Monday, February 12, 2018

Not-So-New Comics: The December 6 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #148:  This issue wraps up a little anti-climactically, to be honest.  Drax discovers the Shi'ar traitors within the Nova Corps:  a group of Corpsmen who released Thanos as part of a deal with the Fraternity of Raptors to make the Corps look bad.  (I'm not sure what the Guardsmen got from the deal, to be honest.)  Drax stumbles upon this secret when he saves a woman and her two children from said Guardsmen.  They were going to kill the woman and her children because the Ultron virus had infected them, but the woman reveals to Drax the virus activated telepathic powers that allowed them to escape the virus' influence (as well as discover the Guardsmen's plans).  It's a little simplistic, but it works, and Duggan makes it clear we're going to see this woman again.  Meanwhile, Peter and Rich return, lying to Adsit that everyone on the planet they investigated was dead in order to protect the information about the power stone from falling into the traitors' hands.  Duggan does spend some welcome time on characterization, showing Peter's futile effort to engage with Drax and Gamora.  Gamora claims she didn't tell Peter about Rich because she didn't know he didn't know.  I guess it's a sign of how bad their relationship is right now, though I'm not sure I buy it.  With the announcement the series is ending at issue #150 so Duggan can move onto his grand plans for the Cosmic Marvel franchises, it feels like he's just trying to close the curtain as quickly as possible here, distracting from the excitement of seeing Peter and Rich in action together again.

Amazing Spider-Man/Venom:  Venom, Inc. #1:  I didn’t have too high of expectations for this issue, but Costa and Slott do a good job bringing those of us who are unfamiliar with Venom's status quo up to speed.  Flash is FaceTiming with one of his former students in Philly (I remember that part), and we learn she’s a symbiote-possessed hero called Mania.  He watches as a group of thugs attack her with fire and sonics, stealing the symbiote from her.  Flash asks Spidey to help him get back the symbiote from Eddie Brock (who apparently stole it from him at some point), since he’s worried the attack on Mania presages trouble in Symbioteland.  Spidey refuses, so Flash follows Eddie into Alchemax, where he apparently receives treatments to keep the symbiote’s anger under control.  Spidey follows Flash thanks to an audio Spider-Tracer he tagged on him, so he’s listening when Flash confronts Eddie.  We learn the scientist in charge of the project developed a whole batch of antidote, saying (inexplicably) it would be convenient to have a lot on hand in case he actually kills the symbiote.  (I honestly have no idea what he means by that.  How would the antidote save a dead symbiote?  Wouldn't it just make it dead-er?)  But, it's convenient from a plot perspective:  as the symbiote struggles to pick between Eddie and Flash, Spider-Man pours the antidote all over them, turning Flash into Anti-Venom.  Meanwhile, the thugs who stole Mania’s symbiote appear at a bar where the Looter is regaling the crowd with his story of how he barely survived an encounter with Venom; they then forcibly infect him with Mania’s symbiote.  Of note, they’re all also bonded with symbiotes, which seems...bad.  I’m not sure why they chose the Looter as Mania's host, but I’m guessing we’ll find out more later.  As I said, it’s a solid start, and it’s made all the better by Stegman’s outstanding art.  I’ve always felt like the Spidey books were under-using him, and I’m glad to see him given a chance to strut his stuff here.

Astonishing X-Men #6:  Soule delivers a solid ending here, revealing Professor X (not surprisingly) was playing the Shadow King all along.  He uses Fantomex, Mystique, and Rogue to engage in a frontal assault on Farouk, explaining their personalities are more suited to the fluidity needed to succeed on the Astral Plane.  Conversely, Angel, Gambit, Psylocke, and Wolverine live by identity-defining codes, making it easier for Farouk to exploit them.  It’s an insightful take on the characters, a sign Soule is looking to give us something more complicated than the smash-up stories we’ve been getting in “X-Men Gold.”  Farouk is overtaxed in defending himself against the assault and trying to spread his infection through London, allowing Charles to break free of the bonds Farouk placed on him.  With Farouk defeated, Psylocke instructs Archangel to stop the bombers the British government sent to destroy London.  She’s surprised when Fantomex appears next to her, since she didn’t remove him from the Astral Plane.  But, it’s really Charles, as we learn Fantomex seems to have provided him with his body as a shot at redemption.  (Good job, Charles.  If I had to choose a new body, I’d choose Fantomex’s.)  All in all, it’s a pretty solid first arc, made all the better in this issue by del Mundo’s dream-like art.

Avengers #674:   I haven't been a huge fan of this series in part because it's lacked a certain heart:  everyone has been more assholic versions of themselves than usual.  But Waid delivers heart in spades here.  In their long journey to the center of Counter-Earth to disable the vibrational device, Vision admits to Viv she's meant to live a normal, human lifespan.  After encountering the version of himself who lived thousands of years, that means he's going to have to bury her.  It's why he's so protective of her, because he can't imagine having to do so.  It's an incredibly touching moment, made all the more so when Viv sacrifices herself to save the day.  Waid actually seems to imply Vision could've saved her but Viv chose to sacrifice herself, as if she saw something on the other side, where we encounter her at the end of this issue.  Waid's work with Viv has been the highlight of "Champions" and I'm definitely intrigued to see where he goes with her.  In terms of the "Avengers," this cross-over event did indeed feel like an old-school story, in line with the Legacy goals.  Of course, at times it felt a little too much like one, essentially replicating the plot of Hickman's run on the title.  But, I'm cautiously optimistic about the upcoming weekly event.  The Avengers have been meandering for a long time, possibly since Bendis' run on the title.  (I wasn't a fan of Hickman's aforementioned run, as he essentially told a "Fantastic Four" story with Avengers characters.)  If Waid could manage to evoke Bob Harras' Gatherers story or Kurt Busiek's Kang War, we'll be on the right track.

Batman #36:  King yet again does a remarkable job teasing out Bruce's emotions as Lois and Selena press Batman and Superman
to call the other one about the engagement.  Over the course of unknowingly investigating the same case, the two men admit why they can't bring themselves to do so.  (Clark and Lois are investigating why some company called "Twenty Corp" is profiting from railroad insurance speculation while Bruce and Selena are following a plutonium shipment.  To be honest, I had to re-read the issue to follow these storylines.  King is making the point the subject of their search is less important than the conversations they're having, but, as the reader, he might've done a little more to make the plot clear.)  Each man respects what the other one has done with the losses he's suffered:  Clark marvels Bruce isn't trying to burn down the world after his parents were taken from him, and Bruce is amazed Clark doesn't squish us all like ants.  Clark respects Bruce's decision not to trust him completely because his past doesn't allow him to trust anyone completely, and Bruce feels his engagement would be beneath Clark's notice because he respects him as essentially a god.  (They also view the other one as choosing to do what he does, whereas they see themselves as having to do it.)  King happily doesn't give short shrift to Lois and Selena here.  In case Bruce is hesitating in introducing Selena to Clark because Selena would deduce his identity, Selena lets Bruce know she's already done so.  For her part, Lois also tells Clark to stop worrying it means Catwoman will know his identity because she's clever enough to have put two and two together a long time ago.  It all comes to a head when the two couples emerge on the same floor of an office building at the same time.  (In case you're wondering, Twenty Corp was run by Dr. Axe and Dr. Echs -- i.e, two Xs adding to XX, or 20 -- and they were using the proceeds from the railroad insurance to buy the plutonium.  How'd they get the money?  Why, by using their powers to destroy trains, of course.)  Again, it's another excellent character-focused issue from King, particularly since King essentially allows the tension -- and misconceptions -- between the two men remain.

Captain America #696:  You should read this issue for Chris Samnee's art (it's a wonder no one put him on "Captain America" until now) and Joe Caramanga's great testament to the American dream in the letters page.

Hawkeye #13:  Marvel remains committed to showing the aftermath of "Secret Empire" in a way we usually don't see.  Normally, events are maybe mentioned once or twice in the first month or so after they end, and then we never hear about them again.  But, several series, like "Ben Reilly:  Scarlet Spider" and "Captain America," continue to explore the aftermath months after the event ended.  It's...refreshing.  Thompson gets into the game here, re-introducing Eden Vale from "Generations:  The Archers" and sending her after Clint after her daughter died in the Las Vegas bombardment.  ("Generations" and "Secret Empire!"  It's a two-fer!)  Eden tries to recruit Katie into killing Clint by offering to use her powers to pull people through the time stream to bring back Kate's mother.  I'm not sure how Eden knows Kate's mother is dead, but she doesn't seem to know Kate's pretty sure she's actually alive.  We'll see where we go from here.

Nightwing #34:  This issue has...problems.  An enraged Blockbuster attacks Dick and Raptor, but misses punching them, something Raptor himself notes.  But, then Raptor crumbles; he's drawn as if his bones all turned to jelly.  He eventually dies, but I honestly don't have any idea if Blockbuster actually did hit him or if something related to the Blockbuster serum killed him.  Meanwhile, the Run-Offs manage to save everyone in the casino by putting Orca's antidote in the sprinkler system, but it seemed to me like they probably should've focused on the bigger threat, namely Raptor successfully using Pigeon's birds to distribute the serum to the whole city.  Also, Pigeon is maybe dead, and Dick used the last bit of antidote on Blockbuster.  It's almost like DC is canceling this series, given how hurriedly Seeley seems to be wrapping up loose ends here.

X-Men Gold #17:  At this point, I feel like Guggenheim is thumbing through some sort of book on X-Men history, picking two or three stories, and just taking them for a spin again.  I mean, are we really supposed to take Kurt's fear of death seriously, as he's already been dead at least once?  To make matters worse, he dies just the same was he did in "X-Men:  Second Coming," by getting impaled in the chest.  In another example, Amara and Dr. Reyes discuss how Rachel was just in the medical unit, as she is again here.  It's one thing to pay homage to the X-Men's history; it's another thing just to repeat it endlessly.  (Also, who the fuck is Ink?  I'm a serious X-Men fan, and, if I don't recognize someone, we probably need a little intro, particularly when he's drawn just like Professor X.  I spent half the issue feeling like I missed Professor X's actual resurrection in "Astonishing X-Men," rather than just him possessing Fantomex's body.)  This series has so much potential, but I just feel like we're not realizing it.

Also Read:  Batman:  White Knight #3; Iceman #8; Spider-Man #235; Star Wars:  Darth Vader #9

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Not-So-New Comics: The November 29 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batman Annual #2:  King delivers another outstanding issue that delves into Bruce's relationship with Selena.  Early in their careers, Selena stole the Batmobile and repeatedly broke into Wayne Manor; each time she did so, she left behind a mouse (because the mouse, like Batman, didn't see the Cat coming).  At one point, Bruce confronts her and asks why she does it.  She tells him it's because he's still a rich boy living in the mansion on the hill; she's trying to make him stronger.  King then gives us perhaps the only vulnerable Batman we've ever seen.  When Selena breaks into a safe that contains a familiar pearl, Bruce tells her it was his mother's.  He offers she was murdered, Selena responds she knows, and Bruce remarks, "Everyone knows."  He says it like an upset boy who still hasn't come to grips with his fate.  She says she understands, because she, too, was an orphan who occasionally hated herself for feeling like she was happier alone.  At some point, he draws the charade to a close.  She discovers him at her place one night, and he reveals he's known where she lived since she left the first mouse.  (He studied the lead profile in the mouse's poop.)  He then confesses he let the game continue because, as she said, sometimes he hates himself for feeling like he's happier alone.  It's all a reminder of how unique Selena is in his life, the only lid to his pot.  Under any other author, I feel like this romance would be immediately retconned once "Rebirth" comes to its logical conclusion.  But, King is bringing out depths here in both characters - particularly Bruce - that will be hard for DC to ignore.  Batman is a better character for this relationship, and DC would be smart to keep it that way.  The fact it's happening in the main title and not a separate "Batman and Catwoman" series hopefully means DC's powers-that-be agree.

Darkhawk #51: OMG, Darkhawk!  Chris Powell brought '90s angst to a whole new level, and it was a trip seeing him here.  Did I understand the story?  Not really.  I mean, I even read "War of Kings," but a lot of it just didn't make sense to me.  I had to read it a few times to come close to following it.  Do I care?  Not really.  Darkhawk!

Chris Powell is now a police officer, trying to right the wrongs of his corrupt father.  His amulet hasn't worked in a year, and it's been giving him nightmares lately.  As such, his fiancée, Miranda, suggest he give it to the Avengers or X-Men.  He decides to give it to Project Pegasus after his shift.  However, he responds to a call of a disturbance at the abandoned Wonderland amusement park, where he first found the amulet.  A group of corrupt cops hear him respond to the call, and they meet him there, trying to force him onto their side.  (Honestly, I'm not really sure why they do so.  The ringleader mentions how Chris is smarter than his father, so I don't see what he stood to gain by risking exposing himself as a corrupt cop to a guy he seemed pretty sure wouldn't swing at that pitch.)  However, the ringleader is suddenly disintegrated by two Raptors, revealing they staged the disturbance to attract Chris.  During the fight, Chris realizes they're not really Raptors; they're just pledges wearing armor, not actually possessing Raptor suits.  We learn the pair are brothers -- Canorus and Aceptar -- and plan to turn over the amulet to Lord Talonar to win his favor.  Canorus grabs the amulet and summons the Darkhawk suit.  However, he fails to control it; instead, Chris recognizes the suit is controlled by Razor, "a murderous corner of Darkhawk programming fueled by a thirst for violence and war."  Razor took over the suit a long time ago (apparently during "War of Kings," but I don't really remember that) and committed atrocities throughout the Universe, ruining Darkhawk's reputation.  Razor puts Chris' hand on the amulet, allowing Chris to join him in the Datasong, "where the body keeps memories of you."  (The Raptors apparently call it the Perch, further complicating matters.  I'm not really sure what the difference is between the Perch, Null Space, and Datasong, but whatever.  It's the least of my worries here.)

Razor tells Chris how the Fraternity of Raptors started as a group who saw themselves as inheritors of the original order, seeking to gain control of the suits for their own dark designs.  The suits residing at the pods at the Tree of Shadows were thrilled at the prospect of getting freed.  However, inspired by Chris' heroism, Razor refused to yield and broke free of his pod, severing the link to the amulet (and Chris).  He apparently also freed other suits from their pods, reducing the number the Fraternity could possess.  However, these suits hunted him and came close to killing him, since he no longer had access to the Tree's restorative powers.  Razor wants Chris to join with him because apparently something about his DNA allows him to mimic the restorative powers of the Tree.  Chris does so and marvels at this unprecedented access to the armor, though it's a little unclear where his body is, assuming it's not in a pod at the Tree.  Aceptar returns to "the stars" and warns Talonar Chris is coming for him, prompting him to laugh.

As I said at the start, I'm not sure I understand anything happening here.  If Marvel was really committed to a possible relaunch of "Darkhawk," we probably should've gotten a three-issue series, giving Bowers more space to refresh our memories and set up stories for the future.  But, it is what it is.  It was fun to see Chris again, and I'm inspired to re-read "War of Kings:  Ascension."

Moon Knight #189:  Although Khonshu’s narration is awkward at times, Bemis delivers a really great issue here. Someone with the power to make people revel in their delusions and fears gets a subway driver to crash his train, apparently as a way to get Moon Knight’s attention.  But, it’s not Amon Ra on hand when Marc arrives like a moth drawn to the flame; it’s some huge dude called "the Truth.”  When Marc, as Moon Knight, is unable to defeat the Truth, we learn the shtick for this iteration of "Moon Knight" is Marc's ability to cycle through his personas.  For example, we saw him earlier adopting his Steve Grant persona to double his wealth and a company’s net worth all “from a yacht in the Cayman Islands, even without cell service.”  (He gave this wealth to his Lunar Lives Fund; he’s actually living in a run-down motel.)  Here, he lets the more brutal Jake take the reigns, and Moon Knight becomes Mr. Knight.  (The art throughout this issue is spectacular.  Not only does Marc have the best abs in comics, but Burrows’ visual cue of Jake pulling down Moon Knight’s hood to reveal just Mr. Knight’s mask is great.)  Jake dares the Truth to use his powers on him, and the Truth is so shaken by what Jake has done - including things Marc doesn’t know Jake has done - that Jake easily stabs him in the eyes.  Marc is worried about this revelation that Jake has acted on his own, telling Jake after he’s taken back control it’s exactly the sort of thing that isn’t supposed to happen anymore.  Bowers and Burrows don't really have us wallow in this sort of drama; he's upset with Jake, but Marc also makes the joke over the Truth's body that the truth hurts.  Khonshu and Steve Grant rolling their eyes helps emphasize how integrated these personalities now are.  Meanwhile, Amon Ra isn’t on hand for this fight because he’s busy tracking down the Bushman to get him to join his war against Moon Knight.  I just hope they don’t mess up his pretty abs.

X-Men Blue #16:  We're finally starting to get somewhere with this crew, but I'm not entirely sure where it is.  We learn Magneto has been communicating with Professor X about the need for the children to return to their original timeline, hence why he and Danger have been building the time platform in the basement.  Someone strikes at him, forcing him to reveal his hand to Jean before he disappears from the timeline all together, just as happened to Polaris earlier.  Complicating matters, Bobby was watching the Mojo Entertainment Channel earlier, and it ran a report on Magneto's original conflict with the X-Men as head of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.  During that conflict, he apparently died, something Bobby knows isn't true.  On one had, it seems to imply Magneto disappeared in the present because he died in the past, but I don't get why Polaris would also have disappeared, since she was certainly already born when he originally confronted the X-Men.  (Also, it raises the question how someone killed him in the past and made it stick in the present, given the Marvel Universe's time-travel rules.  Doom Platform?  After all, when the team originally traveled to their past, they were still there, because older Hank created a new timeline when he removed them from the past.)  At any rate, the team tries to follow Magneto's orders to return to their past, but find themselves randomly appearing in different eras.  They stop in 2099, where they come face-to-face with the X-Men of that era.  All I have to say is:  hurrah!  Readers of this blog know I love me some 2099 stories, so I'm all about this development.  In terms of the larger story, Bunn is still playing his cards close to his chest.  Again, Hank recalls they already went to "their" past, only to discover nothing had changed and they were outside their original timeline.  However, Danger cryptically warns him not to be too sure.  Time-travel stories are generally the worst, so I can't say I'm excited about the prospect of Bunn eventually ret-conning the previous attempt to address their status.  It feels like cheating.  I guess we'll see.  In the meantime, 2099!

Also Read:  Spider-Gwen #26; U.S.Avengers #12

Monday, February 5, 2018

Not-So-New Comics: The November 22 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Detective Comics #969:  Tynion has characters talk a lot about the tension in Gotham in this issue, and he does a great job of displaying that tension in almost every interaction, from Batman's confrontation with the new Mayor to Batwoman's conversation with Red Robin.  Kate is worried Tim is lying to Stephanie about going to Ivy University, as he's really decided to accept (and hopefully shape) his future as Batman.  But, he's hoping Stephanie will see the light along the way.  Meanwhile, Mayor Akins accuses Batman of usurping the justice system by running his own army, though Batman notes Akins is hardly one to talk, as he's accepted Hamilton Hill, Jr. as his Deputy Mayor to secure the mayorship.  Elsewhere, Stephanie is (weirdly) visiting Lonnie in prison, and he suggests people might be OK with Batman and Robin but a military strike force makes them wonder if it's time for them to take back the power.  (Lonnie is clearly trying to orchestrate such a movement, as some cops help him and the Victim Syndicate members escape from Arkham).  I have to say, I tend to agree with the dissenters.  Akins notes several of Batman's "five to ten" vigilantes appear to be teenagers, and he's not wrong in implying maybe they're a little young to be part of a team serving as the judge, jury, and executioner for the city.  That said, Akins admits crime is at its lowest level in years.  In Gotham, maybe it is worth giving up a little freedom not to be constantly bombarded with homicidal maniacs.

Doomsday Clock #1:  Johns gets right to work here, establishing the status quo on whatever Earth "Watchmen" occurred.

Although it doesn't happen according to the timeline implied at the end of "Watchmen," President Redford announces seven years after the "New York massacre" that it was all a hoax perpetrated by Ozymandias, who emerged from it as a powerful global figure advocating for nuclear disarmament.  Redford's announcement dooms an agreement the nuclear powers reached committing to a 20-year timeline for disarmament.  It's still unclear why Redford chose to reveal this information now.  "Watchmen" implied the "New Frontiersman" would reveal the contents of Rorschach's diary to the world; that seemed to have happened, but I guess no one took it seriously until Redford said it?  (Separately, we learn Seymour David, who published Rorschach's journal in the "New Frontiersman," was later found beaten to death and the journal missing.)  In terms of the large setting, Johns hints at a world spiraling into chaos:  the Vice President has shot the Attorney-General and taken 17 people hostage at the White House, and a Trump-like President threatens Russia with destruction if it invades Poland after the European Union collapses.  The Trump-like figure has taken over media, establishing the National News Network; it insists the Soviet Union isn't withdrawing from Poland, despite what "foreign press may claim."

Acting on Ozymandias' orders, a new African-American Rorschach breaks into a prison to free the Marionette and, reluctantly, her husband the Mime; they agree to go with him due to Ozymandias' knowledge of their son's location.  For his part, Ozymandias wants to bring Dr. Manhattan to Earth, and he's forced to work with the new Rorschach, Marionette, and the Mime since Night Owl and Silk Spectre refused to heed his call.  Then, shit gets weird.  Superman experiences a nightmare of the night his parents died, even though I was pretty sure only the DCnU Superman's parents died this way.  Isn't the current Superman the original DCU Superman, whose parents didn't die in a car accident?  At any rate, it's apparently the first nightmare he's ever had, and I'm assuming it's because he somehow just became aware Dr. Manhattan altered his reality as part of creating the DCnU.  (I think.)

As a sequel goes, it's really solid.  I know a lot of people are upset because Alan Moore isn't getting a dime for the use of the characters he and Dave Gibbons created.  I get that.  But, it's also clear this series is somehow going to answer the questions "Rebirth" raised, so DC has us right where it wants us.  Either way, for most of this issue, Johns and Frank do an amazing job of capturing the feel of that first series, and I tip my hat to them for it.  That said, the Superman part feels forced.  It's a significant failing, too, because it seems to confirm the sense someone long ago should've told Geoff Johns his dream of merging these universes was a bad idea.  I'm not saying I've given up all hope Johns will find a way to reconcile what seems right not to be reconcilable, but I am saying this story would've been a lot better as just a "Watchmen" sequel.

Star Wars #39:  Last issue, Leia, Han, and Luke offered to help the Partisans in their war against the Empire; they fully engage in that war in this issue.

First, I have to say it’s a great premise.  Jedha is a dying world (as anyone who saw "Rogue One:  A Star Wars Story" knows), and nothing the Partisans or the Alliance can do will change that.  Ubin Des and Chulco Gi take Luke on a run to provide air filters for the populace, and Luke marvels anyone is left on Jedha.  Ubin stresses most people don’t really have a choice.  Sure, some people are making enough to eat as smugglers of Jedha's remaining minerals, but everyone else is stuck, since it’s not like there are regular off-world flights.  While they’re making their way through the city, Commander Kanchar declares Jedha a forbidden planet, authorizing the Stormtroopers to kill everyone; he believes it will make the extraction of the kyber easier.  Kanchar is a great character.  We saw his brutality last issue, but Gillen shades in his character a little more in this issue, as he expresses a military man’s admiration for the Partisans’ late leader, Saw Gerrera.  (As in last issue, he bemoans the lack of competence in the galaxy.)

When the Stormtroopers start killing people indiscriminately, Luke attacks and manages, with the help of Ubin and Chulco, to stop this squad.  Previously, he expressed confusion about the Partisans' militaristic bent, noting they should be helping people find a better way to live and not just fighting the Empire.  But, the Stormtroopers’ attack helps Luke see the stakes involved, and Larocca’s extensive use of shadowing implies this lesson is going to lead to Luke to struggle with the Dark Side.  Along those lines, Chulco, an “aspirant to the Disciples of the Whills,” mentions all sorts of Force-related organizations and topics here:  the Cult of the Central Isotoper as well as the temple built near the ruins of Temple of the Kyber.  It’s a reminder of how early in his journey Luke is and how susceptible he is to the Dark Side.  He’ll have plenty of opportunity to be tested, as Kanchar drops one of Queen Trios’ Shu-torian “drill citadels” on the surface.  As Han says, destroying really expensive Imperial equipment is their specialty after all.

X-Men Gold #16:  I haven't been particularly thrilled with this series for a while, but I like where Guggenheim is going here.  First, I'm basically fine with whatever leaps of logic he has to take to get Kitty and Peter back together; as such, I'm particularly happy when they find themselves in a hotel room together.  But, Guggenheim amps it up a notch when he has Lord Kologath's troops arrive to retrieve him, forcing the X-Men to hunt for Kitty and Peter as they try to fight off the troops.  Kitty having to confess to Rachel that Peter is with her is one of the funniest moments of the year.  But, the action itself is also great.  Medina does a great job of conveying the scope of the attack, as the enormous spaceship lands on top of the mansion so Kologath can board.  The X-Men tried to protect the civilians (mostly supporters of the X-Men assembled outside the Mansion at the time of the attack), and Rachel is seriously wounded in the process.  Setting up the events of the next few issues, the ship departs with Kologath as well as Kitty and Kurt, leaving Logan to decide to go after them.  This type of storyline really feels like the old-school X-Men story Guggenheim promised us.  (Also, I totally appreciated the cut to "Uncanny X-Men" #450 showing the Kurt and Rachel kiss.  Deep cut indeed!  I take back all the nasty things I said about that!)

Also Read:  Generation X #9; Nightwing:  The New Order #4

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Not-So-New Comics: The November 15 Edition - Marvel (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

OK, here we go, the all-Marvel edition of November 15 reviews!

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #147:  One of the challenges for new readers here is we’re clearly picking up a story Duggan's been telling for a while.  For example, Peter tells Rich he believes the spies within the Nova Corps are part of a “militaristic splinter faction of the Shi’ar Empire” that isn’t happy the Nova Corps has returned.  Moreover, that group seems to be the Raptors, one of whom is inexplicably armed with Mar-Vell’s Nega-Bands.  All that clearly didn’t happen last issue.  But, Duggan is at least keeping us moving with the story at hand.  As part of their effort to root out spies within the Nova Corps, Peter and Rich arrive at an outpost Commander Adsit worried had gone rogue.  However, they learn the outpost went silent after they discovered a traitor alerting the Shi’ar they have an Infinity Stone.  Dun-dun-DUN!  My only real complaint here is Duggan gives short shrift to Peter and Rich’s reunion.  OK, it’s funny Peter punches Rich because he’s mad he wasn’t Rich’s first call.  But, really?  No one told Peter?  It's totally unbelievable Peter didn’t know because, as Rich tells Peter, even Gamora knew.  After all, Gamora and Peter had a knock-down, drag-out fight about Peter’s complicity in Rich getting stuck in the Cancerverse during “Original Sin."  But, she failed to mention he’d been saved?  I want some bro-hugs and man tears, stat!

Amazing Spider-Man #791:  OK, I admit, when Rubylyn tells Peter in so many words he only got the job because Robbie treats him like I son, I really wish he would’ve shot back that he’d been working at the “Bugle” since she was in short pants.  But, I guess that’s not Peter.  Slott wraps up this opening arc nicely.  Robbie makes Peter the new science editor at the “Bugle,” responsible for publishing a Sunday supplement every week.  Peter and Robbie seem to dispense with the idea Robbie doesn’t know Peter is Spider-Man, as Robbie stresses the flexible work hours in his initial conversation about the job with Peter.  Slott will hopefully do more with Peter's science-team members as a supporting cast than he did with the Shanghai PI staff, who Slott seemed to think we would magically remember after they appeared in a few panels and weren’t seen again for several issues.  I'm hoping something more along the lines of the Horizon staff.  Turning to the action, Slott honors the spirit of Legacy by delivering a one-and-done story that feels like today would've been a complicated, six-part cross-over event.  A wealthy industrialist named Tony Zynn (you know he’s a bad guy because his initials are X.Z.) is creating robots to be put in homes next year.  Bobbi is working security for him, and she gets Peter and his team a tour of his facilities.  When one of the bots tries to kill Colin (the guy Peter corrected last issue) after he fiddles with it, Peter literally jumps to his rescue.  However, he and Bobbi raise a collective eyebrow when the robot asks him to kill it.  Mockingbird and Spider-Man return that night and, long story short, it turns out Zynn captured Quicksand and turned her into the personality matrices.  (That’s some pretty evil-genius stuff right there.)  Peter assumes it’s Sandman, but he's surprised to learn it's one of the Thor’s villains; Bobbi assures him it can’t be all about him.  Slott purposefully leaves some loose ends here:  Bobbi expresses concern to herself Peter is still spending as much time as Spider-Man as possible, Zynn will clearly return, oh, and Harry and Liz’s nanny is stealing blood from the boys.  Overall, this series is starting to feel like it did during the "Big Time! hey-day of Slott's run, though I'm sure we'll go the rails again and have Aunt May become Venom.

Ben Reilly:  Scarlet Spider #10:  Given the scream that ends this issue when Ben looks in the mirror, I assume we’re going to see the degenerative disease has once again scarred his face after he almost beat Silas Thorne to death.  So freaking clever, that Peter David.  Instead of a soul meter, we get Ben’s face as our measure of how well he’s doing in winning back Soul Points (TM).  Meanwhile, the new Hornet is also named Silas, and Dusk arrives on the scene.  However, we’re first introduced to her when she’s spying on the woman who killed the taxi driver last issue; we learn the man she's visiting is her father, Mysterio.  Also, the little girl who made friends with the old woman we’ve seen a few times has glowing red eyes, which can’t be good.  In other words, man, we have a lot going on here.

Hawkeye #12:  The best part of this issue isn't just the amazing banter -- and, man, it is amazing -- but the implication Kate and Laura have hung out together many times.  I'm pretty sure they've never canonically met, but Thompson makes it clear they have a warm relationship.  To be honest, it's not hard to believe they get along well.  It just sort of makes sense.  Also, Thompson does a great job of scripting a pretty normal conversation; Laura talks about how Gabby changed her life, and Kate admits she has problems asking for help.  It's pretty rare to see an extended conversation that has nothing to do with advancing a specific plot.  As I mentioned in another review, Thompson's holistic focus on Kate and her life is this series' greatest strength, and it's on full display here.  I can't wait to see what she does with Clint.  (Also, Lucky and Jonathan, Gabby's pet wolverine, playing together is adorable.)

Peter Parker:  The Spectacular Spider-Man #297:  I don't understand why they keep calling Teresa Peter's "half-sister."  She's either his full sister or not his sister all; they can't just split the difference.  At any rate, this issue is a thrill-a-minute as Peter has to escape the S.W.A.T. team without his Spider-Sense (thanks to Natasha helping the Gray Blade test its parameters in issue #1) and without revealing he's Spider-Man.  Zdarsky really goes to town, showing us why Peter's smarts are his greatest asset.  The S.W.A.T. commander has apparently "sworn an oath" to the Gray Blade, and I'm not entirely sure how it suddenly became some sort of cult.  Like, aren't they just a S.H.I.E.L.D. splinter group?  Do people really need to swear oaths?  Also, I get the commander is on board with the goal, but isn't someone going to raise an eyebrow when the S.W.A.T. team basically destroys an entire apartment complex searching for Peter?  I mean, it's New York after all.  The best part, though, is obviously Jonah saving Peter and then immediately telling him he owes him thousands of dollars for all the Spidey photos he bought over the years.  Good luck with that, Jonah.

Spider-Men II #4:  After four issues, Bendis finally let's us know what the point of this series is.  It turns out this Universe's Miles' wife Barbara died.  The Kingpin attended the funeral, coming after the death of his own wife, Vanessa.  He told Miles he was so grief-stricken after Vanessa died he hired all sorts of people who could return Vanessa to him, and he discovered the existence of other dimensions where she lived.  This knowledge was comforting to him.  However, Miles wants more:  he hired Taskmaster to find a dimension where Barbara -- his Barbara -- was alive.  I still don't see how this Miles and "our" Miles have anything in common other than a name, but hopefully Bendis will get there.  Meanwhile, our Miles confirms that he knows his dimension no longer exists and that only a few people (including his resurrected Uncle Aaron, according to the most recent issue of his series) know that.  Given we've had two full company-wide events since "Secret Wars," it's probably time to wrap up this nagging question.

X-Men Blue #15:  I guess this cross-over event was fun.  I know it was supposed to be some meta-ode to the X-Men's history, as Mojo sent the X-Men against their greatest villains.  But, somewhere along the way, I think I lost the plot (literally).  He was supposedly using the "mental energy from everyone who watches his programming" to terraform New York into another corner of the Mojoverse, but I'm not entirely sure why (let alone how) he was doing that.  But, the X-Men (actually, Magneto and Polaris) foil Mojo's plans, somehow severing his link to the Mojoverse and stranding him and his flunkies in New York.  Apparently, a secondary objective was setting up the Mojo news network on Earth, so that should be fun.  Separately, can everyone stop ranting about the fact Magneto is supposed to be dead?  He's been dead a hot minute.  It's not like when Jean Grey returns; I get why someone would be surprised by that.  Also, he's been on the X-Men's side ever since Scott set up Utopia.  I don't get why Kitty is still treating him as an archenemy, particularly given, as Colossus reminds her, he saved her life.  Pet peeve #3 means you don't get credit for using a character to point out a plot inconsistency.  I'm trying to be open-minded to this reboot, but, honestly, I still find moments like this one happening way too often.  It was nice to see Longshot, though.

Also Read:  Champions #14; Mighty Thor #701; Star Wars:  Darth Vader #8; Star Wars:  Dr. Aphra #14

Not-So-New Comics: The November 15 Edition - DC, Image, and Valiant (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

I don't think I've ever had to split up a review before.  But, for some reason, I got 18 comics this week, and I can't fit all the labels in one post.  So, here we go readers, the first split weekly edition!

The Batman Who Laughs #1:  Not surprisingly, this issue is grim.  The Batman Who Laughs is created when Bruce finally snaps and kills Joker.  He does so after Joker not only dissolves Commissioner Gordon in acid but seems to have his minions lining up families so he can kill the parents in front of their children and Batman.  (This part is inspired in its evilness.)  But, Bruce doesn't go to the dark side just because he killed Joker.  Joker brilliantly has a toxin release the moment he dies, and it slowly but surely rewrites Bruce's brain patters so his moral code is in line with Joker's.  Before he dies, Joker tells Batman it was time for them to evolve together.  You'd think the darkest moment would be when Bruce tricked Barbara, Dick, Jason, and Tim into the Batcave's training room so he could kill them all.  This moment is chilling, and Tynion builds to it well.  Bruce confesses to the four of them the virus has him in its grips, and they think Bruce is telling them he wants them to kill him.  Instead, he reveals he needed them distracted while the virus took full control of him, since they would've noticed the change had they not been distraught.  He then shoots them with automatic weapons.  (Did I mention this issue is grim?)  But, no, the darkest moment is when Bruce infects Clark and Jon with black Kryptonite so they are driven to rip apart Lois.  Yup.  Every terrible device is a perfectly constructed nightmare for each character, showing how well Tynion really understands them.  The only mystery we're left pondering is who the figure wrapped in bandages is; Bruce has been narrating the story to him.  Presumably we'll learn more in "Dark Nights:  Metal."

Justice League #33 ("Dark Nights:  Bats Out of Hell" #4):  This issue reads like a bad after-school special.  Cyborg and the Justice League spout a never-ending series of clichéd sports metaphors to cover up the fact the plot makes no sense.  We learned in a previous issue that Cyborg’s Mother Box is comprised of “Element X,” apparently the holy grail of all these metals and something the Batman Who Laughs needs 
to achieve his goals.  (It seems to be distinct from Nth metal, but I'm not entirely sure.)  The Mother Box itself asks Victor to surrender to it completely so it can take out the Dark Knights, but Victor refuses, deciding to hold onto his humanity.  He does so partly because Raven encourages him to do so telepathically, but I honestly have no idea when she appeared on the board.  Is she even a character in the DCnU?  No idea.  The script here is so cheesy you actually find yourself wishing he’d have surrendered.  I’d rather endless “pings.”  At any rate, this new Victor (“Cyborg One Million, baby!”) is apparently connected to the Multiverse and he now can do anything, like free the Justice League.  They then free Dr. Fate, Deathstroke, and Mister Terrific, who were apparently also captured when the Justice League was in "Flash" #33 (though I don’t think that was made clear at the time).  Everyone then makes a tactical retreat, and the original teams resume their missions to collect the Nth metal while Victor takes Flash and Raven on a “Hail Mary” pass mission.  In other words, we end exactly where we started this mini-series, except for Victor being free.  This issue is really the only miss in “Dark Nights:  Metal” so far, but, man, it is seriously a miss.

Batman #35:  If there's a moment that encapsulates Batman's relationship with Talia, it's her crawling to him to tell him she like Catwoman after Catwoman stabbed her in the back with a sword.  Catwoman and Talia may fight over Batman in this issue, but it's not by any stretch of the imagination a stereotypical catfight.  They might be using swords, but they're actually having a conversation.  Talia tells Catwoman the story of how harsh her father was in raising her, giving her a sword the day she took her first steps, and Catwoman tells Talia she never met her father, so no one ever gave her anything.  Talia tells Catwoman Bruce is her (Talia's) only equal, and Catwoman laughs at the pedestal on which Talia has placed Bruce.  She shows her unique insight into him by telling Talia he is broken and cracked.  Moreover, he's obsessed with a childish vow he'll put above all other vows, including the one he eventually makes to her.  But, she loves him, so she's stuck with that.  Talia really legitimately accepts that.  King and Jones really make that clear.  Talia realizes she not only doesn't see him the same way Selina does but also that Selina probably sees him more clearly.  She basically gives them her blessing.  Selina manages to defeat her and makes her way to Holly, asking her (and not demanding from her) that she return to Gotham and confess that she murdered 237 people so Selina can be happy.  Meanwhile, Dick and Damian sit vigil outside Khadym, and Dick correctly posits that Bruce wants to be happy, but that requires asking something of someone and it's hard for him to do that.  By the time Bruce and Selina meet the boys outside Khadym, the Batfamily really feels like a family.  Jason and Tim aren't Dick and Damian.  Bruce's sons are essentially picking up their father and step-mother from the airport after their honeymoon and, man, am excited.

Bloodshot Salvation #3:  Lemire has always been a guy with a plan, and he proves that again here.  Project Omen comes online and deactivates all operating nanites just as Bloodshot is ready to kill Daddy; he suddenly becomes human again, and Daddy sees it as divine intervention.  However, we know this “turn-off” period doesn’t last, since Soviet Man and Viet Man save Magic and her daughter from Rampage in the present.  They then take her to a woman named Punk Mambo who connects her with Ray’s consciousness.  It turns out he’s not dead, as everyone thought:  he’s stuck in 4002.  It's obviously unclear how he goes from seemingly getting beaten to death on Daddy's farm to physically transported to 4002, but I’m sure Lemire will get there.  In the meantime, he’s keeping us guessing as he always does.  I shook my head as Daddy proclaimed God had saved him from Bloodshot and set his followers on him, a brilliantly timed moment Lemire has clearly been planning from the start.  Jeff Lemire, everyone.

The Realm #3:  Jesus, every time you think this issue can’t get darker, it does.  First, the most interesting part of the story is our various groups all seem to be converging on the same spot.  The teenager from last issue, Eli, leads the group to safety on the surface, and Will and Molly debate whether they can trust him as they search the area for “locals.”  At camp, David plays with some glowing rocks, which seems to imply he has some magical powers.  Meanwhile, the bearded warrior from the last two issues attacks the goblins who survived chasing the party underground.  (The creature that appeared at the end of last issue attacked them just as they were close to catching Will and company.)  Will and Molly find the kid who awoke in the ring of fire last issue, and we learn he’s been on his own for weeks.  He’s then hit full in the chest with a spear.  It looks grim, but the cover for next issue shows him stitching up his own chest so...maybe it's not.  The only group that doesn’t seem to be converging on this spot is the team of orcs Eldritch “helps” in their fight against an unknown enemy.  The lead orc, Redjaw, dismisses his assistance (he threw some spells from his dragon) and later complains to his human lover that Eldritch has found favor with their master.  Based on these comments and the goblins’ chatter at camp before the bearded guy attacks, it’s clear the mystical forces that came to Earth follow not only the same master but also the same religious beliefs.  At any rate, the authors seem to be building to a major conflict as everyone makes first contact.  It's early for them to kill off everyone, so we'll see how that goes.

The Wild Storm #9:  We continue to get more information about Marlowe's home world in this issue.  We learn it was hierarchical:  the more syllables in your name, the less important you were.  John had eight syllables with a “u” sound in the middle, meaning he was an individual of no particular value; Kenesha had three syllables in her name, making her an exalted servant of the ruling class; and someone called “Emp” (“one syllable, ruling class”) was the head of their expedition.  At some point in long-ago Japan, John had to kill a bunch of samurai to retrieve an important artifact, “the old technology” Emp apparently kept under his bed.  (Said item appears on one of the work benches in the shop Marlowe prepared for Angie.)  Meanwhile, at IO, Ivana makes Miles aware Jackie’s “air gapped red team with event shielding” exercise is happening, and, under questioning from Miles, Jackie confesses she’s securely trying to see if she can extract data from Skywatch station.  Miles warns her not to do anything without his authorization.  They also discuss something called Project Thunderbook, a “Directors Eyes Only” exercise the previous director, John Lynch, ran that was so secretive a dozen people killed themselves the week after he quit and three buildings mysteriously caught fire.  Even Miles doesn’t know what it was, but Jackie informs him Cash was part of it.  Also, Jackie’s assistant Mitch previously made Jackie aware John (but known to them as third-party contractor “Wilson Flowers”) escaped Hightower.  Mitch isn’t too bright, because he uses all sorts of location-tracking software despite Jackie telling him not to do so.  It probably means Zealot is going to kidnap him next issue after Skywatch ordered her to keep a closer eye on IO.  As I frequently say about this series, curiouser and curiouser.

Also Read:  Nightwing #3

Monday, December 18, 2017

Not-So-New Comics: The November 8 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batman:  Lost #1:  Long-time "Batman" readers will probably do a better job of picking out the meaningful nods to his history that pepper this issue.  But, Snyder manages to make his point clear even without that.  Bruce is stuck floating through his own past, and Barbatos foils his every effort to escape by telling him he's nothing special:  Barbatos has been the driving force behind his entire existence, setting up every moment in history that brought about his creation so he could serve as the doorway.  Barbatos makes Bruce doubt everything, even convincing him Barbatos has really been the detective, not Bruce. This attack at his will leaves him unable to break free of his history, doomed to constantly repeat it and face the fact Barbatos has allegedly been directing it from the start.  Snyder has been painting such a dark picture over these last few months that you almost begin to believe Barbatos, and it's this belief that makes you realize how full of despair Bruce must be for believing it as well.

Detective Comics #968:  Tynion wraps up this story well by essentially not providing us a definitive conclusion.  The tension in the issue comes from Future Tim using the suit Ulysses is holding at the Colony helicarrier to re-activate the drones, sending them after Batwoman.  He takes down the guys in the Cave in pretty quick succession and then takes Tim with him to the Belfry to finish off Batwoman himself.  But, he's misunderestimated his control through Brother Eye.  Apparently, in his world, Batwing didn't take over the Belfry, so Tim was able to run his routines through Batwing's servers, buying them a window of time.  Plus, some of the equipment in the Batcave was running off older servers, allowing the guys to fly Batplanes to take out the drones.  (Jason is needless to say thrilled, and the moment Bruce has to end his squabbling with Damian with a simple, "Boys, focus," is hilarious.)  Brother Eye knows it's defeated, so he prepares to return Future Tim to his time.  He never reveals what Batwoman does, and Tynion doesn't really give us a reason for it.  Presumably, if he really wanted to "save" Tim by removing the threat Batwoman poses, he'd tell him.  Of course, it's possible he did off-panel, and we'll learn that later.  If not, I'm not quite sure I'd buy it.  Even Nightwing at one point asks if they could all just talk, and I don't get why Future Tim doesn't go that route.  (Per pet peeve #3, I'm not giving Tynion credit for having one of his characters point out a illogical part of the script.)  At any rate, he leaves begging Tim to enjoy the time he has before everything goes wrong, and the last panel shows how upset Tim is by this entire arc.  I'm certainly excited to see where we go from him.  We still haven't really explored Tim's return, since he was so busy fighting Future Tim, so I'm hoping Tynion takes some time to do that over the next few issues.

Falcon #2:  Barnes seems to be playing Blackheart for a fool, and I'm honestly not sure how I feel about that.  We learn Blackheart has decided to take over Earth as a way to earn a seat at the table where the most powerful beings in the Universe gather once a year to tell their best stories.  Apparently when he asked his father Mephisto for a seat he banished him to the seventh circle of Hell for a millennium.  Maybe take the hint, Blackheart?  But, he doesn't, and he's decided Dray is going to rule Earth once he conquers it, earning him said spot at the table.  But, Dray seems an...odd choice for a ruler, as he makes it pretty clear he's only there to get paid.  You may also be asking what anything here has to do with Falcon, and you'd be asking the right question.  The disappointing part is Barnes' script is so solid when he focuses on Sam, particularly in his interactions with Dr. Voodoo and Shaun.  The conversation flows so naturally you feel like you're actually watching the conversations.  But, these nice moments are overshadowed by Blackheart's chaos, and it leaves me still wondering how I feel about it all.

Moon Knight #188:  Whoa.  I mean, holy fucking shit.  I can't remember a series that started without the main character actually making an appearance, but that sense of anticipation just helps add to the tension of the issue.  But, it's not the only source of tension.  The story focuses on a psychiatrist, Dr. Emmett, who previously treated Marc Spector but who I don't recognize from the Lemire/Smallwood run (the only one I've read).  She's treating "the Nameless One," a patient who served in the Army but burned several soldiers to death after they tortured him (stripped him naked, forced him to drink urine, etc.).  He claims to have experience a religious awakening in doing so, and Emmett recognizes the parallels between his story and Marc's.  She decides to introduce him to Egyptian mythology as a way to help him process his trauma.  She tells him the story of Amon Ra, with the sun often representing the "sovereignty of masculinity," and Khonshu, with the moon representing femininity and the power of insubordination.  At this point, it becomes clear Bemis is creating an archenemy for Marc, and the issue becomes chilling.  Emmett visits the military hospital where the Nameless One was originally treated, and a patient there accosts her.  Before the orderlies drag him from her, he tells her he was in the same platoon as the Nameless One when the incident happened and that he managed to burn those soldiers with his hands still tied.  Emmett is called to Ravencroft for an emergency, and we learn the Nameless One attacked one of the nurses, ripping off her nose because she didn't believe he was a god.  When he asks Emmett his name, she offers Khonshu, and it's a reflection of her hope he's accepted the redemption she was offering.  Instead, in her words, he accepted Amon Ra's power as the abuser, and he sets her and the institution on fire, pleading to destroy Khonshu.

Star Wars: #38:  Something Gillen does surprisingly well here — even for someone with his considerable talents — is get the mood of the series right.  As a new author getting his shot at working with such iconic characters, I’m sure it was tempting to go balls-to-the-wall here, to tell a story reminiscent of Aaron’s opening arc.  But, he’s more subdued, because the characters are more subdued.  They’ve had all sorts of experiences in the last few months:  they destroyed the Imperial weapons factory on Cymoon 1, they’ve escaped Grakkus on Nar Shaddaa and Darth Vader on Vrogas Vas, they’ve been stalked on Sunspot Prison, they steal a Star Destroyer to rescue Tureen VII, they saved Luke (again) from the Screaming Citadel.  In this issue, they’re still trying to find a base, and you can tell they’re tired.  Leah may be indomitable, but everyone else has an edge.

Titans #17:  I haven't been a huge fan of this series for a while, but Abnett delivers one of his better issues here.  We learn future
Diana Troy, calling herself Troia, has traveled to the past to kill the Titans, saving herself 80 years of heartache.  WTF, you ask?  Diana is apparently immortal; as Karen dies of natural causes in 2091, Diana loses the last of the Titans and wonders why she bothered caring in the first place.  Abnett makes it pretty clear Troia is insane here; it's a much different conversation than the one Future Tim has with his counterpart in "Detective Comics."  She goes on a murder spree after Karen's death, killing everyone from Darkseid to Wonder Woman (for telling the lie in the first place).  My only real problem with this issue is the question why it took Diana so long to get here.  Abnett has been advancing this story through Psimon's grim warnings for months, and it seems to me like Abnett had a number of more straightforward ways to go here.

The Wild Storm:  Michael Cray #2:  OK, the art is terrible, but the story is solid.  First, Michael has Trelane hire him a team of three support staff to help him with his missions; he auditions them in a steampunk VR game.  We've got Hector Morales the trap-builder, Leon Carver the strategist, and Victoria the assassin.   He then poses as a Afghanistan vet to get transported to Queen's island, where Queen immediately IDs him.  They're in hand-to-hand combat before you know it, and Michael disintegrates Queen's arm.  Queen advances on him. but Victoria has apparently followed him and takes out Queen.  It's a surprising moment; I thought this story was going to last longer.  But, when Trelane reveals Michael's next target is dirty cop Barry Allen, it appears Hill and Ellis have a bigger story planned.  Is Michael going to kill his world's versions of the Justice League?  We'll have to wait and see.  Meanwhile, throughout the issue, Michael is examined by Dr. Shahi, who reveals he's not dying of brain cancer.  Instead, he has some sort of secondary brain (a "second layer" of "normal synaptic processes") coming online, but she refuses to tell him more.  She wants to cure him; he wants to be able to use the power to take out the bad guys.  We'll see how that goes.

Also Read:  Generation X #8; Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #32; Uncanny Avengers #29; X-Men Gold #15

Friday, December 15, 2017

Not-So-New Comics: The November 1 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batman:  The Devastator #1:  These tie-in issues have really been much, much better than I expected them to be, and this one is no different.  Like the other authors, Tieri makes this Batman’s pain palpable, and he had a rougher road than pretty much all the others:  he had to turn himself into Doomsday to take out a crazed Superman.  He talks about the moment as building a wall of bone around his heart so he could do what he never thought he would have to do, and Tieri does a great job of reminding us how hard it is for Bruce to trust someone in the first place.  Unlike the other issues, though, this one is also directly related to the main plot, as Barbatos has this Batman steal the tuning fork from the Fortress of Solitude and place it on the mountain in Gotham.  It seems pretty clear it’s going to interact with the battery Superman is powering in the Dark Dimension (per "Dark Nights:  Metal" #3), and that doesn’t seem to bode well for our gang.

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #146:  Duggan does a great job of establishing the status quo while also throwing us right into the middle of the action.  Someone’s sabotaging the Nova Corps from the inside, so the Guardians agree to help root out the traitor(s).  The Nova Corps' new commander Scott Adsit — yes, that Scott Adsit — sends Ant-Man and Gamora to a fleet of ships sending a distress signal, and they discover Ultron is spreading his virus through the passengers.  (It’s grim.)  Meanwhile, Peter discovers Richard Rider is still alive, and I can’t wait for that bro hug (and for Richard to ask why he’s blond and in possession of two real eyes).  I dropped this series during Bendis’ run after stories like "The Black Mirror,” where it just felt like he had no idea what he was doing with the team.  I like Duggan, though, so I’m excited to see what he does with this crew, particularly if it involves Richard joining.  Moreover, the Fraternity of Raptors presumably means the “Darkhawk” #51 issue Marvel is publishing in January is going to play a role here.  I almost literally can’t wait.

Batman #34:  OMG, this issue is the best issue ever.  I’m almost loathe to review it, because it feels like ruining it’s magic (the second time, I believe, I’ve said that about one of King’s issues).  It just has all sorts of amazing moments between Bruce and Selena, where her personality in particular shines like a diamond.  It reminds you why he’s attracted to her, why she’s a challenge for him.  She seems to treat Talia as simply a rival for Bruce's affection in her banter, but King makes it clear she understands the threat Talia poses perfectly well.  Moreover, Bruce’s detective work is spectacular as he deduces the gunless, tongueless ninjas Talia sent after them were just there to tire them.  We're also treated to more excellent Dick and Damian interactions, with Damian actually thanking “Richard” for coming with him, and Dick telling him he’s with him all the way to the end.  (I think I have some sand in my eye.)  King's Damian is just a damn treat:  he tells Superman (who prevents him and Dick from entering Khadym) he’d simply sell his soul to a demon (“blah blah blah”) and use magic to kill him instead of kryptonite like everyone else tries. Supes wisely tells him he believes him, but also that Jon probably wouldn’t want to go adventuring with him anymore.  In other words, this issue is a tour de force of characterization and everyone should read it right now.  #issueoftheyear

Batman:  White Knight #2:  Murphy really is telling a sprawling (in the best way) story here, as Jack tries to stay on track in his push to save Gotham.  Hilariously, we learn cheerleader Harley replaced original Harley at some point without Joker noticing.  This revelation comes as cheerleader Harley refuses his proposal (because she loved him for the chaos), and original Harley knocks her on her ass and accepts the proposal (because she loved him for him, but left him after she realized he loved Batman more than anyone or anything.)  It’s remarkably clever, not just as a joke but as a sign of how completely demented Joker had become.  Original Harley (or Harleen) also serves the role of psychiatrist for us, explaining the pills are working because Jack has a chemical imbalance that exacerbates the personality traits that made him the Joker in the first place.  It means all those traits are still there, and Murphy makes it clear Joker is stalking Jack every step of the way.  All that said, perhaps the most intriguing part is the revelation that the fate of Jason Todd is unclear.  In the past, Harleen fled to Batman as Joker was beating Jason to death, but, when they arrived on the scene, Jason was gone.  If I had to guess, Jason will return, revealing he left because he couldn’t stand the violence any more.  That would strike a blow to Bruce.  Murphy also does a great job of showing Bruce rattled as one of his peers admits he (and pretty much everyone else) has used Batman’s war on crime to rake in profits (in this guy's case, flipping real estate in the poor neighborhoods where Batman is active).  Murphy showing Jack/Joker as a hero of the 99% is particularly topical, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see the themes he develops here appear in the mainstream Bat-books soon.

Captain America #695:  Waid makes the right call in starting from a place of hope.  He’s going to have to spend a whole bunch of issues detailing a world where not everyone trusts Steve anymore.  But, honestly, the world right now is grim enough.  We don’t need to lose all hope.  Waid has Cap travel to a small town in Nebraska he saved from a group of white supremacists called the Remnant right after he was unfrozen.  They renamed the town after him, and they hold a Captain America festival every year.  They believe in Steve, even if some people are mad he didn’t return from “the trap” earlier than he did.  Steve isn’t just there to soak in the adoration:  his intelligence sources discovered a reformed Remnant was going to attack the festival, so he’s on hand to stop it.  Waid clearly has big plans for the Remnant, and he seems to be inspired by the “debate” we had during the inauguration when someone punched Richard Spencer.  Waid is clearly on the “always punch a Nazi” side, and Cap is the living embodiment of that principle.  Waid sometimes gives short shrift to characters’ emotions (see his current "Avengers" run), but he’s pretty on target here when it comes to the townspeople’s adoration for Steve.  A grown-up version of the girl Steve saved ten years earlier is there, a stand-in for the reader when it comes to Cap inspiring us.  I hope Waid maintains a firm grip on those emotions as he has Cap navigate this strange new world.

Iceman #7:  After the OG Champions make short work of the Sentinels (since, after all, they're not fully programmed Sentinels), Bobby and Judah resume their date.  Grace makes the brilliant call of having Bobby refuse to dish the next morning after Angel tells the team he didn't come home that night.  I like the idea of Bobby having some privacy, even from us.  I don't need this series to descend into gay porn, after all.  (Hopefully someone'll just handle that on DeviantArt.)  Instead, Bobby tells the story about how he was a sexist asshole the first time he met Natasha and how she (unsurprisingly) called him on it.  The guys give him a gentle ribbing for his awkward attempt at hitting on her, but Darkstar tells him not to be embarrassed; he doesn't have to be, because it's part of the journey that brought him to where he is now.  Bobby holds onto his newfound sensitivity by visiting the Sentinel engineer and encouraging her to contact one of his old professors at UCLA, since she should be teaching mechanical engineering and not working in props.  It's a lovely moment:  he comments on the importance of having professors believe in you.  In the end, he finds himself at the Mansion enjoying life happening around him.  But, he also realizes the X-Men don't need him in the same way anymore so he decides to move to Los Angeles!  Hurrah!  My wish came true!  Complicating matters, his mom discovered his younger self (Lil' Bobby, as Warren calls their younger counterparts) is in the present.  Again, there are moments where I feel like we're off a beat or two in this series, but Grace seems to have a better handle on Bobby with each passing issue.  I'm definitely here for the long haul. 

Peter Parker:  The Spectacular Spider-Man #6:  I said a few issues ago this series is becoming my Spider-Man series, and this issue proved it.  It’s the most emotional Spider-Man issues in years, and it reminds me of the good ol’ days.  Zdarsky might’ve been hired to write a funny Spider-Man, but he delivers two amazingly multi-faceted characters in this issue as Jonah and Peter go head to head.  Each one gives as good as he gets, as Jonah argues hiding behind the mask makes Spidey a coward (noting cops have to live with the consequences of their actions) and Peter reminds him he’s used his power and wealth to try to kill him several times (and endangered civilians' lives in the process).  But, Jonah is left broken when Peter tells him he’s nothing, admitting his vendetta — something he promised Marla he’d get past, as Zdarsky reminds us — is the only thing he has left, since it’ll be the only thing to prove it all hasn’t been futile.  Zdarsky does a brilliant job building the tension to this moment, and it’s released when Peter reveals his identity to Jonah, to convince him he’s not alone.  Wow.  Just wow.  It’s really a spectacular (heh heh) issue, and every Spider-Man fan should read it.  For years now — really, ever since “One Day More” — Marvel has bent over backwards to make sure its characters’ continuities doesn’t change.  But, they throw off that caution with abandon here, and it’s well worth it.  Game fucking on.  Move over, Slott.  Our new Spider-Man storyteller is here.  #issueoftheyear

Spider-Man #234:  Wow, a lot happens here.  First, Fabio returns, and we learn he left because he’s in love with Lana and he figured Lana would fall into Miles’ arms after he beat up Hammerhead for her.  He’s thrilled to see Miles is instead dating Barbara, but Miles is a little stupefied when he learns Lana loves him.  For her part, Lana is having a rough time.  Her mother is someone called Bombshell (as I’m sure long-time readers know), and she’s just been freed from prison as the result of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s collapse.  But, Lana makes it clear she’s a hero now and tells her mother that she never wants to see her again.  Miles decides to follow an ambulance not in his uniform as part of his ongoing uncertainty about using the Spider-Man identity.  But, most importantly, Uncle Aaron is back as the Iron Spider, thanks to Ceres the weaponsmith.  He’s putting together his own Sinister Six (including Bombshell) to steal a decommissioned S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier.  Interestingly enough, he outright says this Earth isn't his world, which again raises the question how much everyone here knows about their current circumstances.  Miles is going to have a rough few days.

Also Read:  Justice League #32; Nightwing #32; Astonishing X-Men #5; Avengers #673; Star Wars:  Darth Vader #7

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Not-So-New Comics: The October 25 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

For some reason, I didn't really have a lot to say about the October 25 releases.  It's not necessarily a bad thing; they were all really solid issues.  "Ben Reilly:  Scarlet Spider" #9, "Bloodshot Salvation" #2, "Detective Comics" #967, and "Nightwing:  The New Order" #3 all significantly advanced their plots, and I thoroughly enjoyed "Quantum and Woody! #0.0001½.  But, I guess not much seemed particularly noteworthy.

Dark Nights:  Gotham Resistance (Teen Titans #12, Nightwing #29, Suicide Squad #26, and Green Arrow #32):  I finally had to admit I was enjoying “Dark Nights” so much I decided to go back and buy these issues.  (I read "Nightwing" #29 when it was released on September 20.)  The authors do a great job in keeping the story connected issues to issue as some members of the Suicide Squad and Teen Titans get possessed by the Batman Who Laugh’s Damian while the other members join with Green Arrow, Mister Terrific, and Nightwing to get to the heart of Challengers' Mountain in the middle of Gotham.  It actually helped reading these issues after reading "Dark Nights:  Metal" #3, since it's clear the music and voices Dick is hearing is Bruce telling him not to come rescue him.  Dick doesn't exactly hit the nail on the head in interpreting that message, deciding instead Bruce is dead or lost.  (That said, he was a helluva lot closer to interpreting the message correctly than Clark was.)  The main outcome of this cross-over event in terms of the larger story was Damian seemingly mortally wounding his counterpart with Nth metal.  Mister Terrific arrives to whisk the remaining team members — Damian, Dick, Green Arrow, and Mister Terrific — to the Oblivion Bar, as we saw in "Dark Nights:  Metal" #3.  Here, Green Arrow reveals what they've learned about the Nth metal, setting the ball rolling for the rest of the series.  Beyond just advancing the larger plot, the authors really show the despair the characters are beginning to feel, particularly Dick and Harley; you understand why Dick is such a mess in “Dark Nights:  Metal” #3.  The only criticism I have of this mini-event is I didn’t really buy Harley and Killer Croc feeling some sort of patriotism for Gotham, but it’s a minor complaint.  All in all, it's a solid event that anyone reading "Dark Nights:  Metal" would benefit from reading.

Flash #33 ("Dark Nights:  Bats Out of Hell" #1):  This issue starts immediately after Superman enters the Dark Dimension, as Murder Machine and Devastator arrive to steal the tuning fork (as seen in “Batman:  The Devastator” #1).  Interestingly, Devastator destroys the fork, saying he’ll bring it to Barbatos only after he rebuilds it.  Why would he need to rebuild it?  Is that going to provide the loophole the League needs to defeat Barbatos?  Meanwhile, Barbatos kidnaps the various League members from their missions to lock down more Nth metal, separating Arthur, Barry, Diana, and Hal from their partners and sending them against their Dark Dimension counterparts.  This entire event has been building to this moment, and I can see why these issues were sold as essential to the overall story.

Amazing Spider-Man #790:  OK, first, I have to say, I could overlook a lot here just given how beautiful the art is.  Honestly, in 35 years of reading Spider-Man comics, I can't remember them ever looking as good.  (Yes, I'm not a McFarlane fan.)  As mentioned in the letters column, Immonen really has an amazing (heh) ability to convey motion; at certain points during Peter's fight with Johnny and later Clash, it really felt like I was watching a movie.  But, the good news is I don't have to overlook anything.  Slott is telling a really bang-up story.  I love the idea of Peter committing to going on an apology tour, showing how solid of a guy he is; as Harry says, most companies would've just sent some lawyers to sign the settlements on their behalf.  I'm also glad Slott is continuing to keep the Robin Hood version of Clash here.  I even liked Peter continuing to somewhat uncharacteristically look the other way when it comes to Clash, as he does here when Clash steals back the tech he developed for Parker Industries.  It was a little questionable previously, but something about it now feels like it reflects Peter's new worldview after the fall of PI.  Is he really going to sweat Clash stealing back the technology he himself created?  He has bigger fish to fry.  Meanwhile, I wonder if the developments in "Uncanny Avengers" means Johnny is going to buy back the Baxter Building.  (Are the Avengers going to live there?)  It seems too perfectly timed for it not to be true.  In other words, Slott and the art team have really hit a home run when it comes to a Legacy story that feels and looks like the Spider-Man stories of my youth, and I hope it lasts as long as possible.

Also Read:  Batman:  The Merciless #1; Detective Comics #967; Nightwing:  The New Order #3; Bloodshot Salvation #2; Quantum and Woody  #0.00011/2; Rebels:  These Free and Independent Starts #8; Ben Reilly:  Scarlet Spider #9; U.S.Avengers #11; X-Men Blue #14