Monthly Archives: March 2013
Guardians Of The Galaxy #1
Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven bring the Guardians back to the monthly comic book stage with the first issue of Guardians of the Galaxy, which throws readers right into the thick of the action. While those who didn’t pick up the special 0.1 issue will be just fine picking this up, those who did read that issue last month will benefit from having already met Peter Quill, Star-Lord.
When Brian Michael Bendis introduces us to Quill and co., the team is already in place. That’s right, there’s no “assembling the team” montage in this issue, they’re already large and in charge. Bendis actually spends most of the opening of the issue focusing on the relationship between Star-Lord and his father, the king of Quill’s alien race. He’s come to tell him that Earth is now “off-limits” to other aliens, and like all good Marvel heroes, Quill has daddy issues and doesn’t trust his father (crashing on Earth and leaving his mother will do that to you). Quill decides to head to Earth, and along the way the Guardians run into Iron Man, who’s taken to the stars to explore the cosmos. After defeating a space ship belonging to the Badoon aliens, Quill quickly realizes that his father was lying him, and that he knew if he told Quill that he couldn’t go to Earth that he would. As the Badoons start their attack on the Earth, the Guardians gear up to take them on.
This is one hell of a first issue, and Brian Michael Bendis bucks the trend by having the team already assembled and introducing us to the characters in a quick splash page. Of course, characters like Rocket Raccoon really only need a one-sentence explanation, it’s really refreshing to open a team book and be able to jump right into the plot without needing to be told elaborate backstories for each member. Bendis even cleverly explains away the last Guardian story (the Abnett and Lanning Thanos Imperative) where Star-Lord was left for dead in a clever exchange between Star-Lord and his father. There’s also fantastic little moments that define the relationships between the team members, including between Rocket Raccoon and Groot, which adds a lot of tension to the battle with the Badoons.
Just like with the 0.1 issue, Steve McNiven delivers some powerhouse art in this issue. From the spectacular spaceships to the cool alien bars and hideouts that populate mysterious alien races, McNiven’s pencils deftly handle the different things that Bendis’ script throws at him, even if I’m not too big of a fan of Star Lord’s new costume (I’m a sucker for a cool helmet). Regardless, McNiven is in top form here, and I can’t wait to see what other crazy action he draws next issue.
Guardians of the Galaxy #1 wastes no time getting into the action, and it’s a spectacular book that leaves you wanting more. For a group of characters I have a basic working knowledge of, this is the perfect introduction, and appeals to comic readers of all ages. Snag this bad boy up and get on the train for the next big thing at Marvel Comics.
After killing Damian Wayne last issue, Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham’s latest issue of Batman, INC focuses on the aftermath of the Robin’s final battle, and the results are a little less than I was hoping for. It seems that Morrison, knowing that he’s leaving in two issues, is back to the old “time-jump” routine, as he bounces from Damian’s funeral, to Batman fighting the Damian clone after finding Robin’s body, back to the funeral, over to Knight’s funeral, then forward to Leviathan controlling Wayne Industries, then back to the funeral, all in one issue. It’s not as confusing as Final Crisis, but there were moments where I had to reread pages just to make sure I was understanding the events correctly. However, Chris Burnham continues to shine on this book, and gets consistently better with every issue he puts out. This guy is a machine, and his illustrations of a distraught Batman battling his son’s killer are the highlights of the issue. Batman, INC. is starting to wind down, and I hope that Morrison can end strongly….and coherently.
Goddamn is this book violent. Seriously, keep the kid’s away. Luther’s battle with Jack The Ripper (yes, that Jack The Ripper) is insanely bloody, and one of the coolest of the year. Justin Jordan uses the infamous serial killer to flesh out the mythos behind Strode’s powers, and it really works. Add the fantastic Tradd Moore into the equation, and you have an issue that is not for the squeamish, but damn if it isn’t awesome. For the first time it seems like Luther won’t be able to punch, crush, and rip apart his way through a situation, and I’m really intrigued to see where this goes.
Just a week after Marvel imploded the Internet with it’s 700 free digital issue ones, Brian K. Vaughan looks poised to do it all over again. First teased just yesterday, The Private Eye is a new series from Vaughan and artist Marcos Martin and is available on Panelsyndicate.com for the low price of…whatever you want.
That’s right, this is a brand new series, a new #1 for 32 pages, and you can pay whatever amount of money you want to download it. Don’t feel like paying them anything? Go right ahead (I just did). This move is unprecedented, and extremely unexpected when you realize that BKV has had a long relationship with nearly every publisher out there right now. Of course, just because this is a digital book doesn’t mean that we won’t be seeing this book on store shelves anytime soon.
In regards to the plot, like any other BKV book, there’s a good deal of mystery to open up the book with. In an internet-less future, the book follows a private investigator who takes on different jobs for clients. There’s a ton of strange futuristic locations and characters, and many of the future citizens of America wear holographic masks so they can “try out” different cultures. Like Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, and Saga, the new series has an awesome high concept that guarantees that it’ll be an easy sell for those wondering what it’s all about.
This digital model certainly an interesting concept, but what about those (myself included) who actively refuse to read digital comics? In his afterword at the end of the issue, Vaughan states that he and Martin went about this distribution model so they could reach the widest amount of readers possible, without interruption from publishers. He also says that they won’t have any print editions until they have a “sizeable” amount of issues done, and even then, they’ll most likely go to the Kickstarter route.
But where does this leave the good ol’ LCS? It’s certainly possible that the comic shop could see this book in some form in the future, but if that’s as monthly issues or collected editions, who knows? What we do know is that Vaughan, probably even more so than Marvel’s SXSW debacle, has shown us one possible way that comics can be distributed in the future. What happens next is anyone’s guess.
Marvel’s time-displaced merry mutants continue on in All-New X-Men #9, an issue that serves as more of a set up for things to come than a “things getting done” issue. After the events of last issue, the team is on edge whenever they are around Jean Grey. Messing around in a teammate’s head and making him okay with staying in the future will do that to a team I guess. With their loyalty with one another on shaky ground, Kitty Pryde decides to send them into the Danger Room to get some valuable combat experience, while Mystique and Sabretooth start their mysterious plans elsewhere.
Brian Michael Bendis, as with his other X-book, nails the characters and dialogue here. Teen Cyclops’ reaction to modern day Times Square really puts things in perspective of how prevalent the media is in our lives, and seeing this team that we know can work together struggle to take down a few Sentinels adds to the weight of just how far out of their league these young X-Men are. Bendis is starting to seed doubt into whether or not Beast was right in sending these teenagers into the future, and you have to wonder what the long term effects could be from having them wandering around modern day New York City (assuming they’re not mind-wiped by series’ end).
Stuart Immonen returns this issue, and my god, it’s good to have him back. All-New X-Men has done a phenomenal job of finding appropriate fill-in artists that match Immonen’s style, but at the same time, there’s really no replacing him. His double page splash of the Sentinels arriving in Times Square is a sight to behold, and once again showcases his mastery of the comics medium.
All-New X-Men was a title that I was originally going to trade wait, until I crunched the numbers and realized that it would be cheaper to get the monthly issues instead of the hardcover (thanks Marvel). However, I’m really glad I’ve caught up with this series. Month in and month out it’s proven to be a fantastic read, and has gotten me head first back into the X-Men, something that hasn’t happened since the 90’s cartoon was on the air. There’s a unity between the X-Books that hasn’t been there for quite a long time, and if the ending of this issue is any indication, that’s not going to go away any time soon (I should probably throw it out there that if you’re reading this series, you should definitely be getting Uncanny X-Men as well). Easily one of the best of the Marvel NOW! titles, All-New X-Men is worth your hard earned $3.99.
Sure, Brian K. Vaughan may be currently exploding the world of comics by offering a brand new, “pay what you feel like” digital series with Marcos Martin, but he’s also still got regular paper funny books too. Continuing our tale of two star-crossed lovers (and parents), Saga #11 clears up a major cliffhanger from last issue, and features some of the funniest dialogue of the month, which I won’t repeat here (this is a PG-13ish review of course).
Picking up from last issue, Marko, Alana and their daughter Hazel are still cruising through space in their strange tree rocket ship, with Marko’s parents tagging along for the ride. After almost being destroyed by a giant “black space fetus” (you’ll get it when you read it), they’re continuing their on the lam escapades from The Will, who conveniently misses them thanks to said space fetus. There’s more background on Marko’s relationship with his father, and more pre-Hazel scenes with Marko and Alana (which earns the issue’s “M” rating for the month), all of which creates an even richer tapestry weaved by Vaughan. With Fiona Staples’ fantastic art, Saga continues to be one of the best indie titles available, and with the series taking another hiatus with issue 12, you still have time to catch up and tell your friends all about it.
This past week at The SXSW (South By Southwest for you old timers) festival, Marvel Comics broke the Internet. Teased for weeks, their mysterious “#1” teaser ad was finally unveiled, and no, it’s not leading to another reboot. Instead, the company has released 700 “#1” issues from their back catalog for free for consumers. The catch? They’re digital, and available only through Comixology (and the Marvel digital comics) app.
Within hours of the announcement, Comixology crashed, and millions of downloads stalled out, or just didn’t work completely. I’ll be honest, I tried to download some #1’s of series I already have physical copies of, and only one out of seven I clicked “download” on went through. Perhaps Comixology wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of users that their servers were going to experience, and if that’s true, they should’ve either been a little more prepared for it, or Marvel should’ve told them ahead of time.
More importantly than users not being able to download the free comics, Marvel’s move brings up the question of it’s loyalty to the brick and mortar shops that kept this medium going after comics went off the newsstand. I completely get why the big two want to push digital, as it cuts down on costs across the board. However, there’s been an increase in physical comic sales in the past year, so why make this push into digital? Even though Marvel’s shut down Comixology with the amount of traffic that it caused because of this movement, it’s only good until Tuesday, and how many of those people will click “download” on issue 2 when they see the thing they’re about to read will cost as much as the paper version, and they can’t get it signed if they go to a convention? Perhaps tossing up a comic shop locator link on the page (or even at the end of the of the digital book) could at least help those that would want to travel to a shop to pick up physical copies of the book.
I’ll be the first to admit that the only way I’ll be switching to digital comics is if I am forced to kicking and screaming, but for a show like SXSW that has a big focus on tech, movies, and music, this just may be a gate crashing movement to get the mythical “new reader” that the industry is always looking for. Of course, the other catch is that we now have to find a way to translate those digital freeloaders into people who drive to a local shop and pick up physical books, but for some reason I have faith that digital comic readers may be motivated to check out an actual shop the next time they walk by one. Whether or not this turns out to true is too early to tell, but at least Marvel attempted something to bring comics to a wider audience, even if it did end up blowing up in their faces.
COMIC REVIEWS!!!!As if losing Damian wasn’t hard enough last month, now we have to be reminded of it in every Bat-title. However, in no book will the loss be felt more than in Peter Thomasi and Patrick Gleason’s fantastic series Batman & Robin, and this all-silent issue will leave you feeling as empty as Bruce Wayne by the time you finish it.
Picking up right after the events of last month’s Batman, Inc #8, this issue finds Batman on a routine patrol, except without his son by his side. Thomasi paints a perfect image here, as Bruce Wayne, as we all know, isn’t one to openly express his emotions. Seeing how this is the first major death he’s had to deal with since he lost Jason Todd (who came back anyways), Bruce’s depiction of just sucking it up and acting like nothing is wrong seems very much in line with the character, and his interaction with a still-grieving Alfred early in this issue is a prime example of this.
But, on this routine patrol, he keeps seeing his son, imagining he’s with him. He takes his anger out on the criminals he encounters that night, bottling up his anger and sadness until issue’s end, when he finally breaks down. Bruce Wayne, for years working with surrogate “sons”, has lost his one real son, and it’s a loss that he cannot process. Seeing Batman, this almost god-like being in current comics, reduced to near tears at issue’s end reminds us that at the end of it all, past the planning and martial arts training, Batman is just a man, and yes, there is something that can bring him to a stop.
I mentioned earlier that this issue is a silent one, and with that means that the art must step it up to convey the story. This is, without a shadow of a doubt, Patrick Gleason’s finest work. Issue in and issue out he has produced some incredible arton this title, but he really nails the pain that Bruce is feeling in this issue. By issue’s end you will be in awe of what this book accomplishes, and if you somehow don’t feel any emotions stirring inside of you, then you are dead inside.
Age of Ultron‘s second issue fills us in a little bit on the backstory behind the mad robot’s take over of the world, but at the same time, still leaves more questions than answers by issue’s end. Opening with a pretty awesome action scene between Black Widow and Moon Knight, we’re once again shown how different this world is now that Ultron has taken over. This interplay between the two heroes is pretty awesome, and I really like Brian Michael Bendis’ trick for showing us how they manage to communicate with one another when out in the field.
However, things start to slow down once we shift back to Spider-Man and the rest of the Avengers. We learn that Spider-Man woke up one morning to find the robot army attacking Manhattan, and after swinging to save someone, he was hit by a white light and then woke up tied to the chair he was found in in the last issue. While I understand that Bendis wants to slowly fill us in on what happened between here and now, I’m already starting to feel like this event is starting to drag. I hope I’m wrong about this, as I really like the premise (and Bryan Hitch’s art), but man, I hope the pace picks up a teensy bit next issue, cause if not, looks like this will be going to the ol’ trade wait pile.
Meet Ezekiel, possibly my new favorite Walking Dead character. Yes, he’s just only been introduced now, but meeting this character is such a cool thrill that it’s hard not to be charmed by him. Walking Dead is a series that has somehow, someway avoided becoming stale, and it’s because Robert Kirkman keeps throwing stuff like this at us once we get complacent. The premise behind this character is extremely unique, and I’m really surprised it hasn’t been done before in a zombie story. The self described “King” of his people, Ezekiel’s servant Jesus brings Rick Grimes to him, and the two begin hatching a plan to take out Negan, our current big bad. Oh, he also has a pet tiger named Shiva, too.
This issue is the reason why I keep reading Walking Dead: just when I think it’s starting to lose me, they introduce something so intriguing that you have to keep reading to see where they go with it. I’m very excited to see where this storyline goes, and more importantly, to see more Ezekiel.
Another day, another Justice League movie rumor. It seems like I’ve written the same column about Warner Bros.’s continued adventures to bring their super team to the big screen, and before you go through my backlog of posts, I know that I have. However, this week the news brings us the best and worst thing that could happen to the project:
Christopher Nolan is producing, and rumors have it that Christian Bale will return as Batman.
Now it’s no surprise that WB would want Nolan involved in this film. He’s behind their biggest success for their DC character based films, and early buzz on Man Of Steel, which he’s producing, has been overwhelmingly positive. Snagging Nolan to essentially be their Joss Whedon (or in the case of Fox, Mark Millar) is a brilliant idea, assuming that A) Nolan isn’t tired of dealing with capes and B) he finds something interesting in the rest of DC’s stable of characters, something that may prove difficult for him when he looks at their roster beyond the “big 7”.
However, there’s a drawback to having Nolan and Bale enter the Justice League fray. As it’s already been established, the “Nolanverse” that was set up in his films doesn’t exactly lend itself to having characters that fly around in red capes, or being Amazonian princesses. Working the realistic interpretation of Batman into the Justice League film is very risky, as it could conceivably undo what makes the Nolan trilogy work. Not to mention the fact that if Bale does play the same Batman from the Dark Knight trilogy that he would be a lot older than his teammates, although that could work if they wanted to put Batman in a leadership role.
There’s talk that Bale could be playing a different version of Batman as well, one more in line with the comic book version of the character as opposed to the hyper-realistic take that he played in Nolan’s films. Sure, this could also work, but it may confuse some viewers, especially when you look at the conclusion of The Dark Knight Rises, where Bruce Wayne was living a quiet life with Selina Kyle. Of course, when you watch Rises it’s easily the most “comic book” of the three films, with the bomb plot in Gotham City, “The Bat” flying around, and Wayne’s quick recovery from a shattering back injury.
With this in mind, you could see that there’s a gradual progression of the “Dark Knight” world slowly becoming like the DC Universe we read about every month, and would take the themes of escalation that are talked about at the end of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight to a whole other level. How would the Nolan version of Batman react to someone like Superman arriving in Gotham (especially if he flew in and saved Batman from the bomb that went off at the end of Rises)? That’s an interesting angle that could play out really well, depending on how carefully it’s done.
Justice League is happening, regardless of if I think it’s a bad idea or not. While it’s good that Warner Bros. still sees this movie as a priority, I still think it’s being made just because WB is green with envy over all the money that Disney is making with their Marvel films (and what they’re destined to make now that they also control Star Wars). While I was personally hoping for a Batman more in line with the Arkham games appearing in Justice League, I’m okay with Bale’s Batman showing up, especially if Nolan is serving as a producer. As long as Nolan thinks he can help guide the project to where it needs to go, and isn’t burnt out of Batman yet, then I’m behind him.
Of course, now that I’ve written this entire column on the matter the rumor will probably be debunked by the end of the day.
The next Marvel event starts now, and once again, it promises to change things…..FOREVER!!!!
Well, at least until the next big event.
But seriously, Age Of Ultron is the latest universe spanning event from Marvel, and it’s been a long time coming, teased some two years ago in Avengers #12.1. Focusing on the titular humanity hating robot, the first issue of Age Of Ultron, written by Brian Michael Bendis with art from Bryan Hitch, wastes no time in setting up the world our heroes are in. In fact, it doesn’t set anything up at all.
Starting mid action with Hawkeye attempting to save Spider-Man from the clutches of The Owl and Hammerhead, the book presents us with a Marvel universe that is a little bit “Age Of Apocalypse” mixed with Escape From New York. The heroes are beaten, broken, and shattered, and Ultron is the supreme power in the world. Hawkeye and Spider-Man, both heroes known for their snarky attitudes (especially when Brian Michael Bendis is writing them) are uncharacteristically grim here, but instead of seeming out of character, it instead shows how much this world has changed them. Hawkeye’s condemnation of his fellow Avengers when he returns to their base tells us more about how their world has changed than any other type of exposition could, and it barely scratches the surface of what happened to them. By not telling us much about how the Marvel Universe has gotten into the shape it’s in, Bendis creates an intriguing mystery for future issues.
A lot of credit should go to Bendis, as he sets up an interesting world for this storyline. Having two scumbags like Owl and Hammerhead interact with one another shows us how horrible the world is with Ultron in power, as the two talk about how they’re able to use different Avengers as bartering chips for survival. There’s a lot at stake here, and Bendis drives that home in spades. There’s a few moments that are a little confusing revolving around Spider-Man though. Bendis writes him here as if it’s the regular Peter Parker being rescued by Hawkeye, and not the smug Otto Octavius in Peter’s skin. While this may be explained later on (Spidey was just being rescued from torture), it does throw you off a little bit, and makes you wonder if Bendis made any changes to the script at all in the time that he came up with the story and now.
When it comes to the art, Bryan Hitch’s cinematic panels evoke some of his grandest work. Just like in The Ultimates, there are huge, wide-angle panels to showcase the decrepit Marvel Universe, and glorious action scenes. I haven’t been too keen on Hitch’s recent work, but he’s back in top form for this debut issue. Everything from the exhausted and beaten looks on our heroes to the glorious explosions from the Ultron sentries patrolling the skies is stellar, and truly give the book the epic feel that it needs.
While it’s yet another event, Age Of Ultron is off to a great start, and with each part of the ten-issue story coming out (nearly) weekly, this is an event that will be over before we know it. Plus, it comes with a shiny chrome cover that will instantly transport you back to 1993, all for a measly $4. As long as Bendis and his art crew can keep the momentum going, we may have the Avengers equivalent of “Age Of Apocalypse” when this is all said and done.
Man, it really sucks when good books get delayed. Like Uncanny Avengers, DC’s Before Watchmen: Rorschach finale has been delayed for months now (probably even longer than the last issue of UA). Unfortunately, where the delay didn’t effect Marvel’s book, it really did for Walter Kovac’s story. With no recap page, it was pretty hard to remember where Rorschach was when we last left him, and even what the main plot of the miniseries was (I read a lot of comics, so recap pages help).
Wrapping up Rorschach’s encounter with the crazy disco gang leader Rawhead, BW: Rorschach is an interesting and unconventional finale. Those expecting Rorschach to have a knock down drag out confrontation with Rawhead won’t like what they get, as Rorschach gets the crap kicked out him, and gets out of his hostage state thanks to a certain pet of Rawhead’s. He doesn’t even solve the mystery of “The Bard”, the serial killer stalking the streets of New York City until the final few pages of the issue, in an awkward “oh crap we gotta wrap this up” sort of way. However, he does get to see the “true face” of New York City, as the entire population seemingly loses their minds during a city wide blackout, and through this Rorschach’s outlook on fighting crime becomes even more extreme.
Despite my initial disappointment with this issue, I’m starting to come around with what happens, mainly because Brian Azzarello has Rorschach admit that this mission was his “last mistake”, showing him how truly ugly people can be. At the beginning of this series, Walter Kovacs wasn’t as hardcore of a vigilante as the one he is in Alan Moore’s tale, and the story Azzarello chose to tell here is an interesting one. Couple that with the gorgeous art of Lee Bermejo, and you have an interesting character study of arguably the most popular character in the Watchmen universe. For those who were waiting until all of the issues were released (or for the trade) you won’t be disappointed as this will be a phenomenal read when you don’t have to wait for the single issues, but man, the wait really killed the momentum this book had when it launched.
Two days before releasing Batman, Inc. issue 8 to comic stores, DC decided to spoil the events of the issue with the New York Times and their own website: in this issue, Damian Wayne will die. Now I ‘ve had enough time to really think about this turn of events, and I have to say, it’s a really upsetting idea. Damian Wayne started out as a character that I hated, but over time became not only my favorite Robin, but one of my favorite characters in comics as well. His interactions with Dick Grayson when he was Batman were where I started to come around to the character, and Peter Thomasi and Patrick Gleason really made me love the character when the “new 52” relaunched Batman and Robin, which focused on Bruce Wayne’s return as Batman and his relationship with Damian. Sure, Grant Morrison created Damian and turned him into Robin, but for my money, Thomasi and Gleason did more with him than Morrison did.
Perhaps what really bothers me about this turn of events is the fact that Damian and Bruce’s relationship was a great way to show us something different in the Batman universe. Bruce was always seen as a father figure for Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake (and yes, Stephanie Brown), but with Damian he WAS the father figure, and put in a position completely foreign to him. Plus, for many years Damian was living with his mother, Talia Al Ghul, and being trained to be a killer. This places Batman in a tough position of allowing the child to be his sidekick, but also trying to curb his more violent tendencies.
Morrison created Damian, so I understand that he wants to be the one to kill him. He’s even mentioned in interviews that his original plan was to kill Damian at the end of the “Batman and Son” story arc that introduced him, but then changed his mind when he thought of the possibilities of making him Robin. Couldn’t he have changed his mind and decided NOT to kill him? Who knows, cause as I write this, the issue hasn’t been released yet. I completely understand that the stakes have to be high in this final Morrison story arc, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Killing another Robin puts the entire idea of Batman having an ally into flux. Plus, after the events of “Death OF The Family”, are we supposed to believe that the other members of the Bat Family will come rushing to help Bruce? With this revelation, the small continuity that the Batman books were having is now suddenly up in the air, not to mention that it seems to me like Grant Morrison was getting a little tired of having everyone rave about Scott Snyder’s Batman and no one really paying much attention to his final Batman arc.
Hearing that one of my current favorite characters is going to die sucks. And hearing about it TWO DAYS prior to release sucks even more. I’m used to Marvel spoiling their big comics before the issue hits shelves, but this is the first time DC has done it since the launch of the New 52. You’d think that by now the big two companies would finally start listening to the fans who actually read these things, instead of the person who’s running in off the street to grab this issue thinking it’ll be a $150 book next week. I’m already dreading having to explain that Damian is the 5th Robin, and that he’s not the same Robin as the one Burt Ward played in the 60’s show.
Of course, with this being Grant Morrison, it’s entirely possible that Damian won’t really die, and instead be sent on a voyage through time where he become that ultimate representation of Robin for the universe (or at least I think that’s what Return Of Bruce Wayne was all about).