The Reading List – Feb 12 2014

Welcome to The Reading List!

Every week I’ll be sharing what I think are the highlights of the latest releases, including a few thoughts on what I liked, what I didn’t, and what I think you should be reading too.
If I’ve not mentioned something you think I should read, or want to let me know your thoughts on any of the new issues then drop me a message.
If you’ve read my blog before I do lean towards Marvel/Image/Indie over DC, although I’m working on getting caught up on the New 52 in order to provide a more thorough weekly recap (weekap? No), so don’t be surprised if you don’t see many DC reviews on here.
This is a little (lot!) later than I’d have liked this week, but what can I say – Valentine’s Day plus House of Cards Season 2 took up my time! Apologies!  This’ll hopefully be more prompt in future. This also doesn’t cover every new release I’ve read, as some deserve a bit more of an in depth look (looking at you, She-Hulk #1!), and I’m still playing catch up on Thor:God of Thunder and the last few issues of Harbinger, so they’re not here either. Anyhoo!
Let’s get started!


MARVEL

Winter Soldier: The Bitter March #1
Remender, Boschi, Chukry
There’s obviously hints of Bond, James Bond about this issue, as Shield’s finest Nick Fury and his number 2 (lol) Ran Shen take on Hydra in a Cold War era mission, involving a “classic villain bunker”, mountainside ski chases, witty one-liners and gadgets galore, but those genre expectations take a disturbing twist when the token femme fatale is so much more than meets the eye (ew) and the title character arrives just in time to force the mission into a figurative and literal nosedive. Reminder ties in and expands his Captain America run, with this series providing a back story to Ran Shen. A solid, fun issue. 8/10
All-New X-Men #23

Bendis, Immonen, Von Grawbadger, Gracia
Still one of the best series on Marvel’s current slate, and currently looking at a very prominent position in any ‘Best X-Men series Ever’ lists, Bendis writes a brilliant part 3 in his Trial of Jean Grey storyline. It must be hard finding heroes that haven’t previously had a team up throughout the history of the 616 but as the ANXM and GOTG collide there’s some excellent banter between the groups. Immonen handles a LOT of characters this time round, with a few two-page layouts standing out in particular, but he makes it look easy. Throw in a final page that is sure to make any fan smile and you’ve got another solid read. 9/10
Wolverine and the X-Men #41
Aaron, Nauck, Larraz, Milla
Poor Toad. Just. Poor Toad! Jason Aaron has made me care about a fundamentally unlikable character. This is essentially a standalone feature issue, where Aaron is tying up a loose end in his run, but it feels so eloquent and engaging that it’s easy to see past that. Ultimately Toad makes a move towards a new path and we’re left looking forward to the final issue of the run (until the reboot). 7.5/10
Avengers #26
Hickman, Larocca, Martin
Is it just me or is Hickman inserting more comedic beats into his post-Infinity Avengers? I know there was criticism about the lack of character breathing room in his run so far, but scenes like the rooftop BBQ in 24.NOW followed by the moment here revealing the various Avengers and their off duty habits (Tony Stark as usual nails the one liner) certainly come as a welcome injection of, well, fun. This issue sheds more light on the mystery of the world-hopping, pedestrian smiting super team, which predictably reveals yet more AIM shenanigans, and provides the second Hank Pym death scene in just over a year (someone really has it in for the guy). Still not sure where this is all going but I’m enjoying the journey. 8/10
Superior Spider-Man #27
Slott, Camuncoli, Dell, Fabela
This is it people. Haters gon’ hate, but all the pieces are finally coming together to tell the epic downfall of Otto Parker. Goblin Nation part 1 brings our Superior anti hero face to face with The Goblin King (Norman? Harry? Aunt May?), not to mention a splash page full of Z-list villains made to make you route through your ‘mindscape’ like a memory lost wall crawler. If you’ve hated the run so far this won’t turn you round, but if you’ve loved it like I have this is only going to make you giddy with anticipation. Otto proves he’s still got some tricks up his sleeve in the final few pages, but even that won’t be enough to save him from a Goblin army, a rebellious brain and the sheer volume of rapidly converging plot threads. Top notch. 9/10
 
DC
Batman 28

Snyder, Tynion IV, Nguyen, Fridolfs

While I’ve been enjoying Zero Year it’s definitely time to start looking toward the future of Gotham, and what better way to do it than with a tantalising glimpse right into the thick of Batman Eternal? Supposedly taking place around issue 39 of the upcoming weekly series, this issue jumps forwards to a new status quo for the Bat Clan, where a new sidekick, a new Oracle (?) and a new Kingpin of Crime (not you, tubby) are all firmly entrenched. Throw in a now infamous final page Spoiler and you have an unmissable issue for fans of the Dark Knight. 8.5/10
IMAGE

The Fuse #1

Johnston, Greenwood, Chankhamma
If you read Johnston’s essay at the rear of the book he lists his influences as Detective stories; dirty, lived in Sci-Fi; American cop shows and “duh”, comics. So the first issue of The Fuse, as a melting pot of all those aspects, certainly achieves it’s objective. You get a real feeling of depth to Midway City and I definitely think this is a book worth keeping an eye on. The concept is intriguing, and the characters have got room to grow; has the initial mystery grabbed me? Not really, but the world of The Fuse has got great potential and one I’ll be coming back to. Does anyone remember Space Precinct? No? I’m not surprised, but this is like a good version of that I guess? Probably a bad example to be honest. 7.5/10
The Mercenary Sea #1
Symons, Reynolds
The cover to this, the second number 1 from Image this week, is just gorgeous isn’t it? I could stand to see more covers like that on the shelf please. The Mercenary Sea scratches an itch for heavy classic Pulp Adventure stories much like Remender’s Black Science does for Pulp Sci-Fi – it harkens back to a different age of story telling which on its own would be enough to pick this up, but the artwork is enough to tip it into the Buy category. The faces and character poses are very reminiscent of Archer which can give it a bit of a motionless feel in some points but artist/colourist Mathew Reynolds plays with shadows and uses silhouettes brilliantly. I’m not familiar with any of his previous work but he does a great job here. His visuals accompanying the Tribal Chief’s story of the mystical island of Koji Ra is the standout moment for me. The characters didn’t grab me as they all seem quite cliche at the moment, but I think that’s possibly the point; the way Kel Symons subverts genre expectations in this issue (the first appearance of the tribe for example) I get the feeling the stereotypical characters will only flesh out as the story progresses. Go get it, people. 8/10
ONI PRESS
Letter 44 #4
Soule, Alburquerque, Jackson
I’ve never read a series that has grabbed me so quickly and so thoroughly as Letter 44. Ever. I think it’s because the premise is so close to real life but with one frankly terrifying secret. That secret, if you haven’t picked up any of the previous issues, is that newly appointed President Stephen Blades, upon opening the titular letter left behind for him from his predecessor, discovers an ominous extraterrestrial presence in an asteroid belt just past Mars, and that all the seemingly terrible decisions of outgoing president Carroll – questionable reasons for war, derided economical choices – were all made to prepare the nation and the world for an alien invasion. Awesome stuff.
This issue continues the claustrophobic narratives of both the earthbound Blades and the fallout of last issue’s final page, as well as the crew of the Clarke in deep space as they inch closer to the alien craft. Look for a future article where I discuss (probably at length) why you need to be reading this book, but suffice to say Soule provides another brilliant chapter here, with a game changing final splash page that needs to be experienced. 9/10
(P.s – if you need any more motivation, you can read the entire first issue, for free, right here. You’re welcome! Well, thank io9 actually.)
So that’s it for this last week. Agree? Disagree? What did I miss? Let me know guys, either on here or on Twitter @awesome_source
Keep it unreal,
Matt

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