Are you ready for an adventure! How about the story about an “unkillable” former soldier and the native girl he teams up with in order to find a fortune in stolen gold where the map to it has been tattooed on the skin of prisoners? If that’s the case, then go out and buy a copy of “Golden Kamuy” now because it has everything you’re looking for.
The first story in this volume contains something I never thought I’d see: Good art from Felipe Andrade. In his work on other titles like “Ultimate X-Men” and “Siege: Battleworld” he usually took “stylistic exaggeration” to mean that he had the freedom to deliver characters that looked like twisted, misshapen lumps of their usual selves. This time around in “Old Man Logan,” he actually buckles down and delivers familiar characters who look like how you remember them. There’s still some exaggeration going on with his style, but that actually works out fine in a story that has the title character teaming up with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Howling Commandos to rescue Jubilee from Dracula. You could argue that the Lord of Vampires building up his vampire army to take on humanity is too big a threat for what is basically two issues of monsters vs. vampires. Yet writer Jeff Lemire has the good sense to not take everything completely seriously and it winds up being a fun bit of goofiness in the end. Thanks to Andrade’s solid work as well -- which is something I wasn’t expecting to ever write.
Then Andrea Sorrentino shows up for his swan song on the book and knocks it out of the park in a story that deliberately aims to confuse as it shifts between two timelines. In one, Old Man Logan is back in the Wastelands and finds out that the Banner kid he rescued has been kidnapped by Kang and turned into a warlord. In the other, he’s stuck on a space station with Puck fighting off an infestation of Brood. If you can plow through the confusion that Lemire throws at you, then everything will be explained with things also being set up nicely for his final arc next volume. The real star of the show here is Sorrentino who makes the Brood sequences as nightmarish as a (good) “Alien” movie while throwing in plenty of stylistic tricks to show that he can bring more than atmosphere to a story. It’s going to be a tough act for the next artist(s) to follow, but at least they’ve got narrative momentum working in their favor.
The title of this volume refers to the group of people who have had their lives ruined by the collateral damage from that no-good Batman and his vigilante antics. What’s their plan for revenge? Why to become supervillains themselves and cause some collateral damage of their own as they work to take down Batman, and maybe even convince Spoiler to come over to their side. It’s not just that this setup is kinda dumb, but it’s also wholly predictable as well. Having people who have felt wronged by the actions of a superhero show up to get revenge is not a new concept for the genre. The way these stories usually play out is that after making the hero question his cause he winds up reaffirming it after pointing out where these people got it wrong. That’s exactly how it plays out here with the only notable quirk being a new status quo for the Spoiler in the context of the series. Which you’ll likely be able to see coming long before it happens because writer James Tynion IV effectively railroads the character into it.
Working in this story’s favor is generally decent art from the likes of Alvaro Martinez and Eddy Barrows. I also liked the addition of Luke “Batwing” Fox to the cast as his arrogance clashes entertainingly with the rest of the cast (even though he’s basically just “Iron Man” in a Batsuit here), and Tynion’s rehabilitation of Clayface continues to pay off well here. Better was the two-part “Batwoman Begins” story that rounds out this volume that Tynion co-writes with Marguerite Bennett with art from Ben Oliver. Here, the writers flesh out Batwoman’s first encounter with Batman while also letting us know that the Colony still has business with them in Gotham. It’s actually a pretty nifty setup to the new “Batwoman” series and actually manages to start the rebuilding process in regards to a relationship I was disappointed to see torn apart in the previous volume.
So I’m left feeling optimistic for this new “Batwoman” series. Less so for “Detective Comics” itself. Except that Tynion has made it clear that he has a story regarding these characters he wants to tell and that earns him some leeway with me. He would do well to look beyond rehashing the superhero genre playbook if he wants to keep me around, though.
In what was likely an attempt to keep the sales magic of “Fables” going for the increasingly moribund Vertigo imprint, writers Lilah (formerly Matthew) Sturges and Dave Justus have delivered unto us “Everafter.” I realize that description makes it sound like a cynical cash-in, but Sturges has a long history writing other “Fables” projects both solo and with creator Bill Willingham, and she also co-wrote the adaptation of the Telltale game “The Wolf Among Us” with Justus. That’s a good enough resume to get me to pick up this first volume which picks up in our formerly mundane world after the existence of Fables and magic have been revealed in it. This has led to an inordinate amount of chaos as new and frightening ideas are being brought to life on a regular basis and need to be contained. Enter the Shadow Players, a covert group of Fables dedicated to keeping the peace of the land behind the scenes, and their newest member Connor Wolf.
This inaugural volume has the Players contending with two very different threats: a little girl with seemingly unlimited magical power and a series of thefts regarding Native American relics related to resurrection. It might surprise you to learn that these two plots don’t converge after a certain point, and that’s honestly the most surprising thing about them. If you’re like me and have read through all of “Fables” and its related spinoffs then it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that Sturges and Justus have a good handle on the characters and conventions of this fictional world. What’s missing is the whimsy and cleverness that Willingham brought to the property, with most of the plot threads here playing out in an expected fashion (save for Hansel’s). Things are a little closer to the good old days in the final story about a magician who finds himself drafted into the Players to unfortunate effect. It’s a nice little character piece with some delightful art by the where-has-he-been-all-these-years Steve Rolston whose cartoonish style is a lot more appealing than the conventional work of Travis Moore in the main story.
Now, if you follow the solicitations as I do you’ll know that “Everafter” didn’t set the sales charts alight (even by current Vertigo standards). The end result being that this is the first of only two volumes for this series. While “The Pandora Protocol” didn’t really grab me, it was still a decent enough return to the world of “Fables.” Not an essential read for fans of the series, but one completists won’t mind adding to their library.
This manga is an invaluable document of information about the cleanup efforts regarding the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plan. It also serves as a reminder of the importance of narrative when it comes to presenting information as a graphic novel.
After fifteen volumes, and roughly two and a half years since the start of this title’s publication in English, we were finally going to learn Koro-sensei’s origin with vol. 16. So yes, I was pretty excited to finally read this volume. Having read it… I wouldn’t classify my disappointment as “crushing” but I was expecting better from mangaka Yusei Matsui after all this time. It’s not that the story behind Koro-sensei’s origin is bad, per se. The problem is that once the story gets going it’s VERY easy to see how things are going to play out. You’ve got the master assassin who is being experimented upon, the ruthless mad scientist who will stop at nothing to achieve his goals, and the kindly schoolteacher who wants nothing more than to make a difference in the lives of those she teaches. These are all familiar elements and there are precious few surprises to be had in seeing how they interact and play out in this context.
To be fair, that’s not to say that there aren’t any surprises to be had here. It was interesting to see the connection between Koro-sensei and the Grim Reaper established here and to find out the real reason behind the partial destruction of the moon. Furthermore, for all the familiarity of the story elements here, Matsui executes things skillfully enough that you wind up hoping things aren’t going to play out in the way that you know they will. When all is said and done, the revelation of Koro-sensei’s origin leaves the relationship between him and his students in a much different place than where it was at the start of this volume. For some of the students at least. While it’s not surprising that there’s a contingent of them who want to save their teacher after hearing his life’s story, some of the students still want to go through with the original assassination plan. Will they be able to work things out, or will overcoming this divide prove to be Class E’s greatest challenge? Unlike the main story in this volume, I appreciate that the resolution to this new plot point isn’t immediately obvious.
Hard as it may be to believe now, but there was a time when I actually enjoyed reading Mark Millar’s work. With regards to his superhero work at Marvel, he had a real knack for coming up with high-concept storylines that got to the heart of the characters he was writing. Such was the case with the original “Wolverine: Enemy of the State” and follow-up “Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” storylines that had the character being brainwashed by the Hand and Hydra and forced to kill for them before their control was broken and he went out for revenge. It was a best-selling run that’s still fondly remembered to this day, which is why we’re getting the sequel in the pages of “All-New Wolverine.”
Forget the previous “Batman” series to bear this title. This time around “All-Star” is the victory lap for Scott Snyder after he, along with Greg Capullo, delivered some of the best “Batman” stories in recent memory with their run on the “New 52” incarnation of the title. While that series worked because it managed to keep topping itself with each arc, Snyder is deliberately dialing down the scale for this one to tell different kinds of stories (and for the sake of his own sanity as he’s mentioned in interviews).
He’s one of the best and most prolific writers of superhero comics, but not everything he puts out is a home run. Take Champions vol. 1: Change the World as an example. Subsequent to the events of “Civil War II” along with a general disappointment at how adult superheroes tackle their job, Kamala “Ms. Marvel” Khan, Miles “Spider-Man” Morales, and Sam “Nova” Alexander quit the Avengers and start their own team. Along with Amadeus “The Totally Awesome Hulk” Cho, Viv Vision, and Scott “Cyclops” Summers they take on cases with a clear human toll including human trafficking, gender oppression, and racism. They also have a bonding campout in the woods and take on some irate Atlanteans at one point as well. The execution is solid and it all looks great with Humberto Ramos’ expectedly energetic art. Where “Champions” falls short is that it’s lacking in youthful rebellion. For all their talk about changing the world, this team’s rebellion honestly feels pretty by the books. I hate to say it, but a younger writer less steeped in superhero convention is probably what this book needed.
Fortunately that’s not the case with the second and, sadly, concluding volume of “Black Widow.” Black Widow vol. 2: No More Secrets is a tightly-crafted action story just like the first volume, only it makes more effective use of the six issues collected here. Where vol. 1 felt like it went on for too long, vol. 2 feels just right as it hits the ground running with the Weeping Lion under the Black Widow’s thumb as she fights for the future of the young girls trained under the Dark Room’s Headmistress. Natasha’s fight takes her to secret bases in Russia and the Antarctic, the White House in D.C., and even the Moon. Waid and co-writer Chris Samnee keep the tension relentlessly tight, but also make room for some worthwhile character development regarding the Weeping Lion and the Headmistress’ second-in-command Recluse to make them interesting antagonists. Samnee also delivers some flawlessly engaging art that will appease your eye even as you’re trying to turn the pages in a rush to find out what happens next. It would’ve been nice to see where Waid and Samnee would go from here with the Black Widow, but at least we got one great epic story from them.
While the release schedule for DC’s once-celebrated Vertigo imprint continue to thin out with each passing month, it’s still in better shape than Marvel’s was-almost-kinda-sorta-a-contender creator-owned imprint Icon. It launched with the first issue of the second volume of “Powers” by Bendis and Oeming and in that moment it looked like the imprint could be the next big thing. Particularly with all of the Mark Millar projects that followed such as “Kick-Ass,” “The Secret Service,” and “Superior.” Other creator-owned work from creators like Jason Aaron and Ron Garney’s “Men of Wrath” followed, but projects like these were few and far between. These days with Bendis’ creator-owned output having all but dried up, it would appear that Millar is the only creator left to carry the Icon banner forward.
Until this round of Image solicitations, that is. There’s a new “Kingsman” miniseries solicited here along with a reprint of the original “The Secret Service” collection as well. If Millar has no problem with taking away one of his most successful titles when a new movie promoting it is all set to come out then it’s not too hard to assume that the rest of his output from Icon will be making the jump to Image at some point as well. Thus leaving Icon dead in the water and most people to remark, “Wait, that was still going? I thought it closed down years ago.” At least Vertigo has history to its name. Icon is just going to be remembered as that imprint Marvel started up to keep its top-tier creators happy until they realized they could get a better deal at Image.