Transformers: Regeneration One #83
Loose Ends Part 3
Writer: Simon Furman
Artists: Andrew Wildman, Stephen Baskerville
I’m not going to make it a habit to talk about mid-story arcs comics if I can help it… But this comic deserves the attention.
Transformers: Regeneration One is a continuation of the Marvel Comics series that ran from 1984 – 1991. What’s great about Regeneration One: While it is a continuation of the aforementioned series, you don’t need to know it all to jump on board. Three issues in and I’m really surprised at how well this comic holds its’ own. Yeah, there are a few large gaps to fill-in between the 21 year (story time) gap between series, but they are brief and the action keeps things moving.
So what’s the story? While it doesn’t mirror the original cartoon, it is heavily based on it. The last great battle was won in the war against the Autobots and the Decepticons. In the last 21 years, Cybertron is now a unified society with Optimus Prime as the man in charge. But there are still those ex-Cons unwilling to let the peace last. Optimus Prime struggles with how to deal with it– while other Autobots decide they can’t wait around… Leaving Cybertron to track down and eliminate any Deceptions still active.
When they arrive on Earth, they find Megatron has obliterated the planet and has lobotomized all other Decepticons except Starscream– to whom he does something a little more cruel. Ratchet feels Megatron’s sadistic side too. We also discover there is a small pocket of humanity still alive after Megatron used the world’s nuclear arsenal to attack them. And we have the introduction of a Spike Witwicky that is kick ass… Even if the Human-Autobot Alliance is not as strong as it once was.
This particular issue shows what happened to Earth and humanity, and sets up the action as the Deceptions stage various attacks against the Autobots. The great thing about the Marvel Transformers series– especially the section written by Simon Furman– was despite as much action as there was… There was also deep characterization for all these characters– and harrowing depictions of all the struggles associated with the long, protracted war.
In the new series, we see how the characters deal with the struggles of peace– and the lurking presence of their former enemies. The writing is just as strong as it was in the Marvel run– even approaching the excellence of Scott Snyder’s Batman. The art is also updated enough to not feel like reprints of the Marvel series… Yet the style is close enough that if you read the Marvel series and then these books– it will feel like the issues came out back-to-back.
If you are a person that loved (or still loves) Transformers– Pick up this comic. If you are a person that demands quality writing– Pick up this comic. If you are a person that enjoys kick ass Bad Guys and Good Guys who struggle and see the gray areas in life– Pick up this comic. - W.D. Prescott
Green Arrow #0
Make it Right
Writer: Judd Winick
Artists: Freddie Williams III & Rob Hunter
I’m just going to come right out and say it: DC’s New 52 really confuses me. I mean, I know what it is supposed to be… I certainly understood the concept on paper… I’m just wondering if any of the plans ever end up to be even close to what DC tried to sell us.
At this point it would be easy to say, “Hey Ian, it would all make sense if you would just catch up on all the books!” But I don’t think so… And these New 52 #0 Issues are a perfect example. After discussing these #0 comics with several people, I thought they were supposed to be some sort of origin issues– since many of the New 52 books plopped you down in the middle of this “new” DC Universe from Issue #1. But then, when I actually read the synopses supplied by DC for the actual comics, I’m not getting that vibe.
For example, Action Comics #0:
Grant Morrison weaves the history of Clark Kent’s early days in Metropolis with the tale of “The Boy Who Stole Superman’s Cape!”
Or Green Lantern #0:
Prologue to “The Third Army!” Be here for the introduction and origin of a brand-new and surprising Green Lantern! Plus, what is the fate of Hal Jordan and Sinestro?
Animal Man #0, at least, seems to be getting somewhat into the spirit of things:
Prelude to the upcoming “Rotworld” crossover event! What is the secret history of Animal Man? Discover the answers here, and how exactly Buddy Baker received his powers!
But the problem (for me at least)– I didn’t read any of those books. I read Green Arrow #0.
And no matter how you slice, dice and marinate it, I cannot stand how DC has de-aged Green Arrow. This Zero Issue only exacerbates my negative feelings– as the comic showcases Oliver Queen as a rich, spoiled 19-year-old. (“Great idea! Let’s make him even younger!”, I can just hear some DC Idiot exclaim.)
Okay, my official protest is noted. Now add my name to the list of thousands of other fans who feel the same way.
Green Arrow #0 gives us an Oliver Queen who’s already screwed up four jobs– all bestowed upon him by his wealthy Dad. Things have gotten so “bad” for Ollie, he’s been sent to an oil rig to handle “clerical duties”. Sweet, responsible kid that he is, Oliver’s decided this further act of kindness will not go unpunished… So instead of knuckling down, doing his job and attempting to show he has some worth– he’s down below practicing archery (poorly) and flying his friends in on Queen Industries corporate helicopters so they can have a rave.
Of course, this opens the door for some oil pirate (WTF?) named Iron Eagle (and his minions– bad guy’s gotta have minions) to hijack a ‘copter, blow up half the rig, arm the remaining sections of the platform with explosives (including several ravers and Ollie’s girlfriend) and start siphoning off the oil from the rig.
Siphoning oil off a working rig? Can you even do that? Apparently a cheap caucasian version of Cyborg/War Machine and his minions (don’t forget the minions) can… In just a few minutes. Not 30 minutes or 60… They can accomplish all these nefarious activities in just a few.
Faced with all this mayhem, what does previous party boy, piss-poor archer Oliver Queen decide to do? Go shoot the detonator out of Iron Eagle’s hand! Of course, hot head Ollie’s never heard of a dead man switch (explosives go BOOM! when the trigger is released)… So when Ollie makes that one-in-a-million shot (even though he couldn’t hit the broad side of a Brahma Bull from two feet ten minutes ago)– the rig goes WHOOOM (their sound effect, not mine) and virtually everything and everyone is obliterated.
Ollie then ends up on a deserted island, alone. He sits around in two panels (must be sulking about blowing his foxy girlfriend to bits) and then gets up and holds a stick in his hand– while the caption “As The Months Go By…” hangs lazily above his overly determined face.
That’s it! All on one page! The entire back story of how Oliver Queen became Green Arrow in a few wordless panels (except that last one).
Then the story cuts to 12 months later and a MUCH OLDER LOOKING (way more than 12 months), more muscular Queen is bailing a young pickpocket named Roy Harper out of jail… And, in one page, basically demands that Roy join his “mission”. Then we get a full-page splash of Ollie in his Green Arrow garb, about to shoot an arrow.
As much as I love Judd Winick’s writing (and I do), this comic was shit. There was little or no story. Despite the carnage, no real range of emotion. I don’t pretend to know why Winick left DC (though I do know the publisher is poorer for it– as he was vastly underrated scripter when given free rein to ply his trade properly)… I do know if this is the type of story he was being forced to tell– then he should have left. There’s no creativity here. Just bullshit. To make matters even more farcical, DC added an advertisement at the end of the Comixology download, filled with older Green Arrow trades– many of which are actually really, really good. Irony of Ironies– there’s even a volume from Judd Winick & Phil Hester– when DC allowed the talented comic writer to create great stories about an older Oliver Queen.
Since I’ve been so harsh about the story, allow to me at least say Freddie Williams III art was cool, sometimes dramatic and very dynamic in many spots. The coloring by Richard & Tanya Horie really caused Williams’ art to pop off my iPad.
Still, I thought the whole point of the New 52 was to refresh these characters. Do something different. Go in new directions. I don’t see it. Turning Oliver Queen into a 20-year-old rich douchebag is nothing novel… And anybody who attempts to tell you otherwise is either creatively bankrupt, an idiot or a liar. Oliver Queen has always been a douchebag– making him a younger douchebag means nothing.
Big Fucking Deal, DC. - Ian MacMillan
Thief of Thieves #8
Story: Robert Kirkman
Writer: James Asmus
Artist: Shawn Martinbrough
I was about to drop this series. No joke.
The story started out very cliché, with all the standard tropes of an average heist story: The Players, The Money, The Law– and even featured the worn out twist of a main character who just has to pull off one more gig (Conrad). But Nick Spencer wrote the dialogue for the first arc, and it was fast-paced and hip enough to keep me on board.
Then issues #6 and #7 were outstanding. The story twists were original and I actually cared about the characters. I even cared about the outcome of the situation. Then I read the letters page, where it was announced #7 was Spencer’s last issue. The specter of a new writer made me fairly nervous; I really liked Spencer’s contribution to the comic… And after almost dropping the book, then loving the book, I was afraid of change.
To my delight, James Asmus jumped in and nailed the voices. Thankfully, he also brought enough change to emphasize his own style.
Also a plus– the Thief of Thieves artist is not new. Shawn Martinbrough’s work is very clean and strong, and continues to get better with each issue. This particular story finds the dust settling from the last heist, but all is not OK. The characters must still pay prices for their actions and Conrad’s son is in major trouble… Owing lots of money as he tries to escape town. The last page leaves us wanting more– something series creator Robert Kirkman always excels at.
Although there may be terrible things waiting down the line for Conrad’s son, I think this issue was by far the funniest of them all. Asmus was truly able to tell a serious story– while also making me laugh. There is this great scene between Conrad and a hot naked co-worker in his kitchen– where she’s slowly eating a banana… And Conrad acts as if he couldn’t give two shits. The contradiction of reality and comedy really make this issue enjoyable.
Seems I worried for no reason. Thief of Thieves has gone from being the book I almost dropped, to the one that has me itching for the next issue. - Tom Devine
Amazing Spider-Man #692 & #693
Alpha Part 1: Point of Origin
Alpha Part 2: That Something Special
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Huberto Ramos, Victor Olazamba
I’ve come to the terms with the fact that the Spider-Man featured in today’s Marvel comics is not the Spider-Man I grew up with. My Spider-Man ceased to exist during the One More Day storyline. I am not going to continue to beat that dead horse with this review because… You know what? This Spider-Man is SOMEONE’S Spider-Man. Even then, I can’t help but feel a little sad for those fans.
The last issues of Amazing Spider-Man I read dealt with the Spider Island fiasco. It was an event that certainly didn’t need to exist– but Marvel suckered a lot of people into believing it was in order to sell them on a whole line of mini-series that also didn’t need to exist. (Sorry about that, Spider Island is still a bit of a sore spot for me.)
After reading those stories in Amazing, I felt the need to take a break from the Spider-Mess. So, ya, it’s been a while since I read the misadventures of the Web-Head… But the more things change, the more they stay the same. Actually, strike that. When it comes to the Amazing Spider-Man comic– NOTHING has changed in the intervening months, therefore almost everything remains the same. I say “almost everything” because Mary Jane Watson
-Parker now owns a night club. She didn’t last time I read the title, so…
For the purposes of this review, I’ll only be sticking with the Alpha portion of ASM #692. I do not have the time or the energy to get into the rest of the issue and its fucking ridiculous $5.99 price tag. Seriously, critiquing this will be more than enough.
Just like last week’s Justice League #12, we have a story hyped to the Nth Degree. Spidey gets a sidekick named Alpha and um… That’s pretty much it.
I mean, I guess there are other things I’ll get into. But what’s the point of hyping this book again? I ask because I seriously can’t find a good reason why. Back when Marvel’s hype machine was in full swing over this development– when I and a few other people heard that Peter Parker was getting a sidekick– the first thing we thought was, “Wasn’t the whole reason behind One More Day to get rid of that awful, intrusive marriage (because no good stories can be told with a married Peter Parker) AND to de-age the character? So wouldn’t giving Spider-Man a sidekick now make Pete seem much older?”
Well, I can safely say all those worries were for naught. Dan Slott’s Peter Parker in no way, shape or form seems older– or wiser, for that matter. Pete’s still the same childish, self-centered prick that Amazing Spider-Man readers have come to love and loath… But wait, I really am getting ahead of myself. I should really begin by telling you about the other childish, self-centered prick that now also stars in this comic: Andy Maguire– aka Alpha. Yes, Andy Maguire… As in Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire. Subtle as concrete block across the face, ain’t it? But as far as this story goes– this new character’s ridiculous, derivative name is pretty much par for the course… Since nothing in this storyline is subtle.
So we meet high school student Andy Maguire. He lives at home with his parents– who don’t pay any attention to him, goes to a school where his teachers don’t care too much for him… And the students act as if he doesn’t exist. Andy Maguire isn’t a loser or a nerd, he just is… And somehow I guess that’s supposed to be a bad thing. I don’t know about you, but that description sounds like the majority of people I went to high school with. And why should we feel bad for Andy? Because Slott tells us to. Yes, very subtle. This is one of the big problems I have with the story: Slott constantly tells us HOW things are– but spends NO TIME telling us WHY things are the way they are.
And here come the parallels: Maguire is a student at Midtown High School– just like Peter Parker was. Andy has trouble talking to girls– just like Peter Parker did. Today he’s taking a field trip with his class to a science lab– just like the one Peter Parker was on when readers first met him. There is an accident at the lab that gives Maguire powers– just like what happened to Peter Parker… And once the kid gets these new powers, he acts like he’s superior to everyone else and picks on someone he once felt bullied by– just like Peter Parker did.
There’s even a point in the comic where, while sewing a costume for Alpha, Peter mutters, “Deja Vu”… Which then made me mutter, “No fucking shit.” Again, no subtlety in drawing exact parallels between the two characters. In essence, Andy Maguire’s Alpha has the same damn origin as Peter Parker’s Spider-man.
At this point I thought, “Well, now that the writer has shown us how incredibly similar these two are, he’s going to show us how different they are.” Surprise, surprise– I was totally correct. This is such a tired, unoriginal writing technique– surely what follows next will be new and exciting– right? You know, as a way for Slott to turn said technique on its’ ear. Sadly for all, this was not the case.
In fact, this is what we got for the rest of the 2 issues:
- The main difference between Parker and Maguire? Maguire doesn’t have an Uncle Ben, an Aunt May or a Mary Jane in his life. Not having a moral compass to keep his ego in check is the reason given why Alpha is such a dick. Predictable.
- Mr. Fantastic wants Pete to take on Alpha as a sidekick. Pete whines about not wanting to.
- Pete then whines to MJ about how Alpha is such a jerk.
- Spider-Man tells unfunny joke after unfunny joke. Actually, every character who appears in this story can’t tell a funny joke to save their lives. Warning: If you’re a fan of Dane Cook you make think otherwise.
- Pete lies, telling Alpha he can join the Avengers if he behaves.
- Alpha tells Spidey at one point “Gotta go. Places to see. People to do.” That’s some truly classy comic writing right there. Slott is doing all the writers who came before him proud.
- Alpha is so powerful that the press tells everyone that Spider-Man is Alpha’s sidekick. High-larious.
Hold on! I’ve saved the “best” for last:
- The BIG BAD in this story is… Wait for it… The Jackal… Who was the exact same big bad in the last Amazing Spider-Man comic I read. And you know why the Jackal kidnaps Alpha in the second part of the story? To make CLONES of him… Which he does! What a groundbreaking idea.
After describing all this shit, I know now saying there were two things I liked about this story may sound implausible or even disingenuous… But the two things I did like also happen to be the same two things I liked about Spider Island. The first was the art by Humberto Ramos. I know Ramos is a somewhat polarizing artist but I’ve always been a big fan of his. His art made this horribly written and conceived comic a lot easier to bear.
I also enjoyed Mary Jane Watson. She still continues to be the best character in this series (despite how many times Marvel has attempted to screw her over)… And I think it’s because she embodies everything that Peter Parker/Spider-Man should be. When Mary Jane and Pete have conversations, she is the one who needs to point out certain truths to Pete. Of course, this has a lot to do with the way Peter has been written for the last few years. He is such a unlikeable, selfish ass… It seems he no longer has the ability to see anything beyond his own insular point of view. Mary Jane now serves this purpose for him.
I’m going to be honest with you here: This story could have easily been told while Pete and MJ were married. The way they interact here is the same way they related to each other when they were a couple. It again shows how wrong and ridiculous the editorial mandate to break up the marriage turned out to be.
If you are new to Spider-Man and are not at all familiar with the 50 years of this character’s continuity, you may very well like this book. For most of us who grew up with Spidey before One More Day, this story reinforces the fact that The Amazing Spider-Man is still a comic that stars a title character that’s very unfamiliar to us. - Jose Melendez
The Phantom Stranger #0
A Stranger Among Us
Writer: Dan Didio
Artists: Brent Anderson, Scott Hanna
With the coming of the Trinity War, I was interested to see how DC planned to set it up in this first issue of The Phantom Stranger. I have to be honest, I really don’t know much about the character pre-New 52, but I’m always willing to give occult/magic/supernatural characters a glance. A part of me wishes I didn’t. It’s not bad… But it’s not good either.
There are two stories going on here. The first is the origin of The Phantom Stranger. I don’t think the following qualifies as a spoiler (as it was already mentioned in the Free Comic Book Day issue from DC) but The Phantom Stranger is Judas. Now, don’t ask me why the Wizards that created Shazam are supposed to pass judgment on Judas, because I’m just as flabbergasted. I’m also puzzled why Dan Didio felt the need to give a defined origin to someone with the word “Phantom” in part of his name.
Basically, all the Stranger does is watch events during this whole issue– so it makes him very boring. He does help in the creation of The Spectre… So there’s that. Not much new here, just a new way for Jim Corrigan to die and become the The Spectre. In fact, I think this comic would have been more interesting if it was called The Spectre #0– and The Phantom Stranger just happened to pop in.
There is also a “voice” that seems to be controlling things. We’re never told if it is the Wizards– or God as the Phantom Stranger thinks. My opinion: This is the way DC will introduce Doctor Fate during The Trinity War… Mainly since there are references to destiny and fate throughout this book.
The art was kinda lackluster, but it did remind me of some old Doctor Strange comics. If that was purposeful, it was a great move– since The Phantom Stranger is kind of a vague spin-off of Doctor Strange anyway… At least this New 52 version is.
If not, this is just a really mediocre comic with a less than enthralling story.
- W.D. Prescott
The First X-Men #1 & #2
Children of the Atom
Writers: Neal Adams & Christos Gage
Artist: Neal Adams
A clarification before I begin: I have known Neal Adams most of my adult life– having been fortunate to meet him when I was 22… And I have always admired his continued efforts to help the less fortunate creators in the comic book industry. (For those who may not know, Neal was instrumental in having DC Comics further recognize Superman creators Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster– and even got the publisher to significantly increase the yearly stipend paid to the duo back in the 80s).
Of course, I have always loved Adams’ art. I know very few fans who don’t admire it– at least on some level.
My problem with Neal– and it’s really the only problem I have ever had– is the quality of his comic book scripts. Neal tends to write a lot like he draws his line art– with bombast and energy in every syllable. While this is fine for action sequences, it leaves little room for character development and a heightened sense of drama. When you read a book written by Neal Adams, you almost get the impression he can’t be bothered with all that “pansy” character stuff. He’d rather let his ART do the talking.
Hey, I’ll drink to that. I have always considered comics to be a VISUAL medium first and foremost. When people buy these four color fantasies, they aren’t paying to read a novel… They are paying for a visual thrill. A wordy comic writer is the worst to me. Get in and get out… Let the artists do their jobs. Only step in with more words when you ABSOLUTELY have to. It doesn’t take a genius to know comic book readers don’t like their pretty art covered up with lots of word balloons.
As one the industry’s premiere artists for decades, I am sure Neal understands this– but I often think he takes it too far in the OTHER direction… Which can make reading his authored comics seem like rather empty, pop art experiences with little emotional gravitas.
This is where Christos Gage comes into the equation. I don’t know how they did it, but somehow, someone at Marvel convinced Neal Adams to work with a CO-AUTHOR. And I gotta say, it makes all the difference in The First X-Men #1 & #2. The stories are still filled with tons of action, but Gage’s involvement raises this comic above the average Adams Knucklefest.
I’ve admired Gage’s work as much as Jose has– and for just as long. (See Jose wax rhapsodic over Christos’ work in this Angel & Faith review.) I’ve surprisingly even read a few comics J. hasn’t (Gage’s fantastic Absolution– one of the best Avatar Press books ever published). While reading the first two issues of this X-men mini, I could literally see Christos reigning Neal in a little– slowing things down just enough to allow for a some back story and character interaction in-between all the head smacking and fist slamming.
I don’t know for certain (of course), but I’m guessing Gage JUMPED at the chance to work with Adams. (I know I would!) Christos is a comic fan turned pro– and he always strikes me as being very reverential to those who have come before– and the different works and honors they’ve amassed. Given all that, it still should come as no surprise the “Adams Gene” is still very strong in The First X-Men.
Which means we have a comic that has definitely been developed and written by both men. What we get is a Christos Gage story that’s not as precise or full of lush character moments– and a Neal Adams script that is still entertaining, while containing more coherent dialogue and actual reasons for action sequences.
Sadly, the title of this comic also sounds its’ ultimate downfall– despite the efforts of the creators. This is yet another story set in the vast wasteland that is the X-men’s past… Showing what looks/purports to be FIRST MEETINGS between Wolverine, Sabretooth and Charles Xavier (prior to becoming Professor X) and Eric Lensherr (before he was officially Magneto). Really? Is this really the first time these characters actually meet in the Marvel Universe? Or is it just one of the half million other stories that profess to show their “first meetings”– but never seem to stay canon for long?
Oddly (at least given the stories I’ve read about Wolverine’s early days), Logan is portrayed here as a coherent– yet ne’er do well– mutant with a sudden growing concern for others of his kind… All of whom are being tracked down by yet another shadowy government agency. I’m guessing the seeds of this story grew from Wolverine’s current stint as a mentor to young X-men (in Wolverine and the X-Men). If so, the basic premise of First X-Men feels mightily shoe-horned and squeezed to fit in with the current comic… Taking MAJOR liberties with the (ever-changing) X-men back story… Even going so far as to intimate WOLVERINE had the idea to form the first X-Men group. Apparently, Logan was also the first mutant to come up with the idea to aid emerging mutant kids who were being persecuted by a fearful society.
WTF?!? Wolverine STARTED the X-Men??? While Xavier was still a student at Oxford and unwilling to admit to his own mutant mental abilities?!? Maybe this is the story now– I lost count of “Who’s Who?”, “Who Did What?” in the X-Men books long ago… But I’ve read every X-Men Trade and Hardcover Marvel has released in the last ten years, and I don’t remember anybody ever mentioning any of this before.
It’s this bit of continuity absurdity that screams for the grade I give this comic. I enjoyed the art tremendously and even liked major parts of the script– but I see NO REASON why this story had to include Xavier and Lensherr to be relevant or entertaining. Plopping them into this mini-series stretched the bounds of credulity way too far for me.
If you’re not too demanding in the continuity department, love Neal Adams’ art and understand Christos Gage is only a CO-writer here… I see no reason not to enjoy this comic… If only for the purty pictures. But I would seriously wait to buy it as a trade. (Be aware, however, it is only a 4 issue mini-series– so whatever trade Marvel releases will be stuffed with extra stories that may have little or no relation to the story I am reviewing… Or even worse, be filled with tons of wiki-padding.)
For scoring purposes, I would give the script 3 Stars (for fun, while also overlooking my continuity gripes). The art gets an easy 4 Stars… But because I CAN’T in good conscience overlook the whole Xavier/Magneto debacle, my overall rating won’t reflect these higher individual scores. - Ian MacMillan
Sweet Tooth #37
Wild Game (2 of 4)
Writer/Artist: Jeff Lemire
Sweet Tooth has been Vertigo’s under-the-radar book for quite some time, selling just enough not to get cancelled. This is sort of understandable, as many of the past issues don’t carry a lot of weight– and it can take a while for things to happen in the story arcs. But now that we’re near the end, things are heating up very quickly. Author/Artist Jeff Lemire has teased us about what caused this odd world– where a disease killed off most of the human race… And hybrids of animals and humans seem to be the only ones safe. Long-time readers have learned it all has something to do with an ancient Eskimo legend, a hidden science lab, and Sweet Tooth– a young, innocent boy who is also part deer.
The comic carries a very eerie and strong somber feeling, so it’s fun to see this story open with a massive punch– directly to Singh’s face from Jeppard’s left hook. Old man Jeppard is a retired hockey goon, and the main character looking after Sweet Tooth. He’s met up with another old hockey goon– and together they are protecting a group of hybrid kids from a crazy band of killers and mad scientist. These nuts want to capture the children and experiment on them to find out how to survive the disease. This issue features Jeppard and his partner getting ready to make a stand so the hybrid kids can escape.
Being able to be read a book every month for years– and still have all the story lines come together in such a perfect way– is something I don’t experience often… Yet Lemire pulls it off with this issue… Balancing the tension of the upcoming standoff with the emotions of Sweet Tooth and Jeppard in a way only a master storyteller can. Jeppard is a hardened man, with thick skin that has seen lots of terrible things. Yet I almost shed a tear for him as he has to say goodbye to Sweet Tooth. Lemire truly knocked this comic out of the park, making it the best issue of Sweet Tooth yet.
While this one comic makes the entire series a worthy read, it’s sad to think there are only 3 issues left. But I’m excited I’ve been a part of the ride since the beginning. Simply put, I have loved– and will continue to love– this comic. - Tom Devine
Dark Avengers #180
Change is Good
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artists: Neil Edwards, Terry Pallot
Readers of my column Who’s Getting What This Week? know I stopped buying Thunderbolts earlier this year– right before the comic was renamed Dark Avengers. I was still enjoying the book but it’s twice-a-month shipping schedule was getting on my nerves. When official word came out that Thunderbolts would change its name to Dark Avengers, it made my choice to drop it that much easier… Since I feel the original Dark Avengers comic is one of the worst series I have ever read. It was vile, overly violent, sexist and poorly written. I know a lot of Bendis fans got their rocks off reading it but unfortunately for Marvel, I have slightly higher standards than the typical Marvel Zombie. From a collector’s standpoint, I was also a little miffed the new Dark Avengers title would keep the original T-Bolts numbering (a ridiculous practice Marvel continues to perpetuate). Add all those complaints together and I had a comic I was no longer interested in reading.
This is the second Marvel book written by Jeff Parker that I didn’t want to support (the first was the (Red) Hulk comic). Making these decisions was tough, as I believe Parker is one the Top 3 writers currently working for Marvel. The man wrote what I consider one of the best comics of this millennium, Agents of Atlas. I do miss reading his stories, but my dislike for Marvel’s business practices outweigh my enjoyment of his books. (I want to make it clear that my reason for no longer buying Parker’s Marvel work has nothing to do with the quality of his output.)
Having missed the experience of reading Parker’s T-Bolts for several months, I thought I’d give Dark Avengers a chance– just to see if I’d made a bad choice in dropping the title from my pull list. After reading the story “Change is Good”, my feelings are quite mixed.
There are three story lines running through the issue: One takes place in the future and the other two occur in the present. Even after reading the synopsis page at the beginning of the book (which is there to let new readers know what is going on), I was still pretty lost. I had no idea who any of the Dark Avengers were– except for the Thor clone. There was a point where they called their archer Barton, which did nothing but add to my confusion.
I enjoyed the future storyline the most– involving the still jumping through time Thunderbolts. There was also a Judge Dredd homage dealing with a clone of Luke Cage. That part of the book was pretty easy to grasp. As for the two present day storylines? No idea what’s going on. And it didn’t help that the comic ended on an anti-climatic note. (Again, this is coming from someone who hasn’t read the book in months.) This issue, like last week’s Justice League, is not at all inviting to new readers.
Even though I couldn’t enjoy the issue as a whole, Parker’s writing is still the best thing about the comic. I just wish there was more effort made to let newbies in on who everyone was– kinda like the way Christos Gage handled Angel and Faith #13 (which I reviewed last week). On the art side, I don’t particularly care for Neil Edwards’ art. It reminds me of a watered-down version of Bryan “I Love to Lightbox” Hitch’s work. Overall, it was serviceable– but I would have much preferred for old T-Bolts artist Kev Walker to still be on the book.
I may give this comic another chance sometime in the future– if Parker is still writing it and there’s a permanent artist change. I hope it will be a lot more accessible by then too. - Jose Melendez
Harvest #2 (of 5)
Writer: A.J. Lieberman
Artist: Colin Lorimer
When it comes to mini-series, I give these comics two issues to hook me… Unless the first is absolutely boring or deathly horrible.
As a recipient of a liver transplant, Harvest struck a chord with me. The first issue was all set up– and felt like every other story I’ve ever read involving black market organ harvesting. I hoped this second issue was going to liven up the narrative, especially since there were only three issues left in the series. And while there was some character development of the protagonist Dr. Benjamin Dane in Issue #2– I was starting to believe this was going to be yet another drawn-out story. I was pleasantly surprised when Ben decided to take some action in the last few pages.
The art was good and did what it needed to do to tell the story. There were a few panels that were great (mostly the ones without text or speech)… With a few panels so small, I missed their significance.
Harvest is interesting enough to keep me buying it. But if you haven’t picked up these first two issues already– the comic might be more enjoyable in trade form. - W.D. Prescott
Venom #23 & #24
Monsters of Evil Part 1
Monsters of Evil Part 2
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artists: Thony Silas, Nelson DeCastro
Don’t you just hate it when critics take you down a long path, regurgitating a comic’s plot developments, padding their review and making you wait for their final verdict? Yeah, me too. So let’s dispense with all that now.
Venom, as written by Cullen Bunn (#23 was his first SOLO issue) and drawn by Thony Silas, is my absolute favorite new superhero comic! I would highly recommend it to anyone.
What makes this last sentence remotely monumental? Because I grew up loving superhero comics and now I find few superhero comics make it into my Top Ten anymore… Let alone get close to the top spot. For all the Zombies who’ve painted Inveterate Media Junkies™ with the broad MARVEL HATER! sobriquet, I would also like to note the obvious: Venom is a MARVEL comic book. I’m more than a little tired of having to mention shit like this, but I’ll make it clear one more time: IMJ does not exist to pound on Marvel Comics. IMJ exists as a labor of love to all forms of visual art and entertainment. Hopefully we direct more than a few of you to the good stuff… No matter what imprint or publisher prints it.
If you read my Insideman’s Pull List column, you already know I love Cullen Bunn’s amazing indie series The Sixth Gun. Eagle-eyed readers may also remember I recently reviewed another Sixth Gun collection– noting that Bunn had just been hired by Marvel… And I feared what the mainstream machine would do to his unique voice. I also stated (quite presciently I boast), if anything could survive the machinations and whims of a corporation mass producing comics– I thought it would be Cullen Bunn’s talent.
And I was right! Wooo Hooo! (Please allow me a moment to celebrate. My hopes and prognostications are rarely fulfilled or prove correct, and I’ve just been reading some really good comic books.)
Let’s do this by the numbers: First, I should mention I haven’t gotten around to reading Venom #1 – #22 yet (or any .1 Editions or other crap like that– if they exist for this series)… But I do know the early Venom comics were written by Rick Remender– another rare indie writer who has brought his “A” game to mainstream comics… So I’m really looking forward to digging into them one day. If you aren’t familiar with Remender’s work, he is one of those writer’s who can seemingly capture the essence of any genre effortlessly– whether it’s Horror, Sci-Fi or good ol’ Superhero fiction. He understands all great comics are borne from a strong foundation of solid characterization and well-crafted plots.
In other words, Remender most likely left Bunn a strong comic to begin with. (Bunn even says so in a Writer’s Note at the end of Issue #23.)
But leave it to Bunn to make Venom his own almost instantly. Even though he’s dealing with several complex plot points from previous issues, Bunn seems to be building toward something entirely new and different. Venom also puts the writer squarely in his comfort zone– as The Sixth Gun is a western with mystical/horror elements. (Same with this Venom series-- just replace the word “western” with “superhero”.) For all those hero fans now thinking, “Awww… I don’t like mystic shit in my superhero comics!”… Relax. This is no Doctor Strange or Doctor Fate hoodoo. There’s plenty of skull-cracking action to go around too.
Another thing I like: After languishing for years at the hands of various indifferent writers and artists, Remender and Bunn have used Venom as a springboard to bring many of Marvel’s mystic characters back to prominence.
If you weren’t alive in the 1970s (few current comics fans were), Marvel jumped heavily onto the mystical/horror bandwagon after the release of a little film called The Exorcist. That movie made horror BIG again, so Marvel began publishing a lot of Black & White Magazines targeting more adult readers. Lots of new characters were needed to fill those pages (and other regular comics too). Suddenly the company that “Stan & Jack Built” was flooded with evil sounding lead characters like Ghost Rider, Damian Hellstrom (The Son of Satan) and Satana (Damian’s voluptuous sister). Marvel also began exploiting their excellent Tomb of Dracula comic in this more adult arena… Which also spawned the PG-13+ classic Savage Sword of Conan mag.
I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest gripes with today’s comics lies in their truncated page length. Sadly, many current writers have no clue when it comes to fashioning a vibrant, coherent story in 20 pages– and many are still using single and double splash pages to further decompress their already plodding creations. In just these first two weeks of reviewing new comics, I’ve been inundated with tons of unneeded splash pages.
Bunn uses them too… Except he stuffs them with information– with every two page splash fulfilling a purpose. In Venom #23, the writer wisely recounts key points in the Flash Thompson/Venom relationship… In case new readers are jumping in for the new story arc. He even fills in a few more key plot details in Venom #24– making sure any new readers are well-versed in what has gone before. There’s even a two-page splash at the end of Issue #24 (introducing the Masters of Evil) that oozes the masterful touch of Jack “The King” Kirby. You have to see the work to appreciate it… It is truly glorious.
Thony Silas’ art is great for this series. He treads the line between superhero and the supernatural with ease. Unlike many current comics artists, he actually seems to have read and paid attention to the details in the script he’s drawing… As his characters look like they are speaking the dialogue Bunn has written for them in each panel.
You’ve no doubt noticed I haven’t recounted any of the plot from these two issues in this review. That’s intentional. If you trust my views, I want you to read Venom free of spoilers… It’s that good.
Been shying away from superhero comics? Not a big fan of Marvel’s mystical world? I hope you give Venom a chance anyway. It’s rare for such a well thought out, fun comic to exist– let alone be published by one of the Big Two. - Ian MacMillan
Animal Man #0
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Steve Pugh
Do you remember all the buzz around this book when the New 52 first started? Man, this comic was really good then. It had lots of great ideas and presented Buddy Baker and Family in a cool hipster kinda way. And since then… Animal Man has gone nowhere.
This issue is supposed to be the origin of Animal Man, but it all seems phoned in and completely unimaginative. As an origin story, the creators could have taken the story in any direction and made a great one-shot out of it. Nope. Instead, they continue to do the same thing they’ve done for the last 7 issues of this comic book: Tread Water. Lemire is not progressing his story or the Baker Family characters… Preferring to spin circles around the Rot, the Red, and the Green.
Don’t get me wrong. The idea of these forces balancing each other– and always being present in our lives– is a cool concept. But Lemire needs to push the story forward and stop inexorably drawing out this Rotworld plot. I guess Rotworld is supposed to affect the entire DCU soon– meaning we’re going to start seeing guest appearances from other superheroes in this title. Is that something we need to make this book interesting? NO, it is not.
We all know Jeff Lemire can do great work– hell, he’s done great work on this very book– but he needs to bring that special thing back to Animal Man, because it’s lost in all this Red mess. - Tom Devine