April 16, 2017
I don’t think that Garth Ennis has written a war comic that I haven’t enjoyed reading on some level. However, the more enjoyable ones tend to be where he tells us an actual story as opposed to explaining a specific aspect of combat or history. “The Hurricane” easily falls into the former category as it’s another story about “Johnny Red,” a famous character in the pantheon of British war comics. While his full name is Jonathan Redburn, “Jonny Red” works particularly well for him as a nickname because he’s a British pilot who has wound up fighting alongside the Russians during WWII. He’s helped turn a ragtag fighter group into the fiercest bunch of pilots on the Stalingrad front, a fact which has not gone unnoticed by the higher-ups in Moscow. So when two senior officials of the N.K.V.D. show up and announce that they’re going to be taking over to lead a special operation to be conducted by Russian personnel only, that sets off a lot of unrest in the ranks. While it seems that this operation is going to be a simple milk run, Johnny soon finds out that it’s actually taking his comrades three hundred miles behind enemy lines.
The reason they’ve been sent so far behind enemy lines is a good one and actually quite believable given Russia’s fortunes at this stage of the war. It also leads to a cameo from a prominent historical figure that should by all rights break your immersion in the story, but Ennis manages to make it work. The overall story is an entertaining wartime adventure tale that uses just enough historical detail to make the fiction more enjoyable. Granted, I could’ve done without the present-day sequences involving a tech billionaire restoring Johnny’s Hurricane fighter and getting his story in the process and the character’s longtime nemesis is worked into the story in a way that’s more awkward than anything else. “The Hurricane” also boasts excellent art from Keith Burns as he shows us why he’s one of the best there is at depicting wartime aircraft in action. I don’t know if Ennis plans to do more “Johnny Red” stories, though this one is good enough to make me want to check out the collections of the character’s original adventures.
April 15, 2017
I wasn’t really keen on picking up this title when it was announced. At the time, Rick Remender had burned a lot of his goodwill with me with the relentlessly depressing “Low” and the unimaginative downward spiral of “Black Science.” Then he turned things around on “Black Science” and “Deadly Class” got even better, and now I’m checking out the first volume of his latest creator-owned series to see what flavor of Remender we get here.
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April 14, 2017
Having a miniseries prelude to a big comics crossover event isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In the case of “Death of X” it allows for people who haven’t been keeping up with one side (such as myself with the Inhumans) to get on the same page with those who have so that they’re properly invested for the showdown. Having read through this, do I feel properly invested? No, not really. I’ll be picking up “Inhumans vs. X-Men” mainly because I’m invested in the overall direction of the “X-Men” titles. All “Death of X” does is suggest that investment is going to bite me in the ass when it comes to reading the event itself.
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April 12, 2017
In the realm of single issues the X-Men are getting off to their latest relaunch in the wake of the “Inhumans vs. X-Men” event. (Though not without some controversy, sadly.) The idea this time is a back-to-basics approach that emphasizes the characters superhero escapades more than anything else. Actually, it’s more of a back-to-the-90’s approach given that the titles of the two core series, “Blue” and “Gold,” are meant to harken back to the best-selling days of the Jim Lee-illustrated “X-Men #1.” For those of us like me who follow the franchise in collected form, we’ve still got the entirety of the event to go. As the latest volumes of “Uncanny X-Men,” “Extraordinary X-Men,” and “All-New X-Men” show, this new approach will be welcome in the hopes that it can get the quality level up to something better than “okay.”
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April 10, 2017
Longtime readers will know that I’ve been very passionate about seeing the rest of Hiroki Endo’s excellent “Eden: It’s An Endless World!” published in English. Sadly, we’re coming up on the third anniversary of vol. 14’s publication and there’s been no word as to when (or even if) we’ll see vols. 15-18 in print. Until Dark Horse says it’s not going to happen, then I won’t give up hope. In the meantime, Kodansha Comics has decided to pick up the slack when it comes to releasing new manga from Endo in English. It’s quite telling that this series is being released digitally as opposed to print, but the fact that we’re getting it at all is something to be appreciated.
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April 9, 2017
Now I’m really starting to think that this series should have wrapped up with vol. 4. What was once a fun comic about pulling off elaborate crimes and sticking it to those who deserved it is quickly turning into a smug and predictable affair. Things start out fine enough with a typically flashy heist from Conrad “Redmond” Paulson and his partner Celia only for them to be scouted by two Russian oligarch brothers for an exceptionally difficult job. The item they want is a computer program called “Gold Rush” which was designed to crash the U.S.A. stock market and is currently in the hands of a Russian general in a very secure bunker. However, there’s a catch. The brothers have also hired two other A-list thieves, Fausto Delgado and Sally Pike, with the intent of letting the three of them compete to get the program and also determine who is the real thief of thieves.
Vol. 6’s biggest problem is the feeling that the events are basically being driven by Conrad’s ego at this point. While he initially rejects the oligarchs’ offer, saying he has nothing to prove, he comes right back in to get the scoop on the heist after Fausto steals his keys. That kind of pettiness gets him in all sorts of trouble throughout the volume and it’s not all that fun to read about. Writer Andy Diggle also shows that while he’s delivered some of the best twists in this series prior to this volume, he’s starting to run out of tricks as clever readers will be able to realize what Conrad is planning before it’s revealed. Also, the heist itself feels like it comes off too easily -- even with the expected chaos afterward -- with the bunker being set up as an impregnable fortress that needs the combined efforts of all three thieves to crack and only a third of the story winds up being spent on this.
If you shut your brain off then it’s possible that the book’s always stylish art from Shawn Martinbrough will be able to carry you through its length. You’ll be in for a rude awakening at the end, as things wrap up with the title’s biggest cliffhanger yet. Though this development is meant to be exciting, I can only hope that vol. 7 brings “Thief of Thieves” to a proper end before my patience and goodwill towards it are completely extinguished.
April 8, 2017
Greg Rucka had a notable run chronicling the adventures of Themiscra’s Favorite Daughter -- which I missed the first time around (but will see about rectifying before the movie comes out). I decided to not make that mistake again with the writer’s return to the character for the “Rebirth” era. While I’d love to pat myself on the back for this, the over-arching story Rucka is looking to tell here leaves me somewhat cold. You see, “The Lies” starts off with an acknowledgement that the character’s origin can be considered “multiple choice.” Is she the clay daughter of the Amazon Queen brought to life by the Spirit of Truth? Or the result of the queen’s tryst with Zeus? Rucka raises more questions directly linked to her current status as the God of War, eventually leading Wonder Woman to realize -- by use of her own golden lasso -- that she has been deceived.
Her quest for the truth begins with tracking down one of her oldest foes, the Cheetah. Or, Dr. Barbara Ann Minerva as Diana keeps reminding her. Trapped in a humanoid form resembling her namesake, she agrees to help the Amazon in exchange for lifting her curse. Said curse was inflicted by the god Urzkartaga, who happens to be backing a warlord that one Steve Trevor and his group of special forces soldiers are looking to take out.
The business with Urzkartaga is the strongest part of this volume as he provides a suitably nasty force for everyone to fight against while also doubling as a metaphor for toxic masculinity. Rucka also does some great work in making the Cheetah-- Er, Barbara Ann compelling to read about as a strong-willed woman cursed by a god’s pettiness. The art provided by Liam Sharp is also wonderfully gritty and detailed, but even it can’t overcome the fact that the nature of the threat facing Wonder Woman’s identity feels vague and undefined at this point. It seems as if Rucka is calling everything about her history into question so that he can provide a new unified origin down the line. That may work, except it also appears he might be kicking the excellent Azzarello/Chiang run on the character out of continuity in the process. We’ll see if some answers regarding that are in store as the narrative goes back to the future for “Year One” in the next volume.
April 7, 2017
The first volume of this series represents what I thought was the best work from Tom King over the course of a very prolific and successful 2016 for him. It was a look at the incredibly screwed-up state of post-invasion Iraq through the perspective of three characters: Chris, a cop turned military consultant tasked with training the new Iraqi police force, Nasir, a former Baghdad cop with close ties to Saddam’s old regime, and Sofia, a politician who is helping to facilitate the transfer of power through means both legal and not. What brings them together is the investigation of the death of one of Chris’ trainees and how it ties into the ambitious plans of local warlord Abu Rahim.
If that sounds bad, then the actual details are worse as this volume picks up in the aftermath of the death of Nasir’s wife after his attempted pickup by CIA agent Bob and his team went bad in short order. Now Nasir is being interrogated to find out what he knows while Sofia makes her own negotiations to save him and track down Abu Rahim in the process. As for Chris? He’s ready to help Nasir (his friend) and Sofia (his lover) do whatever it takes to get to the bottom of this mess. Even if it means helping to mete out something resembling justice once all the dust has cleared.
It’s a credit to the reality that King and artist Mitch Gerads have created here that they can take the execution of a minor character introduced in this volume and make it seem like a rational response to the events of this story. The tragedy here is that while everyone involved understands the world they’re living in they’re either unable or unwilling to change it. Naturally, this doesn’t make for the most uplifting read. It won’t ruin your day, however, as the story being told delivers enough tension and unfolds in way surprising enough to keep you engaged no matter how horrible things become for its characters.
April 5, 2017
Why was the original anime film being talked up so much in advance of the live-action version? Because the source manga is highly overrated.
April 3, 2017
This volume actually starts out leading to a moment of triumph for Makoto. After surviving the attack by an unfriendly vampire at the end of vol. 2, he uses his newfound instincts to track down the missing Yuuki and brings him back to the hospital. Which is all well and good, until it’s revealed that Yuuki has been turned into a vampire as well. He doesn’t handle the transition as well as Makoto and now our protagonist has to deal with knowing exactly what’s going on but not being able to do anything about it. Maybe Nora, the vampire who turned him, could help. Or maybe the guys who come for Makoto in the middle of the night and seem to know exactly how to handle someone like him have some insights they wouldn’t mind sharing.
It’s actually pretty impressive how much tension and sympathy mangaka Shuzo Oshimi manages to get from this volume even though it’s pretty clear how everything’s going to play out. We know that Makoto isn’t going to be able to hold onto his normal life -- Nora spells it out for him before sharing blood in a queasily mothering way -- but you still feel for him because of the connections he’s established. While Makoto’s breakdown in front of his family is a heartbreaker, greater emotional weight comes from his relationship with Gosho after he tells her everything. You realize he cares enough for her to be this honest, but that’s just going to make staying together more difficult once the bodies start piling up.
That starts here as we see that Yuuki doesn’t have the same kind of self-control that Makoto is blessed with. It’s a stark contrast between the two as Yuuki’s actions make it so that he can’t go back to his old life and must strike out on his own. Except he’s not about to leave his only friend who has saved his life twice, for which he returns the favor once here, and is the only person he knows who’s able to relate to his situation. There’s a lot of personal drama that could be coming to a head with the next volume. Of course, if Oshimi just decides to turn the screws even tighter I think she may be able to get away with that for now.