September 30, 2017
This volume kicks off with a flashback two-parter featuring some wonderfully brutal art from Rafa Garres about a viking who drank dragon blood to become the Asgardian equivalent of a Hulk. All thanks to Loki, of course. The story hits its familiar notes from the song of Thor/Loki sibling rivalry while the present-day sequences tie it back to the main story. They also paint a more interesting picture of the God of Lies than I’m used to seeing in this series. Usually Loki only comes off as sympathetic and vulnerable when he’s thrust into the spotlight for his own titles. Here, Jason Aaron mines these qualities for the character while he’s in a supporting and ostensibly villainous role and it’s actually kind of refreshing. It’s also clear that Loki is playing a long, dangerous game and I’m really interested to see where it goes.
As for the main story of this volume, it turns out that Dario Agger’s expansion of Roxxon into the Asgardian realms has not gone unnoticed by his equally villainous businessperson peers. Taking the initiative to cut him down are the Silver Samurai and Exterminatrix, and they turn out to be surprisingly successful at it. To the dismay of everyone in Manhattan, however, as Agger has programmed Roxxon’s floating island HQ to level the city in case of a hostile takeover. Such an action places Thor, and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Roz Solomon in the uneasy business of having to save a genuine villain.
Crawling bullets that turn what they touch into gold, Hulked-out security enforcers, Jane Foster performing surgery on… herself(?), Dario Agger being tortured over several issues, and the secret origin of Mjolnir -- this arc has it all. It’s the kind of ridiculously over-the-top superhero spectacle that Aaron excels at and he hits all the right notes here. This time around he not only has the good guys earn their victory, but also drops some solid hints that the worst is around the corner. It’s the kind of balance I like to see in these titles. Typically excellent art from Russell Dauterman, with Frazer Irving guesting on Mjolnir’s origin issue, round out a most worthy volume.
September 29, 2017
The Art of Metal Gear Solid V hasn’t even hit stores yet, but Dark Horse is apparently convinced that it’s going to do good business for them. How good? So good that they’ve announced that The Art of Metal Gear Solid I-IV will be arriving next May. If you read that and thought that they’d have trouble cramming all the artwork for those games into one volume, then you’d be right. This will be a two-volume slipcase set that will be a massive 800 pages in total. The title is also something of a misnomer because it’ll also include art from the Playstation Portable game “Peace Walker” as well. Which is fitting since the game was somewhat overlooked as a PSP release (and subsequent downloadable title on the PS3 and 360) but still managed to be a pivotal chapter in the overall “Metal Gear Solid” storyline, deeply informing the events of “MGSV.” No mention of whether we’ll see art from the first PSP “Metal gear Solid” game “Portable Ops” here. Which is also kind of appropriate since that game gets no love at all these days.
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September 27, 2017
The holiday spirit is strong with Image this year. They’ll be publishing three very different comics that spotlight the holiday season and its many attractions and horrors come December. Of the three, I’m looking forward to The Wicked + The Divine Christmas Annual the most as it pairs co-creator/writer Kieron Gillen with an impressive array of artists to display some rather mundane things. You know, like Inanna and Baal getting it on, Lucifer and Sakhmet getting it on, and (clearly best of all) Dionysus giving Baphomet a lift in a crappy car. Get it when it comes out in December or just wait for the promised collection of all the “W+D” one-shots that will be coming towards the end of the series.
All the way at the other end of the excitement spectrum for me is Spawn: A Holiday Krampus Tale. It’s a tale so epic that it needed three writers -- Todd McFarlane, Ben Timmereck, and the one-shot’s artist Jordan Butler -- to tell it. Who knows why we’re getting this story now, though it could be that McFarlane was emboldened by the success of the “Spawn Kills Everyone” one-shot and we’ll be seeing even more one-offs like this down the line. On a happier-ish note is the Curse Words Holiday Special where we get a flashback to see what Christmas was like for Wizord and everyone else back in the Hole World. It sounds promising in that it’s not just in the spirit of the season, but will likely flesh out some backstory for the cast along the way. Regular writer/co-creator Charles Soule writes this and is joined by Mike Norton -- someone whose style may not be crazy enough for this series, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt here. ‘Tis the season and all.
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September 25, 2017
A quick look through the archives tells me that I skipped reviewing vol. 3 of this series for some reason. Let me tell you now that it continued the title’s upward trajectory with its focus on the Io Fleming-piloted Gundam versus Darryl Lorenz-piloted Psycho Zaku battle. It was a thrilling fight that fittingly ended in a pyrrhic victory for Lorenz with Fleming and the rest of his shipmates captured by the Zeon forces. While Fleming is beaten by his captors, he still manages to unsettle Lorenz by correctly pointing out that they both felt truly alive during their battle and that this rivalry won’t end until one of them has killed the other.
How do you top that? Well, mangaka Yasuo Ohtagaki spends most of the first half of this volume winding down this stage of the story and getting all of the characters in place for the next. While we get plenty of exciting mecha battles as the Zeon fortress A Baoa Qu is breached, you can also see the gears of the plot grinding away. Some of this is predictable, with Fleming’s heroic escape, and others are intriguingly quirky. Witness the rescue of the infamous J.J. Sexton and how it proves crucial to the next stage of the story, along with the return of another character I would’ve thought to be better off dead but am willing to see where Ohtagaki is going with this.
The problem with the transition between arcs here is that it takes a while for the next one to get up to speed. A lot of time is spent catching up with the main cast on both sides of the One-Year War now that the Federation and Zeon have reached an uneasy peace. The fact that these two sides are nominally at peace gives the thrust of the next arc some real drama as they each plan their own operations to infiltrate a religious order in Asia in order to secure some top-secret tech. This does lead to Ohtagaki having to display some impressively ridiculous narrative hoop-jumping in order to get Fleming back on the Federation side of things. That distraction aside, this next arc looks to be pretty thrilling once the Federation and Zeon’s plans for this infiltration inevitably fall apart and the fighting begins.
September 24, 2017
This month’s round of solicitations contains a couple of “Classified” advance-solicits for January. Apparently Marvel thinks that “Avengers” #675 and “Guardians of the Galaxy” #150 are going to be so big that the company not only has to get the word out about their existence a month in advance, but price them at $5 each. Assumedly for an extra-sized reading experience. While the anniversary issue of “Guardians” comes to us courtesy of regular writer Gerry Duggan and artist Marcus To, no information has been revealed about the creative team for “Avengers” #675. Speculation is that it’s going to be the debut of the rumored new creative team of writer Jason Aaron and artist Esad Ribic. That would be a smart move on Marvel’s part since Aaron is the biggest writer at the company who has yet to be given the keys to its overall direction while Ribic is a phenomenal artist who delivered some awesome “Thor” stories working with Aaron. As to what this new run is going to be about, no one can really say. But it may have something to do with the big return Marvel has in store for December…
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September 23, 2017
Every so often Marvel and DC will go through a period where they give a push to adding brand new superheroes to their respective universes. What this usually amounts to is an enormous amount of crap being thrown at the wall with one or two characters sticking around to achieve some measure of cult/mainstream success. (Hi there “Hitman” and “Ms. Marvel!”) As you might have guessed, I’m bringing this up now because DC is giving this approach another shot in December. It’s good timing for such a thing as the company is riding high off of the success of “Metal” and the fact that they’re stacking the creative teams for these titles with some of their best talent also bodes well for this push. As for the actual concepts they’re pushing, well…
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September 22, 2017
This volume is a little closer to what I want to see in a “Superman” story as co-writers Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason attempt something few writers do these days: Follow up on a concept laid down by Grant Morrison. In this case, that would be his epic “Multiversity” series as Superman teams up with the Justice League Incarnate to take down a threat that is specifically targeting Supermen from across the multiverse. Tomasi and Gleason manage to craft a serviceable mini-epic out of this three-issue arc that makes decent use of Morrison’s concepts and nails the title character’s ability to inspire when everything seems at its worst. Working against the story is it’s antagonist Prophecy, who is every bit as generic as his name implies, and the fact that five(!) different artists were required to deliver these three issues. Even though I liked how the previous volume focused on short two-part arcs, “Multiplicity” is one that probably should’ve been given another issue to properly set up its villain.
The title arc is also bookended by two one-offs that only required one artist each to deliver. Jorge Jimenez illustrates “Tangled up in Green” where Superman encounters Swamp Thing during a drought in Smallville. While it’s usually interesting to see these two vastly different superheroes interact, this story comes off as more of an excuse to see them throw down over complications from Superman’s other-dimensional status. Jimenez makes the fighting lively, but the end result is just more handwaving to validate this Superman as the proper one in this universe. If you’re like me and have already accepted this Superman, then this is largely going to feel pointless.
“Dark Harvest” is the final story in this collection and it spotlights Jon Kent and his friend Kathy as they go out into the swamp one night to look for her missing cow. The art is from Sebastian Fiumara and he gives it a great horror-infused edge even at its most surrealistic moments. Said surrealistic moments -- including parts where it looks like the two kids are shrinking and later swimming in a sea of milk in a haunted house -- do make the story feel somewhat nonsensical and by the end I was wondering what the point of it all was. There’s nothing wrong with Tomasi and Gleason taking a spooky little diversion like this, except that it’s likely only going to be memorably scary to readers of Jon and Kathy’s age.
September 20, 2017
There is tremendous skill and craft underpinning this incredibly, but not completely, depressing work.
September 18, 2017
It’s been three years and five months since we last saw a volume of “Drifters” on these shores. The only reason we’re getting a new volume now is because the series had a popular anime adaptation last year. I just want to let that sink in for a bit. The reason the “Drifters” manga -- and by extension “Blood Blockade Battlefront’s” return in December -- is coming out again is all down to its successful anime adaptation. Not because of any extraordinary effort on Dark Horse’s part, but because of the anime. So while I’ll continue to ask along with everyone else about the status of titles like “The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service” and “Eden: It’s An Endless World!” it helps to remember that there’s really only one thing that moves the needle when it comes to getting Dark Horse to bring a series back from hiatus.
...well, unless you manage to convince three thousand of your closest friends to pick up a copy of the above-mentioned titles’ most recent volumes. I don’t have that many, but do any of you?
Anyway, the good news is that “Drifters” returns in good form with the members of the title group working to stage a swift takeover of Worlina, Capitol of the Orte Empire. While this would appear to be an impossible task in the best of circumstances, there’s just enough crazy between its leaders -- samurai Shimazu Toyohisa and military genius Oda Nobunaga -- to pull it off. The battle that follows is a genuine struggle between the good guys (Drifters) and the bad guys (Ends) that actually had me anxious as to how it was all going to turn out. Even if the civilization-building aspect of the series that I like best about it was mostly sidelined here, the drama of that struggle and the balls-out action on show from mangaka Kohta Hirano still make this volume a thrilling read. If you liked the anime and still haven’t picked up a copy of the manga do yourself a favor and start reading this now.
September 17, 2017
This wraps up the main story for Greg Rucka’s run on the title and he does bring the narrative into much sharper focus here. Even though Diana of Themyscira is struggling with a mental breakdown for the first half, she overcomes it through her own strength and with a little help from some of her friends. We also get an explanation in regards to the first volume’s most confusing assertion that the title character has never been back to her home island. This is in spite of the fact that she did this multiple times during the great Azzarello/Chiang run.
On that note, the explanation we get winds up confirming my biggest fear for this series. Rucka effectively wipes out the entire “New 52” run of the series in telling us the real reason why Diana has been deceived. You could argue that these events still technically happened to the title character, but only in the sense that it was a mass delusion shared by everyone around her. It also means that Diana’s “Pre-52” origin is canonical again, just in time to be ignored by the movie.
Clearly Rucka had issues with how Wonder Woman was handled in her previous run and wanted to set them right. The problem here is that he had to effectively kick out a run that I really liked in order to do that. If you did have a problem with the Azzarello/Chiang run, or the Meredith Finch-written run that followed, or both then you’re probably going to appreciate what Rucka does here. To be entirely fair, the actual storytelling here is very solid. Diana gets plenty of changes to show off her strength (both physical and character), the actual way in which she was deceived is quite interesting along with the consequences should she ever find out, there are some clever callbacks to the “Year One” arc, and Liam Sharp’s art is quite good when he’s not rushing up against a deadline. It’s the kind of quality work I’ve come to expect from Rucka, except that it’s all in pursuit of trashing something I liked.