Friday, February 24, 2012

Comics Round-Up (Feb.22)


Another varied, bumper comics round-up this week. Early on, it seemed to be leaning a bit Wolverine-heavy, but as Wednesday rolled around, I realised there was plenty of other stuff available that was of interest. This round-up manages to tick off most of the comic genres: sci-fi, superheroes, fantasy, action heroes and villains, humorous espionage, and even a geek-fantasy. So, without further ado, let us move right on to the reviews…


Reviewed Herein: Brilliant #1-2, Danger Girl: Revolver #2, GIJoe: Cobra #10, Incorruptible #27, Infestation: Dungeons & Dragons #2, The Ray #2-3, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – War #1-2, Witchblade/Red Sonja #1, Wolverine #20 & #300, Wolverine & The X-Men #5, X-Club #2-3, X-Sanction #3

Brilliant #1-2 (Icon)


Writer: Brian Michael Bendis | Artist: Mark Bagley

Brilliant tells the story of a handful of college-age geniuses who challenge each other to solve the mystery of superpowers. Can the best and the brightest change science fiction into science fact. And if so, how will the world at large react?

The opening scene gives us a taste of what sort of powers we’re talking about, but apart from that the first issue is quite a tease – it sets out the premise, introduces us to the characters... And that’s about it, really. Nevertheless, I was intrigued and eager to read the second issue. One of the group, Amadeus, has already experimented on himself and developed some powers. But, unfortunately, they’re unstable, which means they need the help of their newly-returned friend (a bio-chemist). An accident at a casino brings some unwanted attention, but also helps the group fund their experiments.

The story has a pretty steady pace. I think this is a title that will take a more natural amount of time to unfold, following a more measured pace. And I’m perfectly willing to stick around for it.

I liked this a lot more than I was expecting. Bendis has written a solid story, which has a lot of promise and potential, and Bagley’s artwork is solid artwork.


Danger Girl: Revolver #2 (IDW)


Writer: Andy Hartnell | Artist: Chris Madden, J. Scott Campbell

Danger Girl Sydney Savage is reluctant to bring the team’s newest recruit on their latest mission, but after Abbey is suddenly pulled away by a mysterious figure from her past, Sydney realizes the mission has grown far too dangerous to accomplish on her own!

The team are in Peru, but the issue opens with a flash-back focusing on Abbey and her former fiancée, Nathan, and a mission in Venezuela that didn’t go entirely according to plan. As the issue progresses, we’re introduced to the Hochi tribe of native Peruvians, who have misplaced a large, sacred gold medallion. So, naturally, the Danger Girl team have to go find it. They hook up with Nathan, who brings with him someone else from the past – only this time, connected to Sydney…

The artwork has a strong Disney feel, in my opinion – almost everything about the characters looks like this could be a rather more risqué attempt to remain relevant for the studio that brought us Mulan and Emperor’s New Groove. But thankfully it’s not that, so it’s a lot more fun. It’s a little silly, and not really that close to my taste in comics, but it works as an amusing, light diversion.


GIJoe: Cobra #10 (IDW)


Writer: Mike Costa | Artist: Alex Cal, Antonio Fuso, Dave Wilkins

As the new Cobra Commander lashes out against an unprepared world, the rest of Cobra questions The Council’s decision... with deadly results. Meanwhile, the Joes search for a pattern in Cobra’s attacks, and a fan-favorite character returns – but will even that be enough to turn the tide of battle?

This issue sees the return of Menasian and the Coil – Cobra’s creepy religio-social cult. The Coil has been moved into Nanzhao, and Menasian has started a recruitment drive among the local population. Meanwhile, cracks are starting to form (or, this being Cobra, grow wider) in the ranks as Major Bludd starts vocalising his dissent and distaste for the new Commander’s plans. As he discovers, he’s not the only one dissatisfied with the new regime – Tomax and Menasian both see opportunities to undermine the Commander. Considering who they are aligned with, can we really expect anything less from them? Some of the Cobra old guard have accepted the new Commander whole-heartedly, and almost gleefully execute his orders – take the Baroness, for example, who exhibits a hitherto-only-hinted-at affinity for violence. The Commander has very big plans, and at this rate, nobody will be safe – regardless of how hidden and protected they believe themselves to be.

Another good issue, there’s a real sense that this story moves forward with each instalment. There’s very little standing still or story-filler. This series focuses a lot more on the more sinister and Machiavellian aspects of Cobra, their internal politics and power struggles – this leaves the action for G.I.Joe and the ninja stuff for Snake Eyes. I think the balance and separation in styles is a great idea, and really works.

I’ve been really pleasantly surprised by all of the G.I.Joe titles. I would highly recommend them to anyone who ever liked the franchise (in whatever medium), as well as anyone after some military action and espionage comics.


Incorruptible #27 (Boom)


Writer: Mark Waid | Artist: Marcio Takara

Brand new arc! Great for new readers! Max Damage has seemingly driven Plutonian from Coalville, finally cementing him as a hero among the struggling desperate populace. But at what cost? And when the deal he made with Plutonian comes due, can Max be the hero that Coalville needs once again?

Coalville, protected by its de facto sheriff, Max Damage, is one of the more civilized cities left on a Plutonian-ravaged Earth, but there is much work to be done. Max has cut ties to his various allies and has built a massive prison on the outskirts of the city to deal with the growing number of criminals. Max is called away by Qubit, leaving Armadale to deal with things as best he can – which isn’t too good, given his slide back into drinking. Will the strain prove too much for him? A chance meeting in a food-line with a meteorologist leads us to learn that a Plutonian-created hazard could not be as dealt with as they originally thought.

With Max absent for most of the issue, it focuses more on Armadale’s life in this new Coalville. Hate Crime, formerly the criminal ‘Safe Word’, with the ability to control others, confronts Armadale at the worst possible moment. We learn a little more about Armadale and his state of mind – he’s not coping. Things are going to get even more difficult in Coalville.

This is a good episode, though it’s not the best in the series. It shows the strong story-telling one can expect from Waid, but there have certainly been stronger and more intense issues. It is the calm before the (probable) storm. As with Irredeemable’s “great for new readers” last issue, I’m not entirely sure that it is great for new readers. A lot of things are left rather vague, and given how the star of the series is AWOL, I would still strongly suggest people start from the beginning.

There’s a tragic ending (on two fronts), which promises big things are coming in over the horizon. It remains one of my favourite series.


Infestation 2: Dungeons & Dragons #2 (IDW)

IDW-Infestation2-Dungeons&Dragons-02Writer: Paul Crilley | Artist: Valerio Schiti, Menton3

The City of Towers is in chaos! As the citizens flee the coming of the INFESTATION, only Abraxis Wren holds the secrets that might save Sharn – but does he have the strength of will to survive this crucible of terror? Plus, learn the strange history the world of Eberron shares with the threat of INFESTATION 2!

I must say, in just two issues I’ve really grown to enjoy reading about Abraxis and Torin – the former is a bit of a dandy, and you really wouldn’t expect him to be suited to his chosen profession, given how hapless he is. But, it works. Torin is there to keep him on the straight and narrow (as it were), and despite accidentally releasing the “demonic octopus creature” into their world, is moderately successful and he means well. Incredibly, he also comes up with a pretty good plan to stop the beast.

There’s an interesting parallel with Black Library’s Gotrek & Felix series, only instead of it being the human taking down the exploits of the dwarf, it’s the other way around.

Thoroughly enjoyed this issue (and the previous one). Highly recommended if you like your fantasy Lovecraftian and with a tongue-in-cheek, lighter tone.


No Place Like Home #1 (Image)


Writer: Angelo Tirotto | Artist: Richard Jordan


Dee’s life is in turmoil when her parents are killed in a freak tornado. Returning to Kansas for the funeral after five years in LA, Dee discovers Emeraldsville is the same unexciting place it was when she left – until the bizarre unexplained murders begin.

With an unknown killer closing in, the events of one night in 1959 begin to unravel as a portal to a world of horror opens, a portal paved with yellow bricks...

This was a pretty enticing first issue, as Dee’s return home doesn’t quite play out as expected. Tirotto and Jordan paint a very typical picture of a small-town America, as Dee is reacquainted with her childhood friends and the extended ‘family’ one develops in smaller communities.

When the town drunk confronts Dee twice, and some strange deaths start occurring around town, though, it’s clear that not all is well nor what it seems in Kansas. There are some intriguing hints of mystery and a terrible event from the past, which seems to have finally come to haunt the people of Emeraldsville. And it’s clear that Dee’s parents didn’t die in a simple tornado accident. All of this leads up to a cliff-hanger ending.

The artwork is gritty, which worked quite well with the story and atmosphere Tirotto must have been going for: the colour palette is dark, which gives the story an atmospheric, classic-horror-inflected feel. Very nice indeed.

This was a lot better than I was expecting, and I think it’s well worth checking out. It’s got a lot of promise. I’ll definitely pick up the second issue.


The Ray #2-3 (DC)


Writer: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti | Artist: Jamal Ingle & Rich Perotta

Lucien Gates is doing his best to adapt to his new powers and heroic identity as The Ray – but between giant monsters attacking San Diego and meeting his girlfriend's strict parents, things are not going so well. Someone is definitely behind these attacks and perhaps even Lucien's gaining his abilities. He'd better hope he can solve that mystery before his life is completely ruined.

Lucien can rescue Chanti from the clutches of the Isopods, but can he save his relationship with her? More important, can he save her family from the evil Director, who wants to destroy everything for his art?

This remains an interesting title, although I didn’t find these two issues as engaging as I did the first. The story seemed to bounce around a bit, as Lucien deals with first strange flying manta-creatures, and then is confronted with an evil Director who can manipulate reality however he pleases – to suit whatever script he’s reading in his mind, if you will. The artwork’s fantastic, though, and it certainly makes up for any issues I had with the story.

Considering this is a four-issue mini-series, I think it needed to be a lot tighter than it is. Fun, but doesn’t live up to the very strong start.


Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – War #1-2 (Dark Horse)


Writer: John Jackson Miller | Artist: Andrea Mutti

If you’ve ever heard of the Knights of the Old Republic video games and comics but didn’t know where to start – this is it!

The Republic and the Mandalorians are at war! Jedi are joining the fight, despite the non-interference stance of the Council. One Jedi, however, has found himself on the front lines against his wishes-the peace-loving Zayne Carrick has been drafted!

(#2) The Mandalorian Wars heat up as this new series about the Old Republic takes off!

Can a pacifist survive in a war zone? Jedi Zayne Carrick is having a hard time of it, first drafted and now caught in the crossfire between the Mandalorians, the Republic Navy – and even fellow Jedi!

So, this is quite heavily advertised as the “perfect entry point into the Star Wars galaxy”. But I think I rather disagree with that assessment. I’ve read almost every post-Episode III novel set in the Star Wars universe, and a fair few of the graphic novels. But I really didn’t know what was going on in this comic – part of the problem was that it is very busy, and throws you right in without too much explanation of what’s going on or why certain people are fighting on the side they are. As a starting point, there has to be better.

The artwork’s fine, and the writing’s not bad, I just think I’ve not read nearly enough of the Knights of the Old Republic series to fully follow what’s going on, and why everything and everyone in these two issues is important. So, no, this is not a very good starting point. That being said, maybe it would be for someone who’s read none of the various series – it’s full of action and battle, there’s tension, treachery, and a Jedi who is insistent on saving everyone’s life – an idealism-bordering-on-naïveté that was actually a little frustrating.

I think Agent of the Empire remains the best Star Wars-related comic currently available, and would recommend you start there before reading the earlier Knights of the Old Republic comics.


Witchblade/Red Sonja #1 (Dynamite)

Dynamite-WitchbladeRedSonja-01Writer: Doug Wagner | Artist: Cezar Razek

Red Sonja, the She-Devil with a Sword, pursues a cannibalistic monstrosity into the heart of a dead, black mountain. Meanwhile, Sara Pezzini, modern day bearer of the Witchblade and NYPD Detective, investigates the ghastly death of a Catholic Priest. Join Dynamite Entertainment and Top Cow Productions as they bring two of comics most celebrated heroines together in one terrifying tale of loss and redemption.

Ok, I picked this up on a whim – I’ve liked what I’ve seen of Witchblade so far (which isn’t much – just the one issue, although I do have the first collection by Ron Marz), and I’ve liked the only Red Sonja comic I’ve read (by Peter V. Brett).

The issue felt rather short, even though it’s actually not, but we do get a good introduction to the two worlds that will feature: Red Sonja’s, with its own Witchblade bearer (Nissa), and an occult conspiracy of biblical proportions (and bloody beginnings). The modern day Witchblade setting, with Sara and her partner Gleason called to the scene of a brutal ritual murder. The two stories will obviously be tied together in the near future, but it’s not yet clear how they will be connected. They are clearly referring to the same evil beastie, but I don’t know how they’re going to connect them.

The cover art really doesn’t give a good indication of what the internal artwork is like – it’s a lot better inside, for a start: much less cartoon-y, and less stylised. There’s a bold colour palette, and good level of detail. It’s a very well designed issue.

My expectations weren’t particularly high coming into this, but the team has done a pretty good job. The final couple of pages certainly piqued my interest to read more, and I might consider checking out the second issue. That being said, I still think I’d prefer just to read more of the individual Red Sonja and Witchblade series.


Wolverine #20 (Marvel)

Marvel-Wolverine-20Writer: Jason Aaron | Artist: Renato Guedes

It’s a prelude to the biggest Wolverine arc in years. War is brewing between the ninja assassins of the Hand and the gun-toting gangsters of the Yakuza, and it leads Wolverine to come face to face with Wilson Fisk, the infamous Kingpin of crime. What mysterious former love interests have come along for the ride? And just who is behind this war anyway?

I’m not really a fan of the artwork in this issue – it’s not as ‘clean’ as some other styles, and this lowered my appreciation for the story a little. For example, the first time we see Wolverine, he looks fat, wearing suspenders and a wife-beater.

Wolverine is caught up in an operation in Central Park, which sees him square off against a pair of cannibalistic rednecks, some ninjas, and a team of warrior women. How does this all tie together? I’m not entirely sure, to be honest…

The issue has a bit of a flat story, despite the decent action. I just didn’t engage with it in the end. Ultimately, this issue felt like a filler before the next big arc kicks off (below). The Wolverine titles are now so diverse and intertwined, it’s a little hard to know what’s going on and how they connect. For example, this is issue #20, but the next one is #300...


Wolverine #300 (Marvel)

Marvel-Wolverine-300Writer: Jason Aaron | Artist: Adam Kubert, Jason Keith

Wolverine travels to Tokyo to confront his most dangerous enemy yet. And a new Silver Samurai rises to take his place... along with Wolverine’s daughter!

This is the beginning of the “Back in Japan” story arc. It opens with Logan on a plane, and things quickly go awry: “Just once, you’d think I could come to Japan without being attacked by a buncha damn ninjas,” he ponders, as a horde of them attack him. On the plane. This is, obviously, a little awkward.

As the 300th issue, it’s a longer one, and I would certainly say it’s worth the extra dollar. Wolverine, upon his arrival in Japan, catches up with an old ally, and quickly finds himself caught in the middle of a turf war between the Hand and the Yakuza. At the same time, another enemy is trying to rescue the Ninjas from the Hollywood cliché they have become, and wants to turn them back into the feared, secret killing institution they once were.

If that wasn’t enough, Logan’s adopted daughter also gets herself into a jam, and turns up at a four-way battle which sees Wolverine squaring off against a back-from-the-dead Sabretooth!

This is closer to how I prefer my Wolverine titles – grimmer, grittier, and a lot more action-oriented. It’s fast-paced, the artwork’s pretty good, and it taps into a lot of the Wolverine Origin story elements that have become fan favourites. It’s a good re-entry point, too, as there aren’t too many new faces and it’s pretty easy to figure out who everyone is and how they’re connected to Wolverine.

A solid issue, marking the 300th landmark rather nicely.


Wolverine & The X-Men #5 (Marvel)

Marvel-Wolverine&XMen-05-ArtWriter: Jason Aaron | Artist: Nick Bradshaw

Kitty Pryde is pregnant?! Could it have to do with the billion Brood that have shown up?

Wolverine and company are struggling to acquire the funds they need to keep the Jean Gray School open and running. With the arrival of billionaire mutant Warren Worthington III, aka Angel, they think their problems may have been solved. Unfortunately, Angel is stripped of his fortune as a result of his memory loss (and the machinations of the Hellfire Club – this time an apparently post-pubescent one, at least). Which sees Wolverine disappear for the rest of the issue while he tries to figure something out (his solution features in issue six).

We see some more of Beast’s awesome teaching methods and technology. This part of the must have been inspired by the 1987 movie, INNER SPACE, I think, and I rather liked that. Judging by the end of this issue, this theme will continue on into the next.

We’re starting to get far enough into the series that talking too much about the plot will just offer up too many spoilers. Needless to say, this series is really starting to improve overall. Bradshaw’s art is cleaner, though no less stylised, and he brings a refreshing new aesthetic to the series. Aaron’s writing is getting better, too, as he reins in the odd-ball humour, injecting it into the story (in the background as much as in the dialogue) to great effect.

Recommended if you want some X-Men action with a little bit more humour than normal.


X-Club #2-3 (Marvel)


Writer: Simon Spurrier | Artist: Paul Davidson

The X-Club races the clock to stop a mutagenic eco-disaster! Danger turns on her fellow X-Men! But why? Also featuring: A telepathic starfish, a holographic lesson in seduction, and flashbacks to events in AVENGERS history that are key pieces to solving the mystery of who's behind it all...

The X-Club races the clock to clear the X-Men’s name! Plus, Danger discovers that… she’s pregnant?!

This series is a lot of fun. It’s full of sarcastic, cynical and snarky humour. A lot of this comes from Dr. Nemesis, whose arrogance knows no bounds! The artwork supports the story brilliantly, with humorous touches throughout (in the fore- and background).

A strange, mutagenic agent in the water has sent creatures into extreme bouts of rapid mutation. Their confusion and pain has led them to attack everything else. Things don’t all go according to plan, as Nemesis’s attempt to clean up the site get complicated when “an empathic starfish” clamps to his head and proceeds to reveal his “inner monologue to the unworthy universe”. This, of course, has a detrimental effect on his already egotistical grip on reality. Meanwhile, the rest of the team are dealing with victims of the mutagenic agent, one member of the team is approached by a trapped AI, and an evil relic of the Second World War rears its ugly head.

“It’s just possible something strange is happening to the laws of physics down here.”

Spurrier’s mind is pretty twisted, and what he’s done with these three comics (with two more to come) is infuse some zany fun into the X-Men franchise. I was cackling and chuckling throughout these two issues.

Very highly recommended if you like your comics a little twisted and funny. The artwork’s very good, too, so it’s an all-round win.


Avengers X-Sanction #3 (Marvel)

Marvel-AvengersXSanction-03Writer: Jeph Loeb | Artist: Ed McGuinness

Cable rumbles with the Red Hulk as his fight to save the future carries on!

This was another intriguing issue, posing a lot more questions, but also containing what I’m sure are hints of what is to come in the Avengers-vs.-X-Men event (which starts in March). Cable’s single-minded dedication to his mission is thrown into a tail-spin when his daughter, Hope, turns up at his base of operations. Having previously believed she was dead, he is now overcome with the need to get her away from the Avengers. Red Hulk, who appeared at the very end of issue two, gives Cable a run for his money, and there is plenty of action throughout.

McGuinness provides some great, solid artwork, and Loeb gives us just enough story that we’re left with lots to think about before the next issue comes out. I really like the way the whole thing has been constructed – from the plot progression to the artwork. This is a really cool mini-series.

I’m really enjoying this, and I can’t wait to see how the main event shapes up. This could be a good time to get into Marvel comics.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant #1-2 (Icon)
    Have to say impress that turned out pretty good.
    Might check it out.

    Witchblade/Red Sonja #1 (Dynamite)
    This one really interests me. Just love the artwork and glad to hear is better inside. Have never read Witchblade or Red Sonya but sound cool, so will have to take a look into it before reading Witchblade/Red Sonja #1.

    Thanks for another good Coic Round-Up. Always look forward to it:)