Wednesday’s Reviews: Empty Promises

With the X-Men’s Schism around the corner and the Fear Itself stories ramping up, I figured it would be best to review two very anticipated titles this week: X-Men Prelude to Schism #4 and Fear Itself: Black Widow #1.

But first, I must quickly mention Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #6. – Holy @*#$! What an ending! This is Marvel’s best series of the year. What a wild ride so far!

Now that that’s done:

X-Men Schism Prelude

X-Men Prelude to Schism #4 of 4
Paul Jenkins (writer), Clay Mann (pencils), Jay Leisten & Seth Mann (inks), Chris Sotomayor & Lee Loughridge (colours), Rob Steen (letters), Giuseppe Camuncoli & Dan Brown (cover). $2.99

I personally held off reviewing any of the Prelude to Schism stories until it became interesting. By the final issue, I’m really just reviewing it to complain.

In the prior three issues, readers get a brief history on the major players in the X-Universe: Cyclops, Professor X, and Magneto. By the fourth issue, we receive the same ideas, but with Wolverine. What the series ended up being is more a re-telling of each characters’ history, rather than pushing a story forward. Each issue, we’ve waited this much longer to find out what the threat to the X-Men is. We know that IT’S coming, but we have no idea what IT is. By the end of issue four *Not a spoiler alert* we STILL have no idea.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Wolverine Origin story, then this book is new for you. Aside from that, nothing new is teased for Schism. Well, I suppose one thing is that writer Paul Jenkins really likes is to make Wolverine look like a jerk. Alas.

Fortunately, Clay Mann’s art really shines in this issue. Flying through centuries of Wolverine’s past, Mann successfully shows us a descriptive story. From Wolverine and Rose, to Weapon X, to the 90’s X-Men roster, Mann shows a superb display of artistry. I love his rendition of 90’s Jean Grey. His colouring team of both Sotomayor and Loughridge also do an exceptional job in adjusting the colour schemes to fit the time line of each story.

Not trying to have this review as an entire tearing apart of the book, Prelude definitely served its purpose of getting people wondering what Schism is. This issue somewhat bonded Cyclops and Wolverine together, but also left a clue to what causes the split between the duo as well.

Although I’m still very eager to find out what Schism is, I just wished it hadn’t cost me $12 of already-familiar backstory that gets me nowhere.

Grade: 5/10

Fear Itself Black Widow

Fear Itself: Black Widow #1 (One-Shot)
Cullen Bunn (writer), Peter Nguyen (pencils, inks), Veronica Gandini (colours), Clayton Cowles (letters), Michael Ryan (cover). $3.99

After the Grey Gargoyle turns the city of Paris into stone, it’s up to the Black Widow to not do anything about it and take on Rapdio’s evil forces with Peregrine instead.

I was pretty excited for Fear Itself: Black Widow. After learning the fate of Bucky, I was sure she would have been interesting to follow through with. Turns out, she mentions him briefly, and argues that she must feel cold because she’s a spy. Right. While Paris is covered in stone, Rapdio decides to take advantage of the situation and gathers information of French missile codes to give to other crimelords. Knowing this, the Black Widow leaves America’s current turmoil to stop him. There, her and Peregrine fight to save the day, while Fear Itself becomes only a memory for the rest of the story. In fact, I have no idea what Black Widow actually feels during this entire story until the final page. And no, the feeling isn’t “Fear.”

What lacks in story is made up for with Nguyen’s stylistic art. Black Widow looks sharp, seductive, and surprisingly zipped-up (despite what the cover suggests) throughout most of the whole story. Gandini’s colours render well with Nguyen’s work as Black Widow slips in and out of shadows solely because of her attire. She is indeed dressed and made to look as a spy.

The point is that this Fear Itself story had nothing to add to “Fear Itself” and can, in fact, be entirely dismissed save for Nguyen and Gandini’s gorgeous renderings of Black Widow.

Grade: 6/10

There will be no Classic Comic Friday feature tomorrow because it’s Canada Day. However, it will arrive July 8th for sure.

And don’t forget to check out UncannyDerek on Facebook and Twitter!

So until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Wednesday’s Reviews: The Incredible Widow Maker

This week wasn’t a big week for comics. Neither will next week. January lull, I assume. Then again, come the 26th, I’ll be overwhelmed with comics. Until then, this week we have Chaos War continuing in The Incredible Hulks #620, while the identity to Ronin is revealed in Widow Maker #3.

Incredible Hulks

The Incredible Hulks #620
Greg Pak (writer), Paul Pelletier (penciler), Danny Miki (inker), Paul Mounts (colours), Simon Bowland (letters), Paz and D’Armata Pagulayan (cover). $3.99

Chaos War crushes on in The Incredible Hulks story. In last issue, the Hulks took on Abomination, Demon Zom, and the Hulk’s father as the Chaos King rises the dead to kill A-Bomb’s ex-wife, Marlo, as she recently gained powers of Death (long story). Fortunately for the Hulk, he has people in life who come back, thanks to Marlo. Doc Samson, Glenn Talbot, as well as his ex-wife Jarella appear to aid in the fight.

Surprisingly, with all of the action happening in this comic, there is a great amount of relationships between every character. Although the primary story is focused between Hulk and his father, little snippets of feelings from A-Bomb and Marlo, to Hulk with Jarella, and Betty with Talbot, all get attention in the story. Albeit minor, the dialogue they share is significant enough to really generate some empathy from the readers. Pak’s balance of characters really shines through. A powerful scene with all of the Hulks lined up against Hulk’s father stands as a powerful statement that Hulk really does have a family now.

Pelletier makes good use of full-page spreads with many scenes of action taking over multiple pages and generating a feel of strength with the Hulks. And I do not mean physical strength. Tied in with Mounts’ excellent mixes of greens and “death” red colours, this book was a surprise hit – tackling a lot in one book.

Grade: 7/10

Widow Maker

Widow Maker #3 of 4
Jim McCann (writer), David Lopez (penciler), Alvaro Lopez (inker), Nathan Fairbairn (colours), Cory Petit (letters), Phil Noto (cover). $3.99

With the first two stories leading a tremendous build up of who Ronin is, this story does not disappoint. Our three heroes, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Mockingbird, with mercenary Dominic Fortune, finally discover the secret of Ronin. Not only that, our dynamic relationship duo – Hawkeye and Mockingbird – seem to be on good terms again. Near the ending of the book, Ronin’s identity is releaved, and as are his ultimate plans for domination. Leaving the book with our heroes entirely overran with villains, it’ll be interesting to see how the story concludes itself.

Despite the surprise twist with Ronin’s identity, the story ends up falling a bit flat on a few different levels. Firstly, the characters, while all having a history together – never touch upon it. You would figure the first part of the book featuring Hawkeye and Black Widow alone would feature much more interesting dialogue. Dominic’s only place in the book now, it seems, is to be comic relief as he only adds in funny dialogue when there seems to be nothing else to say – which is surprising, considering Hawkeye is supposed to be the funny one. By the end of the book, Ronin also gives away his “ultimate plan” in a stereotypical villain rant which we’ve seen in every cartoon series known to man.

But despite the books short-comings, the Lopez’s and Fairbairn pick up the pieces with nice colours and tons of action. Albeit, there was a few panels which were questionable: Some faces changed in quality depending on the panel, while one particular scene with Black Widow has her suit zipped right up before battle. The very next panel, her suit is zipped down, suggesting cleavage helps fighting gifted ninja girls. Yes, I did say that. But all aside, the art was solid and the story definitely only needed to be four issues long.

Grade: 5/10

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Hulk, X-Men, and Vampires

Sorry about the delay, folks. Yesterday’s comics were pretty good. Black Cat’s limited series finally concluded (and with a decent plot), while Incredible Hulks rampages on in issue #614 – fighting the Secret Avengers, while X-Men #4 battles on with the vampires. I also picked up Tick’s Edlund Epic #5 and #6, but they are comics from the 80’s reprinted in colour (and may eventually appear in my “classic reviews”), while I also picked up Shadowland #4. Unfortunately, I’m still lacking Shadowland #3, so I refuse to read on until I grab that. Damn lack of second-printing! New Avengers #5 also was released and is shaping up to be a decent story.

So this week we have two great books to go under the knife. Hulks and X-Men.

Incredible Hulks #614 – written by Planet Hulk/World War Hulk great, Greg Pak, featuring art from Barry Kitson. This run has been called the “Dark Son” series, and we’re on part three of six. In a nutshell, Hulk has another son – Skaar’s twin brother who has more of the Old Power than Skaar does. Pretty much, his new son, named Hiro-Kala, wants to destroy the remaining Old Power (so Skaar – and despite him having the Old Power himself – which is addressed in IH #613) so he’s sending his planet, K’ai, towards Earth to destroy it.

Hulks614

If that wasn’t bad enough, the government missiles and weapons aren’t doing any damage to the oncoming assault. The government decides to send up thousands of soldiers to fight it. Cut to Cape Canaveral, and the Hulks are on a rampage destroying tons of military equipment. The Secret Avengers jump in to fight off the Hulks until Black Widow and Beast show up with a gun which could teleport the Hulks into the Negative Zone instantly. So yes, the Hulks surrender and talk to Steve Roger’s about why they were damaging everything.

Hulk tells him that the government would just be sending soldier’s to their death, so they had to destroy all the equipment so people would not go up in space. Plus, it would create jobs for the economy. Really, they mention that.

After deliberation, both Rogers and the President allow the Hulks to go into space – via the Stone Flagship used to bombard Earth during World War Hulk! The final panel, the President is shown saying, “God help us. . . the Hulks are running the show now.”

If you have been reading Hulk, this definitely was a “wow” for me. It was such a great feeling seeing the Stone Flagship rise out of the ground. Of course, the comic made the event seem much more epic than how I described it.

I love Pak’s writing. Ever since he’s been attached to the Hulk, I’ve tried to read everything he’s done. He literally is responsible for turning the Hulk into such a great character – in my eyes. As for story, we really get to see the power of the planet K’ai in this issue and see that it can wipe-out quite a bit. On top of that, we get half the story of the Hulks smashing. Full-spreads of damage, plus Kitson’s take on the Secret Avengers. It’s great to see them in such a different light – literally – than Dedato’s drawings. I find Beast looking a lot more menacing, while Valkyrie and Rogers share a lot of the spotlight. Bright blue colours of the characters against a red skyline for most of the comic contrast very well.

Needless to say, this story was not only fast-paced, we get information about how the world would have reacted against K’ai, plus the intervention of other heroes with the Hulk. Quite frankly, this was a great surprise following two issues of character build-up. The Incredible Hulk’s story, plus a bonus-story at the end between Bruce and Skaar really place the $3.99 price tag at a great value, with a fantastic story.

Grade: 9/10

X-Men #4 is a continuation with the Curse of the Mutants storyline where the X-Men are against vampires. To summarize quickly, the vampires want the X-Men to become vampires so that their race can be the most power ever with mutants on their side. They argue that vampires are like mutants – shunned from society. Since the mutants are now at an all-time low-number, the vampires feel it best to strike now.

Xmen4

And as you can see from this GORGEOUS cover by Adi Granov, yes Wolverine became a vampire and is on their side now. You’re all probably like, “but his healing factor would’ve fought that.” And you’re absolutely right. It’s how Wolverine did not become a Brood, or ever hold a virus for long in his body. Well, from a FanExpo Canada panel back in August, C.B. Cebulski mentioned that it would be explained in the comic. However not in X-Men #3 or #4 where Wolverine is a vampire, so I’m still waiting.

The story, by Victor Gischler, with art by Paco Medina, is mostly Wolverine/Cyclops-focused. There’s a small subplot of Blade and Angel/Archangel searching for vampires and finding them – only to run away immediately, while the rest of the story is done through video intercom. Yup. Never judge a book by its cover.

Wolverine brags how great it is being a vampire and he explains how he feels being one. Dr. Nemesis cannot figure out a cure to vampirism, and Cyclops calls Xarus (lord of the vampires who killed Dracula and became the leader), and tries to persuade Xarus that the X-Men will fight. Xarus brags some more (as it seems vampires do a lot), and shows off both Jubilee and Wolverine both turned into vampires. They both brag how great it is and ask Scott to join. Of course, he refuses and Xarus wants to bring the fight to them.

The only really exciting moment is seeing the final panel of an army of vampires which will be led by Wolverine in the next issue to attack the X-Men.

If my review sounded boring and drab to you, that’s how the comic was too. I apologize for it. I’m sure Gischler would not. What I cannot knock is Medina’s art. Great use of panels shows us the action split between words. For example, Cyclops describes fighting vampires on one page. Within said page, we get three different panels of action in different parts of the city, featuring Colossus, Pixie, Rogue, Storm, Psylocke and Gambit. All of that is broken up by Cyclops’ sentences. It’s done extremely well, and each page tells its own story. Angel and Blade’s stumbling upon a vampire lair also spreads a full page of them pretty much overwhelmed by vampires. Pages like those, with beautiful dark colours by Marte Gracia, give this Curse of the Mutants plot a grim feeling.

However, given a lot of action is done in dialogue buffed up between two egos, it really dwindles the story. It’s like watching school children say, “I’m better because of this,” “Oh yeah? Well I’m better!” Only somehow this involves the leaders of X-Men and vampires. What a battle!

Grade: 6/10

In other news, the Spider-Man movie villain has been discovered as the Lizard, played by Rhys Ifans. Also, congratulations goes out to Christopher Hastings, and Anthony Clark, writer, drawer, and colourist to the web comic Dr. McNinja. Their recent Volume 4 has been picked up by Darkhorse Comics! Once again, this goes to show you that persistence in the art universe is key!

We’ll see what tomorrow will bring with my classic comics! Until then!

Keep on Space Truckin’.