“Yeah, I know my origins. God sent me here to destroy sadists who misquote the Bible.”

It’s Friday, which is not Saturday, so this is an improvement on last week, at least. Still, I’m writing movie reviews roughly daily, and I have to read these books, and I talk to people at comic shops whilst doing so, which takes up most of Wednesday, and I’m working on getting jobs (the paying kind) together, so, deal with it, I guess?

Anyway:

  • The Amazing Spider-Man #7
  • Avengers ● X-Men: Sixis¹ #1 (of 8, I think–I’m more entertained leaving this unknown to me for now)
  • Bloodshot #24
  • Captain Marvel #8
  • The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage #3 (of 5)
  • Grendel vs. The Shadow #2 (of 3)
  • Miracleman #12
  • Nightcrawler #7
  • Wytches #1
  • #18
  • X-O: Manowar #0

The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage #2 (of 5)

Shan Fong is back again–man, it feels like it’s been a while since #1–and is now wandering the other side, which we now have confirmed is not some tertiary plane, but in fact that already-known secondary Deadside from Shadowman (completing that tie between Roberto de la Torre’s art jobs for Valiant!). She’s asked to trade for information on where she might find her late husband, Hwen, and the trade requested is a story–so we begin to learn just how the two met, and how she came to understand the things that allow her to be capable of this in the first place. Her recent employer, March, is tied to a chair back in the world, and being tortured in an attempt to find her.

While the first issue was meaty enough, this one really lets both Jen Van Meter’s writing and de la Torre’s art find their place in the series. Jen really set up Shan’s personality in the first issue–to reduce, grief masked with abrasion–but here gets the plot really moving. In seeing the dealings of a younger Shan with Hwen, being dragged into learning from what was supposed to just resolve the plague of her “second sight”, de la Torre gets to sneak in some great work on the more demonic entities that occupy the other plains, both at that time and in the present as she begins a journey through the other side. This one really hones what was started last time.

Bloodshot #24

One day, I’ll remember to read captions first. Maybe it’s because I’m picking up modern books, or maybe it’s the general abandonment of the “keyed” yellow boxes. I’m not sure, but, regardless, I found myself very confused when I started reading this issue. We’ve not had ol’ Bloodshot in his own book for a fair bit now, leaving us mostly experiencing his time through the Armor Hunters: Bloodshot miniseries for the last few months.

B. Clay Moore eases into the role of writer on the book by telling a story over a decade in the past, from the time when Bloodshot was still the controlled agent (tool, really) of Project: Rising Spirit. He’s sent in to take down a growing conspiracy in Russia, one set to use sleeper agents to rebuild the Soviet Union.

It’s a bit odd to re-start this series after a hiatus with a flashback–maybe it was or should’ve been a #0, but the title’s already had two of those, so, like Harbinger, I think it’s gonna be stuck shouldering flashback issues with regular issue progression. Ah, well. Still, it’s a solid, if light, issue–again, I think it’s Moore finding feet for the character and the book, with Will Rosado being even less credited on books, and thus doing some of the same. Rosado and Moore do bring the cold lethality of (especially the controlled) Bloodshot forward, in contrast to the far more brutal (and thus unpleasant-in-a-different-way) violence of a book like (oh, hello again Duane!). It’s also a clear set-up for something to come, with an epilogue that makes sure we’re all aware of that.

Still, it’s a bit disappointing to return to the character only at a time where he wasn’t much of a character–even if Moore manages to work in some nice flashes of the always-encroaching independent thought PRS had to contend with.

X-O: Manowar #0

It’s a bit weird that modern-Valiant’s flagship, longest-running title is the one series that hadn’t had a #0 yet (assuming we discount the only-8-issues Eternal Warrior, anyway), but I guess that can be chalked up to the way the early issues of the series proper were telling a lot of the “Aric before the armour” stories to get us used to him before he was wearing it. This story does mean, though, a return of his childhood friend Gafti, and Venditti gets to delve a bit more into him while telling us something more of what made Aric who he is today. We’d seen hints, seeing him as a very young child witnessing his first battles as a Visigoth, but now we get to see the time that led to his first entry into them.

I’m really glad Venditti has had a stranglehold on writing Aric’s story, as it has kept him a very consistent character, and the tone of his world and interactions on a unified thread as time goes on. Clay Mann is a welcome choice for the book’s pencils, pulling a nice trick of some mirrored imaging of Aric as plain ol’ Aric finding his feet as a Visigoth warrior, and X-O Aric holding up the tradition centuries later. The poses aren’t exactly the same, so it’s a nice bit of symmetry that functions more as a choice of depiction by Mann than lazy copying or simple mirroring.

After Armor Hunters helped Aric find who he needed to be in the world he has found himself in, this issue is useful in showing how he found who he needed to be when his life was as it started.

Grendel vs The Shadow #2 (of 3)

There’ve been a lot of attempts to cross-pollinate franchises and characters over the years, but they often don’t have the love of both sides that makes them work for fans of both–you’re likely to alienate one at the cost of the other if you’re lazy in depicting your bias. And that is why Matt Wagner is just a stupidly good person to be putting this book together. Creating Grendel, but also writing a fair bit of The Shadow, and then acknowledging that, time periods notwithstanding, the crime-focused themes of both mean their pairing actually makes a lot more sense than some.

The prestige format approach is also really helping the book, which gets the space to roll out the red carpet for two characters and not sell either short, without being stuck trying to tie things off just enough to end an issue after a standard number of pages. We spent the first book watching the two circle each other’s plans, largely unwittingly, and finally meet at the last moment, and so we pick up there: Lamont facing Hunter down. They quickly discover that they’ve certainly met at least their matches, as neither is the ho-hum opponent the other is used to.

The writer/penciler-in-one approach usually works best when the person’s capacity for the latter is used more for the needs of the former, and Wagner is a prime example. Without resorting to boring or “basically acceptable” art, he keeps it from distracting from the story, which is very much the core of this particular crossover. And it shows that he knows that–no one gets short shrift, and somehow he makes a modern and a period character seem like they belong together. This was already the Shadow’s world, but it’s one that appeals distinctly to Grendel, and a wily and capable opponent is something both of them would like to sink their teeth into–even if Grendel is more delighted and the Shadow is more concerned.

X #18

I’m getting really curious about what Swierczynski is doing with X. He had him beaten into the ground, captured, and redeem himself, then had him beaten almost to a pulp by a superhuman who mistook him for a colleague. Now he’s been captured by a group of wackos who wear grotesque masks and skin people in “good-intentioned” (I guess…) but ultimately pretty Mengele experimentation.

Nguyen and Swierczynski are a pretty well-oiled machine at this point, keeping the brutality that has been the hallmark of the book from being lost or rendered intolerably “x-treme” or actually boring. This, as should not surprise many fiction readers (but especially of anything tangential or directly superhero related) is often orchestrated through shifting and peculiar villains who find new ways to deal with our masked psychopathic vigilante.

Dr. Heide is pursuing the ability to bring new techniques to skin grafts, ones that will allow for cosmetic reconstruction to skip the stigma that is likely to follow them as it stands–and he’s decided X is the prime candidate for exploring the technique. This is an excellent follow-up choice to the Archon story, as well as the little flickers of the same idea in the immediately preceding one. It’s still kind of fascinating how this book is starting to operate with a protagonist who isn’t quite as up to the tasks he intends as he thinks he is, but who does not become cowed or re-evaluate in light of it. I’m very pleased Duane is keeping this stuff fresh.

Wytches #1

I heard a few things, in advance and as I wandered around Wednesday, that finally convinced me to give this sucker a shot. Weirdly, it’s a bit in sync with my October Project selection for Thursday.

A brief intro begins our introduction to Scott Snyder and Jock’s world of wytches: a woman is bleeding, noseless (!), and crying for help from inside a tree (!!), in the past. Here in the present, we have the Rooks: Sailor, Charlie, and Lucy. Sail and her father work on an imaginative game to keep Sail grounded as she starts at a new school. A few spooked moments don’t completely de-rail her, but the blunt, callous question of a classmate sends her spinning back to the dark and bloody moment that moved them all out in the first place.

This is mostly a tonal set-up–an idea of the world this book takes place in, of the level of threat and darkness (the two coming out most clearly together in the vile, vile words of the girl Sail was bullied by). Jock’s work is, unsurprisingly, a good match for this tone, splotchy and splattery in just the right way to emphasize mood over linework. This one shows some promise, for sure.

The Amazing Spider-Man #7

For Ramos-related reasons, I’ve not touched this book of late, so I only know the cursory story–Otto found Peter somewhere in his brain and let him regain dominance, and so we have the original Peter Parker, Silk (who I’m even more vaguely aware of) and Otto’s love all holed up in an apartment when the issue opens. That love, Anna Maria Marconi, is discussing with Peter the responsibilities he now has as the operator of a company, and that he should acknowledge some of the methods Otto chose do serve a purpose. Peter is Peter, though, and finds himself acting on a police call which brings him into contact with the new Ms. Marvel–who, unsurprisingly, fangirls over teaming up with Spidey, much as she did with Wolverine over in her own book, as they face a Kree (of course!) wearing something like the second Ms. Marvel costume (but not really), which someone claims is the original costume (it isn’t).

It was mildly frustrating to avoid a Spider-Man book, especially one written by an appropriate writer like Slott, but them’s the breaks to avoid Ramos’s art (which unfortunately plagued the summary page–curses!). It’s a fun adventure in the Spidey team-up tradition, and does not quite wrap up at its end. Incidentally, Christos Gage scripted it, which I kind of feel in the way Kamala reacts to meeting Peter in its specific choices (in a good way!), and is definitely another excellent choice for writing words for Peter.

But, that means we have room for another Edge of Spider-Verse! Spider-UK (I can’t quite decide if I’m going to pronounce that “Spider-Uck” or not, as I’m still thinking, “Peter isn’t Spider-USA, so why the heck would you name yourself that?!”) is, unsurprisingly, Billy Braddock, because he’s a member of the Captain Britain Corps. He is by far the most equipped to directly observe the effects Morlun’s family is having on the omniverse in general, and attempts to take the issue up with Majestrix Saturnyne, who is too busy dealing with the even more massive omniverse issue of the breakdown of the space-time continuum.

Slott takes that story on alone, and it makes for a good character to back up that awesomely simple tweak of Spidey’s costume for Billy. Giuseppe Camuncoli takes on pencils for both stories and is very much what I want from a Spidey penciller–clean, clear, verging on realistic, but still loose and bright to keep the sense of fun, so that we can stress the horror of some of the worlds Billy peers into in the latter story, while not losing track of the fact that Peter should still be in a more triumphant mode of being.

Avengers ● X-Men: Sixis #1

Somewhat unheralded–at least, I’m told, in comparison to previous events like Infinity–Sixis (it’s really Axis, but tell me that ambigram isn’t a little fuzzy is a collision of X-Men and Avengers teams and villains somewhat prophesied by the advent of the Unity team (psst, hey Valiant, I’m siding with your Unity here) of Uncanny Avengers (ie, former X-Men). Magneto #10 saw the rise of the Red Onslaught–a merger of the deep darkness in Xavier with the deep but more all-encompassing darkness of Johann “Red Skull” Schmidt–whose appearance is ominous enough (and manages to keep shy of the overdone-ness of the original Onslaught, much as I was largely okay with that design).

This first issue is where the Red Onslaught makes himself known as a threat, using insidious telepathic whispers to bring out the hatred and small-mindedness of anyone and everyone, up to and including the Avengers, while his S-Men deal with the captives back in Genosha (Cyclops, Quenton Quire and Evan/Genesis). Tony helps the Avengers deal with the telepathic threat, while Rogue attempts to help Wanda find the strength to deal, in close proximity, with the taunts of this new menace.

But this is issue one of…some number in the eight-ish range, and my experience of Remender means that slow pacing isn’t ever his thing, but instead a constant forward momentum through roller coasters of action in both senses–explosions ‘n’ stuff as well as events of more meaningful impact. This isn’t really an exception to that, but avoids the “all the heroes are just instantly slaughtered because this new bad guy is just super-bad, guys.” It will be interesting to see where this takes us–and, certainly, while Charles losing out to a dark side so thoroughly is interesting, it’s more of an immediate nod to see someone like the Skull pursue that kind of power. Andy Kubert gives a major event pencils it deserves, because, honestly, it’d be pretty awful to match an event of this intended magnitude with “eh” penciling.

Nightcrawler #7

After a good run of adventurous issues, Claremont gets to let Kurt’s character breathe–and by character I mean the kind you build by camping in the woods with no awesome amenities, or anything else Calvin’s Dad subjected him to without apology.

While the Death of Wolverine book has ended up severely delayed, the fact that we all have no questions about it happening means it’s not quite the worst thing to see Kurt dealing with it already (on-schedule for Claremont). Margueritte Bennett plots the book quite well indeed, with Kurt spending most of the book in his head, revisiting the memories that made Logan his best friend in the first place, Claremont scripting in the internal monologue that befits that friendship and Wagner’s more religious mentality in his hands. Not that Kurt beleaguers this point at all–it’s just that his thought process is informed by it, even when it isn’t being brought up.

There are some very sweet moments, particularly when Kurt is forced to abandon his first attempt at grieving, realizing it doesn’t feel like the way Logan would’ve wanted to be remembered, and he runs into Rachel Summers, with whom Claremont has been linking Wagner pretty steadily in this new book, thanks to their Excalibur-based relationship, I imagine.

As ever, Nauck’s art is nothing short of just right for the book–even in mourning, Kurt is Kurt, and his new-found understanding of a second life keeps the mourning from being maudlin or dark, and Nauck’s art reflects the balance of that very well.

Captain Marvel #8

Well, last issue hinted at something ridiculous coming from the revelation that Rocket was right all along and Chewie was a flerken, having laid a huge pile of eggs. The cover, too, encourages this interpretation.

In the end, though? It’s a pretty hollow story, as this entire volume has been. That’s a better description of the problems I’ve been having since issue 1 of this reboot than I’ve had before–I feel like “nothing happens”, but things do. Plenty happens here, in fact. Yet it still had that sense that “nothing happens”, and that’s what it is–the beats are just hollow and meaningless. They seem paced like something that wants to explore character, and then scripted like something that just wants to be fun. It comes out feeling like all of the substance is just utterly absent. I don’t know “who” Carol is at all–I just feel like Kelly Sue DeConnick loves the heck out of this character. But she’s not showing me what it is she loves, exactly. At points, it feels almost orchestrated to try to tap into something I’m not quite grasping, some grand design of “things that the Carol Corps will like”, or something, and it feels empty because of this.

Marcio Takara is the saving grace of the issue–particularly Chewie’s strangely realistic depictions in contrast to the exceptionally cartoony Rocket. Self-satisfied, or utterly unfazed at various moments, she’s certainly the most entertaining character here. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to save the book–and I think I’ve heard Takara’s leaving anyway. I was giving the book until this issue, but I don’t think I can do it anymore. I’m going to be dropping this sucker, unfortunately.

Miracleman #12

Well, that’s a weird leap…from fluff to intensely dense.

I’m not sure I read this segment of Miracleman before at all. Maybe I didn’t even read the book–just encapsulations of most of it. I forget, it’s been something like a decade.

Anyway, Miracle Woman appeared at the end of the previous issue, but here explains her history at the hands of Gargunza, entirely apart from Moran, Dauntless, and Bates. Outside the government’s watchful eye, Gargunza’s egotistical nastiness is given full freedom (including distantly depicted sexual violence, fair warning). The Warpsmiths appear and most directly make their presence known to the Miracle-folk, and we get glimpses of a strange, Utopian (?) future in 1987.

Totleben’s second issue penciling and inking for Moore sees him starting to really take over the aesthetic of the book. As Avril (Miracle Woman) relays her story, there’s a brilliantly done overlay of her face in the now on top of stacks of her period comic books, which are all inked in clean, sharp lines, her face being inked in a pseudo-realistic pointilist fashion (as clarified by the bonus “behind the scenes” material, which mostly serves to show that Totleben really knows how to use inks to make the most of his pencils). As has been the trend with recent issues, original Marvelman stories are only a minor feature–the last six or eight pages, after a good 40 of Moore’s material and that “behind-the-scenes” stuff.

This continues to be an excellent re-issuing of one of my two favourite works of Moore’s (the other is Swamp Thing), and well worth reading to grasp some of what he could do, given the right working base.

Today’s title comes from X. It was a toss-up between this line and the ultimate X line (said to himself): “Don’t be a coward. It will heal. IT WILL HEAL!” The one I chose, I think, works better than the other as an out-of-context quote, though. Feel free to tell me I’m wrong about that.

¹Zzzzzzzz…I’ve explained this too many times by now. I know the real title, let’s leave it at that.

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