“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.

“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.

“THIS Is Because I’m Not a Cop. Now, If You’re Real Quiet, I’ll Call One, and Tell Him Where to Find You…”

A few lingering titles, a few continuing titles, and some bumped off the list, but here’s my planned back-issue reading for the week:

I’m still reading the Giffen/DeMatteis run of Justice Leage [_____], but I’ve passed their first cross-over (“The Teasdale Imperative”), so I guess that’s some achievement or other. The two books are shaping up nicely with independent voices, though DeMatteis has, by “now”, left Europe in the hands of Bill Messner-Loebs (who I know best as scripting cohort of Sam Kieth for The Maxx). All the unpleasantness that Giffen’s own Ambush Bug mocked in Ambush Bug: Year None makes this a very weird read–knowing what was done with Lord and Sue Dibny in particular (though I utterly ignore the latter, as fuck Identity Crisis¹). At least semi-shoehorned, that.

That’s a semi-arbitrary issue of X-Factor, except that it is the last issue before the X-Men reformed, X-Men started, and X-Factor became Peter David’s first run, the one without any of the original X-Men who were the book’s reason for being, previously. I’m trying to reasonably lead in to it, but stopped setting issues down over editorial notes when I realized I don’t have Uncanny X-Men #274 (which apparently involved at least Guido). Started this this morning, as the sheer volume of X-Factor books I have is absurd. Almost their own box, unique amongst the x-books in that respect for my collection.

That’s the next issue of Green Arrow on my agenda. I’ve got The Longbow Hunters and the first six issues down already, and it’s shaping up quite nicely. I buy a lot of this stuff semi-blind–reputation, character involvement, or some other not-necessarily-meaningful aspect (writers, too, of course) will draw me in, and I start collecting it just to have enough to really read it over. Not necessarily the smartest approach, but it’s my own.

I never got around to Spectacular at all, but I keep circling it. I imagine I’ll get down to it this week for real.

Hellstorm, Prince of Lies is a book that, by all rights, should’ve been included in the whole “Midnight Sons” grouping/imprint, but wasn’t. It’s another reboot of a weird, occult 70s character (Daimon Hellstrom, Son of Satan²). I’ve been meaning to read it (thanks to, well, my love of the Midnight Sons books) but never got around to it. I haven’t quite got the entire run (a measly 17 books) but the first 10 issues seems like a reasonable start.

Ah, yes. I’ve read the 1990 miniseries Deathlok which introduces the Deathlok of the 90s–Michael Collins (no relation)–but this was his ongoing. I’m literally missing one issues (#33), which is a far cry less than Darkhawk which I picked up for similar reasons and read the first 30 issues of already. They’re just those characters that were kind of bubbling off in the vein of Ghost Rider and Punisher and everyone else “extreme”, without ever breaking through. Sheer curiosity, honestly.

And, to break up all the Big Two love, here’s Jhonen Vasquez’s Squee!. Only a four-issue miniseries, Squee himself was initially a sort of backup feature in Vasquez’s Johnny the Homicidal Maniac–another 90s thing, that weird “I’m going to write about an indie book about a psychopathic murderer who may or may not be supernaturally motivated” (see also: Evil Ernie) thing. This was the only Squee-featuring book, and I couldn’t resist getting all four issues easily as I did.

My intention is to move myself toward more varied coverage of my pop culture loves, as the slowly increasing number of “About” pages on the left increases. Movies are probably next–probably my most well-received approach to review–with music to follow, if I can figure out how to do all this and not find myself hating any of the three things I love the most (music, movies, and comic books). Games are, have been, and will be a more random thing, simply because, well, that’s how I do it.

Until next time…!

This also means I’m going to start shifting my quote/title approach. This actually comes from Green Arrow #6, the last issue of the series I’ve read so far. Ollie’s got a smart-ass gang-related kid suspected of being responsible for a series of gay-bashings who thinks that telling a vigilante he has “rights” will somehow allow him to be silent about the gang’s reason for doing this. The lead-up might be even better: If you’d been paying attention, you might have noticed I’m not playing by the rules, asshole.”

¹Seriously, fuck that book. Brad Meltzer is an asshole.

²Apparently, DeMatteis has said, of his writing the character for The Defenders: “[Daimon] was absolutely my favorite character. Characters like Son of Satan are a wonderful metaphor for what we all contain, good and evil, high and low aspirations. He’s literally the son of the Devil, trying not to be what his father is. For a writer like me, how can you not feast on that?” Oooh!