The Reading List: Feb 19 2014
This week’s Comic Book reviews.
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.
Also: this is an open discussion of my personal thoughts on each issue as I’ve read them, therefore need I say…
HERE BE SPOILERS.
You have been warned.
Let’s get started!
Avengers World #3
Hickman, Spencer, Caselli, Martin
I really don’t read enough Shang Chi comics. Whether that statement is true or not is pretty irrelevant, because this issue makes me think that and makes me want to read more Shang Chi comics. And that’s what Avengers World #3 is essentially; a Shang Chi comic. Yes, Hickman/Spencer are taking their theme of decompressing the characters from the main Avengers title and really running with it here, focusing tightly and unwaveringly on the battle for Madripoor between Fu Manchu’s offspring and the dreaded Gorgon (seriously, he creeps me out). I’d have liked a slightly wider focus on the whole Madripoor squad – like what the hell they’re doing whilst the whole city is flying on the head of a Dragon. But seeing as I’ve previously said my favourite part of this book is the room it gives characters to breathe I can hardly complain. Caselli, Martin et al knock it out the park with the art though!
Captain America #17
Remender, Klein, White
Boy, Rick Remender is really taking this comic to some zany places. This is as far removed from Brubaker’s run as you can get. Don’t get me wrong it’s a great thing for writers to put their own take on a character, but for me I’m not sure if this is taking things a bit too far in the wrong direction. I enjoyed Cap’s epic trip through Dimension Z but dropped off during the Nuke storyline. After seeing this cover I thought I’d give it a go again, but wow. Yeah. Zany is the only word that comes to mind. Let me run through some of the worst offenders: a villain that refers to himself as Dr Mindbubble and uses terms like “groo-vy”, both un-ironically; Fury Jr doing his best Prisoner impression, escaping huge white globes with a staggering ability to not be taken seriously; and a group of folks calling themselves the Shoalin Scientist Squad. Not without it’s highlights though: I found myself really enjoying Jet Black’s development, and the Weapon Minus concept has piqued my interest enough to come back, but look. Anything creative that is as out there as this is something that you either have to be completely on board with or not, and right now I’m leaning more toward not. Remender’s earned my love over and over on other titles though so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. For now.
Waid, Samnee, Rodriguez
So Matt Murdock has outed himself, superheroically speaking. I wasn’t sure last issue if that would be one of those done and undone things, even though his imminent move to San Fran certainly lent itself to thinking he’d need a fresh start, and that’s exactly what happens here. There’s no going back now. For someone that’s been following and loving Daredevil for so many years now it’s certainly shocking, but not unwelcome at all. I’ve never thought his identity being secret was an essential part of the character, and although I completely bought Bendis/Brubaker’s take of plausible deniability, it always was a bit ridiculous. It was basically the worst kept secret in the 616 and as such I’m sure many Marvel civilians will do a collective shrug at this non-news, assuming everybody already knew.
Still it’s great that Waid doesn’t treat it glibly. There’s plenty of references to what’s come before and more importantly that the years of bold faced lying about his identity has ultimately done him as much if not more harm than his demonic-clad vigilantism.
There’s nothing more I can say that hasn’t already been said about one of the greatest comics on the stand, and while this doesn’t have the finality that a last issue would normally have that’s more a criticism of Marvels dubious love of renumbering than it is of the writing. After all, Waid knows he’ll be back next month, as much as you know you’ll be back, because you’d be stupid to not be reading this title. Sorry but I went there.
Night of the Living Deadpool #3
Deadpool goes on a bit of journey of discovery in this issue, both inside and out. Now we’re in the back half of this mini-series it’s about time we started finding out what exactly happened and suffice to say it involves some little used bad guys called AIM? I’ve not heard from them recently either (sarcasm alert), but on discovering the only other person in newly formed safe haven ‘New Harper’s Ferry’ who owns clothes that aren’t monotone, Deadpool starts discovering more about his own hand in the proceedings too. Going from the first page of the issue where the MwaM laments how he always imagined being more involved personally in the apocalypse (his ideas of what a judgement day should look like are the best/only real visual gags this issue) to finding out he may be more responsible than he thought really seems to eat him up for a moment. Then he starts eating other people up. He gets over being dead of course (don’t they all) but you get the feeling this particular apocalypse is taking it’s toll on him.
I prefer my Deadpool to be more ‘Looney Tunes’ than he is here, but it’s when viewed as a zombie story that this series shines. Bunn has some genuinely original ideas – the dead still retaining the voice/conscience of their former selves is such a simple concept and yet so macabre that it really makes this stand out from the shambling crowd. Ramon Rosanas has been stellar throughout this run, adding to the gore soaked story with a realistic weight to the action, and the other simple concept of colour – or lack of – also gets played with some more this time around to great effect.
The Punisher #2
I’m not a long time fan of The Punisher, mainly because I feel that he’s a deceptively complex character to get right, and I don’t feel like there have been many times when he’s been done any justice (pun intended). That all changed with Greg Rucka’s run a few years ago though, which I couldn’t get enough of, and so I was very eager to see what Edmonson did with Mr Castle in this new series. He doesn’t disappoint.
The hardest part about getting Frank right I feel is how he fits in the larger Marvel U; much like he laments on the cartels being ‘too dangerous for the cops, but not big enough for the super heroes’, Punisher is equally difficult to place. By shifting him from NYC to LA however, Edmonson gives him the breathing room he needs to avoid bumping into Lady Stilt-Man et al, but can easily throw in a few Marvel elements to keep his version of Castle feeling connected yet not smothered – like in this issue, with AIM (who?) and a final page spoiler (no, not her) leaving you to wonder how Frank is going to manage to stay not dead next issue. I should also mention the art because it deserves to be acknowledged; it feels real, it feels gritty without losing clarity of emotion, and it fits in really well with the tone of the book. Overall can’t wait for the next issue.
Uncanny X-Men #17
Bendis, Bachalo, Townsend
There are some great moments in this issue – setting the field trip in Tabula Rasa was a welcome change to the Savage Land or the Danger Room (which were my first two guesses much like the students), David’s hilarious yet realistic use of Google Maps to discover that fact, and his subsequent eviction from the team leaves some interesting places for the story to continue.
I have to admit when it dawned on me that this would be an issue entirely focused round the newbies I groaned a little inside, and part of me (the long time X-Men fanboy part) still feels that Uncanny should be the flagship book on the stands rather than All-New or Amazing; but by the end of the issue I found that I’d enjoyed it. I’m intrigued to know what happened to Eva while she went missing and what happens next to David. As always Bendis writes conversations well and Bachalo is one of my favourite Marvel artists so no complaints there. I just personally would like a bit more focus on Scott and Emma, but that’s just me.
Orlando, Trakhanov, Mauer
There’s a terrifying claustrophobia to Undertow. Much like astronauts, the Rebel Atlanteans are constantly surrounded by a crushing, deadly, uninhabitable environment. Ironic then that that’s just the kind of environment, if more societally speaking, that Redum Anshargal (gruff leader of the rebellion and tabloid boogeyman) is providing freedom from. Working from a giant airship, Anshargal and his 5000-strong following are breaking away from the Totalitarian Atlantis and exploring the world above, all while humanity is taking its first, neanderthal steps in the background.
Through Ukinno’s salvation and Redum’s narration we are introduced to this extremley immersive world (pun not intended. Sorry about that) and hurtled head first straight through one action set piece after another. Seriously, there’s no stopping this book.
The writing is tight; not a single word is wasted, but that’s expected when the narrator is as solid and unflinching as Redum Anshargal. The art is wonderful and really adds to the murky horror and unending claustrophobia of their situation (that final page gave me a shiver), but it’s the colours that really elevate this book into its own atmosphere (ok, that pun was intended). Each and every page is a stunning blend of dark and light; the underwater scenes a rich encompassing mix of blues, purples and greens, and the scenes on land are a stark contrast of reds, oranges and yellows as alien as the world the Atlanteans now explore. This deserves to be picked up.
So another week, another completely unique, stunningly original number 1 from Image. I’m starting to lose track of just how many quality titles are coming from them, and if this year’s Image Expo is anything to go by, expect more to come.
Add to that a good week at Marvel (Amazing X-Men, Daredevil and Punisher my favourites) and I’d say that’s a win this Wednesday!
Until next time,