Dr Manolis Vamvounis writes for Bleeding Cool;
“While you were in San Diego”… Here’s what you missed from the past two weeks’ worth of comics:
THE DEAD WALKING DEAD (NO SPOILERS HERE)
Kirkman is a cruel mofo. WALKING DEAD #100 is literally teasing the audience, keeping them at the edge of their seats, dangling their love for these characters in front of them – right before taking a spiked bat and bashing it all to small, gorey, horrible pieces, laughing in their face as they squirm. It’s an incredible work of meta fiction and horrible emotional exploitation at the same time, taking what Milligan first started with X-force #125-128 and taking off all safeties. Bastard. Here’s to a 1000 more.
NO “O CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN” JOKES EITHER
CAPTAIN MARVEL #1 – along with AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #9 last week – serve as the introduction to the “new” Carol Danvers Captain Marvel. It’s not just a new (completely riddling) haircut, a (surprisingly pants’d) costume and a (much deserved) name change. It’s an at-long-last realisation of the potential inherent in Carol Danvers: the character and the hero. For years, Danvers has been written as a (sometimes literally) blank slate. This new take, courtesy of Kelly Sue DeConnick, is taking into account the character’s history, as an Avenger, a journalist and an air force officer to create a wholly realised -and very enjoyable- character. The sense of authority about her and her overall presence are simply staggering. This is a Carol Danvers that’s worthy of being Marvel’s #1 female hero. At long last.
Not to be one *not* to whine about something, but the interior art of the premier issue did not live up to the high expectations of the very iconic McGuinness cover and the sweetness of the Dodsons’ art on the guest ASM appearance. It’s an odd, heavy-handed inking and colouring choice, making the issue read like a badly-xeroxed copy of itself.
LAW OF SEQUELS
In Sean Murphy’s first solo Vertigo project, PUNK ROCK JESUS #1, the Christ makes his big comeback as… the first human clone and part of a reality TV program! And that’s not even the big Vertigo twist, which brings a decidedly Morrisonian soap-operatic flavour to the concept.
NOT ANOTHER ZOMBIE BOOK
Hey, Image comics and zombies, that’s an undoubtable winning combo. In REVIVAL #1 the walking dead are not so much rotting mindless monsters, as… well, totally indistinguishable from the proper dead, apart from a healing factor and an aura of general spookiness. Tim Seeley approaches the zombie concept from a religious viewpoint, looking at the sociopolitical ramifications of the second coming. The horror element comes naturally as part and parcel of human nature.
MEET MULTIPLE MAN’S WIFE, MULTIPLE CHOICE
In X-FACTOR #240 Layla does like the famous red-headed Lola and runs, baby, runs. PAD takes a long-awaited look at a world of endless possibilities through his enigmatic protagonist’s eyes, and the way she constantly examines the long-term butterfly effects of each in a string of possible everyday choices. It’s a daring storytelling experiment that succeeds in its main intent but still relies on a very simplistic linear cause-and-effect route. This issue provides answers by sacrificing a part of the mystery and magic of the character. Layla Miller should never be this straightforward and forthcoming.
PANEL OF THE WEEK
Ouch. But, yeah, that panel sums up the AVENGERS ACADEMY kids rather nicely. In issue 33 they are fighting Emma Phoenix over the life (?) of their pet Sentinel robot. Within the confines of the greater shared continuity of the Marvel U, with innumerable cases of robots marrying people, giving birth and generally claiming independent thought, the concept of a Sentinel robot’s capacity for “artificial life” isn’t far-fetched, yet Christos Gage makes an intriguing case for both sides of the argument here. The Sentinel here only shows the slightest hints of self-consciousness, just enough for the kids to argue their case and force them into character-defining choices.
BORN THIS WAY
Ouch. In WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #13 we finally get a close personal look at the new Warbird and it’s not all boobs and feathers. I enjoyed it all, from the reversal of the Rorschach misdirect in the introduction to the chilling parallels between Warbird’s loss of creativity/sensitivity and the Phoenix Five’s brutal loss of, well, their souls as they beat the Gladiator into a bloody pulp in the (background) AVX fight of the month.
SMELLS LIKE MUTANT SPIRIT
In ULTIMATE X-MEN #14, Kitty Pryde takes her mutant army of four on the road as Brian Wood provides the best damn Ultimate X-Men book we’ve read in a decade. I was a bit baffled at how low the sales figures for last month’s issue were. This is the start of the dystopian future that the X-books were always flashing forward to in fear and it’s never felt so “real”, focusing on the reality of kids being forced into war and Kitty’s abrupt (yet organic) maturation into a war general. Even as he’s continuing the story set up by the previous writer, Wood’s second issue on the book is one of the most approachable reads out right now.
A STORM IS COMING
In X-MEN #32 Storm is continuing to go through the greatest revival of her character since the 80s. Brian Wood is building on a long and cherished tradition of authoritative tendencies, regal rebelliousness and boldly setting herself up as the leader willing to make the tough calls.
You thought it was so cool and inventive the way (multi Eisner Award winning) Mark Waid and co like to graphically portray Daredevil’s radar and augmented senses? In DAREDEVIL #15 they do the exact opposite, as Matt Murdock finds himself trapped inside Castle Doom with all of this senses dulled down to nothing, “Perfect Sense”-style, the “subjective view” art appearing as color blocks without line borders.
A TASTE OF THINGS TO COME?
[GEEK-RANT] As I was reading NEW AVENGERS #28 and the team’s not-that-elaborate escape plan from their prison in the X-Brig, I caught myself in constant disbelief of just how fanfic-y this whole thing read. See, the woman in the panel above is Magma. Is can turn into molten magma. Hence the name. She’s quite good at it. Here she’s incapacitated by Hawkeye twisting her arm real hard (an arm she can turn to molten magma, mind you). Just like later on, one of the world’s strongest telepaths is unable to subdue Spider-woman, whom she already had under leash. Even the twist ending (essentially writing this entire issue off as a fabrication) shouldn’t excuse this level of sloppiness.[/GEEK-RANT]
FALLING THROUGH THE GUTTERS
I love the sheer inventiveness of this final page from DEFENDERS #8, the whole team disappearing into the gutters of the comic book page – if only someone had notified the letterer so he wouldn’t have put the dialogue and next issue blurb on top of that effect.
I REFUSE TO TEAR UP
The late Ultimate Peter Parker becoming such a beloved iconic hero for so many people is the best possible twist to come out of the recent ultimate relaunch (well, along with Miles himself) and SPIDER-MEN #3 keeps finding new touching ways to demonstrate just how important “the little dude” is to people. Bendis has been doing the best work of his career on this book.
OH NO SHE DIDN’T
Rich may have jizzed his pants over JUSTICE LEAGUE #11 but I simply can’t get over the forced characterisation of Wonder Woman inside. When Green Lantern insists on helping her take on the oh-my-god-how-powerful (yawn) new villain Whatsisname, Diana flips out and proceeds to attack the entirety of the League and cause a crapload of property damage and endanger the lives of innocent civilians. As great as Johns usually is on these characters individually, his take on Diana is bordering on insulting.
MOTHER EARTH IS A DIRTY SKRULL
WONDER WOMAN #11 gives us an all-new, all-green Demeter, goddess of the Earth and fertility and big leafy hair along with a rather totemistic Artemis, goddess of animals and the hunt. One more connection between the Red and the Green.
TASTES LIKE VENGEANCE
You don’t get more essential and succinct in your basic “love and revenge” plots than this brief excerpt from CHEW: SECRET AGENT POYO #1. If you thought the CHEW creators had gone to ridiculous lengths to established the undead cyborg rooster’s bad-assery before, wait till you read this, a true work of art in hyperbole.
MIND THE SPOILERS
CHUCK IS BACK
Charles Xavier, that is, the “World’s premier telepath” – or so it used to go. Professor X has fallen out of favour in the past few years, a necessary sacrifice for the rise (and emancipation) of Cyclops into his new role as leader of the mutant race. In AVX #8 Xavier finally steps up against the Phoenix Fiv- er, make that Four (after Namor’s cataclysmic defeat at the hands of the Avengers and the Force’s reshuffling amongst the remaining hosts). I miss the old Xavier, he was a formidable and fascinating character, both power-wise and in his blind determination to his cause that tended to lead to all sorts of badly thought-through fuck-ups.
Most awesome moment of the month: Thor blowing Emma Frost’s diamond form into a cloud of crystal shards (in a nice nod to the original Morrison run), only for her to regain control of each shard, rain down on him with glamorous fury and then reconstitute herself telekinetically. And to think I had initially doubted AVX VS #4.
TOTALLY CALLED IT
I’ve been picking up the hints towards an eventual “Dark Cypher Saga” in DnA’s work for months now, and NEW MUTANTS #45-46 is where it all finally comes to a head as Future Doug Ramsey strikes the team through the older time-travelling refugees Cannonball and Karma. Ramsey has been growing in power and creepiness with every story since the pair took over as writers, reinterpreting his language powers into something very conceptual and far-reaching. This book has been an excellent continuation of the themes and mood of the very best stories of the original New Mutants run, it will be a shame to see it end before Marvel Now. A BLOODY SHAME, do you hear me?
Don’t you just hate it when this happens to two of your favourite childhood fairytale characters? One is driven insane and orders the other one slain and served to them as a meal… raw. FABLES #119 is the most gruesome issue of the Vertigo series to date. Therese’s transformation from sweet little girl into what she was prophesied of becoming a few issues back came rather abruptly and shockingly and is one of the title’s most cruel (and fascinating) twists. With the title’s immense popularity and guaranteed longevity, I’d assumed Willingham would have been playing a more Claremontian “long con” with his character arcs.
COMEBACK OF THE CENTURY
Yes, that’s the Rangers on the last page of SCARLET SPIDER #7. Texas Twister, Firebird, Living Lightning and… well, no idea – but the next issue can’t come here fast enough! #80sgeek
WALKING DEAD #100 is of course the book of the week (and it seems a record bursting big-seller on its own merits, give or take a dozen covers or so) with probably the most gut-wrenching death scene we’ve ever witnessed in comics. Or at least since the last time Kirkman did the same thing in an anniversary issue of the book. On the other side of the sales spectrum, ULTIMATE X-MEN is the most under-ordered and underappreciated new launch from Marvel, I urge people (and especially lapsed X-fans) to give it a try.
It’s puzzling how the best books Marvel is putting out seem to be landing towards the low end of the top 100, overwhelmed by the barrage of crossover tie-ins and the almost uniformly average bulk of DC’s superhero titles.