Saturday Morning Comics

Once again it’s time to settle in with a bowl of Fruity Pebbles and peruse this week’s comics offerings. It’s a strong showing with the return of The Goon and a couple of monthly favorites.

Wolverine and the X-Men #14by Jason Aaron (w); art by Jorge Molina (p) and Norman Lee (i); published by Marvel Comics. This issue was a huge improvement over the previous one. Although it’s tied to the A vs. X story, it’s more relevant to the book as a whole. We see that the school is woefully understaffed thanks to the war. There’s some Toad-related disturbing humor and a date that doesn’t go so well. Kitty and Colossus are written well here, and their discussion seems to show the direction for the ending of the overall crossover. The only down side to this issue is that gag of Deathlok spouting probabilities is a little over played. Relegating him to a C-3PO type of role is a waste.

Manhattan Projects #5 by Jonathan Hickman (w); art by Nick Pitarra; published by Image Comics. This alternate-history is equal parts wonderful and deeply disturbing. The way Hickman handles Earth’s first contact is interesting and surprising. One thing I really appreciate about the series as a whole is the cover design. It’s spare. This series stands out on the comic racks because of its covers.

The Goon #40 by Eric Powell; published by Dark Horse Comics. While waiting for another long-form story, fans of Eric Powell’s Goon are treated to three short tales related to prohibition and fast cars. The second of the tales stands out; it’s a spoof on The Dukes of Hazzard complete with Waylon Jennings style narration. The problem with these last several issue (and problem is a relative term) is that these are stories that, while featuring Frankie and the Goon, don’t need either of the book’s two main characters. Why not end The Goon and pick up with an anthology of weird tales? These last three issues have shown that Powell has the chops to do something like that without being shackled to a specific character.

This Week’s Covers

Saturday Morning Comics

Good morning all, once again it’s time to settle in with a bowl of King Vitamin and peruse this week’s comics offerings. It’s a light week for me; there were only two books on my list. One was worth reviewing and one wasn’t, so I’m also looking at a book from last week that came in late for me.

Fantastic Four #608 story by Jonathan Hickman; art by Giuseppe Camuncoli (breakdowns) and Karl Kesel (finishes); published by Marvel Comics. Hickman’s time on the Fantastic Four books is quickly coming to an end. It looks like his final arc will deal with Wakanda. This issue has Reed and T’Challa traveling down into the depths of the Earth to enter the Wakandan/ Egyptian equivalent of Elysian Fields. They confront the Bast the cat faced goddess, and T’Challa is given a hard choice. Simulanteously Sue, T’Challa’s sister Shuri, and Storm go on a drug induced spirit quest to fight Anubis, Death.

On the one hand the Reed/T’Challa bit was strong. As a reader and fan of Reed Richards, it’s nice to be reminded that he has friends outside of his foursome. Mostly Reed is shown to have colleagues (Pym, Stark, McCoy, etc…). Hickman shows the relationship between Reed and T’Challa as friends first and colleagues second. It works.

The b-storyline with the women, while told in parallel to the a-story, feels rushed, hasty, and unnecessary. If the idea is to show that the women are as capable as the men, don’t magically end their arc on its seventh page as a result of something happening in the a-arc. That Hickman is running against a clock felt most obvious with this issue, and his usual careful pacing suffered for it.

Transformers: Regeneration One #81 story by Simon Furman; art by Andrew Wildman (p) and Stephen Baskerville (i); published by IDW. After 21 years, the original Marvel series picks up again. And boy does it pick up. This issue deals with the Wreckers and their difficulty finding a place in the new cybertronian order. If the last two pages don’t make you squeal with glee like a 14 year-old girl at a One Direction concert, you don’t remember the 1980’s.

For me, and many others, Wildman is THE transformers artist, and that hasn’t changed. Like Kevin Maguire, his strength comes from the emotions conveyed on his faces. Amazingly, he does this to equal effect with characters like Optimus Prime where 3/4 of the facial cues are covered by a faceplate.

The one thing that I’d like to see change on this title is the coloring. The computer coloring is too busy for me. There are too many different shades of color happening and not as much shading with inking. If you look at cover B, you’re reminded of how it used to be. For me, on Transformers, that’s how it should be.

 

THIS WEEK’S COVERS

Game Tape

Books came out, they’ve been read, and here’s what I thought.

I’ve been curious and tempted by A vs X teasers and hype. With issues 0 & 1 out this week (?) my curiosity turns to cynicism and reminds me why I don’t read Bendis anymore. Issue 0 (re)introduces us to Hope and Scarlet Witch in two separate and unconnected stories. It doesn’t bode well for a book when you can sum up a book in two sentences: People really hate Scarlet Witch. A teen with extraordinary powers is rebelling. It took a full issue to dully establish the status quo for the upcoming fracas. The weapons MODOK uses are interesting, but that’s about it.

AvsX #1


Issue #1 showed me that things weren’t going to pick up ergo I would not pick up the other issues. If you’ve seen a Roland Emmerich film, you’ve read the first issue. We get quick views into the status quo of the characters we’re supposed to care for. We are introduced to the crisis via a government council meeting. People talk about stuff related to the impending crisis. Something inexplicably explodes. No. No. No.

The only thing that kept All-Star Western #7 from being great was Dr. Arkham. Why is he still around? The story is set in New Orleans. Nighthawk and Cinnamon are there. Potentially great, but there’s the whining and endlessly prattling character narrating and annoying all. He’s supposed to be a foil for Hex, but he’s not much of anything. Someone pop a cap in him.

If you don’t get the tinglies from the last couple of pages of FF #16, we probably won’t have much to say to each other. The rest of the issue isn’t bad, but those last pages…WOW.

Son of Game Tape

…ANNNNNDD we’re back.

Comics were purchased. Stories were told. The dust has settled and now it’s time to review the game tape to judge how the week went.

KABOOM's Adventure Time #1 (second print)

This first review will echo several of the excellent points that Jesse noticed in his review, but we came away from the book with two different feelings. This time I’m wearing the grumpy pants.

How is it that a cartoon series that tells stories in 12 minute chunks can’t seem to do the same in a comic book? I’m looking at you Adventure Time with Fin and Jake. I love this property; the cartoon is easily the smartest, weirdest, and funniest show on television. However, I was reticent to pick up the comic book for fear that it might not work in a static form. KABOOM’s new book (I picked up the second print this week) translates that weirdness very well. Ryan North and company also manage to translate the show’s hyperactive pace and kinetic feel well through page and panel layouts; it’s rare to see a page with more than four panels. The art in the main story mimics the cartoon well, down to the little details hidden in the back ground. The back-up story’s art is more stylized, looking as though it were painted by Vincent van Gogh. It’s bright and vibrant with a contrasting texture that the main story’s cartoon art won’t have. One other thing that was impressive was the little messages in the bottom-most gutter of many of the pages. This was something that I loved in Bob Burden’s Gumby. It’s nice to see that here in what is a successor to the surreality of Gumby.

At the end of the day, this is not something I’m going to pick up regularly. As I said earlier, I strongly disapprove of the fact that the main story in the book was not a done-in-one. Younger readers are going to be lost by this approach because a whole 30 days will pass before the second part comes out. That’s a friggin’ eternity and any number of other things have attracted their attention and money in the mean time. Heck, I’m in my 30’s and there are some books written for trades that I have a hard time keeping up with because the last issue was uninteresting middle.I appreciate the perceived need to keep the kids coming back to a comic based on a show, but I know that the same goal could have been achieved with a book that offers a similar experience to the show without replicating it exactly.

On a side note, why isn’t anyone replicating the successful digest model that has worked so well for Archie?

DC Comics' Action Comics (vol 2) #7

Action Comics (vol. 2) #7 is as good as it’s ever been, and after two woefully lackluster (filler?) issues this is a welcome relief. I’m not sure why the Collector story was so interrupted with trips both to the past and the future, but now that we’re back on track things are picking up and we’re getting a strong and fun story. Morrison’s reinvention of Superman and the world of Superman through Action is generally enjoyable. This issue especially. There’s great interplay between Luthor and…everyone really. We see less of Clark and more of Superman in this issue than we have in the past. Also, to his credit, Morrison also found a way to naturally introduce Superman’s actual costume into the story. I was reminded this month of why I read Action Comics first when it comes out.

 

Another book that I’m enjoying more in its newest volume is The Lone Ranger. After is nigh interminable origin volume in which the Ranger chases down Butch Cavendish, something new: shorter stories. Issues 1 & 2 were both fantastic in terms of telling western tales without being generic. This month’s issue #3 is starting a two issue arc that proved to be quite entertaining, and it provided a solid story with a cliff hanger at the end. Well done.

Finally, I really enjoyed Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra’s Manhattan Projects #1. World War II, and the Manhattan Project specifically, is my favorite time period to read about. Hickman’s alternate history presents the historical players is a skewed and fantastically engaging light. From it’s hyper-science and portrayal of Einstein as a violent psychopath to it’s blending of zen

Manhattan Projects #1 published by Image Comics.

meditation, magic, and science, this is going to be a great ride. Pitarra’s art is easy to read. His style is the love child of Frank Quietly and Geof Darrow. It is fun, it fits well with this story, and the characters resemble their historical counterparts without being photo reference. 30 days can’t pass quickly enough.

In Brief

This week Kieron Gillen wrapped up his second arc in Uncanny X-Men (vol. 2). While the itself is essentially cribbed from Star Trek: The Next Generation, what makes the story enjoyable is the character interaction and the sharp dialogue.

G.I. JOE continues boldly with its new Cobra Commander. Although they’ve been three steps behind for a while, this issue shows a hint that a turning point is ahead. The rally inning is near…finally.

Game Tape… End of an era

You may remember that I had some trouble a couple of years back with my comic shop closing. It’s happening again. Essentially with the beginning of the new year, I will become the many that get their books exclusively via an online retailer. Although I’m not sure which. This means a couple of things.

1. I’m scaling back on the books I pull (18 regular titles per month) because shipping costs will be a bitch. This scaling back will also allow for a bit more experimentation in the indie field since my pull list is more fluid and immediately controllable.

2. Game Tape will become a bit less regular and behind the times. I think I can swing every other week…and reviews will always be a week or so behind. It’ll also have to move days…not sure which. We’ll see. In lieu of new weekly books, on the off week’s I’ll do some TPB/GN reviews… or something.

In the mean time, enjoy some reviews of things I’ve read lately.

I’m calling shenanigans Jonathan Hickman and Fantastic Four #601. I sat through 3 nigh-interminable issues of Kree/ Inhuman babble for that resolution? Please tell me this is a small part of a bigger truly awesome plan. This was anti-climactic on the scale of Darth Maul. Is it possible that my Hickmania has been cured?

Nah, I just really hate Marvel space nonsense.

I really enjoyed the interactions between Spidey and a certain hot-head. I also giggled at the p’wning of Annihilus.

 

I’m quite happy with the way Cobra Civil War wrapped up. The choice of the new Commander was a good one that doesn’t really screw with the status quo too much. It’s the Pepsi choice (the choice of a new generation). On the other hand, Transformers is gone from the pull list. I kept finding myself really uninterested in what was happening.

Finally, I enjoyed the double-sized Batman Incorporated special and Jesse can enjoy it as well because it takes place in the DCU instead of the DCnU. It’s fun and it ends, but it’s the end of the beginning rather than the beginning of the end. It’s also got a sense of closure rather than being a build up to the next part. As usually, well done Mr. Morrison.

Game Tape

It was a big Marvel week for me; lately they’re mostly Marvel weeks. So here’s what’s worth talking about.

Astonishing X-Men #43

Astonishing X-Men #43 feels like a filler issue while creative teams are shifted. Your mileage may vary on this one, but It had nothing to offer me after the eye-catching Arthur Adams cover. Basically if you’ve ever seen an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, then you’ve already seen this story. The team-up between Emma Frost and Danger reads like Troi and Data exploring what it means to be human. It’s a done-in-one so that’s nice, but that’s about all it gets points for.

Since the only two X-book I’ve been following are essentially self contained, I was surprised at how easy it was to jump into Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men. The first issue is good. Seriously solidly good. Aaron conceived of the perfect way to introduce readers to the new school and to this faction of X-Men in general. There are some fantastic bits of dialogue, and Aaron nails each character’s distinct voice. Aaron’s also introduced several nice bits of potential conflict as well as an interesting new baddie. This was a dense and well paced first issue. Heck, I even liked Bachalo’s art. That’s saying something considering until the last year or so he was on my least favorite artist list somewhere near Kelley Jones. If you can find it this week, this is a title worth grabbing. This book is the winner of the week. I’m pretty sure this one will make it to the pull list.

All-Star Western #2

All-Star Western #2 reveals that the Crime Bible made it through to the new 52. Yay? So the Jack the Ripper style villain turns out to be something larger…and probably better. Hex has more to do in this issue, and Arkham gets knocked about a bit. Not a bad middle of the story. I wonder how much, if at all, Palmiotti and Gray have shifted their views and approach to story with the new editorial mandates. Was this Hex in Gotham story already planned? The El Diablo back-up feature was nice if a little bland. It’s a good introduction to the character; I just wish we didn’t have to suffer through more zombies. My hatred for the slackjaws borders on the Goon-esque. Still, it’s a good solid western.

In Brief

FF #11 is a roiling boil before things spill into Fantastic Four #600 and FF #12. Less space but much more talking, and we’re reminded that Annihilus is still out there plotting.

Superman #1 was okay. It hits all the right notes, there just isn’t much oomph in it. It’s the difference between writing because you’re in love with the character and you’ve got something to say versus simply being in love with the character. Enthusiasm alone does not carry too far. If I can get #2 on the cheap, we’ll see if it improves.

Secret Avengers continues to be good vintage Warren Ellis. It’s a fun combination of action and character. The art in this one is a treat too. Sort of Will Eisner style layouts on LSD.

Game Tape

This week wasn’t the biggest week, but it was a good one. So get out your pad and get ready to take notes as we review…

We’ll begin with an ending. Lone Ranger ends this week with issue #25. The Cavendish Gang arc wrapped up finally, and it’s left wide open for future arcs. It’s a strong ending with no annoying loose ends. I have a sneaking suspicion that the movie in the works will rely heavily on this for story beats. As origins go, it’s a nice blend of character background and action. If you’re a fan of westerns, this one’s worth looking at in trades.


I was originally excited to see the X-Men going to Japan to fight the Mentallo-controlled denizens of Monster Island. I almost still am; it’s just that there was an awful lot of talking in Astonishing X-Men #37. The actual monster fighting was happening more in the background while people and mutants talked about fighting the monsters. The talking wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t been a. confusingly clipped b. written off the beat of the art. The ethical debate at the end between Cyclops and Wolverine and the wake service that Armor attends highlight this problem. I’m feeling close to done with the X-Men in general and this title in specific.

X-Men #11 had a glaring chronological issue that I couldn’t stop thinking about. The story was tepid as it served as a coda to Jubilee’s experiences with the vampires. Pretty forgettable all around. We’ll see how the next arc goes before severing ties with the X franchise.

Batman Incorporated #7 is a good jumping on issue. Sure it refers to the last couple of issues continuing the long term thread of the Ooroboros threat. On the other hand, the threat has expanded in view starting with this issue as Bruce marshals his forces for this, as yet unseen, threat. We get a better look at several of the new players in the Batman Army including a new Ranger and a Batman of Africa. I’m wondering when Morrison will return to the Kathy Kane mystery… or is that being handled in the Batwoman book? At any rate, this book was worth looking at. The end was a hoot even though it was pretty well telegraphed.

In the broken record department, Hickman has not yet lost his touch. FF #3 is funny with it’s Symposium of Doom. But, it’s fantastically written in the aspects of tying the Parliament of Reeds with the events of the four new kingdoms. Right now, this is my absolute favorite book because of the way Hickman is structuring his stories and the foresight with which he’s planning things.


Game Tape

This week was the biggest week I’ve had in a while, and there were things to actually write about too. Let’s see if I remember how it’s done shall we?

No sense in not starting with the 900 lbs. gorilla in the room. DC got it right. Action Comics #900 was  worth reading. The black sphere saga ends and Luthor gets everything he ever wanted. Of course you have to be careful what you wish for. With the main story, Cornell shows that he really understands what makes both Luthor and Superman tick. In addition, we’ve got a strong start to the upcoming Doomsday cross-over. The back-up stories were pretty well crafted, but mostly forgettable. I can only assume the Donner piece didn’t get an artist because it would ahve upped the page count. A shame, because it could have benefited from being fully fleshed out. One other thing that this anniversary issue should have included is a recognition of other characters that have debuted or been featured regularly in Action Comics. Where’s the Blackhawk story? Congo Bill? Zatara? Wild Dog? Sure it’s primarily Superman’s book, but with an anniversary this big, there needed to be recognition of the history. At least he’s not going to start walking across the country.

Onward and upward then. FF #2 continues to be Hickman being Hickman. Dialogue and character are strong and clever. The situation continues to be dire and interesting too. Specifically, we learn in this issue what sort of deal Valeria made with Dr. Doom back in the pages of Fantastic Four. This issue also highlights one of Hickman’s greatest strengths. The ability to tell a whole story in a single issue while dropping crumbs to be picked up later. Seriously, there’s no reason not to be reading this title.

Age of X ended this week also. On the whole the story wasn’t bad. The world created there was sufficiently different and interesting, and the mystery created by jumping in medias res was well sustained. If anything, it ended a little too quickly and neatly. Still, it did manage to be a decent alternate universe story. It’s also interesting to see that there are small repercussions to be felt in the aftermath. So not everything is returning to status quo. Checking out the trade or finding the issues on the cheap wouldn’t be a bad idea.

I did pick up the second issue of the Godzilla book. I really liked the first issue. This one felt a little too disjointed. I’m curious to see where this book is going. In spite of the death and destruction, I’m inclined to root for Godzilla, but I’m not sure why yet.

The three Avengers books we solid too. The two .1’s proved to be genuine in their desire to serve as starting points. In Avengers, we’re teased with a Spaceknight. We also see a MODOK with spider legs. To my mind, this is not an improvement on the floating chair design. Secret Avengers is a nice done-in-one that introduces readers to all of the main characters while giving Nick Spencer a chance to find his footing on the title. Not bad.

That’s a wrap for this week. Good solid reads all around with only minor missteps.

Game Tape

This was a pretty good week. At least for me, issues ran from pretty good to not too shabby. So let’s see what we see.

Months and months ago, I dropped Green Lantern because I didn’t want to read a story pretending not to be Dragonball Z or The Thirteen Ghosts of Scooby Doo (ie a story where the characters are on an search for x, y, and z mcguffins over an indefinite period of time). Johns was shoe-horning a hamfisted plot over his  search for the dragonba…er…ghos…er avatars of the lantern power. This said, it may be a surprise that I really enjoy Paul Cornell’s Action Comics. Lex is essentially collecting Dragon Balls, but that’s all he’s doing, and he’s doing it shamelessly. Of course Cornell’s/ Luthor’s shamelessness is infinitely more fun to read about. Specific to this issue, Larfleeze shows up with one of the spheres and words are bandied regarding the nature of desire, power, and want. If you’re a fan of avarice and the color orange, the last two Larfleeze pages are worth the price of admission. We also get a clue as to who might be partially responsible for this business.

This week also saw a return of something that has not been true in almost a decade: I walked out of the shop with three X-books. In quick order, here are a few thoughts on each.

1. Age of X continues in X-Men Legacy  #245 this week. I’m still enjoying this look at dystopia. The X-writers have gone out of their way to create relationships and back stories for characters that we haven’t seen before. Rogue serves a unique and chilling purpose in Age of X that makes sense for her power set. It’s also fun to see Cannonball busting Cyclops’s chops like a drill sergeant to a buck private. The use of Wolverine in this issue and the previous installment of this crossover are also intriguing and well done. Finally, we get glimpses that suggest that readers should not be pulling for Magneto to win the day. Poor Kitty Pride.

2. X-Men #8 continues the teams trip back to New York. I was interested in seeing how the X-Men and Spidey might face Lizard. Now, not so much. It reads similarly to Gischler’s first arc. Find vampire and replace with lizard man. Find San Francisco and replace with New York. Find Cyclops and replace with Storm. Done. There is a mystery as to who is behind all of this reptili-mania (hint: it’s not Connors). If you haven’t picked up the book, go back and read the vampire arc. It’s better and surprisingly more novel even though it’s lacking cannons that shoot vampires from the moon.

3. Astonishing X-Men is back, and Daniel Way (of Wolverine, et al. fame) is at the helm. Like X-Men, this issue involves lizards. It also involves, a certain island, Mentallo and Japan. I don’t want to say much more, but I feel confident that Jesse will be picking up to book based on certain words in the previous two sentences…oh, there’s also a death in family, but it’s more of a plot point to get the mutants to Japan.

Which brings us to the “final” issue of Fantastic Four. Pardon me if I sound incredulous; twelve issues before a big 600th anniversary and they’re canceling the title? Right. That aside, the issue is enjoyable. It’s not really a memorial for Johnny; rather it shows how each member of the family deals with his death. Valeria’s reaction is chilling, while read has an  impotent moment with Anihilus. My favorite moment was watching Ben handle the loss. Hulk and Thor are there with shoulders to cry on in a way that made me a little teary. At the same time, Hickman (as always) is building a foundation. The back up story with Franklin and Spider-Man was decent too in spite of the annoying “Hey there little guy” voice that Peter uses when talking to Franklin. I hate that voice.

Finally, there’s Nick Spencer’s Iron-Man 2.0. It was okay. Yeah.

So all in all it was a good week to read comics. Hope you enjoyed your stack as much as I enjoyed mine.


Game Tape

As Jesse pointed out on Tuesday, there are a ton of books out this week worth looking at. Two books change the status quo for their characters. All progressed a larger plot. Some did this very well… some not so much. Here’s what we’re looking at.

I’d be an idiot not to talk about Fantastic Four #587. Is it worth they hype and the polybag? No. It’s a great issue… dare I say fantastic, but it’s no Superman #75. The black polybag is almost certainly meant to evoke the memory of that issue, yet it falls short on the emotional impact. Everything about the issue is set up and executed masterfully except for the death at the end. It seems like a formality: as though it’s a mile post that has to be passed on the way somewhere else. Maybe that’s how death should be viewed…

That said, I loved everything else about this issue. Galactus acts petulantly leaving his thread open and Sue pimp slaps someone. There’s no doubt it’s a big issue that changes much for the team. I’m looking forward to the next, and “last” issue.

Chaos War ended this week with issue #5. Big things change for Hercules, and Alpha Flight is back, but I was mostly left feeling, “so what?” That said, I am looking forward to the new series, Herc, in April. The interplay between Cho and Hercules is almost always worth the price of admission.

Age of X: Alpha was an interesting introduction to this new alternate reality. All the major mutant players are already gathered around Magneto at his Fortress X. So we don’t get any back story on the universe. We do meet a lot of characters, and we get to know origins of a few. We also get an explanation of why there’s not been a Wolverine in the promo images. If you read the communiques that CBR has been posting, you already know half the stories told here in this Tales of the Green Lantern Corps style book. I’m in for one more issue only because it’s an alternate reality X-Men. Here’s hoping the main story is stronger and better framed.

 

Finally, Action Comics was okay. Luthor (and readers) learns more about the spheres thanks to the Joker. It’s hinted strongly that someone is yanking Luthor’s chain, and it’s someone the Joker is frightened of. There are some nice Joker moments, but the issue falls a little flat. Still, there’s enough intrigue and interest to keep with the title. Cornell’s work is still solid here.

This issue is also the first to be missing it’s Jimmy Olsen back up. It is missed sorely.