Review of Hawkeye #17

heBy Matt Fraction and Chris Elipoulos

Issue 17 of Hawkeye uses the talents to of artist Chris Elipoulos to create a bottle issue about a children’s cartoon in issue six and satire superhero comics as well. In it we follow the story of the cartoon dog Steve the non super powered member of the Winter Friends who has to save the day from bad guys. While it’s silly it also works as view of what Hawkeye would be if it were like other generic superhero comics. “Steve” the dog that’s a Hawkeye stand in has the girl companion (stand in for Kate Bishop) that he’s a dick to but she still wants to join him and the big lug (stand in for Grills) that becomes the unlikely sidekick as they go on an adventure to save The Winter Friends (Avengers stand ins) which he inevitably does but not before some mild adversity while another team (crossover stand in) helps until Steve saves the day and get’s the girl dog companion in the end. This is an analogy for the Hawkeye comic you would be getting with the generic route done to utilize Elipoulos talents as an artist. The one where Clints a douche bag but still get’s the girl and always wins. It’s a dishonest Hawkeye. While that certainly makes me appreciate what we get from what is still the best superhero comic on the stands I’d still rather read that book then a satire of another.

Review of Secret Avengers #1

saBy Ales Kot and Michael Walsh

In the relaunch of Secret Avengers Ales Kot and Michael Walsh introduce a new style to the title that is an excellent balance between action, adventure and hilarity at a break neck pace that drops you right into the action, ratchets up the plot and doesn’t let up all the way to it’s cliffhanger ending. Kot manages to retain his voice while playing on the recent iterations of characters like Hawkeye, Spiderwoman, Nick Fury Jr (get over it), Maria Hill and Black Widow showing a steady hand that respects his fellow writers continuity without sacrificing his own will on the characters but his dialogue truly shines when writing MODOK which is insane yet totally makes sense and is just fucking perfect. Plot wise this is everything you’d want from a Marvel super hero team book right out the gate with an eclectic cast getting thrown together from contending external crises that essentially all pile up on the team within the first issue. Artist Michael Walsh just kills his first Marvel comic work with more detail then I’ve ever seen from the illustrator while still retaining his strong pulp action sensibilities that he’s done on Image series like Zero and Comeback. The synergy in tone and style between Kot and Walsh is an inspired revelation and is further evidence of the importance in the relationship for the collaboration between writer and artist. Number one issues of relaunched titles are supposed to introduce you to the premise, give you an intriguing hook into the title and let the reader enter it’s world. Secret Avengers fulfills that criteria and so much more in it’s opening salvo. There have already been a lot of quality new series coming out in early 2014 but this is one that you will want to jump on for the ride. Just make sure to hold on tight.

Black Widow #4

bwBy Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto

Edmondson attempts to provide the reader with a glimpse into the more “boring” aspects of S.H.I.E.L.D., but this is Natasha Romanova we are dealing with–when it comes to Black Widow, she ain’t got time for boring.  A Russian brute, working for an unknown source, enters the picture.  He is not out to kill Black Widow, but if she gets steps in front of his crosshairs, he will not refrain from pulling the trigger.

There is no secret that this book is one of the best on the shelf month after month.  Who saw this one coming?  I sure as hell didn’t.

One of the best moments occurs while Natasha is fighting the Russian.  I love that all of the lower-tiered characters appear to have some form of inferiority issue.  In Hawkeye, we hear Clint mentioning how much harder things are for him because his is not like Captain America, Iron Man, or Thor.  But here Natasha brings up Clint’s outstanding archery skills.  There is always someone out there who has it easier.  But she brings up a good point when she explains that she is not meant for the big fights.  First and foremost, she is a spy.  She is best when sticking to the shadows and being subtle.  So seeing her get her ass handed to her makes sense.

As always, the art is spectacular.  For those of you not paying attention, Phil Noto does all of the art himself.  And while his pencils are amazing, I think much can be said about his coloring.  Simply beautiful.

If I had one problem with this series, it would be that the issues are moderately formulaic.  Her assignment begins with some snooping around, something goes wrong, and so she has to fight.  Hopefully Edmondson throws in some variation sooner rather than later.  Also, maybe if S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t have its employees tossing iPads and destructing fly-cameras after a single use, they would have more money to pay everyone.  Maybe that’s why it never seems to be a big deal when the helicarrier goes down?  They were just going to scrap it after the mission anyway.

The Walking Dead #123

JAN140623By Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard

As I stated on the site here the other day, this book has for so long been Good, that I almost forget it can be Great.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never closed the cover to any issue of The Walking Dead and thought to myself, Wow, why am I reading this?  I love TWD and truly respect Kirkman and Adlard for their perseverance to make the series consistently pleasant to read issue after issue.  That’s the thing, they keep you wanting more.  You never feel satisfied by what you’ve been given.  Perhaps one of its faults is that it is so catchy.  This is by no means the greatest comic series ever created, but that does not lessen my enjoyment whatsoever.  I feel the same way about some TV shows and movies.  I know it is not the best the medium can offer, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t entertain me all the same.

When this issue begins, Rick and the gang have taken refuge at Hilltop and are finding some time to recharge after Negan’s assault on Alexandria.  It is in this brief lull that Rick remembers just what they are fighting for.  There is a beautiful moment where Rick looks around the camp and says that there is no way Negan will ever be able to win.  He can’t take what humanity has away.  Negan, of course, begs to differ.
Overall, this issue served as a nice breather between battles.  (Though that is not to say that there wasn’t plenty of action.  A third to one-half of the issue was devoted to the all out war.)  This is one of the few times Rick is optimistic about their situation–something which makes me wonder just how much longer he will be around.  I think it is getting to be about the time Rick bites it (no pun intended) and seeing the solicitations coming up, boasting an All-New new direction, we may see just that.


Review of Turok Dinosaur Hunter #2

Turok Dinosaur Hunter #2 (Subscription Variant)Turok Dinosaur Hunter #2 by Greg Pak & Marko Colak

This was one of those series where I was not sure what to expect from the first issue. I have no experience with the original Gold Key tales. As for the Valiant revival, I read the first few issues back in the 90s, but they did not click with me. Honestly, I preferred Valiant’s original characters over the Gold Key ones, and out of that latter group Turok was the least interesting. Still, I picked up the first issue of Dynamite’s re-launch to give Pak’s new approach a try.

What really hooked me with the first issue were the twists that Pak inserted at the end. Up to that point, readers were led to believe that Turok existed in a landscape which was more or less historical. Sure, dinosaurs were rampaging, but given the title that was to be expected. Most of the background was fairly run of the mill. Turok is an outcast, exiled from the tribe as a result of his parents’ being accused of murder. He tries to carve out a bit of sanctuary for himself, only events will not let him. Soon he finds himself, along with one of his former tormentors, watching helplessly as strange men with monstrous beasts seize control of the tribal village. It would seem that the moment of European invasion has arrived.

Except that it is nearly 300 years too early. The year is not 1492, but 1210. In place of Spanish explorers, these are British knights. In issue 2, Pak continues laying the groundwork for his alternate history. We learn that the dinosaurs were brought by the knights, who have long used them in their conquests. Marion, the daughter of the English commander, has illustrations of the warriors conquering The Holy Land while astride dinosaurs. Indeed, back in Europe, Britain is known as The Land of the Dragon Knights. This is an intriguing concept, and I look forward to seeing how Pak explores it further.

In addition to the backstory, Pak continues to develop his characters as well. For example, there is Marion. She is introduced as a voice of reason, convincing her father that there is no point in torturing the natives if they cannot understand the English tongue. So, she is charged with Kita, the chief’s niece, in the hopes that more peaceful means might reveal where all the gold is hidden. (In many ways, the knights are not that dissimilar to the historical Conquistadors.) I enjoyed watching these two women play off each other, neither understanding the words of the other. Pak seems to be setting up a couple of different paths Marion’s character might take, and it will be interesting to see which she adopts.

Finally, Colak continues to provide strong images for Pak story. I had not seen his work before this series, but immediately became a fan of his. He has a strong, dynamic style, which fits well with this series. While I was mixed on the first issue, I found that the second was uniformly stronger. I shall definitely be picking up future installments.



Review of Loki Agent of Asgard #2

Loki Agent Of Asgard #2Loki Agent of Asgard #2 by Al Ewing & Lee Garbett

Whoever got the job of following Kieron Gillen on Loki was going to have their work cut out for them. For three years, Gillen guided the reborn Kid Loki on a series of quests and adventures which deeply endeared him to a legion of readers, myself included. All good things must end, and Gillen relinquished the Saga of Loki Laufeyson (now aged to a young man) to other hands. Now, I have always loved Marvel’s depiction of Loki. As a kid, I would buy Thor comics that Loki appeared in, then ignore the issues he was not. So, I was naturally curious what Loki’s next chapter would be like. I bought issue one, liked parts of it, yet overall found it lacking. It felt as though Ewing was trying too hard for whimsy. Still, I rarely give up on a series after a single issue. I gave Loki another try this month and found it on much firmer footing.

This issue finds Loki making the rounds at an evening’s speed dating. He pauses at one table to chat with a charming-though-blunt young lady Verity. This encounter gives Loki a chance to explain his current status quo, and by extension, the premise of the series. Loki and Verity have an easygoing rapport, which allows their conversation to feel natural, instead of a device for exposition. I suspect that Ewing is setting up Verity’s character for later use in the series. On one hand, this contrast might be a bit obvious (the twist involving Verity is foreshadowed by her name), yet I hope that Ewing can avoid such pitfalls. Based on what I read this week, I have a good feeling about it.    

As for Loki’s actual mission, he has been charged with tracking down Lorelei, the wayward sister of The Enchantress. (Hmm, the same week that Lorelei pops up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., she surfaces in a comic I’m reading? Synergy, gotta love it). Watching him trail Lorelei, along with her attempted heist of a Monte Carlo casino, makes for a good story. Again, I feel as though this plotline is setting up story elements to last longer than a single issue. At the same time, however, it has the satisfactory feeling of a one-and-down tale. Most importantly, the tone clicks much better this installment. The humor no longer feels forced. Unlike the first issue, this does not feel like Ewing trying to copy the voice of another writer, but craft his own vision for this next stage in Loki’s story.

I have been a fan of Lee Garbett’s art since he worked on the Stephanie Brown Batgirl series. After that he did strong work for Valiant, particularly on X-O Manowar. His talent continues to impress on this titles. There is one page giving the background on Lorelei, which has a flavor of Alan Davis to it.

Sometimes, it takes a second issue for a series to find its footing and reveal its true voice. That was definitely the case this week with Loki. Where after Issue 1 I was lackluster about continuing, now I am looking forward to the next installment.


Review of Swamp Thing #29

Swamp Thing #29By Charles Soule and Jesus Saiz

This week we end our Swamp Thing with Alec Holland losing control of the avatar body pointing towards the future conflict of the reluctant botanist turned sort of Superhero having to get back to his role as avatar of the green. If this sounds familiar for you that’s because it’s also the base plot of the previous arc. When I say “redundancy” in post New 52 DC superhero comics this is what I’m talking about. Sure the circumstances are different but it’s the same plot point at it’s core. Charles Soule although relatively new to comics is better then this. Or at lest I hope he’s better then this and the rest of the story will have more to offer but after two issues of set up, set up that was very well done mind you, just to get to the same plot point as the previous arc is disappointing to say the least. Jesus Saiz is consistent as ever and there is some interesting world building on the part of he and Soule but again to what end? There is more to Swamp Thing than being Swamp Thing as Alan Moore already proved over 25 years ago. Now it’s time for this book to realize that and move on to new adventures.  I love the guy but in spite of the title it has to be about something more then just being Swamp Thing. Why spend so much time building the outer world if their not going to use it?

Review of The Darkness: Viscous Traditions

download (6)by Alex Kot and Dean Ormston

One of the best parts of seeing Ales Kot grow as a writer has been watching him learn to apply his aesthetic to short single issue or little bottle stories especially when it’s in a long running comics mythology. The Darkness Viscous Traditions continues that streak as Kot flexes a lot of the same muscles that he uses on Zero for this micro story about a nomadic German tribe fighting off a fleet from the Roman Empire. It’s mostly told from the internal monologue of a freshly resurrected Darkness avatar thats fighting on the side of the Visigoths against the Roman Empire. While this is Darkness in name it pretty much stops at a soldier being resurrected so those looking for little snake demons are in for a disappointment. In it’s place we get a short singular story about a small group fighting off a larger week and bloated army. It is brutal and graphic but that serves it’s purpose for the narrative.  Dean Ormston of titles like Judge Dredd and Lucifer is an illustrator I’m not familiar with and he does just fine but this is ultimately a comic where the writers idea is what’s most important. War is disgusting, random, cyclical and it never ends. Maybe you can turn a blind eye to it but that won’t stop it and eventually it will come for you if you’re not paying attention.

Review of Veil #1

23944by Greg Rucka and Toni Fejzula

In Veil veteran writer Greg Rucka and artist Toni Fejzula start with a cold open mystery and leave the reader with more questions and no answers by  the issue’s conclusion. In it we are introduced to a naked full grown woman waking up in an abandoned subway station with just a little bit more memory then she has clothes. She vocally identifies a rat and then begins rhyming that with other random words as she steps out of the train stop into the seedy side of town much to the surprise and delight of the various hoods and perverts that make up the foot traffic. Rucka is similar to Mark Waid in being one of the great comic writers of our time that’s never showy about it. He has a workmanlike approach to story telling that fit’s into any mold but tends to skew darker on some level. While he’s as versatile as any writer out there with iconic runs on everything from Detective Comics, Wonder Woman, Superman, 52, Wolverine, The Punisher and a host of outstanding creator owned work he always feel most at home in the dark gritty modern urban dystopia familiar to readers of his seminal Gotham Central of which Veil is firmly grounded in and although the element of supernatural is introduced in the final pages it is still largely a mystery by issues end. Toni Fejzula creates an excellent illustration that feels like a darker more open take on Kevin O’Neils work with color and shading that accurately reflects the decay hiding under the flashing neon lights of Veils setting. His panels are partially shown through the vision of the protagonist as she wakes to a world she doesn’t understand and partially focused in on her place in the world around her. Though thematically almost polar opposites Veil is similar to Lazarus with a promising opening premise that gives just enough to intrigue by only showing the tip of the iceberg. There’s a fully formed world ready to be dove into. The first issue is worth the plunge.