- Brightest Day #7, by Geoff Johns, Peter J. Tomasi, Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark, Joe Prado, Vicente Cifuentes, David Beaty & Mark Irwin (DC)
- Secret Six #24, by Gail Simone & Jim Califore (DC)
- Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom #3 of 6, by Peter Hogan, Chris Sprouse & Karl Story (DC/Wildstorm)
- Captain America #608, by Ed Brubaker, Butch Guice, Rick Magyar & Mark Pennington (Marvel)
- Captain America: Forever Allies #1 of 4, by Roger Stern, Nick Oragotta, Marco Santucci & Patrick Piazzalunga (Marvel)
- Casanova #2, by Matt Fraction & Gabriel BÃ¡ (Marvel/Icon)
- Hercules: Twilight of a God #3 of 4, by Bob Layton & Ron Lim (Marvel)
- S.H.I.E.L.D. #3, by Jonathan Hickman & Dustin Weaver (Marvel)
- Irredeemable #16, by Mark Waid & Peter Krause (Boom)
- Hellboy: The Storm #2 of 3, by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo (Dark Horse)
- The Boys #45, by Garth Ennis & Russ Braun (Dynamite)
Roger Stern was a workhorse author at Marvel Comics back in the 1980s, and he wrote a lot of excellent stuff (I especially remember his West Coast Avengers mini-series with fondness – it was recently collected in hardcover), but by the end of the 1990s he’d largely disappeared. He teamed up with John Byrne on the nifty mini-series Marvel: The Lost Generation a decade ago (worth seeking out), and now he’s back writing a new Captain America mini-series, Forever Allies, which I picked up partly because I’m enjoying Ed Brubaker’s Cap series so much and this spins out of it, but mainly because Stern’s one of those comics writers whose stuff I’ll always check out because he’s a good solid writer.
The premise here involves Cap – who is currently Bucky Barnes, having skipped over most of the last 65 years thanks to suspended animation – attending the funeral of one of his friends in the Young Allies team during World War II, and reminiscing about their days together. But at the funeral he spots a woman who resembles a mind-controlling antagonist from that era, Lady Lotus, herself having aged not a day. Investigating, he learns that she’s listed as being in prison – only she’s actually escaped. And so the hunt is on – as is Lotus’ master plan, hinted at on the final page.
As I said, Stern’s a fine storyteller, and he handles the shifts between the 1940s and 2010 quite well, aided by some nice classic-style artwork by Nick Dragotta (in a style that feels like Jack Kirby crossed with Darwyn Cooke) and modern-style art by Marco Santucci (sort-of resembling the main Cap series art by Butch Guice and others, but not quite up to their level). I’m not familiar with either of these guys, but they’re both quite good in this context.
It looks like this one should be fun, and I hope it opens the doors to more Stern stories in the future.
In the category of “comics I don’t really get”, there’s Casanova, which is clearly trying to be particularly bizarre and offbeat and which might gel with time, but there’s also Jonathan Hickman’s S.H.I.E.L.D., which I was skeptical of from the first issue. The nominal main story involves a man named Leonid in the 1950s being inducted into the order of S.H.I.E.L.D., the secret organization which protects mankind from extraterrestrial (in all senses of the word) threats. This story is moving at a glacial pace, as it’s been consistently preempted by flashbacks to the organization’s history, which includes Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, and various other historic figures (one of whom is still alive in the 20th century and has taken Leonid under his wing).
Honestly these flashbacks seem like just sequence after sequence of historical wankery, touting the merits of science and discovery, showing some of the group’s accomolishments (like the defeat of Galactus in the 16th century), and not-quite-clever integrations of Marvel figures into the story (the use of the Deviants here is rather gratuitous). It’s all rather dreary, never focuses on any of its scenes long enough to truly evoke a sense of wonder, and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. So I don’t really get what the appeal is.
A good contrast is the series Annihilation from a few years back; while also rather downbeat, it explored its themes and situations at length and is one of the most sense-of-wonder evoking stories that Marvel’s published in recent years. It was also strongly character-driven, something that S.H.I.E.L.D. decidedly is not.
The bright spot in this series is Dustin Weaver’s artwork, reminiscent of that of Barry Windsor-Smith, but the finishes a bit more polished (Smith’s inks always looked uncomfortably rough to me). He gets both the period looks and the effects down, although his characters’ faces are sometimes hard to recognize when the people are different ages.
Overall, though, S.H.I.E.L.D. seems at best disappointing and at worst unnecessary. Maybe it will all come together in the next couple of months, but I’m not sure I have patience to wait longer than that.
Peter Krause is back on Irredeemable, and boy has he been missed! The interim artists have been okay, but Krause really set the look for the series and it’s not the same without him. It feels like Mark Waid took the opportunity to kick the story into a new gear with this issue, too, with revelations about several characters and a surprising proposal on the final page.
Carrying the “Superman-gone-bad” premise for an ongoing series is tough to do, and the story feels like it’s gotten sidetracked over the last few months, but hopefully this is a sign that the next arc will be more satisfying.
(I wonder if Waid has an ending in mind, and how long he expects it will take to get there?)