Staff Review: Mind MGMT #18

Mind MGMT #18Mind MGMT #18 by Matt Kindt

It’s no secret around the virtual hallways of NBC that I am a huge fan of Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT. Month after month it has proven itself to be one of the most original series on the stands, and this week’s issue is no exception. #18, “The Zookeeper” focuses on Ella, who discovers at a young age that she has a special ability to communicate with animals. As she explains, they don’t “talk” with her as much as “feel.” Their thoughts do not come to her in words but emotions. For example, Ella always knew where her family’s pet cat Wally was because Wally would give off a different “feel” for every room in the house. As a result of these powers, Ella develops a unique bond with animals, which is returned in kind. In fact, it might be reciprocated too strongly. It is one thing when a dog and cat follows her out of the pet store, it is another entirely when every animal in the zoo comes stampeding towards her.

Kindt follows Ella as she is recruited into Mind Management. There she finds a home, but also grows conflicted about the treatment of the animals placed in her charge. I grew very fond of Ella during the course of this story. Her life is continually caught in tension between the emotional connections her powers bring, as well as the deep sense of isolation they cause too. Her story is ultimately about her struggle to find the balance between these two poles. And yes, her story does cross with that of the larger Mind MGMT narrative, yet the issue remains fixed on Ella the whole time. As such, this installment, which also kicks off a new arc, serves as a good jumping on point for new readers.

As always, Kindt’s art is lovely; there is rarely an issue where I do not linger over his images.  His evocative watercolors fit the atmosphere perfectly. In addition, this issue has one final bonus: On the reverse cover, Kindt employs his storytelling style from Mind MGMT to create a rather clever ad for his Valiant title Unity. He imagines a Mind Management employee trying to create in reality fantastic inventions he read about in fiction. You know, such as super-powered armor, or a pair of bracelets which, when clanged together, bestow special abilities. All in all, it is a fun mash-up between the two titles and, along with the excellent main story, further proof that Kindt is one of the most creative individuals working in comics today.     

Review of Marvel Knights X-Men #3

mkxBy Brahm Revel

I think this might be the best X-Men title on the stands right now and with Jason Aaron and Brian Wood writing a total of three X-Men books between the two of them that’s saying something. Brahm Revel has managed to make a fantastic and wholly original concept for and X-Men story that feels right at home with the classic Claremont style. In it we get a street level X story about drug dealing hillbilly biker gangs, corrupt cops, hippie cults and young mutants powers going wild. This issue is especially fun being the everything goes to shit moment in the story where we get to learn more about the new mutants powers and the drug’s that are circulating in the small town while the world is literally collapsing around them. It’s a small cast of Wolverine, Kitty Pryde and Rouge but Brahm get’s the three of them perfectly in both characterization and power usage. Look out for this one; it’s the X-Men book you didn’t know you wanted.

Review of Judge Dredd Mega City Two City of Courts #1

downloadBy Douglas Wolk and Ulises Farinas

Are you aware of Ulises Farinas yet? Well you should be and this is as good an introduction as any. Ulises has been drawing the shit out of every project he’s released over the last year like Gamma and Catalyst Comix but his intricate Manga meets Jack Kirby illustration is better than ever on Judge Dredd Mega City Two. JDMCT is set up where Dredd get’s sent to his worlds version of Los Angeles as a fish out of water. Douglas Wolk does a sharp satire of LA hitting on the obvious (Reality TV) and the not so obvious (the cities obscene suburban sprawl) while  creating a compelling narrative that is the crux of the story but what he and Ulises do best here is the incredible Brandon Graham’s King City/Multiple Warheads/Prophet level world building for Mega City Two and it’s Ulises interior work that truly bring that to life. It’s bright and cartoonish but with incredible detail to the surroundings environment which is to say nothing of his proficiency in drawing action sequences or facial expreission. This is an art talent you need in your life.

Review of Captain America #15

caBy Rick Remender and Carlos Pacheo

Rick Remender has quietly been creating a great Captain America story with his characteristic classic sci fi tropes against an exploration of American covert history that keeps improving with each issue and this one is the best yet. There is a lot of cool stuff going on here; Nuke and Captain America discussing how to come back from war, the expanded roles for supporting cast members like Falcon or Nick Fury Jr and the total oh shit moment that strikes at the end where everything seems to be copacetic until it all falls apart. I’ve loved how this arc has worked to explore America’s military, espionage and cold war history without feeling derivative of Ed Brubaker while also keeping a tight narrative. Remender is a guy that writes Grant Morrison idea’s like Frank Miller and it’s made for a Captain America that is like nothing I’ve ever seen but still true to the character. Remender’s see’s Cap as the son of Irish immigrants and a child of the great depression at his core and it’s that deep seated empathy for the character that is the heart of this series in the center of all the crazy science fiction. A story that keeps getting better every step of the way.

Review of Black Widow #2

bwBlack Widow #2
By Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto

…in which Natasha learns that mistakes comes with consequences and Mr. Ross takes care of business–with bullets!

This is a Black Widow book and it is fantastic, people.  I never thought that I would find myself enjoying a book about a character I knew/cared nothing about.  This series (like Hawkeye, Green Arrow, Aquaman, and Daredevil) proves that all it takes is a strong creative to bring a lower-tiered character from the back issue bins and into the limelight.

In this issue, BW finds herself on a mission from an old friend to locate his missing son.  Unlike last issue, not everything goes as planned.  Soon, BW learns that she is being hunted by an unknown source.  The threat is later revealed to be Iron Scorpion, the brother of a murderer she once disposed of.  This story continues to set the foundation and build the mythos of Black Widow’s world.  We may have found our overarching enemy for the time being.

Something Marvel has been doing really well is diversifying its line.  Each book feels different from the rest, able to offer something the others cannot.  Black Widow follows suit.  Between Edmondson’s super spy approach to Phil Noto’s magnificent art, this series has carve a nook to rest upon and dares readers to give it a try.  Trust me, you should.

Review of Astro City #8

Astro City #8Astro City #8 by Kurt Busiek & Brent Eric Anderson (cover by Alex Ross)

Things are not going well for heroine Winged Victory. Someone has concocted an elaborate plan to taint her name in the minds of the public. Winged Victory’s records have been falsified to reveal criminal activity. Meanwhile, adversaries are claiming that they were trained by her and that their public battles were nothing but choreographed spectacles designed to lure more young women under her influence. If these attacks were simply personal it would be one thing, but, they go straight to the heart of her primary mission. Winged Victory has dedicated herself to assisting women in need, giving those with no other options a place where they can safely learn the necessary skills to start a better life. Now the government is shutting down her shelters under anti-racketeering laws and even if her name is cleared, she fears never being trusted again.

I shall admit that when this four-part story started last month, I was a little nervous. I had never read Astro City prior to last year’s new series, and am unfamiliar with its vast cast of heroes and villains. I really enjoyed the first six issues, which centered on everyday people acting or reacting to the fantastic circumstances around them. Would I grow lost when tossed more directly into a world of heroes with whom I had scant previous experience? Well, turns out there was no need to fear. Ever the master, Busiek naturally weaves into the dialogue whatever background is required for a new reader. More importantly, as in the previous issues, he keeps the focus on character moments, sketching in their personalities so well that you feel familiar with them by the end of an issue. And yes, there’s still action (it seems even in Astro City heroes, upon meeting, are required to misunderstand each other and slug it out for a few pages until it occurs to someone to state the obvious).   

Anderson’s art continues to fit well with Busiek’s story, capturing equally well the awe-inspiring and the everyday. I’ve enjoyed getting to know Winged Victory, and look forward to seeing where her story goes next . . . Cheers

Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent