Monthly Archives: May 2013
Superstar writer Scott Snyder returns to Vertigo with The Wake, his newest foray into horror. With Punk Rock Jesus creator Sean Murphy on art duties, the hype around this book is extremely high, and I’m pleased to announce that the debut issue definitely lives up to it, setting up a compelling mystery that will leave you hooked and waiting for the next issue.
The debut issue introduces Lee Archer, a marine biologist studying whales off the coast of Washington, who’s called in by Homeland Security Agent Astor Cruz. Some mysterious whale calls have been captured in Alaska, and the department thinks Lee is the best person to help them figure out what it is. Even though she’s not on the best terms with the department, Lee accepts their offer, as it will not only lead to more stability in the finance department, but also help her gain custody of her son. After travelling to Alaska, Lee meets the rest of the crew she’ll be working with: Brown University Folklore and Mythology Professor Dr. Marin, Bob Wainwright (Lee’s old boss from her time at NOAA), and the mysterious Meeks. After hearing their stories, Lee realizes that the other members of her group have been given a different story from Cruz to bring them to the northern state. While the team members argue with Cruz, the “underground camp site” they are in is revealed to be a submarine, transporting them to an underwater drilling facility. Once there, Lee tries to confront Cruz one more time, but is stopped by the sound of someone screaming down the hall. When the crew looks, they see a bloodied man being detained by scientists and medical workers, exclaiming that the man had “opened the tank for just a few seconds”. In the chaos around her, Lee sneaks a look into the room the man came from, and finds a horrifying creature submerged in a tank.
Once again, Scott Snyder proves he can do no wrong. From the opening pages of The Wake, he hooks us in with an excellent futuristic opening, only to turn back the clock to fill us in on the main story. Bookended with a short scene from the far distant past, the alternating time frames strengthen the core story in the middle of the book, and adds to the mystery of the title before the plot kicks in. There’s something ancient and possibly evil at work here, and it’s definitely something that our hero should not get involved in.
Snyder’s gift for characterization is in full force here, and I’d say that it’s even stronger than in his work on Batman. Within a few pages of the book we are introduced to Lee Archer and get a full grasp on who she is, what she does, and what she wants in life. She’s passionate about her work, but also desperately wants to spend more time with her son. Her relatable circumstances only enhance our connection with her when things start to get weird, and we’re just as confused as she is when she arrives in Alaska and tries to understand why she’s been called in. Snyder gives us just enough information on the other members of the crew to pique our interest with them, and peppers some intriguing flashbacks from Lee’s past to sweeten the mystery.
Pairing Sean Murphy with Scott Snyder is ingenious, and seeing these two work together again is pure comic book magic (they had previously teamed up for the American Vampire mini Survival Of The Fittest). The same kinetic fluidity that Murphy put on display in Punk Rock Jesus is here, but it’s his depiction of Quasimodo the Whale greeting Lee early on in the issue that really stands out. For an artist so well known as a master of action and pacing in the comics world, it’s refreshing to open up a full page and take in the breathtaking ocean floor scenery he creates here. There’s also a very cool shout out to PRJ for fans of Murphy’s excellent solo series from last year (which if you haven’t read it, you really, really should). The reveal at issue’s end of the creature in the tank would certainly not be as effective without Murphy drawing it, and it’s certainly one of the creepiest/most awesome things I’ve seen in comics all year.
The Wake was an easy sell for me: I love the ocean, I love sea monsters, and I love Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy. While I’m totally biased towards this book, I honestly believe that there’s something here that will interest any comic fan. There’s an intriguing mystery, and a definite sense of “we’re all in way over our heads” that can already be felt amongst our crew. If you weren’t excited for The Wake before, you should be, as all signs are pointing to yet another slam-dunk from Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy.
The day comic fans have longed feared is finally here: Geoff Johns has left Green Lantern. After delivering one of the greatest runs of all time and making Green Lantern a top tier DC hero, Johns has decided to step down from the title, leaving behind a NINE year run that made many believers in the power of will.
Wrapping up the “Wrath of the First Lantern” storyline that’s been at the forefront of all of the Green Lantern titles, Green Lantern #20 serves as a good finale for story arc, but it works much better as a grander conclusion to the stories Johns has been writing for almost a decade.
Unfortunately I haven’t been reading the other GL titles, so much of the finality of the “Wrath of the First Lantern” story here is lost on me. If you’re like me and only follow Green Lantern, the appearances of the Red Lanterns and GL Corps members John Stewart, Guy Gardner, and Kyle Raynor will be welcome surprises, but you won’t understand any of the references that the First Lantern makes to them. In fact, much of the First Lantern storyline is over and done with in a quick way. In fact, it’s over so quickly and so easily that I was a little annoyed with it. There are plenty of awesome moments here to be sure, including one spectacular moment with Sinestro, but I felt that the First Lantern was taken out too easily. For such a huge, almost god-like force, he sure was easy to get rid of.
Thankfully the issue’s pacing problems end when the curtain falls on the Lantern. With the big threat out of the way, Johns is finally able to cut loose and tie up threads we’ve been seeing unfold for years. Everyone here has their moment, even Sinestro, who for my money has the greatest and most heart-warming moment of the book (yes, you read that right). Those who believe Johns’ run has been primarily about Sinestro (myself included), will find their proof in this issue, as the noble villain has some truly unexpected moments.
The art duties are handled by Dough Moench, Ethan Van Sciver, and a host of other artists, and all bring their A game to this book. While Johns delivers some powerful character moments, it’s the artist who truly assist him with almost bringing tears to your eyes. There’s even a massive four page layout at the conclusion of the issue that’s just begging to be made into a poster.
Peppered through this issue are full page salutes and goodbyes to Johns from the likes of Richard Donner, Neil Gaiman, and a host of other comic creators and others associated with Green Lantern. When reading these, you’re struck by the impact Geoff Johns has had not only on Green Lantern, but on comics as well. Nine years ago when I found the first issue of Green Lantern at Newbury Comics I had no idea what to expect. I certainly didn’t think I was about to read one of the greatest superhero sagas of all time. Thanks to Johns, I was not only introduced to Hal Jordan and Sinestro, I was given excellent examples of why they have had such an impact on fans for years to come. Thank you, Mr. Johns, for opening my eyes to a brand new universe. You’ll be sorely missed.
Cyclops’ team of mutants are sent to limbo to battle the dread Dormammu in Uncanny X-Men #6. Brian Michael Bendis and artist Frazer Irving place the team in one of the weirdest situations I’ve ever seen them in, and while I enjoy seeing the X-Men in different scenarios, I’m still a little torn on my thoughts on this issue. Much of it is spent having the X-Men yell and threaten Dormammu to release them back to Earth, which of course goes over swimmingly. It of course ends with the characters doing battle with the demon’s forces, but when intercut with Maria Hill recruiting a mutant to spy on Cyclops, the plot of the issue starts to lose you. Just when you get into the groove of one aspect of the story, it changes locations and throws you off guard.
While transplanting the X-Men into a hell-like dimension causes some jarring shifts narratively, it really gives Fraser Irving a chance to shine. Irving’s art, which specializes in the weird, is perfect for the odd angles and dark colors of Limbo. While some of his facial features look a little strange at times (many characters have a perma-grimace on their face), I really enjoyed his Dormammu design. There’s not a whole lot of forward moment plot wise with this issue, but it’s still an enjoyable ride.
Oh, and Dazzler is back.
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch
Directed By: J.J. Abrams
(Relatively Spoiler Free)
Warning: I was always a Star Wars kid. I was aware of Star Trek growing up, but the concept didn’t really appeal to me until 2009, when the reboot shot into theaters. Fast paced with a great plot and cast, it was everything that I wanted from the Star Wars prequels but didn’t get. Once the credits rolled, I was so eager for another adventure that I went back and watched a handful of the films and a large chunk of the original series and Next Generation (thank you Netflix). But that still wasn’t enough. I was dying to see what else J.J. Abrams had planned for Kirk and his crew. After four long years, the wait is finally over.
Star Trek Into Darkness wastes no time getting back into the groove of its predecessor. From the opening moments we see the entire Enterprise crew on a mission to study a developing race on a jungle planet. Of course, things go awry when they interfere with the planet’s volcano, exposing their ship to the native inhabitants, who mistake the spacecraft for a god after witnessing it rise from the ocean. This break from the “prime directive” puts James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Quinto) into hot water with Starfleet yet again, demoting one and stationing the other on a separate vessel. However, after an attack from within from the mysterious John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), Kirk and Spock are placed back on board the Enterprise with one mission: find Harrison and blast him out of existence.
Yes, this mission goes against Starfleet protocols, and many of the crew have varying feelings about the mission. Simon Pegg’s Scotty has an excellent scene where he argues with his captain over the morals of their mission, and the always logical Spock is at odds with his best bro many times throughout the film. The overlying not so subtle message behind the film is “how far should one be willing to go for justice?”, and leads to some great moments in the film, of which there are plenty. The action scenes, while probably infuriating for Trek purists, are a blast, and easily upstage the ones we saw last time with Kirk and Co.
The cast is in top form here, even if some of them get the short end of the stick screen appearance wise. Sulu (John Cho) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) have maybe twenty minutes of screen time combined, and I really wanted more of Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), my favorite of the crew. Even though he only gets to spout off a few one liners, they’re still great and some of the best parts of the film. Uhura’s (Zoe Saldana) profile has risen since the past film, and she gets to kick some ass in the finale of the film too.
Our newcomers to the cast are Alice Eve as Carol Markus, Peter Weller as Admiral Marcus, and Benedict Cumberbatch as our mystery villain, John Harrison. Of the three, Cumberbatch is easily the stand out. His performance exceeded my expectations, which were already high. My hopes that the Sherlock star will gain a higher following after this film will most likely be realized, as I’m sure his agent is fielding calls for villainous roles to keep him busy for the next few years. Cumberbatch is calm, cool, and extremely menacing in a performance that will stay with you for quite awhile after the credits roll. No one can do righteous fury as well as he does.
Into Darkness does have a few problems, specifically when it comes to balancing the amount of characters it has. I mentioned it before, but there were some that get pushed aside for the sake of the story, including Alice Eve’s character. The conclusion to the film is a little rushed, but the moments leading up to it are fantastic. Abrams’ makes some nods to a very well-known installment in the franchise which is causing a lot of debate amongst viewers. I, for one, thought it was a cool acknowledgement of the past of the franchise that put an interesting twist on this new, alternate reality. Some things may play out similarly, out of sequence, or not at all.
Longtime Trek fans are pretty split on their opinions with this film (just like the previous one). Many feel that this doesn’t feel like the Star Trek they’ve followed for much of their lives. While I can certainly see where they’re coming from, I’ve loved this new take on the franchise, and it’s done the impossible: gotten me to care about Star Trek in all of its forms. My views on the film are coming from the place of a Trek newbie, one who has only a base understanding of the world and characters. While purists may scoff at Abrams turning the franchise into “just another Sci-Fi action flick”, I admire him for taking something that many had written off and turned in not one, but two stellar films.
Star Trek Into Darkness is bittersweet. J.J. Abrams has jumped ship to his preferred Star franchise,(the one ends with Wars), and the future of the franchise is up in the air. While I’m in the same position as I was four years ago, I’m now more cautious about the third installment.
But at least I know that Episode 7 is in good hands.
Verdict: 5 proton torpedoes out of 5
With only two issues to go, I can now say I have no idea how Age Of Ultron is going to end. So much is introduced in this issue that I’m worried that the finale of the new Marvel event will be rushed to fit in with whatever’s coming next after it. Giving us a grander look at a world without Hank Pym, Brian Michael Bendis and Brandon Peterson’s 8th issue provides a lot of cool moments and variations from our favorite Marvel heroes, but there’s a looming worry about how this all ties in (and how it will wrap up) that overshadows the story.
Sue Storm and Wolverine have been kidnapped by Tony Stark, the high command of this Marvel Universe. From his interrogation of Wolverine, we learn that without Hank Pym and his inventions the magic of the Marvel universe took over. After the “Asgardian/Latverian Wars” , Thor disappeared and the heroes of the Marvel Universe are in constant fear of an attack from Morgana Le Fey, the evil witch who consistently battles “our” Avengers. The Defenders, consisting of AoU versions of Cable, Wolverine, the Thing, and others, decide they’re sick of waiting and charge into the helicarrier holding Wolvie and Sue Storm, but after Storm escapes, the unthinkable happens: Le Fey arrives with her army, and begins laying waste to the heroes.
That’s really all that happens in this issue. While I was entertained by the opening issues of Age Of Ultron, the series is now starting to wear thin, and this installment feels like it should’ve been issue 5 instead of 8. Bendis plants a ton of cool information on this new reality within Tony Stark’s dialogue, but I wish we could’ve seen some of it(the “Asgard/Latveria War” sounds like it would be a fantastic mini). It seems like Bendis is on a mission to prove just how important Hank Pym is to the Marvel universe, and more power to him. But, that doesn’t change the fact that this series feels like it’s taken it’s sweet time to get here.
Brandon Peterson’s art is great in this issue, and it’s nice to see him take over the book solo. His line work is impressive, and the designs of the heroes are pretty cool. It’s just a shame that the rest of this series couldn’t be up to what I was hoping for. There’s two issues left, and we haven’t even seen Ultron proper in this series. I’m definitely sticking this one out til the end, but I’m very wary of what’s to come.
Luther Strode finally returns to kick more ass and take names in the penultimate issue of The Legend Of Luther Strode. Picking up from last issue, Luther is beaten at the hands of Binder, another older gent with similar powers to Luther, and Petra is at the mercy of Jack the Ripper. What follows is another action packed issue of one of the best Image titles on the stands today.
There’s not a whole lot of dialogue in this issue, but just like the previous one, the action moves much of the plot along. This is one fast paced, kinetic ride of a book. The issue zips along at such a quick pace that I was nearly out of breath from it by issue’s end. Writer Justin Jordan has definitely raised the stakes with this series, and it’s great to see something good come to Luther after so much death and destruction in his life.
But that’s not to say there ISN’T any “death and destruction” in this issue. In fact, death and destruction has never looked quite as awesome as the way artist Tradd Moore depicts it. I’ve already championed his art before, but I’ll gladly do it again here, as he keeps up the intensity of Jordan’s plot, and many times enhances it. There’s only one issue left, and I can’t wait to see the big showdown next month.
Bruce Wayne continues his battle with the five stages of grief in this month’s Batman & Robin, although since he’s joined by Red Hood, the name after the “&” is Jason Todd’s alter ego, not the previously deceased Damian Wayne. Much like last issue, Batman is looking for a way to resurrect his son, but unlike last issue, he’s not going through supernatural methods.
Starting with a return appearance from the New 52’s Carrie Kelly, Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s 20th issue of the title continues the strong characterization of Bruce going through another tragic loss, something that the other Bat-books have largely skipped over. Still obsessed with trying to bring back Damian, Bruce goes to the closest person to him that has been brought back from the dead: Jason Todd, aka the Red Hood, and more importantly, the second Robin (and the first one to die). Kelly factors only fleetingly in the beginning of the issue, and it seems like Tomasi is going to keep her around for a while, so if she does become the new Robin, it at least won’t be for quite some time.
After Kelly is ushered out of the picture, Jason visit Bruce in the Batcave. Still on watch from the Joker’s attack in the “Death Of The Family” story arc (this issue takes place before Red Hood And The Outlaws #19), Bruce tells Jason that he has one thing left to ask him before he leaves. Travelling to Africa, Bruce has tracked down a few of the assassins who attacked Damian in Batman, Inc. #1 when Talia but out a hit on him. With Jason in tow, the two lay waste to the assassins, with Batman’s attacks on them being exceptionally brutal. It’s not until after they deal with those criminals that we learn the real reason why Batman brought Red Hood with him: it’s near the location where Todd was murdered by the Joker. Bruce hopes that by bringing Jason to the spot that he died he’ll remember something about his resurrection, which doesn’t exactly go over well with Todd.
Tomasi’s handle on the Bruce’s despair continues to be the highlight of this series, and watching Bruce deal with yet another tragic loss, but with the the ability to do something about it this time, is fascinating. Batman’s ability to focus in on something is used almost like a weakness here, and his verbal sparring match (that turns into an actual sparring match) with Red Hood is fantastic, and really makes you feel for Jason Todd as a character. It’s as if even he is aware that his sole claim to fame is being the “Robin who died”. There’s no amount of praise that I haven’t already heaped onto Patrick Gleason, just know that this criminally underrated artist once again rules the page.
Batman & Robin may have one half of it’s title characters six feet under, but it’s still proving to be a fascinating series, and an interesting look into the way a character that was shaped by a tragedy handles a new one. The strongest Bat-title that isn’t written by the almighty Snyder, Batman & Robin has never been more accessible than right now. Each story is a one and done, but still a part of the over arching story of Bruce going though the stages of grief over his son. I may still hate the fact that Damian is gone, but at least I have this incredible storyline to work my way towards acceptance.
From the pages of Fatsquad comes the Red Claw! Created by NH based creators Rich Brunelle and Josh Belanger, the Red Claw is the latest animal-based vigilante to hit the streets, and the mystery around his identity continues to bother Rich, Al, Josh, Body Pillow, and the rest of the Fatsquad crew. This issue finds the group taking it to the streets to get to the bottom of this mysterious midnight predator with hilarious results. There’s plenty to like in this comic, especially if you’re a fan of other humorous takes on super heroes like The Tick. Red Claw features a ton of hilarious gags and dialogue, and there’s many times while reading it that I felt like I was within the comic hanging out with them (and some people may even notice that I AM in the book for a panel).
It’s not all fun and games though, as Brunelle and Belanger give us more action than in the previous two issues. The local police department, tired of the Red Claw’s antics, assemble a hit squad to take him down. When Claw falls into one of their traps, it leads to a fantastic action sequence where Red Claw single handedly takes out the entire police crew going after him, which then leads to the reveal of the big bad who’s been watching from the shadows since the series started.
Red Claw has been released every year around Free Comic Book Day, and back issues can be found on the Fatsquad website. I highly recommend clicking the link and giving them your hard earned cash. Not only are Rich and Josh stand up guys, but they make awesome books as well. While it’s tough to wait for new issues (especially when they end them with cliffhangers like this one), the end product is well worth it.
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Sir Ben Kingsley, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce
Directed by: Shane Black
Any film being released after The Avengerswas going to face an uphill battle. Luckily for us, Tony Stark has never been one to worry about following anyone’s act. Finally facing off with his main villain The Mandarin, Iron Man 3 is not only the first film after Earth’s Mightiest Heroes took over the box office, but also the start of Marvel Studio’s “phase two” films. So, as the start of the next block of films that will include Captain America: The Winter Solider, Thor: The Dark World, and Guardians Of The Galaxy, does Iron Man 3 start strong out of the gate, or are we in for a rocky road to Avengers 2?
Well, I can say this: it’s great, even with the weird plot twist that has already divided Iron Man fans right down the middle.
Taking place after the events of The Avengers, Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) latest adventure finds him still coming to terms from the events of the New York City attack that brought the team together. He can’t sleep; instead doing everything he can to keep himself busy. When he starts having panic attacks, his closest allies, including now girlfriend Pepper Pots (Gwyneth Paltrow) and James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), start to take notice of his moods and worry about him. Not only that, but he also has to deal with Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) moving in on Stark Industries with his controversial Extremis project, a biological computer component that amps up disabled and injured citizens, but with a side effect that causes them to become insanely powerful cyborg hybrids. But, when a terrorist named The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) starts attacking points in the United States, Tony has to take notice, especially when Happy Hogan (Jon Farvreau) is caught in the blast.
Iron Man 3 crams a lot of plot into its reels, and at two and a half hours it definitely strains, especially in the middle act of the film. However, there’s more action in this film than in the previous two solo Stark adventures. There’s plenty of things to keep viewers interested, but there’s that twist I mentioned that I have…. mixed feelings about.
It’s hard to explain it here, especially with this being relatively spoiler free, but its a divisive twist that I’m sure you’ve probably heard some sort of news about it. Even if you don’t know the specifics of it, you probably know who or what it revolves around. I myself found it to be pretty disappointing at first, but then pretty hilarious as it went on. I should’ve probably prefaced this with the fact that I’m a casual Iron Man fan and only really started regularly reading him after the first movie, so my opinion on this particular twist will most definitely differ from a die hard shell head fan.
Outside of the twist, I found the rest of the film to be very enjoyable. Director Shane Black, who previously helmed Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, does an excellent job balancing the humor and action one expects from an Iron Man film, though there are times where it seems like the film goes too far into the broad comedy area.
However, all things are washed away in the action packed finale, which more than makes up for the lack of concluding action in the previous Iron Man films. I myself found this third installment of the Tony Stark saga to be better than Iron Man 2, but not as good as the first time we met Tony Stark. Still, at this point, if you’ve seen everything other Marvel Studio film, you’re going to see this one too. As long as you’re not too beholden to some aspects of the Iron Man character, you’ll have a good time.
Four and half repulsor blasts out of Five
It seems like it should be a well-known fact at this point, but there’s an after credits stinger that I found to be a lot of fun. So, even if you’re ready to bolt or the large soda you chugged halfway through the movie is hitting you, make sure you stick it out. It’s well worth it.
The battle Spidey fans have been waiting for finally happens this issue, as Peter Parker and Otto Octavius battle for the body of Spider-Man! Dan Slott and Ryan Stegman bring the pain both physically and emotionally for the two, and the finale will definitely be a talking point for fans of the series (which I’ll keep SPOILER FREE for all of you).
Dan Slott’s script is on fire here, moving past a simple “you stole my body” approach, as both Peter and Otto are presented in equally favorable and unfavorable lights. Of course, you naturally side with Peter, but Octavius brings up a very good point towards the end of the issue that just barely makes you come around to his side, if only for a few moments. I can’t believe I actually agreed with Ock, even for those few seconds.
Ryan Stegman returns to Superior this issue, and he’s just as fantastic as he was when the series started. The “dreamscape” of Peter’s mind is rendered beautifully, as are the members of Spidey’s long history who pop in and out. There’s easily 5 pages in this book that I would kill to have the original art of, and I hope that Stegman stays on the book for a little while longer than the last time he drew OckSpidey.
Superior Spider-Man will make some people mad. It lives up to the hype of being a pretty big game changer, and does make you reconsider how long this whole “Doc Ock in the body of Spider-Man” plot will last. I for one am still enjoying the ride Slott is taking us on, and with the knowledge that Amazing Spider-Man 2 is currently filming, Peter Parker’s return is inevitable.
Aquaman’s 19th issue isn’t quite as up to par as the previous 18, but it’s a well-deserved breather to set up some things to come. Still dealing with the fallout of the “Throne Of Atlantis” crossover, Arthur Curry is settling into his new status as the King Of Atlantis and ruling over a kingdom that doesn’t trust anything he says. Geoff Johns takes the issue to flesh out some of the new characters we were introduced to during “Throne” and the previous issue, and introduces us to a really cool supporting player who’s bound to play a bigger role down the line.
Paul Pelletier’s art is fantastic, and keeping in line with the recently departed Ivan Reis. The opening pages of Aquaman summoning an ancient Chthulu-like sea monster were stunning, and sells home the point even more of how underrated Aquaman is. At this point you’re either on the Aquaman train or you’re not, and if you’re one of the latter, you’re really missing out.