Sunday, October 19, 2014

Uncanny X-Men #27

   I've never been a big fan of all-powerful characters - including the Beyonder and Q (to name the two that immediately come to mind).

   (Do I need to mention that Beyonder was the big bad in the original Secret Wars maxi-series, and Q was practically a regular on Star Trek: The Next Generation?)

   The problem with characters who are too powerful is: you can only stop them by tricking them or reasoning with them. They can only stop themselves.

   So I'm not entirely thrilled to see just such a character introduced in Uncanny X-Men. Matthew Malloy is a mutant whose incredible powers were suppressed by Charles Xavier - and now, his powers running wild, he seems to be a threat to everyone - human and mutant alike.

   The writing by Brian Michael Bendis is sharp as always, and the art by Chris Bachalo is excellent - his storytelling is clear and his layouts are dynamic.

   So basically I'm on the fence here - the story is well executed and has some interesting insights for Cyclops and his recent possession by the Phoenix Force - but I still don't like all-powerful characters.

   We'll see if the ending of this story changes my mind.

Grade: B+

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

New Avengers #25

   As much as I've been enjoying both the New Avengers and the Avengers under writer Jonathan Hickman, it's getting more and more difficult to recommend the series.

   That's because the story has become so complex, so dark that no casual reader could possibly follow along (despite the sharp recap page that begins each issue).

   This issue picks up seven months in the future, as the Illuminati (including Mr. Fantastic, the Beast, the Hulk and Captain Britain) are on the run from the combined forces of the Avengers and SHIELD.

   Just why this is, and what has happened to cause old friends (and more than friends) to become such bitter enemies isn't clear. But it appears that some members of the team have fallen during the hunt (perhaps permanently).

   It's a vast tapestry being rolled out here, detailed and challenging to follow. Not at all designed for new readers - but I suspect long-time fans, and those who have been following along since Hickman began his run will love it.

   I am!

Grade: A-

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Justice League #35

   Of the few "New 52" titles I still buy, the one I thought would hold up best is Justice League - but it's been running flat since the beginning of the Forever Evil event.

   That's because it's moved away from its most basic concept - to be a comic about a team made up of the company's greatest heroes.

   Recent issues have been more about Lex Luthor, who has contrived to gain membership to the League. That story continues here, as the team contrives to uncover information about Lex in hopes of coming up with an excuse to arrest him.

   For some reason this requires the entire team to stand around in disguise, not doing much of anything.

   The ending finally kicks off the next story arc, The Amazo Virus (though it's all still a mystery at this point).

   The good news is: the art is terrific, as Ivan Reis and Doug Mahnke team up to provide the pencils, with a small army of inkers covering it; and the whole team is here (almost), with the newly reformed Power Ring taking the place of the long-absent Green (Hal Jordan) Lantern.

   Hopefully this is the storyline that gets the series back on track. I want to like this series, but they have to meet me halfway and actually include the Justice League in each issue.

Grade: B

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Death of Wolverine #4 (of 4)

   Alas, poor Wolverine.

   Cut down at the height of his popularity, his death leaves a gaping hole in a number of X-Men, Avenger and (of course) Wolverine comics that cannot be replaced. Not to mention all those movies - poor Hugh Jackman!

   Our sorrow will continue... at least until his inevitable resurrection (I give it four months).

   This issue wraps up the mini-series that has combined excellent art and a solid story to bring us to the point promised in the title.

   But it isn't really what I would classify as a "successful" heroic death.

   The real trick to a hero's death is that he or she must fall while giving their life to save others. Wolverine's death here almost manages that - but actually feels more like an accident on his part.

   But maybe I'm being too picky - the story brings Logan full circle and gives what seems to be a definitive end to his existence, with a nice sentimental splash near the end.

   Solid work by the creative team (and apologies for my cynical tone here - I'm just really jaded over the death of the hero bit. Perhaps I'm the only one).

Grade: A-

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Classics - Warlock #11

   It's difficult to explain what a revelation Jim Starlin's Adam Warlock comic was.

   It was a cosmic, trippy story unlike anything seen before in mainstream comics.

   Warlock's history goes back to an issue of Fantastic Four in the 1960s, as an artificial human known only as Him was created by a secret cabal of scientists.

   After a few crossover appearances, he was given his own comic, sent to an alternate Earth on the opposite side of the sun, and had several adventures. Then his comic was canceled.

   But in 1975, he returned to action under the guidance of writer and artist Jim Starlin. Now a galactic adventurer, he was given an Elric-inspired burden in the form of the Soul Gem, a mysterious gem that captured the soul of his opponents.

   As he came into conflict with the powerful and mysterious Magus, Warlock also picked up some unexpected allies, including the lethal Gamora, the degenerate Pip the Troll and the Mad Titan Thanos.

   After numerous adventures, which examined such cosmic ideas as the benefits of madness, the dubious concept of justice and the true nature of reality, the story wrapped up (sorta kinda) in this issue, as the final confrontation with the Magus results in a cosmic journey for Adam - and as promised on the cover, the death of Warlock!

   Even more disturbing, the series only lasted four more issues, and readers had to wait two more years to see the storyline resolved in a two-part story crossing between a Marvel Two-in-One Annual and an Avengers Annual.

   And let me tell you... having lived through it, those were two long, agonizing years!

   By breaking new ground and taking comics even further into the territory of mind-bending cosmic concepts, Starlin opened new frontiers for comics and set a standard that has been rarely (if ever) equalled.

   (By the way, did everyone caught that glimpse of Warlock in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie? Since every other comic character is getting a movie, let's hope there's room for Starlin's Warlock one of these days. Might be more than two years, though.)

Grade: A+

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New Comics Day

   Here's what I picked up at the comics shop today:

- Avengers World #14Lo, an ending!

- Daredevil #9 - Out of control.

- Death of Wolverine #4 - He's dead, Jim.

- Fantastic Four #11 - Fun in prison.

- Justice League #35Matching wits with Luthor.

New Avengers #25Heroes on the run.

- Uncanny X-Men #27 - Facing an unbeatable foe.   

   And that's it - a light week for me! 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Winter World #3

   If you're looking for big-screen, high-octane action, you won't find a comic that captures that better than Winter World.

   The series first appeared in the 1980s in a mini-series, and has been off the grid ever since. Thankfully, IDW has revived it, bringing back original writer and creator Chuck Dixon and teaming him with Butch Guice, who was born to illustrate this kind of tale.

   The story focuses on three characters - a man named Scully, a young woman he's protecting named Wynn and the fierce Rah-Rah (that's her on the cover).

   They live in a world where the weather seems to have entered a new Ice Age, and survival is a constant struggle. But their troubles may be over as they discover a coastal village that offers a break from the ice and snow - but not all is as it seems.

   As always, Dixon writes a fast-moving story loaded with great characters and lots of tension. You'll also find some humorous jabs at the whole idea of climate change - and you can understand why the survivors on Winter World might take a different view of such things.

   I can't rave enough about Guice's art, which often veers into photo-realism, with great character designs and stunning environments - how does he do it?

   So, a terrific action series that you should be buying. What are you waiting for?

Grade: A

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #1

   One of the things we love about Doctor Who is the fact that each actor who tackles the role brings a different take to the character.

   Titan Comics now holds the franchise, and they're taking advantage of the strengths of the actors by creating separate series based on each one.

   One of the first is the Matt Smith version of The Doctor - the 11th Doctor, to be exact. (Shouldn't he be the 12th? Are they still not counting the War Doctor? Why not?)

   In keeping for Smith's version of The Doctor as a fun-loving, happy-go-lucky adventurer, this "done-in-one" story introduces a new friend and a lighthearted mission as he tries to track down a runaway (and mischievous) alien dog.

   But it's also an interesting story about a woman in need of help - and how The Doctor sweeps her into his adventure.

   It's a fun story, with the proper "voice" for our favorite Time Lord courtesy of writers Al Ewing and Rob Williams, and I really enjoyed the art by Simon Fraser, which manages a nice balance between grim reality and a lighthearted adventure.

   We're sad that Smith has moved on, but happily, through this series, his adventures will continue on!

Grade: A-

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