The Reading List: Comic Book Reviews for March 5th 2014

Welcome to The Reading List!

 

Here are my personal highlights of the comic books released this week.

If you’ve read my blog before I do lean towards Marvel/Image/Indie, 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!

 

 

MARVEL

 

Captain America #18

Remender, Klein, White

 

First off, while I understand having a banner advert for the new Captain America movie on the front of the new Captain America comic would make sense in theory, anyone coming in new to this series expecting a feel for what to expect at the cinema is more than likely to be left a little confused. Unless I’ve seriously misinterpreted the trailers.

Part two of the Iron Nail story sees more Mindbubbles! Hooray? Nah I’m being too harsh, this issue was actually more fun than last time and less ‘out there’. Again, anything to do with Dr Mindbubble is going to be wacky no matter how you look at it but they explain his origin here which makes him easier to take now he’s in context. Cap is still reeling from his time in Dimension Z, debating where he truly calls home. It’s a great development for his character but I still feel the whole concept will get dropped by the next writer, whoever and whenever that’ll be.

I’m still loving Jet Black: she doesn’t get much page time but what she does get is brilliant, going all Neeson on the Cyborg-in-Charge of Weapon Minus (that’s ‘Taken’ era Neeson, not ‘Love Actually’ Neeson), and Falcon proves a formidable force here too.

The art is bold, crisp and on just the right side of cartoony given the bombastic visuals and zany villain, and likewise the colours are nice and bright too. Overall a good read.

7.5/10

 

 

Daredevil: Road Warrior #2

 

Waid, Krause, Kalisz
 

I’m really glad these infinite comics come out weekly, because this issue – the second following Matt Murdock’s action packed cross country trip – is over way too quickly.

There’s a lot to love, even if it’s nowhere near long enough. Matt gets no closer to uncovering the mystery, but with a very cool chase sequence that shows off the Infinite style nicely (including a stunt that in no way should have worked) and as always the writing (Cocky Daredevil beats Dark Knight-Lite Daredevil any day) and the art are what really keeps me coming back. Just more of what you love basically!

8/10

 

Loki Agent of Asgard #2

Ewing, Garbett, Woodard

 

I’m loving this.

I could genuinely leave the review there but it’d be doing it a mis-service. Loki’s new start (he’s all about starting over don’t you know) feels like just that: new. It’s got a really fresh, vibrant feeling of…newy…newness. Don’t worry old Journey into Mystery fans, there’s still plenty of nods to Asgard’s rich Marvel history here, as well as references to more current developments (I mean seriously, I had no idea how complex Loki’s personal backstory is. That opening ‘previously on’ page is pretty eye opening).

For those of you who saw this week’s Agents of Shield episode or have read any of the information about next week’s, you may be wondering just who Lorelei is and how she fits into Thor’s world. Never fear – Loki: Agent of Asgard is here! Really, just pick up this issue and you’ll have everything you’ll need going forward. There’s also a bank heist, speed dating shenanigans and a fascinating new (hopefully recurring) character in Verity Willis to keep you entertained while you’re here, and is a perfect foil for our God of Mischief.

Those fans who transferred over from Young Avengers won’t be disappointed either: there’s obviously sexy Young Adult Loki here (who apparently gets mistaken for Harry Styles?), but there’s also the familiar sense of humour running through the backbone of the book (“She Heisted my Heart” is my favourite moment) and along with some great artwork – this is shaping up to be among my favourite books on the stands.

9/10

 

Magneto #1

Bunn, Walta, Bellaire

 

This is definitely a bold new direction for everyone’s favourite mutant villain, although villain may not be the correct word for Magneto. Just what he is at heart – his identity, his very nature – takes focus front and centre in this brand new number one of Erik Lehnsherr’s first ongoing spotlight.

The status quo is very much rooted in current continuity; taking a break from Scott Summer’s new mutant revolution to start up a new crusade of his own, with Shield seemingly on his tail; however Magneto #1 does a great job of breaking off on its own so much that you don’t need to read anything before coming into this. Another fresh start it seems.

And yet his past, present and future all come into question as he attempts to uncover just who he really is and what makes him matter. This journey, tied into his core quest to rid the world of anti-mutant monsters (by any means necessary it would seem), is what drives both him and this book going forward.

There’s always been a spirit of man versus machine about this character; of organic vs non organic, nature vs man-made; but writer Bunn takes that concept and adds a horrifying body-shock element to the ‘Big Bad’ of this issue, evolving a classic villain to oppose the titular star in a way rarely seen before.

The art is vaguely reminiscent of Steve Dillon, and as such adds a realism to the world. With a gritty, grey palette this isn’t the Magneto you’re familiar with, and while I’m not personally a fan of his new look (I never saw him as being so stocky) there’s no doubt that the main point is that there’s still a lot to learn before we label Magneto as anything – hero or villain. Very nice series opener.

8.5/10

 

Moon Knight #1

Ellis, Shalvey, Bellaire

 

 

As someone who is not wholly familiar with the character let me tell you: this is a great introduction to Moon Knight. I’ve read some of the previous attempts to revamp this dark and complex creation, but not even the killer combination of Bendis and Maleev could convince me to stick around. This issue however has me hooked – for as long as they want to keep making them I’ll keep picking them up.

For those daunted by Marc Spector’s somewhat complex back-story, Warren Ellis simply and concisely catches you up to speed with a title page that ends with “He went completely insane, and disappeared. This is what happened next.” Brilliant, and like that we’re up to speed! There’s a slightly more detailed biography given by someone (is that Norah from Spidey’s world?) seemingly writing up a blog about him and talking to someone unknown which may or may not be important. Either way after that scene we’re definitely up to date, and this is where the artwork really sings, telling you as much about Moon Knight as any written word. His image stands out uncoloured from the background of each panel. He’s almost left sketched, barely even inked, like he’s not all there (I get it), occupying the negative space and completely dominating your focus. It’s genius. Along with frankly stunning layouts (watch for when MK descends to the sewers) and it’s clear the art is the real winner here.

Don’t dismiss the writing just yet though. There’s a dark, ethereal ending to the issue that stays with you, and a tone throughout the book that, like Moon Knight himself, really stands out from anything else out there right now. Give this a read.

9/10

 

Night of the Living Deadpool #4

Bunn, Rosanas

 

Well, that is one truly bizarre ending to the series. I can genuinely say I didn’t see that coming! Bunn brings his zombie mini-saga to a close with this, the fourth issue, and I think overall it was a success. I’ve said before that it brings enough new ideas to stand on its own as a competent piece of zombie fiction and not just another Deadpool miniseries.

This wasn’t the strongest of the issues, but with the burden of other living souls removed from his life there’s more room for the Merc with a Mouth to crack some extremely dark jokes, which do come thicker and faster than previous instalments. There was an odd tendency (only odd for the character, not the situation) for ‘Pool to come across as a bit morose, but here he seems fairly resigned to his fate and as such shrugs off the guilt of his actions in issue 3 and treks off with Clarence (not all of him though) in search of a cure.

There’s a great quote from It’s a Wonderful Life, or a typically Wade Wilsonesque paraphrasing of one anyway (did they only name his companion Clarence for that one moment?) and aforementioned bizarre ending showing that Bunn has still got more to give when it comes to this character, as well as some great visual gags within the hordes of the undead (look out for Shaun of the Dead references, among what I’m sure are many others) proving that Ramon Rosanas has been pretty perfect for this series. Not a fan of Carnage so I’ll be giving the next mini a miss, but if that’s your thing then Deadpool vs Carnage is coming up soon.

7/10

 

The Punisher #3

Edmonson, Gerads

 

There’s a real sense that Frank is in too deep here. As his investigations into the Dos Soles cartel run into a rather…electrifying…problem (come on, it’s Electro. I know, spoilers, but it’s practically on the cover!) and his supporting cast start to lose faith in the system they serve in favour of Castle’s more extreme form of justice, you can’t help but get caught up in the world and feel that the situation is not only in dire need of The Punisher, but very nearly past his help. Which begs the question: why the hell are all the superheroes all bunched up together in New York when there are cities like this begging for them??

Nathan Edmonson hopes to even that scale of course, although he’s not making it easy for our titular star. It’s not like he can web up his hands is it? The writing is spot on as usual, Castle’s inner monologue runs through the book lets us into his head, and the colours are fantastic – it feels like each and every page is a different spectrum that you never thought you’d see in a Punisher title. Likewise you never thought you’d see Punisher in a hooded sweatshirt but that’s in here too. So yeah. Lots to see and do folks!

8.5/10

 

She-Hulk #2

Soule, Pulido, Vicente

 

This is just a gorgeous book. I mean, look at those layouts! The colours! The frankly terrifying 2-page spread of Jennifer Walter’s steely gaze!

Yep, It’s She-Hulk #2 and following on from last issue’s collapse of her previous life we see our heroine build a brand new one…except, it doesn’t really get the amazing kick start she expects (when does it ever) so she does what anyone else would do and heads to a bar to drown her sorrows with a friend – in this case, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat. For a character that has, I think, literally been around for longer than Marvel comics themselves, Patsy sure does bring fresh energy into an already energetic book, and is the definite highlight of this issue.

I’ve read my fair share of comics involving Hellcat, but I’ve never truly understood why she has that name until now. We all have that friend. That one friend that no matter how much you love them, you know that they’re not entirely stable and have a tendency to surround themselves with trouble. Still – that combination usually makes for an entertaining night out, which is exactly what Shulky gets with her bestie.

There’s more big robots, ambitious AIM goons, a ‘non negotiable’ office monkey, a completely gorgeous guided tour and absolutely no reason for you to not be picking this book up.

9/10

 

Uncanny X-Men #18

Bendis, Rudy, Staples

 

There are a lot of conversations that have been a long time coming in this issue, between many characters, all happening when Kitty and the All-New X-Men made the move from one school to another, explaining that it wasn’t as smooth a transition as was laid out in previous issues. And why would it be? The baggage and grudges that each of these characters carry is enough to weigh down a Sentinel, but they go some way to airing their grievances throughout these pages.

Make no mistake though – this is a Scott Summers-centric issue. After all, his erratic powers permeate throughout the artwork, providing the border for almost every panel. He’s got many deeds to answer for and a lot of pissed off X-Men to answer to, but I get the feeling this is just another step toward redemption for him (we’ve already seen him make some form of peace with Logan in a recent issue of Wolverine and the X-Men) and maybe an end to the Schism? Maybe?

As per usual, Bendis works his magic with the individual interactions, and though the Kitty/Scott and Jean/Scott moments are heavy, there are definitely some lighter moments – Emma’s frankly ridiculous reaction to Kitty’s presence (she is really cracking up) and older Scotts advice to his younger counterpart (“Stay away from Redheads”) help break the tension.

While a great idea and visually striking, the execution of the art often made it hard to follow the plot, especially the action sequences. The facial rendering was very odd in places too, so all in all an uneven issue art wise.

One final point, regarding continuity. This issue cleverly deals with and gets around the current Trial of Jean Grey crossover happening elsewhere by placing the majority of the issue a few weeks ago. However. Cyclops mentions Kitty being lost in space (back in Joss Whedon’s seminal run) was last year. Last year? I know, I know, I shouldn’t let continuity get to me and the sliding time-scale is inevitable in order to squeeze over 50 years of comics into about 10 years their time, but are we meant to believe that everything from Fury’s Secret War to today took place within 12 months? Eurgh, I know. I’ll drop it.

7/10

 

Wolverine and the X-Men #1

Latour, Asrar, Silva

 

After a long wait we finally get back into the world of the Jean Grey school and- wait. It’s only been a week?! Boy Marvel, you’re really cranking them out!

For an issue as focused on the future (in particular the future of Quentin Quire) there are a lot of references to storylines past. Remender’s Uncanny X-Force, Battle of the Atom, Uncanny Avengers, not to mention the previous volume of this very series. It’s all par for the course for X-Men fans of course, but new readers enticed by the big number 1 on the front may be discouraged from picking up number 2 as most of the nuances of the characters would likely go over their head.

Nevertheless, as a continuation of the soap opera of their lives this is a great read. While missing the spark of comedy of Aaron’s work Latour picks up the baton well and sets up a lot of personal drama as well as bigger plots that have me intrigued. The art is not as cartoony as someone like Bradshaw or Bachalo from volume 1’s better arcs, but it’s a fitting look for the series and the colours stand out from the page. A great start.

8/10

 

ARCHIE

 

Afterlife with Archie #4

Aquire-Sacasa, Francavilla, Morelli.

 

Good grief, this is intense. I can’t imagine what it’s like for true fans of the Archie universe, so invested in these characters they’ve probably loved since childhood, but even coming in blind like I am I can feel the pain coming off the page. This is the first time I’ve ever read anything involving Archie and the gang (I guess the Apple pie Americana never really translated as well across the pond) but after seeing the reviews for issue 1 and loving zombie books like I do I just had to pick it up. I imagine there are character beats that go over my head but for the most part you only need a basic understanding of the world to get stuck in.

Let me tell you: this is one of the finest zombie series I’ve ever read. Francavilla’s art is atmospheric and visceral, and Aguire-Sacasa’s plot is unflinching, unforgiving and frenetic.

As for this particular issue, well let me just say, you can put people in danger all you want, kill off any number of my favourite characters and I’ll barely flinch. When it involves dogs however? That’s it. I’m done. This issue? All the feels…

9/10

 

IMAGE

 

 

Velvet #4

Brubaker, Epting.

 

It’s a cheap shorthand to refer to Bond when reviewing this book, but for the uninitiated this is what it is: what if Moneypenny was secretly as badass as the man himself, and more, what if she was framed for his murder?

This is what faces Velvet, the protagonist of Brubaker’s latest crime series. If you’ve read any of his previous work on Image or even his Captain America run you’ll know his style is deep, intricate espionage thrillers and this is a perfect example of a team at their best.

There’s not much to say about the specific plot of this issue that would make sense to anyone not reading, but as she follows the trail of breadcrumbs to find X-14’s true killer by tracking his last known actions, Velvet is drawn to the Carnival of Fools and an ex-KGB rogue.

Steve Epting is a personal favourite of mine and no stranger to fans of Brubaker, and it’s safe to say he’s having a great time on this series. His expressions are easy to read, his backgrounds crisp and real, and the layouts during the action scenes are brutal like Bourne – up close and dirty. As the lady says herself “It’s desperate. Ugly”. Definitely a highlight of the week.

9/10

 

VALIANT

 

 

Quantum and Woody: Goat #0

Asmus, Fowler, Passalaqua

 

You seriously won’t find a funnier book on the market right now. Answering ‘public demand’ Valiant have knocked it up a notch with this issue focusing on standout sidekick of the decade (move aside, Damian Wayne)…GOAT!

Really, only Quantum and Woody could get away with a book like this. Simultaneously mocking Valiant’s ‘Zero Issue’ format they’ve carried out relatively successfully across their whole line, while also elevating said format to new heights, this issue is standalone proof that if you want genuine comic book originality and humour, QaW has got your back. With some hilarious concepts like Thunder Moist energy drinks (“Shoot the Moist!!!”) and ‘Like a Xerox that poops: Cloning and the Animal Kingdom’, and a final page twist that is as unexpected as it is genius, you should be reading this book. Seriously, you don’t need to play catch up; this achieves what other issue zeroes have lacked and gives you a brilliant introduction to the title. I ‘kid’ you not (sorry), ‘ewe’ (again) won’t be disappointed.

8.5/10

 

And that’s it for this week!

 

Until next time,

Matt

 

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