“YES! I Came Up With That Line!”

Delays, delays–excuses would be mostly that, so I’ll spare you. Light-ish week this week…

  • All-New Ghost Rider #7
  • Armor Hunters #4 (of 4)
  • Harbinger: Omegas #2 (of 3)
  • Magneto #10
  • New Warriors #10
  • X-O Manowar #29

All-New Ghost Rider #7

This book has been peculiar from the outset: wild, inventive Tradd Moore art, with scripting from Felipe Smith that turned a lot of expectations on their ear. Letting Tradd’s art drive (ahem) the book while the pace kept at a very low temperature in some ways, Moore’s exit (probably coincidentally) signalled a departure in plot-speed.

Robbie’s “co-pilot” Eli has been nudging at him for a while now–after last issue’s internal motivation push, Robbie left Eli’s demands for violent, vigilante “justice” alone, feeling that he fulfilled his responsibility with his newfound power quite well by keeping his brother happy and healthy. It was an interesting notion, that made sense in the situation the Reyes brothers are in–no parents, and nothing like an inheritance to keep them going through high school for Robbie and general development for the much younger Gabe.

While Mr. Hyde/Dr. Zabo is serving as Robbie’s core foe, this really isn’t even on his radar. Zabo has refined his for-others Hyde formula and given it to a gang, while his original formula, so very abused in the hands of a gang recently, has fallen, accidentally, to scavenging animals.

This ends up putting an interesting kink in Robbie’s life, as this has nothing to do with what he wants to do with his powers, but through proximity ends up affecting him anyway. Eli is alternately petulant and pushy in the face of Robbie’s sense of responsibility to his brother over all else, but what happens around them serves to affect him as well.

Damian Scott is trying to fill some weighty shoes coming behind Tradd, but his graffiti-inspired style comes into its own for the book here–maybe it’s being given the cover as well this time, but it really works that much more than the previous issue. Shots like a behind-the-wheel view of Robbie preparing to race, or the moment he finally lets Eli cut loose on those animals–a borderless, half-splash, half-organic-panel two-pager–really are something to see (especially with Val Staples’s glow on the Ghost Rider fire, and tag-styled palette), and his characters look like they’d look on a wall from cans, but feel natural in the environment to match.

Another positive example in my long-running crusade for consistent stylized art!

Magneto #10

Yep, I’m caught up. And let me just repeat as I’ve done recently out loud: I can’t not read that as “March to Sixis”. Bad ambigram design. I think a solid bar, or at least a bar only going through that word would’ve worked better. I was having fun trying to figure out why the hell you’d name an event “Sixis”, but now it’s less exciting (if appropriate, considering who’s involved). Oh well.

Severely de-powered, Magneto is righting major wrongs he sees to mutantkind, as a sort of roving, amoral, ultra-violent <i>Kung Fu</i>, but more directed, with specific goals in mind as he wanders about. There’s probably a better television comparison, but his “off-the-radar” stays in cheap hotels and semi-grungy look just give me a more nomad-ish (no, not Nomad-ish) feeling about the book.

Having been readily overpowered by the Red Skull’s (remember how I said “Axis” made sense? Yeah.) S-Men, Erik is bound up to provide for tortures psychological and physical by the Skull, who is imbued with the powers of Charles Xavier, after implanting some of the powerful psychic’s brain into his own. Magneto’s lengthy history with pain means he is largely prepared for this–perhaps more than for almost anything else, he is prepared to deal with pain. But the Skull is a psychopath, and will stop at nothing in his relishing of torture–Bunn even throws in a line about how he hopes to enjoy the tickle of pity from the piece of Charles’s brain as he watches Erik suffer.

Trawling through moments of pleasure to subvert (mostly at the hands of a projection of one of the named Nazis in Erik’s time at Auschwitz, Hitzig) and moments of pain to enhance, the Skull, through “Hitzig”, chips at Erik’s defenses.

Previously alternating artists Javier Fernandez and Gabriel Hernandez Walta are both present for this issue, with the former handling the psychological torture mind-world and the latter handling the real. And I really have to mention: I love Walta’s Red Skull. The “eyes free in eye sockets” and clearly delineated teeth are just creepy and unsettling, without looking the wrong kind of ridiculous. Fernandez’s work is more “free” (Walta’s reminds me of Steve Dillon or Tony Moore in a sense–rigidly consistent, though still stylized, with the semi-static feel of Dillon in particular) and has cleaner, thinner lines, but can vary a lot more wildly. Obviously, that means the split makes a lot of sense.

The choice to very directly address Magneto’s character and motivations in this book was brilliant–the way we look at his responses to given choices and moral decisions is fascinating in its consistency and obeisance to who we’ve known him to be in all ways, but especially in light of everything that has occurred over the years.

New Warriors #10

Sigh. Two issues left.

Largely, this issue is reminiscent of the action-packed issues of the first Evolutionary saga for the book, like issue 4 (interestingly, similar-ish cover designs…) rather than the snappy patter of my favourite-est issues (like the last one).

This isn’t a complaint, and I can only imagine it’s driven by Yost’s attempt to wrap up some of his plots with the limited time left (though this issue was co-written by Erik Burnham for reasons unknown to me). Herbert Edgar Wyndham–oh, yes, the High Evolutionary is back–has failed to abandon his attempts to cleanse humanity of its aberrations (mutants, clones, the mystical and science empowered–you know), as he still fears the return of the Celestials to destroy all human life period.

We get an action-oriented issue that Yost and Burnham prevent from being stuck on any of the Warriors exclusively, giving us nice beats of each and the background sense of accelerated timelines, but not of rushed pacing of the story itself. Marcus To returns to art duty and gives us nice faithful renderings of our core heroes, but my less-preferred variation on Jake Waffles and Mister Whiskers, particularly the former, who has gone from floppy-eared hound (my favourite) under Nick Roche to the perked ears and snarl of a more lupine form. Ah, well.

The story moves quickly, but, as I said, efficiently, and gives us some nice beats from everyone that don’t feel like Saturday Night Live style “remove vacuum packaging to find pristine and identical to previously” type beats, but still very in keeping with the characters, who definitely drive the fun of the book.

Armor Hunters #4 (of 4)

As far as internet-overused words go, “epic” has actually been appropriate for this cross-over. Pretty truly world-spanning (within some kind of reason, anyway), not-so-depressingly brutal and violent in the modern Valiant fashion (not as a comparison to the classic era, but to the modern fetish for constant hopelessness and rug-removal), and with a threat that believably poses a major risk to the world.

Armor Hunters: BloodshotUnity, and Armor Hunters: Harbinger all, to their last relevant issues, tied everything up to initiate this final conclusion. The secondary threats the Hunters spawned were dealt with by Bloodshot, Unity, and Generation Zero, and those interested in protecting the world or team-mates moved onward to face what remained.

Here, Aric is forced to recognize the shift in identity that is precipated by a world-wide threat from outside (who says the original ending of Watchmen doesn’t work?!) and takes an interesting tack in approaching the Hunters, attempting to explain what Livewire has done with the armour and spare the few remaining hunters, who immediately leap to destroy this last armour as their final act. But they are not overly prepared to contend with the Terminator-like unstoppability of Bloodshot, or the inhumanly rapid tactical analysis of Ninjak and must re-group to deal with them.

This miniseries has, somewhat strangely, stolen the focus of X-O’s solo book, and it culminates in this, Aric’s first major involvement in the conflict in some time. Behind the scenes, as grieving King, as planner and schemer, he’s been present, but now he decides to enter the fray for himself.

Robert Venditti and Doug Braithewaite close the story cleanly, in the sense of conclusion–there are loose ends, but we’ve got Armor Hunters: Aftermath to deal with those (though I hope the cover indicates we’re going to look at the world contending with a fallen GIN-GR and obliterated Mexico City, as each of the other books will let us deal with the effects on our protagonists).

X-O Manowar #29

Helpfully, I opened this issue and it said it took place after Armor Hunters #4 (now you don’t even have to open it first!).

The one major entrant left un-dealt with was Malgam, the half-Armour former hunter entrapped by Bloodshot at the end of his own miniseries, but not, it seemed, intended by anyone to be left to rot.

A hand is extended to him, as a cure–the one Livewire devised–is mentioned, but it’s unexpectedly cut short by the ever-lustful hopes of one of the world powers–criminal, governmental, or otherwise–that seeks to hold the power of an X-O Manowar armour for itself.

Venditti lets Aric finally return to his own book to take care of such business, and grapple more with what this solution has cost him, and what it will cost Malgam as well. It’s a fascinating approach, as there’s nothing tricksy–in a deus ex machina sense–but still something clever init. Aric was always nigh-invulnerable in armour, and now that may not be the case, or at least carries some risk to it. It’s a good set-up for exactly what it should do, which is bridging the gap between an event like Armor Hunters and returning to a solo book “status quo”–not to say things are invalidated, but that it’s not going to have quite the sprawl necessitated by inherently involving everyone else (in the world).

Harbinger: Omegas #2 (of 3)

It’s weird, in some ways, that Peter Stancheck and Toyo Harada weren’t involved in Armor Hunters, but it also would’ve made things very odd, considering their levels of power. Of course, Peter has abandoned everyone and everything to seek isolation in almost all ways possible, while Harada’s balance of megalomania and fascistic interest in world peace continues to butt up against itself. So, maybe it makes sense that these two troubled (and probably traumatized or otherwise damaged) narcissists didn’t.

Anyway: the world takes on an interesting feel when Harada reveals himself and instates his unstoppable nation, working through every method they can think of to find the one being powerful enough to act upon Harada–Peter. Peter’s incessant use of his mental powers to blot out his appearance from everyone around him is circumvented by technology in increasingly clever ways, forcing him out of hiding in a sense, but never in a way he feels unable to contend with.

Dysart continues to find interesting things to do with these characters–Harada’s investment in the world, necessitated by his threats, means that he acts far more than Peter, who spends most of his time dodging anyone and everyone. This is a very new feel for Harada, whose initial cracks in character were, however hesitantly and haphazardly, previously sewn up urgently, whether by P.R. and psychic manipulation, or the unwavering faith of many of his adherents. To have it in the open is rife with possibilities–that his internal motivations (the same ends, with the same questionable means) remain unchanged keeps him thoroughly interesting. I’m glad to have this holdover as we wait for the core book to return in some fashion.

This week’s title: it’s from New Warriors #10. Are you really surprised?

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