Light week (busy otherwise, hence Saturday!). Three titles, plus the arrival of the long-awaited Armor Hunters #3. I did get in my back issues (heh) of the reprints of Miracleman written by Alan Moore (who is credited as “The Original Writer” because he re-routed his royalties to Mick Anglo’s estate) with some back-up features that also originally appeared in Warrior, and occasionally some of Mick Anglo’s original Marvelman strips. Very much as good as I remembered, so far.
I also began picking up Magneto, which I had not been doing, but could only get two issues in before hitting a gap my shop will hopefully be filling for me.
- Armor Hunters #3 (Finally! Hooray!)
- Rai #4
- Silver Surfer #5
- X-O Manowar #28
Dan Slott’s approach to this latest volume of Silver Surfer has been weird and quirky, to put it mildly. He hasn’t ignored the cosmic elements of Norrin Radd, but he’s grounded him so emphatically with the use of his companion Dawn (apparently, Slott has openly compared it to Doctor Who, so my choice of words was more on point than I realized) that it ends up in territory that I’m not sure would look right with an art team that wasn’t the Allreds.
The setting is kind of confusing, in a way: it might be the deliberately anachronistic stylings of Allred, or it may be deliberate, but there’s sometimes the feeling that this is hiding way earlier in Marvel-616 continuity than its current publishing would indicate. Other than the fact that the Surfer is a former herald and the Defenders are established, there aren’t heavy indicators in the story as to when this takes place. Which is fine, to be fair: this is a symptom of cosmic characters. Usually a cosmic character, even when interacting with someone decidedly not, is so removed from the normal concerns of other comic characters that continuity doesn’t come into play. Their acts are so far above, beyond (or maybe just sideways) from the rest that it just doesn’t matter. That’s true here–Nightmare (who I know best from his interactions with early 90s Morbius, and an occasional dalliance with Doctor Strange, who also appears) is clearly involved in a plot that has the Surfer returning to Dawn after last issue’s discovery that he seems trapped under the same invisible sphere that Galactus once left him under, unable to leave the Earth. Strange and the Hulk (wait, did the cover give that way?) appear at the Bed and Breakfast/Inn that Dawn’s family owns and runs, and are forced to fight the Nightmare forces that are causing a number of peculiar events while the Surfer leads Dawn toward a solution to it all.
The first few issues (and the digital introduction, or whatever it was, Silver Surfer Infinite) have served to establish the oddity of the Surfer’s interactions with Dawn, as well as how they came to be (rather bafflingly) entangled in the first place, but now we’re seeing the two of them gel (as much as they can, anyway) into a stance that will doubtless serve the book going forward. The Allreds remain the real joy of the book, while Slott keeps dialogue and plotting enjoyable enough that it doesn’t feel like hollow enjoyment of pretty pictures (and his playing with one of the Surfer’s most famous lines–“To me, my board!”–has been quite good in its various incarnations) and like a very solid book in general.
Long delayed (for me, anyway…), the story of the hunters who approached earth in the wake of the crashing introduction of the half-armoured Malgam manages to only gain in stakes, with the major events that have been suggested in Armor Hunters: Bloodshot, Armor Hunters: Harbinger, and Unity now laid out fully. I’ve mentioned this in discussing those very books, but it’s neat the way Valiant went about this: Venditti and Braithwaite use this book to tell the overarching story of this rather forceful incursion, leaving the emotional details, side effects, and spillover to be covered in the relevant books. This does create the interesting scenario wherein the core story revolves around Aric of Dacia, possessor of Earth’s X-O Manowar armour, which I’ll address in his own title below.
Earth is suffering under the might of the Armor Hunters and their fanatical devotion to their cause–GIN-GR has leveled Mexico City, and the hounds managed to do some damage before Gilad and Ninjak took them down, Lilt infiltrated the M.E.R.O. base (though this left him faced with Bloodshot, as we saw in Armor Hunters: Bloodshot #2), and their tracking of the armour’s presence led them to raze Aric’s small colony of ever-transplanted Visigoths–but the refusal of Colonel Capshaw to surrender in the face of even these acts means strategies are being formulated. Gilad and Ninjak are working the ground, while a plan to deal with the demands of the small group means the X-O armour is sent up to GIN-GR in surrender.
The side issues–which I’ve already read–gave me a rough idea of what occurred in this issue, but that managed to do nothing against the world-shaking events that occur all the same. Aric’s failure to protect his people and the way it weighs on him is written strongly, but emphasized even more by Braithwaite, who does not let the emotion of this escape Aric’s face throughout. The actions that we see Livewire examine in Unity #10 are explained here, and the tension is kept at a level where we can see a chance for Earth to defend itself, without being certain it would succeed, or, if it did, at what cost. This is the ideal level of drama for this series, and I hope they give us some breathing space before the next major event, because it was enough of a leap for many of the players after Harbinger Wars, or even the early moments of Unity’s coalescence.
While Robert Venditti is handling the core writing of the universe-wide events in Armor Hunters, he’s also still writing the X-O book, which creates an interesting predicament: Aric of Dacia’s role can’t be downplayed or thinned out for the event book in the same way that Unity or Bloodshot’s can, because it’s the very reason the hunters are there. If, then, the event book is about their descent upon earth, and thus Aric’s dealing–what can the book that bears the title do?
Well, we have the rather easy cheat of acknowledging that, well, “X-O Manowar” is the armour, not Aric. And so the tie-in issues for the title instead explore what led this team of Armour Hunters to Earth, where and how Malgam came to herald them, and why they are so fanatical in their devotion to seeing the X-O armours eradicated from existence.
Malgam and Reebo are the core of the team–having been recruited to the cause in prior issues by other hunters who heard their (otherwise laughed at) tails of an invincible and inhumanly (ahem) powerful warrior, and we see them engage in their first rounds of hunts, their team’s other members an endlessly shifting parade as death after death plagues them through each hunt. Slowly they realize that many of their fellow hunters are no longer checking in, that Central itself is becoming quieter–and their team is no longer being replenished with new bodies.
Old friends that they are, Malgam and Reebo follow each other into this, but this issue sees their friendship and trust strained, questioned, and desperate–as the cover implies, we’re to find just how Malgam found himself bonded with a set of the armour…
Matt Kindt’s Rai has been a curious book–set so far in the future (4001, A.D.) that we have no clear connection to the rest of the Valiant universe, beyond the surprise appearance of Unity villain Dr. Silk (though one wonders if/how he survived this long). Clayton Crain’s beautiful painted art takes the fore, with its endless gloss and sheen, Kindt allowing him to build a world around a story that is taking shape slowly, as we come to understand New Japan and how it works. Kindt has told us that murder does not occur, for the law enforcement machine that is Rai so thoroughly affirms the laws set up by the unseen Father, that its discouragement is nearly absolute.
We’d last left Rai discovering something of his history from Silk, that he had a human mother, a fact Spylock did not wish him to learn, though Lula remains convinced that the fabled protector is more capable than his predecessors of coping. Rai is isolated from everyone in everything, but that we have Lula fawning over him as legend means he may just have one avenue for understanding himself and others. Kindt reveals more about the unknown and questionable elements of Father’s almost-murder-free paradise, as well as where the body seen being dumped came from in the first issue. We’re left as uncertain as Rai, but hear from the Raddies and Father both as to what is happening.
Kindt’s story kicks into gear in this issue, and then we’re told the next issue is in December. December. BOO.
Title comes from Boston’s Transit, and the track “So Long, So Long” from last year’s Young New England. Didn’t expect to go for a band like this, but took a chance on that album and rapidly acquired all the rest of their stuff.