Classic Comic Fridays w/ Wednesday Reviews?!

Tuesday marked my one-month anniversary of the blog, meaning in one month’s time, I’ve had 680 views! I think that’s pretty fantastic so far, so thank you everyone who has supported this idea! Last week’s article about Women in Comics was a huge success. Thank you for the comments and feedback received. Believe me, I’ll definitely be doing more posts like that in the near-future.

As for this week, I was late getting my comics on Wednesday hence no review. So instead of doing two separate blog posts, I’ll slam together one epic-post involving my weekly reviews, plus my Classic Comic feature. Sounds good? Okay!

So I am planning on doing three reviews for comics I grabbed this week, plus the Classic Comic, thus my reviews will be a bit shorter than usual as I want to cram everything in and not bore anyone. Also, please keep ***SPOILER ALERT*** in mind for when you read these reviews.

So without further adieu, let’s start with the Classic Comic!

As I’m sure you’ve heard about The Increduble Hulk coming back to television, so is a favourite of mine, Cloak and Dagger.

So as such, I shall review Cloak and Dagger Vol. 2 #1 from July of 1985. The second volume only lasted eleven issues, as it followed from a four-issue limited series. Bill Mantlo wrote both series, while Rick Leonardi penciled Volume 1, and up to issue four on Volume 2, only to have each issue after that drawn by different artists. Needless to say, this was to be Cloak and Daggers big break.

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The comic opens with the duo stopping a child sex-ring, which makes the story start pretty dark for characters who flew out of the Spider-Man comics. A battle ensues with the gang who steals the women, where Cloak and Dagger both put an end to the nonsense. They manage to hold off any death until the police arrive, and they head back to their home – The Holy Ghost Church – their sanctuary.

There, the Father believes Cloak is a bad influence on Dagger and believes he is persuading her in a life of crime. They discuss with the Father that they are runaways (it’s written in bold in the book and thus explaining their cameo in the Runaways series) and give a brief story about who they are, and explain how Cloak saved Dagger and they are a team.

While taking refuge in the church for a few days, Cloak inexplicably attacks church goers and makes them see their darkest fears. Dagger attacks back, believing Cloak must have been angry at the Father for his judgment. However, during the battle, two red eyes appear from the darkness making the reader assume Cloak has been possessed. Dagger, unknown to this, thinks Cloak is arrogant and leaves him, giving the reader the understanding that the duo is no more. So ends the comic.

Cloak and Dagger #1 is dark and gritty – exactly how the duo are upon facing crime. They are misunderstood and believe in high-morals, fighting for what’s right while still dealing with their own demons. The first issue really emphasized the image of C&D, especially with inker Terry Austin at the helm giving us the looks of a grungy city.

Story-wise, it ended weak with Dagger being almost ridiculous with her reaction to Cloak. It seemed like something out of Degrassi. However, that lull at the end does not overshadow the true nature of the comic throughout. It was unfortunate that the series only lasted eleven issues. Although the two were back for Volume 3 in the late 80’s, their run only lasted nineteen issues and left the duo to guest star in comics from there on out.

They had been most recently seen in the Uncanny X-Men storyline during the Dark Reign saga under the belief that they were mutants. However, in the Cloak and Dagger one-shot released after Siege, the two discovered they were not mutants and went back out into the wild to find their place in the world. Apparently that may be seen in television next.

Grade: 7.5/10

As for the rest of the comics, I wanted to review three this week which I found were unbelievably awesome: New Mutants #18, Chaos War #2, and Kick-Ass 2 #1.

New Mutants as of late, have been trying to get some R&R post-Second Coming, but unfortunately they’ve been pulled into limbo and are fighting government-bred mutants over the life of Illyana.

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Written by Zeb Wells and drawn by my favourite local artist, Leonard Kirk, New Mutants #18 was a blast. Literally. The entire issue was dedicated to fighting for Illyana’s life – the New Mutants versus the government mutants. Each page splashed with colour of explosions and drama.

But what really makes this comic exceptional is Wells’ work on individual characters, such as the government mutants, mixed in with Kirk’s take on how to explain with art. For example, Cannonball flies towards a government mutant named Toko at full speed only to be repelled back instantly. What’s Toko’s power? Who is she? We can only see what is given to us, and it’s done so beautifully. When you take in the wonderful mix of bright red and orange colours, you get incredible contrasts which usually are not found in many comics today.

This comic was a pleasant surprise despite being all-action. Story is told through the little dialogue, but pushes enough through so someone picking up the series for the first time would not be lost. Over all, a great read.

Grade: 8/10

Now I feel bad for bashing Chaos War #1 two weeks ago. Pak and Van Lente definitely kicked butt with this comic. Keeping the plot line brief: the world is doomed and no hero is left to help but gods themselves.

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All superheros/people in the world have been put into a coma by the Chaos King. Planes crash, people “die,” but are not really dead because the underworld is being turned upside-down. It’s a long story.

We see the underworld get turned into a crap-storm as characters such as Ares, Zeus, Banshee, The Abomination, and more, are summoned as dead heroes by Pluto (Lord of the Dead) stating he will set them free if they fight for him against the Chaos King. Immediately we see Zeus slain by the Chaos King, showing that in death, one can still die.

Hercules feeling his fathers death, realizes he needs to set up a team to defeat the Chaos King. Of all things, ETERNITY, is summoned from Hercules. If you don’t know who Eternity is, take the strongest thing in the universe and put it into this guy. Regardless, Hercules wants help, and Eternity says he cannot give it as the Chaos King is an Anti-God, Eternity’s opposite, and cannot fight him as it would be like fighting himself.

So lost, Herc calls upon some strong friends: Amadeus Cho, Venus, and Thor are already there, so he calls upon Sersi of the Eternals, followed by Galactus and the Silver Surfer, making them the God Squad.

It’s really a page-by-page, jaw-dropping comic. Beautiful art again by Pham shows us the immensity of the other worlds. Fire and brimstone trickle the battle fields and Hela’s appearance at Hades with her army really shows the immensity of this battle about to explode. Although the first comic failed to impress, sticking around really showed me wrong.

Grade: 9/10

And alas, the inevitable Kick-Ass 2, #1. Still written by Mark Millar and drawn by John Romita Jr., I can see where Romita Jr. put all his attention when he was drawing the Avengers comics. We get to see his great art again!

Taking off from the hit-comic-series-turned-movie, Kick-Ass is back, and kick-assier than ever! The comic kicks-off pretty much how the first comic ended, and we see Hit-Girl training Kick-Ass to be a better fighter. Although it doesn’t explain it, it seems like awhile has passed since the first comic.

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I say that because shortly after training, we see our hero Kick-Ass, or Dave Lizewski, meeting up with another hero, Doctor Gravity. They walk the street and are approached by a gang – which in turn, they fight, split up, and meet up again at a underground lair where other superheroes have joined together, calling themselves Justice Forever. Superheroes are becoming a norm it seems.

Mindy is also battling her new dad, Marcus, about being a superhero. She is hiding it from him, but being a detective, he knows she’s lying. So she’s banned herself from being Hit-Girl as she promises Marcus she will not do it anymore.

Also, much like in the first comic, we get a small flash-forward to what is to come – Red Mist’s super villain army versus Kick-Ass’s superhero army in the middle of the streets. So we know what’s to come.

Over all, there’s no real threat aside from what was teased to us earlier in the issue. It is also hinted that Red Mist is gathering villains, but it is not really explained how it is known. We also see that someone Kick-Ass knows is brain-damaged, while his house is also blown up. I’m not a big fan of spoilers, but it seems as if we are given a bit too much information too early on. I already feel like I know the ending before the story began.

However! Kick-Ass 2 is, so far, a lot better than the first series. I enjoyed the first series greatly, but I suppose with already established characters, I feel connected to these people a lot more. It also seemed a bit darker – which Millar was going for – but I only got that feeling when he gave us a hint of what will happen, rather than what is happening. Mix the forward-moving story with great art finally coming out of JRJR, I have to say, Kick-Ass 2 did not disappoint!

Grade: 7.5/10

I also think this is an interesting read: Click here to read it. It’s the blog from the person who won the bid for lunch with Joe Quesada. The proceeds went to charity, The Hero Initiative, and he got a great day out of it! What really stands out is that he has the same views I have with breaking into the comics industry: the feeling of getting closer to the dream with each step you take.

And on a heavier, unrelated note, I had the KFC Double-Down the yesterday. Do not believe the hype. Although it may be two patties of chicken which replaces bread, the sandwich itself is no bigger than the palm of my hand. I had it down in four bites and it does not fill you what-so-ever. Is it worth the bragging rights? I don’t even know anymore. But I felt fine after eating it!

Until then, 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.

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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.

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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’.

Uncanny X-Force/Chaos War Day!

This week, I had only planned on picking up two comics. However, I completely forgot about – despite all the marketing – that Chaos War started today. As such, here are my reviews for two major-titles this week: Uncanny X-Force #1, and Chaos War #1.

These reviews may also contain spoilers.

Probably the most anticipated book since X-Men: Second Coming story arc, Uncanny X-Force blew into comic stores today, and I must say, did not disappoint. Written by Rick Remender with art by Jerome Opena, UXF delivered quality story-telling with superb art, and wonderful direction.

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X-Force disbanded at the end of Second Coming earlier this year, with Wolverine re-assembling it under the nose of Cyclops. The roster features Archangel, Psylocke, Deadpool, and Fantomex, as they are on a quest to finally kill Apocalypse once and for all.

The story kicks off with some Deadpool heroics which sets up the rest of the story. My primary concern with the story would be separating both voices of Deadpool and Fantomex as I found both characters to be some-what the same in their humour and actions. I only felt this way as Bendis in the Avengers parent-title, has seemed to merge both Spider-Man and Hawkeye as one voice. However, this was not the case with Remender. We actually have two unique people adding significant character into the story. It was relieving to me.

The story goes into Archangel and Psylocke’s relationship and their concern for if “Death,” Archangel’s secondary mutation from Apocalypse, could take over. Although it was never really discussed in the prior X-Force comics, I can see how we are already being set up for future story arcs. I’m ecstatic. Plus Betsy and Warren are together. I love it.

Wolverine surprisingly does not have much to do with the main set up as the story. As the founder of X-Force, and it’s longest-running member since it’s most recent conception back in Messiah CompleX days, I can understand why they did not need to focus so much on Logan.

However, what the story does for the reader is wonderful. Brilliant colours and tones flush the pages, thanks to colourist Dean White. The comic has a mixed feelings of haze and impending doom with each turn. Opena’s art also stands out as nothing but spectacular. Wolverine versus a stone giant – who would not love it? Plus a wonderful final-page ending that leaves us all with “wtf” moments certainly will have us back for issue two.

Uncanny X-Force exceeded expectations and pushed out a grand story (with tons of variant covers) which will go down in to the comic history books.

Grade: 10/10

Chaos War is something Marvel has been teasing us with for awhile now. Since the death of Hercules and his sudden return, I know I have been asking myself, “why kill him off only to bring him back months later?” Chaos War is the reason why – and I believe that the killing-off/bringing-back formula worked well for this comic.

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Written by Incredible Hulk great Greg Pak, and Fred Van Lente, Chaos War begins with King Chaos killing Nightmare in his realm and taking it over, showing us what sort of power the King possesses. It is followed by Hercules’ return to Earth – warning its heroes of the impending doom the Chaos King will be soon bringing to the planet. What is really good is how Pak and Lente show how all the heroes react to Hercules’ return – not considering it relevant as Herc has always been considered a buffoon. Not this time.

Hercules returns alive from an alternate universe with immense power, given to him by his best friend, the Prince of Power, Amadeus Cho. Teaming with Thor, Spider-Man, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and many others, Hercules divides his new-power between all the heroes and brings them up to Nightmare’s realm to stop the Chaos King. So begins the Chaos War.

The story, I would consider to be a building up immense destruction. Although the main story is only a five-issue run, there will be plenty of one-shots and limited-series connected to the Chaos War, such as Dead Avengers, Alpha Flight, and Dead X-Men. It will be interesting to see how it all ties together. However, the story itself revolves around the re-building of Hercules’ character and the convincing of all other heroes that he is not the imbecile he once was. That’s fine. It was done well. However, I felt a lot of filler in the story, such as an unnecessary battle with other gods. Although I can understand they were added for showing us the severity of the Chaos King – we did not need the mini side-plot.

Khoi Pham’s art though, should not be over-shadowed. Great detailing with Hercules, as well as Nightmare’s realm, really stood out as two unique points in the book. Nightmare’s realm being a disaster zone with death and chaos, was greatly drawn and I could personally feel the horror within the realm. And with Hercules, his body, his face, everything was immensely detailed and clearly displayed. Why I only say Hercules is because I felt as if the rest of the characters were somewhat thrown into the story at the last second. Once panel shows all the heroes flying upwards to Nightmare’s realm, and it is clear that only Hercules had the most attention put on him. I digress. . .

Chaos War will be an immensely popular series, I’m sure. It involves most of the Marvel U and is argued to be better than the Infinity Gauntlet storyline. Where this will take us, I do not know. But I am interested to see how it will be executed.

Grade: 6.5/10

And Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, eh?

Keep on Space Truckin’.