In it’s opening issue, Brian Michael Bendis & Andrea Sorrentino’s Old Man Logan is a measured introduction to the creators take on the concept within the Secret Wars context that mostly works. Old Man Logan opens with a bang as we see Wolverine crash a group of human trafficker’s poker game to bloody results. Anybody familiar for Sorrentino’s Green Arrow work should already know how well he excels in that particulate type of visual story telling and his work here is as dynamic and innovative as what we’ve seen in the past from him. The best parts of Old Man Logan come where Sorrentino is playing to his strength is action and landscape illustrations and to his credit, Bendis seems to recognize this and gives the artist the freedom to create at his highest levels. With Bendis, much of the dialogue is tempered from what’s been his usual style, the voice he gives Wolverine feels true to the character while still having a little Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven for good measure. Those that are familiar with the original Old Man Logan should probably know that Unforgiven is the stories standard template and this version sticks to the script in that way. It feels like it could be happening immediately following the original series conclusion, for better or worst. Meanwhile, the stories conclusion promises a much different circumstance for the protagonist in the following issue and beyond. Old Man Logan is a beautifully illustrated re-introduction to this version of the character and the Marvel universe but it stands to reason that this issue of the comic hasn’t revealed much about itself that we didn’t already know. As if often the case with Bendis comics, it gives you exactly what you were expecting but promises more and ultimately, should be judged on that delivery.
It was 2008 when Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight was released and probably altered cinema for the next half decade at least. The Dark Knight reconsidered the comic book film as a serious movie that could stand with it’s peers and allowed the film maker to apply his vision within the framework of the franchises world. It’s pretty much a given that summer movie season will be filled with movies based off characters and ideas ingrained in popular culture and those movies have leaned more and more towards the tone and style of Nolan’s Knight as the years have gone by. All art is derrivitive of past influence and The Dark Knight is no different and while iconic Batman stories of years past like The Long Halloween & The Killing Joke certainly play a large role in shaping the film I’d argue that the films biggest force of influence comes from a source that has no connection with comics whatsoever. From the movies opening scene, to it’s cinematography, to it’s pacing all the way to it’s ambiguous ending Michael Mann’s 1995 classic Heat stands as the framework for which Chrisopher Nolan would translate Batman on film for modern audiences and in turn modern popular cinema.
Out of the many Secret Wars tie in series, Infinity Gauntlet was the most curious. It’s playing on the title of what is perhaps, the best “event” in Marvel comics history but it wasn’t featuring any of the creators from the original series or any of it’s subsequent squeals in spite of those creators being relatively active with Marvel over the last year. Instead, the series would use fast rising Marvel stars Gerry Duggan & Dustin Weaver, the former of which would be implementing the Nova corps concept that he had been working on in the ongoing series. This was all fragments of information, it was nearly impossible to predict what was coming out of this series but with it’s release this week, Infinity Gauntlet exceeds expectations in creating an excellent new series from patchworks of the Marvel universe & genre tropes. Infinity Gauntlet is a story about a family trying to survive in a post apocalypse wasteland via giant space bugs while their mother is lost in space with the Nova corps. Infinity works best in the way it builds it characters and the world around them by letting the story do the heavy lifting. The family dynamic and stakes are immediately apparent and felt from the characters environment and reaction against it. Marvel cannon is utilized without being beholden to it and instead, used sparingly. This is especially effective with Thanos, who is more like a ghost haunting the peripherals of the story then the center of it. Dustin Weaver’s art is fantastic in it’s details, acting and movement; it might be the best work he’s ever done.
What’s become most apparent with the Secret Wars tie-ins is how the books have worked best the farther removed they are from the main titles story line. Infinity Gauntlet has a minimal connection to the Secret Wars title, the original series or Marvel continuity as a whole, but in place of all that; it’s give a highly original debut that stands up on it’s own merits. There has been a lot of great work coming out of the Secret Wars line so far and Infinity Gauntlet is one of the best.
After a first issue that would make John Stewart blush, The Order of the Forge takes on a more adventurous tone.
George, Paul, Ben, and Kate all receive magical powers from a bolt of lightning which come in handy throughout the story. Paul and his favorite horse become the fastest thing on four legs when together, Ben’s intelligence expands and allows him to create fantastic inventions, and Lady Kate does Kung Fu. Whether George doesn’t get new powers or they haven’t been revealed yet is unclear. The main crew decide to leave town and find a powerful magic weapon before Lord Drumknott can use it to become King of the Colonies.
They flee armed henchmen, huge wolves, and potential bad decisions at an Inn to Roanoke Virginia, an abandoned village where they hope to lay low. As they discover a strange rune in a building, an armed group lies in wait for them.
I miss the historical satire from the previous issue, though some remains here. The main cast speak almost entirely in a modern cadence in this issue, instead of switching between that and period accurate language. The magic powers sort of drain the drama out of the story, since the henchmen and wolves are dispatched rather quickly after appearing.
The art by Bettin is good, although a few mistakes are noticed such as Paul Revere looking overtly feminine and animals doubling in scale in the space of a page. The story allows for him to showcase his flair for action and dynamic pin-up pages.
Overall, the plot in this issue gets waylaid for some action scenes and the tone of the book becomes more outlandish. It runs the risk of Jonah Hexing itself if it continues. There are some funny moments between George and Lady Kate concerning his feelings and inability to lie, but it would have been nice if Ben and Paul could have had another scene or two to shine in as well. While not as arresting as the first issue, it has some good moments and focuses more on action this time around.
Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent
This is only the second Conan book I have ever read, but it strikes me as a title from 15 years ago. It contains dated comic-book tropes such as oversexualization of female characters and 3rd person narration. Still, there is a charm to it despite some questionable traits.
Conan and his current consort, who after nearly dying in the desert, found refuge in Xuthal. In Xuthal, the citizens party in every way, dose up on a special black flower, dream for hours on end, then wake up and repeat the process. It’s all a coping mechanism due to a hungry god living below the city who will randomly chose someone in Xuthal to eat when the mood strikes him. Conan and Natalia meet a strange woman, Thalis of Stygia, who explains the history of Xuthal and how she came to reside there. Hearing the crazed lifestyle of the Xuthalians, Conan and Natalia decide to leave immediately but Natalia is stalled by Thalis’ suggestion to wash her hair first. Thalis then tries to seduce Conan to stay, but he rejects her. Perhaps out of spite, she kidnaps Natalia and disappears deeper into Xuthal. Conan gives chase, having to kill any soldiers who come at him. Eventually, he falls even deeper into the bowels of Xuthal.
The art by Guiu Vilanova’s art is very good for this story, establishing the tone and seamlessly moving the imagery from dark, to whimsical, to erotic, to creepy. Without being able to name a specific artist I’m reminded of, I found sections of the art reminded me of Game of Thrones and Avatar: The Last Airbender. Vilanova’s art is also good at capturing the facial expressions and action of the story.
If I had one complaint, it’s that I found the character’s motivations hard to decipher. I could tell what they were feeling at the moment, but not why they felt that way. Does Thalis really betray Conan for rejecting her? Is she a sexual victim of the Xuthalians, or does she command power from her sexuality? Without knowing the character’s motivations, it’s hard to know how to feel about said characters.
Overall, it’s a fairly imaginative sword-and-sorcery story that should entertain most action fans. From what I’ve heard about Conan stories, this should be satisfying fare for Conan fans and longtime readers.
Rating:Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent