Wonderful Wednesdays!

Since the Green Lantern trailer was a big hit, of course the Cowboys & Aliens trailer becomes posted this week as well. Click HERE for the trailer.

I am also thankful for everyone who checked out my blog on Sunday about Body Image in Comics. If you haven’t read it yet, it wouldn’t hurt to click HERE to check it out.

And as for comics this week, I was pleasantly surprised by all my picks. X-Men #5, Avengers #7, Thunderbolts #150 and Osborn #1 all blew me away. Only one blew me away over how bad it was though.

Out of the four, X-Men trailed the weakest due to a lack of everything. Avengers #7 continues Bendis’ and JRJR’s run with a new storyline already seeming better than the prior six issues. I blindly picked up Thunderbolts #150 today as I haven’t followed them with Marvel’s “Heroic Age” franchise. I was awed by how wonderful the story was and where each character stood in the Thunderbolts team. It also featured a re-print of Thunderbolts #1 from 1997. Yes, this book was 96 pages and well-worth the read.

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Osborn #1

However, my favourite story this week comes from Kelly Sue DeConnick (wife of Matt Fraction), and artist Emma Rios. Osborn #1 is the continuation of Norman Osborn’s jail-time post his Dark Reign.
The story surprisingly features little of Osborn himself, but the events going around him. I will definitely keep this story spoiler-free so you all go out and BUY this book immediately.

Ben Urich uses his fellow Front Line writer Norah Winters to make a story about how Osborn is dealing with life in the Raft.
We are also introduced to a priest who speaks with other high-risk inmates and eerily has a Green Goblin tatoo on the back of his neck.
Also introduced are a senate sub-committee on Human Rights whom discuss what to do with Osborn – since he has not been charged with anything as of yet.
Needless to say, as the story progresses, Winter’s discovers that she cannot write a story about Osborn because he has been transferred. Where? No one knows. Only the committee and priest does.

Where the hell is this story going?!

So please, please, PLEASE pick up this book. It is such a sinister story. No doubt in my mind that it will be an amazing mini-series.

Major praise goes to Ben Oliver for that wonderful and eerie cover page with Osborn staring down at the reader. It creeps me right out.

Grade: Infinity/10

X-Men #5

This story for sure was a let-down. After months of building up a huge battle between both the vampires and the mutants, we literally get maybe four pages of actual fighting. The rest continues from X-Men #4, where speaking through video screens – bickering at each other – is the main source of action.

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The reader also learns how Wolverine turned into a vampire and how it is to be cured. All aside, this has been the weakest issue of the new X-Men series, despite it arguably being the most-anticipated one in terms of getting sh!t done. Also, you would figure Wolverine leading a vampires to kill the X-Men would be a lot more exciting. Alas. . .

Although I will give credit to humour – especially when Cyclops accidentally suggests that Emma Frost is “tough skin,” followed by her gloating personality, describing herself as “glamorous” rather than a “form of mine and lump.”

I also cannot knock Paco Medina’s art. Despite the lack of action, the scenery and spreads of the ocean, as well as the short battle were all penciled with great attention to detail. One specific panel where Archangel sheds to his Death appearance – just wow. I highly recommend that you pick up his run of Deadpool Vol 2 in 2008. He definitely is a great artist.

I really hope Gischler really gets this story together – either to make this vampire run conclude with a bang, or set up a new plot for the team.

Grade: 4/10

Also, I’ve updated my “Pull-List” page until the end of January, while also updating my “Who am I?” page too.

Expect a Classic Comic for Friday. Or else!

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’.

Classic Comic Fridays: Uncanny X-Men #134

Every Friday, I will review a classic comic from my personal collection.

For my classic comic feature this week, I’ve decided on a personal-favourite of mine, Uncanny X-Men #134 from June of 1980. It was written by the man who arguably made the X-Men who they are today, Chris Claremont. It was also co-written by artist John Byrne, the legend who drew the X-Men for their re-conception in the 70’s and 80’s. Needless to say, this was the X-Men’s A-Team. This is also the issue which gives readers the first appearance to Dark Phoenix!

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What’s fantastic about this issue – or at least, what stands out for me – are two things. First is the excitement from panel-to-panel with the ensuing battle between the X-Men and the Hellfire Club. And second is the building up of Dark Phoenix.

The story actually trails issues before this one, where Jean Grey has been getting random dreams and flashes of being a queen with a man named Jason Wyngarde. After so many issues, Grey is fully tricked into being a queen and is brought to the Hellfire Club, where, along with Sebastian Shaw, Donald Pierce, Jason Wyngarde, and Harry Leland, she becomes the Black Queen.

The X-Men in a few issues prior, go to save Jean, but are all captured. Luckily, Wolverine had eluded capture earlier and breaks in to save the day – only to be stopped by Jean under Wyngarde’s control. All seems lost, but Jean removes a helmet Cyclops was forced to wear to withhold his powers, and he blasts the X-Men free. It seems as if Jean was able to beat Wyngarde’s control. . .

With the X-Men free, they begin battle against the Hellfire Club with awesome panels drawn by Byrne. Colossus takes on Pierce and rips off one of his robot arms, while Leland takes on Wolverine and loses, of course.

Cyclops and Shaw battle it out. Although Shaw could absorb Cyclops’ blasts, Summers plays it smart and blows out the floor beneath Shaw, forcing him to fall.

Storm and Nightcrawler take on Shaw from the lower level, where Storm tries freezing the Black King. Shaw grabs Nightcrawler and throws him at Storm preventing a full-freeze. Defeated, Shaw escapes with Pierce and Leland into a secret passage within the club.

As the story winds down, we see that Wyngarde was not who he was – but instead Mastermind, generating queen illusion to Jean, as well as making the fake image of Jason Wyngarde. Mastermind tries to figure out how he lost, and the readers discover that it was not Jean Grey at all. In fact, Mastermind was playing mind-games with the Phoenix force itself!
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Angry for being tricked for so long by Mastermind, Phoenix decides to destroy him for what he has done. In result, the fake-Jean opened his mind into all the feelings and sensations the Phoenix felt around the universe. Unable to handle such immense power in his mind, Mastermind fell into a coma.

Escaping the club, the X-Men regroup to the Blackbird and begin to leave. Cyclops tries to figure out what was wrong with Jean as she also seemed to be short with him on their way to the jet. After a few moments of gathering themselves, the X-Men turn around to see Jean floating in a red costume proclaiming, “No longer am I the woman you knew! I am fire! And life incarnate! Now and forever, I am Phoenix!”

And then the Blackbird blew up.

What a way to end a story, eh?

Claremont’s build up to such a dramatic story could not have been any better. No one, whether in the X-Men or the Hellfire Club could have known this was coming. Not even the readers knew, or were hinted at, that Jean Grey was not who she was. It came as a complete shock to all players for the comic.

Afterward, the Dark Phoenix Saga begins for a few issues, followed by the inevitable death of Jean Grey in issue #137, entitled “Phoenix Must Die!” I’m sure you’ve all seen the awesome cover. It’s also my profile picture on WordPress here.

One thing to definitely discuss is Bryne’s brilliant art throughout the comic. Panel-to-panel, the X-Men have to battle the Hellfire Club, and we have to see how each individual’s power affects the story. Wolverine versus Leland’s power to increase gravity to the people around him ended in failure as Wolverine jumped on Leland. Given his only was to generate weight, they both crashed through the floor, Leland obviously defeated.

Pierce’s battle with Colossus shows how Pierce just relies on brute strength rather than technique. The snapping of Pierce’s arm by Colossus’s technique brings one of those, “hell yes” moments to the page. Byrne’s great for that.

As for how X-men comics go, this was definitely one of the strongest X-Men comics I’ve ever read. X-Men, I’d argue, is my forté, so when I say this, I do mean it. Overall, this story – filled with plenty of surprises and great action – make obvious to why Claremont and Byrne’s run on the X-Men was so successful.

Grade: 9/10

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’.