X-Posed: Astonishing, X-Men & All-New

astonishing x-men vol 9 exaltedI can’t seem to stop reading X-Men comics these days! I’m on quite a streak thanks to my library system having a huge selection. Not everything has been a hit, but I figured I’d run down my experience with these books outside of the usual Trade Post format.

My buddy Brett White is a huge X-fan, so he was the first person I went to when trying to figure out which of the many books to request. On the top of his list was Marjorie Liu’s run on Astonishing X-Men. I looked into it and saw that Greg Pak did the arc before hers, so I requested that one first. Astonishing X-Men – Volume 9: Exalted collects #44-47 of that book plus part of a Warren Ellis/Adi Granov story called Ghost Boxes that plays into this story of alternate dimensions drawn by the excellent mike McKone. Continue reading X-Posed: Astonishing, X-Men & All-New

Trade Post: Star Wars Volume One – In The Shadow Of Yavin

Star Wars Volume One In The Shadow Of YavinStar Wars Volume One: In The Shadow Of Yavin (Dark Horse)
Written by Brian Wood, art by Carlos D’anda with Ryan Odagawa
Collects Star Wars #1-6 & Free Comic Book Day 2013

Like a lot of comic fans, I get skeptical when I hear of a new licensed comic. For every great continuation of a beloved mythos, there are plenty of uninspired stories that either feel like cash grabs or fail to capture the qualities of the original that made them so great to begin with. However, when I heard that Brian Wood was starting a new Star Wars comic set within the time frame of the original trilogy, I was pretty excited. After it started coming out, I heard good things which made me even more curious to pick the book up. So, when I found myself looking around on InStockTrades with a little extra birthday scratch to spend, it was one of the first books I added to my cart.

The issues contained in this book take place just after A New Hope. The Rebels scored a huge victory by blowing up the Death Star, but they’re not exactly on top of the world as they search the galaxy for a new home base. Of course the Empire is looking for them, but they also seem to have some inside information as Star Destroyers keep appearing at potential HQ locales. To find out what’s going on and also speed up the search process Mon Mothma puts Senator Leia in charge of a black ops pilot squad that includes several new characters as well as Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles.

Meanwhile, the Emperor strips Darth Vader of his command ship and places him in charge of overseeing the construction of the second Death Star. In his place we meet Colonel Bircher, a hot shot pilot who wears a pretty cool looking red TIE fighter pilot suit when he’s out there trying to blast Leia and her Gray Squadron. And then there’s Han and Chewie who try to meet up with a Rebellion contact on Coruscant which doesn’t work out so well and leads them into that planet’s seedy underbelly. In other words, a whole heckuva lots goes down in this one book and that doesn’t even cover Boba Fett’s appearances.

I freaking loved this book. Not only does it tell a variety of interesting and compelling stories that match up with my expectations for new additions to this world, but they also take into account several elements I never would have thought of. In my mind, Luke’s the hero of these movies, but at this point in the story, he’s still the brash farm boy who’s pretty high on himself after blowing up the Empire’s major weapon, but who has very little Jedi training. He actually doesn’t play that large of a role in these issues. Instead, Leia takes the spotlight and shows the world why she’s such an amazing badass. Seeing her in that cool dark Gray Squadron flight suit, zooming around space and shooting bad guys was great!

It also seemed like Wood did his homework when it came to the prequels. I’m no huge fan of those movies, though I also don’t spend my time hating or resenting them for what they are. In fact, I haven’t seen them in a while, but reading this book made me want to go back and check them out again because there are allusions and references to those films that take them seriously. It would have been fairly easy to ignore those movies — basically writing them as if the original trilogy were the only movies in existence — but Wood takes bits and pieces from them, which makes them more relevant in a way.

StarWars_4_CVROf course, Wood’s not the only big name on this book. I’ve been a fan of Carlos D’Anda going back to his WildStorm days. He’s got a great, cartoonish style that works so well when rendering everything from crazy aliens to shiny robots and stealthy vehicles. I’d like him to draw a huge Mos Eisley Cantina poster to cover my walls with. And then there’s this cover artist you may have heard of by the name of Alex Ross. I became a huge fan of Ross’ painterly style with Kingdom Come, but thought he got too far into pastels in the 00s. These Star Wars covers he did are so great, though, that I’d also like to see posters of them. If Dark Horse could get on that, that’d be great.

All in all, I’d say this is a home run for Star Wars and comic fans. I loved the story held within these covers and am looking forward to adding more of these books to my library as they come out. My only complaint, and it’s a publishing one, is that all the covers from the monthly issues aren’t included in the collection. I prefer them to appear in between issues, but barring that, they should at least be collected in the back, especially when you’re dealing with a killer artist like Ross. But that’s all I got on the negative front, which says a lot about how much fun I had with this comic. Here’s hoping Episode VII captures some of that same energy and adds another great new chapter to one of my favorite franchises.

Vertigo Trade Post: Northlanders Volume 1 & Faker

Northlanders Volume 1: Sven The Returned (Vertigo/DC)
Written by Brian Wood, drawn by Davide Gianfelice
Collects Norhtlanders #1-8

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Brian Wood comic. There’s no real reason for that aside from the fact that I didn’t have any on hand until recently. I was pretty excited to check out the first volume of Northlanders because it’s a book I’ve heard good things about and it did not disappoint.

I’m not sure how the whole series goes, but this particular arc of the comic is about Sven, a Norseman who ran away from home as a boy and became a warrior in his own right. Now he’s gotten word that his people are being corrupted by their new leader, but more importantly, he’s owed some money. Upon returning, Sven finds that he’s dealing with a spiritually and emotionally crippled people. They also don’t want to go down without a fight, or at least their leaders don’t. There’s also the matter of another attacking people.

I haven’t read or watched a lot of stories set in this time period about these people, so it was a fun and interesting thing to witness made all the better by Davide Gianfelice’s artwork which is a little cartoony or stylized and sharp at the same time. It also looks like he draws on a paper that’s bumpy or porous or digitally altered to look that way. It adds an element that kind of subconsciously makes you think you’re reading something old even if the art doesn’t look old.

What I like best is that this is one full story that’s well told and well paced. I haven’t read any other volumes or issues so I’m not sure if they tell Sven’s adventures or move into other tales from the realm, but I can appreciate this as it’s own thing. Bonus points to everyone involved (especially Gianfelice) for keeping a consistent look throughout the whole thing. I’m getting pretty bummed out by six issue collections or storylines broken up by different artists. It does take me out of things. Anyway, I’d recommend giving this book a shot and I’ll keep my eyes peeled for future volumes.

Faker (Vertigo/DC)
Written by Mike Carey, drawn by Jock
Collects Faker #1-6

A quick story before jumping into the review. I have a kind of long history with writer Mike Carey. One of the very first freelance writing gigs I ever had was interviewing him about Vampirella for Newsarama right after my Wizard internship. I didn’t realize at the time, but I was actually reading his Hellblazer comics at the time. Anyway, when I did wind up working at Wizard and occasionally doing some writing, I wound up on the X-Men beat a bit which meant I interviewed Carey several times about his work on that series. He’s a super nice guy that I’ve talked to a few times since leaving Wizard. I really enjoy his comics as well as the first book in his Felix Castor series The Devil You Know and have the second Vicious Circle sitting in my to-read pile once I’m done with the 2012 Ambitious Summer Reading List.

So, when I realized I had a copy of his Vertigo miniseries Faker — drawn by another favorite, Jock — I was curious to give it another read, the first one with all the issues on hand (I believe I read it when it came out at Wizard, but can’t quite remember). Anyway, the story is about a group of neredowell (or downright awful, depending on how you look at the world) college kids each getting by in school without really doing it the way you’re supposed to. One of the girls sleeps with professors, saves the “evidence” and then blackmails them to get good grades. They’re all just getting back to Minnesota University, throw a big party, get sick (all over a lab) and get reacquainted with their friend Nick. The problem is that no one but them knows that Nick exists.

Let’s slap the SPOILER label on this paragraph. It turns out that the lab they were partying in contained an experimental drug. They were all so messed up and emotional that when they all threw up, it all combined with the drug and actually created a new person, Nick, out of them. They wind up at a lab where the stuff is made and discover what the deal is and then on the run.

I got a very movie script feeling from this comic and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Because of the miniseries aspect and the way the story ends, I thought it was a very well contained complete story, though one that’s not always easy to read. These are mostly bad people who wind up doing some bad things to other dead people and have bad things done to them. It’s not an easy story to read because of that, but Carey does a great job of finding the nuggets of humanity that keep me interested while also throwing in all kinds of other elements that did the same. This is the kind of comic you could give to your film fan friend to show them that the kinds of stories they dig can also be found in the medium of comics.