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This Week's Haul

  • Adventure Comics #4, by Geoff Johns, Sterling Gates, Jerry Ordway & Bob Wiacek, and Michael Shoemaker & Clayton Henry (DC)
  • The Brave and the Bold #29, by J. Michael Straczynski & Jesus Saiz (DC)
  • The Flash: Rebirth #5 of 6, by Geoff Johns & Ethan Van Scyver (DC)
  • Outsiders #24, by Peter J. Tomasi, Fernando Pasarin, Scott Hanna & Prentis Rollins (DC)
  • Victorian Undead #1, by Ian Edginton & Davide Fabbri (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Hercules: Full Circle HC, by Bob Layton (Marvel)
  • Realm of Kings one-shot, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Leonardo Manco & Mahmud Asrar (Marvel)
  • Echo #16, by Terry Moore (Abstract)
  • Irredeemable #8, by Mark Waid & Peter Krause (Boom)
  • Invincible #68, by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley (Image)
  • Phonogram: The Singles Club #5 of 7, by Keiron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie (Image)
Adventure Comics #4 Two more books this week which tie in to DC’s Lantern ring giveaway. Adventure Comics was launched when the most recent Legion of Super-Heroes series came to an end. Its lead story features Superboy (the Connor Kent/Teen Titans version), and its backup features the Legion – the “classic” team which Geoff Johns reintroduced in Action Comics and Legion of 3 Worlds. I decided not to follow it along because I have no interest in this incarnation of Superboy.

Oddly, the lead story here is draw by Jerry Ordway, and not regular artist Francis Manapul, so as much as I like Ordway (although this isn’t his best stuff) it doesn’t give me any feeling for what the series has really been like. Plus, this issue doesn’t actually have much Superboy, but rather brings back Superman-Prime, the insufferable villain who finally got his comeuppance at the end of Legion of 3 Worlds. Honestly if I never see Prime again, it’ll be too soon.

The backup features two Legion characters who have been torn apart by the events of Lo3W, and getting back together with a little assistance from two other star-crossed lovers on the team. It’s a nice character story in its way, but it feels more like the beginning of a larger arc than just a backup tale. If Adventure Comics were all Legion, then it might be worth following, but just the backups isn’t enough to get me back on board.

Outsiders #24 Outsiders is the latest incarnation of the Mike W. Barr-penned Batman spin-off title from the 1980s, which was pretty mediocre stuff back then. This one seems more interesting, as the resurrected dead villain Terra seeks out her brother and – in a turnaround from how many of the resurrected heroes have been acting – can’t stand her new existence, and wants help in ending it. While this might be some sort of a bait-and-switch on Terra’s part, writer Peter Tomasi pulls it off pretty convincingly; the notion of what zombies think about being zombies is an often-overlooked facet of the genre. (Most of them don’t think, of course, but that’s not the case in the premise of Blackest Night.)

The other half of the story involves Katana being waylaid by her dead husband and children, and is more routine angst/combat stuff. But Fernando Pasarin’s pencils are quite good, making this a pretty solid read overall. The only downside is that it doesn’t give me – a new reader brought in via the ring giveaway – much orientation for who these Outsiders are, why they’re outsiders, or what their organization is like. But of all the Blackest Night tie-ins, this is the one I’m mostly like to give another shot.

Victorian Undead #1 Ian Edginton wrote the terrific Scarlet Traces about what happened to England and Earth after the defeat of the invaders in The War of the Worlds, so even though I’m suffering a bit of zombie exhaustion, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and check out Victorian Undead, which as you can see from the cover involves Sherlock Holmes and zombies (although contrary to the cover, Holmes is not himself a zombie). The premise is that a meteor shower in the 1850s led to the rise of zombies in London, and in the 1890s Holmes and Watson have to grapple with their emergence (or maybe return – the timeline is left deliberately blank as I expect it’s one of the mysteries to be explored in the series).

Edginton injects some serious steampunk – in the form of a humaniform robot – into Holmes’ milieu, on top of the zombies. This first issue is entirely set-up, with shadowy governmental figures trying to keep a lid on things. I’m sure we all know how well that will work. Whether or not we’ll see other Victorian-era icons, I don’t know. Davide Fabbri looks like a decent artist, although with just enough of overtones of an Image style (gratuitous lines, unnecessary flourishes) for me to not fully embrace his style. But overall the series gets off to a good start, if you can stand another zombie title. Hopefully Edginton has more in mind than just “Sherlock Holmes and zombies”, though, because I don’t think that’s enough to carry the series. Zombies, after all, have been done before.

Hercules: Full Circle premiere HC I gushed a few months ago about the first hardcover collection of Bob Layton’s Hercules mini-series from the 80s. This month we get the second collection, containing the “Full Circle” graphic novel which concludes the character’s story, plus a short story and a 3-part epilogue that I hadn’t read before.

Layton’s art seems more than a bit dated today, but some of the stuff he tries to put over on the reader is amusing just for its audacity (like the supporting character “Lucynda Thrust”), and it works completely as a lighthearted buddy story. I doubt it’d be for everyone’s taste, but I’ve always loved it.

Realm of Kings one-shot I was very reluctant to pick up anything related to Realm of Kings considering what a bust War of Kings was, but something made me buy this one-shot. I’m glad I did, because it’s a neat little story: Quasar goes through the rift opened at the end of the war, and ends up on a parallel Earth in which the Avengers have given themselves over to the Great Old Ones, and who are interested in extending their reach into Quasar’s universe. While an obvious twist on the whole Marvel Zombies thing, the notion of the superheroes corrupted into becoming dark magicians could have legs. Then again, maybe it would be less entertaining if stretched out too far.

Leonardo Manco does a great job drawing the corrupted Earth and its heroes, and Abnett and Lanning have fun with the dark heroes (“What the Ftaghn?” exclaims Ms. Marvel) and figuring out how to get Quasar back where he belongs. As one-shots go, this one’s a lot of fun. Whether or not any of the rest of Realm of Kings – a collection of mini-series – will be, I have no idea, but as they mostly feature characters I don’t care about (the Inhumans, the Imperial Guard), I doubt I’ll give it more than a passing glance. Wake me when the main heroes get involved.

Echo #16 It’s time to check back in on Terry Moore’s Echo. It’s been slow going, but the story has been gradually revealing itself. Our heroine, Julie, accidentally got covered with a metallic substance which gives her odd powers she can’t really control, mainly being able to shock people with an energy zap. The creators of the metal have been after her, including hiring a mercenary Ivy, to bring her in. Julie’s also encountered a man – apparently a vagrant – who also has some of the metal, resulting in destruction and some death when they meet. After being on the run for some time, Julie’s gone with Ivy – who’s turned on her bosses and also retrieved Julie’s mentally-disturbed sister Pam – and is hiding with her.

That’s a lot of story, but it hasn’t felt like that much while reading it. It’s mostly felt like a fairly routine chase/suspense story with the mystery of the metal lurking in the background. What seems to be revealed here is where the title “Echo” comes from, as Julie is wondering if she’s able to communicate with the last – and deceased – wearer of the metal, a woman named Annie. There are also indications that Julie’s role may take on messianic overtones.

I can’t say that Echo has been one of my favorite comics – the glacial pace made me drop Moore’s previous series, the popular Strangers in Paradise – but it’s been interesting. Whether it’s all worth it will depend on whether Moore is able to bring it all to a big finish, whenever that comes. After a fashion, Echo reminds me of Jeff Smith’s current series, RASL in its tone, suspenseful structure, and fantastic mystery. To his credit, Moore has been publishing Echo nearly monthly, which makes it easier to stay attached to. And I like how Moore’s art has developed better than the caricature-dominated art Smith brings to RASL.

It’s a little odd that after 16 issues Echo is still at the point where it has more potential and actuality. Hopefully over the next year Moore will kick it into gear and turn it into something unique and exciting. But it’s not quite there yet.

(By the way, the covers tend to be much more dramatic than the contents; Julie is not nearly the ass-kicking heroine she seems to be on the cover to the left.)

This Week’s Haul

And what an enormous haul it was:

  • Blackest Night #2 of 8, by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis & Oclair Albert (DC)
  • Booster Gold #23, by Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund (DC)
  • Fables #87, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham & Andrew Pepoy (DC/Vertigo)
  • Fables: The Dark Ages vol 12 TPB, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Peter Gross, Andrew Pepoy, Michael Allred & David Hahn (DC/Vertigo)
  • Green Lantern Corps #39, by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Rebecca Buchman & Tom Nguyen (DC)
  • JSA vs. Kobra #3 of 6, by Eric S. Trautmann, Don Kramer & Michael Babinski (DC)
  • The Unwritten #4, by Mike Carey & Peter Gross (DC/Vertigo)
  • Wednesday Comics #6 of 12, by many hands (DC)
  • The Incredible Hercules #132, by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, Reilly Brown & Nelson DeCastro (Marvel)
  • The Marvels Project #1 of 8, by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting (Marvel)
  • War of Kings #6 of 6, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Paul Pelletier & Rick Magyar (Marvel)
  • Echo #14, by Terry Moore (Abstract)
  • Girl Genius: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones vol 8 HC, by Phil Foglio & Kaja Foglio (Airship)
  • Absolution #1, by Christos Gage & Roberto Viacava (Avatar)
  • B.P.R.D.: 1947 #2 of 5, by Mike Mignola, Joshua Dysart & Gabriel Bá (Dark Horse)
  • Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #5 of 8, by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo (Dark Horse)
  • The Boys #33, by Garth Ennis, John McCrea & Keith Burns (Dynamite)
The Unwritten #4 The first arc of The Unwritten wraps up this week. It’s a pretty interesting comic, a mix of outright horror and sophisticated mystery. Tom Taylor’s life has been turned upside down as he learns his writer father – who based his most famous creation upon Tom – had a lot of secrets, and now Tom’s been trying to track down the truth while avoiding both the law and some of the books’ nastier fans. The pacing is a bit slow, but I think Mike Carey’s building up to a much larger story so I’m willing to wait a while to see how it develops. Although this arc doesn’t really wrap anything up at the end, it actually ends on a cliffhanger which definitely piques my interest about what happens next.
Wednesday Comics #6 Wednesday Comics has some welcome developments this week. The most interesting is in Paul Pope’s Strange Adventures, in which Adam Strange returns to Earth, but rather than the young hero he is on Rann, he’s a much older man, an archaeologist, on Earth. This is an interesting twist on the character’s premise (though of course Adam Strange is somewhat based on John Carter of Mars), and I’m curious to see what Pope does with it.

Supergirl has an appearance by Aquaman, a much younger Aquaman who spends the whole page talking on his clam shell phone. Cute. Jimmy Palmiotti’s doing a much better job making a lighthearted strip with this one than Neil Gaiman is with Metamorpho, whose story is downright routine, and the little retro “extras” are rapidly getting tiresome.

The Marvels Project #1 Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s Captain America run has gotten a lot of acclaim, but I haven’t read any of it. However, I’ve enjoyed Brubaker’s pulpish work, and I’ve liked what I’ve seen by Epting in the past, so I’m going to give their new series, The Marvels Project, a whirl. It’s clearly rooted – at least in this first issue – in Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross’ terrific series Marvels from 15 or so years ago, covering the emergence of the original Human Torch in the 1940s, as well as the early escapades of the Sub-Mariner. Brubaker fills in some of the blanks of both characters ably, which gives me hope that it won’t just be a retread of that same ground. Though Epting certainly seems to be doing his level best to imitate Alex Ross’ style in that series.

The most interesting bit for me is the opening sequence, in which Dr. Thomas Holloway administers to a dying old man, Matt Hawk, who it turns out was the Two-Gun Kid in the late 19th century. But as long-time Marvel fans know, the Two-Gun Kid got a glimpse of the late 20th century when he spent several months hanging out with Hawkeye and the Avengers in some comics published in the late 70s, so he delivers some prophecy to Dr. Holloway, as well as his own pistols, and it looks like Holloway will use the guns to become a superhero on his own. (It seems that Thomas Holloway is the identity of the future golden age Angel, a character I’m not familiar with at all. But here he’s treated as a human observer, the point-of-view character for the story, and he works very well in that context.)

The first issue is promising, if rather derivative as I said. I don’t know whether The Marvels Project will take place during World War II, or will cover several different eras. Either one could work out. I also wonder what the “project” will be, or if the book’s title will be a misnomer. But Brubaker and Epting are both skilled enough that I’m sure it’ll be readable even if it doesn’t rise above my fears.

War of Kings #6 How not to conclude a big mini-series event: War of Kings #6. After half a year of Emperor Vulcan and sending his Shi’ar troops to fight with Black Bolt, the Inhumans, and their new Kree Empire, the series wraps up with Vulcan and Black Bolt going mano-a-mano on a giant bomb powered by BB’s energies. The two beat each other to a relative pulp before the thing goes off, after we learn that Vulcan can regenerate himself even from being mutilated by Bolt’s voice. The Shi’ar armada is devastated, and they sue for peace, meaning the Inhumans have won.

And then the series ends.

Gah!

So, Vulcan will presumably be back since he can apparently live through anything, even though as a character he’s far, far past his sell-by date at this point. Black Bolt will presumably be back since, well, he’s a classic Marvel character (if something of a fringe one). The Kree and Shi’ar empires have been battered around yet again, and all things considered nothing has been resolved, really, at all. But a rift in space has been opened up which will play directly into the Guardians of the Galaxy series in coming months, or so it seems.

So, really, this big event is just kicking off some new plot threads without resolving any of the previous ones.

What a waste of time.

Y’know, I really liked Annihilation, which was primarily a Keith Giffen story, and I enjoyed Annihilation Conquest well enough. It was an Abnett/Lanning event, as was War of Kings, but there’s definitely diminishing returns here. War of Kings was not good, and I don’t think I’ll be signing up for any further DnA-driven event series featuring Marvel’s spaceketeers. I’m happy for them to keep writing Nova, but I think this milieu needs some new blood. Or, honestly, no more events for a few years.

Absolution #1 Avatar Press specializes in some especially nasty comics, and for the most part I don’t really like ’em. As I described a while back they publish a lot of stuff by Warren Ellis that doesn’t appeal to me at all, even though he’s written some excellent stuff for other companies. My general reservations about Avatar aside, I decided to give Christos Gage’s Absolution a try, as the premise was interesting, although I expected it would contain an awful lot of violence and gore. And I wasn’t disappointed on the latter point.

John Dusk is a superhero in a US where most heroes are cops, which means they have the full support of the law, but also that they have to behave like cops, with all the regulations that implies. But Dusk starts going over the edge, unable to deal with the fact that criminals get off, and live to commit more crimes. So he starts to kill people who he thinks need to be killed because they either won’t be convicted, or haven’t been before. But since he’s going around the bend, it doesn’t quite stop there, either. At least one critic has compared the character to Dexter.

Gage does a good job of making Dusk seem sympathetic, a professional with good intentions, but who’s simply been squeezed to hard and starts to exercise poor judgment. It’s hard to defend a ‘hero’ who acts this way, though, so I’ll be curious to see how long Dusk remains sympathetic, especially since hie girlfriend is also a cop and will presumably start hunting him down at some point. Roberto Viacava’s art is a little stiff, but still within the bounds of artists working for the third-tier publishers (where DC and Marvel are the first tier, and the major indies like Image and Dark Horse are the second). He’s good a good sense of composition and clean lines, which helps a lot.

Absolution could end up going either way, but the start is promising. I don’t have enough exposure to Gage’s writing to have a sense for which way he’ll take it.

This Week’s Haul

A very light week:

  • Green Lantern: Wanted: Hal Jordan TPB, by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert & Daniel Acuña (DC)
  • War of Kings Saga special, by Michael Hoskin & many hands (Marvel)
  • Secret Invasion: War of Kings #1, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Paul Pelletier, Bong Dazo, Rick Magyar & Joe Pimentel (Marvel)
  • Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #2 of 8, by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo (Dark Horse)
  • The Boys #26, by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson (Dynamite)
Secret Invasion: War of Kings one-shot Marvel follows up its most recent event, the impenetrable Secret Invasion (which at least had the advantage of being more lively than DC’s Final Crisis), with an event for its space heroes, War of Kings. I’m mainly buying it for the space heroes angle, since I enjoy both Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy, and WoK is written by the authors of those series, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. That said, the set-up is amazingly convoluted and if you really want to know all the details, you can pick up the War of Kings Saga issue, which summarizes the whole thing.

Briefly, the Inhumans are a relatively obscure set of Marvel characters who millennia ago were substantially evolved by the alien Kree, who intended to use them as weapons. The Kree instead pulled out and the Inhumans have lived ever since in seclusion, first on Earth and then on the moon. Following some unpleasant confrontations with humanity in recent years, Black Bolt, the mute leader of the Inhumans, has decided that his race should claim their heritage as the rulers of the Kree. In this week’s Secret Invasion: War of Kings one-shot, they do exactly that, with Black Bolt seizing power from the incumbent Ronan the Accuser. Meanwhile, the Shi’ar empire has an usurper of its own, Vulcan, the mutant brother of the X-Men’s Cyclops, and he sees the Inhumans’ action as an interesting challenge to his own power, and presumably intended to provoke a war with them.

Got all that? It’s really even more complex than that – that’s the brief version.

At a glance this event looks like it’s going to suffer from a lack of sympathetic characters: Black Bolt has always been something of a nonentity, written as a stoic figure who acts through others, whole Vulcan is just an outright villain. But presumably Abnett and Lanning are going to show the war between the two through the eyes of people affected by it, such as Nova and the Guardians and anyone else who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Of more concern is the sheer convoluted nature of the premise. Earlier cosmic events such as Annihilation and its sequel Annihilation Conquest had the advantage of having relatively simple premises, but pulling in these complex set-ups just makes this one very hard to get behind: Can’t we just have a good old space war without getting Vulcan and the Inhumans involved? It feels like a big overreach.

It’s also a disappointing to see the interesting ongoing storylines in Nova and Guardians disrupted again by yet another event. Can we call for a moratorium on this stuff and get back to some plain, simple storytelling?

I have a certain amount of faith in Abnett and Lanning to pull off stuff like this, but I think they’ve set themselves a big challenge here, and I’m not sure the payoff is likely to merit the risk.