Wednesday, July 15, 2015

This Week's Comics 7.15.15

Small week this time, but every penny was well spent!

Black Canary #2 hit this week and I almost skipped on it.  Not because I didn't like the first issue, clearly I did, but I was thinking about being a bit more frugal with my comics dollar, and Black Canary was one of those that was good, but maybe not sponge-worthy.  I'm glad I went ahead and picked it up anyway.  This comic is a lot of fun, and it's very well written.  The approach is fresh and it makes me feel like I'm reading something hip, which probably means it isn't hip at all.  I like the traveling band angle, and all of the mystery surrounding our heroine (remember, all I know about BC comes from the Arrow TV show and tidbits here and there).  I'm not sure how long they can keep this up, but I'm happy to be along for the ride.  Next month, I'll not eye it with as crucial an eye.

And while Black Canary was confirmingly good, the real treat of the week was another "out on a limb" selection: Death Head.  I saw a solicitation for this comic last week that featured a few preview pages and found it intriguing.  I've never really read any horror comics, so I had no idea if I was going to pick this up or not, but I liked enough of what I saw to pay attention for it on the shelf.

If you read one comic this month, make it Death Head.  Again, I don't know from horror comics, but if they are all like this, then the genre is sorely under-represented.  For the first time ever, a comic book has creeped me out.  I really, really don't want to spoil the fun for you, but let me just say that there are several real moments of suspenseful dread.  No character feels safe, even if it seems like they are set up to be the protagonist for the series.  Best of all, the dialogue is as realistic as it comes.  Everyone wants to heap praise upon Brian Michael Bendis for writing realistic teenager dialogue by giving us hundreds of empty panels only broken by the occasional "hmm" and "uh" and "yeah," but as I've said before that's realistic dialogue no one really wants.  The dialogue in Death Head is both realistic AND entertaining. Bendis could take a few notes from these guys.

The art is great, creepy where it needs to be, but also bright and colorful to break the monotony of doom and provide contrast.  I think that contrast is part of what creates the tension and the feeling of insecurity.  You feel like at any moment the story is going to turn dark, really dark.  It's just smartly done all across the board.  It gives you just enough monster to keep you curious, but doesn't devolve into gratuitous gore or violence.  It is well paced and despite juggling a few storylines, it keeps everything clean and clear.  Best of all, these guys clearly know their horror.  They understand why movies like Alien and the first (and ONLY the first) Paranormal Activity work.  They also understand why the original (and ONLY the original) Poltergeist and Texas Chainsaw Massacre work.  All of that is very clear, just from this first issue.  I would say the feeling I get from this comic is similar to what I get when I watch TCM. (that's Texas Chainsaw Massacre, not Turner Classic Movies, that's a different feeling)

I enjoyed everything about Death Head and I am super excited for the next installment.  I highly recommend it to anyone who loves horror movies, but has never tried a horror comic.  This one is it!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

This Two Week's Comics! July 1 & 8

Yeah, so I went on a mini-vacation last week and missed updating you on the comics I bought.  Now you get two weeks worth and I get to tell you about some really great comics!  Let's not waste time, let's get right to it!

We'll start with the second issue of A-Force.  I was pretty interested in where this was going and the second issue didn't really disappoint.  I think the weakest part of this series is Battleworld itself.  The A-Force team is very interesting, but the "rules" of Battleworld both set the stage for the action and restrict the potential for what the team could be.  Super-hero teams need to work in a world that is grounded with known rules and status quo.  When the world that serves as the backdrop is still very new and a jumbled mix of other worlds, it makes it hard to fit the new team in a proper context.  I think I'll like A-Force more post-Secret Wars, but I'll stick with the team until we get there.

Next up, another second issue, Starfire #2.  If you recall, this was another "wait and see" comic that was going to be purchased solely on the value of the cover.  Well, obviously the cover was good enough to warrant a purchase and the interiors don't disappoint either.  If you are looking for a lighthearted alien super-hero comic, this will scratch that it.  I'm in.

Back to Secret Wars action with what might be the best mini-series of the lot.  1872 is the Old West, Marvel style, but very low on the steampunk or super-powers that you might be worried about.  Based on the first issue, this is a straight Western, just with characters you know.  Steve Rogers is the Sheriff, Tony Stark is the local inventor, and the Kingpin is the Mayor.  Things get dicey when Red Wolf wanders into town with a mission.  This might be the best comic I have bought in two weeks.  Highly recommended!  Can't wait for the next issue!

And before we leave the realm of Secret Wars satellite titles, let's take a look at the let-down of the week: Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows.  The first issue was a little shaky, but I was ready to give it a chance.  The second issue didn't honor that chance.  I am now more convinced than ever that Dan Slott has no idea how to write Spider-Man or Peter Parker.  And, just like with A-Force, the fractured world of Battleworld is far too strange to provide a reliable background for really good storytelling.  Even so, this comic went from rocky to disaster in two issues.  This was a chance to really see the Peter Parker everyone wants, the one with a wife and child and the burden of still being Spider-Man.  Slott kind of gives us that story, but Battleworld complicates things unnecessarily and anything Slott may have been trying to do doesn't stand a chance.  Couple that with his failure to understand the characters he is working with and you've just got a mess.  I've committed to my comic shop to buy this entire series, but I'm going to see if I can get out of it.

With that out of the way, we can now turn to a couple of winners.  First, Princess Leia #5.  A great finish to a great series.  This story reaches it's conclusion in a very satisfying way.  Unlike the other two Star Wars launch titles, this comic simply set out to tell an adventure starring Leia Organa, not shock you with its incredible "Star Warsiness." I'll say no more and suggest you go out and read the whole thing start-to-finish and enjoy!

And when you've finished Princess Leia's series, pick up Lando #1.  In the exact same vein, this series seems to be satisfied to tell a great Lando solo tale (well, Lando and Lobot...).  Basically, this is a heist story with tons of Billy D level suave and smooth.  I had confidence in Charles Soule, one of the best writers in comics today and he did not betray that confidence. Staying very true to the character and not shoving Star Wars up your nose at every turn, this comic looks poised to pay out big returns!  Go get!

Which brings us back to "Do." And by "Do" I mean Secret Wars #4.  This is a big issue in the series.  With the set-up concluded in issue #3, we finally get some action and important action at that.  Since most of what happens is a big spoiler, all I will say is that the core series is far better than most of the satellite series I have read.  Secret Wars is a big event and it has everything a big event needs.  Thus far it has been pretty satisfying.  I see what Marvel was going for with the whole company-wide mega event, but now that we are into it, maybe this would have been better as a maxi-series that relaunched the entire universe, rather than taking the universe with it.  But, that's a bigger discussion.  On the small scale, the Secret Wars series is definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of the Marvel Universe.  (I opted for this really cool Captain Marvel, or is it Ms. Marvel, who can tell these days..., alternate cover because I thought it looked way spiffier than the original cover)

And that will do it for these two weeks.  Some pretty good stuff overall.  If you are looking for solid reads, go get 1872 and Lando #1, and maybe chase it with Starfire.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

All-New, All-Different Reaction to Marvel's New Line-Up

I'm reading all kinds of inside-the-industry responses to Marvel's 45 title post-Secret Wars line-up this week.  All most all of it glowingly positive.  Everyone seems to be excited about this creative team's take on this, or the mixed-up roster for that X-men team, or esoteric character Y getting his/her own comic.  And while I admit the information dump is a lot to take in, this old school comics fan isn't quite so ready to ask Axel Alonso to marry him.  (I have a few emails from Axel from back in my letter writing days when he was getting started at Marvel, so I feel like I have an "in" if nuptials are in order).

My initial reaction was almost entirely negative, jaded skepticism.  One discussion with my local comic shop owner and that skepticism has been tempered with some guarded optimism and a slightly more open mind.  Listen, I'm going to be honest with you, long-time readers know that I have lost a LOT of faith in the past 10 years.  They absolutely destroyed my favorite character (Spider-Man) beyond recognition, and they seem to have no idea how to handle the rich history or their universe.  It is VERY hard for me to have a completely open mind for anything Marvel does.  When you have been burned as badly as I have, you're just not going to get unbridled enthusiasm.  I think anyone who honestly sits there and tells you that you are looking at 45 issues of pure gold is lying to you.  There are dogs in this lot.  I promise.

So, in the interest of doing more than just writing a bitter, scathing critique of Marvel's new line-up, I decided to wait a few days and chew on the big picture, then give you a quick-hit review of my first impression of each of the 45 titles.  I know it sounds like a lot, but all we really have to go on are some covers, some blurbs, and a couple of interviews, so some of these are going to be pithy at best. At the very least, maybe I will be able to provide some much needed counterpoints to all of the industry cheerleading that is going on out there.  You'll also notice that I am far less up the butts of the creators involved than most of the people out there.

Carnage:  Why does Carnage get his own comic book?  I know he's been a bit of a fetish for Marvel lately, but I just don't see this character carrying an entire comic, even with the legendary Gerry Conway at the helm.

Venom: Spaceknight:  I am so over Venom there really isn't much more to say.  Honestly, the character lost something the minute he became the Lethal Protector.  Larsen ruined him with the tongue and once he left Eddie Brock, there was no reason for him not to just become Carnage.  Now, he's off in space doing god knows what?  Is he still Flash Thompson?  I'll pass.

Ultimates:  Galactus and Black Panther are together on a super-hero team and you expect me to pay money for that?  No.

Web Warriors:  I'm going to call it now, this book does not see an issue #5.  Peter Porker?  In a universe with "real" human people, we have a Fred Hembeck cartoon.  Never mind the rest of the "Spider-verse" nonsense that is here, Spider-Ham is the final straw.  I don't even think the fan-ravenous Spider-Gwen can save this mess.

Spider-Man 2099:  I would be all over this one, actually, but the "Smack to the Future" blurb is so blowful that any excitement I had gets undermined.  I am hoping Peter David will prove me wrong.

Spider-Woman:  If you are 8 months pregnant and you even think about doing anything super-heroic, then you are a bad person.  Shock value will get everyone in the door, but I'm not convinced that there is more here.

Daredevil:  DD is one of those characters where I honestly feel that every story has already been told for Matt Murdock. Unless you just drop him back to street level and let his heroics be the outlet for his need for justice that is not met by his lawyering by day, you really can't do more to DD than has already been done. There is some intrigue that results from the Gambit-esque protege, but that's about all.

Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D.:  This one is so bizarre it will either work like nobody's business or it will be done before Christmas.  I like the line-up of monsters, but I'm not convinced the premise works.

Amazing Spider-Man:  Like with Daredevil, all of the good Peter Parker stories have been told.  All of the best ones were told before issue #401.  Marvel has finally admitted this and they've just gone ahead and made him Iron Man, down to having Spider-Man be PP's body guard.  Yes, it's that bad.  I'm already working out the retcon for this one.  Dan Slott has had a long run on Spider-man comics, but he's done very little that demonstrates he understands the character at all.  I can't believe I'm going to say this, but they should have left Doc Ock's mind in there.

Spider-Man:  Our only hope for a good Spider-Man comic lies with Miles Morales.  He's still a kid, I think, and he's still street level, I pray.  This is the only chance we have.

Ant Man:  I'm ready to skip over this one, but the supporting cast of C-List villains is giving me pause.  If it's handled correctly, this might be the dark horse of the lot.

Silk:  I know nothing of Silk.  I gather she is a shining beacon of goodness that emerged from the smoking pile of crap that was "Spiderverse," but I honestly know nothing.  It's the taint of Spiderverse that keeps me from seeing what this is all about.  I'm sure I'm missing something, but again, the taint.

Uncanny Avengers:  Let's reach into our character grab bag and the first 6 characters we pull out, we'll team with Deadpool and Spider-Man because those two sell a LOT of comics.  No.

Uncanny X-men:  Pick 4 mutants that no one cares about (sorry Psylocke) and let's team them with Magneto.  No.

All-New Wolverine:  Never mind the fact that, if this comic book makes it, a name change will be in order in a couple of years, I've never cared for X-23 in any way, but I am heartened to see a status shift handing the Wolverine mantle off to a different character, even if it is a full grown daughter from another universe, time line, dimension, something.

All-New X-men:  Again with the name thing, but honestly if an X-men comic has a chance, it's this one.  The 60's X-men were an interesting gamble when they were brought into the current Marvel U, and they were a fresh commentary on how dumb the X-men had become.  Can they avoid the same fate as those they came to mock?

Extraordinary X-men:  Look pretty ordinary to me.  And Ramos cartooning up the art chores will not help.

Old Man Logan:  This one is likely worth reading.  Everyone is nuts over this grizzled older version of the furry runt, so there is probably something here worth seeing.  At the very least it's a fresh take on a character that has been done to death.  (why no Old Man Peter Parker?)

Nova:  He's never been able to carry a book before.  Why now?

Karnak:  Another book that is so unlikely that it will work or flop right out of the gate.  Warren Ellis is capable of doing some great stuff here, but I'm not sure Karnak is the right platform.  It will take Paul Jenkins level work to breath life into this character.

Hawkeye:  This is another case of "50 million Elvis fans can't be wrong."  I'm willing to give this one a pass just on the fan excitement.  Will I read it?  Probably not.

Sam Wilson: Captain America:  I don't know why we need the "Sam Wilson" part of this, but I'm pretty excited to see a real successor to Steve Rogers that makes sense.  I only hope they commit to it and really give Sam a chance to be the great Cap I know he can be.

New Avengers:  You know who's counter-culture popular right now?  Squirrel Girl. Can she carry a team comic?  Maybe, but just in case, let's toss in Hawkeye and the Young Avengers.  No.

Illuminati:  Bendis so loved the Hood that he made him way cooler than he ever should have been.  But he had his day in the 00's.   This one doesn't get into the double digits.

Scarlet Witch:  And the Vision also gets his own comic.  Neither one should be able to carry a solo book.  Untapped potential?  Maybe.  Riding the coattails of House of M and hoping for a popularity resurgence?  Likely.

Star-Lord:  Guess who's red hot popular right now:  Guardians of the Galaxy.  Guess who the leader is?  Star-Lord.  Let's stretch the readership extra thin by giving him his own comic.  If they make him Space Han Solo, they have a chance.

Guardians of the Galaxy:  The curse of Venom ruins this for me.  I liked the "original" new team back in '08, but this has morphed into something I cannot recognize.  And the original original Guardians fan in me is screaming for justice.  No.

Spider-Gwen:  I know the fans are all hot and bothered about this, but for me, Gwen Stacy fell off a bridge and died in EVERY MARVEL UNIVERSE ever.  Having her become Spider-Man (woman?) is the dumbest thing I can think of, apart from her having kids with Norman Osborn.  She wasn't anywhere near the accident that created Spider-man, alternate universe or no.  And calling her Spider-Gwen is incredibly stupid too.  Fans are hungry for more Gwen Stacy, I get it.  That's what caused the whole clone saga which, in light of the past 20 years, now looks like a Marvel Masterwork.  It may be well written, it may be popular, but to me any thing that resurrects Gwen Stacy diminishes both her and Peter Parker.  I just can't go with you on this one.

Ms. Marvel:  I know next to nothing about this one, but I give Marvel props for trying to shake up the status quo.  Not enough there for me to be interested though.  It's possible this one just isn't for me.

Drax:  Maybe this is the new Silver Surfer comic for those looking to get their cosmic fix?  None for me thanks.

Angela:  Asgard Assassin:  The best thing Marvel has done in the past decade is acquire a new character they hadn't already written every possible story for.  Now they've mixed her in with Marvel's resident, accessible godhead? I'm in.

Howard the Duck:  Didn't work in the '80's.  I see no reason why he works now.

Deadpool:  If there is one character who defines all that is wrong with Marvel Comics it is this one.  Ever since they decided he would break the 4th wall and be a commentary on comic books, he became a never ending Jay Leno monologue: not quite actually funny, but funny enough to keep going long past the natural end of the gag.  Any attempt to actually develop the character is undermined by his self-awareness.  People will buy this for the same reason plenty of people watched Leno, but that doesn't mean either one are actually worth watching.

Squadron Supreme:  Has this long suffering team finally found a regular comic they can call home?  Maybe, if you like D-List Avengers who walk the line between super-hero and anti-hero.  In the past that has been hardly anyone...

The Mighty Thor:  I am so glad this isn't called "She-Thor" or something miserable.  Still, it's Thor, just the title passed to Jane Foster.  Probably worth a look in the post-Secret Wars era.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  I can't wait to read a boring comic book based on a boring TV show.  Oh, wait.  Turns out I can.

The Vision:  I like the Vision more than I like the Scarlet Witch, but I haven't really followed the character in years. Is he still a kid?  I'll probably thumb through this and then make a call.

Uncanny Inhumans:  I like Charles Soule.  I'm bored of the Inhumans.  For my money Paul Jenkins had the first and last word on this group.  But I still like Charles Soule.

Contest of Champions:  If this is what it looks like, then the Maestro is going to pit Marvel characters against one another in gladiator style combat.  If that's what this is, and that's all there is to it, I'm in.

Captain Marvel:  Just not a character I have ever had much affinity for.  If she's your favorite, then I hope they do her justice.

All-New, All-Different Avengers:  Why is Miles Morales on this team of otherwise heavy hitters?  Because the Avengers cannot exist without a Spider-Man, dammit.  Spider-Man means sales.  Otherwise this is a strong team.  But Miles has school.

Doctor Strange:  If I had to pick a hyper-stylized artist to like, it would be Chris Bachalo.  I've liked his Doctor Strange in the past.  Let's hope the Sorcerer Supreme can make another go at a regular comic.

Totally Awesome Hulk:  I hear it's not Banner.  Speculation is that it's Amadeus Cho.  As long as we are done, done, done with all of the Red Hulks, Purple Hulks, Yellow She-Hulks, and so on, I'm willing to give the Hulk another look.  But you have to promise me we are done with all of that.

A-Force:  I'm kind of liking this during Secret Wars, so if I still like it when Secret Wars is over, I'll likely keep going.

Invincible Iron Man: We already have an Iron Man book in this announcement.  It stars Spider-Man.  This book is redundant at best.

So all in all I'm looking forward to about 4 of these books, Spider-Man, Contest of Champions, Angela, and Captain America.  There are a lot of iffy titles, and plenty of outright "no thank you" books out there.  It will be interesting to come back in a year and see what still stands.  My bet for first blood is Web Warriors.  That thing has Slingers written all over it.  If you haven't seen all of the covers and blurbs for all 45 announced titles, you can check them out at CBR here.

The Original All-New, All-Different...