-offs, or other work from creators who have published bestselling work for the company. Granted, a lot of this stuff is generally really good, but it leaves a rapidly dwindling slate of titles to publish with no new ground being broken for the future. You can chalk this up to the tough state of the current market, but while Viz, Vertical, Kodansha and Yen are continuing to announce new and interesting titles, Dark Horse seems to endure only by focusing on what has worked for them in the past. Considering the quality of their history, I’d like to see them break out of this rut and give us something to remind us how essential the company that gave us “Blade” is to the current market. I’m not optimistic, though, but here’s their chance to prove me wrong.
After the last volume of this series, Matt Fraction would have to work really hard to come up with something worse. Seeing Tony Stark completely and utterly beaten by Doctor Octopus -- for no good reason -- still stands as the worst thing I’ve read all year. Considering that the latest volume of “Casanova” was so much better than his recent work for Marvel, I’m looking forward to Fraction’s creator-owned work coming up from Image than his take on the Fantastic Four. Now we’re into the tie-in arc to the “Fear Itself” crossover and to the writer’s credit, he and artist Salvador Larroca actually give us an arc that succeeds in crafting a more meaningful story than the event it was spun out of.