Monday, 29 December 2014

All-New X-Men Vol.2: Here to Stay (Marvel NOW!) Review

All-New X-Men Vol.2: Here to Stay (Marvel NOW!)

Guys, it's getting kinda' squashy in this
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artists: David Marquez and Stuart Immonen

Collects: All-New X-Men #6-10

Background Information:

In Avengers VS X-Men (which, if there was honesty in advertising, would be called Stop Liking X-Men and Like The Avengers Instead) X-Men leader Cyclops not only became the new perceivably-evil-dude, but he also killed mentor Professor Xavier and became the most hated figure in the Marvel Universe. Beast, tortured by the fact that his leader and former besty (bestie? Is there a way to say that? Can someone find me a white girl to ask?) is now the least nice mutant out there (and considering that wolverine fronts the other team, is saying something), decides to bring the original X-Men from the past with the sole purpose of making Cyclops feel bad. It doesn’t sound particularly coherent, but there’s a good story here.


Okay, the first volume of All-New X-Men was fantastic. It was a set-up unlike any other. Young X-men confronted their future selves, or lack thereof and ended up fairly traumatised. Volume 2, Here to Stay does build on that trauma, and the story does develop.

It just doesn’t feel that way throughout the whole book.

Man, I'm a Gen Y, and even I agree with Cyclops!
It’s hard to say exactly what the story is here, as multiple things seem to be happening, but basically, it boils down to this: young Jean is scared of her newfound powers, young Cyclops is trying to find out where he went wrong and young Angel wants to know why nobody will talk about what happened to him. Iceman is busy being funny and Beast is… almost absent in this volume- which is weird, since he was a huge part of last volume. In the meantime, Mystique is gathering mutants to create self-satisfying chaos.

I know, it’s probably unfair to make comparisons to the last volume, but there’s really a dip here. It was nice having a volume that had a story structure. It doesn’t feel like that’s happening in this volume. This is more of a “day in the life of very unhappy teenagers”. Not that it isn’t entertaining; just that it feels like not much happens.

See, Here to Stay is a relatively actionless volume. Sure, there’s the odd skirmish, but never are the fights significant to the story- they almost needn’t be there at all. I’m not one to think that comics need to have fights all the way through, by now we need to see the stakes get raised and this volume just doesn’t do that.

It’s not all negative, though, because Bendis’ writing here is awesome. Iceman steals nearly every scene he’s in- be he young or old. You just get the vibe that Bendis loves the character. Young Iceman’s interactions with Kitty Pryde are especially entertaining, considering that she is in love with his older self.

Oh, did I mention old Cyclops has a new costume? Well,
he does.
By far, though, the jewel of this collection is issue 8; where Captain America argues with old Beast about bringing the past X-Men to the present. Here, you don’t actually hear the two discuss much, instead, you get Kitty and Old Iceman mockingly mimicking the two. It’s a great moment of comedy and the kind of scene you want to read again and again. I get annoyed by the amount of focus given to the Avengers in Marvel NOW!, and it’s really great to see Bendis not being afraid to joke at the Avengers’ expense.

The art by Stuart Immonen and David Marquez is just as on point as it was in the last volume. They love drawing these characters just as much as Bendis loves writing them. It’s phenomenal art, and you can’t, I repeat, CAN’T miss it.

Here to Stay doesn’t achieve much, but it’s a fun bout of non-achievement. It gets a three out of five ways to spell besti (seriously, how do you spell that? White girls?).


+ Iceman is perfect.

+ If nothing else, issue 8 makes the volume worth buying.

- Not much happens.

Alternate Option: All-New X-Men: Yesterday’s X-Men

You can’t read Here to Stay without reading this one.

Monday, 22 December 2014

The Myth of Objectivity *Updated*

Only one of these applies to fiction

There are a few words and phrases I’d like to see removed from comic-reading community’s vernacular. I’ve spoken about some of them- “anti-hero”, for example is one (it’s not an angry hero- it’s a villain that we follow as though he were the hero. Ergo, BATMAN, SCARLET SPIDER, THE NEW 52 JUSTICE LEAGUE AND AGENT VENOM AREN’T ANTI-HEROES!), “real fan” is another (it’s normally shorthand for “people who agree with me” and is inherently elitist).

The worst one, by far is “objectivity”. It’s one that, like “real fan” gets used to “win” an argument. The comment usually goes something like this; Guardians of the Galaxy is an objectively better film than Man of Steel- that’s not just my opinion, its fact. I can prove this by…

Someone tried to use this as "objective" proof... Kill me now.
And then follows a rather pretentious list of everything the fan believes makes Guardians of the Galaxy an objectively more entertaining film. Box office numbers, ratings on, their favourite bits of Guardians compared to their least-favourite bits of Man of Steel and, that pinnacle of argument-winners; the gif. The idea seems to be that, presented with the evidence, the other side should shut up.

But, of course, the other side never shuts up.

And why should they? They loved the Man of Steel and found Peter Quill’s dance-off to be a little ridiculous.

Yes, please shut up.
The objectivity argument fails to hold water for a number of reasons, but the biggest one is that what many arguers take for “evidence” isn’t actually evidence at all. Box office numbers, for example, only refer to how much money a movie made. That seems like as good a piece of data as any, because it’s an actual number and they don’t lie, right? But box office numbers DON’T tell us a number of things. It doesn’t tell us how many tickets were sold. They don’t tell us how many people went to see it a second time, reducing the amount who actually saw it, or how many saw it once and considered it not worth their time. It doesn’t tell us how many saw it in an IMAX or in 3D- which is a far more expensive ticket. And it doesn’t tell us how many people actually liked the film.

Critical acclaim is another one that the objectivity trolls like to refer to. If lots of people liked the movie that means it’s good and you should like it too, right? Conversely, if lots of people hated the movie, you’d better hate it too or risk being ostracised by the cool kids! Unfortunately, critical acclaim also doesn’t tell you anything more than that this particular critic liked the movie; it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll like it (for example, look at these three very different reviews of Justice League: Throne of Atlantis).

But the ultimate flaw in the objectivity argument is the idea that the quality of a narrative can be objectively determined. See, reading or viewing a narrative is a deeply subjective (that is, non-objective, for those dumb enough to argue objectivity) experience. When we read or view any story, we bring our own thoughts, feelings and experiences to the narrative. Naturally, some stories are going to resonate well with you, some aren’t- but that’s not because of some concrete notion of “quality”; it’s because your thoughts, feelings and experiences have led to closely relating to, or becoming excited by that story. That’s something you can’t qualify or quantify, and it definitely isn’t something you would call “objective”.

From a geriatric Batman/Superman, to a shoehorned
fight between the two characters, to half the book
being given over to talking head newsreaders, there were
many things that didn't appeal to me in this book. It
might be your favourite, though.
I realise, of course, that I’ve worked myself into a corner, here. As a reviewer, I’m “expected” to write objectively. But that expectation is misguided. I’m expected to call things as I see them. If I see, say, The Clone Saga (one that I haven’t read yet) as an entertaining tale that tells a story that I find compelling, then that’s likely what I will write in my reviews. If I see The Dark Knight Returns as a overdrawn, confusing, mess (I’ve read it, and see it as just that), then that’s what I’ll say in a review. You’re experience of either story may be totally different. You may love the constant news anchors talking to each other in The Dark Knight Returns- that’s fine. It doesn’t, however, make my review less valid any more than my review makes your opinion less valid.

Overall, reading is a deeply personal experience. Quality, as such, is highly subjective. Instead of trying to prove “objectively” that one narrative is better than another, we need to know what we like, and just get down to the business of enjoying that thing.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Superman: Red Son Review

Superman: Red Son

No "in Soviet Russia" jokes... I promise.
Writer: Mark Millar

Artists: Dave Johnson, Killian Plunkett, Andrew Robinson

Collects: Superman: Red Son #1-3

Background Information:

This is usually where I write what you need to know before coming into the book. This time, I want to talk about the perspective I took to reading Red Son, and how my experiences prepared me to read this collection.

I lived about two years in the Baltic nations; the countries of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania- all formerly under control of the Soviet Union. I met people who had very mixed views of the communist era. Coming from a largely capitalist culture, I went to the Baltics thinking that all of the locals would view soviet occupation the same way I do; a terrible regime that destroyed lives for the sake of the state. And to be fair, plenty did. I heard the stories of brainwashing in ways that some erroneously only associate with religion and saw the graves of those killed by the KGB. I also met plenty- some not much older than I- who looked back on the communist era with a sort of fondness- a time when things were simpler. It was surprising to me that people who experienced the exact same government could emerge with such dramatically different views on it.


And it’s that experience that really coloured my perception of Red Son; more than just a great superhero story, Red Son is a great look at the shades of grey that surrounded both the USSR and the USA during the cold war. It’s also, surprisingly, one of the books that seems to get Superman better than anything else I’ve read.

He's Russian to help people out... hyuk, hyuk, hyuk!
This story takes one thing central to Superman and turns it on its head; namely, Superman’s American heritage. Here, Superman was raised on a farm collective in the Ukraine. Growing up as a communist, Superman spends years working for Stalin before taking over as the new president of the USSR. The role sees him make some pretty disturbing decisions, such as reprogramming rebels into “robots” and ruling with a more or less iron fist.

Writer Mark Millar is also known for writing Marvel’s Civil War, which also dealt with themes of moral ambiguity. Throughout Civil War, it was kinda hard to tell who the good guys and who the bad guys were. Millar amps that up in Red Son. Sure, Superman has his enemy in Lex Luthor, but it’s near impossible to say who you would support. They both come across as people with heroic intentions, but the means by which they achieve these intentions are often so disturbing. It’s a pretty amazing understanding of how the USA and USSR conducted itself- sure, America was right to reject a system that treated its own people more poorly than ever, but did that justify McCarthyism? At the same time, yes, Luthor is right to fight a Superman who effectively brainwashes his enemies, but the extents to which he goes to do so are hard to accept.

Superman fans who constantly get annoyed by Batman fans when they refer to The Dark Knight Rises as proof why Batman would always beat Superman need look no further than Red Son. This is not the best part of the book, by far (that award goes to the way that Luthor eventually stops Superman- but I shan’t spoil that), but it’s worth mention that even with prep time, Batman is not guaranteed a victory. Red sun lamps, ultimately, aren’t enough to keep Superman down when there are plenty of people around who would leap to help the Man of Steel- as shown in the middle chapter of this collection.

The best thing about this collection, though, is that Millar shows that he understands what Superman is meant to be. It’s ironic that in the last decade, the book to be the most representative of what it means to be Superman is one where Superman is the opposite of what he normally is. Even without the mark of ‘murica, Millar seems to fully understand Superman’s greatest struggles; his otherness to people that he considers his own, his constraining ties to his adopted nation, his compulsion to save everyone even though he can’t- and possibly shouldn’t. These are all things that I feel make an excellent Superman story- it’s the overcoming of these obstacles that inspires hope; not fights against Zod or flying so fast that you turn back time.

He's a powerful man, and that's Putin
it lightly. Missing those "In Soviet
Russia..." jokes yet?
There’s a separate artist for each issue of Red Son. Normally, that would be a bad thing, but here, it looks great- a clear indicator that each issue is a different stage of Superman’s life. What’s more, each issue makes Russia look like Russia- the architecture (not just the Kremlin) and character costumes (which thankfully don’t limit themselves to furry hats and headscalves) look very soviet. Even Batman’s equipment looks very soviet-era; less about form, more about function. Then there are the small things (the eagle design on Wonder Womans chest, for example, that resembles the two-headed bird of the Russian coat of arms) that help to solidify that you aren’t just seeing these characters visit a different location; these are Russian heroes in every sense of the word.

There’s really nothing bad I can say about Red Son which is why it gets a perfect five out of five marks of ‘murica.


+ Amazing job of moral ambiguity.

+ Understands Superman better than any other book from the last ten years.

+ Superman beats Batman

+ Art gives that real “soviet” feel

Alternate Option: All-Star Superman

It’s still the second-best Superman that I’ve read, but nowhere near the worst.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Fantastic Four Vol. 1: New Departure, New Arrivals (Marvel NOW!) Review

Fantastic Four Vol. 1: New Departure, New Arrivals (Marvel NOW!)

There's a lot of confidence in that caption
up the top.
Writer: Matt Fraction

Artists: Mark Bagley and Micheal Allred

Collects: Fantastic Four #1-3 and FF #1-3

Background Information:

I don’t think there was a single comic more significant to Marvel’s history than Fantastic Four. They’ve been called Marvel’s First Family for a reason after all, and they were, to my knowledge, Stan Lee’s big debut to comics.

In terms of their history, Reed Richards, his buddy Ben Grimm, his love interest Susan Storm and his love interest’s brother Johnny were on a space adventure when hit by a strange power source- it did crazy things to the molecules in their bodies giving them each a very distinctive power. Now Reed is Mr Fantastic, able to stretch his… everything, Susan, now married to Reed, can turn invisible and create forcefields as the Invisible Woman, Ben, the Thing is a walking, talking, clobberin’ rock and Johnny calls himself The Human Torch when he lights himself on fire.

Oh, and side note- their book’s officially cancelled.


Hey, look; it's She Hulk, Medusa, and people who have an
uncertain future in film!
Let’s face it; comics are generally a very fighty medium. The high point of each issue is usually when characters are hitting each other. It speaks a lot about our modern culture, I think, that we often fail to envision adventure without violence or tension without fighting.

Yet that is exactly what New Departure, New Arrival does, and even though this is by no means a great book, it’s more than a little bit fun to read.

Even though this collection contains issues from two different series, FF and Fantastic Four, both written by Matt Fraction (who wrote the awesome Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon and the comparatively underwhelming sequel Little Hits), there’s still a single, coherent story that runs throughout. Reed Richards is dying, the power source that gave him his abilities is finally back to get him and now Reed has no idea how much longer he has to live. Instead of telling anyone about it, he takes the entire Fantastic Four and his two children for what’s billed as a “holiday” in the unknown universes. While they gone, they get other heroes (Ant-Man, She Hulk, Medusa and Johnny’s girlfriend, Darla) to watch over earth for them. Sure, Reed only thinks he’ll be gone for four minutes, but just in case, right?

The only real, this-bothers-me problem is the assumption that earth in the Marvel universe needs to be “watched over” because the Fantastic Four aren’t there. I mean, their home of New York has the Avengers, multiple teams of Avengers; what do they need the Fantastic Four for, exactly? It’s an error that, for me, makes the whole story less credible.

Be that as it may, though, New Departure, New Arrivals does plenty right. For starters, it’s a surprisingly fun book. I can’t remember reading a title that was this light-hearted. Not just in the sense that there’s the occasional joke, but everything is just plain light. There is literally no darkness here. It’s refreshing to see this kind of storytelling, and it’s helped by the fact that there’s very little violence in the whole collection. The Fantastic Four’s journey features no central villain, and really focuses on the escape from a monster rather than killing one. It makes this collection one of those ones that you have no problem showing to the kids.

This is as much stabbing as you're going to see in this book.
That said, the Fantastic Four portions of this collection really get outshined by the FF issues. Fraction is at his best as a writer when writing these issues that actually mirror the feel of his work on Hawkeye, and the art by Allred is so much more distinctive than Bagley’s, which feels too much like it’s playing by Stuart Immomnen’s rules.

New Departures, New Arrivals isn’t going to make you fall head-over-heels in love with the Fantastic Four, but it’s a fair title and recommended for readers who want to get a feel for the first family. It gets a three out of five Avengers who apparently aren’t watching over earth.

+ Actually fun.

+ Accomplishes Excitement without villains.

- One major plot hole.

- FF chapters outshine Fantastic Four ones.

Alternate Option: Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon

Fraction’s best writing to date. Read this.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Green Lantern Corps Vol. 1: Fearsome

Green Lantern Corps Vol. 1: Fearsome
Featuring Guy Gardner pooping!

Writer: Peter J Tomasi

Artists: Fernando Pasarin and Scott Hanna

Collects: Green Lantern Corps #1-7

Background Information:

New readers need to be aware of two things, really.

Firstly, there is more than just one Green Lantern out there, even when you just restrict yourself to human ones. Alongside showrunner Hal Jordan are youngster Kyle Rayner, and the second and third GLs Guy Gardner and John Stewart. The latter two are the focuses of this book.

Secondly, even though DC claimed to reboot everything with the New 52, the Green Lantern franchise was really overlooked in the process. It picked up right where the old DCU left off, so don’t expect this series to be new reader friendly in the sense that it offers origins for these characters.


I’ve gotta admit, I hate Guy Gardner. The dude’s a little full of himself and I don’t see it being deserved. I also don’t really like John Stewart. I know, he was in the Justice League cartoon and IGN keep pushing for him to be the DC cinematic universe’s new GL because Hal Jordan is “tarnished” by a bad movie, but I haven’t ever been particularly interested in the guy.

So it’s significant that a book staring my two least favourite lanterns ended up so entertaining. I still prefer Hal and Kyle, and this collection is far from perfect, but it’s a pleasant surprise.

I hope you like green, you'll see a lot of it.
So Guy and John, after failing to fit into normal society, are called to investigate an alien threat obsessed with stealing natural resources, killing GLs and ultimately getting revenge on the Guardians. There’s more to it than that, but I like my reviews to be as spoiler-free as possible.

First thing I have to say about this book is that it’s green. I mean, it’s really, really, REALLY green. That shouldn’t come as a surprised, I mean, it’s a Green Lantern book, but the core Green Lantern title was at least able to tone it down a little bit. Aside from that, the art is serviceable, but not great. I’m not a fan of the way the artist in this volume draws human faces, it comes across as grotesque, and characters that are meant to look angry look violently constipated instead.

Art aside, though, there’s plenty to enjoy in the story. Writer Peter J. Tomasi delves pretty deep into GL mythology to give us a side to the Guardians’ history that I, for one, never really considered. I won’t ruin it, as it’s probably the best part of the book, but it’s one you’ll definitely want to know more about.

By far, the best part about Fearsome, though, is that it makes me respect Guy Gardner. He’s still not my favourite Lantern, but at least I don’t find him as annoying any more. We get to see some real resourcefulness in Gardner’s character, and his habit of breaking rules and his cocky attitude is more charming here than it was in Green Lantern: Rebirth. I’m glad that Tomasi was able to do this for Guy, even though John is left somewhat on the wayside for this volume (thankfully, it looks like he’ll get some more spotlight in Volume 2).

The gangs all here.
My real problem with Fearsome, though, is that I’m not really sure that it knows what it is. The book starts as a buddy-cop story and would have worked great as such. Not far in, however, it becomes a war story- centred around Guy and John taking platoons on special operations behind enemy lines (at one point, even with machine guns). The book then changes again into a character drama. None of these styles are bad on their own, but you just end up wanting Tomasi to pick one style and stick with it.

Overall, though, there’s no reason new readers can’t enjoy in Fearsome. It gets a three and a half out of five constipated faces.

*** ½

+ Adds to mythology.

+ Makes you like Guy Gardner.

- Art is average.

- Book doesn’t quite know what it is.

Alternate Option: Green Lantern: Sinestro
If you read one Green Lantern book, you suddenly find yourself having to read them all. Proceed with caution, but they're all a blast to read.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Superior Spider-Man Volume 3: No Escape

Superior Spider-Man Vol. 3: No Escape

SUPERIOR... y'know what? This joke's
getting tired.
Writers: Dan Slott and Christos Gage

Artists: Guiseppe Camuncoli and Humberto Ramos

Collects: Superior Spider-Man #11-16

Background Information:

I know what the haters are thinking;

WAH, WAH, WAH… Superior Spider-Man is different to the Spider-Man I knew when I was eight. WAH, WAH, WAH… Dan Slott changed a character. WAH, WAH, WAH!

Okay haters, first thing; don’t cry on the internet- it makes you look silly. Secondly, shut up; Superior Spider-Man represents the best of Dan Slott’s run. Don’t believe me? Check out what people are saying about Slott’s current run on Amazing Spider-Man.

For those wondering, Otto Octavius’ mind is now in the body of Peter Parker. That’s Superior in a nutshell.


By now, you’d expect that Superior Spider-Man would have become stale as a concept. We’ve seen Otto as Peter in two volumes already. Surely there isn’t that much in that concept, right?


Slott’s showing us that the character of Otto has more than enough depth for many more stories to come. By now, I’ve reached the middle of the series, and it’s disappointing that the ongoing ends with volume 6, because there’s so much good here!

"So, I was thinking about power and responsibility the other
So, Otto/Spidey’s been called in to oversee the execution of Alistair Smythe, the Spider-Slayer, the guy most recently known for killing the wife of now Mayor J. Jonah Jameson and commonly known for creating robots designed specifically to kill Spider-Man. Smythe’s meant to be executed at an island prison known as The Raft, but thinks taking the prison over sounds rather more fun. Hell, he even releases Boomerang, the Vulture and the Scorpion to raise a special kind of hell. Naturally, Otto has to take them down in his own particular manner.

Yep, you’ve heard this plot before; it’s the story of the video game, Batman: Arkham Asylum. That’s my only real issue with this collection. See, Dan Slott tries really hard to convince us that he thought of this story all on his own; using the event to change the status-quo between Otto and Jameson. I find it hard to believe that anyone’s convinced it’s his own idea, though. Plagiarism has been fairly common in Marvel NOW!, Avengers Academy is a blatant rip-off of The Hunger Games. At least Avengers Academy admitted its influence. No Escape doesn’t even try to cover itself, and it’s disappointing, to say the least.

But that’s really the only problem here, as Slott goes back to what he’s been doing best; giving us a Spider-Man who fights crime using the same tactics that Otto used as a villain. This issue sees Otto get his own secret lair, massive spider-like tanks and an army of minions. It’s really fun to read and seeing Otto really put himself into Spidey’s role gives the book a great amount of character development not seen in other titles.

The fact that they look more like ticks
than spiders aside... this is pretty cool.
Throughout the whole of Superior Spider-Man, Slott has been teasing an eventual takeover of New York by the Green Goblin, and No Escape gives us the biggest developments for that eventual moment yet. I won’t go into it, as I’ve probably spoiled the series enough already. Suffice to say it is well worth your read.

Art here is up to its normal standard. I love seeing the exaggerated lines and expressions on these characters. A real stand-out for me has to be the faces drawn by Camuncoli and Ramos when Jameson freaks out. His face contorts in all different, hilarious angles. You’ll want to go back to these pages.

Overall, No Escape continues to be one of the best books in Marvel NOW! It’s a crying shame that the series is now over, especially considering the lukewarm reception given to the new Amazing Spider-Man. This collection gets a four out of five Arkham Asylums.


+ Otto as a hero is amazing.

+ Expressions are drawn excellently.

+ Building up to something awesome.

- Way too similar to a game based on a game for a certain Distinguished Competition…

Alternate Option: Superior Spider-Man: My Own Worst Enemy.

Start from the beginning. You’ll be glad you did (okay, so the technical beginning is actually The Amazing Spider-Man: Dying Wish, but you’ll know all you need in this one).

Friday, 17 October 2014

Confessions of an Awesomntic Blogger

Here’s the thing;

I know that in a world of around seven billion people, only a miniscule amount are actually comic fans. But not all of them think the same. There are a few misconceptions that the comics industry kind of takes for granted; We all want to see another rendition of Batman beating up Superman (my only problem with BvS so far is that it will probably be a Batman victory); we all love Deadpool, we all wanted Superior Spider-Man to end.

The comic fanbase is diverse enough to have different opinions. Unfortunately, most of them get drowned out by a very vocal group who dominate conversations in comics. So consider this my stepping out and admitting some things that, it seems, comic fans aren’t supposed to think (at least, if the IGN message boards are any indication).

Yay... Batman beats Superman... No way is DC
gonna force THAT down our throats...
for the next 30 years Right?
Neither Frank Miller, nor Alan Moore have done all that much for me.

I tried Watchmen, but had to stop reading before I threw up. I really wanted to like The Dark Knight Returns, but ended up having to force myself through it.

I know, I know, Watchmen is a classic, and The Dark Knight Returns established Batman as a dark character. But you know what? Both books were pretty boring. Sure, there were scenes from both that I didn’t hate, but that doesn’t make them enjoyable.

I’m aware that, according to WB, I’m actually supposed love at least Frank Miller’s work, but honestly, it does nothing for me.

I actually DON 'T hate these designs, though I wish
Wonder Woman kept the pants.
I actually like the New 52

Dead set; the New 52 got me into reading DC. And I’m not even talking about the highly acclaimed ones like Snyder’s Batman. It was Kyle Higgins’ Nightwing. There are plenty of people who really want the New 52 to be a failure. People who don’t want anyone to know that some people enjoy the new status quo in the vain hope that it will mean that they get their white Wally West back along with underwear on the outside, but I can’t help it; I’m just as invested in this status quo as others were in the old ones.

I’m under no delusions that every New 52 book is a gem. I have a bit of buyer’s remorse with Teen Titans, am glad I only borrowed Batman- The Dark Knight from my library and am proud of myself for never having picked up Savage Hawkman. But there are plenty of New 52 runs that I have loved- Grant Morrison’s run on Superman- Action Comics, Buccelato and Manapul’s run on The Flash and Geoff Johns’ Aquaman are amongst my best-loved books. Getting rid of it all so that older fans can go back to their comfort zones feels a little like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

These guys are genuinely shocked that I didn't like this movie.
I wasn’t a fan of The Avengers movie! There, I said it.

I heard the hype, I wanted to like Whedon’s take on the team, but ultimately, it fell flat.

Not that it was a bad movie- it wasn’t. But after hearing everyone harp on and on about how great it was, I saw the uneven focus (“let’s make it all about Iron Man, since Iron Man 2 was such an awesome movie!”), the throwaway explanations (“I’m always angry… I’m not always the Hulk, who I turn into when I’m angry… but I’m always angry!”) and the boring, unintimidating aliens (who, to my memory,  blew up nothing and killed nobody; seriously, was New York being invaded by Canada?). I came away thinking the same thing that I thought about Eminem, Jonny Depp films and people’s love/hate for Justin Beiber; “Really? That’s what we’re on about? That’s the big thing?”

I’m not saying that the DC movies are necessarily “better” (I did enjoy Man of Steel, but that was pretty much an opposite experience to The Avengers- everyone was talking about how bad it was, and it wasn’t as bad as people claimed), but I would consider them on par with each other.

Either way, give me a comic over the film any day.

So those are my current confessions. If you run a comics blog, I’d love to see you write a post where you put down your confessions. Let me know if you do.

Talon Vol. 2: Fall of the Owls (The New 52) Review

Talon Volume 2: Fall of the Owls (The New 52)
An accurate representation of books that
guest star Batman.

Writer: James Tynion IV

Artists: Miguel Sepulveda, Szymon Kudranski and Emanuel Simeoni.

Collects: Talon #8-17 and Birds of Prey #21

Background information:

Fair warning: This isn’t a new reader’s book. Understanding it requires you to know the first two volumes of Scott Snyder’s Batman run, as well as the first Talon volume, Scourge of the Owls.

But basically, the Court of Owls, a secret society that has been ruling Gotham for centuries, has been knocking off people they don’t like with assassins called Talons. For years, there had only been one Talon at a time who would be recruited from young performers at Haly’s Circus. Calvin Rose is one such Talon. An escape artist, Calvin’s first mission was to kill Casey Washington, the new CEO of her dead father’s security company and her daughter, Sarah. Calvin refused to kill the girls, and instead went on the run with them. Six years later, the Court of Owls has revived the Talons, giving them Wolverine-like healing powers and sending them after Calvin. Thus began his mission to bring the court down; a mission that eventually saw him betrayed by his mentor, Sebastian Clarke and killed by Bane.

And yes, there’s still a story here.


There were really only three things going through my head as I read Fall of the Owls

1)      I really like Calvin Rose as a character.

2)      Bane is so, amazingly boring. How do people like this guy?

3)      This should have been two volumes, not one.

And that last point is really what spoils an otherwise enjoyable read.
This is your Talon on drugs!

See, there are no less than four story arcs in Fall of the Owls. In the first, the Court of Owls revives Calvin into one of their own, undead Talons and sends them after Stryx, a fugitive Talon who currently rolls with the Birds of Prey. In the second, they send Calvin after Bane on his military-state island of Santa Prisca in search of Sebastian Clarke (which fails). In the third, they take on both Clarke and Felix Harmon (the big bad of the previous volume) as the two psychos try to destroy Gotham and in the fourth, Calvin searches for a cure for his immortality.

None of these stories are particularly bad, even if the first arc is the weakest point of the book, but there are so many of them that the whole trade just feels bogged down under the weight of its own cancellation. It really should have been two trades, with two story arcs apiece. I realise that would mean making one trade only five issues (something I hate when it’s done by Marvel), but it would actually be better here. You need that break in a series like this and having everything collected into one is really too much to take in.

Which again, is a pity, because there’s no real bad story here. Tynion manages to, again, capitalise on Calvin’s skill set as an escape artist (making it a weapon in some places, a plot device in others), the characterisation is still fun, and the over-the-top action is entertaining. On that last point, the last issue features Calvin THROWING A SHARK at a villain.

Yep, he done did that!

And it’s the kind of ridiculous moment that makes this book weirdly fun. It’s not something you tend to expect from a book this dark, but some of Calvin’s tactics in this trade really come out of left field. For example, the dude lights himself on fire so a freezing cube doesn’t affect his healing factor, but does take out the other three Talons around him.

I now present to you, the most stupidly-
cool moment in Talon.
That’s what there is to like about Calvin: he’s clever. He’s insanely resourceful, skilled at what he does and morally conflicted. I realise that I probably just described Batman to most of you, but the difference here is that Calvin’s still a nice guy. He’s obsessed with protecting those he loves and that often leads to some great moments for him.

I do have to talk about that Bane story arc, though. I rolled my eyes when I first read Bane’s appearance in Volume 1, and this arc really didn’t change my mind. It’s a good Bane story, but that’s like saying that you had a nice spew- it’s a really a matter of relativity. See, the last Bane story the New 52 had, to my knowledge, was in Batman the Dark Knight, which was awful. Even though the Bane story here is better, it’s still not great because it’s Bane. Talon confronts Bane. Cue Bane talking about his plans to take Gotham. Cue Bane standing over the guy who’s paying him. Cue Bane talking about how he was moulded in Santa Prisca. Essentially, cue everything Bane does in The Dark Knight Rises. As good as the story arc is, it’s not good for Bane’s presence.

It’s hard for me to go one way or the other in rating Fall of the Owls. If you like Calvin Rose, you’ll probably like the second volume of Talon, if you don’t, haven’t heard of him, or feel indifferent, you’ll want to stay away from a book that gets a three out of five shark-throwing contests.


+ Calvin is awesome

+ Action is weirdly fun.

- Bane… Bane…

- Way too many story arcs.

Alternate Option: Talon: Scourge of the Owls

Don’t even think about reading Fall of the Owls until you’ve read this one.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Real Relevance: The Fantastic Four

Seriously? Cancelled?
Yep, Marvel’s done it again. In a childish bid to shore up nothing but their cinematic properties, Fantastic Four is officially cancelled.

I know, I know; it was selling poorly, Mavel’s a business, it makes sense to the bottom line, blah, blah, blah…

The problem isn’t that Marvel is trying to make a buck; they’re entitled to make a profit. The problem is one of relevance. Something that goes beyond sales; beyond the bottom line. The First Family should matter to Marvel, even if Fox do have the movie rights.

A Matter of Legacy

It's almost hard to believe how many people
lost their minds over this.
If you spoke to newer fans like me, I imagine you’d be hard-pressed to convince them that the only reason Marvel made it off the starting line is because of Fantastic Four, but that’s the fact. Fantastic Four was really the first book of what became known as the Marvel universe.

Yep, you heard right; the reason we have Avengers, X-Men, Spider-Man or Guardians of the Galaxy is from what Marvel has, for years, been calling “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine.”

Despite what the sales figures leads us to believe, despite what Marvel seems to believe, legacy matters. The Fantastic Four are symbolic of Marvel’s success, and to deny what made Marvel successful in the first place is stepping into what, I think, is very dangerous territory.

A Matter of Adventure

But it’s more than just a symbol of Marvel’s success. Fantastic Four, more than any other book in Marvel’s line up, is about adventure- the kind of adventure, moreover, that doesn’t necessitate violence. I read the first volume of Matt Fractions Fantastic Four the other day and was amazed at how much I didn’t mind that the Fantastic Four issues didn’t feature, or need to feature a central villain. It was fine just being about exploring new worlds and getting into trouble- even if that trouble didn’t have a name. Nobody got punched in the face, decapitated, webbed-up or killed and I was more than okay with that.

That’s pretty significant. The world, young men especially, need to know that excitement doesn’t necessitate violence. Think about some of the greatest adventurers in history; Amelia Rinehart, Lewis and Clark, and many others. Who did they punch? Adventure, more often than not is about the triumph of will rather than muscle. That’s important too.

A Matter of Family

Seriously, who hates these guys?
The real reason that Fantastic Four matters though, has to do with family. It’s been a habit in comics for many years to do as much as they can to keep their characters youthful. If they’re married, get them unmarried (Spider-Man) and if they have kids, get rid of them (Ant-Man and Animal Man)- they ruin a character’s youthfulness so.

Not so with Fantastic Four not only are Sue and Reed Richards married, they’ve also had two, so-far-not-dead children. See, Fantastic Four is a family book- family is what it’s about and family is glorified. I’m a teacher by trade and I see too many kids from broken homes enter my classroom. I’m not going to go so far as to say that Fantastic Four will save the family, but anything that puts family in a positive light is more encouraging than the media world that constantly counts family as unimportant unless they’ve died (here’s looking at you, Batman).

The cancelling of Fantastic Four is a sign that Marvel doesn’t understand the power of its own properties. We’ll see them again, no doubt. But for now, it should be a sad day for Marvel fans.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic Volume 1: Commencement

Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic Volume 1: Commencement (Dark Horse Comics)

Ummm... guys?
Writer: John Jackson Miller

Artists: Brian Ching and Travel Foreman (that’s a name? Seriously?)

Collects: Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic #0-6

Background Information:

A long time ago in…

Actually, forget it. I’m not using that intro. In fact, y’know what? You don’t get background information this time. NO BACKGROUND FOR YOU!!!


There are three Star Wars movies.

There are only three Star Wars movies.

Anything made between 1999 and 2013 isn’t a Star Wars movie.

Yet, here we are, with a comic that’s essentially a prequel to anything made between 1999 and 2013. And, y’know what? I think it’s a Star Wars comic. But that would be impossible, because then I’d have to admit that anything made between 1999 and 2013 might be Star Wars movies. I don’t know if I could do that.

When I finish this review, I plan on sitting in the corner, rocking, singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow to myself and eating my hair.

Nothing remotely witty to say about this one... too much
going on...
This one focuses on Zayne Carrick, a Jedi padawan with absolutely zero prospects. He is the least accomplished padawan in his group and constantly messes up in the most embarrassing way. His life is turned more or less upside down when he enters his local Jedi temple and finds the local masters standing with sabres drawn over the bodies of other padawans, and so begins a very long, drawn out chase scene. It’s a fugitive story I’ve seen done better in DC’s Talon, but it suffices and it definitely gives everything a purpose.

One of the real saving graces for this comic is that it’s more Star Wars-y than the Star Wars prequels. One of the things that bugged me about the prequels was the “all-too-shiny” look of the ships and buildings. It was something that they slowly got rid of throughout the trilogy, but it still wasn’t dirty enough. The Original trilogy looked dirty. Ships looked cool, but they also looked ready to fall apart at any minute. It was an underground galaxy and that’s thankfully something we see in Commencement.

I also appreciate the fact that writer John Jackson Miller opted away from having many lightsabre duels here. Zayne gets by on his wits and help from his friends more than his ability to cut the other guy up. It makes for a book that feels closer to the original trilogy than the prequels.

That said, this is a book that feels like nothing is happening. The escape process takes the entire book to do, and by the end, you’re left wondering exactly what has happened. For all that occurs in the book, it still feels like we have a non-story here.
Yep... I got nothing today.
Thankfully, the art here does its job just fine. There’s not a lot to say about it- it looks like any of the millions of Star Wars books out there. Not bad at all, but fairly standard stuff.

And at the end of the day, that’s my biggest criticism of Commencement. It all feels too… standard. We’ve seen these characters in Star Wars-related media before (with the exclusion of one character that is too underutilised to matter). There’s the underrated young Padawan with the potential to kill us all, the seedy dealer, the tough angry female and the corrupt leader. It’s like they practically lifted these characters out of other Star Wars media for this book, and that’s just not very interesting. Even the action and humour is very stock-standard. It makes for a book that, while entertaining, is nothing amazing.

Commencement gets a two and a half out of five culinary bowls of hair.

** ½

+ Light on lightsabres.

+ Looks more like the original trilogy that the prequels.

- Too much that’s stock-standard stuff.

- Not much actually happens.

Alternate Option: Star Wars: Legacy

A far better book. This is what you should be reading if you want a Star Wars book.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Avengers Vs X-Men Review

Avengers Vs X-Men

When you're showing teeth it's either a
smackdown or a massive overbite... not
sure which one this is...
Writers: Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathon Hickman, Matt Fraction, and Jeph Loeb

Artists: Frank Cho, Ed Mcguinness, John Romita Jr., Oliver Coipel and  Adam Kubert.

Collects: Avengers Vs X-Men #0-12 and portions of Point One #1

Background information:

The X-Men have had it tough over the years. In House of M, the mutant population was culled to only 200 and the X-Men became desperate survivors. They saw a glimmer of hope (no pun intended) in Second Coming, where a possible messiah emerged in the form of Hope Summers, and separated in Wolverine’s and Cyclops’ X-Men in Schism.

So now we have a situation where Wolverine is trying to raise X-Men who are ready to live in the world, and Cyclops is preparing for war.

This should be interesting.

Oh, there are Avengers in this book too.


Dear readers;

Please stop liking X-Men as we no longer have the movie rights to them. Like The Avengers instead. Look, here they are fighting the X-Men and they’re totally going to win because they make us more money they’re the better heroes.



"Sorry, I can't. You're burning my face off with space-bird fire."
At the end of the day, Marvel might as well have done this. Don’t get me wrong, Avengers Vs X-Men is still good to read, but the very explicit agenda behind the book (that I already raved about in my last RealRelevance article) hurts what is otherwise very entertaining.

Okay, so the phoenix force has come to Earth and now the Avengers and the X-Men have to fight. That’s basically the plot. Sure, there are machinations and motives that add volume to the story, but that’s basically it.

It’s not a deep story by any means. As Noel Thorne, a blogger that I’ve come to respect has said (albeit about another book) "I know my brain was eating junk but sometimes a Whopper is just what you want!" And that’s pretty much the way you can sum up the plot here. There are some great interactions between characters; Hope Summer and Scarlet Witch are stand-out great ones, and Professor X was done well as the attempted voice of reason to a militant Cyclops. The rest of the characters, though, are same-old-same-old.

And pretty bland.

Captain America has pretty much no personality in this book. Spidey is fun, but no more than Spidey normally is. Wolverine is very… stabby. Cyclops is a twit. Emma dresses like she has a second job during the nights, and that’s her entire personality. Namor is very angry. Colossus and Magik… actually, who cares. And Iron Man uses smarty-smart talk. It’s not bad by any means, but none of these characters really develop beyond Scarlet With and Hope, and we get a lot of everyone else.

Thankfully, you don’t read event comics for character development (excluding Civil War, which I really loved). You read them for action and world-changing moments. Thankfully, Avengers Vs. X-Men delivers in that area. The action is plentiful and the results of this event changes a lot in the Marvel universe in preparation for Marvel NOW!

Why is there no Hawkeye initiative for Emma Frost's new costume?
EDIT: My mistake, there is one.
If you’re a new reader; consider yourself warned: the only reason you will want to read this book is to give context to the X-Men NOW! book you’re currently reading. Understanding what’s going on here requires knowledge of a LOT of X-history. Thankfully, you don’t need to know much about Avengers, but consider yourself warned.

Art here is done by a number of artists that somehow manage to all look the same. That would be bad if there were multiple titles that I was reviewing, but here, it helps the book to feel coherent. It looks like standard comic art, but that’s fine, because what these artists draw tends to be more impressive than how they draw it.

At the end of the day, though, it’s hard to get over that feeling that there’s a marketing agenda here. Marvel loves the Avengers now more than it ever has, and those that aren’t keen need to get used to it. Thankfully, Avengers Vs X-Men is a fun marketing ploy even if it is nothing more than that. It gets three out of five movie rights.


+ Hope and Scarlet Witch are great

+ It’s junk, but enjoyable junk.

+ Does what an event comic is meant to do.

-  Not-Scarlet Witch and Not-Hope are bland and all-too frequent.


Alternate Option: Any Avengers or X-Men Volume 1 in Marvel NOW!

Event comics aren’t meant to be jumping-on points. That what first issues are for (and hey, Marvel does heaps of those).