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Avengers Academy #29 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

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

The Death of Dracula #1 [Review]

The Death of Dracula

Written by: Victor Gischler
Penciled by: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Finishes by: Onofrio Catacchio
Colored by: Frank D’Armata
Lettered by: Jeff Eckleberry
Cover Art by: Giuseppe Camuncoli and Marko Djurdjevic
Associate Editor: Daniel Ketchum
Executive Editor: Axel Alonso
Published by: Marvel Comics

I’d seen this image in ads for a couple weeks or so, and assumed–knowing the coming X-Men #1 will have the mutants fighting vampires–that this ‘event’ would be taking place in X-Men #1, setting up that arc. Turns out this is its own separate one-shot, serving as a prologue to the upcoming run. This is one of the few issues where having only seen a couple ads–nothing near enough to get “old” nor “annoying” or otherwise turn me off to the concept–and as a regular cover with the black and reds contrasting handily with the blue and yellow of the The Heroic Age banner across the top I was actually drawn in BY the cover. The issue felt thicker than an average issue, so though I was gritting my teeth and feeling a little dirty for going against my anti-$3.99 principles I bought the issue anyway.

Rather than only 22-30/32 story pages, we have 40 pages of story, which alleviates SOME of the concern with the cover price…this is a special one-shot with more pages than a standard issue of a regular, ongoing series…so the higher than $2.99 price has some merit.

The story is quite detailed, with a lot going on–a lot of setup, context, exposition…and general foundation-building for the new status quo of vampires in the Marvel Universe. We find the sons of Dracula, each part of different vampire factions/families/clans/sects/covens/whatever attending a regular meeting of all these groups–an event that takes place every century or so. One of the sons launches into a savage strike against their father–Dracula, intending to spur change from the status quo for all vampires. Rather than hide behind “the way it’s always been,” he seeks to initiate change to “how things can be, moving forward” (though without the vampires and murder part, sounds like something from a motivational speech for a corporate environment). With Dracula dead (hey, it’s not a spoiler if it’s the title of the one-shot, on the cover!) the vampires have to determine where they’re headed–do they reunite under a single leader, split into two groups to war against each other, or some other option?

I read the few issues of Blade that came out back in ’98 or ’99 shortly after the first Wesley Snipes film, but that’s about the extent of my familiarity with Marvel’s vampires. The way they’re portrayed visually in this issue has a certain air of the familiar…nothing seems like it’s really out of place or should belong elsewhere. The idea of these multiple factions, the occasional reunion, etc. does not seem far-fetched (though it does have a sense of being borrowed from elsewhere). I chalk that up to something fairly standard in literature regarding vampires…a familiar aspect that generally ought to be present unless one is trying to radically reinterpret the very genre.

So I not only have no problem with the art, I like the art…it fits the story very well, and conveys so much of what is necessary to getting things across to the reader in short order, in terms of the differing factions and lifestyles of all the different vampires. They come from all over the world, all walks of life and cultures; the common thread being–wait for it–they’re all vampires.

The story itself is–for what it is–fantastic. Gischler found his way onto my radar with Deadpool: Merc With a Mouth, and though I have no interest in getting back into the X-Men beyond following Second Coming, seeing his name attached to a major X-Men book was encouraging.

What Gischler does in this issue is introduce us to the vampires, lay foundation for who and what they are, where they’ve come from…and set up where they’re going, the new status quo that will allow for them to operate in the open, such that they even could reasonably interact with the X-Men and other general Marvel Universe characters not typically associated with the shadows of the universe. He also manages to avoid the route that I thought he was taking things. keeping to the familiar yet avoiding an exact predictability. And partially for that…I now, thanks to this one issue, have an actual interest in seeing where these characters go.

Though this serves as a prologue, presumably, to the coming X-Men story…it works very well on its own as a single-issue/one-shot. You get a complete story from beginning to end…just that as with virtually any film, the ending is left open such that there “could” be a sequel or continuation from what was laid down here.

Highly recommended.

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 8.5/10
Overall: 9/10

Hellblazer #250 [Review]

Happy New F***ing Year, Christmas Cards, All I Goat for Christmas, The Curse of Christmas, Snow Had Fallen

Writers: Dave Gibbons, Brian Azzarello, China Mieville, Jamie Delano, Peter Milligan
Art: Sean Phillips, Rafael Grampa, David Lloyd, Eddie Campbell
Letters: Sean Phillips, Jared K. Fletcher
Colors: Val Staples, Marcus Penna, Jamie Grant, David Lloyd, Dominic Regan
Breakdowns (Snow Had Fallen): Giuseppe Camuncoli
Finishes (Snow Had Fallen): Stefano Landini
Asst. Editor: Brandon Montclare
Editor: Bob Schreck
Cover: Lee Bermejo
Publisher: Vertigo (DC Comics)

If you’re gonna charge me $3.99 for one issue, this is the way to go. 38 pages of actual story content, high-quality creative teams (multiple instances of quality Hellblazer talent), contained in a milestone issue that could be an event and yet isn’t an event. This is the longest-running Vertigo title, this is the milestone 250th issue of the series–an extremely respectable number in a day ‘n age when only a handful of titles in all comics have maintained consistent numbering while reaching such a point. Focusing in on Christmas (“holiday, sure, but there’s a lot of reference by name to Christmas!), we get five shorts showing John Constantine in slices of life, just being himself around Christmas.

I checked out a couple years ago from buying the single issues, finding that I was enjoying this series far more through the collected volumes; I’ve fallen behind on those collected volumes, so am not up to date on recent happenings for this book. That said, I feel like I only missed nuances here. The character, the feel and tone of Constantine is still there. The stories fit the character. And though just picking this up for the “special” nature of the issue, I don’t feel out of it nor lost.

The first story follows Constantine as he pursues someone who has been assembling stuff to invoke immortality for himself–the price of said immortality likely requiring the life of a child. In Christmas Cards, John watches a game of poker he himself is banned from–offering commentary and observations none the less, as well as the nature of a couple of people present. All I Goat for Christmas suggests a ritual that may have broken the curse on a certain sports team seemingly cursed right out of any championships. The Curse of Christmas shows an encounter Constantine has with someone who managed to work an actual curse into an address given by a very public official. Finally, Snow Had Fallen details a fairly magical sort of snowfall that challenges the faith of a man overseeing sick children.

All five stories have that “classic” Constantine feel to them. They’re sorta slice-of-life due to being short and not part of some big event–these are the sorta things John deals with routinely in his world/experiences, specifically around Christmas.

The art varies, giving different visual styles, different visual interpretations of Constantine & Co. The first three–by Phillips, Lloyd, and Grampa respectively–are probably my favorites, as they get across a certain feel of darkness or grittiness that seems particularly appropriate for their stories. The fourth didn’t work very well for me visually–personal preference, probably. The final story’s visuals were not bad, but had something I can’t quite put my finger on–perhaps a bit of brightness–that simply didn’t put it in the top three for me of this issue.

All in all, this works very well as an anniversary-style issue. Rather than hosting a huge event, this serves also as a “holiday special” with the focus of the tales. And the tales are provided by Hellblazer creative teams from throughout the years.

Whether you follow this series regularly are are merely aware of the character’s existence, this seems a great issue to pick up as a one-shot, whether you plan to continue with the next issue or not. Besides….you could do so much worse for $4. I give this issue an extra half point as a whole–the package is greater than any of the individual parts.

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8.5/10

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