“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?


  • 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.

“Who’d You Contract to Put It Together? An American?”

Getting a bit sick at this point, but I’d be lying if that explained why I’m delayed again. Rest of life interferes, as it likes to do. Ah, well. Anyway:

  • Armor Hunters: Aftermath #1
  • Death of Wolverine #3 (of 4)
  • Edge of Spider-Verse #3 (of 5)
  • Edge of Spider-Verse #4 (of 5)
  • Guardians 3000 #1
  • Loki, Agent of Asgard #6
  • Miracleman #11
  • Moon Knight #8
  • Silver Surfer #6
  • Spider-Man 2099 #5
  • Uncanny Avengers #25

Armor Hunters: Aftermath #1

I threw out a comment about this one-shot (miniseries? I’m still not sure) last week when the core miniseries ended, about how I hoped it might address the state of the world in the aftermath of the Armor Hunters’ attack on Earth, rather than just more of what could (nay, should) be in the separate ongoings, and it ended up a curious middle-ground.

We’re introduced to some bystanders, and talk of an upcoming revelation in a previously-closed launch site in Florida, with some behind-the-scenes discussions between Livewire and the reforming GIN-GR (Livewire having heard all of GIN-GR’s history in their previous mechanical “discussions”, understood her far better than the Hunters, whose fate GIN-GR remains unaware of…).

And so that’s what this is: how this affected the world, not in terms of devastation, but in much the same way Harbinger: Omegas is addressing how Toyo Harada’s revelation is affecting the world. There’s no way that any of the heroes involved in the conflict can be a complete secret, and so they are all dealing with that fact, their governmental associations in particular. Having put together a kind of “sizzle reel”, Ninjak is amused by the British government’s attempts (see title of this entry!), which vies with a bit of GIN-GR and Livewire’s interactions for best moment in the book.

Venditti has done the best thing that can be done with a major event: rolled it into new effects and stories, and a catalyst for them, without just escalating again to a worse threat.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: talking about the art in modern Valiant often strikes me as a pointless proposition. It’s always so stupidly good, here in the hands of Cafu, and this is no exception.

Loki, Agent of Asgard #6

I really just picked up the book because I’ve decided to give in on Sixis¹ and it’s only 6 issues in (a result, I discovered, of the 5-issue hiatus for Original Sin – Thor and Loki: The Tenth Realm).

I’ve gotta say: wow. Al Ewing is a writer that I actually stop on a few lines from here and there and think, “Wow, great call, great phrasing!” I find this funny for the stupid reason that “Al Ewing” does not sound like someone mired in Norse mythology–but after issues like #3, all I can think is that Ewing has a real handle on the feel of mythology, and cleverly works actual tales from it into the Marvel Asgardians to great effect.

This issue brings Loki back from his adventure with Thor in meeeting their sister to Verity Willis, the human lie detector. Doom travels to the far Future and meets Old/Future Loki (our protagonist in the far future, when he reverts to type), and finds Latveria a wasteland on all levels. Seeing this, he decides that he must vanquish the Trickster to prevent this future.

Meandering alongside this, we have two Latverians arguing philosophy, religion, and politics, with a pretty amusingly interesting bent, as it relates to their lives under a ruler like Doom.

Ewing makes no waste in dealing with two powerhouse Marvel figures, one obvious as protagonist, but the other as guest, too. Jorge Coelho and Lee Loughridge take over on art duties in the absence of Lee Garbett and Nolan Woodard. For a story set in Latveria and an unpleasant future, either Coelho and Loughridge are just brilliantly selected, or are brilliantly selective themselves. The strong, deep inks and bright colours of the book’s original team are replaced with thin, heavily hatched pencils and inks under a very muted palette. Certainly one of the least disappointing art team switches to come without the easy trade of a previously poor team.

Uncanny Avengers #25

Continuing out from Magneto #10/the last issue, Magneto and the handful of Uncanny Avengers (Rogue with the powers of Simon Williams, Scarlet Witch, and Havok) move to confront the Red Skull, imbued as he is with the powers of Charles Xavier, in Genosha.

Wanda Maximoff finds herself torn by the radical beliefs that she still feels some agreement with and her revulsion at them, Rogue not entirely dissimilarly, while The Red Skull and his S-Men take the four of them to task.

I’ve read a chunk of Rick Remender’s stuff at this point, and it was his involvement that pushed me to go ahead and pick up the Sixis-associated titles I wasn’t already getting. I was pretty pleased with this one, even as it mostly serves to set up the core of this event. The external view of Magneto to contrast with the one from his own book made it extra interesting. Daniel Acuña’s amuses me, as it’s quite good, but I prefer his illustration of Magneto (in costume) to Walta or Fernandez’s, but still prefer Walta’s Skull. Ah, well. The art is largely in the same muted, grungy colour scheme as Magneto is, which makes sense in light of what is basically the Red Skull’s concentration camp as a setting.

Guardians 3000 #1

I barely knew this was happening, and, indeed, kept forgetting. Dan Abnett, part of the infamous “DnA” (with Andy Lanning) that revamped the Guardians of the Galaxy name a few years ago into the incarnation the world is now familiar with, is revisiting the original Guardians of the Galaxy (from the year 3000) in this one. It gets an Alex Ross cover, with interiors by Gerardo Sandoval.

Still in their war with the Badoon, the Guardians are joined by Geena Drake, a normal human who most certainly does not share the powers or abilities of Vance Astro, Charlie-27, Yondu, Martinex, or Starhawk. We meet them all in mid-battle, with bodies strewn amidst the still rife conflict, including someone wearing the uniform of a Star-Lord. Geena watches the lot of them die, and the story leaps backward thirty minutes to a meeting with a number of familiar faces, joined in alliance against the Badoon.

Abnett’s in pretty top form here, with battle certainly being one of his fortés (the man wrote a lot of 40k stuff, after all), but also serving the grand, cosmic plots that he brought back to Marvel in the 2000s’ absence of people like Jim Starlin or Steve Englehart. Geena is clearly our perspective character, but we get a quick run through (or reminder) of who and in most functional senses, what, our protagonists are. It’s a solid issue-level story, but is primarily there to set up the book going forward, which is also does nicely.

I’m really mixed on Sandoval’s art–it reminds of of Humberto Ramos (warning lights are blinding for that), but without the low-quality inconsistencies. I do have to take umbrage with Edgar Delgado’s colouring, though. Everything is muddy and washed out, and the characters, particularly our protagonists, often fail to be visibly distinct from each other. The costumes and patterns are often “lost”–there, but indistinct in their overly-similar tones. On the one hand, it made the book feel rather appropriate for its dystopian setting, but on another, it was not a great way to be (re-)introduced to these characters, as it became difficult to separate them, even with the variations between them.

Silver Surfer #6

Dan Slott continues with his Doctor Who-inspired take on the Surfer, with Norrin first becoming frustrated with the needs of a human traveling with him (to greatly humourous effect), and then whisking her away to rectify his impatient frustrations. They end up on a planet where all beings are devoted to absolute perfection in their respective arts, whatever they may be, as their population is limited enough to sustain such peculiar choices (reminiscent, somewhat vaguely, and clearly differently, with its variety of occupations, of Farscape‘s Litgara).

Slott and Allred are both the right choices for these stories (I guess that’s a given, with Slott, since he’s writing them, but, still) in the way that they are both kind of goofy in approach–not dark, anyway–without losing all credibility for seriousness and stakes. We walk away from the story with at least one catalyst for future events, while we get a pretty decently complete little arc about what it’s like for the two of them to travel with each other.

Another solid entry in the series–if Allred’s art and a semi-serious take on Surfer are up your alley, this remains an excellent choice.

Moon Knight #8

It’s kind of interesting–Wood and Smallwood were in trouble, having to follow Ellis and Shalvey on their critically acclaimed first six issues of the latest Moon Knight series, as it was a hard act to follow in just about every sense imaginable. Spector was re-framed by their run–as episodic as it most deliberately was–and it would have been a shame to lose that, but also pretty grating to fail at continuing it.

Issue 7 was kind of a tentative stab in the dark–trying not to pretend they were the previous team, while not trying to deviate too distinctly. But here we are at issue 8: Wood and Smallwood have embraced the approach of the previous team in many senses now. The entire issue is told from the point of view of a variety of cameras–bystanders’ smartphones, Moon Knight’s own scarab drones, and surveillance cameras.

Dialogue does not occupy balloons to encourage this understanding and avoid “spoiling” the impression. Interestingly, Wood goes straight for it with the DID, and brings Marc’s other identities even more to the fore than previously–Ellis had them appear as kinds of hallucinations, and a shift in suit often meant a kind of shift, but here Moon Knight hits upon beats that are not as spaced out.

In it, we do, however, still get a bit of progression in terms of any longer arcs, which is something that does deviate from the other formula, without abandoning it utterly. It’s definitely the two of them shining, and not letting the book down after the team changed.

Edge of Spider-Verse #3: Aaron Aikman – Spider-Man

This showed up a bit late for me, but I picked it up this week.

As with previous issues, this is a (currently?) standalone alterna-Spidey story. Aaron Aikman is a brilliant scientist who experiences an origin far more in line with Miguel O’Hara’s than Peter Parker’s (a splicing-in of spider DNA, rather than a radioactive bite). His life is based around the more robotic approach to his suit (with a kind of jet boots, helmets, and more bulky web-spinners) and its heroics, as well as the life of Dr. Kaori Ikegami, with whom he works and eventually lives for far less academic reasons. Ikegami’s daughter has been in a vegetative state for something like a decade, and pursuit of a resolution to this drives the both of them, until it eventually drives them apart.

Spider-Man (in this universe) is most entangled with the villain Naamurah, who rather immediately strikes as a relative of Morlun and their kin, this time unusually involved in the more “day-to-day” workings of this Spider-Man.

Dustin Weaver has sole credit for the core work on the book, other than Clayton Cowles covering the lettering. His pencils are a bit JRJr-y, but I particularly love his approach to Aikman. Aikman wears his hair like one of the largely-ignored-by-audiences, hip characters in a Showa-Eiga Godzilla movie: pronounced sideburns and a mop-top. There’s no poking fun at it, and so it just comes out fun in a weird way. A lot of his panels are very, very detailed, but with a lighter touch to colouring–not lighter in the sense of detail, but in the sense of hue. There’s what may well be an Akira reference tucked away in there, too, which doesn’t seem at all odd considering the other bits and pieces of Japan woven in here–like, oh, I don’t know–a robotically-oriented Spider-Suit?

If there’s another contender for “could have at least a pretty quick miniseries or canceled-after-a-few-issues ongoing”, it’s probably Aaron. It’s an interesting take that deviates pretty significantly.

Edge of Spider-Verse #4: “I Walked with a Spider”

As the cover implies, this is an E.C.-styled re-telling of Spider-Man, bearing the three character indicators and the top-right circular indicia so familiar in the post-SuspenStories-era E.C. books.

And so we have Uncle Ted, rather than Ben, and Patton Parnel, rather than Peter Parker, and Sara Jane, rather than Mary Jane (and even “Gene” rather than Flash, which is the smallest of deviations, of course–he’s just got no nickname!). Our introduction to Patton has him as, honestly, quite the little psychopath. His detached, cruel experimentation on ants is only a hint at what is to come. Rather than raising him kindly, Ted is abusive, and Sara Jane is openly pitying but largely uninterested in Patton (a minor tweak from Liz or Gwen).

Clay McLeod Chapman doesn’t drive the E.C. connection too hard, but the omniscient narration that opens things is most definitely reminiscent of it, with its “You might think you’ve seen this before, but look closer…” tone (well, and, words) and the progression of the story that makes no bones about Patton’s nature as a person (pretty awful!), while still going for a kind of surprise to it. It’s pretty fascinating by the time it loops back into the Morlun-kin storyline, as it’s one of the most complete deviations, like they’ve walked into a universe they have no reason to be in, which serves the “all instances within the multiverse” fiction that much more.

Elia Bonetti doesn’t go all Jack Davis or Wally Wood, or Johnny Craig or anything, and that would’ve been neat, but probably taking it too far–thus a good choice, like Chapman’s avoidance of diving too deep into the gory-camp of the original E.C. books. Actually, the “realistic” approach works really well here to highlight the horrific elements, as the mutation of Patton is more unsettling, attached as it is to a normal looking person.

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that this one isn’t for the faint of heart, but that’s kind of what makes it fun and unique–really taking the “alternate Spider-Man story” way out into left field (or perhaps into the dark, unnoticed cobwebs and dirt under the bleachers…).

Spider-Man 2099 #1

We last left Miguel following his grandfather from the past (our present–well, 616’s present, anyway) to Trans-Sabal, where Tiberius Stone (the aforementioned ancestor) is arranging deals for Spider-Slayer technology to be sold to a dictator there. Miguel just ran into Mac Gargan in his latest Scorpion suit (hey! pedipalps!) under said dictator’s employ.

Stone is left to wrestle with the rebels in Trans-Sabal–philosophically, rather than physically–while Miguel tries to figure out how to deal with a robotic army and a slightly stupid super-villain with a lot of technological power.

Peter David’s still keeping this book going very well and very strong, making Liz, Miguel, Tiberius, and the relationships between the lot of them interesting.

Will Sliney’s work I feel as if I haven’t properly acknowledged previously–he makes interesting choices in perspective, and does facial expressions and movements in the freeze-frame style of folks like Adi Granov, but with the looser detail that befits an interior (solid Granov interiors can be distracting, I find, however good). He’s not Maguire or anything, but he also has a good grasp on multi-panel expression changes and conveying character appropriately for them, which is always a good thing for a book’s storytelling.

Death of Wolverine #3 (of 4)

Initialy, I was going to refrain from engaging this event. Not out of angry, high-minded principles, but because I just didn’t particularly care right now. Running into some first prints of the first two issues by chance made me sigh and go for it–why not, after all, when it’s only four issues?

It’s Charles Soule, too, who has been impressing me mightily of late. So far, Logan has discovered there’s a price on his head, and, as the cover indicates, met up with Kitty Pryde, in Madripoor (natch!) where he has pursued what leads he has in an attempt to prevent any further collateral damage.

Soule and Steve McNiven are doing quite well so far–there’s no exploitative feel to the story, no rush or wobble to what could easily be cheap and stupid. Kitty and Logan seem very much themselves, and, more importantly, themselves in the context of Logan’s mortality. Kitty is the more adult woman she’s been recently, but still has her affections for Logan that can begin to crack practicality, while not losing the skilled threat that Kitty is.

It’s been nice to see some familiar faces (Deathstrike, particularly, showing up here, as well as a bit from Cyber) that don’t strike as “Quick! Jam everyone in before it’s over!” so much as completely plot-relevant characters. So far, I’m actually pretty satisfied. We’ll see how the two of them conclude things, though.

Today’s title is described in the reviews above. What, didn’t you read it?

¹If you don’t know yet, I know it’s “AXIS”, but that ambigram design just screams “SIXIS” every time look at it, so I am going to obnoxiously ignore the real title.

“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?

“Damn. Why didn’t I respond like that?”

Wednesday this week left me bouncing between the two local shops and spending entirely too long hanging out to get back in time to read or write here. With, unfortunately, encouragement to explore the upcoming/starting event Spider-Verse. Well, I did read when I got back, then immediately passed out. So, here we are!

  • All-New X-Factor #14
  • Armor Hunters: Bloodshot #3 (of 3)
  • Daredevil #8
  • The Delinquents #2 (of 4)
  • Edge of Spider-Verse #2
  • Elektra #6
  • Superior Spider-Man #33
  • Translucid #6 (of 6)
  • Unity #11

NOTE: Elektra #6 is part of my “I’m not yet caught up” trend. So, I didn’t read it. So, no review.

The Superior Spider-Man #33

Let’s get this out of the way: my known distaste for Humberto Ramos means I’ve not been reading much Spider-Man, despite his being, otherwise, my most-read Marvel character without question or hesitation. It also means that The Superior Spider-Man, in particular, stayed off my radar through some kind of fancy filtering. Yeah, some other folks were in there, like Camuncoli (who penciled this one), but I’m usually disinclined to pick up a series piecemeal.

The one exception I made was for the Stegman-penciled 17-19, which brought back Miguel O’Hara (that is, Spider-Man 2099) into Earth-616 for his solo series, and I figured, for the last two issues of the series “ever” (we’ll see about that, of course), I could deal for both a cross-over idea I like and the fact that I wouldn’t have to cautiously watch it to see about dropping it if Ramos returned (thus losing plot threads and so on)¹.

My affection for, especially, some of the more “off-brand” Spideys (Ben Reilly, Kaine Parker, the aforementioned O’Hara), meant the storyline would be intriguing. This pair of issues (that is, including the preceding #32) are set to introduce why and how all these Spider-People are gathering. Conveniently, the events take place in a temporal pocket that was acknowledged in–hey! Superior #17-19. Nice!

So: #32 got Otto-Peter (Superior) to recognize the threat posed by this hunter Karn, who is pursuing Spider-Folk through the multiverse. He began to gather others in light of this, as they were the only prey in any given reality that Karn was interested in–so if Karn came after him, they would be centralized enough to provide a snowballing threat. #33 takes him up from here and introduces more Spider-Folk, as well as dropping some in who are appearing in other ways (such as via Edge of Spider-Verse, the second issue of which is reviewed below, and the first issue of which introduced Earth-90214’s “Noir” version). In his immeasurable arrogance, Otto assumes he has the means of controlling Karn, and finds that Karn is, as he suspected, but one of many–and that this threat may be one that only he and a few of the other Spider-Folk are willing to treat “appropriately” (ie, with fatal methodologies).

Christos Gage and Dan Slott give us a variety of voices for all of our Spider-___s, though most of them are largely (as would be expected) mild variations on Peter Parker’s voice. Giuseppe Camuncoli is an excellent choice for these stories–his pencils with John Dell’s inks keep a slew of characters who, inevitably, look somewhat similar from being in any way hard to tell apart. Even amassed, it’s pretty simple to distinguish the six-armed Spider-Man’s body parts in a panel from a cyborg whose metal portions are not always on display, or Spider-Monkey, or Spider-Man: India, all of whom have limited visible differences from the waste up, colour-wise. Antonio Fabela’s colours, too, assist in this, acting as only mild variations that keep characters separate without being so glaring as to feel forced.

There’s a back-up feature, also by Gage (this time solo on script) with art by M.A. Sepulveda, with Richard Isanove on colours, that doesn’t do what I’ve often found awful with back-ups–let the first one down. Maintaining the writer helps, but having a good art team really makes a difference. The focus, tone, and style (mostly thanks to Sepulveda and Isanove) shift entirely to Karn and his family of hunters² as they pursue the more outlandish of Spider-Folk–the Master Weaver of Universe-000 (!) and self-described “God” Ai Apaec that helps to explain the in-Victorian-theme-but-otherwise-weird diving helmet of Karn, while also developing something of his character in the process.

Having these two stories together does manage to justify the bumped cover price, I think–so long as you accept the current-standard pricing in general.

Edge of Spider-Verse #2 (of 5): Gwen Stacy, Spider-Woman

On Earth-We-Actually-Don’t-Know,-It-Seems, the radioactive spider bit Gwendolyne Stacy, not Peter Parker, and it set off an entirely different, yet strangely familiar story: Peter Parker’s reputation as “pathetic [instead of ‘puny’] Parker” turns him, in absence of accident, to deliberate manipulation of himself, a death that inspires the heroics of Spider-Woman (who also started in entertainment, using her powers for drum-playing gimmicks) also launches JJJ’s crusade against her, and Captain Stacy (!), too, questions this vigilante.

We’ve got a pretty great two-page rundown of most of these events characterized as “Previously in Spider-Woman…” while Gwen is processing them in Spider-Person standard fashion (and her luck is about on par with “The Old Parker Luck”), having a gig with her (well, not her, pretty clearly) band the Maryjanes, the police on her tail after the aforementioned death, her own father unwittingly pursuing her, and the Kingpin sending the Rhino after that same father in a misguided attempt to curry favour with her.

This story actually doesn’t do much at all to tie in to Spider-Verse yet–but that’s fair. Even the first issue, which covered 90214’s “Noir” Spidey had the previous Noir to function as world-building and set-up for that version of Peter, where this Gwen has never even been seen. We get a single panel to remind us, at the very end, of where this is all going, but prior to that–well, we’re getting lots of nudges toward the proposed/hoped for/what have you Spider-Gwen solo book.

Jason Latour manages to work some nice details in on Gwen’s approach to life, motivation, dreams, and superheroics–tying the last to her first love (music!) in a nice way, even. Our new versions of her father (especially) and even Betty, Glory, and Mary-Jane also get some little bits of fleshing out, with a plot that manages to short-hand a lot of the differences in this universe from everything we’re used to.

Robbi Rodriguez, however, suffers from the kind of stylized art that I continue feel utterly inappropriate for superhero book. Or maybe it’s just Big Two books. Or something–I don’t know. Putty faces (which have always bothered me, considering my distastes for Ramos, McFarlane, even JoeMad) are matched with the sketchiness that I think did dis-service to a few issues of Captain Marvel and She-Hulk (is there some idea that this style is suited to female protagonists or something?), especially as Rodriguez’s inks just reinforce that sketchy feeling. Gwen’s own face is wildly inconistent–from the cover to the first page, she looks like an entirely different person. Her father’s face sometimes middle-aged, but by the end looks like it’s melting. Weirdly cartoon-y giant foreheads appear and disappear, without rhyme or reason, sometimes seeming to stem from strange perspective choices, sometimes just “because” (Matt Murdock suffers this pretty strongly).

The negative-space-based design for her costume is really cool, with its inversion of the red-with-webs standard as highlights and liner only, but I think that serves to highlight the thing that redeems most of the art: Rico Renzi’s colours and Clayton Cowles’s barely-controlled lettering. Renzi douses the book in loads of psychedelic colour that resembles the approach Adam Metcalfe took with Translucid’s psychedelic hallucinatory moments, without quite the madness that was appropriate there. The texturing “effect” on Rhino is pretty great, too, with bluish splatters across his otherwise grey skin to imply that texture. Cowles’s lettering is wild and primal, which helps to really sell the feel of the book where it appears–even “Previously in Spider-Woman…” is slapdash paint-strokes! I’m vaguely wary of where to associate some of it, the way that the lyrics to the song we assume is called “Face It Tiger” are incorporated into the art really sells the tone and makes that song and the idea of the band work

While I’m completely down for seeing Gwen’s adventures continue, I cannot let the moment pass without mentioning that a band called Married with Sea Monsters recorded what they thought “Face It Tiger” would sound like, and holy crap, I think they nailed the hell out of it, down to the punk-ish tone I read immediately, “MJ’s” riotgrrl-y vocals and Gwen’s power-thump of drums. License this shit, Marvel. Do it now.

All-New X-Factor #14

One day, I’d like to escape my self-destructive habit of reading stupid reviews, but that hasn’t happened yet, so a brief aside: last issue, we pursued the story of Pietro Maximoff’s reunion with his daughter Luna (and his public admission of his crimes) after it was opened the issue before. Someone said it was treading water, someone else dumped on the book over art and ignored everything else. This is bad. This is very bad. Don’t do these things. If you’re reading a PAD book and you think an issue that’s exploring the character-effects of actions is boring repetition, you’re probably reading the wrong author.

Anyway, Peter decides to continue his focused approach from those issues, moving on from Pietro, but not leaving the Lensherr lineage in the process: Wanda Maximoff appears before Lorna Dane, and, after a bit of hissing over her monstrous actions, Wanda admits that she’s just there to attempt to be family to her half-sister, as the two of them have never done so, and Wanda has failed to even do anything non-work with Pietro, either. It’s all an interruption of Danger’s continued forays into segments of the human experience that she is now looking to Lorna for information on–making for the most ready need for exit Lorna could have.

Pop Mhan continues the Di Giandomenico-aping from last issue and does quite well at keeping the art largely clean and restrained to emphasize the character-based storytelling. Lorna gets to be in the interesting position of “most normal person” when Wanda’s limited socializing and Danger’s thoroughly non-human approach to the world collide at…a RenFaire? Well, why not? Lorna wants a way out of all of this (while still giving it a shot), Wanda has no idea bout anything, and Danger is, well, Danger.

Mined for some great exchanges, and Wanda’s first real exposure to alcohol, David works in a quick subplot about some of the acting staff at the RenFaire, and gives our book’s protagonists something to deal with in an action sense alongside everything else–an action they even acknowledge when they take care of the situation and remark upon their rotten “trouble magnet” luck. And then David sucker-punches us, in ways I’m not going to describe other than–oh dear, do I want issue 15 now.

Daredevil #8

Mark Waid dealt pretty quickly (and wonderfully, let me repeat) with the Original Sin tie-ins for Matt, and we’re on to a new story that I’d already forgotten the core of for some reason, and didn’t even manage to recall on seeing the cover.

If you’re not feeling as thick as me–yes! It’s the Purple Man. Always a peculiar villain–he’s purple and has a stupid name, but can be and has been used for some pretty interesting stories in light of his powers, which somehow imbues his stupid name with, instead, a kind of brilliant simplicity–he controls (ahem) much of this issue.

Matt and (legal and romantic) partner Kristen McDuffie take some time to broaden Matt’s sensory base (“What if someday, as Daredevil, you’re overrun by either sea lions or seals? Your life may depend on knowing which is which.”⁴) when a discussion about an out-of-the-blue phone call from her father leads them to a trip to visit him on his boat. Meanwhile the Purple Man is using his powers of persuasive control of others to assemble and purple-ize children who join that self-same recruitment effort, his reasons for which are quickly made clear.

The best thing about the way Waid deals with these characters is the way they are explored without worrying incessantly about “expansion”. Chris Samnee’s illustrations of Matt Murdock’s perceptions (reminiscent of the transformative–*cough*–effects of Unicron upon Megatron and his fellow wounded cronies in Transformers: The Movie) even assist in this feeling. We’ve got another voice looking into Matt’s powers, finding them fascinating–unusual, he notes, for the people in his life–while we also look into what life is like for the Purple Man, neither of which feels like a seismic shift so much as a revelation of what was already there (see also: Peter David). While it is largely a set-up for what will occur with the Purple People (note: Waid, do not use this terminology), the personal-life events for Matt make the issue itself very worthwhile–nevermind the delving into the Purple Man’s motivations and character.

I will say that Matthew Wilson’s initial colouring approach came off really confusing. In light of forgetting that I’d been told (in advance, by some preview or other–maybe even the last issue) that this would deal with the Purple Man, the night-time setting left me completely unaware of the purple skin present. Came off as rather day-for-night–so I got the overall idea of what was happening thanks to everyone else, but I didn’t realize at all it was the Purple Man until later, in different lighting.

Translucid #6 (of 6)

And so, we reach the end of what has been a stellar miniseries.

The Horse has captured The Navigator for his own purposes, to understand, fully, what it is that has caused the Navigator to sag in his heroics. Having walked “with” him through his origin, the Horse feels a greater understanding for who and what the Navigator is, and what he will do with this information.

I don’t know how to talk about this issue, to be honest. It’s a conclusion I’m not sure I expected on any level. I felt my jaw actually drop, because I was legitimately surprised at where it went. Claudio, Chondra, Bayliss, and Metcalfe didn’t do anything to let down the previous five issues, with the wonderfully mysterious and uncomfortably appealing Horse so forcefully taking center stage in the real and present world, with the Navigator left primarily to exist and drive the book in hallucination and flashback as things stand.

If you’ve been sleeping on this, make sure to change that up when it’s collected, if nothing else. This stuff is really good.

Armor Hunters: Bloodshot #3 (of 3)

And so, we see the conclusion of another Valiant Armor Hunters mini.

Having defeated the hunter Lilt, Bloodshot is left only to deal with the savage half-hunter/half-armour Malgam, with the recouped forces of Livewire and M.E.R.O. supporting him. Any shifting tides related to this incursion outside this locale are not relevant–this is mano-e-mano in the loosest of terms (since neither of them is even “man” in a nice generalized sense, between the nanites and the X-O).

Despite the cover, GIN-GR is not really involved in any capacity.

Joe Harris did not, I think, quite capture the heights of Swierczynski, Gage, Dysart, or the other writers who’ve helmed Bloodshot as a solo book–the mystery man himself doesn’t really even seem to recognize his existing depths, let alone expand upon them. It’s a pure action book, to be sure, and the events certainly preclude his search for identity, or acting on anything other than the immediate, but it rings pretty hollow as a result of all of this, alas.

Trevor Hairsine’s art is not necessarily a saving grace, but does keep a momentum-based, action-oriented book from faltering too much. Still, the flashbacks continue to seem largely irrelevant, even as we’ve now closed this entire chapter–or, if not irrelevant, certainly unnecessary. In a universe as largely “flawless” (within reason, that is) as modern Valiant’s, this is the first book I might hesitantly call disappointing.

The Delinquents #2 (of 4)

The first chapter of The Delinquents mostly placed the pieces in places: Mondostano as the not-so-subtle villainous corporation which hires Quantum and Woody, and Aram and Archer as crusading (in the Indiana Jones sense) for the same goal.

Asmus still has clear control over the book’s script (again, he and Van Lente plot, but Asmus scripts) as it deals far more in the kind of humour Quantum and Woody deal in, than the kind that Van Lente uses with Archer & Armstrong. This isn’t a complaint, and neither Aram nor Archer suffers for it, to be sure.

The cover, at first, made me a bit sad–where is Goat, after all? But the book resolved this with a number of great “silent” goat-gags, enhanced by the addition of a ridiculous children’s typing toy that lets us in on their father’s identity being trapped in the goat, but with the silly shorthand typing that keeps it nice and ridiculously goat-y.

What really sells this, though, is exactly what the first cover promised: the strange bonding of these two teams as they really and finally meet up. What was surprising was the way that the writers ended up “pairing them off”–it’s not like that first cover. The obvious Woody and Aram pairing was lost to Woody and Archer’s non-invulnerable status leaving them more cautious and thus able to hash a few things out–and lord knows, as much as Woody would love someone as hedonistic, the chance to corrupt the willing brings out the best/worst in him.

Unity #11

A clever cover all around (conveying the size of GIN-GR, while also managing to imply the issue number a second time) is, alas, also not exactly appropriate. Unity has firmly dealt with the hounds, but the felled GIN-GR has released mechanical “spores”. There’s a bit of confusion about Livewire’s concurrent roles in the two books this week (I didn’t stop and try to really break it down, though, it just felt odd), but we’re really dealing most with Ninjak and Gilad this time.

We get a nice insight into what makes Ninjak unique as the operative that he is, with a cool bit of hand-waving “meditation” bollocks that slides right into that “acceptable suspension of disbelief” slot and explains why he’s just such a BAMF.

Kindt gets to give us a nice bit of interplay in the pairing we’ve seen for the last few issues of Ninjak and Gilad, with Ninjak’s very solitary nature running up against the team-based reasons for the book and its name, as well as his own militaristic background as the “Eternal Warrior”.

I always feel like, unless it’s unexpectedly not-great, commenting on the pencils in a modern Valiant book is just silly–Segovia, as with most of their artists, is good at both interesting images and the storytelling aspect necessary in comic book penciling, and I just can’t find myself asking for more than that in this universe.

Today’s title’s from All-New X-Factor. Lorna finds her conversational tact shown-up unexpectedly.

¹If it’s not coming through, even ads for Ramos’s work send me into fits of infuriated rage, I loathe his pencils so very much. I’d rather they not, but they do. It mostly makes me angry because I’d rather be reading Spider-Man, but I hate the art so much it would be distracting (as it has been any time I look at his stuff, covers or interiors) and just gross to look at, but that’s a reminder that it wouldn’t work out, and that I lost the chance to read those stories with at least art I don’t mind. Irrational? Sure. Whatever. It’s a sincere reaction. I really, really don’t like his work and wish he could magically stick to books I don’t read so that he’d still get work and his fans could still pick his stuff up, but it wouldn’t interfere with my reading. Selfish? Obviously. But it’s not like I’m campaigning for it, here. Let me have my silly fantasy world.

²His family includes the otherwise more famous Morlun, who apparently returned after JMS’s run on ASM a decade ago that I read and liked, but most people hated for turning mystical–more fuel for the “there are no bad characters” fire, I guess–that or a bunch of angry readers are out there right now.

³It immediately reminded me of Morbius, the Living Vampire #6, and the band that the Basilisk and Morbius crash in on, which I’ve always liked (even if Len’s lyrics were a bit iffy on the meter-side).

⁴One can only hope this is foreshadowing.

“Don’t Worry…I’ll Let the Others Know You Still Hate Us.”

And so it’s Wednesday Thursday, again!

I think the weeks will all be heavy going forward, but I could be wrong. Last week, this week, next week–all of ’em are, so, I’m not sure I am wrong.

In any case:

  • Archer & Armstrong #24
  • Armor Hunters: Harbinger #3 (of 3)
  • Captain Marvel #7
  • Hawkeye #20
  • Magneto #9
  • New Warriors #9
  • Nightcrawler #6
  • X #17

Magneto currently joins the group known as “Shit, I don’t have issue #3 yet…” so I shan’t comment, as I stopped at issue #2 for now.

Captain Marvel #7

Well, I meandered off to one of the places I pick up reviews and I think I found the perfect encapsulation: “Pick this one up, no question, and prepare for what I can almost guarantee will be a killer issue next month in the follow-up to this story.”

Sounds great, right?

Well, break that down, and you might see the problem. This, like almost all issues of this book so far, is really slight. It mostly serves to set things up. It doesn’t do an awful lot in and of itself (some fun with Rocket and his suspicion of Carol’s cat Chewie, a tiny bit of development with Tic regarding her stowing away) and just looks toward the next issue with a feeling of, “Man, I want to read that story!” Which, I’ve got to be honest, is a really, really bad way to write comic books. Maybe it’s all of those Jim Shooter articles about making sure anyone can pick up a single issue and know what’s happening (which, admittedly, most publishers deal with via text encapsulations of “The Story So Far…”)–I don’t know. I read an interview with Simonson on the way “in” to my new books, and he mentioned the seismic shift in approach from that to “Write a 5-6 issue arc to be collected.” Thing is, this is a lot like serial television–you should still be making the separate units it’s released in functional. I’ll certainly allow a bit of stretch while you set things up in the first place if you’re aiming for heavily serial storytelling, but there has to be some satisfaction within each.

So far, every issue of this volume has felt very light–I’ve no idea why it’s getting so well-reviewed. I still feel like I’m waiting for the story from the first six issues to really kick into gear–and the story is resolutely concluded. I’m inevitably hesitant to drop a book, but if I do, it’s going to be this one. Disappointing.

Marcio Takara’s art isn’t–I always felt he was a weird fit for Incorruptible, just when set next to Irredeemable. Carol’s been through a wide swathe of styles so far, but Takara’s definitely not one of the offensively inappropriate ones, and indeed works pretty well. Just wish he had a more interesting story–next month, perhaps. Sigh.

Hawkeye #20

One issue from the end, and we have the end of Kate Bishop’s “Summer Vacation” away from Hawkguy. Things are a light-hearted noir dead-end right now: Kate’s up against it over Harold’s death (from an arrow remarkably like her own), her friends’ trailer being torched, and continuing to be destitute. And Madam Masque, forever angry after that one time, is very interested in maintaining this dismal status quo for Kate.

While the Hawkguy issues have been strongly oriented around the more experimental story-telling choices (hey, try last issue), Kate’s have been solidly straightforward stories, though not without their quirks (the last page is a pair to the first page here).

Interestingly, this might be the opposite problem from Captain Marvel within the same modern comic framework: good lord, did I not remember everything that was going on. I tried to let sparks of memory light up as I went along, but it was just not working. Names and faces and reactions to them were fresh for characters, but fuzzy bits to me. Of course, at least a chunk of this comes down to the miserable release schedule for this book–bad enough that Kate and Clint are trading off issue-to-issue, worse when it’s not on-time monthly.

Still, once everything fell into place (which unfortunately took a re-read–this did, incidentally, highlight something of the problem with the amusing “The Story So Far…” synopses in this book, that tend to be delightfully snarky instead of useful) this was a pretty solid end to Kate’s trip to L.A., while setting up the next (last!) issue pretty cleanly. Aja puts a wonderful signature on the story, with his scratchy but detailed work fitting perfectly that “light-hearted noir” feel I mentioned–everyone’s especially expressive (not quite in the Maguire-style of disturbingly perfect expressions, but still on it), and that’s certainly important for this story, which has a lot of realization of that noir-esque feel, with Kate realizing just how outside her understanding a lot of this was.

I probably should have re-read the (pre-)preceding issue beforehand, but I’m not entirely sure that’s on me…

Nightcrawler #6

I feel like I’m writing these in some kind of intended order, but I’m really not (they obviously aren’t alphabetical, though I think this may be the order I read them in). Chris Claremont basically takes the problem I had with Hawkeye above and kicks it to the curb in the most emphatic way possible: Page 1 largely replicates the penultimate page of #5, though it sets aside the bits of characterization to instead let the characters present (Nightcrawler and scorpion/insect student Rico) learn what we learned on the last page last time: this run for a new mutant isn’t necessarily going to be a cakewalk.

Of course, it’s not until they arrive that Nightcrawler is left to recognize the specifics of what we learned last time (and this cover tells you): the threat surrounding the mutant they’ve been sent to talk to about attending the Jean Grey School is being pursued by the Crimson Pirates, led by the cover’s Killian (yes, that’s kind of weird for me). We get something more in the vein of Nightcrawler’s initial miniseries¹, as Kurt decides to take on the Pirates without immediately requesting backup from Storm, after asking Rico how he feels about getting involved.

The two of them are left to defend both the mutant, Ziggy Karst, and the scientists caught in the crossfire. We get a good look at the experienced Nightcrawler (completely in his element, as Killian’s peons are space pirates, but still pirates, so the swords they carry are Kurt’s favoured) in contrast to the dry-mouthed, anxious need-to-achieve-and-prove from the rather scared young Rico, who gets a variety of responses from the scientists Kurt sends him to protect.

As I’ve felt about every issue of this book so far, Todd Nauck and Rachelle Rosenberg are working hard to try to overpower Claremont’s storytelling. The art is so great and so appropriate that it’s just a joy to read these–and, of course, that wouldn’t work if Claremont was not on-form. Kurt’s got the right balance of Claremont-angst and Cockrum-carefree to really carry the book, and the addition of Rico really gets to not only let this new character come into his own slowly, but to give us another perspective on Kurt–both Rico’s, and our reader’s view of Kurt as teacher and protector of this student.

It would’ve been easy to turn this issue and Rico’s first non-Danger Room fight into something maudlin or twisted in some way, but the direction Claremont goes with it is definitely the most satisfying of conclusions, without feeling contrived or completely telegraphed. Rico’s shaping up really well–his concerns about his appearance and his skill aren’t beaten into whinging so much as very real worries, and he also doesn’t turn around into a blank foil for Nightcrawler to stare at in awe, or fawn over, or need saving by, or anything. Just two characters both in one place. Pretty great story, as a result.

New Warriors #9

All right. First things first: New Warriors is cancelled at issue 12. This is criminal. This must be un-done, and I’m tasking anyone reading this with contributing. Buy all copies of the book you can find, and order more.


Glad you asked. Having dealt with the after-effects of the Terrigen Mist (particularly affecting the newly-named Haechi, and New Warrior friends), Jake Waffles and Mr. Whiskers transport Wundagore Mountain after Kaine’s request to drop off Hummingbird and be done with everything–but they manage to follow the location directives of Hummingbird herself, instead, and the team finds itself in…Houston?

Yup. Aracely still thinks this is home for Kaine, despite the events that closed out the Scarlet Spider book. Kaine (as always) disagrees, and is pissed off about it. Justice decides to chase him down and convince him not to quit (“You can’t quit something you never joined!” Kaine resounds, with trademark short-tempered hostility and caustic wit). But their “heart-to-turned back swinging away on webs” is interrupted by the appearance of…a giant mascot bear, rampaging through Houston. No, no, seriously.

Convinced that he is a superhero and hearing Kaine is Houston’s supervillain, Clut–er, Choke, who is definitely not the Houston Rockets’ mascot or anything–takes on the two of them, or, well, attempts to.

I’m not gonna lie, Tana Ford has a few weird panels (mostly some trouble with establishing perspective on the most spider-y of Kaine moments early in the book) but finds momentum and does justice (ahem) to the story, managing to convey the way that Yost writes Kaine, which is still delightful. His initial response to Choke’s appearance is perfect, and the choice of an absolutely ridiculous antagonist (which Ford deftly conveys the goofiness of!) just cements what is so awesome about this book. It is completely absurd, but still manages to hold the right drama and stakes for all the characters–an intrusion of stupid into an otherwise troublesome and “normal” superhero world.

This is also why I’m going to cry after issue 12. I hate all of you for letting this happen.

X #17

Duane Swierczynski has created an interesting dilemma with X, as he escalated stakes on the book rapidly–it would’ve been boring to see inevitable success for X after a while, and the last arc, with Archon, escalated the stakes all the way to “X cannot beat him in a million, billion years.” It addressed this appropriately, by removing Archon from the picture of his own volition (as X is not what he was interested in).

Now we’ve got X after Leigh’s brainwashing has started to fade, X after getting his ass completely handed to him, and X after redeeming himself from a much lesser defeat. What does he do now?

Well, Leigh’s instincts, as is often the case, drive him forward–a woman found partly skinned (!!) leads her to request X’s pursuit of those responsible. Which, understandably, he points out is not really his domain–he’s about the violence and the retribution, not the detective work (a good bit of further affirmation and clarity to his role from Swierczynski), which Leigh doesn’t mind–she notes that she can do that part of it all for him.

We’re left with new villains, new strangeness and mystery, and the endearing sight of X bullheadedly rushing in with frothing mouth and very clearly questionable grip on self-preservation and reality, regardless of his opponent (X himself seems unlikely to change significantly, which makes sense for who he is). It is indeed, as that green banner at the top suggests, a good entry point–though its quasi-sci-fi leanings of late are not a good indicator of how this all started, I’d say. Nguyen is still just absolutely the best choice for this book, as the mad dog nature of X is never in question, and the increasing weight of everything on Leigh is readily apparent. And that extra scrub of grit and grime over the whole thing is just the right touch to really keep the book from spiraling out wildly as Duane increases the wilder content.

Armor Hunters: Harbinger #3

After my little minor debacle with acquiring Armor Hunters #3 and having the weird experience of reading AH: Bloodshot and Unity before it came out, I was wary of reading this without knowing what was occurring, but it looks like Valiant’s very much on top of their printing schedule. Generation Zero–who we last left with Renegades Torque and Zephyr–are dealing with the sudden release of a veritable plague of insects that were dropped on earth for total cleansing by the Armor Hunters.

What this means is, well, it doesn’t matter what’s happening in the main story for this one, so ti was a good, solid read all by itself. This was probably the most self-contained tie-in, as it’s psiots dealing with their corner (the devastated and basically obliterated Mexico City) of the event and never really interacting with anyone else.

It’s a satisfying story in-and-of itself, as it lets us really get in with Generation Zero, as I’ve mentioned before. Titan and Cronus and Tellic and Cloud² and the rest have had their appearances (mostly in Harbinger Wars), but we really get to see Cronus come into his own as a leader, with everyone alongside him achieving their own points of glory via their powers. The story’s resolved cleanly, neither abruptly nor with an eye-rolling deus ex machina or other, “Uh oh, this is the last issue…shit!” feeling to it. Dysart manages to work all the characters in, and even do something really clever with Torque to deal with something we’ve not been seeing much of lately. Robert Gill captures all the characters distinctly, and the gross, body-horror of this plague with the right, well, disgustingness. I’ve got to add, it’s nice to finally see a little of the mechanical, driven sheen fall off of Cronus, too, as he thinks Generation Zero can just maybe finally let go of all of their defensive posturing and relax–at least a little.

Archer & Armstrong #24

Ah, one of those semi-dickish “this has little to do with the contents” covers. This could’ve been #0: Mary-Maria, but I don’t know that the book can handle a third #0, so it’s probably best it wasn’t.

Anyway, as that probably indicated, this book is entirely about Mary-Maria–indeed, it’s largely about her origin. Through the Sisters of Perpetual Darkness, she receives notice of loan shark “O Polvo” in Brazil, where she actually grew up before being adopted by the Archer clan of conspiracy fundamentalists (that’s a thing, right?). We learn of how she came to be in their care, as well as of what family of hers exists–her mother died when she was very young, giving birth to her twin sisters. It’s clear this loan shark was strongly involved in her childhood in terribly negative ways, and so she accepts this assignment without hesitation.

Unexpectedly, this is the first issue of Archer & Armstrong to not be written by Fred Van Lente, which might only be apparent with regard to the general absence of humour here. Mary-Maria has certainly been used to humourous effect (in much the same way Archer is used), but it’s appropriately-inappropriate here, as the story doesn’t really demand humour to counterbalance it in any way, and it might undercut what is here.

I wondered why the art felt so incredibly right before I realized it was Clayton Henry, who has done loads of covers for the book, but not pencilled it since the first couple of issues. It’s great work all around on this one–enough that I just enjoyed it without even realizing these things had been shifted around!

Today’s title is–surprise!–from New Warriors #9. Because it’s fucking awesome, if you have somehow missed that fact. GO READ IT.

¹Which Dave Cockrum wrote. Fascinating, in its way–Dave wanted a swashbuckler when he created him, Claremont later inserted the aspect of faith that contorted that carefree mentality pretty significantly.

²Honestly didn’t do that pattern on purpose.

“Aye. I Showed That Two-Bit Copycat What-Fer, Didn’t I?”

X-Cutioner’s Song.

Is it a simply encapsulated indicator of everything everyone looks back and shakes their had at from the 90s?

Maybe. Every issue was polybagged with a trading card, and it used all the X-team books at the time (X-ForceX-FactorX-Men, and Uncanny X-Men) for three months. It focused heavily on Cable and Stryfe (almost-but-not-quite getting to the bottom of both characters).

But it’s an interesting story, in retrospect: I got myself caught up on all of those books¹ in terms of immediately preceding issues so that I could have a clue what was going on going in. I’ve read all of X-Men up to that point (an easy feat: the cross-over starts for it with issue 14), and I’ve been reading Peter David’s original run on X-Factor, and some spotty, intermittent reading on Uncanny (all of this kind of coming together with the Muir Island Saga, too, and a variety of other cross-over bits and pieces immediately preceding this storyline.

In 1992, Cable is still one of the X-books’s mystery men (either blessed or cursed with them, starting with Wolverine and adding the two most “90s” of X-characters, good or bad–Cable and Gambit). His X-Force team (derived from the now-late New Mutants) is very “outlaw” and “antihero” in everyone else’s mind. With the apparent death of Magneto at the end of Claremont’s run (X-Men #2), the arch-nemesis gap is filled by a trio of baddies, who also represent a lot of the prevailing attitude at the time–Mr. Sinister, Stryfe, and Apocalypse. Of the three, Mr. Sinister and Apocalypse were most aged in the real world, having appeared in ’87 and ’86 respectively, at the hands of Claremont and Louise Simonson (also respectively). Stryfe, in costume alone, bore a lot of the excessive and peculiar design choices of the decade–clad in red-caped metallic armour, his helmet was a series of overlapping blades not entirely unlike the strange excess of wings Archangel bore at the time.

Each of the three led a small team (Stryfe: the Mutant Liberation Front, Apocalypse: the Dark Riders and his Horsemen, and Sinister: The Nasty Boys²), and had been meddling in mutant affairs for many of the recent issues (not long before, of course, Nathan Christopher Summers, son of Cyclops and Madeline Pryor, was sent to the future in an attempt to spare him the ravaging techno-organic virus Apocalypse infected him with, for instance).

The storyline opens with an assassination attempt on Professor Xavier, with the man responsible strongly resembling Cable. Now, Mystique was currently at the mansion, so that’s at least one explanation completely out. The mysterious and vigilante nature of Cable didn’t help matters much–so most of the teams accepted readily that this was really and truly Cable who was responsible. They rapidly learn, through Moira MacTaggart and Beast, that what seemed to be a simple firearm assassination attempt was actually the planting of another techno-organic virus.

What follows is an acceptably convoluted attempt to chase down the source of this–as well as the sudden abduction of Cyclops and Jean Grey–that leads them through all of the major villains, with each team refusing to stay planted firmly in their book. In essence, it’s a very real cross-over: it might say “X-Factor” on the cover, but you’re going to see lots of storylines that are just X-Men-based. Of course, in the background, Peter David tries valiantly to maintain the threads of the story he’s been running already in X-Factor via the “man-that’s-lucky” advantage of Jamie “Multiple Man” Madrox (who can be involved in both stories for obvious reasons).

I’ve not mentioned it much here, but my investment in Spider-Man meant that the major 90s cross-over I found myself most familiar with was Maximum Carnage. I had three issues (of…14!) and it was held out to be a major event. Years later, I read all 14 issues. Please don’t do this. It’s a really horrible, awful cross-over, where the same things happen over and over and/or drag on and on. I think Spiderfan.org reviewer Jose Gonzalez put it best in a review of the SNES game that cross-over inspired:

This is a perfect example of how a game is capable of transcending its source material and delivering a really fun experience, even if it did have the unfortunate side effect of telling thousands of kids everywhere that it’s OK to enjoy something with Carnage in it.

So, as much as I just kind of accepted where I was going here–I had some measure of “Oh well, I’ll have read it, at least,” involved in my decision to read every issue of the X-Cutioner’s Song story. It didn’t turn out that way, though–maybe having the multiple threads to follow (Wolverine and Bishop pursuing Cable independently, X-Force being stubborn and defiant, but eventually corralled, Sinister and Apocalypse and Stryfe all shuffling responsibility and threat and keeping everyone on their toes, the bizarre abduction and torture of Jean and Scott…

In the end, the worst criticism is certainly that it goes so much toward explaining Stryfe and/or Cable, and then gives up, pretending to murder both of them at the very end. The stakes are certainly high here, and there are clues all over the place, so the climax works for the story, but it’s kind of impotent in the grand scheme of things, in a sense.

It was all worth it to see David have X-Factor beat the snot out of Liefeldian X-Force, I must admit. The quote I titled this with was Wolfsbane commenting on her trouncing of Feral. Maybe it’s because she’s Scottish, or because PAD got to write her, or because she existed way before Feral, or because Feral’s 90s costume is a hot mess of ridiculous stupid, but that was the exact outcome I wanted. I seem to be alone in this, if my vague and random Googling of the issue is to be believed. But, like most of the battles in this (admittedly battle-heavy) book, it was scripted and depicted well-enough that it didn’t ever feel like a monotonous repetition or pre-determined outcome (lookin’ at you again, Maximum Carnage).

¹Except X-Force. Beyond cross-over issues, my interest in X-Force Volume 1 begins and ends with the Milligan/Allred stuff.

²Peter, the only explanation I will accept is a strange manifestation of Janet Jackson fandom.

“What Kind of Laughter?” “Hysterical, Tinged with Sadness”

All righty, folks. It’s Wednesday. And this time, we’re going to see if I can hook all this up to Wednesday itself. Part of the Overarching Master Plan™, which involves devoting specific days to specific types of media. We’ll see how much I regret or fail that plan later.

Anyway, heavy week–and almost all Marvel–this week, which might be made worse as I ponder a few more titles, like Iron Fist: The Living Weapon. Ugh. Here we go.

This Week’s List:

  • All-New Doop #5 (of 5)
  • All-New X-Factor #13
  • The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage #1 (of 5)
  • Grendel vs. The Shadow #1
  • Miracleman #10
  • Moon Knight #7
  • She-Hulk #8
  • Spider-Man 2099 #3
  • Superior Foes of Spider-Man #15 (of 17…)

The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage #1

This is a weirdly Valiant-light week (I’d say for me, but that’d be pointlessly egocentric: I collect all the current Valiant titles anyway, so, short of back issues and reprint variants, this is a Valiant-light week period).

Doctor Mirage is one of the remaining “old guard” Valiant characters as yet untouched (skipping the licensed Gold Key stuff they don’t have now) in the modern Valiant universe. I know the Armorines are planned (thanks, Previews!) and I imagine many of the others will follow in some form or other, but this is one that–unlike, H.A.R.D. Corps and, if I’m not mistaken, that upcoming Armorines appearance–gets its own book.

While I’ve got an overflowing longbox of classic Valiant waiting to be read (swiss cheesed enough that I haven’t started anything yet and don’t soon plan to overall), I’m still pretty in the dark on most of it, so this was walking in blind as could be. The book’s been heavily advertised in Valiant books for a while now, but it does tend to stick out as the one I had no access to until now–so it probably just seemed heavier than the others.

Doctor Shan Fong “Mirage” has lost her husband (Li Hwen Fong) recently, and, despite her ability to commune with the other side, she cannot find or speak to him. Her associate Leo keeps pulling her into paying jobs despite her mourning and reluctance so that she can continue her life in some fashion–at least the one that avoids debt and default. After a functionally-simple-but-emotionally-difficult reunion of the widowed with their loved ones, Leo drags Mirage into a much better-paying and more involved job for one Linton March, who cautiously rolls out an explanation of why he sought her assistance with minimal detail. But the hook is in when something seems to suggest a means to find her husband, regardless of the risks, dangers, or her questions about March.

Jen Van Meter has set us up with an interesting protagonist–something on that spectrum of caustic and detached, but without the aggressive condscension of many of the more popular ones in the modern day. She’s not a jerk, but she doesn’t suffer foolish questions, or tread lightly when it comes to anything that relates to herself. She does not want to involve herself in much of anything, certainly not anything as involved as the money with March would indicate–though she radiates the confidence (and abilities to shore it up) that imply that, involved or not, she’s capable.

Robert De La Torre provides moody, scratchy art that seems to keep a lot of space around Mirage when her grief is most surfaced–a visual approach that isn’t the most common in its impressionism for modern Valiant. His work was also used on Shadowman, one of the last new Valiant books for me to sink my teeth into, but one that I know is thematically similar, or at least more related than the core, flagship-type titles that keep intersecting.

A promising start, though it looks, for the moment, like how this will be dealt with in five issues is quite the mystery.¹


Grendel vs. The Shadow, Book One

The only title here that was not pulled in advance, I’d hemmed and hawed on it, being intrigued by both characters, and the author involved, but only pulled the trigger on seeing it in person. This sucker’s in prestige format (meaning no staples, and square, glued binding with writing on the spine and everything), so it’s nice and dense at 48 pages.

Matt Wagner’s Grendel has floated around the periphery of my awareness for most of the time I can recall, I’ve even got some of those (weirdly sized) Dark Horse omnibuses of his stuff, but I’ve yet to read it. I did, however, read the first four (of eight, I think) of his The Shadow: Year One, and saw in it a love for the character and a deep appreciation of the setting and style of a pulp crime-fighter. What little I know of Grendel (a rather debonair criminal mastermind) meant this was an ideal pairing for both author and reader–and giving Wagner complete control over the two major elements (writing and art) meant it would be almost guaranteed quality, and pretty debilitating disappointment if it didn’t work.

Well, let’s cut to the quick: it works. While there’s a doohickey required to get Hunter Rose (that is, Grendel) back to the Shadow’s time, it’s done very in-universe–an rare collectible artifact fits Grendel’s quickly established sensibilities, and that artifact is strongly tied back to the Shadow. It takes little time for rose to get his wits about him and realize what is occurring (in terms of time travel), and to capitalize on his future knowledge. This same knowledge is foreign to Lamont Cranston (that is, The Shadow), but the facts point in the right direction all the same–the repeal of Prohibition. Both realize what could be gained in this light, but have different feelings on the subject, as Grendel sees opportunity, and the Shadow sees only the risk to his city and the innocent.

Wagner gives the book a nice “peanut butter and jelly” feeling to this meeting, just as hoped–clean and clear-cut pencils that revel in the time period and the characters, with neither given short shrift in favour of the other. A character loved as creation and one loved as a kind of idol makes for a nice face-off, one that feels less like a marketing decision and more like a labour of love. Those 48 pages allow the two to establish themselves for readers, while letting Grendel establish himself for The Shadow, whose pursuit of the identity of a new and violent face in his at-risk city is swift and decisive.

This book ought to do well with folks who look at the characters involved and nod sagely. It does exactly what it should, without feeling rote.


All-New Doop #5 (of 5)

And so, Peter Milligan signs off of his character’s very first and currently only solo book. While his writing made Doop more endearing (by allowing us to explicitly understand him), David Lafuente made his appearance far more adorable than the bafflingly weird (see: Allred cover pictured) look he had through X-Force and X-Statix.

This was a good move all around, as it made his character a much more palatable protagonist–even as Milligan’s mind-bending (also time, space, and other-things-bending) writing made mincemeat of a big X-event (that I never read). Doop has re-birthed himself to speak English, proposed to Kitty Pryde, pissed off Iceman in the process, and begun to discover something of his origin and shattered home life. He now knows he was not born from an Ingmar Bergman script, and that Mama Doop resents his presence driving off Papa Doop–but the loads of X-Men present around the Battle of the Atom (that x-event I mentioned) are required to deal with the sudden torrent of Doops appearing everywhere, as the psychological torment of Mama Doop’s declarations tears at Doop himself. Logan cannot stand this, and confronts Mama Doop to…interesting results, as Doop must deal with the strange interactions he has had with Kitty.

Let’s not beat around the bush: Milligan’s story has been weird as hell since he started the book. Doop suspects he came from an Ingmar Bergman script, he lives in “Marginalia”, which is a pretty decent stretch of the fourth wall that is left with big question marks on whether it actually breaks it or just frames Doop’s perception of the world in a manner curiously familiar to readers of comics. He was able to turn himself intelligible, and showed affection for another character, though it has been marked by a seeming deeper motivation than that surface. Lafuente has managed to keep Milligan’s strangeness constrained in a way that is both bafflingly normal and appropriately odd, which is a godsend considering.

Things are closed off here, cogently and clearly, but not without some lingering (intentional, I feel, as it does not mar the story) confusion. Well done, Milligan. I suspect more than a few people remain utterly befuddled.

All-New X-Factor #13

Understandably, Harrison Snow (owner of Serval Industries) and Linda Kwan (Director of PR for Serval Industries) are frazzled after X-Factor (superhero team for Serval Industries) member Pietro “Quicksilver” Maximoff’s admission of his crimes at their press conference–an event that X-Factor should probably reconsider participating in, at least so long as Peter David is writing them, in any incarnation (may that be as long as possible).

As Pietro has revealed his ruse and found himself reconnected with daughter Luna, this has attracted the attention of the Inhumans–unsurprising, as Luna is also the daughter of Pietro’s ex, Crystal. Gorgon sees fit to attack and punish Pietro for his crimes, as well as reclaim the errant Luna.

David has decided to continue the thread begun last issue surrounding Pietro’s character and history, leaving many of the other elements of the story as it has been developed to the side for the moment, and it serves the book well. While the focus is certainly on Quicksilver, Lorna Dane gets in her digs as she responds to Harrison’s decision to fire him in light of these revelations. Amusingly enough, Gambit willingly provides information much as she does in the service of maintaining the team, despite the rather mutual distaste he has with Pietro.

Pop Mhan takes pencils up in the absence of Carmine Di Giandomenico, and actually leans toward mimicking his style rather than throwing in his own. David worked with Mhan on his Spyboy series for Dark Horse, but there Mhan embraced his own manga-influenced stylings. I mostly know Mhan’s name from an article somewhere by someone who absolutely loathed his work on (Wally West-era) Flash, and who had nothing but (un)kind words to say about it. I seem to recall I arrived there after finding the once-Mark Texeira-pencilled Dan Ketch Ghost Rider somehow became this, which was hideously neon and dayglo as a design, and wildly inappropriate for the book’s tone–or, at least, its original tone. Anyway, the lines keep things pretty straightforward, if lean (again, like Di Giandomenico), which works for such character-oriented work very well.


Moon Knight #7

Let’s get this out of the way: yep, Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey are off the book. This isn’t their book anymore, it’s now in the hands of Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood. They decide to avoid jarring change from Ellis and Shalvey’s intentionally self-contained first six stories, with a tone that continues to be largely minimalist and artistically experimental. Not edging quite into the occasional psychedelia and full-fledged experimentalism of their run, Wood and Smallwood (really?) seem to be more finding the ground of the book and this incarnation of Marc Spector.

The story is largely straightforward–an assassin is after a target, and partly making use of a drone to achieve this. When his methods affect New York City in the entire via an EMP, Moon Knight makes it his personal goal to put a stop to whatever the assassin’s plans are. 

It’s partly familiar (think #2) but our new team makes clear that the almost absolute independence of the preceding stories is not quite where they’re now aiming the line-only glowing white spectre (heh–oh, and, by the way, guys: Moench wrote him as silver, though I imagine the white-thing has been around through latter serieses and was not explicitly introduced here). Smallwood keeps that line-only approach Shalvey started this volume with, and keeps him largely in his “Mr. Knight” Garb of +1 to Fancy. It feels something like what I hear about Brubaker’s follow-up to Bendis and Maleev on Daredevil: continuation with personalized deviation. Following up a monster book like that first run is stepping into some big shoes, and I’m getting the feeling they’re up to it.


She-Hulk #8

Charles Soule has had an acclaimed run on this new volume for Shulkie, being the first practicing attorney to take on the character (full-time, at least. I’d love to dazzle you with pulling out an obscure one-shot story by another, but I’m actually just specifying for CMA reasons). The first four issues had him paired with Javier Pulido, who dipped out for issues 5 and 6, only to return on this and the prior issue.

Five and six faltered on the absence of Pulido, but held fast with Soule’s great writing behind, especially, a guest appearance from Herman “Shocker” Schultz. Last issue saw Pulido return for a bit of a one-off story that involved Henry Pym in a nice story that didn’t find itself stuck on Avengers #213. It was a fun, if slight, story.

Now, though, the book is fully back on course. This is a stellar issue. Jen is set to defend the now physically-aged Steve Rogers from a wrongful death charge brought about by events forty years earlier. Jen has to work with the ever-principled Rogers through the restrictions he places on her as his counsel. This hamstrings Jen’s initial plans (“I’ll say it again. No. I don’t want to win this on a technicality. Period,” he says, in truly Steve fashion) and leaves her with the prospect of defending the former Captain America in the inevitable media circus that such a thing will unquestionably inspire.

It’s neat to have Soule running through Jen’s legal thinking and suggestions (even as they’re rebutted by Steve) knowing that he actually has a background in law to form some kind of basis for it. Pulido renders a great run of panels illustrating her prep work (including a pretty great one of her rather “informally” prepping the night before, oblivious to anything but the case, as established by the progression that shows her focus unwavering as her friends drop off and ask her to sleep).

I cannot wait for the next issue–we’ve seen this coming, Soule having readily and unambigiously foreshadowed it early on, but with Pulido at the reins of the pencil and Soule sketching the words out behind them, this is gonna be a good time. And that he worked in not only some exciting (!) legal work alongside a gag that Pulido sells the hell out of–ah, such a good read.


Spider-Man 2099 #3

More Peter David?! Why, of course!

Miguel’s now revealed part of his identity to Liz Allan, and now finds himself wary of acting again in any fashion that may jeopardize his approach to protecting his youthful future-I-guess-is-accurate grandfather Tiberius. He’s sent out with Tiberius on a plan to sell Spider-Slayers to a country in turmoil (I think suggesting it’s an allegorical Syria would not be taking too much in the way of liberty) with the vague hopes that seeing such technology as the slayers would cease the fighting occurring there. Miguel, er, “Michael” (still sticking with his slight name shift) thinks this idea is pretty stupid, for some odd reason (*cough*), but goes along to protect his grandfather at Liz’s request (well, order).

I know some folks thought the first issue of this was thin, but we’re working with an interesting twist on the secret identity, the interesting, driven version of Liz Allan that has appeared, and the conflicting nature of Miguel’s position (being from the future, his technology is superior, as is his knowledge of the future, but he’s a bit disconnected from everything despite all that, having not existed in this time for the expected period of time for someone of his age). Miguel remains very likeable and stays away from being a carbon copy of especially Peter Parker, though it’s a bit of a loss not to see him trading barbs with his super. But that’s where the story is–and justifiably so. We’re getting more clarity on the origins of Alchemax, on Liz’s attitude about her company, and forcing Miguel into a position that is significantly less than his ideal, while also letting Peter delve into the attitutdes driving this, ahem, fictional conflict.

It seems crappy, but I don’t have much to say about Sliney’s work because it tends to be so completely what I want and expect from David’s story as art that it doesn’t draw attention to itself. This not an insult, or a bad thing, or anything like that–it’s actually really great art, in the way that the core Valiant titles make me really happy art-wise. Character-filled renderings that mostly just do that–render.

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #15

With only two issues to go after this one (let’s not talk about New Warriors either, okay? *sniff*), Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber don’t seem to be “aware” of that in this issue, though I like to think the “carefully hidden” gestures of everyone on the cover are aimed at whoever is responsible.

The issue reads exactly like I’d expect the follow-up to 14 to read, regardless of cancellation, which is a good thing: Shocker is upset that everyone thinks he’s a complete doofus for being loyal, which has finally upset him thoroughly. For moments, everyone seems reasonable, then reveals exactly why they suck as a team, and suck as people, to hilarious effect.

Silvermane has apparently not thought much past his encouragement of Shocker, and finds himself a football in more than just general appearance (he’s a disembodied head, you know). The set-up for the next two issues is absolutely glorious, as is Fred Myers’s continued dickery as clumsy manipulator of his entire five Sinister Six members (don’t ask).

Lieber’s light touch on the pencils continues to be a wonderful match for Spencer’s writing and the books comedic tone. When things are awful, we feel the right sympathy for the characters, without getting so involved that we don’t laugh when they turn out to be exactly the assholes they’ve always been, who mostly wouldn’t know teamwork if it bit them in the ass (unless it bears a stunning resemblance to “double-cross” and has a label on it).


Miracleman #10

Lastly but most definitely not leastly, Alan Moore’s now uncredited (at his behest–his proceeds are going to Marvel/Miracleman creator Mick Anglo’s estate)  run on Miracleman continues in its reprints. We’ve only got one issue of Warrior included this time, with practically the entire issue shown in the “behind the scenes section” with both original Veitch pencils and Ridgeway/Veitch inked pencils.

Johnny continues his internal fight with Kid Miracleman, while our mysterious investigators pursue the “Cuckoos” (a term which makes sense, given what we now know of where the Miracleman Family powers come from and go), and Liz Moran begins to struggle with the voracious appetites of her young daughter, requesting an appearance of Mike from Miracleman, who agrees and brings him forth.

This series is forever a jaw-dropping reminder that Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing was his second turn at re-envisioning a character from the ground up, with modern sensibilities and a completely different eye toward original adventures. Veitch, Ridgeway, Davis, and everyone who contributed art never falters in delivering the dark, yet somehow still un-bleak view that Moore applies to a previously light and fun character.

It’s worth noting that there are some weird parallels here with Tom DeFalco and Mike Manley’s Darkhawk: Moore’s new source of Miracleman power is very similar to that which young Chris Powell experiences in Danny Fingeroth’s original 90s series, though it was later retconned into an imagining via the War of Kings: Darkhawk miniseries (and everything that followed it). Moore’s seems to respect the characters as they originally existed and work everything from the prior storylines–even storylines that are very patently mired in Golden Age simplicity–into his new version. In contrast, the re-writing of Darkhawk utterly invalidated an in-continuity origin “because”. It was certainly not respectful of those initial stories, and neglected to work with them in any way when it tore them out.

This is what makes Moore’s so fascinating: Micky Moran, Dicky Dauntless, and Johnny Bates are still themselves, even as their memories are something entirely other than what they thought. He takes and molds those older stories and turns them into something else without losing them, viewing them through a new lens and building on them. It makes me wish–just a bit–that we could’ve seen the “original” Watchmen, to have those old Blue Beetle and Question characters shifted into their new roles. Ah, well. What we’ve gained in that editorial mandate was worth it–so it’s a curious thought, but the reality is all good.

Today’s quote, in keeping with my new media-relevant patterning, is actually derived from the issue of All-New Doop above. Former X-Statix member Tike Alicar (Anarchist) is asked by U-Go Girl to describe the laughter he claims to have heard, and that was his answer.

¹As an incurable habit, upon reading some of the middling reviews of this book, I saw some really, really stupid ones. The pacing isn’t slow, Mirage isn’t boring and uninteresting [I realize this is subjective, but there’s a character there, at the least, with facets and edges not seen entirely ad nauseum], and most definitely the pages are not unnecessarily crammed with exposition, unless, of course, one prefers to have only dialogue that avoids any exposition whatsoever. Such reviews read like folk who have only touched the modern era, and largely things that hinge on the rapid-reads that are decried by plenty of the old-timers–which apparently includes me. Alas.