Reveiw of The Winter Soldier The Bitter March #1

WSTBMBy Rick Remender and Roland Boschi

I don’t know what changed but Rick Remender is on a roll right now. What little we have seen from him in 2014 is his best since Warren Worthington III was reborn and Flash Thompson was on the lamb from Captain America. While his ongoing series have all improved it’s his debuts in the new year that have really astounded. Deadly Class was as strong of a debut from a creator owned series since Zero and Sex Criminals and with Winter Solider: The Bitter March Remender continues his hot streak with a new unique take on Bucky Barnes and the world he thrived in. Remender can let idea’s and emotions overshadow the plot but when he’s locked in it is something special. Here we start off with a cool riff on Steranko’s Nick Fury but it’s abrupt turn in the middle sets the tone for this as a horror comic based around the looming menace of the Winter Soldier; a deadly legend that nobody has lived long enough to confirm it’s existence. We’ve seen a lot of different iterations of Bucky Barnes since Brubaker brought him back; we’ve seen him as Captain America, we’ve seen him as a secret shield agent, we’ve seen his child hood and we’ve seen him in love with Natasha but his life as the Winter Soldier has always been alluded to without very many concrete details. Here that version of Bucky Barnes is front and center and Remender makes him stealth, determined and terrifying. Roland Boschi art gives the story a subtle vintage retro feel with washed out colors, straight line work and gorgeous landscapes. He get’s one set of panels that display the type of body horror that could give Michael DeForge nightmares. It’s a strong opening shot in a story that looks to make you understand what the Winter Soldier period of Bucky Barnes life story really meant in a way where the menace and terror is mostly implied but still fully felt.

Review of Thor God Of Thunder #19

TGTBy Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic

Decompressed storytelling works in comics as long as the story stays interesting from issue to issue. Things needs to happen in every issue for it to be engaging. If not the story can’t sustain itself. This is especially important when starting a new arc. The first issue is supposed to set up the rest of the story but too often all first issues do it set up the story and if that’s the case then that comic is a fucking failure. What stood out for me the most with issue #19 or Thor God Of Thunder was how this managed to keep things fun, interesting and engaging while setting up the new story arc for the future. Aaron and Ribic manage to introduce us to the new players and circumstances while also giving one hell of an entertaining story to start us off. A large part of this is the return of Esad Ribic whose awe inspiring illustrations continue to amaze. To be truthful this comic probably could have been about anything and as long as they included Thors underwater battle, the full page spread of him knocking the tooth out of an ice giant and those big cosmic pages that Ribic excels at. With that said Aaron does his best at keeping the story light and fun while setting up the players and setting the stage for this next arc. It really doesn’t matter what the situation is because as of now as long as Aaron and Ribic are creating at this level Thor God Of Thunder will maintain it’s consistent excellence that is all too rare in superhero comics. If you’ve been reading this since issue one or if you’ve been waiting for a jumping on point this is it. Buy this issue. You won’t regret it.

Review of Southern Bastards #7

Southern Bastards 7By Jason Aaron and Jason Latour

Have you seen the movie Warrior? If you haven’t it should be added to your “to-watch” list. It is a story of two brothers, separated at a young age, both fighting to put together the pieces of their broken lives. The word fighting is used literally, they are both MMA fighters. The older brother fighting to put food on his family’s table and the younger brother, filled with anger and pain, hoping that punching someone in the face will give him the release he desperately needs. The story is a little predictable as the two brothers end up on a collision course with each other, but the way the movie is structured if you pause right before this final fight and ask a room of 10 people who they are cheering for, half will say Brendan, the brother with the family, and the other half will say Tommy, the wounded soul. It makes for a fantastic final fight. If you are watching it with a group of friends you will most likely be sitting in a divided room.

At the end of the first arc of Southern Bastards this is exactly the fight we have between Coach Boss and Earl Tubb (minus the brothers thing), only here is the kicker, we don’t know it. At that point in time we know that Coach Boss is the villain and Earl Tubb is the hero. We all want Coach Boss to get his. When Coach ends the life of Earl Tubb; we’re angry and devastated. How could Aaron and Latour do this to us. Aaron has a way of getting me so attached to characters so quickly that the death of Earl Tubb after only 4 issues felt like a club to the gut. At this point I could not hate Coach Boss more. So where do Aaron and Latour go from here? They take the next three issues to tug at my heart string and turn Coach Boss from the villain to the sympathetic wounded soul. My heart goes out to Coach Boss. I don’t know how this is possible, but it is brilliant. I have not experienced this type of story telling before. Aaron and Latour solidify in our mind who we hate and after he commits the worst thing we can think of as they turn us 180 degrees and show us how Coach got there.

Coach Euless Boss had to live through a father who didn’t give a lick about his son. All Euless had was football. He loved football, on the field nothing else mattered. It is the only place where Euless had control over his life. Last issue we ended with Euless taking a bullet in his foot because of the sins of his father and it was heartbreaking. Issue #7 begins with Euless on the bench with his foot in a cast. His father has held him back from any good his life could have ever had and now the one thing Euless does love has also been taken away. Euless tells his father off in an emotional scene and it appears that he may finally be free.

We fast forward to the next football season. The cast is off and the first kickoff of the season is underway. Euless absolutely hammers a guy on the first play of the game. He gets up with tears in his eyes. This is the “moment” of the issue. Euless is free of his father, he is finally on the field he loves doing the only thing that makes him happy. It seems like such a simple thing, making a tackle, but you can see the pain behind young Euless’ eyes. He has waited his whole life to make that tackle. All his pain, all his frustration, all his sorrow, everything was put into that tackle and as he gets up he feels relief.

The issue concludes with the realization that even though father Boss is out of the picture, Euless still has his name and this is going to make life very hard for young Boss. The sins of the father will always follow this son like a personal dark rain cloud ruining every and all opportunity. So Euless will do the only thing he knows how to do, fight.

– Dean

Review of Star Wars #14

STK631681By Brian Wood and Facundo Percio

Brian Wood abrupt departure from DC/Vertigo in 2011 looked like a death sentence for the creator but instead it’s proved far more advantageous for the writer then anybody could have imagined by setting him up with Dark Horse Comics on both creator owned work as well as some of their biggest properties. His creator owned work on The Massive has been solid while his time on Conan has been a revelation but it’s his Star Wars writing that continues to impress and improve as time goes on as Wood fills in the blanks in between episode III and IV. This issue was the second in a two part arc where a low level cadet is sent on a mission with Darth Vader filled with quiet rage that sparingly bubbles up into death and destruction. Vader is best used as someone you watch as opposed to someone you relate to and even though years of additional Star Wars material may have cheapened his menace Wood manages to translate the sheer terror he brings by using the cadet’s POV as she witnesses his cold and calculating nihilism up close. She narrates a story of pure fear and sadness as she watches Vader kill and destroy everything in his way without nary an emotion one way or the other. The emotions we get are from the cadet as she is forced to wrestle with the guilt of having aided in the death of many and the terror of feeling like she could be murdered at any moment that Vader feels necessary and these are emotions that will stay with her after this mission concludes. Wood has been smart in not trying to re-invent anything with Star Wars and instead work with the series tropes as best as possible. What would it feel like to share space with Darth Vader in close quarters? What would you do for him if your life depended on it? The answers are what show us why Vader is the force of nature in Star Wars mythology.  Getting to know the man behind the mask doesn’t make Vader interesting. It’s what’s lacking behind that mask that makes him engaging.

Review of City: Mind in The Machine #1

imagesBy Eric Garcia and Javier Fernandez

City: Mind in The Machine #1 is an interesting premise built on futurist ideology based off security and our connection to artificial intelligence. In it were introduced to a start up in San Francisco that is trying to take the security state to the next level by building what could be considered a “smart” system where technology can alert police professionals of crime as it’s happening in real time. Problem is the system can’t work because of a lack in human intuition. This is a world where San Francisco has multiple terror cells throughout the city and they aren’t shy about attacking civilians. This is author Eric Garcia’s first comic after decades of writing in prose and film. His idea’s are interesting and he certainly understands comic book pacing enough for the book to hold its own and not feel like a failed movie script. Some of the dialogue is Robert Vendetti level corny with lines like “Help me with stats is lady talk for pump me nightly” and “You’ve taken out the most important crucial element of terror defense: intuition. Can you program that?!?” which literally almost pulled me out after the first few pages. But the story itself is enough to prop up it’s faults for now which get’s a lot of help from artist Javier Fernadez strong illustrations and inks. Hernandez manages to have some fantastic large scale spreads mixed with intricate illustrations of technology and destruction in a large city in addition to real life imagery strategically placed as necessary. He also does well to convey emotions on his subjects he’s writing which goes a long way when their dialogue falls flat. This is a solid debut worth your attention that feels like it’s going somewhere. It’s a debut issue that does just enough to give the reader something intriguing without overloading on anything. All around solid debut that meet’s it expectations. Now they have to keep up with them.

Staff Review: She-Hulk #1

She-hulk #1She-Hulk #1 by Charles Soule & Javier Pulido

At the beginning of her new series, Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk, is feeling pretty confident about herself. She’s had a busy year, splitting her time between personas. On one hand, She-Hulk is just coming off a stint with the Future Foundation. At the same time, Ms. Walters Esq. has amassed a large sum of billable hours for her employers, Paine & Luckberg. Having successfully juggled these competing aspects of her life, Jennifer isn’t breaking a sweat worrying about her annual evaluation. After all, as she puts it, “They can’t give me a bad review.” Only, well, they do. It seems that there has been some confusion over what the partners of P & L, LLP expected from her. Jennifer assumed that they hired Ms. Walters, experienced lawyer, when really they wanted She-Hulk, or more precisely She-Hulk’s rolodex to mine for new clients. Words are exchanged and Jennifer quits before she is let go.

This tension between these two aspects of Jennifer’s public life forms the main thread of Soule’s first issue. Nursing her wounds at a lawyers’ bar, Jennifer is approached by a widow looking for recompense for her deceased husband’s inventions. Holly believes that her husband’s ideas were plagiarized by Stark Industries (or whatever Tony’s company was called that week). Jennifer agrees to help the woman, assuming that all of this is a simple misunderstanding. Unfortunately at the entrance of Stark Tower, she mentions a lawsuit, and is tossed over to legal, where things get decidedly more knotty. Soule does an excellent job of illustrating how Jennifer employs both elements of who she is in order to earn justice for her client. He also laces the issue with a fair amount of humor; this issue probably had the most laughs of any I read this week.

Pulido’s art is an interesting choice, as it is very reminiscent of Mike Allred’s distinctive pencils. Allred illustrated the recent FF series, in which She-Hulk played a prominent part. At first, it simply seemed as if Marvel was trying to make this new book a visual continuation of FF. Yet after a few pages, these concerns of imitation dimmed and I enjoyed Pulido’s art more on its own terms. He has a clear, cartoonish look which fits the tone of the Soule’s narrative. I do hope though that Pulido’s style will develop a more individual style as the series continues. Regardless, I look forward to the further adventures of Jennifer Walters, superhero lawyer.