“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.

Why?

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.

“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!