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Age of Apocalypse (2015) #1 [Review]

secretwars_ageofapocalypse001Sticks and Stones…

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Gerardo Sandoval
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: Sandoval & Curiel
Asst. Editor: Xander Jarowey
Editor: Katie Kubert
Executive Editor: Mike Marts
Published by: Marvel
Cover Date: September 2015
Cover Price: $4.99

For what I believe is the first time in years, the “classic,” ORIGINAL Age of Apocalypse logo is back (though lacking the oval and “After Xavier: The“). For over a decade, it seems a newer logo/font has been the “in” thing for use with the branding, from the 10th anniversary-onward. Add to that the fact that we have Magneto and Rogue prominently shown as well as a gratuitous placement of Weapon X (Wolverine)’s hand and claws, and this is something that absolutely grabbed my attention. (There’s also the fact that I revisited the saga in its entirety earlier this year, too!). While the characters are a bit “off” in appearance on the cover, this is still a great image to me, and I especially dig this rendition of Rogue.

We open the story to find the Savage Land under attack by Holocaust–son of Apocalypse (and in this Secret Wars version of the world, Apocalypse is Baron of the realm, with only god Doom above him). Holocaust is also one of Apocalypse’s Horsemen, sent to retrieve the young mutant Doug Ramsey (aka “Cypher”). Storm and Quicksilver’s squad of X-Men arrive to fight the monster and save Cypher…though things quickly go pear-shaped for all involved. We then shift to the aftermath and find what Mr. Sinister, Dark Beast, and the Summers brothers are up to as well as learning more about the situation, as Cypher pieces together an important bit of information. And finally, we get to Magneto’s squad of X-Men…and are left hanging for next issue.

As mentioned above about the cover, Sandoval and Curiel‘s art has the characters looking a bit “off” to me…but despite that, the work is very good, and overall I like what I got in this issue. Maybe I would have enjoyed this even more with one of the “classic” artists that worked on the original 1995 Age of Apocalypse, but this IS a newer story, a new look at stuff, and is not actually that SAME Age of Apocalypse (evidenced especially by the presence of modern Tablets that didn’t exist in any sort of commonality back in ’95). There are some differences–Magneto seems overly muscled, Cyclops’ hair seems a lot thicker, longer, and far more wild, and Sinister’s coloring seems more muted than I expected–but in and of itself, I’m cool with it. I enjoyed the look and feel of this issue.

Another selling point for me was very definitely that Nicieza–one of the writers on the original story–is the writer here on this book now. I generally find that I am far more accepting of changes to core elements of a story in new “takes” on an original when an original creator is involved…it’s sort of their seal of approval, being involved.

As we only have a few issues for this story as opposed to several dozen for the original, Nicieza deals nicely with scaling down the cast for the main story while directing our focus a bit. There’s a certain familiarity here that I truly appreciate, while the differences seem to come primarily from the fact that this is an Age of Apocalypse that is part of Battleworld and not solely its own thing…so certain continuity elements simply don’t exist here that did in the original…and/or they flat-out don’t matter. The story rang true to my reading, even more than probably anything else done with the AoA in the past 10  years.

You don’t need to have read the original story to follow this…there’s plenty in-context to move things along. As a part of Secret Wars and the whole “NOW, ALL THAT REMAINS…IS BATTLEWORLD!” this functions believably as simply an alternate take on/situation for X-Men characters. If you’re familiar with and enjoyed the original Age of Apocalypse epic, this version of the characters seems plucked from the heart of that, rather than some new status quo picking up years after the original.

The $4.99 cover price is a bit steep…and though I think I knew OF it a few weeks back looking ahead, I forgot about it, so was somewhat surprised when I re-realized what I’d paid for this. That’s probably also credit back to the cover imagery and logo and then my enjoyment of the story–I was distracted and not bothered by the price. We get about 30 content pages–more than the standard 20-22, so as much as any are these days, I’ll accept that as “justification” for the $4.99.

I thoroughly enjoyed the issue, and despite trying to shift to Marvel‘s Digital Comics Unlimited, I may actually keep current with this series. Highly recommended to Age of Apocalypse fans in particular…this may not be nearly as special as the original story, but as a new story it captures something that really works…at least to me.

AvX: Consequences #4 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 4/5

Dead Man’s Run #s 0 & 1 [Review]

Full Circle; Man Down
Written by: Greg Pak
Illustrated by: Tony Parker
Colored by: Peter Steigerwald; David Curiel
Lettered by: Josh Reed
Covers 0C, 1A: Tony Parker, Peter Steigerwald
Published by: Aspen Comics

I came into Dead Man’s Run having no honest idea what it was about. The title itself suggested maybe someone dies and comes back, or has some fatal countdown looming and they have some mission to carry out despite knowing death is imminent.

Turns out there’s this prison, with guards and all that…and what they’re guarding is Hell. Like…THAT Hell. Their prisoners belong there, and they basically just make sure they stay put. There’s a warden who seems to be something more, and some plot seems to be in motion.

The zero issue sees the death of a guard who with his last breath as a live man requests another. In the premiere issue, we meet Sam–a doomed cartographer who finds himself stuck in Hell at the side of the deceased guard, who seems poised to show Sam a whole different world than he ever dreamed existed. Meanwhile, we get a hint at the nature of the warden, and some of Sam’s motivation (the car wreck that he died in and woke up in Hell also left his sister in Hell–something he’s not going to take lying down).

This #0 and #1 really feel like the pilot episode of a tv series, more than just the premiere of a new comic series. The story–what’s set up so far and where it seems it might go, and the execution–seem very cinematic in a tv sort of way. I’m not entirely thrilled with that, because I don’t know that I want to READ a tv series.

That said…the story’s got a couple interesting hooks that leave me curious for the next issue. The art is very solid and in general makes the story flow. Stylistically it doesn’t seem at all like a super-hero comic (which is good, because this most certainly is not of that genre) nor does it seem hyper-realistic. It just has a comfortable feel that carries things alone.

The writing is solid…I know next to nothing about these characters, but there’s enough there for the potential to shine. It’ll be interesting to find out more about Sam’s past and the relationship with his sister–and if there’s anything special about either of them that’ll play into things. The prison guard, too, has a glimmer of something more. The glimpses we get of the warden suggest a lot more to her as well, that COULD wind up being cliche, or could provide something that might make for an interesting (eventual) comparison to the Hell we find in Gaiman‘s The Sandman: Season of Mists.

I made the reference above about this being like a tv series. Using that comparison….this puts me in mind of the first season of Prison Break if the imprisoned brother arranged for the other to be jailed, but dealing with a prison of hellfire and brimstone rather than steel and concrete.

Aside from the story and art, there’s also the fact that this is backed by Gale Anne Hurd’s studio…so I’m inclined to give this a bit of time to take shape if someone who helped to get The Walking Dead from comic to tv endorses it.

I received these two issues free as review copies, so the only up front cost to me was the time taken to read these. I don’t see a price on the #0 issue, but #1 is listed as $3.50…which earns points from me for being $.49 cheaper than most Marvel comics. As something cheaper than a standard Marvel, I’m more apt to buy #2 than I am one of those $3.99 Marvels.

The story so far seems to be–as said–like a pilot episode, so I’m not entirely sold on the singles, but reading these has me definitely interested in either picking up the next issue when I notice it on the shelf, or at least checking back before too long for a graphic novel collection.

You could certainly do much worse than this book…and it’s not off to a bad start at all.

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Overall: 8/10

Superman #690 [Review]

The Setup

Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Pere Perez
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: John J. Hill
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Andrew Robinson
Publisher: DC Comics

While I really don’t have much of a problem at Superman himself being taking out of his own titled-book, I’m increasingly put-off by this title for its contents. This issue begins with a battle between Atlas and Steel in a sequence that flies by and is more than a little hard to follow, as Steel’s been duped into allowing Atlas into his home. We then get a 2-page sequence of Guardian naming team leaders within the science police…and a to-be-continued notice directing us to Superman: Secret Files 2009. Next up is a sequence with Zatara and a stage hand as we’re reminded of Zatara’s irresponsibility, and introduced to this stage hand who proves to be more than he appears, introducing a likely quest we’ll probably see unfold over the next few issues. After this is a one-page sequence between Guardian and Dr. Light in civilian guises, with a to-be-continued notice directing us to future issues of this title as well as Justice League of America. Finally, we get a 3-page sequence of Sodam Yat and an alien that explains away Yat and Mon-El’s lack of interaction…with a to-be-continued notice directing us to Superman Annual #14.

This issue as a whole felt like a lot of filler. We have a semi-pointless fight scene between Steel and Atlas (a character I still care nothing for, and have begun to actively dislike seeing appear in the Superman titles at all), followed by a bunch of seemingly unconnected “scenes” with no real transition from one to another, directing the reader to other titles and whatnot, rather than telling a thorough, consistent story to keep one interested in THIS title, in picking up the next issue. And perhaps this was filler, as I do suspect the Steel/Atlas scene to have at least some import on the Codename: Patriot story upcoming in the majority of the Superman titles for August; the rest of this issue would have been better served kicking off that story in some way.

I’m not much of a fan of the art–especially the depiction of Atlas. Other than that, not much problem with the visuals–my favorite probably being Sodam Yat and the alien, as both came across quite well overall…all things considered.

This issue seems entirely passable–all you need to know is that Atlas beats Steel, and you’re probably good to go for the next arc. Not recommended.

Story: 3/10
Art: 5/10
Whole: 4/10

Superman #689 [Review]

The Tourist

Writer: James Robinson
Penciler: Renato Guedes
Inker: Jose Wilson Magalhaes
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: John J. Hill
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Andrew Robinson
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue focuses primarily on Mon-El exploring the world and encountering trouble all across the globe. He tries to visit one place, and winds up in the middle of a metahuman conflict; he goes to help with a conflict and gets to visit something significant. Meanwhile, the Guardian deals with Morgan Edge calling out the public on Mon-El’s presence…something which Edge then spins back into his own favor once again. We also see General Lane interacting with the Prankster about getting another hero out of town…and preparing for yet another of Metropolis’ heroes to take the big dirt nap.

The art as usual isn’t much to my taste, not really enjoying Guedes’ style, nor that of the rest of the art team surrounding his pencils…though that’s personal taste, and is not to say that the art is horrible: it just doesn’t suit me, and thus detracts from my enjoyment of the book. It still gets across what it needs to–and does so effectively.

The story itself gives me mixed things: on the one hand, it’s doing a good job of keeping me interested in Mon-El’s development as well as the Guardian, especially as the two outright take the place of Superman in his own title for the fourth or fifth issue of at least a year’s worth. On the other hand, I find myself more and more skeptical of the General Lane subplot–whatever the character was depicted as prior to Our Worlds at War, now he seems like a derivitive rip-off of General Ross from the Hulk book(s)…and by his associations in this issue, begins to feel like he’s being shoehorned into the role of a new Lex Luthor quasi-archetype…the primary human enemy of Superman/Kryptonians, including having metahuman “lackeys.” We also get a return of a character at the very end that I didn’t care for the first time around.

If you’ve been following the title, may as well stick on with it–this shows Mon-El experiencing the world he’s sworn to protect as he avoids facing the fact of his mortality. If you’ve not been following things…well, you may not really care for this.

Story: 5/10
Art: 4/10
Whole: 4.5/10

Superman #688 [Review]

The Fall and Rise of Jonathan Kent

Writer: James Robinson
Penciler: Renato Guedes
Inker: Jose Wilson Magalhaes
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: John J. Hill
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Andrew Robinson
Publisher: DC Comics

The first thing to note is this issue’s story title, which is a reversal of the “traditional” phrasing, as one would usually expect to read of the Rise and THEN Fall of someone, rather than the fall and then rise. It also puts me in mind of The Death and Life of Superman for the same reason–the title reversing the order. In the case of this issue, the title is quite literal, as we begin with Mon-El sans powers in free-fall. Though he survives, he is not sure what caused his powers to cut out. Joined by the Guardian, answers are sought, and in a typical comics sorta fashion, an answer is found that is not to the liking of the protagonists.

I’m not a fan of the art style in this issue. It’s just not to my liking, so much so that it does actually take me out of the story as I notice panel after panel the visual style I’m not thrilled with. That’s not to say the art’s bad or anything–for one thing, it’s far better than anything I myself could accomplish–but it is such that I don’t engage with the story as I would one with art I enjoyed a good deal more.

The story itself feels rather cliched here. The revelation of what’s affecting Mon-El’s powers goes a good way toward explaining recent events and accounting for his current status quo. But it’s also not all that original, and left me mentally groaning at just how cliche it feels, whatever original elements are yet present.

I have no problem with this book essentially starring a couple of characters who are NOT Superman himself, with stories that show a world that does not have Superman present, but rather others trying to fill the man’s role while he’s off-planet. It’s just that the story itself here just feels rather weak…especially when held against something like Starman, also by this writer.

Aside from simply being one chapter in an ongoing narrative….this is not an issue I’d recommend in general.

Story: 5/10
Art: 4/10
Whole: 4.5/10

Action Comics #874 [Review]

Suspicion!

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Pablo Raimondi
Inkers: Pablo Raimondi & Walden Wong
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Aaron Lopresti & Hi-Fi
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue picks up with Superman having a bit of a tantrum on New Krypton at the fact that General Zod not only has been freed of the Phantom Zone but that he now lead’s New Krypton’s army. After fists fail, talking ensues, and Superman grudgingly seems to let things slide for now, though he makes known his misgivings.Back on Earth, Kryptonians–with a specific exception made for Superman–are banned, which sparks the new Flamebird and Nightwing into action as their clock is ticking (and a blurb informing readers to follow them into next month’s Action Comics). Superman and Lois visit his fortress while he ponders things, and then a voice from his past cries out, leading to the issue’s cliffhanger.

The story isn’t bad, but really lacks some “oomph!” I find myself actually bored by the New Krypton stuff, especially given the abrupt ending of the titled story while this still feels like it should fall under that heading. This story also feels like filler, just sorta moving pieces on the board around to force stuff into a new status quo for next month with the Superman family of books.

The art also is not bad, but doesn’t particularly thrill me. Not bad, but not spectacular. It gets stuff across that needs gotten across, but doesn’t begin to get in line to be art I’d specifically choose for Superman.

Origins & Omens

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Renato Guedes
Inker: Jose Wilson Magalhaes
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

This backup stars The Guardian, and basically follows him through some (for him) relatively normal activities in his new job as head of the Science Police. Some of his history is touched upon–particularly recent developments/revelations, with some hints of what may be in store for him given.

Though I don’t particularly care for Guedes’ art style, it works for me pretty well here–perhaps because it’s not Superman/Clark himself depicted but other characters I don’t have so firm an idea in my head as to what they look like. The story is basic, but then, six pages is hardly room for any great storytelling for the most part.

If you’ve been following everything New Krypton, or the “triangle numbers,” this is worthwhile, This is probably also worthwhile as a bit of a prologue to the new status quo for Superman and Action Comics to come. That the main story is shorted for the backup doesn’t exactly make the issue all that enticing.

Story: 6/10
Art: 6/10
Whole: 6/10

Superman #684 [Review]

The Mind of Rudy Jones

Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Jesus Merino
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: John J. Hill
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Alex Ross
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue works quite well with DC’s Faces of Evil concept. The Parasite is the focal point going in, and we see how much trouble he causes upon release from the Phantom Zone. After that battle, we see the Guardian unmask to his coworkers with the Science Police, Nightwing and Flamebird share a moment with Jay Garrick, and finally Superman visits New Krypton where his aunt reveals something quite disturbing to him.

I’m not quite sure about the green “triangle number” 12 on this cover (I don’t remember an 11, and thought New Krypton was over with as far as the official titled story). That said, this story provides some nice epilogue-type material to that story, showing that just because the official arc is over, the events unleashed don’t tie up so nice-and-neat. Given that, I have no real problem with the story, and it’s really actually nice seeing stuff continue/build from the previous story instead of simply starting fresh as if everything’s always simply been the way it is and no reference to a previous arc.

The art is pretty good, though nothing spectacular. I realize here that compared to the previous issue’s artist, I really like this art, and it depicts the characters in a style that fits what I expect visually.

This issue seems to be a middle-ground issue, not really kicking off a new arc, but not completely belonging with the previous. While much of its content would be far more appreciated with having read New Krypton already, one could probably enjoy this issue fairly well without that context.

All in all a good issue, worth reading if you’re interested in current goings-on in the Superman family of books.

Story: 8/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Action Comics #873 [Review]

New Krypton part ten: Birth of a Nation

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Pete Woods, Renato Guedes & Wilson Magalhaes
Colorist: Brad Anderson & David Curiel
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Ladronn
Publisher: DC Comics

New Krypton the crossover/mega-arc concludes here, but the story is far from over.

The issue opens with the world reacting to Supergirl’s punch at Superman in the previous chapter, with General Lane and Luthor politicking over Doomsday’s for-now dead body. Some Kandorians are fighting the Justice Society and Green Lanterns (with a few other heroes), before a Superman Returns style solution is implemented that then takes on a Counter-Earth feel. We’re then treated to several prologue scenes to close out the issue.

The art on this issue isn’t bad, but for the most part is not all that appealing to me. It gets across what’s going on visually, but leaves me missing Gary Frank’s art, particularly at the way Superman himself looks.

The story is a definite let-down. While this is supposedly the “conclusion” to this epic, I’m left at the end feeling like we’ve had a whole bunch of filler leading to this issue, just to kick off some outside mini-series. There’s been a lot of potential built up that doesn’t get resolved and seems to fizzle out, and just results in a hearty disappointment. As a Faces of Evil issue, supposedly we get a story from Luthor’s point of view. However, Luthor is really only on the first two pages as a pawn to General Lane. This isn’t the writer’s fault–this issue has no business being included in the Faces of Evil stunt.

All in all, what began as a very interesting premise with loads of potential comes down to this issue and a completely anti-climactic conclusion. Recommended only if you’ve been following the story thus far; otherwise, you’ll be just as well served finding spoilers online and spending your money elsewhere. If you want a story from Luthor’s point of view and how he interacts with Superman, I’ll recommend the Lex Luthor: Man of Steel mini-series from several years back.

Story: 7/10
Art: 6/10
Whole: 6.5/10

Superman #683 [Review]

New Krypton part nine: Hard Times!

Writer: James Robinson
Pencillers: Renato Guedes & Jorge Correa Jr.
Inker: Wilson Magalhares & Jorge Correa Jr.
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: John J. Hill
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Alex Ross (variant by Chris Sprouse, Karl Story & Laura Martin)
Publisher: DC Comics

Superman faces a number of Earth super-heroes in this issue’s opening sequence–asking that they leave and let him attend to locating the Kryptonians who were responsible for a number of police deaths. They in turn give Supes an ultimatum–a half-hour before they’ll go into action. Superman confronts his aunt, and begins to realize things are beyond his control. As the battle is joined, we have Kryptonians vs. super-heroes, and then a moment between Superman and Supergirl that takes me back to a 1992 issue of Action Comics. The issue concludes with a certain “cavalry” arriving.

I’m still not the biggest fan of the art for this title–the style just seems a bit “off” to me; as probably stated before, the visual is shared by the entire art team–sometimes it’s the coloring that seems most “off” to me. I actually think I’d prefer to see Guedes’ linework inked and left uncolored–that might give me a different perception.

The story is decent if lacking complexity. Then again, given that we’re into the ninth chapter of this crossover story, it’s goot to get to action and not be bogged down with overly-complex layering and whatnot. The characters and situations are quite believable and make sense contextually. This certainly isn’t the best issue of this title–nor the “New Krypton” story–but it’s a solid chapter (and didn’t seem like some plot device forced into it for the sake of re-introducing old characters).

Not one to skip if you’re following the story; by this point in the story I assume one’s probably going to pick issues up whatever complaints they have, and doubt my recommendation would do much here. I’d recommend picking up earlier chapters before just grabbing this and wading in, of course.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 6/10
Whole: 6.5/10

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