Comic News Explosion!

There’s been so many little interesting things happening in the comic world that it boggles the mind how one can keep up with it. So here’s some stuff I found to be the most exciting in the past little while:

Uncanny X-Men Returns!

If you haven’t heard me complain about Marvel canceling Uncanny X-Men yet, don’t fret. I was right. They WILL be back – even sooner than expected. But starting at #1.

Am I psychic? No. I just am aware how comics work.

Both Comic Book Resources and ICv2 report (Oh, and Marvel too, I guess), much like the Looney Toons, the X-Men are back in action. And as I said before with too many X-titles on the market – sure enough, another one will hit the stands too. Wolverine & The X-Men. *Sigh*

It just doesn’t stop. And I doubt this has anything to do with the cartoon series.

Uncanny X-Men Back

Leonard Kirk Joins X-Factor!

This is the most exciting part to my news, in my humble opinion. Firstly, my first (or second, I’m still undecided) X-book is getting my local hometown artist on board! Leonard Kirk joins writer Peter David and artist Emanuela Lupacchino for a killer new arc in X-Factor. This is so freaking exciting! You can see some of Kirk’s sketches here on Marvel’s website. His versions of Wolfsbane and Layla are gorgeous.

Black Widow Archie?

Speaking of stuff not stopping, remember when Betty and Veronica from Archie were both Black Widows? I suppose Veronica is Natasha while Betty is Yelena? Does Archie comics even know there is a second Black Widow? Regardless, here are the covers:

Black Widow Betty

Black Widow Veronica

Avengers 1959

If you haven’t been reading The New Avengers, you missed out on some ridiculous retconning as of late. Turns out in 1959, Nick Fury created a band of Avengers before the Avengers ever came to be. What’s even more over-the-top is that the team consists of villains like Sabretooth, Kraven the Hunter and Namora (well she’s turned around now). This five-issue mini series will chronicle the missions the team worked with Fury on.

So not only was the Avengers 1959 story tacked-on to the New Avengers story poorly, but now it’s getting its own mini series. Mind boggling. Writer/artist Howard Chaykin will be taking the helm with the story. You can check it out this October.

“Namor: The First Mutant” Canceled

And to go off of Namora, Namor: The First Mutant has officially been canceled with issue #11. No – it will not be seeing a reboot any time soon, but it shows me that Namor is better off in the X-Men. His stories weren’t bad at all – it was just that Namor has never had a home. When he did with X-Men, he was great. His own spinoff was unfortunately not worth it. However, I’ll never forget how great Namor: The First Mutant #5 was. It definitely places Namor in a completely different light.

You can still read about Marvel’s best anti-hero currently in many X-books, as well as in the Fear Itself: The Deep mini series.

Alpha Flight’s Villain

Announced and only teased to readers today, Alpha Strike will be the main villains in the Alpha Flight maxi series. Is that Wendigo? And who is the mysterious lady in the shadows?

Alpha Strike

Total anarchy!

As a complete side note, I’ve been listening to Devin Townsend’s “Deconstruction” album consistently for two days straight. (It was released Tuesday).

Update: 06/24
Rest in Peace Gene Colan

Legendary comic book artist Gene Colan passed away yesterday at the age of 84 due to complications with hip and liver disease.

Colan is known for co-creating such characters as Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, Blade, Super-Adaptoid and Dracula. He’s also known for exceptional runs on Daredevil, Captain America and Doctor Strange. He was recently given an Eisner Award for Best Single Issue with his work in 2009’s Captain American #601.

He shall be missed.

Alpha Flight Returns! X-Factor Wins!

A new week of comics have came along! This also includes the premiere of the new maxiseries, Alpha Flight, and some superb storytelling in Peter David’s X-Factor. Although I don’t particularly feel the need to review Avengers #14 entirely, all I will say is I’m going to be dropping the series after the Fear Itself arc. I’m tired of the same “Block Pages” in each story. I’m also tired of hearing the same voices for each character. Although Romita Jr’s art was superb in this issue – and the idea behind the story is great – I’ve grown tired of Bendis’ execution.

But we’ll see how things go.

As for another turn of events, you may remember my first review of FF #1 back in March, but I’ve decided to pick the series up again (in lieu of The Avengers). That, and Black Bolt is apparently returning for issue #6. I love the Inhumans and have always followed them on their journeys. I was especially involved in the War and Realm of Kings stories, so I’m very excited to see how Black Bolt’s return will play a role in those current plots.

For now:

X-Factor

X-Factor #221
Peter David (writer), Dennis Calero (pencils, inks), Brian Reber (colours), Cory Petit (letters), David Yardin (cover). $2.99

Feral’s back from the dead but still dead! If that isn’t enough to intrigue you into the story, then I don’t know what will.

Continuing from last months cliffhanger, both Shatterstar and Wolfsbane are on the run from Feral – who is being used by a being of immense power – to anchor demons amongst other paranormal creatures to kill Wolfsbane. If that isn’t enough, Layla has gone banana’s at the base and is putting symbols as wards on the doors and windows. I think she knows stuff.

For such a short issue, David tackles what he needs to: Rahne’s and Feral’s past, Shatterstar’s humour, Rictor’s concerns of Shatterstar’s whereabouts and Layla being Layla. It all flows naturally and never feels pushed at all. That is what makes X-Factor such a joy to read. No dialogue feels forced to move the plot along and the reader can just accept what is happening as just another day.

Dennis Calero’s art is definitely a noticeable change from Emanuela Lupacchino’s bright, splashy pages and “well-endowed” characters. But much like Lupacchino’s work, Calero does brilliant facial features. We can tell what each character is feeling even if words were not on the page. Calero’s art, tied in with Reber’s noticeably dramatic dark colours, give this book the mood it needs given the gravity of the situation within its pages. Because of the duo, the final panel of the book could not be scarier to loyal X-Factor readers.

This issue is the beginning to where all-things in X-Factor shall come crashing down. It’s going to be one exciting ride.

Grade: 7/10

Personal note: I rarely write reviews about X-Factor because it feels like I’d be writing about family. Uncanny X-Men and X-Men Legacy have great “family” moments which makes their readers feel invested with the characters. This is noticed when the X-Men mention an issue or event that readers have read in the past. With X-Factor, it’s inherent fluidity is what makes me feel invested. If you’re into that, I highly recommend you pick up all of X-Factor’s back-issues starting with #1 (in 2006). If not, go ahead and pick up #200 – which is an excellent starting point. (And so you know, X-Factors numbering goes #1-50, then #200-onwards)

I had to write a review for this issue because it was just too darn-exciting for me not to.

X-Factor

Alpha Flight #1
Fred Van Lente & Greg Pak (writers), Dale Eaglesham (pencils), Andrew Hennessy (inks), Sonia Oback (colours), Simon Bowland(letters), Phil Jimenez & Frank D’Armata (cover). $3.99

Taking place after the events after both Alpha Flight #0.1 and Fear Itself, Alpha Flight is officially back with their own maxiseries! (It’s a word, right?)

Attuma, or “Nerkkod – Breaker of the Oceans” is chosen for a hammer as seen in the Fear Itself story, and is terrorizing Vancouver, Canada. (Coincidently, Boston just did the same thing.) Fortunately, the reborn Canadian superheroes are able to put a hold on Nerkkod’s plans of complete devastation. All except Northstar, who is unsure of himself and is content with his boyfriend Kyle in Montreal. To make matters worse, in the #0.1 issue, Gary Cody and his Unity Party just won Parliament and is now running the country. He abolishes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and declares the Emergency Act to control the chaos Fear Itself is creating in the country. And there’s still more! Actually, there are still three major problems in the story which I could go on about. But where’s the fun if I told you?

The great thing is that Fear Itself definitely plays a strong hand in Alpha Flight. There are so many problems happening in the story that even I felt overwhelmed – and that’s exactly what Van Lente and Pak want you to feel. The world is turned upside-down and us readers are right in the middle of it. Alpha Flight does their best to deal with that is at hand, but it is only bound to get worse.

And holy sh–! Eaglesham’s work is impeccable. Page-after-page is sheer emotion and brilliant layouts. You can look into the backgrounds and be wowed by how much detail goes into his art. Great facial features really shine in this issue. Most particularly with Shaman versus Nerkkod, Kyle having a freak out over the phone, and Aurora’s attitude throughout the book. He also reworked Marrina’s costume to really spruce up her attitude. With Hennessy’s and Oback’s great contrasts (especially on Snowbird’s transformations), we’re left with a gorgeous book. Although, yes, Eaglesham had some stiffness in certain panels, the pros entirely outweigh the cons here.

My biggest beef isn’t even really a problem. It is the first few pages where the characters get stereotypically introduced in comic book fashion where by saving civilians they have their names called out to them. It’s corny, but it still works.

There is so much crammed into this book and tons left to solve by the end, that I’m surprised we’re only getting eight issues of it. Hopefully our Canadian heroes can handle it. But from the looks of their creative team, they’re in good hands.

Grade: 8.5/10

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Wednesday’s Reviews May 18 – Take One

After a hectic work week, I hath returned to bring you reviews beyond your wildest imagination!

Or something like that.

I’m still on a Thor high, alright?

Avengers

Avengers #13
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Chris Bachalo (pencils, colours), Tim Townsend, Wayne Faucher, Jamie Mendoza & Al Vey (inkers), Clayton Cowles (letters), Alan Davis, Mark Farmer & Javier Rodriguez (cover). $3.99

“Fear Itself” hits the Avengers with. . . nothing happening. In fact, this issue takes us back to Fear Itself #1 with the end of the book showing Stark announcing the Avengers promise to rebuild Asgard. Needless to say, the book really does not pick up much steam and simply holds one constant tone of nothing-happening-at-all throughout. When the action that takes place is Spider-Woman crossing her arms or Thor laughing, you know you’re in for a thrill-ride.

The story does show a bit of promise. We’re given little tidbits of information that something has gone wrong, or currently is. It’s not too clear. The readers are teased about the events of Fear Itself in this book with an unknown interviewing each Avenger separately. But like I’ve mentioned before, Bendis is yet again doing his panels in the most repetitive way, which I’d like to now trademark as the “Block Page.”

. . . It’ll take off. Just you wait.

As for plot, we’re given a sense that Hawkeye and Spider-Woman are going to form a relationship, and Volstagg has no chance with Ms. Marvel. We’re also given plenty of giggle moments with Rulk and Spider-Man from time to time which made up for some of the Block Pages.

But thank god for Chris Bachalo and his rag-tag group of inkers (which came with him after his X-Men run). If it wasn’t for his fun-filled artwork, I think my eyeballs would have melted from seeing another Romita-Block Page. Bachalo shakes things up with some fun in the colour department too. A great spread of the Avengers in the ruins of Asgard definitely shine as one of the highlights to this issue. However, minor issues like Thor suddenly having a beard for a panel and Beast looking like Dark Beast are a bit unnerving for me.

Avengers #13 becomes a story that really fails to launch yet fortunately has some saving grace from Bachalo and friends.

Grade: 5/10

Alpha Flight

Alpha Flight #0.1
Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente (writers), Ben Oliver & Dan Green (pencils, inks), Frank Martin (colours), Simon Bowland (letters), Phil Jimenez & Frank D’Armata (cover). $2.99

Alpha Flight is back as Marvel’s #0.1 series brings you a good-sized introduction to the team. If you haven’t read about Canada’s superheroes before, now is the best time to jump on!

What’s most interesting is that the team is split up for the majority of the story. Sasquatch, Marrina, Shaman, Vindicator and Aurora are off in the St. Lawrence River fighting Citadel, while the remaining team fight Persuasion (Purple Man’s daughter and ex-member of Beta Flight) in Montreal. Both stories eventually tie in together with a “Fear Itself” angle at the conclusion of both battles. By the end of the story, Alpha Flight is whole, while Northstar questions whether or not he should join.

Building a set-up for the Fear Itself series tie-in, only little bits of the team are fleshed throughout the book. Surprisingly, given Northstar is the only member who didn’t die and has been seen in X-Men; he was given a lot of development with his relationship while the rest of Alpha Flight seems neglected. Also surprising is that there is no mention that Aurora is his sister. In fact, Sasquatch and Marrina hardly gets any time in the story at all.

The art leaves me skeptical. Although the brilliant colours really bring out the life of the story, the actual characters seem stiff. A lot of scenes seem like character poses, while particular face close-ups seem like photo references or possible traces. I could be wrong, but its definitely the vibe I feel from the art.

Despite the peculiar set-up for our Canadian heroes, Alpha Flight does what its supposed to do with a 0.1 issue of Marvel. Let us just hope the eight-issue series gives the team some justice.

Grade: 6/10

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Wednesday’s Reviews: Uncanny X-Force, Generation Hope, Wolverine, Jubilee and “I Told Ya So!”

Now that I’m feeling 90% better, I can refocus on reviews again.

But first, I want to say how excited I am for an upcoming Marvel maxi-event. As I suggested in an earlier post, Alpha Flight would be back. Turns out I was right! What’s even better is that the Chaos War duo, Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, are at the helm of this eight-issue series. Given the two are some of Marvel’s best writers, I am beyond excited to see how this series turns out. I clearly have foresight. Watch out during election time.

But on to the reviews!

Uncanny X-Force

Uncanny X-Force #5
Rick Remender (writer), Esad Ribic (pencils, cover), John Lucas (inker), Matt Wilson (colours), Cory Petit (letters). $3.99

Just when the triumphant ending of the last-issue could not make Uncanny X-Force any better of a comic, Remender continues his brilliant run with a brand-new arc featuring Fantomex. (And arguably, given the last issue, anyone could’ve seen this coming – and it’s awesome). In a nutshell, the X-Force team are trying to gather themselves post last issues events. The team gathers without Fantomex in Warren’s bunker to find out that Deadpool has called a meeting to discover Deadpool actually has feelings – and remorseful ones at that! Already Deadpool has been seen as an entirely different character in X-Force with hardly any humour coming from him at all. It’s also great when Wolverine recognizes that he’s being “pulled in all directions” when he complains he doesn’t have much time for meetings.

Meanwhile, early in the story, we learn Fantomex is growing a world. However, due to last issue’s events, he visits his “mother” in the French Alps when he is suddenly attacked by a cyborg Cyclops, Captain America, Elektra, and a few others! Barely escaping with EVA, they crash land only to be found by a particular cyborg who invokes “death.”

As previously stated, Remender’s run with Uncanny X-Force has been great so far. Necessary characterization push the stories boundaries to places where other writers seem to miss. However, I really want to speak about the art in this book – which really has carried the stories. Changing artists, Esad Ribic takes the helm of X-Force and really slams this comic home. One thing I usually dislike about changing artists is how the styles change so drastically between books. Ribic’s artwork, while on its own level, still echoes that of Jerome Opena’s, making the book have a great art transition. Then, of course, John Lucas and Matt Wilson take over with inks and colours which add incredible depths to the many different locations they have to work with. From winter, to underground, to a burning building with a cyborg-Thing being lit by fire – the duo accent Ribic’s art flawlessly, taking the grey-white tones from the previous arc on to a different level.

Why are you still reading this? Read or re-read Uncanny X-Force!

Grade: 8/10

Generation Hope

Generation Hope #4
Kieron Gillen (writer), Salvador Espin & Scott Koblish (pencils, inks), Frank Martin (colours), Dave Sharpe (letters), Olivier Coipel & Chris Sotomayor (cover). $2.99

One may ask why I continuously review this book after the hell I’ve put it through. Well, it’s because of issues like this – where it defies everything I’ve said in the past and pushes forward with an excellent story. That’s right: Generation Hope #4 has an excellent story and brilliant artwork. And you know what? It could’ve have happened without the past three-issues.

Generation Hope #4 really excels at storytelling as there is very little action to drown in. The Five Lights make it to Utopia unscathed, but all are shocked about the events which transpired in Tokyo. Remorse and excitement fills the new mutants as they try to figure out their own paths. After landing, Wolverine and Theo get the scuffle they wished to have in prior issues, while the rest settle in. Kenji – the villain in the first three issues – is brought before Scott and Emma to decide his fate. After revealing his sorrow and Emma finding out that the Tokyo incident was truly and accident, they accept Kenji into the island. Meanwhile, Dr. Nemesis puts the other Four Lights in tests to figure out their powers and limitations. Teon becomes like a protective dog to Hope, Hope kisses Gabriel, and Kenji becomes unsure with the future.

Definitely taking a change of pace, the storyline revolves around how the Five Lights interact with one another. No longer are they showing off their powers as so much they are trying to find themselves. In doing so, we get to see how they are as people, rather than weapons. I’d also have to give credit to both artists and colourists for making this the prettiest book I’ve seen from Generation Hope. Mixing Western art with anime in particular panels literally put a smile on my face – particularly one with Gabriel and Dr. Nemesis.

I’m already set for the next issue as this one – despite the lack of action – has me pumped for more.

Grade: 7/10

Wolverine and Jubilee

Wolverine and Jubilee #2
Kathryn Immonen (writer), Phil Noto (pencils, inks, colours), Nathan Fairbairn & John Raunch (colours), Clayton Cowles (letters), Nimit Malavia (cover). $2.99

The Curse of the Mutants Aftermath continues as Jubilee was last seen in a shipping container with tons of dead bodies. Fortunately with Wolverine being at her side, he took her to Siberia – where the shipping container originated from. (Yes, the book just starts there.) Turns out, Wolverine recognized the shipping serial code and wants to believe Jubilee is innocent for the killings. He just can’t trust her yet. Due to Siberia’s constant overcast, Jubilee can go outside unharmed. Convenient!

Wolverine decides to take Jubilee out to fight her – for some “tough love,” and the two later settle in for the night at their hotel. The two are approached by the hotel’s owner and are told about how people and animals in the town are disappearing and the undead are walking. The two go to check out the area and Jubilee ends up fighting off a horde of zombie-esque creatures. Back at the hotel, Wolverine is then awoken to Jubilee kneeling at the door with the mysterious woman from the first issue grabbing on to her.

I want to love this issue, but I can’t due to the lack of intrigue. While I enjoy the Wolverine/Jubilee dynamics, I don’t really have a grasp to what is happening in Siberia until the last few pages. To top it off, the final page cliffhanger really was not so much of a shock as I don’t know who this woman is, nor do I necessarily care. I know she’s responsible for the massacre in the container, but I’m just not attached to the threat as of yet.

What saves the book is Noto’s great pencils. Seeing Jubilee in her X-uniform was very nostalgic for me and Noto’s great use of her costume when battling Wolverine certainly shone. I also have to comment on his work on faces as the large diversity in expressions gave a lot of character to the two as they are really the only ones in the book. The doom-and-gloom of Siberia’s landscape with colours and inks definitely held strong throughout the story. Days felt like nights with the longing forecast disallowing any positive moods to come from the town.

With a promising first issue and decent second one, Wolverine and Jubilee still have a lot of story to tell in two more issues.

Grade: 6/10

As for favourite covers, this week’s favourite totally goes to Carlo Pagulayan for Silver Surfer #1.

Silver Surfer

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Classic Comic Fridays: Alpha Flight #1

It’s that time again for another look-back at a Classic Comic. The first Friday of every month, I will take a classic comic from my personal collection and review it. I also have to apologize for no reviews this week as I just felt like I needed a Wednesday off from writing (as I believe I am entitled to).

Anyway, with the events of Marvel’s Chaos War closing last week, a particular team was inexplicably left alive while the rest of the old dead-heroes remained, well, dead. That team is Canadian-born Alpha Flight, who were killed off by Omega in New Avengers #16 (2006).

First appearing officially in X-Men #120 (1979), Alpha Flight had been back-and-forth on the X-Men’s good-side. The first suggestion of a Canadian mutant team was back in X-Men #109 (1978), where Vindicator fought the X-Men to reclaim Wolverine. It was also the first time Wolverine was called “Weapon X” (for you trivia-enthusiasts out there). But despite their problems, Alpha Flight have been an integral part of Marvel’s Canadian fan-base, always supporting and promoting the team at Cons throughout the country.

So let’s take a look at their first big solo run – right out of the pages of X-Men!

Alpha Flight

Alpha Flight #1 (August, 1983)
John Byrne (writer, penciler, inker, cover). Andy Yanchus (colours), Joe Rosen (letterer). $1.00 ($1.25 Cdn)

Opening where Uncanny X-Men $140 left off – three years prior (who said comic book continuities had to be spot-on?), Alpha Flight is disbanded as Prime Minister Trudeau tells James Hudson, aka Vindicator, that government funding is no longer available for the team. Vindicator reflects on his time with the X-Men, as well as his Alpha Flight members, Snowbird, Shaman, and Sasquatch. He also sheds concern for the Gamma and Beta Flight members who have not even had their chance at becoming agents for the government.

Going home, he ponders his life without a job. He realizes that he will only have his soon-to-be wife’s salary to live on and wonders what will happen to them. He even asks himself how Captain America deals with such issues. Coming home, he breaks the news to Heather McNeil – his fiancée. Distraught, Vindicator vents to Heather on why the government would give up such a crucial team.

We get our first cut away to a stranger out in the middle of nowhere – chanting to the earth and drawing out a strange figure in the snow. . .

The book then cuts towards Jean-Paul (Northstar) and Jeanne-Marie (Aurora) Beaubier in Quebec. JP meets with JM at the all-girls school she is working at, to convince her that even with Alpha Flight gone, JM should still do good with her powers. After much convincing, she eventually turns around – but not without deep conversation between the two twins.

After receiving a phone call from friend Gary Cody – alerting him of a major problem – Vindicator sets off and tells Heather to contact the rest of Alpha Flight via their cybernetic implants.

Going into James’ office to contact the team, Heather stumbles upon two other member profiles to contact – both were in Beta Flight and were ready to be promoted into Alpha Flight until the disbanding. Those lucky members are Marrina and Puck.

Here is where the reader is introduced to each Alpha Flight member as the “roll call” presents itself.

The two non-Alpha Flight members, get the call. Marrina gets summoned as her apparent boyfriend gives her the message that she is needed. Puck is found working as a bouncer in a restaurant in Toronto. He receives the call and gathers himself to meet up with Heather at her home to see what she needs.

Snowbird, receives the call and heads to the rendezvous point, where a large monster named Tundra – made out of the earth – tramples itself along.

Alpha Flight Chaos War

Vindicator and Shaman quickly arrive to try and stop Tundra. Shaman attempts a few spells to no effect. He needs the creature to be weakened first. Suddenly, Sasquatch appears and jumps from a helicopter and lands on the monsters back – tearing the earth from it. He is beaten off it while Northstar and Aurora make their appearance. With their powers, they spin around the monster, dazing it, while Marrina makes her appearance, followed by her trail of water. With that, Shaman takes the water and blasts the monster making it unable to sustain itself and leaving it defeated.

Back at the home of James and Heather, Alpha Flight discuss keeping the team together despite the lack of government approval. They find that they are needed and will form together. Suddenly, there’s a knock on the door. James opens it to see Puck standing there wondering whether or not he’ll be able to join despite being late. After a quick ruse from Sasquatch, the two get into a friendly fist-fight and thus concluding the first story of Alpha Flight.

Coming right out of the pages of X-Men, albeit late, Alpha Flight #1 does not disappoint in any way. John Byrne sets up each character with deep plot points that each person begs to have their persona fleshed out. For example, during the first “roll call,” Sasquatch is out doing reconnaissance. For what, who knows? Also, what are Beta and Gamma Flight? Where does the government stand on Alpha Flight continuing without their approval? It’s little tidbits like this which drive the story with so much strength.

One thing specifically that got to me while re-reading this tale was how much characterization – natural, human characterization was placed into all of the individuals. Vindicator worries about bills. Marrina has a love life just waiting to be explored. The twins, outside of their rivalry, have so much more to offer.

Given that Byrne practically designed this entire book on his lonesome, he deserves quadrillions of credit which he already has by me.

My only major quarrel was with Puck’s patrons in Toronto. Although Puck flawlessly uses the Canadian lingo “eh?” – all of the restaurant patrons forcibly say it – making it very unnatural.

All aside, Alpha Flight would go on to be a strong series – running for just over a decade until issue #130 in 1994, followed by a twenty-issue reboot from 1997 to 1999, and a twelve-issue one from 2004 to 2005. Given their unexpected reemergence from the Chaos War, I can only assume another one is on its way.

Grade: 8/10