Regular readers will remember that I read and didn’t really get 1993’s Archer & Armstrong #17 from Valiant a few weeks back. Before tossing it in the get rid of pile, I went through and snapped a few pictures like this one for the 27th issue of Wizard. I was still a few years away from discovering the magazine at that point, but I do remember seeing this Jim Lee Wildcats cover in books and around the office. Interviews with Alan Moore and Travis Charest? Sounds like a pretty solid issue, actually. Plus I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on a Mortal Kombat arcade cabinet.
I talked about and explained the whole concept behind Wildstorm’s World’s End event in last week’s Trade Post where I wrote about the Stormwatch and Gen 13 installments. Today I’ll be reviewing the two Authority collections from the same time as well as the second Wildcats one (I thought I had the first when I started reading these trades, but soon realized that wasn’t the case).
As I said in that previous post, the Wildstorm Universe basically came to a crashing halt and all the heroes had to figure out how to go on in the face of such widespread destruction and death. In the case of The Authority, their headquarters, The Carrier, a gigantic ship that can travel through dimensions and is powered by a baby universe, got all messed up and crashed in London, fusing with the city. The new world is so polluted that Apollo can only stick around for a few moments, Engineer can’t access her nanites and Jack Hawksmoor doesn’t have any cities to draw power from because they were all destroyed. Midnighter and Swift are both alright and doing their best to keep the survivors they can find safe.
It’s a really interesting dynamic because, for their entire lives as characters, the Authority have always been the king turds of poo mountain. They had the best powers and the best tech to back them up, but they only worked best for the world they were living in and not the one they are living in. Abnett and Lanning do a great job of chronicling how they deal with these new circumstances. This collection shows how Midnighter stands against an unkillable enemy, what a new virus is doing to people, how a few other survivors are doing and gives alternate angles to a story from Stormwatch where the two teams meet up.
The Stormwatch crossover at the end of the previous book got the team back up and running in some respects. The Carrier powered up a bit as did Angie and Hawksmoor. On the other hand, Apollo still can’t handle the atmosphere and, as if that weren’t enough, he’s got that Warhol virus running through him.
This collection deals with a lot of the Authority’s previously-fought enemies, showing how they survived the apocalypse and have even taken advantage of the situation. You’ve got the blue guy from Sliding Albion, Kaizen Gamorra and his super powered weapons and even Cybernary. We also find out a little bit more about whatever happened to the Doctor.
It might sound like this book is steeped in continuity and might be difficult to slog through, but I didn’t find that to be the case. It’s one of those things where you’re told enough about the characters, but if you’re really interested, you can find out more online or in other collections. It makes a great companion to the first volume, but like Stormwatch and Gen 13, the last issues of the series have never been and might never be collected. Again, the appeal here is the creative use of the Armageddon situation and how it has changed this team of badasses.
I don’t usually read through a series of trades without having everything, but I was too far into my World’s End re-reading when I realized it and, honestly, it doesn’t matter too much. I remembered enough of the basics–or so I thought–to read on and still enjoy the second volume. Turns out I don’t remember many of the specifics of those first six issues, but I do remember that the ‘Cats are still in New York in the Halo building and, like The Authority or Stormwatch, help as many people as they can. There’s also a cool nod to Joe Casey’s Wildcats 3.0 that I liked as a Wildstorm fan: people are going butt nuts crazy over getting the Halo batteries that never run out of juice. This is a great example of taking an elements from a shared comic book universe and using it in a later story that I really dug.
Anyway, the bulk of the story in this collection finds the Wildcats dealing with Majestic, a fellow alien who has created his own island paradise–and also knocked the Earth back on its axis after the Armageddon event, if you were curious–and gone crazy. Actually, on the surface, he’s okay, giving people a well built paradise to live in, but behind the scenes, he’s keeping his daughter captive and trying to make a child with her.
Meanwhile, Ladytron has made friends with a bunch of fellow robots which also lead to problems with the Daemonites kicking back up. When the Wildcats went off to encounter Majestic, they left Ladytron behind. The Daemonites took this as the perfect time to attack and did so. By the book’s end the two storylines come crashing together and leave the ‘Cats in a much different place than they were when this whole thing started. Again, I think there’s enough fun action and drama in the book that anyone can enjoy it, but I’m not sure how accessible it might be to a new reader. I like to think it is, at least someone interested in checking out the existing World’s End books.
By now, I assume readers are somewhat familiar with my love of Wildstorm. Not only have I written about many of their trades in many previous Trade Post and Pile reviews, but also did a full post about how much I like the universe. While at Wizard, I became the de facto writer of all things Wildstorm for a while there, but was over at ToyFare by the time World’s End started. If you’re unfamiliar, after a mostly unsuccessful attempt at restarting the universe (flagship titles Wildcats and Authority written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Jim Lee and Gene Ha respectively only produced a total of three issues combined) the powers that be at the ‘Storm decided to take drastic measures: they blew the world up. Not entirely, mind you, that wouldn’t make for very interesting comics. Instead, the kind of threat that the heroes of Marvel and DC always thwart succeeded and an army of deranged, formerly captive and brainwashed heroes went bonkers on the world before literally exploding. The trauma killed millions and even temporarily knocked the earth off its access. Much of this is covered in Wildstorm: Armageddon, Number of the Beast and Wildstorm: After the Fall.
It was bad. But there were survivors, both of the hero variety and normal folks with the former doing their best to look out for the latter. Which brings us to Stormwatch PHD. For two trades, this was a book set very firmly in the Wildstorm U that brought back members of the classic Stormwatch team and put them on more ground-level type missions. With the end of the world, though, the book shifted focus with its heroes up in the orbital Stormwatch satellite trying to keep people safe. Run by Jackson King, he has split up the super powered operatives left at his disposal into two teams and sends them on missions to both save people (they’re keeping as many as they can on the satellite, but are quickly running out of space) and defeated threats to humanity.
What I like most about this book specifically and the World’s End books in general (those that I’ve read) is that they really went for it. The world is screwed and these heroes are doing their best to keep things afloat. Even with all their teleportation and super powers, there’s only so much that you can do. This book also did something that would become a standard of the rest of the Wildstorm U in that it incorporated elements from the history of the company in ways that made sense. In this case, you’ve got Deathblow working for Stormwatch. This is not something that happened before, but it doesn’t really need explaining (though what happened between Deathblow’s last series and this does get explained at some point in a way that was pretty clever). This would become SOP a few issues down the line when the heroes were split between one group staying on Earth and the other going to space. I’ve gotten really annoyed with how bogged down and sometimes boring mainstream superhero comics can be, so it was nice to see a company stick to something as crazy as this.
I might not be the best judge on something like this, but I would even say that it’s pretty new-reader-friendly. That might sound a little crazy, but it seemed to me like enough was explained that an open-minded and curious reader could easily jump right in and follow along. That continuity stuff I mentioned is fun for people like me, but I don’t think the series as a whole is bogged down with it.
I think that same can be said for the first Gen 13 installment in World’s End. This team was what actually got me initially excited about Wildstorm. I was a huge fan because it was the it teen comic of the day. For some folks that was Teen Titans or New X-Men, but this was mine. I have been routinely disappointed by pretty much every incarnation that has come since the awful Chris Claremont relaunch years ago. It also didn’t help that they had one of the muddier post-continuity shift histories. Something about being grown as superpowered sex slaves or whatnot? Even after being so confused the first time around, I gave it the good ol’ college try again recently when reading the trade of the second volume, but it just didn’t do it for me.
But, I didn’t feel that way with this collection. Sure, there are references to the new status quo, but it kind of felt like I had just missed one arc of the old series. Beatty does a great job of capturing that old dynamic between Grunge, Fairchild, Freefall, Burnout (now blinded) and Rainmaker.
Unlike Stormwatch or Authority, which have larger, more global goals, the Gen 13 kids are just trying survive and figure out what happened. They were hopping around in time or somesuch and came back in after the big event, so they missed the whole thing. This is a pretty fun and interesting concept that fits in with the characters pretty perfectly. Same goes for the art by Huddleston and Dan Hipp, who has an awesome sketchblog you guys should all check out.
I’ve got a post in the works covering the two Authority books and the second Wildcats one (thought I had the first, but don’t). The bummer about reading through these is that they’re so fun and yet the rest of the issues leading up to the line-wide cancellation of Wildstorm haven’t been collected. I’m not going to hold my breath for them to be either. I think I’ll keep an eye out for cheap copies of what I don’t have (I made a checklist) and see how it ends. If it’s rad, I’ll probably get them bound!
As I said over in my more in-depth reviews of DC’s relaunch titles Huntress, Batwing, Hawk & Dove and Deathstroke #1s, I came upon a stack of books from the relaunch and read them in the order they were piled in. I was going to spread these reviews out a bit longer, but first I got a little behind in posting and then I got my hands on even more comics I want to talk about, so let’s get these out of the way, shall we. Overall, I’m still not sure how successful the issues I read were at either roping in new readers with familiar stories or giving existing fans interesting things to sink their teeth into. I found myself really enjoying the weirder books, things like Deathstroke or Frankenstein or Justice League Dark, basically books that could be taken out of DC, tweaked here and there and feel like new, original creator owned concepts. There are a few revisions of existing franchises that I liked and one particular one that failed. If you’re curious to see what I thought in a few sentences for each issue, read on! Continue reading Picking Up The 52 – Everything Else
Much like 100 Bullets, I got into Planetary, but then stopped because there was too much going on and I wanted to keep track. Oh, there was also the intense lateness of the book by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday that ran from 1999-2009 and only 27 issues came out. I read the first two or three trades while at Wizard, dug the book, but once I realized how slow the book was in coming out and knowing my poor recall, I figured I’d wait for the trades. That was probably five years ago? Not sure. Anyway, I just got the fourth trade and finished Bullets, so I figured it would be a good time to revisit and finish the series.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, Planetary is an organization looking to uncover the secrets of a version of the Wildstorm Universe. I say a version because there’s no way to make sense of this book in the context of the ongoing Wildstorm U as it was. There were only a few random references here and there anyway, though the Bleed did go on to play a major part in the Wildstorm and then the DC Universes. Our heroes Elijah Snow, Jakita Wagner and The Drummer work for Planetary and each have super powers to help them on their mission (temperature control, super everything and the ability to read information, respectively). As it turns out, this world is filled with several characters from literary history like Sherlock Holmes as well as analogs for characters like Lone Ranger, Green Hornet and a slew of modern superheroes like Superman, Green Lantern and most importantly the Fantastic Four.
I’m not really sure where to go from here because I’ve got very mixed feelings about this series. I’m not sure if the wait was worth it, not that that really matters for trades, but I still experienced all that as a regular comic book reader. Also, while I really grew to like the three main characters, especially Elijah, but a lot of time is spent on analogs for or versions of existing characters. Part of me wants to say that some of the issues were fun at the time, but wound up not really having much of an impact on the story itself. Another part of me realizes that a lot of these whole issues spent on one thing or the other did actually serve as both interesting one-off stories and building blocks for the series as a whole. The Hong Kong ghost issue? Fun AND served a purposed. The one about people shooting themselves into space in a ball? I don’t think so. Like I said, I still have some resentment for how late this book was and I’m comparing it to 100 Bullets which was such a well crafted and thought out book, that pretty much everything else will pale in comparison to it.
But, like I said, I really liked the characters, two of the three of whom didn’t come off as one-note. Jakita loves to punch things, which is a nice balance to Snow’s machinations and Drums’ craziness. The thing about Snow that surprised me, though, was how good he actually turned out to be. I had him pegged as one of these “I’ll sacrifice anything to get my way” guys, but he actually has a lot of loyalty to his people and truly wants to make the world a better place. The Drummer also really came into his own in the last few issues of the series where his loyalty for Elijah was explained and he took a much more active role in their mission.
I’ve also got a bit of a problem with Ellis as a writer. He often comes off as the guy who likes to write comics about superheroes showing how dumb superheroes can be. But, I’m not sure if any of that is actually in this book or if I’m overlaying my prejudices on it. Were the Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern-esque characters removed so easily because they’re dumb or because that’s what would happen in this world? Was that bit about the funeral for a John Constantine type character who turned into Ellis’ Spider Jerusalem for no apparent reason honest or tongue in cheek? It’s almost impossible to tell anymore. But, I did like that moment where the out-of-nowhere superhero complains about being turned into a complete mess by the man representing Vertigo.
At the end of the day, I think there’s enough here for me to dig into at least down the line for a second complete read through. I haven’t talked about Cassaday’s art, but I think it’s pretty good. I don’t fall over backwards like a lot of people for him, but I think he’s solid and does great facial expressions. Again, I can’t help but look at some of the pages and wonder what took so long, but I don’t know why the book was late and I really shouldn’t care anymore, but it bugs me. There are some beautiful compositions by him in this book, I’m especially fond of the shift ship and its inhabitants which actually looked shiny and bright on the page. So, yes, I’ll keep these books for now to read another day. I’ll leave it up to Future TJ to figure out if he wants to keep them on his shelf for the long haul.
Geez, I can’t believe it’s been almost three years since I reviewed the second volume of Ben Templesmith’s Wormwood Gentleman Corpse. Don’t let that seem like a reflection of how much I like this world Templesmith has created, because this is one of the most fun, bonkers original comic universes around. The basic concept revolves around Wormwood, an interdimensional worm that inhabits corpses who currently hangs out on earth with a robot he built named Pendulum and a former stripper with living tattoos who goes by Phoebe at a strip club located on top of a dimensional portal run by Medusa. Make sense? It might seem more complicated than it is.
Basically, Wormwood is an interdimensional Hellblazer, a mystical dude with a huge past that’s always coming back to bite him–and reality–in the ass. This time around, it’s The Brotherhood of the Calamari, a Lovecraftian race with a mad on for Wormy that leads them to take over Earth and almost succeed. While Pendulum, Phoebe, Medusa and the girls do their best, Wormwood jumps dimensions and winds up teaming up with a reality-hopping Elvis set on killing every other reality’s Elvis to become a god.
The four issues are packed with sci-fi action and quips plus Templesmith’s rad art. He has such an amazing talent for enhancing his pencils with computer effects that really pop and shine off the page thanks to the glossy paper the collection is printed on. It can look a little dark at times, but I think that might be a trick to actually pull you in closer to the page, like a comedian whispering on stage. If you’re into Hellboy or Hellblazer or pretty much anything, I recommend giving these books a look.
I’ve gone on record as being a big WildStorm fan, have read and reviewed most of the Authority trades (the first five books here and the two Revelations books here) and am a huge fan of Garth Ennis’ Preacher (you’ll have to search around for those posts as they’re spread out), one of the greatest pieces of fiction ever created. So, with all that, it should come as no surprise that I wanted to check out The Authority: Kev a book set in the WildStorm U featuring a non-powered SAS officer with terrible luck dealing with the Authority, specifically Midnighter and Apollo. He’s kind of like a more competent, but equally as unlucky Soap from Ennis’ Punisher.
The actual product is pretty much exactly what you would expect from that basic set-up if you’re familiar with the creators and concept. The first one-shot in the collection follows Kev as he’s sent to the Carrier to kill the Authority for the British government which he actually succeeds at thanks to a magic gun. But, it was all a set-up by an invading alien force. The Carrier helps Kev fix things, but this adventure puts him on the Authority’s radar and he winds up working with Midnighter and Apollo after the rest of the Authority wind up on the wrong end of some alien tech. They fight zombies and aliens and some other things, plus we get more of Kev’s history. The collection also Glenn Fabry interior art which looks very much like his covers, but just in pencil instead of painted. I’m a fan of his too, so seeing him to interiors is fun.
KEEP OR DUMP? I’ll be keeping both of these volumes. I think I’ve got the other two Wormwood volumes in boxes somewhere (I hope I do at least) and I’ve kept nearly every WildStorm book I’ve ever gotten. Some day, I’ll get them all together and evaluate which ones I want to keep for later reading. Also, I’d like to read the next volumes of both books, so between that and wanting to keep the trades, that’s a pretty good endorsement.
In an age filled with comics that mine past characters and stories like blood diamonds, Jeff Parker’s Agents Of Atlas is one of the best. Maybe it helps that I don’t have an incredibly deep knowledge of characters like Jimmy Woo, Venus, Gorilla Man, The Uranian (formerly Marvel Boy), Namora or M-11, but it almost doesn’t matter because Parker is a master of giving these characters amazing personalities and back stories that I am completely absorbed by.
I’ve written about the volume before this one already, but not the original on the blog. I actually first wrote about it for Wizard as a Book of the Month and it was a pleasure. One thing that I’ve thought from the very beginning, though, is that this should have been presented as a series of minis like B.P.R.D. instead of this strange stopping and starting that happens because, unfortunately-but-not-surprisingly, the comic book market can (or will) not support a quirky fun book like this that offers tons of entertainment, but doesn’t necessarily drive the overall story of the Marvel Universe, though it does play well within the bounds of things like Dark Reign.
Anyway, the story itself revolves around the continued adventures of the Agents as they support Woo in his efforts to change the evil Atlas organization into one that does good. This involves their continued ruse to Norman Osborn that they’re still bad guys as well as some scenes between Namorita and Namor in an attempt to have their two kingdoms join forces, but the real meat of this volume comes in the form of a war between Atlas and another similar organization that’s headed up by Jimmy’s ex girlfriend. Here’s another thing that Parker excels at: mixing legitimate character beats and overarching plots with the kinds of things that are awesome but can easily be handled poorly, like M-11’s upgrade or the dragon fight (or lack thereof). In the hands of a clumsy writer these could have been groan-worthy, but I was so invested in these issues and characters that I was full-boat in. BLOW EM UP, M-11!
On the art side of things, this collection definitely has a solid group of pencilers like Gabriel Hardman, Carlo Pagulayan, Dan Panosian and Paul Rivoche. They each have a fun, dynamic style that fit their individual issues, but I have a pair of minor complaints. First, I wish there was a list of which artists drew which issues somewhere in the collection. I also, as much as I like the individual artists, prefer for series’ like this to keep a consistent look throughout. Really, any one of them could have done it, but I get a little thrown when I’m constantly noticing the differences from issue to issue and I can’t easily look and see who did what. Again, that’s not a huge complaint and it didn’t bother me a ton, but it’s something I noticed that took me out of the story just a bit. Otherwise, though, I think Agents of Atlas is one of the best damn superhero comics around and should be read by everyone, superhero fans and not, alike. I need to get the rest of these collections.
Mysterius is the first non-Marvel comic of Parker’s I’ve ever read. I was a little worried because sometimes writers work really well within the world of the Big Two but don’t when allowed to write whatever they want. Thankfully, that is not the case here and Parker produced a fantastical action drama starring Mysterius, an immoral magician/conjurer and his brand new assistant Ella who goes by the alias Delfi at Mysterius’ behest as they encounter a demonic version of Dr. Seuss, a man trying to become a god at Burning Man and even more craziness all woven together into not only a great example of episodic fiction, but also overarching storytelling.
Before getting into more of the story details, I have to take a moment to sing the praises of Tom Fowler. Bangarang, this is a nice looking book that wavers between pretty and ugly in all the right ways. I’m sure I’ve seen Fowler’s art before, but this was the first time I really found myself drooling over his pages. There’s a cartoony style to this comic, that works so well, balancing the dark real world moments in the first few pages to the completely bonkers world and demons found in the Dr. Seuss-type guy’s dimension. I was blown away by those pages and stared at them longer than a lot of pages I’ve looked at recently. So awesome, you guys. A lot of times, art in comics feel less important than the story–much like the visuals in some movies–but in this case, it’s equally if not more important. They seem to lift each other up, it’s great.
Storywise, Parker pulls a bit of a trick on the readers by getting us to think the book is initially going to be a series of vignettes, but winds up connecting all the different elements to create a satisfying combination of–and I’m starting to sound like a broken record here–the episodic and the long range ways of telling a story. Plus, the very idea of a Dr. Seuss-like writer putting demonic incantations into his books is ingenious. There’s a lot more going on, but that is easily my favorite part of the book.
I actually tweeted to Parker how much I enjoyed the book and asked if there are plans for more stories to which he replied that he and Fowler “badly want to make more.” You can add me to the list of folks on that list as well. We need more Mysterius in our lives.