Monday, 22 June 2015

I'm a Peter-Parker fan, and I'm not concerned with the Miles book.

Yeah, okay.
So, the internet exploded today.

The New York Times, in an exclusive interview, told us that a new book, called only Spider-Man will be released, starring not Peter Parker, but Miles Morales,  the Spider-Man who, well, looks like this under the mask:

Oh... my... gravy...
Yep, Miles is a major departure from the old Spidey, and it's a heresy. I mean, HE'S GOT REALLY SHORT HAIR! HERESY! THE SPIDER-MAN I GREW UP WITH A WAVY AND LUCIOUS HAIR, MARVEL! YOU HEAR ME?! WAVY AND LUCIOUS!

Wait, isn't that what we're complaining about?

It's not?

Well, anyway, people seem to be treating this as though Miles is replacing Peter in the Marvel Universe. Peter, according to sites like The Outhousers, are talking as though Peter is Spider-Man no more. Now I'm a fan of Peter; Miles is nice and all, but he does nothing for me. Yet, upon hearing this news, I'm not at all worried about Peter. Why, you ask?

Because Peter will absolutely still be Spider-Man.

I know this because of this teaser Marvel released about a month ago:

Notice the complete lack of no Peter-Parker-Spiderman..
Now, I may be misinterpreting, but that definitely looks like Peter Parker in a Spidey costume in the top left. He's posed like Spidey in action. He's airborne. He's still doing whatever a spider can. This isn't a retired Peter; it's the Amazing Spider-Man in all his glory.

My theory? We'll see an Amazing Spider-Man book announced to continue (hopefully under a new writer, as I'm pretty sure Dan Slott has run his course) that will run ALONGSIDE Spider-Man. DC has been doing a similar thing for a few years, now. There have been four Green Lanterns working simultaneously, and I believe there was a point where both Wally West and Barry Allen held the mantle of The Flash at the same time. There's no reason the same can't happen with Spider-Man.

But that doesn't stir controversy; which we all know is what comics media sites are more interested in, so here I am, doing silly things like drawing reasonable conclusions based on evidence.

*sigh*

Friday, 19 June 2015

Green Arrow Vol. 5: The Outsiders War (The New 52) Review

Green Arrow Vol. 5: The Outsiders War
In case you weren't sure, the colour
green is a big deal here.

Writer: Jeff Lemire

Artist: Andrea Sorrentio

Collects: Green Arrow #25-31

Background Information:

So, Oliver Queen has been through a rough patch, hasn't he? Turns out that the island that he never stops talking about was the home to the mystic Green Arrow (That's a literal arrow, by the way); the totem weapon of the Arrow Clan. The Arrow Clan is one of the many clans of The Outsiders; a group of weapon-obsessed clans who are set to take over the world if Oliver doesn't stop them.

Oh, Oliver also has a step sister, Shado's daughter Emiko, who is being raised by last volume's big bad, Komodo.

Review:

With the huge success of Arrow, it would have been tempting for Jeff Lemire' Green Arrow to go the same route as it's TV counterpart; make Count Vertigo a drug dealer, have Ollie fight Deathstroke and make Deadshot a major part of the plot. Thankfully, Lemire decided to go the opposite direction and make Green Arrow one of the most interesting DC titles out there, The Outsiders War continues this tradition, delivering a story that is action-heavy and conspiracy-driven.

... Apparently, so are circles.
Now Ollie and pseudo-step-mother Shado (yep, not love interest; take that, CW), have gone back to plot device island where he was stranded for years in search of the famous Green Arrow (like I said before, that's an actual arrow)- the totem weapon of the Arrow Clan. In the meantime, the Outsiders are getting ready to take over the world.
the

Okay, so the real hero of this book isn't Oliver Queen- it's the art by Andrea Sorrentino. Her page designs are nothing short of amazing. In some places it takes less time for me to write this review than it does to fully take in a page-spread. Usually, such busy panels would be a minus, but here, Sorrentino's style takes you by the throat and drags you in. You want to see everything because it all grabs your attention.

The story is hardly a afterthought, the whole thing is paced exceptionally well, and Lemire peppers the whole thing with surprises. I won't spoil them, but Lemire shows here that he's a master of misdirection. I can't say that I'm a fan of all of them, but I appreciated the effort and admittedly did not see the ones I didn't like coming at all.

Action here is also incredible. Lemire has a real flair for making villains threatening; Komodo, last volume's bad dude, look more intimidating than ever minus one eye, and the Shield Clan may just be the most oogah-boogah crazy group of killers in the Outsiders- which I also never expected.

See? Green!
The volume also gets points for bringing Katana into the Green Arrow lore. Lemire cast her as the leader of the Sword Clan, with the Soultaker sword as the Clan's totem weapon. It works; at no point did I feel that it was a stretch for it to happen- something helped, I think, by the fact that Katana is the only Sword-Clanner shown in the volume.

The only part of the story I really wasn't fond of was the Zero Year crossover. This certainly isn't a bad issue; the action here is just as good, and Ollie battling Killer Moth actually makes for a fun story. But it gets so bogged down in John Diggle's backstory that I lost interest halfway through. It's no exaggeration to say that this overdrawn exposition ruined the issue for me.

Thankfully, anything aside from that issue is brilliant and as a whole, The Outsiders War gets a four out of five oogah-boogah shields.

****

+ Art is amazing.
+ Lemire writes near-perfect action.
+ Katana's addition feels natural.
- The Zero Year crossover.

Alternate Option: Green Arrow: The Kill Machine

If you're going to read The Outsiders War, you need to read this one.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Vol.1 (Pre-52) Review

T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents Vol. 1 (Pre-52)
"Let's put thunder in the background. That
way everyone will know they're
T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents!"
"That's Lightning, actually..."

Writer: Nick Spencer

Artist: Cafu Bit

Collects: T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #1-10.

Background Information:

T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents has been the IP version of a football over the last fifty years. Beginning as a property of Tower Comics in the 1960s, the team has switched hands to Deluxe Comics and JC Comics. DC picked it up in 2011 and now it's in the hands of IDW.

This is the DC run on the series.

Review:

Ever thought to yourself; man, the sixties were awesome!

I mean, this is the era that had The Beatles, The Beach Boys (growing up, The Beach Boys were the only band us kids agreed on with our parents), and many of the greatest comic icons appeared in that era as well (most notably, the X-Men).

In many ways, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents feels like a throwback to the great stories of the era; chock full of spy drama, and costume designs that really feel like the silver age of comics. That's reason enough to pick up the book, but nice artwork, along with an admirable first story arc make the buy well worth it.

So, the Agents are a group of superheroes who work for an agency called T.H.U.N.D.E.R. (The
"Well, let's call the L.I.G.H.T.N.I.N.G. Agents!"
"We already have someone called Lightning... on the team..."
Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves) in their fight against Spider (Wikipedia says that's an acronym, but it's never mentioned in the book. These heroes get powers, which is cool.

Those powers eventually kill them.

Which is not so cool.

In fact, a few of the old heroes have already died, leaving T.H.U.N.D.E.R. "Salesmen" (people who try to convince others to become agents), Colleen and Toby, to search for new recruits to help save Raven; an Agent who has been kidnapped by Spider.

I haven't spoken much about the Agents themselves, and with good reason; this story is really about Toby and Colleen. In a superhero book, that would seem like a detractor, but the chemistry between the two characters is brilliant. It's hardly romantic- that would actually spoil it- more like annoying younger brother VS calm, irritated sister. The whole book revolves around their journey to find people who would be willing to die for a short life of power and glory, and while you don't see them talk about it much, there's a real sense that this whole thing is unsettling for them.

Even though I haven't spoken much about the Agents, there's a team here that I really want to see more of. Lightning is an African ex-sprinter, who has speed powers that have the side effect of making him see his death come closer and closer as he runs. Dynamo is a drunk who has the power of strength and invulnerability. NoMan clones himself repeatedly and can turn invisible; but what really makes him interesting is that cloning himself makes him lose all that made him human. Then there's Menthor; who sounds like he should be giving you fresh breath, but actually has mind powers. I won't go into who he is beyond the mask, because that's too good a twist. I really want to see more of these characters; they don't get much of a spotlight here, and I think there's some excellent stuff to work with.

"Okay, do you have a problem with this
page?"
"No, not really."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure."
"Because...
"JUST PRINT THE PAGE!"
These are all great things; which makes it so weird that the plot itself feels... lacking. The book starts off with a brilliantly placed "heist" story, but then loses all moment in the latter issues. I really lost interest in a story arc about Colleen's mother; it has so little to do with the agents and Toby's absence really hurt it.

Cafu Bit's artwork, though, is excellent. I miss DC books that looked diverse and this volume definitely has that. The sixties vibe drips off the pages thanks to classic-looking costumes and designs. That's something I didn't expect to say; because the art isn't exactly four-colour, but the book still looks like it might as well be Starsky and Hutch for the superhero genre. It's engaging and I love it.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents is no longer in print, but if you look hard enough, you may find the trade lying around. It gets a four out of five Menthors for fresh breath.

****

+ Colleen and Toby's chemistry.
+ Interesting team of heroes.
+ Nice vibe to artwork.
- Second half of the book fails to hold interest.

Alternate Option: Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol

It's the only other book I can think of that would maintain that sixties vibe.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Fantastic Four Vol.2: Road Trip (Marvel NOW!) Review

Fantastic Four Vol. 2: Road Trip (Marvel NOW)

Another night in (insert dodgy local suburb
here).
Writer: Matt Fraction

Artists: Mark Bagley and Andre Araujo

Collects: Fantastic Four #4-8 and #5AU

Background Information:

In the previous volume, Fantastic Four father figure and resident genius Reed Richards (also known as Mr Fantastic) discovered that whatever was giving him, The Invisible Woman (Sue Richards) The Thing (Ben Grimm) and The Human Torch (Johnny Storm) superpowers was also killing them. Determined to beat it, he took the entire family on a trip through space and time to find the cure to their predicament.

He just told everyone it was a vacation.

Which is not going to bite him on the backside at all.

Review:

A labour of love... are words that nobody would use to describe Road Trip.

Not to say it's a bad series, but it's clear that Matt Fraction has been having more fun writing books like Hawkeye than he has with Fantastic Four.

In what I guess must be typical Fraction fashion (anyone want to clarify for me) the issues in Road
Trip are only vaguely connected. One issue is about a planet whose myths revolve around the Four, another sees the family witnessing the death of Ceaser. Another still sees Ben becoming human for a day. When Fraction did this in Hawkeye, it was charming. I don't know exactly why it's less so here, but this time it feels like pointless padding.
Kids,  today we're learning
What Fraction gets right, though, is characterisation. The Four feel exactly like a comic book family should; true-to-life interactions, kids that somehow manage to sound like kids while discussing complex comic-science, and two uncles that are uncles in every sense of the word are what makes Road Trip shine.

Another thing to love about this book is that it's only technically connected to the events of the greater Marvel universe. We spend most of the book in space and at no point do we have to deal with the Nova corps, the Guardians of the Galaxy, or the fact that Iron Man is in space. At times, the Marvel universe can feel too connected, and it's nice to get some relief from it.
Just sayin'; this was a good issue. I liked this issue.

Unfortunately, it doesn't feel like enough to make up for the fact that  Road Trip is an entire volume of filler. Entertaining filler is still filler and by the end, I was left wondering why I was even reading the collection.

The end of Road Trip suggests that there is something truly interesting in the next volume, but for now, this book gets three out of five filler issues.

***

+ Nails family dynamics.
+ Little mention of the wider Marvel universe.
- An entire volume of filler.

Alternate Option: Fantastic For: New Departure, New Arrivals.

Start at the renumbered beginning.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Animal Man Vol.1: The Hunt (The New 52) Review

Animal Man Vol. 1: The Hunt (The New 52)
I swear, he actually has a shirt.

Writer: Jeff Lemire

Artist: Travel Foreman

Collects: Animal Man #1-6

Background Infromation:

Buddy Barker can take on the powers/abilities of various animals. He does so through the morphogenic field; something he calls "the life web", which connects him to all animal life. Before the New 52, Buddy was under the impression that he got this power from aliens.

If you only know Animal Man from this...


...then you don't know Animal Man.

Review:
Only bad books get cancelled... is one of the least accurate statements I have ever heard. Sure, if a book isn't selling, publishers have the right to cancel, but sometimes that means getting rid of really, really good books in the process, and Animal Man, if The Hunt is anything to go by, is one of those really good books.
See? There's a shirt!
So, wierd things have been happening to Buddy Barker. His eyes are beeding, he has grusome dreams and... let's see... what else is there... oh yeah; his daughter, Maxine, finds herself able to summon the skeletons of dead animals.

See, even though Buddy thinks he got his powers from aliens, he actually got them from a force called The Red, the force connected with animal life who disguised themselves as aliens. Maxine is the Avatar of The Red and Buddy is tasked with protecting her from the forces of The Rot, who emobody death and decay. This evil force have sent three hunters to kill Maxine, though, Buddy has to work fast to keep Maxine safe.
Okay, excluding Justice League Dark, I have a soft spot for DC's horror line. Scott Snyder's Swamp Thing was just brilliant and honestly, so is this. The real hero of the volume is Jeff Lemire's ability to build up tension. We start with a first volume, that, I'll admit, feels pretty dry, but by the end, Lemire has raised the stakes.

And then he brings on the scary; monsters hiding in plain site, dialogue that sends chills down your spine and causes you to jump at the slightest noise. I can't recall the last time I found a comic this terrifying, but this one definitely takes the cake.

Of course, horror doesn't actually work if you don't care about the characters. A monster killing an empty shell, no matter how gory, doesn't terrify you the same way that almost capturing a character you care for does. Lemire's delivered in this area too; giving real life to Buddy's family. That's right New 52 haters; DC actually allowed a character to not only be married, but to have two- yes, two- kids. And what a family it is; each member has their own real voice. They aren't just there to be "the family member". Buddy's wife, Ellen, is a powerful figure in and of herself. Maxine has just the right amount of innocence, and Buddy's son, Cliff, has all of the over-the-top enthusiasm you would expect from a kid whose dad is a superhero. It's a great cast that serves the horror story perfectly.
See? Another shirt! This book has shirts!
The real fine point about this volume, though, is the art. Travel Foreman draws some amazing character designs, cheif among which are The Rot's Hunters. I imagine that under any other artist, these designs would have looked silly. I'm ready to admit that there is a fine line between silly and terrifying, but it's safe to say that Foreman gives us plenty of the latter. All of it's helped with these washed-out colours that more often than not betray the darkness and become blissfully unnerving.

I plain cannot fault The Hunt it gets a perfect five out of five dogs left on the street.

*****

+ Scary as hell (I mean that in the most literal sense).

+ Family dynamics that make us care.

+ Grotesque character designs.

Alternate Option: Swamp Thing: Raise Them Bones

Another brilliant horror title that ties into Animal Man.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Daredevil Volume 1

Daredevil Volume 1
I dunno. with that stick in front of his eyes,
he won't be able to... oh, wait...

Writer: Mark Waid

Artists: Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin

Collects: Daredevil #1-6

Background Information:

Daredevil.

Now there's a character who hasn't had much luck on screen, amiright?

Huh?

What's Netflix?

(Conducts ten minutes research on the internet.)

Ooooh.

So, Daredevil; he's a guy who blinded when doused with chemicals. Because this is the superhero genre, those chemicals gave him radar-like abilities that not only replaced his sight, but enhanced every other form of perception he has. Naturally, that makes him a crime fighter.

Review:

Honestly, you've now seen the best-looking page in the
book.
If you've been watching the Netflix daredevil, chances are that you're expecting Daredevil Volume 1 to be a dark and gritty gorefest complete with beheadings, blood splatter and skulls bashed in with bowling balls.

If so, you're in for a shock.

It's a good shock, though; and truth be told, I'll take Waid's Daredevil over Netflix's stab-your-eyes-out world any day of the week. Waid's world (PARTY TIME! EXCELLENT!) is light, fun and oddly smart. If there was ever an argument against dark and gritty comics, this is it.

So before this volume, mild-mannered lawyer Matt Murdock was outed as Daredevil. This causes problems for Matt and his partner Foggy Nelson- he can't get halfway through a case without his opponents making the trial entirely about Daredevil. To complicate matters, Matt's client, a Muslim shop owner, has had some very unique circumstances that affect the trial. It's up to Daredevil to investigate.

On Netflix, Daredevil's adventures often start with a murder, or something equally dark. In Waid's run, adventures begin relatively small: a police brutality claim, an unfair dismissal from work. This gives Waid plenty to build up from and next thing you know you're dealing with beings made of sound, secret organisations and men who want to fight the Hulk.

In Waid's world (PARTY TIME! EXCELLENT!) anything goes. We hear a lot of negative talk about writers who try to hard to be dark and gritty, but it can often be irritating ehen writers overdo the "light and funny" angle as well. Waid somehow succeeds at doing neither. He's concerned more with writing a good character than establishing a "tone" and for the most part, he does it brilliantly.

Stripey stripey stripey...
The only real failing in Waid's work comes at the end of the two story arcs. The tension seems to disappear just before the climax. It can be pretty jarring and drains your ability to be truly impressed.

That almost doesn't matter when the art is this good.  Both Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin create bright, engagin art. The best part, though, happens early in the book, when we get a look at the world through Daredevils eyes. It's then that we get these outlines of chracters crossed with horizontal lines that are fun to look at. This concept goes into full-awesome when the radar sense is disrupted, though, and these solid shapes become mold or when villains are disrupting sound, causing them too look more grotesque to Murdock than they ever could to the rest of us/

Waid's Daredevil is a fun ride. It gets four out of five Waid's worlds (PARTY... aw, forget it).

****

+ Anything goes.
+ Neither too dark or too light.

+ Radar sense portrayed perfectly.
- Tension drops too early.

Alternate Option: Daredevil: Season One

The only other Daredevil volume that I've read, but not awful.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Green Arrow Vol. 4: Kill Machine (The New 52) Review

Green Arrow Vol. 4: The Kill Machine

Fire? What Fire?
Writer: Jeff Lemire.

Artist: Andrea Sorrentino and Marcelo Maiolo

Collects: Green Arrow #17-24 and #23.1

Background Information:

When DC rebooted its entire line in 2011, Green Arrow, written by Dan Jurgens, was fairly ordinary. It wasn't awful, but wasn't going to carry character to greatness. DC didn't like that, so they gave the line to Ann Nocenti.

And it got worse. So bad that none would have been surprised if it was cancelled. The series needed a shot in the arm, and it needed it badly. Who could possibly do that, though?

Review:

It turns out that DC got just the right people on the job. The new team not only revived the series, but gave it extra depth, and a greater expanded mythos that is engaging and entertainnig as anything.

Who is this creative team? Well, the writer is Jeff Lemire, who worked on books like the New 52 Animal Man; a run that completely redifined the character and recieved critical praise the whole way through. He's a writer who knows how to change title characters in compelling ways, and add lore to their stories that turns the status quo on its head while remaining true to the history of the character.
How to escape a boring conversation: Method
One.

In The Kill Machine, Lemire reinvents Green Arrow by adding an extra layer to his origin story. The Kill Machine  starts with Green Arrow/Oliver Queen mad as hell that he has lost him company, Q-Tech to another firm. While he's growling at Emerson, the man running the whole joint, he is attacked and Emerson is killed. After fighting the killer, an archer named Komodo, he saved by eyeless dude, Magus. Magus reveals something about Oliver's past that he never thought possible: that he was never meant to leave the island.

What follows is a fact-finding mission that sees Oliver go across America, then across the world. Why wasn't Oliver meant to leave and how does Komodo factor into this? Looking at individual events, this story is pretty unremarkable. What is does really, really well, however, is drag you into this world of secret societies, politial intrigue and mysticism. And does it ever suck you in?! You find yourself wanting to know more about this world, and learn every secret it's holding.

Lemire also gives us a new status quo. By the end of the first issue, all but one of Lemire's old supporting cast is dead, and the replacements? Well, we have Henry Fyff, who is one of Oliver's new "build stuff and give info" team along with still-surviving Naomi. Even more surprising, though, is the appearance of John Diggle; Diggle was a character introduced in the Arrow TV show and ended up being well-loved. This is hardly the first time a character from another medium has found their way into comics (see Harley Quinn, Jimmy Olsen and nearly every Transformer ever), but it's nice to see a great character get recognised. I can only hope, though, that Green Arrow doesn't become an alternate season of Arrow, though; I like it when TV and comics properties feel like their own thing.

How it feels to read this book.
As good as the new set-up is, though, what really holds this book up is the art by Sorentino. She has this ability to convey speed and accuracy neccessary to Green Arrow's action with aplomb. Every arrow strike gets its own sub-panel that's mono-coloured to stand out, every action feels quick and punchy. Add that to some truly surreal moments drawn in a way that messes with your head like nothing else. Colours by Maiolo only serve to emphasise the great art here, making this without a doubt the best-looking New 52 book on the shelves.

If there's one thing I can fault The Kill Machine with, it's Lemire's treatment of Count Vertigo. The Count's a central villain in the Green Arrow mythos and deserves to be treated well. Lemire makes an honest effort to reinvent the character, but the reinvention falls short, resulting in the least entertaining issues in the book.

But that's a small complaint for The Kill Machine, which gets a highly deserving four and a half out of five shots in the arm.

**** 1/2

+ Lemire adds excellent substance to the mythos.
+ New status quo is very interesting.
+ Best New 52 art- bar none.
- Count Vertigo doesn't make the book great.

Alternate Option: Green Arrow: The Midas Touch

An inferior book, really, but you could do worse for the New 52's Green Arrow.