Back again with more comic talk. Since classes begin next week, this may be the last regular update for a while. I'll try to keep posting but we'll see. So I'll just talk about a bunch of books and junk.
First up, and maybe most "noteworthy" is Part 6 of DC's "Trinity War" event that takes place in Justice League #23. Geoff Johns wraps this up (and I use that word lightly) by directly paving the way for the event that DC really gives half a shit about, "Forever Evil", which will take place in the 7-part limited series named the same. The various heroes of Earth have been fighting over Pandora's Box because of how it can seal all of mankind's sins back into it. Turns out that the Secret Society of Super Villains wants them to open it back up. The Outsider, the leader of the Secret Society, is a being from a parallel Earth and Pandora's Box is actually a gateway to it. The "Trinity" in the title is actually referring to Earth-3, the very same Earth that The Outsider is from (so they explain almost verbatim in the issue, still kind of a jump). And the box opens, and a portal is created. Who should step out of the portal? Why, none other than the rulers of Earth-3, the Crime Syndicate; alternate, evil versions of the Justice League. I guess the final splash page was supposed to be a shocker, but with DC's intended audience of 45 year olds (that is what they actually said), they already read solicits for future books and could have guessed this. Nothing is a surprise. I'm just glad this is done so the actual event can begin, and it still doesn't seem like an event so much as just "the next thing". Geoff Johns already did something similar in his Green Lantern books; his "event" called "Rise of the Third Army" wasn't so much an event as it was a collection of GL stories where "oh shit look out Third Army for no reason" and it was just a prologue to the actual event called "Wrath of the First Lantern" which wasn't all that much better.
On to something better. Marvel released issue 10 of Captain America, written by Rick Remender and penciled by John Romita Jr. This is the end of Remender's 10-part opening arc "Escape From Dimension Z", a sci-fi romp where classic Cap villain Arnim Zola captures Steve Rogers and imprisons him in his alternate dimension inhabited by mutated beasts. Steve is trapped in this world for a decade (but only a few hours or so in our time back on Marvel Earth). In this adventure, Steve tries to survive in a hostile alien world while being hunted by Zola's soldiers, robots, and mutates. He befriends a village of mutates that have been oppressed by Zola's rule, he has adopted Zola's test tube baby and named him Ian, he has fought so very long in this new world all while holding on to hope that he will make it out or at least see the next day alive with his new "son" Ian. This is a fantastic story by Remender, and a stark contrast to Ed Brubaker's long but also fantastic run on the character that focused more on his soldier background and gave him a sort of super-spy feel at times. Romita Jr., artist of Kick-Ass, among other books, does good work here illustrating an alien world with some Jack Kirby influences. Remender recently wrote Uncanny X-Force, an excellent run on a black-ops team of mutants. His stories span multiple arcs and show deep connections without getting too obtuse. So with the end of this first arc, Steve has been scarred and has suffered many setbacks and metaphorical kicks to the balls, and he is definitely a changed man. I highly recommend picking up this title because it is going to good places, and for sure be sure to read the first ten issues. It is amazing, and a heart breaker.
I recently decided to give Red Hood and the Outlaws from DC another shot. I read it when it first came out with the New52 reboot, but couldn't get behind it. But the team of formerly-deceased former-Robin Jason Todd (Red Hood), ex-Green Arrow sidekick Roy Harper (Arsenal), and self-exiled Tamaranian Princess Koriand'r (Starfire) demanded my renewed attention. The first 19 issues were written by Scott Lobdell, who was big in the 90's, and the first 12 or so issues were illustrated by Kenneth Rocafort. The initial story is about a team of outcasts that deal with evil in their own "extreme" fashion. There is a lot of background to these characters and it actually makes for an interesting story when I read it again. The first arc takes some missteps, among them being pacing issues and sudden cuts to a page of seemingly irrelevant events, but around issue 11 the story picks up. At this point the story takes the Outlaws to space to help Starfire with some of that pesky backstory. It's a pretty fun sci-fi space opera type story and Rocafort's art really lends itself well to that sort of story, with his unique designs and details along with his dynamic panel layouts (just look at the Star Wars-inspired cover he did to the right, that is pretty par for the course for the first handful of issues).
The main underlying story revolves around Jason Todd and his training after being resurrected by Batman villain Talia al Ghul. He is taken in by the other-worldly monks and warriors of the All-Caste and he is trained to fight the ancient evil of the Untitled, demonic immortals who have been trying to upset the balance of the world since its creation. It's and interesting story, but what makes this book, I think, are the interactions between the teammates. Out of the many Lobdell-penned books of the New52, I think this is his strongest. He keeps the endless dialogue he is known for to a (relative) minimum and seems to really make this a blockbuster-styled 90's book. He has written other properties that have had established changes and evolutions through the ages (such as Teen Titans), and his style doesn't always fit. He is a very 90's kind of writer, with tell-not-show exposition, flashy characters, and gritty action, and with a brand new team without established canon, it works. It's like a Michael Bay movie, leave your brain at the door and have a good time. It starts off rocky but gets pretty enjoyable, if not without a few hiccups.
Around issue 20 the book gets a new creative team. James Tynion IV writes while Julius Gopez does art duty. This is a trade-off in my opinion from the last creative team. Rocafort's art was the highlight over Lobdell's writing last time, but now it's switched. Tynion takes the characters and runs with them, streamlining dialogue a little but keeping the feel of them intact, but Gopez's art just doesn't do it for me. It's chock full of odd poses, faces with too many lines, and some Rob Liefeld-esque designs (as you can see in the panels shown, where Arsenal takes on the League of Assassins single-handedly with a literal arsenal of weaponry, with an oversized cannon with multiple barrels and questionable perspective, but I'm kind of hoping it's a tongue-in-cheek jab at Liefeld characters of the 90's). I just miss Rocafort's art. That would make this book top notch with him and Tynion making it their own. Although, like the rest of the New52, it relies too much on continuity (a lot from before the reboot, which really irks me) instead of the already established stories, further showing this whole thing isn't all that great of a "reboot".
So with that my hands are tired. So good night, internet tumbleweeds.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Friday, August 23, 2013
I like updating at least once a week and talk about comics at least the day after they come out. But things happen and I update later. Not that it matters, nobody reads this anyway. Call it an exercise in routine or whatever. This week had some good comics but nothing that REALLY fit what I wanted to review, just new issues in an existing arc or one offs. But one I will sort of talk about is Batman and Robin #23 by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason.
Also, Legend of Korra is goddamn fantastic.
You may notice the cover says, "Batman and Nightwing". That is because a few months ago, Grant Morrison killed off Damian Wayne, Bruce Wayne's son and latest Robin in the penultimate act of this Batman, Inc. story. Obviously, the main point of Batman and Robin in the New 52 DC Universe was to focus on how Bruce interacted with his son, which Tomasi and Gleason have developed amazingly. So since the events mentioned above, each further issue of B&R has focused on another Bat-Family member (for example, issue 19 was titled "Batman and Red Robin", issue 20 was "Batman and Red Hood", 21 was Batgirl, and 22 was Catwoman), and each focused on one of the five stage of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, despair, and acceptance). Issue 23 brings that to a close with "Acceptance", deftly handled by Tomasi.
After a few issues of Bruce dealing with his son's death, he is shown in the Batcave in a virtual reality simulation of the events that lead to Damian's demise (thanks to his Internet 3.0 invention from Batman, Inc.). Each time he runs the simulation he cannot keep his son from dying. Alfred and Dick Grayson (the first Robin, now Nightwing) watch his futility. Then Dick decides to jump in as a second player to see if he can help even a little.
Damian is saved and the simulation ends. Bruce begrudgingly comes to terms with his son's death ("I can live with it, but I will never accept it") after the cathartic virtual defeat of the villain responsible. That would have been a good endpoint for a pretty powerful cycle of emotions these past few issues. But Tomasi takes it further, showing us later that night when Alfred sneaks into the cave and hooks himself up to his own simulation:
With those final pages, this arc, and the whole book, in fact, solidifies itself as one of my favorite of the New 52. Tomasi and Gleason picked the story up way back before the reboot from Grant Morrison, and made it their own all the way through to now. This is one of the few consistently good DC books out there right now, and the foreshadowing of the next arc looks to be great. I am excited to see how Tomasi handles it.
Some other points:
- Justice League Dark brings us to part 5 of 6 in "Trinity War" and it seems to be dying down as fast as it picked up. I'm just waiting for it to be done. There are too many players and too many viewpoints for me to really care what happens, especially since solicitations for Forever Evil basically tell us what's going to happen anyway.
- When I first read the new issues of Green Lantern: New Guardians, I was skeptical that they'd be as interesting as they were before Geoff Johns left Green Lantern. But since Justin Jordan is writing it now (writer of Valiant's Shadowman, which I have already gushed about), I gave it a few issues to decide. I think this one and the core GL book are the two I will stay with for a while. Red Lanterns and Green Lantern Corps haven't clicked with me since their old writers left (even RL stopped being interesting around the time of the first crossover). But with NG I like how Jordan writes Kyle Rayner and I'm looking forward to seeing how he develops Relic, the new GL baddie. He definitely seems like a Jack Kirby-inspired throwback to Marvel's Galactus.
In a few weeks I will be going to Ramencon in Indiana and I am so very excited. Like, wow. Being my first convention back in 2011, this one is like the "main" convention for me. It's where it all started. But I still need to finish my Sanji costume.
Also, Legend of Korra is goddamn fantastic.
That is all.
Friday, August 16, 2013
Oh man, another event/crossover. Okay, but this one is supposed to be good! It's the first in a six-issue series that is basically the culmination of the events that Hickman has set up in the recent issues of Avengers and New Avengers. Both titles are tied together but with separate plot lines. Avengers sets the world's greatest heroes against threats that no one of them could handle alone, yadda yadda. Except in Hickman's iteration, Captain America and Iron Man aim to "go big" by picking up many new members, such as the mutants Cannonball and Sunspot, Shang Chi, the alternate universe version of Hyperion, Captain Universe, and others (full roster shown to the right). They have been dealing with the emergence of a race of "Builders" that have sent their emissaries to Mars to re-shape the Earth like gods. Builders are an ancient race that evolve races around the universe to their whims and shape events in their worlds. The Avengers have been dealing with containing their attempts to do so on Earth, first off by subduing the, for lack of a better term, leader of the process, the being named Ex Nihilo.
In New Avengers, Hickman once again assemble the Illuminati, a group of heroes formed during the Civil War event way back in 2005. With a few membership changes, this consists of Tony Stark, Black Panther, Beast, Namor, Mister Fantastic, Black Bolt, and Doctor Strange; a collection of the smartest humans and mutants, as well as the leaders of the nations of Wakanda, Atlantis, and the Inhumans. They have been dealing with rips in space/time that cause alternate realities to basically collide alternate Earths with one another. This series hasn't moved as swiftly as the core Avengers book, so the point of this plot is lost on me (or I just forgot, which is always possible).
As I said above, Infinity is supposed to be the culmination of all of this. We are shown right off the bat a race of mysterious beings traveling the galaxy slaying and enslaving worlds while talking about "tributes". These beings are shown talking to another "mysterious" master of theirs about said tributes. We then cut to a team of Avengers taking down a group of Skrulls disguised as slum dwellers on Earth. They didn't really fight back and seemed like they were scared of something more than just the Avengers knocking on their door. Sure enough, Agent Abigail Brand of the Earth-based galactic-monitoring task force S.W.O.R.D. contacts the Avengers to tell them of a Kree distress call warning of a wave of destruction Earthbound. The Builders are aiming to come and complete their mission in person it seems. With this revelation, Captain America assembles the Avengers to blast into space and take them on before they can reach the Earth.
There are spies among them. Outriders, creatures engineered to be the deadliest assassins and information thieves in the galaxy, have infiltrated the S.W.O.R.D. orbital headquarters, as well as the Inhuman city of Attilan, where one such creature steals the knowledge of Black Bolt's Illuminati ties, as well as the fact that they know of the whereabouts of the legendary Infinity Gems (classic Marvel artifacts that warp time and space when combined into the Infinity Gauntlet). These spies return to their master with a message:
Guess who! Thanos, the Mad Titan, is now aware of an undefended Earth. It seems like it is time to strike with his own army while the Avengers are elsewhere.
So that is the first issue. The event looks to deal with a galactic war on two fronts; the Avengers against the Builders, and the Earth against Thanos. There will be many tie-in issues across many Marvel books, with Avengers and New Avengers tying in more closely to the core mini-series, since all three are written by Hickman. Since it is Hickman, we can expect big things. I read his run on Fantastic Four and FF, and while they weren't so much adventure romps that the family has been known for most of the time, it focused on events that unfolded over the course of his whole run instead of between smaller arcs. Hickman writes stories with depth and breadth to match. You may not know what the story is, or what exactly is even happening right away, but you can feel the epic forming. Events are usually played out with the intended gravitas of such things, and I expect Infinity to be no different. I trust Hickman to deliver an Earth-shattering story with long-felt effects. It only feels like much since it is only two-ish months after Brian Bendis' Age of Ultron event, which was long-delayed and longer than it should have been. Hopefully, Infinity will be the event of 2013 that AoU wanted to be.
Other things. I started replaying Final Fantasy XII. For some reason I really like playing it. I think it's the gameplay. I like the freedom of your party and I am trying to give my party actual roles instead of just going to the strongest weapons and armor like the last time I played it. The story is a bag of over-played tropes, and is basically Star Wars in a fantasy realm. It is less annoying this time around though. Also, I am aiming to get the Zodiac Spear, the strongest weapon in the game, to give to my main damage dealing character Basch. I have also started a Pathfinder role-playing campaign with some of my friends. I am playing a halfling rogue named Ebon. We spent five hours making our characters (since half of us hadn't done this before, aka me), and a half hour on the actual campaign, which consisted of one of our party members setting a bush on fire to light his cigarette. That bush was hiding a group of cobolds that was our first encounter. I'm excited to get back into table top role-playing.
And my hand is getting tired from typing. So good night er'rybody.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
STAR WARS COMICS!
In a period of summer where the blogger
has gotten kinda sorta tired of the big two publishers,
he has turned his gaze elsewhere.
Taking a dive into the freshly-rebooted Valiant universe,
he has found a satisfying alternative.
However, old passions begin to stir.
Having been relatively apathetic in recent years,
a sudden reinvigorated interest arises.
Jumping back into the ever-expanding Star Wars universe,
our hero prepares for adventure from a long time ago,
in a galaxy far, far away...
Yes cheesy title crawl that kinda doesn't work but still you can't stop me. Lo and behold, I have recently re-ignited my interest in all things Star Wars. Discussing the movies with a co-worker made me wanna get back into it and all the expanded universe stuff that is a lot of "dumb but awesome at the same time". I even re-installed The Old Republic to dick around with (fem Zabrak Sith Warrior, natch). So today, instead of another DC or Marvel comic (this week didn't have much noteworthy to me, really, ymmv), I'll take a look at the new Star Wars ongoing series from Dark Horse, written by Brian Wood and penciled by Carlos D'Anda (and amazing cover work by the fantastic Alex Ross. Look at that cover! LOOK AT IT!)
This comic was launched late last year, I believe. It is meant to draw in fans of the films while also appealing to the fans who have read all kinds of expanded universe mythos, starring the original heroes Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo. It takes place right after the events of Episode IV; the Rebel Alliance has just succeeded in destroying the Empire's Death Star superweapon, and are in the process of scoping out a new planet to call their base of operations (since their base on Yavin 4 has been compromised, obviously). I have read the first six issues (of which there are 8 so far I think), which basically encompasses the first "arc" in the story ("In the Shadow of Yavin"), although it seems it will be a much longer story than what other publishers define as arcs.
The first issue opens with Luke, Leia, and fellow pilot Wedge Antilles scoping out a planet in the Dominus sector of space. However, they are immediately attacked by an Imperial garrison that just happens to drop out of hyperspace right on top of them. The action begins right off and hooks you in, and we get to see why Leia can be a badass when she wants to be. Here's a spread from the early pages:
At this point the rebels also face the hot-off-the-assembly-line TIE Interceptor fighters (like the one in the foreground above) that are more advanced than the ones they faced against the Death Star. Escaping in the nick of time the rebels return to their fleet to discuss matters with Mon Mothma, the Rebel's leader. It seems that the Imperial surprise attack could have only been caused by a traitor in the Rebel Alliance, so Mon Mothma gives Leia the go-ahead to set up a sort of black ops X-Wing squad to secretly stake out possible locations for a new Rebel base.
Throughout the first arc there are other sub-plots which hook readers as well. Han Solo is sent by Mon Mothma on a secret mission to Coruscant, the heart of the Empire, to meet with a potential Rebel sympathizer, but things go predictably awry for the smuggler. Darth Vader, recently shamed by his failure at Yavin, is re-assigned by the Emperor to oversee construction of the second Death Star, and we get to see the dynamic between Vader and his replacement on his own flagship. Also we get a possible romance between Luke and a fellow pilot named Prithi, who may have more in common with Luke than they realize.
All in all, this first arc is quite good. While it doesn't wrap up the main points in a neat little box (or at all, yet), it sets up what the comics will be about in the issues to come. So, again, I use the term "arc" loosely. Brian Wood has done some Marvel stuff I am familiar with, notably the current run on Ultimate Comics: X-Men. He accurately brings back the characters from the first film way back in the 70's and gives us more. Since the story focuses on a team of X-Wing fighter pilots, he clearly grasps the naval/techno speak that gives their dialogue meaning. Wood also has some big plans for the series as well. D'Anda's art is crisp and each character is very representative of their film counterparts (when they have them. His unique characters all have that same style to make them significant from one another, although not much of their character has come through quite yet).
What I liked most about this story is the focus on something other than Jedi and Sith and lightsaber wankfests for once. Lucas loves his Jedi, and the over saturated "Clone Wars" is what helped keep me away from Star Wars for a while. Jedi were less the stoic warrior monks from the original trilogy and started becoming more like superhero/Super Saiyan mishmashes except that EVERYBODY was one. Coming back to this is a good start. It gives something familiar and something new. That isn't to say I don't like the whole Jedi/Sith thing. I do. I just got tired of it for a bit. I plan to give Dawn of the Jedi a look, as well as re-read the Knights of the Old Republic comics.
Lastly, I am actually very excited for the upcoming 8-issue limited series The Star Wars. It is a story that is based on George Lucas' original script and vision way back before it became A New Hope. I'll probably review the first issue when it comes out.
So may the Force be with you etcetera etcetera. ;P
Friday, August 2, 2013
Late night write-up, aw yiss.
Technically, the issue I'm looking at tonight didn't come out this week, but a few weeks back. I only just decided to find it and give it a go, but since it is the first issue it still works.
Technically, the issue I'm looking at tonight didn't come out this week, but a few weeks back. I only just decided to find it and give it a go, but since it is the first issue it still works.
Tonight I look at Valiant Entertainment's Quantum and Woody, written by James Asmus and penciled by Tom Fowler. But first, a bit about Valiant. Valiant was a comics publisher in the 90's and had a nice corner of the comics market besides the big two publishers. They fell off the map once the 00's came around with some of their characters bought up by Acclaim (such as Turok: Dinosaur Hunter which turned into a pretty rad N64 game, but other properties weren't so lucky). But now they are back, with most of their characters getting a reboot. They started off their relaunch with "The Summer of Valiant 2012", where each month or so they released a new #1 issue for a handful of new ongoing series with their 90's characters. These were Harbinger, Bloodshot, X-O Manowar, and Shadowman (in no particular order), and each is written by some of the industry's top talent (such as Duane Swierczynski on Bloodshot) and each has received nearly universal praise.
Having read the first trades (each with 4-5 issues) for the four mentioned titles, I can attest to this. Each book delivers a solid hook to get people interested, as I mentioned Shadowman and X-O Manowar in previous posts. Bloodshot gives us the story of a government-controlled super soldier who begins thinking for himself and is faced with an identity crisis while messily gunning down the different players who want to control him. Think Punisher meets Captain America meets Jason Bourne, but with nanites in his blood that give him super powers and limited shape shifting. Harbinger is the sort of teenage drama you'd get from the good X-Men books, but psiots use their mental abilities to shape their reality, and instead of the mostly good guy Charles Xavier the guy gathering them is kind of an asshole (along with basically everyone else).
But on to Quantum and Woody. This is the story of Eric Henderson and his adopted brother Woody (billed as "The World's Worst Superheroes" from the get go). They were very close as kids and got into many shenanigans, as is illustrated in this first issue. But fast forward to the present day and they ain't exactly that close anymore, with Eric being ex-military and Woody being a wandering grifter and heavily-implied conman. They are once again brought together with the information that their father has passed away. But early on in the issue we are shown the elder Mr. Henderson and is it quite clear his death was no accident. It becomes clear to Eric and Woody as well, as they decide to, individually, take this into their own hands, but meet up yet again with each other.
The issue ends with them breaking into their late father's place of work, a hush-hush-looking research lab. Bumbling and bickering, they accidentally activate one of the experimental machines, with both of them waking up naked (except for mysterious golden wristbands) in a pile of rubble with the city's police department arresting them.
This is how you grab someone with the first issue. Asmus' clever writing and witty banter make this duo shine from the beginning while Fowler's characters have the slight cartoonishness that keeps this from being too serious-looking. If not from the cover illustration alone, I got a good Booster Gold and Blue Beetle vibe from these two. The first page gives us a preview of what to expect from these two while the rest of the issue is a flashback to how they got there. This looks to provide a more light-hearted story than the other Valiant titles.
Valiant seems to be playing all their cards right with this reboot. It seems like each of their books are a hit with readers, which is actually a better success rate than DC or Marvel. DC's New52 reboot was largely, in my opinion, a failure. They managed to condense some titles down and reboot a large amount of their continuity but they are falling into exactly the kind of thing they were doing before it. There are a lot of rushed crossovers and bad writing decisions by editorial that prevent a lot of their better writers from getting the stories that they want to write done. Granted, where DC succeeds they succeed well, such as Animal Man, Batman, among others. But when HALF of their titles they launched two years ago are cancelled and they pump out other titles to keep them at 52 books the quality is very low. Marvel on the other hand didn't reboot their books but instead launched a bunch of #1s under the "Marvel NOW!" banner, which basically started a new era in the Marvel universe after the "Avengers vs. X-Men" event. They released new #1s at the pace of a few each month instead of DC doing all 52 new titles in one month. This gave readers a slower transition and, I think, had a much higher rate of success. Most Marvel NOW! books have gotten praise from critics, with a few duds like Thunderbolts here and there. So they had a better plan of attack, but to be fair, DC did a COMPLETE reboot of continuity whereas Marvel just relaunched their characters in a new status quo.
But Valiant, although on a much smaller scale, has shown how to do a reboot right. One new book each month, each #1 setting up an old 90's character in a totally new light for new readers with top talent, each title receiving large amounts of praise. I have never read any of Valiant's old stuff. Ever. But with the few issues of the reboot I have read I feel like I've know these characters for as long as I've been reading comics. Maybe I'll pick up some of their older stories and compare their new versions to the old.
Good night/good early early morning everyone.