December 17, 2017
Three volumes in and writer Charles Soule is still finding decent, but not spectacular ways to make the pre-”The Force Awakens” adventures of the title character interesting. He succeeds best in the opening story which has Poe meeting up with an old journalist friend, Suralinda Javos, after she tells him about a big story she stumbled upon. Things get hairy when the initial round of thugs attacking them gives way to First Order operatives, but the story succeeds in delivering some fast-paced action and even some intrigue as Suralina’s true motivations come out. The multi-issue stories that follow it are fine. Poe and the rest of Black Squadron have to deal with an out-of-control tanker cruiser and steal back the fuel the First Order stole from it in one, and then they pick up the trail of unwilling traitor Oddy Muva while engaging in some wartime reportage in the other.
As with the previous volumes, you get the feeling that Soule is very limited in what he can do to flesh out this era with all of the big developments being reserved for the films to handle. The biggest disappointment with this volume is that the writer has decided to effectively neuter Agent Terex as a character. Easily the best part of the first two volumes, Terex’s gleefully underhanded methods and interesting backstory helped give the stories there some energy. That’s not the case here as the plot dictates that he be punished for his failures by making him into a far less interesting character here. It doesn’t help matters that Commander Malus, his replacement as primary antagonist for Poe and Black Squadron, is nothing more than a generically evil First Order officer.
There’s also a change in the art here as Angel Unzueta takes over for Phil Noto. Unzueta’s work is more clean and straightforward than his predecessor’s, though it lacks Noto’s otherworldly style. The art in this volume is still very nice to look at even if there’s nothing truly exceptional about it. Which is a good way of describing the overall quality of “Poe Dameron” so far.
December 17, 2017
If there’s one character that Bendis has been most closely associated with during his time at Marvel, it’s been the “Ultimate” incarnation of “Spider-Man.” He wrote every issue of the continuity-free modern update of Peter Parker’s adventures from the start, showed us the character’s death (and eventual resurrection), and gave us a new one in Miles Morales. Bendis has also written every issue of Miles’ solo adventures and the character is likely to remain a fixture in the Marvel Universe after the writer has departed it. Which, in this day and age, is no small achievement.
Yet, if there’s been one weakness to Bendis’ handling of Miles it’s that he’s shown a willingness to have the character’s life defined by his predecessor. Whether that means pitting him against a new version of Venom, doing the “Spider-Man No More” bit at one point, or that time he met up with a resurrected Peter Parker and got the character’s blessing to continue doing what he was doing. While his adventures have been a lot of fun to read, we’ve yet to get a truly defining story about Miles’ adventures as Spider-Man. It’s not in this volume either, even though Bendis delivers some of his best character drama in recent memory. In addition to some new developments for Miles that I can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on.
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December 15, 2017
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ first arc on “Black Panther” didn’t really live up to my expectations. Having an extremely talky twelve-issue story to tell where the talk wasn’t especially interesting will do that. It wasn’t bad enough to get me to give up on the series, so here we are now with vol. 3 and Wakanda is facing an all-new crisis. While the country was saved from Tetu’s rebellion by the intervention of its ancestors in the previous volume, it leads to a new question in this volume. Namely, where were Wakanda’s gods in that conflict? It looks like they’ve disappeared and left the door to their realm open, allowing the monstrous Originators to come and try to reclaim the land. Fortunately the Black Panther is on the case and this time he’s got none other than his ex-wife Storm backing him up here.
The good news is that while there’s still plenty of talk in this volume, what’s being said is more interesting and even funny at times. Helping matters immensely is the slick and eye-pleasing art from Wilfredo Torres and Chris Sprouse. There’s also more action in this volume, which helps to keep things lively and break up all the exposition. Of which there is enough to hold this volume back from becoming genuinely entertaining. The biggest problem with the volume is that there’s plenty of talk about the gods and the fact that they’ve disappeared, but very little action to find out why that happened and how to bring them back. Then you get to the final few pages and find out that this situation might be one giant piece of misdirection on the part of one of the Panther’s oldest foes. I hope that’s not the case because any twist which teases the idea that everything you’ve been reading up to this point is not a good one. We’ll see if Coates has a plan for making it a good one in the next volume.
December 13, 2017
Neither the worst Marvel event series nor without its own problems either.
December 11, 2017
Could it be? A volume of “Murcielago” that doesn’t contain anything to aggravate or offend me and focuses only on providing gleefully violent fanservice? Well, you could argue that there’s some transphobia in the representation of the figurehead of the cult at the center of this volume and Kuroko engages in some more questionable behavior with Rinko in this volume as well. Even if you can’t completely discount these things they’re either a minor or fleeting part of vol. 4 which is close enough for me to call it a win after vols. 1-3.
The main story, which involves Kuroko infiltrating an all-female cult to rescue one of its members, does offer an interesting twist on how you’d expect this story to go. Most “infiltrating a cult” stories tend to hinge on the protagonist being strong-willed enough to resist or eventually overcome the brainwashing they’re subjected to. In the case of Kuroko, she willingly submits to the cult’s embrace because they not only tempt her with the promise of being able to have sex with every girl there, but the biggest, blondest, and breastiest girl there all but throws herself at our protagonist. It’s no surprise to see Kuroko get flipped to the other side -- she’s being offered to live in her own kind of paradise.
Of course, when her yakuza girlfriend Chiyo finds out about this she grabs her katana and heads straight to the cult’s headquarters, with dim-witted “ninja” Hinako as company, to get her woman back. Even if the results aren’t as action-packed as I would’ve liked, the story still manages a decent amount of suspense as I was wondering how it was going to resolve itself right up to the climax. So yeah, vol. 4 is an improvement over what has come before. Now let’s see if mangaka Yoshimurakana can keep the upward trend going through vol. 5.
December 10, 2017
For me, and a lot of other fans, Warren Ellis was the defining creator of the WildStorm imprint. While it had a lot to offer followers of great superhero art prior to his arrival, the writing on most of its titles could charitably be described as “total crap.” His debut on “Stormwatch” didn’t change things overnight, but a title that was originally seen as a third-rate “X-Men” knockoff in a market full of them suddenly seemed a little sharper and a little smarter and went on to improve from there. Fans took notice as Ellis introduced characters and concepts -- Midnighter, Apollo, “The Bleed” -- that are still being used in the DC Universe today and which led to the breakout successes of “The Authority” and its contemporary “Planetary.”
Ellis had been long absent from the imprint by the time the final issue of “Planetary” shipped, but you could see the impression he left in subsequent iterations of “The Authority” and titles like “Stormwatch P.H.D.” The WildStorm imprint has been dormant for a while now, but with the success of DC’s “Rebirth” initiative it’s now getting a relaunch of its own. Only now the difference is that it’s just one man re-imagining the imprint’s entire universe and characters. “The Wild Storm” at least has the good fortune to be handled by the creator most associated with its quality and even if this first volume is the kind of slow burn that Ellis loves to traffic in these days it’s at least one of his better ones.
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December 9, 2017
It’s not that there haven’t been “The Walking Dead” spinoffs outside the comic before. They’ve just been limited to shorts appended to issues spotlighting certain characters or Comic Book Legal Defense Fund annuals. “Here’s Negan!” originally serialized in the first sixteen issues of “Image+” is the first spinoff to be long enough to warrant its own collection. At sixty-four pages it’s a brisk run through the pre-Savior life of the series’ most lovably hateable villain. It starts off with showing how he managed his life as a foul-mouthed gym teacher and awful husband to his wife, Lucille. That changes when she’s diagnosed with cancer, but all turns out to be for naught when she passes away… just as the dead start coming back to life. From there, Negan is forced to make his own way through this savage new world because everyone keeps letting him down by dying.
Schedule for the ongoing monthly title notwithstanding, Kirkman and Adlard probably could’ve spun this story into a six-or-twelve issue miniseries. As it is, “Here’s Negan!” manages some impressive economy in showcasing the character’s evolution from well-meaning but fallible funny asshole to the brutal leader we love to hate in the comic. The character is given a pretty involving arc with the creators hitting all the right beats in the limited space they were given to work in. I’m also pleased to report that the “AH-HA!” moments that can ruin a good prequel by spelling out exactly how a character became that way are kept to a minimum here.
While the story itself is told well in the space it was given, it’s worth noting that it ends just as Negan comes into his own. Those of you expecting to see how he built up the Saviors or scarred Dwight won’t get that here. It should also be noted that this sixty-four page collection will set you back $20 for the oversized hardcover edition it currently exists in. I would say that definitely limits its appeal to only people who are already huge fans of the comic and are dying to learn more about Negan’s backstory. If that sounds like you, then pick this up when you get a chance.
December 8, 2017
Magic in the Marvel Universe is on the mend after the Empirikul’s crusade in the previous volume, which leaves us with a greatly diminished Doctor Strange. This is a fact which has not gone unnoticed by his rogues gallery who have descended to make his current week a living hell. As well as an actual Hell thanks to the presence of Satanna the Devil’s Daughter. In addition to her, Strange has to face off against foes both old, new, and the Orb. Why him? Well, Jason Aaron is still writing this title and there’s no way he wasn’t going to use his most favorite pet villain in the Marvel Universe and follow up on his new vocation as the Watcher (Who Likes to Interfere).
Though the good Doctor may not have the kind of magic he’s used to relying on to face these threats, that just means he has to get more creative about how he deals with these villains. Which is generally good news for us as we get to see Aaron come up with some deviously, and in one case disgustingly, clever ways for his hero to get out of the situations he finds himself in. The majority of these triumphs are pulled off well with Strange’s triumph against the Hell Bacon (yes, that’s a thing here) being a high point. Unfortunately this cleverness isn’t quite sustained through the end of the volume with the final face-off being more of a brute-force showdown leading into a cliffhanger ending.
Former “Doctor Strange” artist Kevin Nowlan drops by to illustrate half an issue, a flashback tale to the time when Strange was just starting out on his journey into magic. It’s great work as you’d expect from the man, but the most impressive thing about the issue is how its other artist, Leonardo Romero, actually comes off pretty well in comparison as he handles the present day sequences. Chris Bachalo illustrates the majority of this volume and as usual he’s perfectly suited to the craziness that Aaron has him draw. Also as usual, Bachalo is accompanied by his usual army of inkers and I’m only bringing this up because his work here is one of those times where it looks a little less consistent than usual within each issue. We’ll see if he can pull it together for the next volume to close out what has been an entertaining run chronicling Strange’s adventures so far.
December 4, 2017
Seven volumes in and Kore Yamazaki’s “The Ancient Magus’ Bride” remains one of the most entertaining titles I read. It’s mix of excellent characterization, meticulous worldbuilding, and imaginative storytelling is something I continue to look forward to with each volume. While you would think that the mangaka would have her hands full with this title alone, Yamazaki has also found the time to deliver another at the same time. Her work ethic is commendable to be sure, but the main thing about these first two volumes of “Frau Faust” is how they show that B-grade Yamazaki still has its charms.
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