Its been a busy couple of days, so these were all delayed a bit. Still, it is or was a new week, so…!
Before I begin: I’ve just discovered that my favourite new book, New Warriors, is being canceled after issue 12. I told you all to go out and read it. Where have you been? Fix this. Now. This is sad and not-good news.
- All-New Ghost Rider #6
- All-New X-Factor #12
- Armor Hunters: Bloodshot #2
- Armor Hunters: Harbinger #2
- Daredevil #7
- Delinquents #1
- Translucid #5 (of 6)
Armor Hunters #3 has still been denied to my shop, but is in shipping manifests for next week, at least. I’m still iffy on starting All-New X-Factor now, with so much of the previous title in boxes (but not complete). Anyone who stumbles across this and wants to assert whether I should or shouldn’t start reading the title in ignorance of the prior volume is welcome to do so!
First off, let’s cover the book that I recommend in person all the time, but haven’t addressed here at all. Translucid is the latest from Claudio Sanchez and his wife Chondra Echert who’ve previously co-written KillAudio and The Key of Z, both for Claudio’s own Evil Ink Comics. An interview I randomly stumbled into had Claudio suggesting that Chondra is most directly and heavily involved in the writing–whether this means a “plotter + scripter” breakdown or something less easily divisible, I don’t know. But there’s plenty of credit to go around here. Translucid is an intentional breakdown of the Batman/Joker-type dynamic, without leaning much at all on those characters or their story.
While Mark Waid covered something of this via inversion in Irredeemable and Incorruptible, his focus was far more on the inversion itself, and the Plutonian, by necessity, resembles Superman in many ways.¹
Certainly, the Navigator is more of a Batman, normal guy with gadgets type hero, but he’s leaning more toward science fantasy in his powers than heavy training and having the money to bankroll batarangs and other “understandable” gadgets. The Horse, however, is nothing of the Joker, beyond being a villain. The Horse is a schemer, a plotter–maybe it’s his snappy dress and cane, but I’d think more like Kingpin, if anyone.
In any case, this is all about the Navigator, and how he lost his luster and his drive while the Horse was in prison, and how the Horse is attempting to understand these changes, while we, too, see where the Navigator came from. By this issue, we’ve got a lot of his origin, a lot of what has built him up, designs and ideas and emotions, but in the current day we have the Horse in complete control, but still confusingly (but not at all unbelievably) devoted to prying apart the gears and motivations of the Navigator.
Daniel Bayliss and Adam Metcalfe make for a formidable art team as always. Keeping the normal normal and the fantastic fantastic, Felipe Smith’s cover [EDIT: Smith’s cover is a variant, not the one I have, which is the one pictured. His cover is here] again references the hallucinogenic images the Horse is leaving the Navigator trapped in–images that can bleed or shift suddenly in the book, shocking and fluid as they appear or take over. Reality warps under their hands with wild but controlled lines and colours that shift from the interestingly limited but very “real” palette into neons and other blinding colours that emphasize this strangeness.
The book is and should be six issues–at least, it looks that way here at the penultimate issue–though it will still be sad to see it go.
Yes! It’s a “ValiantCraft” cover! My shop only got these variants, though only for this book. I’d originally thought I wanted to get all of them, but, I suppose, it would be a bit weird to have Armor Hunters books with that style. Maybe. If nothing else, this is definitely the title least strange to find with it.
Continuing the story of Quantum and Woody after their title ended, by merging it with the still-running Archer & Armstrong, Asmus (Q&W) and Van Lente (A&A) have started the convergence nice and clean. Asmus was left with the final scripting–understandable, as Van Lente still has a book and he doesn’t–and Archer might be a teensy bit off in tone (Archer’s a peculiar character though, with his upbringing, his rejection of it, and the weirdness left in the wake of that), but everyone else is spot on for certain. The issue is nicely balanced between the two teams, while clearly setting up–via the sure-to-be-infamous treasure map from Armstrong’s “hobo days”–the way in which the four will run into each other.
While the standard cover has been used for most advertising, it pulls a pretty standard trick by implying that we’re going to open the book with Woody and Armstrong joyously sharing in their hedonism to the embarrassment and sighs of Quantum and Archer, they’ve not really run into each other yet, so we’re yet to know if that’s accurate (even if it is pretty reasonable). Valiant books remain serious about their long-term story-telling, without leaving individual issues unsatisfying, relying on the action and dialogue to maintain their entertainment value.
Diamond has continued to make things awkward for my shop’s orders, so Armor Hunters #3 still hasn’t made it in, but I’m now 3/4 issues through the tie-ins, so I have a rough idea of what happened in it. But, as I’ve mentioned previously, modern Valiant tie-ins function as their title character’s point-of-view on those events, not as the means to deal with those events–this is Armor Hunters for Bloodshot, not Armor Hunters, and Oh, by the Way, Bloodshot.
We last left our nanite-infused killing machine with (no time for) questions about his identity and origin attempting to protect the mangled, X-O-covered fugitive Malgam, prisoner of M.E.R.O., from the sudden intrusion of Armor Hunter Lilt. Colonel Capshaw is his only distinctive contact with M.E.R.O. (no surprise: she already deals with Aric of Dacia, and Bloodshot’s personality, even if not his skill set, is that of a puppy next to Aric) and she will not brook the intrusion of Lilt or the failure of their latest defensive system (by which I mean Bloodshot). The Armor Hunters are stupendously formidable, as they would have to be to deal regularly with Manowar armour, which has been explicitly shown to be something which no one we’d previously seen could readily contend with–even Malgam was best controlled by, well, Aric.
Unlike Unity or Harbinger, this is the most isolated of Armor Hunters tie-ins, with Bloodshot in a contained facility as he is. Admittedly, I was a bit confused at the outset, having forgotten where things were (I should’ve skimmed the inside cover’s summary to remind myself, so, my bad) but this is very much an action-oriented story right now. There’s no time for anything but dealing with the Armor Hunters and the retention of Malgam.
Armor Hunters: Harbinger has made the interesting choice of following not Harada, not Peter or even the remaining Renegades, but Generation Zero (with, admittedly, some Renegades along for the ride, but only two). Maybe it’s a result of Harbinger: Omegas, or something else, but it allows us our first consistent focus on Cronus, Animalia, Cloud, Titan, Telic and the Zygos Twins. Even the presence of Zephyr and Torque is left more to help address external perceptions of GZ. We’ve seen the hounds, the destructive power of GIN-GR, the lethality of singular operatives like Lilt, but Generation Zero has discovered that what destroyed Mexico City is something else again. Cronus takes a team to explore what was left in the wake of that destruction, and it is not just wreckage–the Hunters left something behind that is unlike the kind of power they’ve previously expressed.
The Zygos twins continue to be fascinating in their sociopathic view of everything–they’re fascinated by the destructive power of the Hunters and the possibilities of their technology, even as Cronus and the rest are attempting to save survivors of the attack–though not without stopping to take some anti-authority digs at the choices of our two Renegades, re-affirming Cronus’s revulsion at anything representing such power after the treatment his team received themselves.
Mark Waid has turned Daredevil’s origin, not on its ear, but certainly on its elbow or something with the previous issue, telling us something about Battlin’ Jack Murdock we never would’ve expected by revealing–thanks to Original Sin–something of Matt’s life with his mother still around.
Maggie the nun has clearly been his mother since Miller introduced her 30 years ago, but we’ve never known what led her to the convent, or away from Matt. And now we do. Matt does as well, but he has no time to deal with this when Maggie is secretly arrested and extradited by the new ruler of Wakanda, T’Challa’s sister (who is not so benevolent as leader of an extremely advanced country).
Matt’s methodology in dealing with this is clever and at least somewhat unexpected, satisfyingly character appropriate all the same–and it gives Waid a chance to pull another rug out from under us. I won’t lie, I actually exclaimed my profanities when this happened, not out of anger, but sheer surprise at the clever move and way it deals with the previous issue. That it was means to address an issue not often touched on (most likely never, or at least rarely, in the Big Two, though I’m not foolish enough to profess to absolute knowledge). A pretty sparkling issue, and probably my pick of the week’s releases.
Felipe Smith–yeah, the guy who did the cover for Translucid up there [EDIT: again, not the one pictured above, but this variant]–has lost Tradd Moore (whose work graces the cover and no more) and instead gained Damian Scott, who, my quick research when this was announced, is known for a very hip-hop/graffiti art stylism. This was good news–Tradd Moore’s rather crazy art was very stylized, too. I’ll miss his wind-blown flames and sharp lines on crazy figures, but Scott more than steps up to the plate to keep Smith’s characters and story where they should be.
And that brings me to the most fascinating thing here: this isn’t Zarathos, nor a replacement for Johnny, Dan, or anyone else. Indeed, so far as we know to this point, this is literally a Ghost Rider for the first time. Eli claims to be just that, and speaks openly to Robbie Reyes about his desires–not far, particularly, from Dan’s co-inhabitant in seeking primarily to punish the wicked, and certainly reveling in violence the way Zarathos left Johnny, but Robbie has other ideas.
And that has made the last five issues, the pacing of the book, the seemingly peculiar choices, begin to stack up into an image that makes sense. It’s not that we weren’te shown what Reyes is doing, it’s that it didn’t quite click. When Eli reminds Robbie that he has responsibility now that he has power, Reyes interrupts him. And it’s not to tell him he doesn’t care about responsibility, or that he’s a selfish git who’s responsible to no one, or anything. It was a surprise that makes sense for Reyes, the book, and everything else. Which means, on most levels, it isn’t a surprise at all. It’s exactly what you would expect from him. He uses newfound power to do good in his actual life, rather than attempt a new one–good, ill, or anything. It’s now a much more interesting story, because it’s doing something unusual–for now, as I imagine Smith will force Reyes to recognize the interactions with the rest of the world in some way, or increase the influence of Eli–without making a big fuss about it. It’s just who Robbie is.
And that’s where we are for the week. Or, at least, where I am.
Title this week is from Braid’s “A Dozen Roses”, from their 1998 classic exeunt, Frame and Canvas. They’ve since reformed and recorded and released a few singles, but mostly the fantastic No Coast.
Aha, I discovered this in my lazy writing-avoidance meanderings, and I guess All-New X-Factor is on the table now. Cool.
¹The story is, after all, essentially, a hero goes so far off the deep end of evil that he is, of course, Irredeemable. It would take a lot more set-up for a Batman-type analogue to do this–or most anyone who isn’t absurdly powerful. All the heroes in the world teaming up could take down most heroes. Just not Superman. And while a rampaging Hulk would be neither surprising nor even original, brute force as compared to brute force and laser eyes is something else–plus any other random powers. So, point is: this isn’t a knock against Waid.