Review of Wolverine and The X-Men #42

WXBy Jason Aaron, Nick Bradshaw, Pepe Larraz, Ramon Perez, Shawn Crystal, Steve Sanders, Nuno Alves, Tim Townsend and Chris Bachalo

There was a time when this was one of the best comics being published, there was a time when it lost it’s luster, then there was a time when it appeared it was getting that back and now it’s just bittersweet to see it end. Through it all Wolverine and The X-Men was always the most heartfelt book out of the big two by a wide margin and Jason Aaron’s final issue encapsulates that greatly. It’s a touching moment as we get to see the kids on graduation day and also years forward in the future getting an idea of how the school had changed them after both one year and and much further into adulthood. More than anything this was a comic about the challenge and reward of positive growth and the final issue is a refreshing cap on that concept. Like any great journey the characters are different people then the ones we were introduced to in the beginning, no small feat for a superhero book, what makes it even better is that they’ve all grown for the better. Flash forwards to students Idie and Quinten as fully mature adults that still have the same personality traits but have molded and refined them for the best while Wolverine appears to truly be transitioned from the lone wolf ninja rebel that he’s been stuck in for decades for the empathetic and wise old educator. Sometimes certain people can completely change the trajectory of who you are just by randomly entering your life. Do Idie and Quentin survive without meeting Wolverine? Does Wolverine become the man he is now without Quentin and Idie? Does Jason Aaron become the writer he is without getting the characters on this book? Do the characters get to mature without him writing it? This comic was never perfect but it was almost that a few times and it was never without it’s center, it’s greatest strength; it’s undying love and heart that bleed out of the pages.

Review of A Voice In the Dark #4

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A Voice in the Dark #4 By Larime Taylor

“I just, like, want my friends and stuff to be, like, friends and stuff.” This issue was easily the funniest issue of the series.  A Voice in the Dark always has great dialogue and this issue was no different.  The issue spotlights Zoey and her roommates.  We get to spend some time with Krista and Ash. Most of this issue takes place at a college sorority party and Larime absolutely nails the college party dialogue.  It was fun and extremely funny with just the right splash of bitchy catty drama.  It is fitting that Ash is on the cover because she really steals the show.  The contrasting clash of Ash’s dark humor and Krista’s ditsy humor make for a satisfying blend of laughs.  Within the pages of issue #4 we also get back into the critical thinking class, which was my favorite part of the first issue.  This time in the class the professor and students discuss the death penalty.  It is a fantastic way to actually talk about the themes and moral dilemmas going on within the pages.  This issue was loads of fun with some spot on college drama.  I sound like a broken record but this book gets better with every issue.  The direction the book has taken, focusing on Zoey’s roommates has been a very strong choice.  I always dig a book with strong female characters and Larime is giving me just that. One of the funniest panels of the book is a cameo from Larime himself.  “Once you go gimp, you walk with a limp”.  Lastly I think I learned my new favorite insult from Ash, “Psycho cuntbeast”.  Hilarious issue!

Review of Daredevil #36

ddDaredevil #36 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

Daredevil #36 is one of those bitter sweet books.  The issue was brilliant as usual but it’s a shame this is the final issue of the series. Yes the title is relaunching and yes it is still the same creative team, but the book will never be the same.  Daredevil has been one of the most consistent books of the last three years.  It is one of those books you forget about because it is always so brilliant.  It becomes the norm for the man without fear to deliver a top notch issue. There are no surprises with Mark Waid and Chris Samnee.  You are delivered a brilliant comic every time you exchange money for pages by these two guys.  Samnee is always top notch but his art on this issue was beyond fabulous.  I caught my self lingering on many occasions.

The issue opens on a touching conversation between Matt and Foggy.  If you have been reading this series you know it has been filled with touching moments between these two friends.  This opening scene drives the point home and sets a nice stage for the story to follow.  These best of friends would do anything for each other.  The combination of Waid’s dialogue and Samnee’s emotion filled expressions create a very powerful moment and make it easily accessible for the reader.

The serpents story comes to it’s satisfying conclusion.  Matt makes a decision that will change his future forever and therefore change the direction of the book forever.  I am excited to start reading All-New Daredevil and see what Matt is like on the West Coast but it is very sad to see this monumental run of Daredevil come to an end.  Waid and Samnee changed the face of Daredevil writing 36 amazing issues in the process.  I hope we get another 36 on the new title.

Review of X-Files: Conspiracy The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

downloadby Ed Brisson and Michael Walsh

When Michael Walsh and Ed Brisson released the mini series Comeback last year through Image Comics you could see the potential for bigger and better things in the future and for the most part that has come to fruition. Walsh did the debut favorite of creator owned force of nature Zero and is lined up for the initial arc on the high profile Secret Avengers relaunch while Brisson got a movie deal out of his next creator owned series Sheltered while getting work on Secret Avengers and the new ongoing 24 spin off. All of that has been or looks like it will be just fine but Brisson and Walsh complement each other so well with their pulp sensibilities that I for one was hoping to see them work together again. Well looks like I got it but I’ll tell you that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle/X-Files crossover was one of the last places I expected that from. While it doesn’t really play to their strength it does work on some level only because all parties involved realize how ridiculous this all is and pretty much run with that. Again this is a story where X-Files and The Turtles share the same universe and fight vampires together inside a pizzeria in upstate New York. Don’t expect Comeback part two with agent Mulder and Rapheal. Still this book is funny enough to sustain itself even if the premise makes no sense in the context of a single issue (They need Ninja Turtle blood to cure a deadly disease or something) I had a roommate that defended his love of Limp Bizkut over Nine Inch Nails in that they were “fun” which to me is essentially an excuse to enjoy something shitty because you don’t think very hard. I’ve never subscribed to that notion, quality is quality. This is fun without sacrificing that. That doesn’t make it great or even good. But it’s fine for what it is. That said Brisson and Walsh are better.

Review of Robocop: Momento Mori

download (1)by Frank Barbiere and Joao Vieria

Frank Barbiere is having a great week creatively. While the debut issue of White Suits was a revelation his stand alone Robocop Movie tie in Memento Mori is a dark, surreal and elusive psychological thriller that draws you into Alex Murphy’s mind before it’s wiped away clean. In it we follow Murphy’s psyche as it runs though his head watching his memories be erased by the computer that will replace his consciousness. Barbiere has shown that he could play between the lines of consciousness in Five Ghosts but here he is allowed to go full tilt into that concept as we watch Murphy run and fight a force he can’t stop and doesn’t understand. From the beginning the reader is dropped into the story without a clue as to what put us there only that this is his life or as Murphy says “What I can Remember of it” From there his surrounding begin to melt and Alex reacts by fighting what ultimately will be a losing battle he is incapable of comprehending. Artist Joao Vieria is amazing in his illustrations. His pencils bend from clean lines to rough ones as the interiors shift around from panel to panel and he uses bright colors to contract against dark black as the parameters of reality keep changing. You’ve seen this story before, you’ve seen this style and you know how this comic will end but that doesn’t take away from it’s greatness. This is pure excellence in craft that take several well worn idea’s and owns them as it’s own. Forget about this as a movie tie in because that’s essentially a template, this is the type of strange trip through the mind that makes your skin crawl in the best way possible

Staff Review: Nova #13.1

Nova #13

Nova #13.1 by Gerry Duggan & Paco Medina

This issue starts out with our young hero, Sam in a pretty good mood. His most recent Nova adventure, as seen last month, was a great success. He heeded a distress call, and rescued a spaceship, saving the lives of everyone on board. And so, for the whole first page of this week’s issue, everything seems to be coming up Milho—er, everything appears to be going great. Naturally, though, it doesn’t last.

First, he has a run in with school bully, Moffet. The fight between them is just escalating when Beta Ray Bill shows up proclaiming that someone must pay for their crimes. Moffet panics and flees as quickly as possible, right into a sign post. Human tormentor unconscious, Sam turns to Beta Ray. Having never met Beta Ray before, Sam does not know who this alien creature is. Sam does rush to Moffet’s side to make sure the boy is all right. See, Sam’s kind-hearted, always wanting to assist those in need, only, well, it turns out he helped the wrong person. Skaarn, the commander of the ship he rescued in the previous issue, is actually wanted by Beta Ray for grave crimes. It would seem that the learning curve for cosmic heroics is longer than Sam assumed. However, he volunteers to do the right thing, and help make his wrongs right. His determination to do the right thing, to live up to this legacy from his father, makes him a compelling character.

Sam and Beta Ray have a good dynamic together. (Also, Sam holds up pretty well against Beta Ray in a fight). Duggan also gives some time to Sam’s relationships with his family and classmate, Carrie, who I’m hoping to see more of as the series progresses. There are also some good uses of humor, which keeps the mood balanced. Overall, this is a promising start to the new arc.

Staff Review: Animal Man #28

Animal Man #28Animal Man #28 by Jeff Lemire & Rafael Albuquerque

This issue is an action packed conclusion to the current Brother Blood storyline. For the past several months, Brother Blood has been waging his campaign to seize control of The Red and with it mastery over all forms of animal life on the planet. As this plotline has progressed, his actions have grown more savage as he hunts for Animal Man’s young daughter Maxine, who happens to be the current Avatar of The Red. At the conclusion of last month’s chapter, the situation appeared pretty desperate for Little Wing, as her protector The Shepherd was dealt a mortal blow. Separated from both her parents, surrounded by adversaries, there seemed to be precious few options left for her.

For me, one of the most appealing aspects of Animal Man has always been his family life. Ever since he was revived by Grant Morrison, Buddy Baker’s wife and children have been an integral part of who he is. Ellen, Cliff and Maxine are not simply plot devices to be dragged out every once and awhile when the writer felt like it or needed some source of peril for the hero. No, they (along with all their everyday problems) are just as important as the more fantastic aspects of Buddy’s life. I suspect this is why the death of Cliff blindsided me more than that of Damian Wayne. I can easily imagine a Batman without a Robin, but the Bakers without Cliff? It has been nearly a year now, and I’m still not used to the idea . . .

The importance of family is a thread that weaves prominently throughout this issue. The story may be full of dramatic, large-scale battles between powerful creatures for earth-shattering stakes. Yet, again and again, Lemire reminds us that what Buddy is fighting for first of all is his family. Ever since Cliff died, they have been splintered, coping (or not) with the loss in their own individual ways. This week, Lemire finally reunites them once again. It may not be permanent; after all, there is one rather large source of unsettled business Buddy must still resolve. For the moment, though, they may take comfort from themselves once again.

I admit that Albuquerque is an artist whose work I enjoy sometimes more than others. For this issue, though, he is at the height of his powers. He captures both aspects of Lemire’s narrative, the personal and the spectacle, with equal skill. Then in the final page (see this week’s Freeze Frame, if you missed it), he combines both story elements for one of the most evocative pages of the week. Overall, this is an excellent penultimate chapter to Lemire’s Animal Man run. Here’s hoping that the conclusion can bring some peace of mind to the Baker clan. They’ve earned it.

Cheers.    

Staff Review: Wonder Woman #28

Wonder Woman #28Wonder Woman #28 by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang

Under the guidance of Azzarello and Chiang, Wonder Woman is one of the most reliable titles of the New 52. The opening scene depicts Diana, allied for the moment with Apollo’s sister Diana (let’s call her Moon for simplicity), tracking the missing Zola. The scene soon shifts to a forest in Provence, where Bacchus’ toying with Zola has taken an unexpected turn. Cue stampeding Minotaur. Soon various conflicting parties descend upon the woods. In the midst of this melee, The Minotaur snatches away Bacchus for its master, Cassandra, who is looking for a deity to sneak her onto Olympus. Little does she know at the same moment on Olympus, Apollo and The First Born are pitted at each other’s throats. This is an action-packed issue, which rarely lets up, right up to a rather, shall we say, explosive ending.

That said, there are quiet character moments as well. As Diana and her companions prepare to charge off into the woods, she tells Hera to remain behind. Hera, recently stripped of her immortality, is taken aback, unused to requiring such considerations. Before she can even form a reply, the others are gone leaving her alone in an empty villa. Lately, Azarrello has been giving Hera at least one small scene to shine in each issue, and as a result, she has quickly become one of my favorite members of the supporting cast. (When everything settles down a little, I would love to see one full issue of simply her and Zola out on the town together.)

Cliff Chiang is back on art duties this issue (with Goran Sudzuka only contributing layouts for five pages). As always, Chiang’s art is fantastic. His action scenes are smooth and dynamic (i.e. Hermes catching a spear with his foot). From the gleeful face of Moon on the hunt, to the delicate vines conjured by Bacchus, there is a wonderful expressive quality to Chiang’s work as well. Coupled with Azzarello’s writing, Wonder Woman continues to be one of DC’s stronger titles.

Cheers.  

Staff Review: The Unwritten Apocalypse #2

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The Unwritten Apocalypse #2 by Mike Carey & Peter Gross

And it’s back.

The last several months have been a mixed experience for this Vertigo series. The Great Fables Crossover turned out to be more Good-Pretty Good than Great. Not bad mind you, but probably the least interesting arc so far. On the upside, Vertigo released an excellent original graphic novel delving into the origins of Tom/Tommy Taylor. Then, Vertigo announced that the series would take a couple months off before beginning a final 12-issue arc. Last month’s kickoff for Apocalypse, while interesting, served mostly as a bridge getting us from Fables back to Unwritten. Still, I maintained my faith in what Carey and Gross are doing.

And this week, I was rewarded abundantly.

The world which Tom Taylor returned to at the end of #1 is rapidly coming apart at the seams. The beast Leviathan, which feeds on human stories, has been gravely wounded. The barriers between fictional worlds are dissolving, reshaping our reality into a surreal landscape. In the middle of a bleak 21st Century London, a band of men in period garb take our heroes hostage, almost hanging one of them. Their lives are only spared due to the quick thinking of Liz Hexam.

It has been too long since Lizzy played a prominent part in this series. She has always been one of my favorite Unwritten characters, on account of her intelligence, determinedness and charm. Faced with dire straits, Liz rapidly deduces from their appearance that the sword-wielding men in large wigs are from the 17th Century; by way of their speech, she concludes that they are rakes out of Restoration comedies. Since she knows the standard arc of these comedies, she can instantly slip into the character type necessary to soften their adversaries’ hearts. The exchange she shares, noose slipped around her neck, is one of my favorite scenes of the week.

Yet, there is more at stake here than simply avoiding the ire of a pack of libertines and a fop. Carey reminds us that as our ability to tell stories breaks down, so do so many of the basic functions we take for granted. How could we brag if we lack the talent for embellishing the truth; how could we seduce without second-guessing what our object of desire wishes to hear, or feel, next? Would we even be able to remember our past without imagining a framework for it, fitting random memories into a logical sequence we call a life? How could any of us get out of bed in the morning, if we could not imagine how our day might go?

All in all, an outstanding issue from what remains one of my favorite current series.

Cheers.

Review of Conan The Barbarian #25

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by Brian Wood and Leandro Fernandez

If we’ve learned anything from the explosion of Superhero stories in film it’s that audiences love an origin story. Batman’s origin was rebooted in Begins just eight years after the last Batman film of the previous series and they might be rebooting his origin again. Superman’s origin was redone only seven years after another reboot. Spiderman and the X-Men lasted five years before the franchise holders decided to reboot their origins and even as I’m typing this news of a Fantastic Four reboot is popping up all over the internets. Don’t think comic companies haven’t noticed. DC went all in on the reboot concept with the New 52 delivering fresh origins for big ticket items like Batman, Superman, The Justice League and The Watchmen (!?!?!?) as the rest of the universes continuity was compressed into five years while Marvel have been releasing easily accessible Season One Graphic Novels to give modern origins of their popular hero’s for new readers at Barnes and Noble. Not to be outdone the forever scrappy runt of the comic publishing liter Darkhorse has responded by rebooting several of their own properties starting at Conan the Barbarian in 2011 with Brian Wood. Conan is tricky because he’s not really a hero in the traditional sense of the word and a large portion of his continuity is loosely based on short stories by Robert E Howard. Wood has taken one of those very early and minimal stories for Conan’s own origin and stretched it out to retrofit Conan in brilliant fashion and this issue was the swan song to his fantastic run. What makes Conan a barbarian? Turns out it’s the sudden and shocking death of his first love that shapes him. More then anything Wood’s run was a story of young love that burns far too bright to sustain itself. This issue was a fitting end as Conan mourns his first loves death, cut’s his losses and transitions to the next stage in adulthood. The illustrations from Leandro Hernandez are fantastic and worthy of the artist that have proceeded him but really this is all about Wood transitioning the young and brash Conan of his first issues to the world weary warrior that we’ve become accustomed to seeing. Wood has helped shape the way I view Conan by giving his early years context like no writer before and this was a fitting end to a fantastic run on the title.