Wednesday’s Reviews – Back in Action

Well I’ve been away for awhile. Sometime life throws you some curve balls. In my case, it was working a lot and a humidex ruining my will to stay awake. I also must apologize for the lack of Classic Comic Friday’s this month. It simply can not happen with how hectic everything has been both with work and me getting my new computer actually running. HOWEVER, I definitely will be doing some reviews this week and later on this month, tackling the whole, “Superman’s not American Anymore” topic. I may be a bit late to the game in talking about it, but I do have a reason for it. I will give my explanation to why in time.

Also, UncannyDerek.com is on Facebook! Click on the loveable blue “F” on the right of the screen to join the group. In a nutshell, it’s the easiest way to get updates.

But for now:

Iron Age Alpha

Iron Age Alpha #1 (one-shot)
Rob Williams (writer), Rebekah Isaacs (pencils, inks), Andres Mossa (colours), Jared K. Fletcher (letters), Ariel Olivetti (cover). $2.99

This was a story I was dreading since its announcement: The return of Phoenix – in an IRON MAN book? Was this current continuity or some sort of Ultimate universe? Well it’s current continuity, and surprisingly, it is not what I had expected at all.

Iron Man gets kidnapped by a old disgruntled employee, the Phantom! (Yes, even I had to do research to find out who this guy was). Talk about pulling back from Iron Man’s past. Anyway, his plans are to have Iron Man watch the Phantom kill himself and the world. The plan involves one of Dr. Doom’s old time machines pulling the Dark Phoenix out of the 70’s to destroy everything we know. Conceivably, it’s a great plan. It even works! But Stark jumps into time machine before the world is destroyed and is now stuck in the past. What is a boy to do?

Fortunately for us readers, we can see how this story can easily be retconned making it an irrelevant story in the long run, and possibly just a ploy to bring the Phantom back into the Marvel mainstream. Maybe I’m wrong. What I do know is the story is definitely not trying to bring Dark Phoenix back into the Marvel continuity. It just feels wrong with the way she enters and exits the story with so little emphasis. I digress.

What is a fair decent coupe-de-grace is Isaac’s artwork. It’s nothing ground breaking by any standards, but many excellent panels lift the book above what the rest of the story gives. All scenes with Phoenix and the final page really shows her versatility as an artist – complimenting two art styles and setting them in one book. It’s a lot of tough work, so she deserves her kudos.

Although the start was interesting, I feel like I already know how this story will end. Dark Phoenix is already out of the game and seemed really like only a marketing strategy to get readers like myself on board. It worked, Marvel. But good try. I’m already done with the Iron Age.

Grade: 5/10

X-Men Legacy

X-Men Legacy #250
Mike Carey (writer), Khoi Pham & Steve Kurth (pencils), Tom Palmer & Jay Leisten (inks), Marte Gracia & Brian Reber (colours), Cory Petit (letters), Mico Suayan & Marte Gracia (cover). $4.99

A super-sized 250th issue of X-Men gives us three stories in one giant tome. Two of the stories are written by Carey, while a reprint of New Mutants #27 by Claremont’s and Sienkiewicz appears as the third story.

Carey’s first story continues the dilemma after the Age of X. However, unlike the Age of X, this story makes sense (Cyclops even agrees with me). As the Age of X concluded, mutants long-gone (ie. Chamber) were brought back into the real world. Naturally, five of Legion’s personalities would also escape – and it’s up to a unlikely band of mutants to stop them: Legion, Xavier, Magneto, Rogue, Gambit and. . . Frenzy? If you told me about this lineup a year ago, I would’ve laughed. But Carey has been able to reshape X-Men Legacy so naturally that it feels completely natural.

For the second story, we finally get to see what Rachel, Havok, Polaris & friends are up to – and it’s not pretty. Cleverly using Rogue’s powers and the Age of X storyline, Carey makes a way to retrace where our favourite lost-in-space mutants have been. Admittedly, I’ve been confused to how the Age of X tied in with Rachel’s reappearance a few issues back, but now it is blatantly clear. I’m most excited with this storyline, as I loved the War/Realm of Kings stories.

What comes as a shocker is Khoi Pham. I absolutely love his art. Yet for his work in the first story, I’m floored to how rushed it feels. Faces seem quickly thrown together, and for the most part – emotionless. A particular panel with Frenzy yelling at Xavier makes her look sleepy rather than angry. It became rather hard not to laugh with the serious emphasis on her words and watching her face non-reacting. Kurth has always been hit and miss for me. For the most part, he draws great faces and proportions right (at least in this story). His work on Rachel was fantastic and riddled with me empathizing for the character. Rogue on the other hand, comes off rather mannish in more than one panel while some characters, like Dr. Nemesis, seem unusually stiff. Comparing the two art forms, I preferred Kurth’s paired with Reber’s colours over Pham’s and Gracia’s.

What I’m worried about is how the two plots will be balanced. If Bendis’ work on New Avengers and Fractions run on Uncanny X-Men tell me anything, writers are having a tough time running two-or-more stories in one arc. Even Carey in the Age of X became lost with the Rogue/Gambit, Magneto/Force Warriors, Legion/Moira, and Wolverine/Cyclops/Cannonball plots all trying to intertwine.

But with X-Men Legacy #250, it feels very promising. Let’s hope it gets executed well.

Grade: 6/10

Also, if you haven’t read it yet, pick up Uncanny X-Force #10 and #11. It’s currently starring in the Age of Apocalypse, folks!

As for my computer, it’s finally completed. I called it “The Hulk” because it’s a monster and a powerhouse. Oh, and it’s green.

Computer 1

Computer 2

Computer 3

Computer 4

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Wednesday’s Reviews: The Avengers and The Alternate Avengers

Firstly, read Jim Shooter’s blog. It’s absolutely astounding to see what he does and has done. This recent entry is one of the most fascinating ones I’ve read thus far:

Hank Pym was not a Wife Beater

As for reviews, I swear I’m not going to bring this up again – but Bendis & Romita Jr. in The Avengers series have been up to that “multiple panel” deal in their books for the umpteenth. I thought I was going crazy. Then I took a look at Avengers #1, #5, #9, #10, and #11. I left out some half-page ones in other issues because they arguably are the norm for comics.

Panels

This is how I felt after laying all of these comics out:

Bert

Variety is all I’m asking for.

Now on to one of the most anticipated books this month.

Age of X Universe

Age of X Universe #1 of 2
Main Story:Simon Spurrier (writer), Khoi Pham (pencils), Tom Palmer (inks), Sonia Oback (colours).
Spider-Man Story: Jim McCann (writer), Paul Davidson (art), Antonio Fabela (colours).
Joe Sabino (letters), Simone Bianchi & Simone Peruzzi (cover). $3.99

For $3.99, this book is a steal. In fact, it’s an unbelievable steal which will impress every fanboy of the Marvel U.

Basing itself off of the current X-Men crossover, The Age of X, AoXU is how the other heroes have been affected by the mutants who are all over the world. Team leader and book narrator, Captain America, leads his unusual strike force of Avengers such as Vengeance, the Hulk, and Sue Storm to a mutant prison riot, to Fortress X itself.

But the excitement lends itself not to the battle, but to the quick back stories of each Avenger – and why they’re there. Throughout the book, we’re invited to see how the world has twisted its ways into the AoXU. Through that, we’re given little tidbits of character leaking themselves out into the page. We see Captain America and Sue Storm have consciences, while Iron Man is a vengeful deteriorating freak of nature and Spider-Woman is the top hit-woman. To top it all off, Frank Castle is the Chief of the Avengers – the man running the show. Of course, that will lead to extremely violent results.

Making things more interesting, forgotten mutants of the Marvel U make short, if not saddening appearances. Maggott, who I haven’t seen alive since 2003, makes a cameo, while Marrow, Mr. Sinister, and Whirlwind make for some extra mutant-loving goodness. (Did I just say that?) Don’t even get me started with Sabretooth’s depressing story.

Khoi Pham does one helluva great job delivering so many jaw-dropping moments in this book. A personal favourites are Vengeance taking on Chamber for a few fiery blazes of panels, and the final page with Hulk and his bug-eyes. My only beef is first in the book with Legacy (Rogue), as she seems rather mannish than well, being Rogue.

To top it all off, a bonus story featuring Spider-Man and a pregnant Mary Jane shows how certain heroes with altered DNA are considered “Post-Muties” – meaning Spider-Man is on the run. A short but enriching tale, we don’t see Spider-Man with his usual quips aside from the introductory narration at the beginning. Concluding on a moment where I’m not sure if I’m happy or sad, Spider-Man’s tale really ties together how perverse the AoXU is.

Regardless if you’re reading the X-Men crossovers or not, you’d be foolish not to pick this up.

Grade: 9/10

Unfortunately I’ve been busy so I cannot really focus on more reviews. Until next time folks, keep on Space Truckin’!

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.

C&D1

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.

NewMutants18

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.

ChaosWar2

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.

KickAss21

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’!

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.

UXF1

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.

ChaosWar1

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’.