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DC Futures End Month, Week Two

This week, I catch up on a couple extra issues I picked up from last week’s bunch over the weekend between Wednesdays, as well as this week’s new issues.

FUTURES END: BATWING #1

futuresend_batwing001It’s been a couple years since I’ve checked in on Batwing, offhand. It was the first comic I followed digitally, taking advantage of the $1-cheaper-one-month-later but lost track of it once DC went to waiting 2 months. I was aware of a status quo shift from the character I knew as Batwing to the sun of Lucius Fox. This issue didn’t really do much for me, though it was interesting enough to read. Definitely glad it’s a one-shot…I was satisfied enough with the read to not feel like I wasted my money, though I would not have been happy if this was a “regular” issue. I admit to giving in on some hype with this, but when I found it at cover price, I figured I’d give the thing a shot. Overall not bad for a “weekend wave” of “what was left” after the iniitial Wednesday release.

FUTURES END: EARTH 2 #1

futuresend_earth2001I was going to avoid this one, but then it occurred to me that this was Earth 2. And with all the hints dropped about the war between the Earths, of Earth 2 refugees and such in the Futures End main title, I thought FOR SURE this one would detail some of that, so I was curious enough to hit an extra comic shop to track it down. Sadly, it didn’t deal with that at all, and dealt more with an apparent “fall” of Mr. Terriffic, which while surely a major plot point was not the one I was looking for. The cover made me think it was going to involve the Red Tornado somehow, as well, but that was another point that didn’t hold up to the actual reading. Not a bad issue in and of itself, but certainly didn’t measure up to my expectation, and I might’ve been better off “saving” the $4 for a different one later this month.

FUTURES END: BATMAN #1

futuresend_batman001So, Batman’s apparently working on preserving and being his OWN legacy. However, as his body (and technology) fail, he finds that he has to go to extreme measures to complete a “puzzle” of sorts to prolong the very existence of Batman. This leads to a fairly all-or-nothing assualt on a Lexcorp facility for material in its lab. Batman being Batman, things have a way of working out, even if not quite what one might expect. I think I was expecting this one to take place a bit further in the future–I wanted to see a Bruce dealing with Terry–the Batman Beyond. I picked this up specifically, simply because it’s Batman…I figured for the “regular” price but much shinier, better cover it would be worthwhile. I wasn’t terribly impressed, though…I very well could have done without the issue. Still, it’s Batman, so not a complete waste. Just definitely not a “top” issue for me in this month of five-years-later one-shots.

FUTURES END: GREEN LANTERN CORPS #1

futuresend_greenlanterncorps001It’s been awhile, again, since I checked in on this title. So I’m not sure how much of the “five years later” ties back to the recent stuff–I assume it does, though. It’s nice to see the continued use of the multiple Lantern corps as such a general thing and not strictly as a Johns thing. While not exactly a “Last John Stewart Story,” this definitely comes off like it could be just that, though I don’t know much of the actual “official” established background of the Indigo Tribe (I think much of that was revealed shortly after I left off with my following of all the GL stuff). We see a hardened John Stewart here facing what he’s become, conflicting with the Indigo Tribe, and what his attitude there leads to as he’s forced to confront his own past and the destruction of a planet. I’m pretty sure this issue would carry more significance if I were to be caught up on the GL family of titles. As-is, it didn’t feel all that important, just sort of an “epilogue” or such, perhaps, on the John Stewart character.

FUTURES END: BATGIRL #1

futuresend_batgirl001My earliest Batman comics involved the original introduction of Tim Drake, Robin…and while I didn’t fully “get” it at the time, Barbara Gordon was already a couple years along from the events of The Killing Joke, was already in the early stages of being Oracle…and that’s the character I grew up on for at least 20 years. So I never gave this title much of a chance before bailing…Having Barbara Gordon as Batgirl seems weird, as to me, she’s Oracle and “Batgirl” would be Cassandra Cain or Stephanie Brown. Given that…this issue’s inclusion of a group of Batgirls (plural), including a “Stephanie” and a “Cassandra” was rather cool…and a Barbara who–while not Oracle–was in more of a leadership/advisory role to a group of women seemed far more familiar and interesting to me. I haven’t a clue if the use of Cassandra and Stephanie here will be “canon,” but I do believe this is Simone’s final issue on the matter, and so it’s good seeing the characters’ inclusion. I was going to pass on this issue on principle…but I’m glad I actually picked it up, as it was a good read, and a nice “check-in” on the title and character, as this single one-shot.

FUTURES END: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITED #1

futuresend_justiceleagueunited001I’ve only loosely been aware of this new title even existing–but while I haven’t cared enough to check it out in a present-day continuity context, as a “five years later” thing it works as just a possible alternate offshoot of the “main” Justice League…so I don’t really have to “think” too much about the matter. Here we find an apparently former group being contacted by the Martian Manhunter, “recruited” to deal with an escape from the JL’s “gulag” on Mars. The situation isn’t all that good, and as the characters arrive, the situation may be more than they can handle alone. Which, of course leaves us with a to-be-continued note, as this story continues into the Justice League issue this month. Technically this is a one-shot, but it’s part 1 of a 2-part story. Though I’ve relished the one-shot nature of DC’s books this month, I actually picked this one up specifically FOR the fact it was part of a two-parter…just to have a slightly larger story, given the involvement of numerous characters when one talks “Justice League.”

FUTURES END: CONSTANTINE #1

futuresend_constantine001As a long-time fan of Hellblazer, I “settled” for the new Constantine series when it premiered, as the only likely monthly dose of the Constantine character. I didn’t much care for the single issues, and figured I’d wait and catch up. I’ve yet to do so, just for simple “apathy” on the matter. Yet, when it came to having “given in” on DC’s annual one-shots, I decided it was a great chance to get a single-issue check-in with the character. Unfortunately, the issue proved to be a real pain to track down…perhaps because there’s a tv show about to premiere with the same name. However, I managed to get thsi for cover price, and it was a neat little story of Constantine vs. Nabu, the Helmet of Fate. It also has probably my favorite cover of the week, if not of the month. I think even if I was not buying any others, I’d’ve been interested in this anyway, just from the cover. While not quite as harsh as it likely would’ve been in Hellblazer proper…I very much enjoyed this issue, and am very glad I sought it out and got to read it. If anything’s to pull me further/back in, this’ll do it.

OVERALL THOUGHTS ON WEEK 2

This week I actually “planned” for including several extra DC books, to the point of emailing ahead to the shop to have several issues pulled. I suppose that’s the surest sign that I’m “hooked” on anything: when I take the time to specifically request something be pulled, even if just as a one-time thing and not an ongoing pull-list item.

In the hassle of tracking down Constantine, I wound up settling for a couple extra issues of Futures End itself, making myself think that ok, I’m not getting every tie-in this month, but MAYBE I’m actually rethinking avoiding the Futures End book. At the very least I’m now intrigued at the prospect of the Earth 2 weekly, and maybe I’ll give that one a shot.

I suppose the big thing all this is telling me is: I’m sick and tired of ongoing $3.99 books and constant events. I just want a self-contained $2.99 or less thing to follow on a regular basis, and when I KNOW from the START it’s a weekly, I’m willing to buy a book weekly for $12ish/monthly–that’s more than the $8 from a double-shipping $3.99, but feels like I’m getting a better value at the weekly new chapters, even if the art varies.

I guess time will definitely tell.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW) #37 [Review]

teenagemutantninjaturtlesidw037Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Art: Cory Smith
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Cover: Cory Smith
Published by: IDW
Cover Price: $3.99

This is easily one of my favorite issues of the series so far…yet it’s not exactly one that would stand alone entirely as an introduction to the book. The fact that it deals deeply in established continuity, bridging the previous arc(s) and leading into the next is a huge strength for the issue.

When I first saw this cover (I get the “A” covers as a matter of principle) I almost grinned. Shredder and Krang facing each other as if an uneasy alliance or entering an alliance, with the under-construction Deathsta…er…Technodrome in the background? This could easily be a poster, and one I would frame and hang if I had it. So to say that the cover caught my attention in and of itself is an apt bit to note in an age of generic interchangeable covers and variants.

The interior art is similarly eye-catching, which makes sense–Cory Smith provides the interiors as well as the “A” cover. The characters’ appearances all look very good, fit established appearances from other artists, and on the whole I just can’t find anything disconcerting or off-putting that drew me out of the story or any negative reaction. I’m not typically an art-focused reader, but to put it simply: I really enjoyed the visuals to this issue.

The story opens on Shredder and Krang and immediately had me curious what they’d be up to in this issue, and half-wondering if it’d be a “talky” issue. We then shift to see what Alopex is up to, with Kitsune, and see that there’s definitely something building there. The story returns to Shredder and Krang’s conference, which doesn’t get either very far before violence breaks out and it becomes quickly apparent that the two will be at odds with each other even while having a common foe in the turtles.

This was indeed a bit of a “talky” issue…though moreso, it was Shredder vs. Krang (with a bit of Shredder’s goons vs. Krang’s goons thrown in for good measure). From the characters’ exchange I’ve realized I definitely–as I’ve somewhat suspected for awhile–missed an issue of the Utrom Empire series somehow. I found myself rather engaged throughout the issue, enjoying it immensely and wishing it wasn’t quickly drawing to a conclusion.

That the story credits three creators is something that I think has made this series extremely enjoyable for me: Eastman as original co-creator of the property, and three years in Curnow and Waltz have certainly established themselves. As a team they’re providing stories and character moments and concepts that have made IDW‘s TMNT continuity possibly the most well-rounded and pretty much my favorite of the myriad TMNT continuities out there.

There’s a definite nostalgia factor for me with Alopex–I’d initially thought she’d be a stand-in for the Ninjara character that appeared in the ’90s TMNT Adventures series…though that could yet be, just (like everything else with IDW‘s continuity) developing a bit slower and with more detail as we go along. I also far prefer this version of Krang to any other version, much as I prefer the comics Cobra Commander to the GI Joe cartoons’ version(s) of the character.

Koya and Bludgeon also remind me of TMNT Adventures characters–Koya of a character whose name I don’t recall offhand, and Bludgeon of the time-travelling shark Armaggon…whether or not these current characters have any bases visually or otherwise on the classic characters doesn’t much matter as I simply enjoyed seeing these, and have the freedom to “hope” there’s some sort of tie.

While I wouldn’t really recommend using this issue as a cold jumping-on point, it’s a strong done-in-one “interlude” that carries itself while bridging arcs and reminding readers of what’s come before that presumably will come into play in the next arc. If you’re a fan of Shredder and/or Krang this isn’t a bad issue, either, even if you’ve been away for an arc or few. 

(However, if you’re looking for the turtles themselves? They don’t appear in this issue’s story. And I’m more than fine with that–the conflict with Shredder and Krang was so engaging that as I read, I was hoping this’d be the case so as to not steal page-time away from the villains.)

As much as ANY comic is these days, this is definitely worth its cover price for the read, particularly as an ongoing reader of the series/continuity. Highly recommended.

X-O Manowar #26 [Review]

xomanowar026Tall Tales

Writer: Robert Venditti
Penciler: Diego Bernard
Inker: Alisson Rodrigues
Colorist: Brian Reber
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover Artists: Clayton Crain and Trevor Hairsine
Assistant Editor: Josh Johns
Executive Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99 ($5.99 Chromium Cover)

I’m not often a fan of the main character not being in a book, and for those solely reading this title, that could be a problem this issue. While this IS an issue of X-O Manowar, there’s no appearance or mention of Aric in this issue. Of course, technically, “X-O Manowar” is the armor’s designation whether Aric’s in it or not, but that puts us pretty close to “splitting hairs” territory for the moment. However, as one reading both this and the Armor Hunters mini (the whole ‘event’ for that matter), I have no problem with it, and at worst would liken it to a Marvel event where an ongoing book suddenly becomes “background detail” for a separate “event book.”

I’d said about Armor Hunters #1 that it felt like an issue of this title, and this issue feels like it could be a standalone Armor Hunters issue–even a #1 for an ongoing or such. This issue shows us the “origin” of Malgam and Reebo’s involvement with the Armor Hunters. We find them in a bar seeking their next job, where they stumble across one no one else will touch. Reasoning that if they take on what no one else would they could quickly make a name for themselves, they take it on. Of course, things don’t go at all as they’d planned, and they find themselves in the fight of their lives–for their lives–against a lone Armor…a fight that leads THEM to being the ones in the position of crazy-story-tellers others would mock.

As said, this issue feels to me like it could easily have been a #1 issue of some ongoing Armor Hunters series: we’re introduced to a couple characters, given some context of what they’re about, presented with a challenge, and given an epilogue after that chellenge that leads into What Comes Next. In that regard this would have been a very good first issue, leaving me interested in reading the next in order TO find out what comes next.

As such, as a 26th issue of an ongoing series, it would be easy to say this is misplaced. But for my own background, that’s about all I’ll give on that.

The art for this issue is consistent, clear, and easy to follow. I actually enjoyed the visuals–credit to the entire art team–and never found myself distracted or taken out of the “reading experience” due to anything funky with the art. While Malgam looks different–younger and not yet in a partial/beat-up armor–Reebo is quite recognizable and while the name isn’t as familiar to me yet his appearance IS. Suffice it, then, to say that I liked the art and found no particular fault in it this issue.

The story is quite good, offering us an origin story of Reebo and Malgam AS Armor Hunters, showing their first encounter with an Armor and their introduction to the Armor Hunters group. Since I’m “all-in” with the Armor Hunters event, I have little particular interest in what title contains what story elements in general as long as it has some sort of relation to the overall AH saga. But then, even if one is attempting solely to read X-O Manowar, given that Armor Hunters comes out of this title and holds significant bearing on this title, I see no great problem with this story falling in this issue. While this contextualizes the Armor Hunters mini, I also do not figure it’s any far cry to suspect this will play into later events within X-O Manowar itself, despite Aric not even appearing in this issue.

Though the cover usually doesn’t hold much bearing on my buying an issue when it’s part of something I’m getting “anyway” or that’s on my pull-list…this has gotta be one of my favorite covers of this series, and quite iconic to me of the Armor Hunters event in general. There’s just something to this imagery–of the planet about to blow, the armor racing away, its wearer obviously not happy–that just totally fits for me. That this is a larger than usual image (being a wrap-around cover and all) adds to the whole, and is a nice ‘bonus’ for holding the standard $3.99 cover price. (The chromium edition cover is $2 more at $5.99).

While I’d had no real intention of buying any of the chromium editions after my disappointment in the chromium edition of Armor Hunters #1, I’d forgotten that I’d requested ’em with my local comic shop, so this is the 3rd of the 6 for me, so while the chromium aspect does not–for me–hold up to the quality and appearance of chromium covers from the 1990s, I’m gaining a grudging appreciation for these, in and of themselves.

I really enjoyed this issue on the whole, and while I’ll admit there’s something to be said for its freshness and simply being “the latest chapter,” I think I can safely say it’s one of my favorite issues of the series so far, and another great part of this Armor Hunters epic.

Readers seeking to avoid Armor Hunters will likely have a reasonable disappointment in this issue, while those picking this up BECAUSE of Armor Hunters should find this to be a great piece of the overall picture. While having read earlier X-O Manowar stuff and certainly Armor Hunters #1 will lend further context and significance to this issue, one really does not have to have read any previous issues of X-O Manowar to jump in with this issue if one has read Armor Hunters #1.

I’m very much looking forward to what we get in the next issue, as well as further tie-ins to the overall Armor Hunters event, thanks to this issue!

xomanowar026wraparound

Superman (2011) #32 [Review]

Superman #32

Men of Tomorrow – Chapter One: Ulysses

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: John Romita Jr.
Inker: Klaus Janson
Colorist: Laura Martin
Lettering: Sal Cipriano
Cover: Romita Jr., Janson, Martin
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

I wasn’t going to buy this issue. I’d been annoyed by the ads the last couple months, and wasn’t a fan of the art from previews…to say nothing of being annoyed AT the previews themselves (having never been a particular fan of the 5-page or so previews masquerading as chosen content in any given issue).

But at the shop, the coloring of the cover caught my attention: It’s not an image I recognized from the ads (the ads’ image I’d thought for SURE was the COVER IMAGE for this given its use all over the place!). While I’m not a fan of the linework, the image caught me–the red of the cape, the blue of the main suit, and maybe all the more, the orange and yellow background. It’s reminiscent of two VERY familiar covers in my mind: the Kryptonite Nevermore issue, and Adventures of Superman #497 from 1992.

Where usually the cover and art are not the primary influencing factor in my buying a comic, in this case, it definitely “sold” me on at least this issue alone.
I also quite like the fact that the visual style fits the interior; it sometimes feels like the covers can be a distinctly different thing, giving one impression while the interior is a completely different visual style.
I recall liking Romita‘s art some 12/13 years ago on Amazing Spider-Man, JMS‘ run, but as I’d noticed from the previews and now having been through the actual issue, I’m not terribly thrilled with the style with Superman. It’s certainly not bad–and loads better than anything I could ever dream of being able to draw myself–just that for this first issue it doesn’t fit with my preferred visual take on Superman (a la Dan Jurgens, Jim Lee, Ed Benes, to name a few). The art certainly does its job…I’m never really left wondering what’s going on, and there’s nothing that jars me out of the story scratching my head at anatomy or some other quirks that different artists’ styles sometimes have done to me. If you’re a fan of Romita‘s style, this would seem to be a solid example of that, except it’s with DC characters instead of Marvel.

While Janson‘s name sticks out quite a bit to me, I’m honestly not one that particularly consciously notices inking–linework tends to go together as one thing, with the penciller getting much of the credit. In this case, given just how recognizeable the art is to me as Romita’s style, I’d say the inking maintains the style, complimenting it quite well…it certainly doesn’t detract in any way I notice.

If I’m correctly recalling, the last time Johns came onto a Superman book was in Action Comics, beginning the Last Son arc with Donner, and I was none too thrilled with elements reintroduced to the Superman story during that run. I was also not all that thrilled with the Secret Origin arc and what THAT reintroduced.
However, this is an entirely different DC universe, an entirely different Superman, and as such, I’m along for the ride and whatever elements are brought in. I’ve not been particularly invested in the New 52 Superman, at this point having read barely 1/3 of the run.
Johns introduces us to Ulysses, a boy sent from his dying world by his parents to another place in the hopes that he would live…an origin quite parallel to that of Kal-El. Years later, Superman takes down Titano, a giant (mechanical) ape troubling Metropolis. Not long after, we spend some time at the Planet with Perry, Jimmy, and a visiting Clark. Perry offers to bring Kent back in, and offers a bit of a ‘speech’ that will surely impact the young reporter/blogger/super-hero. A new threat hits the city, and though Superman intervenes, it takes the intervention of a new  figure to temporarily resolve the issue, as the man believing himself to be the Last Son of Earth discovers he’s not nearly as alone as he’d thought.
Frankly, I don’t want to be interested. I don’t want another $3.99 book on my slate each month, especially with the title being what seems to me arbitrarily bumped to the higher price, when Superman started as a $2.99 book and Action Comics was the $3.99 book.
But Johns has done it–I’m interested in spite of myself. I may not be enthused with the art, but the story more than makes up for it. I haven’t a clue how LONG Johns will be on the book, and this strikes me as likely “graphic novel” fodder (without getting much into the issue of stories “written for the trade”) so it remains to be seen if I pick up the next issue.
I’m not ready to add this to my pull list by any means…but I’m not disappointed in having spent the $3.99 that I did, I’m interested in what comes next within the story, and it’s highly likely that if I don’t pick up the rest of this arc in single-issue format I’ll definitely look at picking up the inevitable hardback.

adventuresofsuperman497      superman233

superman0032

TMNT: Turtles in Time #1 [Review]

tmntturtlesintime001Turtles in Time (part 1)

Writer: Paul Allor
Artist: Ross Campbell
Colorist: Bill Crabtree
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Published by: IDW
Cover Price: $3.99

Two TMNT comics in one week? I’m not a fan of the $3.99 being doubled-up in the single week, but it IS TMNT, and this is a fun issue, so I’m not about to complain about “more TMNT” than less!

We pick up with the turtles randomly running from dinosaurs and utroms–either on prehistoric Earth or a planet much like it. The group is quickly split, with Raph captured by utroms, and the others chased off by the dinosaurs. As Raph recruits a baby Triceratops (he’s named her “Pepperoni”), the others mount a rescue operation that doesn’t go too badly…until the utrom military arrives. The turtles get some clue as to what’s going on when Renet shows up, but she’s not as helpful as she could be. Finally, the utroms’ military leader sees potential in what’s to be found on this world.

Visually, the Peterson cover is awesome…even if it is a bit misleading. It was rather jarring to go from that beautiful cover to the interior, which is a much different style. That gave me a bit of pause, and it took several pages to “adjust” but once I did, I quite liked the interior art as well. Though This is presumably set within current IDWTMNT-verse continuity, their was something to the look that struck me as being almost more like the current animated series than the ongoing IDW book.

There’s a blurb on the inside of the cover explaining that this series takes place after the 2014 Annual, but that Annual is not yet out. Perhaps that’d be a bigger deal to me on other stuff, but for the TMNT, it doesn’t bother me too much. The “spin” of it being a “time malfunction” is just cutesy enough to be amusing, and could loosely be seen as a bit of “augmented reality” or whatever buzzword folks want to use for trying to immerse a reader in stuff related to the issue.

Story-wise, this actually ALMOST functions as a sort of one-shot. We’re as readers already thrown off a bit by being tossed into the middle of a situation-in-progress, and we end on a similar note in such a way that it sort of brings things full circle, even though the story whole is continuing into the next issue.

I like the characterization, particularly Mikey and Raph in this issue. I “heard” the voice of the current animated series’ Mikey in this, and chuckled at an amusing bit where an utrom unknowingly repeats something Mikey did, allowing readers to make an assumption as to what happened off-panel.

I don’t recall seeing any solicitation info or any blurbs in the back of any TMNT issues I’ve read mentioning this series, so its appearance this week was a pleasant surprise and definite “treat.” While it seems this story will spin out of the upcoming TMNT 2014 Annual, there’s certainly enough in-story context to bring one up to speed on what matters to the current story. Really, other than involving utroms and a mention of Krang this seems to sit alone quite well, not contradicting anything in continuity but not drawing from any specific moment in the ongoing series…so it’s well worth jumping in on this mini-series at least, even if you’re not following the ongoing in particular. And if you do follow the ongoing, this is a fun side-adventure that’s an enjoyable read…whether or not it plays much into the ongoing book.

Highly recommended!

Armor Hunters #1 [Review]

armorhunters001regArmor Hunters / Part I: Quarry

Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Doug Braithwaite
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover Artists: Jorge Molina, Clayton Crain, Trevor Hairsine, Doug Braithwaite
Assistant Editor: Josh Johns
Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99 ($5.99 Chromium Cover)

It’s definitely safe to say that this is an issue I’ve been looking forward to specifically for quite a few weeks now. Valiant‘s done a great job with “pushing” their titles, and as someone who’s already “all-in” for present, an event like this is well-suited for me. Though I believe the “main” story will be contained to this 4-issue mini-series, there are some tie-ins with X-O Manowar and Unity, as well as several tie-in mini-series. As the opening/first chapter in the event itself, this issue stands alone fairly well while sitting in the midst of established continuity.

This issue opens with an attack on a Russian facility where suits of armor are being developed in as-close-as-possible approximation to Aric’s X-O armor. The aliens attack the base, killing those within, having located the place due to the armors. While no sentience is detected, the armors are destroyed, and the aliens left baffled as to why humans would seek to duplicate such dangerous things. After this attack, Aric finds his people’s new homeland invaded by US forces–though said forces claim to be there to protect them, not to invade. Aric is brought up to speed from the US forces’ side, and seeks further counsel from Malgam (the alien he fought in the Armor Hunters Prelude in X-O Manowar #s 23-24). The alien “hunters” then unleash an attack that leaves little doubt as to their power, and the devastation possible on Earth if the X-O armor is not turned over to them.

As said, this issue sits in the midst of estabished continuity–particularly in references to goings-on in the X-O Manowar title. While readers of that title will have a fuller appreciation of Aric’s attitude and and what led to the present status quo, reading this issue by itself one is simply presented WITh the present status quo. Said status quo can be accepted at face value, but those interested in more can seek out the earlier stories to get the details.

By and large, this issue reads like an issue of X-O Manowar (which makes sense, given Venditti is the writer on both). The aliens are presented as the antagonists, yet don’t come off entirely as ‘villains’–moreso they come off as a “Federation” with no “Prime Directive” and no qualms about razing planets to make sure the apparently sentient armors are eradicated. The characterization seems consistent with the X-O Manowar title, and I have no issues with the story so far as “merely” the opening chapter.

Visually, I don’t have much to say except that I really enjoyed the issue, and nothing to the art really put me off or distracted me from the story. I know Braithwaite‘s art from Unity at the least, which adds to the consistent familiarity of the issue’s look/feel. I like the aliens’ design–they look suitably alien, while also being distinct individuals.

While this issue in and of itself doesn’t seem to justify the huge crossover, its ending does show how the crossover works quite organically as the impact of the issue is not limited to a single facility or base and truly will affect the entire planet.

Though one could presumably “jump in blind” with this issue and reasonably follow stuff, the full enjoyment (at least for me) of the issue comes from its growth out of continuity.

As there are a couple covers/editions, I recommend sticking with the standard cover…I was not suitably impressed at the “enhanced” “chromium” cover, finding it did not have the same boldness of the classic ’90s Valiant Chromium covers.

If you’re reading X-O Manowar, this definitely works as an extension of the title. It’s also worth picking up if you’re planning to follow any of the tie-in minis to get what I imagine will be the larger/broader context. And if you’re just looking for a mini-series to “dabble” in Valiant, this is also worthwhile on the whole.

Rise of the Magi #s 0 & 1 [Review]

riseofthemagi001Writer: Marc Silvestri
Artists: Sumeyye Kesgin & Marc Silvestri
Colorist: Betsy Gonia (#0 – Jasen Smith)
Letterer: Troy Peteri
Editor: Betsy Gonia
Art Assists: Bridget Silvestri
Cover: Marc Silvestri & Betsy Gonia (#0 – Silvestri & Andy Troy
Published by: Image/Top Cow
Cover Price: $3.50 (#0 – Free)

Rise of the Magi is one of the Free Comic Book Day comics that seemed to jump out more than most…though at present whether that was internet “hype” or the logo and cover of the issue itself catching me, I’m not sure. I hadn’t gotten around to reading that issue, but saw the first issue of the series itself out this past week, so decided to give it a chance. (While not the $2.99 that anymore is a quick-sell for me, the 0-issue having been free and this first issue being $3.50 at least kept it under the frustrating $3.99 price point).

riseofthemagi000The 0-issue’s cover was a bit deceptive…I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it led me to believe the main character was going to have some sort of agenda against witches (and warlocks?) or otherwise be opposed to magic/etc. in general. However, the issue begins with a page of mostly text setting up the situation–all magic is contained in a small orb, and doing something to the orb would affect the entire universe. A boy whose brother is part of some sort of guard unit protecting the orb stumbles across a situation threatening the orb, leading into the #1 issue.

In Rise of the Magi #1, we get some further context of the magic orb, the Spellguard, and what’s going on that threatens the orb. As the threatening scenario plays out, the boy is drawn tightly into the situation, and ultimately thrust into a world he’s going to have to learn to operate in as the series moves forward.

Visually, I was more impressed with the first issue–brief as it was. The second issue had a bit of a jarring visual shift, though at least it came with a “chapter break” in the story rather than just shifting with no apparent rhyme or reason. Given this is not an “established property,” I have no visuals to compare it to–simply the archetypal fantasy setting given the primarily-fantasy setting of the story. That lack of comparison leaves the art to stand on its own, with no preconceived notions on my part with the specific characters. Given I’ve liked Silvestri‘s art in the past on X-Men stuff in particular, I had rather high expectations for this, but found myself a bit disappointed. The art was not bad, it just didn’t live up to whatever my expectations had set.

Story-wise, I found myself rather “iffy” partway into #1, figuring this to be “just another” fantasy thing, but the ending of the issue gave a bit of a twist to that…yet, it’s a twist that also feels like “just another” of its kind. The characters and specifics may be a bit different, but it’s definitely not the first such story I’ve seen/read of its kind, and I’m not entirely sure what to make of it.

I can’t say I’m exactly “impressed,” but to again use the passive: it’s not bad. If you like Silvestri or any of the other creators involved, it’s definitely worth taking a look. All in all, I think it’s safe to say that if I happen to notice the next issue I’ll pick it up, giving the series another issue to really hook me, but it doesn’t yet have me enough to want to put it on my pull list.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW) #34 [Review]

teenagemutantninjaturtlesidw034Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Art: Mateus Santolouco
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Cover: Mateus Santolouco
Published by: IDW
Cover Price: $3.99

While heading to Harold’s lab to seek his assistance, Donnie and April run across Casey and Angel. Angel accompanies the duo to the lab, while Casey heads off on his own, still dealing with recent events. Harold’s been busy, and whatever his intentions with a security robot, the thing predictably-ish loses control, forcing the turtle and his human allies into combat…which leads to the introduction of another familiar name to this series. Meanwhile, Leonardo and Splinter discuss priorities, and we leave off with the latest development with a couple of uneasy allies.

Story-wise, not a whole lot to say for this issue. This definitely feels like a developmental issue…not really “treading water” or anything, but definitely <b>A</b> “middle chapter” of a middle chapter, so to speak. We do get some good development in Harold’s place in things, though that sort of adds to this middle sense–after City Fall and the quieter Northampton, this issue (and arc) feels like it’s more laying the groundwork for a coming showdown with Krang and his Technodrome.

We have the introduction of a familiar turtle robot, which is ok–I’m not a particular fan overall, though I’ve owned the action figures and not had a terrible problem with the cartoon episodes. This take on the thing put me in mind of the current animated series’ version…perhaps simply because that’s the most recent I’ve seen. Whatever my feelings about the use of the character (which works well even if I’m not the biggest fan)…I really like the visual!

Which leads to the issue’s art: I continue to really dig Santolouco‘s visual style with these characters! As I’ve probably said previously, I don’t care for April’s hair style of late, but that isn’t necessarily a comment on the art as much as one guy’s preferences. The visual take Santolouco brings to the book is enjoyable, and a bit different (moreso for the turtles), but has come to be another favorite of mine.

All in all, another quite solid issue of a series that–nearly three years in–continues to have me looking forward to each new issue, and marveling at the excellent blend of all the previous iterations of the TMNT that this brings to the fore: a sort of mash-up, taking the best of all the past and giving us this present continuity…a continuity that I’m coming to regard as a favorite in itself.

Given IDW’s short 4-issue arcs / 4-issue-TPB pattern, this is the 2nd chapter of 4, so not in itself a jumping on point, though still a strong “episode” in itself, worthy of reading for a casual fan–particularly one of Donatello–if not essential.

I enjoyed the read; the look of Metalhead, and exclaimed out loud at the recognition of Nobody.

Thanos Annual #1 [Review]

thanosannual001Damnation and Redemption

Writer: Jim Starlin
Penciler: Ron Lim
Inker: Andy Smith
Colorist: Val Staples
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover: Dale Keown & Ive Svorcina
Assistant Editor: Jon Moisan
Editor: Wil Moss
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $4.99

It’s safe to say that Thanos is one of my favorite Marvel characters. However, perhaps that’s something to be further quantified: Thanos as written by Jim Starlin is one of my favorite Marvel characters.

While I have yet to read the entirety of Annihilation or Annihilation Conquest; or the Thanos Imperative, or even the more recent Infinity, I’ve been loosely aware of the character’s recent appearance and involvement in Marvel stuff. I’ve been sucked into buying various issues solely on the appearance of Thanos on the cover, the promise of the character within.

So it was the almost random “notice” of Jim Starlin writing and Infinity Gauntlet artist Ron Lim on art that prompted my purchase of this issue.

Despite the aforementioned favoriteness, it’s been a long time since I’ve read most of what I vaguely recall having once read–maybe 15 years since the original Infinity ____ volumes, a decade since the shortlived “ongoing” series…a fact that’s rather “idealized” Thanos for me, and coated things with that sweet nostalgia of childhood memories that so often props something up IN memory but leads to disappointment upon revisitation.

As such, I was prepared to be quite disappointed in this issue.

I’m not a fan of the standard cover…however, I opted to purchase it over any of the variants I saw. In the short term gratification sense, I probably would have preferred the Ron Lim cover…but I feel strongly enough on the “issue” of variants that I would have been quite disappointed having something LABELLED as a variant rather than the “real” cover. Particularly given the “core” creative team of this issue being Starlin and Lim, it’s truly beyond me why neither of their covers were “the” cover and instead shuffled off as variants. Starlin‘s own cover actually fits the interior story, and Lim‘s is equally as fitting visually…whereas Keown‘s cover is a generic (and not even particularly “iconic” to me) image far more suited as an interior “pin-up” page if not a variant cover instead of being the standard cover.

This issue is essentially a prologue, setup, for the forthcoming graphic novel Thanos: The Infinity Revelation. We open on Thanos upon his first major defeat in Marvel continuity–having lost the Cosmic Cube. Dealing with the massive failure, he is approached by Mephisto, but the intervention of an Infinity Gauntleted avatar of Thanos appears and takes this Thanos on a journey through time and space, as it processes various events and how they play into the younger, defeated Thanos’ future. We’re ultimately given setup for a new event in Thanos’ life, which presumably will be chronicled in the OGN this Fall.

I recall being pleasantly surprised at the ease with which Starlin brushed off several years of less-than-ideal characterization and use of Thanos in Infinity Abyss–that the appearances of Thanos in Ka-Zar, a Hulk Annual, and even a Thor-versus-Thanos arc in Thor’s own title proved to be duplicates of the ACTUAL Thanos; less than perfect at that. So this issue referencing multiple “avatars” of the Infinity Gauntlet Thanos fits right in with past precedent and gave me no pause at all, where it may have with other characters.

As a fairly simple one-off story, this worked well for me, giving me a chance to dip back in with Thanos without feeling like I actually missed anything from Infinity or anything else I didn’t feel lost, and actually quite enjoyed the touches on continuity that I recognized.

Visually, this entire issue was quite a treat. It had a feel of the familiar that I appreciated–and EXPECTED. While familiar, the coloring and such certainly showed through as “modern,” keeping this from feeling entirely like some ’90s throwback. I don’t much like Thanos’ appearance without his headgear, but having seen imagery of him without it before, everything fit. In the various detailing other than noticing how ugly he looks without the headgear, nothing of the art itself jumped out as a distraction. 

I enjoyed seeing familiar scenes and characters, and the only one I really didn’t recognize offhand was what I believe to be a “current” version of Adam Warlock that I’ve not actually read in-continuity yet.

The $4.99 price of this issue is a bit steep; I read the thing cover to cover in under 20 minutes…but then, these days, that’s par for the course to me with a Marvel issue. Steep price point for a quick read, whether it’s good or not.

To best of my knowledge, this is not a follow-up to Infinity, and that story seems to be solely referenced by the “previously” page, so you need not have read any of that to enjoy this. Similarly, if you’re looking FOR Infinity follow-up, this isn’t really gonna meet that expectation. 

However, if you’ve read or are familiar with the Thanos stories from the late-’70s and 1990s to early 2000s, and you’re a fan of Starlin‘s work in general and Thanos in particular, this should be a pretty enjoyable read and whet your appetite for an original graphic novel apparently due out in August this year.

X-Men Series 1 Revisited, Part 4

028_036

Jubilee was the first of the X-Men I was really introduced to–as the focal character for the audience in the 1990s cartoon. I was also introduced to Rogue in that same first episode, and Rogue at least has remained one of my favorite characters since.

I’ve more recently gotten to know more about several of these other characters–Captain Britain and Forge in particular. I’ve enjoyed Multiple Man and Quicksilver thanks to PAD‘s X-Factor.

In recent years, I’ve found that when I think about the age-old question of “what super-power would you want if you could have any power?” I have tended toward the idea of Multiple Man’s. That perhaps comes from the most recent (pre-All-New Marvel Now) X-Factor run…and moreso, the Madrox mini that immediately preceded it.

Boom Boom was used quite well in Nextwave several years back, and I can’t say I’ve ever cared much for Shatterstar…though the earliest memory I have of Shatterstar is the X-Force/Spider-Man crossover–one of my first-ever collected volumes..

This bunch of cards is fairly mediocre to me…nothing all that special and I didn’t learn anything new, really…

 

Click below to see the cards themselves.

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