Trade Post: Locke & Key Vol. 1 & Wolverine Weapon X

Written by Joe Hill, drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez
Collects Locke & Key #1-6
I was still working for Wizard when Lock & Key was first announced. As the IDW contact, I was usually first in the office to know about the upcoming projects. Something by Stephen King’s kid didn’t interest me all that much, so I missed out on the book and after our initial round of coverage, I kind of forgot about it. Then, in an unexpected move, the Totally Rad Show guys reviewed the book towards the end of last year very favorably and it got me interested in checking it out again (you can see the episode, #144, here). A few months ago, Barnes and Noble had a big trade sale and Locke & Key was one of the potential books so I picked it up along with Wolverine Weapon X, making this a bit of a themed Trade Post.

It really is a great book, the TRS guys were right. It’s about a family that moves to Lovecraft, MA after the father is murdered by one of his guidance councilees. But, as it would turn out, this is no ordinary house. It’s filled with secrets, from the door that allows the youngest son to fly around as a ghost to the wraith trapped in a well, many of which are opened by keys found throughout the house.

Things stay bad for the family as it turns out their dad’s killer is still around and is being helped out by a mysterious entity, which brings terror back into their lives. Hill really weaves a hell of a story that deals with all kinds of elements, from basic family dynamics both before and after the violent act, to how each member deals with those changes and on to the more mystical aspects like the keys and doors and monsters and killers. It’s really, really well put together, with some world building that makes me want to read more and more stories set in said world, which is good because there’s already two other trades out called Head Games and Crown Of Shadows which I want to get my hands on.

I kind of touched on it above, but I want to once again commend Hill for building a story so well from the ground up. Often times with a story like this, the action is really well thought out or the mystical aspects are, but it doesn’t always fit well together. In this case, all the elements are there and it makes for a great ride that’s enhanced by Rodriguez’s animated-but-still-dark-when-it-needs-to-be art. This one’s definitely recommended to everyone and will be getting a spot on my shelf. Give it a whirl and see how it plays.

Written and drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith
Collects Marvel Comics Presents #72-84
I’ve been disappointed with just about every classic X-Men story I’ve ever read, mostly because a good chunk of them are written by Chris Claremont and I find his writing overly wordy and generally boring (plus, it’s hard to get excited about stories you’ve seen retold a million times in other comics, flashbacks, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern-like yarns, movies, cartoons, video games, trading cards and what have you). Weapon X wasn’t even one of the stories I had on my “must read” list, but when it turned up for only a few bucks on the B&N site, I figured I’d give it a shot.

It was alright, but not great. Part of the problem was that I read the intro by Larry Hama before reading the book. Usually, these are interesting bits with some information or examples of how the work inspired the writer, but in this case, Hama hyped the book so much (sometimes incorrectly) that I found myself comparing his intro to the actual product and mentally pointing out the incongruities like a smarmy teenager with a teacher who mispronounces a president or something.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad story. It’s actually pretty interesting and the art is fantastic. I also didn’t find myself bored, which I was worried about considering my earlier problems with classic X-books. The plot’s a pot boiler because you know Wolverine will be breaking out in the end and killing some dudes (just look at the cover), so you’re just waiting to see how and when. It’s like in the beginning of Jason X where the military guys have Jason all chained up and they’re making fun of him and throwing an old blanket over him or whatever and you’re just waiting for him to bust out and do his slice and dice routine. It’s not a matter of if, but when. In this case, however, you’re not waiting for a known monster (all we know is that he’s a dangerous soldier, going by just this story), but a man who’s been experimented on and turned into a weapon by government jackasses.

I like how the story is collected too. They turn the whole thing into one continuous story which is followed up by all the MCP Weapon X-centric covers (the anthology comic was a flip book with a cover on each side), covers from previous collections, the aforementioned Hama intro, a W-S Wolvy pin-up, a story W-S did in Wolverine #166 set during this story and the cover he did for the next issue. I like that kind of extra effort put into a collection.

So, in the end, I’m glad I read this important piece of Wolverine’s history. I like the character enough (how can you not, unless you’re violently opposed to overexposure or, well, violence?) and I like that the story passes the test of time (again, the art is RAD), but I don’t think I’ll be keeping this one on my shelf. If you’re interested in checking it out, it’s up on my Swap page!

Iron Mongering: The Armor Wars

A couple weekends back, Em wanted to watch Iron Man again, so we did and it was great once again. I do wish the end fight would have been a little bit more awesome and well-balanced instead of so clearly one-sided on Iron Monger’s side. Anyway, it got me thinking that, over a year ago, I decided to check out various Iron Man stories and talk about whether a newbie would be able to jump right in and enjoy it or not. Well, with the news that Mickey Rourke is playing an armored version of Whiplash and pictures even surfacing, I think Armor Wars might actually be a good place for people looking to get a jump on the potential story behind Iron Man 2.

As the folks over at Slash Film have pointed out, the first two press photos from Iron Man 2 seem to be connected, with Tony Stark looking at what looks like a model of the arc reactor that Whiplash is wearing. I’m going to go one step further and guess that there might be some Armor Wars elements in the film. You see, the plot behind Armor Wars is that Tony Stark discovers that all these different armored villains (and even some heroes) have been using his Iron Man technology to commit crimes. This pisses Tony off and he goes rogue, taking out heroes and villains in a single minded attempt to neutralize their armors.

So, maybe in that first picture we’re seeing Tony discovering Whiplash ripped off his armor tech and he’s pissed. Sure, it’s an awful lot of guessing, but that’s what blog are for right?

Okay, so back to the trade. It’s written by David Michelinie, pencilled by Mark Bright and one issue by Barry Windsor-Smith and inked and co-plotted by Bob Layton. The book collects Iron Man #224-232. I’ve already gone through the basics of the story, but the devil’s in the details as Tony Stark goes a little crazy trying to neutralize the armors, he even attacks a superhero, and member of the Avengers, Stingray to do so. What I really like about the story is how nicely it fits into the overall Marvel universe. It mostly has Iron Man characters and villains, but it crosses over into other arenas when necessary, like when SHIELD gets involved or when the Avengers (the West Coast Avengers to be exact) show up to ask Iron Man what the heck is going on.

But, that being said, I don’t think this would be a difficult book for someone whose only experience with Iron Man is the movie. You’ve got Rhodey and Tony and SHIELD, elements you’d be familiar with and the villains and other heroes get explained pretty well in the book itself, but if you’re ever confused, I’d suggest hitting up Wikipedia, like when a dude called The Captain shows up looking kinda sorta like Captain America (it really is him, I promise).

So, in addition to being a compelling story, I think Armor Wars makes a lot of sense as a first look as far as comics go for new fans. It’s also a good book for current comic fans to check out if they thought Tony’s actions over the past few years seem to have come out of nowhere. This book put a few things in Civil War into context for me, though I still think no character has been screwed over and mishandled quite as much as Iron Man, though I keep hearing good things about Invincible Iron Man, I just haven’t been able to scrape the trades together.

One other thing I wanted to mention, and it’s really more of an oddity, is the size of the trade I read. I got it along with an original Guardians of the Galaxy trade in a Swap from Sequential Swap (seriously, you should all join this rad service) and both of them are kind of a funny size. You can see a scan of the cover itself, which I believe is different than the current trade cover, below followed by a scan of a regular sized comic overtop of the trade. As you can see, the trade is a little shorter and a little longer than your average comic, so they had to shrink and maybe stretch the pages when they reprinted them. Or maybe they’re just shrunk. I didn’t really notice anything while reading it, I just thought it was odd. Checking the date, this trade was created in 1990, back when there weren’t a lot of trades being produced, just the big, big stories like Armor Wars… and Guardians of the Galaxy.