Valiant Trade Post: Rai & Eternal Warrior

The last time I got my hands on a stack of Valiant trades, I initially sat down with the first two volumes of Matt Kindt’s Rai, even though I wrote about a few other books first. I had a great time with Welcome To New Japan (#1-4) and Battle For New Japan (#5-8), but wanted to get my hands on Eternal Warrior Volume 1 before moving on to Eternal Warrior Volume 2: Eternal Emperor because one of the handy graphs in the back of the trade said it was important for the story going forward. Was it? Well, we’ll get into that after the jump! Continue reading Valiant Trade Post: Rai & Eternal Warrior

Valiant Trade Post: Ivar, Timewalker & Eternal Warrior

Even though I got into comics just as the Image Revolution helped usher in the Boom and Bust of the 90s, I didn’t know about much outside of DC. That was my jam and, while I’d see other books at the shop and eventually read about them in Wizard, I stayed in my line. Occasionally, I’d get a multipack or something with a random book, like Archer & Armstrong #16, but they usually just got flipped through, then slid into a bag-and-board and tossed in my “Other” box.

Of course, that version of the company eventually collapsed and, as it happened, lead to a number of former Valiant employees getting work at Wizard where I would eventually work with them. Now, Valiant’s back, Wizard’s gone and some of my former co-workers have gone back to working for the V. Comics is a small group.

ANYWAY, that’s all a long-winded way of saying that, though I haven’t written about them here, I’ve read my fair share of these trades. I’ll be honest, books like Harbinger, Bloodshot, Shadowman and X-O proved a bit too dark for me, but I’ve still found a lot to like from the company, including two related titled, Ivar, Timewalker and Eternal Warrior!

Continue reading Valiant Trade Post: Ivar, Timewalker & Eternal Warrior

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

Hulk Trade Post: Red Hulk, Hulk Vs. X-Force & Fall Of The Hulks Prelude

Hulk: Red Hulk (Marvel)
Written by Jeph Loeb, drawn by Ed McGuinness
Collects Hulk #1-6, a story from Wolverine #50

Last week, I talked a bit about my history with the Hulk moving from Planet Hulk into World War Hulk. I loved the former, didn’t feel quite the same way about the latter and wasn’t thrilled about Jeph Loeb taking over the book. He’s a writer that doesn’t always hit with me, but I also wanted to read Greg Pak’s take on what happened after Hulk attacked Earth and it’s heroes. Instead he moved over to Incredible Hercules and Skaar, eventually coming back to the pages of Hulk and Incredible. I was also working at Wizard when this book came out and we were told pretty early on who the Red Hulk really was, so the mystery elements wasn’t there for me.

However, reading these books again with far less of an emotional connection to the comics, I really enjoyed these books. I think the key to really enjoying a Loeb comic book is to not be heavily invested in the continuity of the character he’s writing. He tends to bring on all the bad guys, throw them against the hero and we all get to enjoy the fireworks which are ALWAYS drawn by the best artists in the business. If you’re too steeped in continuity you’re thinking annoying little things like “Hey, Catwoman couldn’t be here, she’s stealing a cat statue in Egypt” or “Wait, which version of Clayface is that?” Nonsense like that that can stick in some of our craws when reading comics.

Since I know next to nothing about Hulk or his rogues, I could just sit back and enjoy this book which kills off a big deal villain right away, sorry Abomination. Here’s a quick list of the other awesome things that happen in this comic: She-Hulk punches a human bear, Red Hulk hits Iron Man with a plane, Red Hulk punches the Watcher, the Hulks fight, Red Hulk beats Thor then jumps form the moon to Earth and the Hulks fight again. All of these things might sound kind of goofy and some of them are, but that’s part of the fun of reading comic books. A green woman can punch a bear-person and it’s not that big of a deal. With Ed McGuinness drawing these things, they look all the better.

Hulk Vs. X-Force (Marvel)
Written by Jeph Loeb, drawn by Ian Churchill & Whilce Portacio
Collects Hulk #14-18

I forgot to mention above that I actually paid for these first two trades, which is something of a rarity. The books I reviewed last week and the one following this I got via Swap, but I found these two on Amazon for $8 a piece and couldn’t resist. For whatever reason the two books between these ones were not as cheap, so I skipped them in hopes that I’d get them somewhere down the road. I don’t think it mattered too much because this collection continues the blockbuster action movie style that Loeb put into the first one.

This time around, X-Force member Domino happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and discovers Red Hulk’s true identity. As this is very important to him, Rulk decides to put together his own color-coded team consisting of Elektra, Deadpool, Punisher, Thundra and Crimson Dynamo to kill Domino. This doesn’t sit well with either Dom or her teammates in X-Force, so lots of fighting and double crossing ensues. Oh, there’s also a Red She-Hulk that pops up to make matters a bit more confusing.

Like I said, the story is fun and well told, but the art bugged me a bit. There’s nothing wrong with it in and of itself, but I am actually a huge fan of Ian Churchill’s and seeing him try to fit in more with the McGuinness style kind of bums me out. If this was just some other artist, I’d have no problem with the mix of McGuinness bulk and Darwyn Cooke faces, but every panel I looked at made me wish he was doing that crazy detail I know and love.

There’s also an issue in here that (I believe) plays off of a previous Hulk story I haven’t read, but have heard about where Doc Sampson goes into Banner’s head and tries to straighten things out as well as an issue of X-Factor where Samson analyzes those team members. This time, though, it’s Doc who’s being analyzed and we find out why he’s been so crazy lately. This issue is drawn by Portacio who seemed to have a lot of fun with it. Good stuff.

Hulk: Fall Of The Hulks Prelude (Marvel)
Written by Jeph Loeb, Greg Pak, Jeff Parker & Fred Van Lente, drawn by Ed McGuinness, Ron Garney, Mitch Breitweiser, Takeshi Miyazawa, Frank Cho, Dan Panosian, Peter Vale, Gabriel Guzman, Michael Ryan, Ariel Olivetti & Ian Churchill
Collects Hulk #2, 9 & 16, Skaar #1, Hulk: Raging Thunder, Amazing Fantasy #15, Planet Skaar Prologue, All New Savage She-Hulk #4 & Incredible Hulk #600-601

Hodge podge trades like this can be a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, if you’re only reading one Hulk title they can be a good way of catching you up as to what’s going on. On the other hand, if you’ve read and collected a few different trades you can get a little burned by the contents. I’m still on the fence about how I feel about this one. I’ve already got Hulk #2 and 16, Amazing Fantasy #15 and Incredible #601 collected in other trades, so there’s not much value there.

At the same time, I don’t have the other issues and this is as good a place for them as any, though I do prefer having all my comics collected in a little better order. Also, if I read and like something like All New Savage She-Hulk #4 and want to get that trade, this trade served one purpose but because that much more unnecessary. It’s a real double edged sword, you guys.

At the end of the day, Hulk did something I wasn’t sure could happen anymore, it surprised me with how much I liked it. Being around comics as much and as long as I have gives me a pretty good radar for what I will like and what I won’t. I’ll try things I don’t think I’ll like just to give them a shot, but usually I’m pretty right on. I’m glad I liked this book and had so much fun with it. Now I’ve got to find out when they revealed Rulk’s true identity and how the went about explaining the roughly one million times those two characters were in the same room together. I’m guessing LMDs. It’s always LMDs…

Hulk Trade Post: World War Hulk & Planet Skaar

World War Hulk (Marvel)
Written by Greg Pak, drawn by John Romita Jr.
Collects World War Hulk #1-5

After recently reading and really enjoying the first few books of Greg Pak’s run on Incredible Hulk, I wanted to go back and read what’s been happening to Hulk since Planet Hulk and World War Hulk, so I decided to give WWH another read. I had my problems with it when it first came out, for two specific reasons: first, I don’t really dig JRJR’s artwork and second, I thought some of the cooler aspects of the story were kept off panel (the fight with Blackbolt).

Did I have the same problems going in this time? Well,¬† yeah, mostly. I still just can’t get into JRJR’s art. I like he draws Hulk, Doctor Strange and some of the War Bound, but the new Hulk Buster Iron Man armor just looked silly. This might sound odd, but I’m also not a fan of how he draws rubble. It always looks like multicolored toothpicks thrown at a panel and glued down. His faces also don’t carry much weight when the camera is pulled back past full-figure level.

But even that didn’t completely detract from my enjoyment of a big, bonkers series where Hulk essentially wages war on Earth and the people who sent him into space. I still wish the Blackbolt fight had been shown on panel, even if it was a Skrull or whatever and I’m not a big fan of the reveal about how the Hulk’s ship actually blew up on Sakaar, but overall, it’s a compelling story. There’s definitely the feeling, though, that this could have been a lot crazier if there wasn’t so much continuity and other books to worry about.

With the end of this series, Jeph Loeb hopped in and started writing the simply title Hulk, while Hercules took over Incredible Hulk — still written by Pak — and Pak also started writing the adventures of the son Hulk didn’t even realize he had on Sakaar (Skaar). This is where I fell off as the books were originally coming out.

Hulk: Planet Skaar (Marvel)
Written by Greg Pak, drawn by Butch Guice, Ron Lim & Dan Panosian
Skaar: Son of Hulk #7-12, Planet Skaar Prologue

The reason I didn’t keep up on Skaar is because I was just confused. I was under the impression that, at the end of Planet Hulk, most of the planet was actually destroyed, so I had no idea how this little dude was alive or how he was born from a woman that died on a planet that exploded. This seemed like a good enough place to take a break on Hulk, so I stepped out of all of it.

I wanted to get my hands on the first collection of Skaar comics, but couldn’t and didn’t want to wait too long before reading this collection and moving on to some of the other Loeb books I’d picked up. This one was a lot of fun, as it turns out. Not only did I get a much better idea of who Skaar is as a character, but it was also fun to see him living something of the same life his dad did, but making very different choices. He even winds up fighting alongside and enslaved Silver Surfer, but this time, the Surfer is working for Galactus and he gets brought into the mix. The way Skaar wants to handle keeping Galactus away from his home planet is pretty intense, but again shows how he differs from pops.

I get the idea that this is basically the kind of Hulk Pak would have written if this was a creator owned book. He’s on another planet and a total badass, so he can basically do whatever the hell he wants and does. And in the fact that it acts as a nice endcap to one of my favorite comic arcs — Planet Hulk — works on it’s own and leads well into the Incredible Hulk stuff I like and I’m happy with the story all around.

Hulk Trade Post: Incredible Hulk Sons Of Banner & Fall Of The Hulks

The Incredible Hulk: Son Of Banner (Marvel)
Written by Greg Pak, drawn by Ariel Olivetti, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Paul Pelletier & Ben Oliver
Collects Incredible Hulk #601-605, Dark Reign: The List – Hulk

Hulk is one of those characters I’ve kind of danced around with fan-wise. I’ve heard amazing things about Peter David’s epic run, but when I tried reading it, I was completely lost (he started in the middle of an arc, if memory serves). The only time I’ve ever really jumped in full boat is when Planet Hulk started. I was completely taken with that series, what a great way to turn a character who’s basically a plot point into an actual interesting person you want a read about (and in a way that hadn’t been done quite that way before). I wasn’t so into World War Hulk and fell away when the Red Hulk stuff started.

But I’ve heard good things about the tag team effort being put forth by Jeff Parker and Greg Pak on the two books and decided to give Incredible Hulk a shot when these two books came up on Thwipster. If you’re unfamiliar with the new M.O., this book sees a de-Hulked Bruce Banner palling around with his son Skaar (who was born on Planet Hulk, but Hulk didn’t know it). Skaar also hates Hulk and wants to kill him, which Banner actually likes because he knows/assumes he’s going to turn back into the Jade Giant eventually.

All kinds of machinations are going on in this comic as Banner manipulates everyone to figure out how Skaar will react when really bad things really happen. There’s also a lot of cool bleeding edge science going on with Banner playing action hero. It’s a cool dichotomy because you get both genius Banner, but also a warrior who gets to smash everyone from Juggernaut to Wolverine. There’s a lot of set-up in this first collection as well as cool tent poles for you to grab onto, which makes it kind of a perfect collection. It works on its own, but flows so well into the next.

My only problem? I’m not a big fan of Olivetti’s artwork. I know I used to, but there’s been a switch in style, I think. His characters and backgrounds just don’t look like they belong on the page together. I can’t necessarily explain why, maybe it’s a coloring or compositing thing (do some of the backgrounds look like they were Photoshopped?) but it’s disorienting to my eye. Even so, it’s not so distracting that I don’t want to read these comics again. They’re so fun I just can’t stay away.

The Incredible Hulk: Fall Of The Hulks (Marvel)
Written by Greg Pak & Jeff Parker, drawn by Paul Pelletier
Collects Incredible Hulk #606-608, Fall Of The Hulks Alpha

Unlike its predecessor, Fall Of The Hulks mostly flows with the larger Hulk story that was going on at the time. Banener and Skaar have to deal with a cabal of brainy villains lead by the Leader who have been secretly working together for years (basically, a bad guy Illuminati). There are elements at play here that I didn’t directly understand because they refer to Hulk issues that are collected elsewhere, but overall, I really enjoyed this story too. It was like a crazy chess match, but, you know, which giant green guys punching the stuffing out of each other.

The art also greatly benefits from Pelletier’s pencils which are a lot more traditional and have a very big, iconic feel. He also gets to really stretch his wings and draw all kinds of characters from MODOK and the Eternals to Spider-Man and Hank Pym. Even though the book is very Hulk-centric, it’s also a great celebration of the Marvel Universe.

I had so much fun with these two books that I now want to go back and get all of Parker and Pak’s run to see where all this goes. I think I’m a Hulk fan now. Those guys make great comics.

Comic Book Vs. Movie: Planet Hulk

I’ve been looking forward to the Planet Hulk dvd for quite a while. I first posted the Alex Ross DVD cover back in October, then I did interviews with some of the people behind the movie for Marvel.com and even mentioned how hopeful I was for it in a list over at Topless Robot. Plus, the comic is one of my all time favorite Marvel runs of all time, so, needless to say, I was really hoping the dvd feature wouldn’t disappoint me. And thankfully it didn’t.

What I liked about the comics is that the story by Greg Pak took a character who generally seemed to be a plot device and turned him into an actual down-to-Sakaar character who you were rooting for. There was an epic nature to that tale, taking the Hulk from stranded and betrayed to revered royalty. I didn’t like World War Hulk because, let’s face it, the premise itself just wasn’t going to happen in the regular Marvel universe. Hulk was never going to come to Earth and kill the guys who sent him there. I know that ended up not being the point of the story anyway, but that was the bill of goods we were sold heading in the project. Anyway, as a collection, the hardcover is one of my favorite because it includes so many extras and just looks damn nice on a shelf.

So, what about the movie? I think they did a helluva job interpreting it for the small screen. Sure, it could have been longer and covered the entire run of the book, but I like where it left off, even if I wasn’t expecting it to end so soon. Consider this potential SPOILER territory if you haven’t seen it. The movie covers the first 2/3 of the comic basically, with Hulk and the Warbound overthrowing the Red King and Hulk becoming the new king. So, you don’t get the spaceship blowing up and a vengeful Hulk ready to smash the Earth, instead it ends on a happy note with Hulk and his lady celebrating. It was kind of a nice change. Plus, it leaves plenty of room for a sequel that can go right into World War Hulk if they think that will work.

And, while many of the story points were compressed and combined, I didn’t feel like anything huge was left out. There were some changes seemingly made based on the rights to certain characters. For instance, the Warbound does not include a Brood, presumably because she’s part of the X-Men license which isn’t held by Marvel Studios presumably. The same goes for the lack of Silver Surfer who showed up in the comics to fight Hulk and company. This time it’s Beta Ray Bill who first pops up in Korg’s Thor-based flashback and then fights Hulk. I’m guessing this is the same thing, considering Fantastic Four characters fall outside of Marvel Studios’ purview currently. It was a change I liked, I mean, how can you not like seeing ol’ Horseface fighting Hulk?

Which brings me to the fight scenes. Man are they cool. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of Hulk throwing down with robots, pink zombies or dudes in armor. Those were the best parts of the Incredible Hulk movie, which I really didn’t like, but luckily, the story here is a lot tighter and makes more sense. The pace is rapid, but not without character moments and all around a great piece of work by everyone involved. Two thumbs way up.

EDIT: In a conversation with my buddy Ben, I was reminded that Marvel Studios does the Wolverine and the X-Men cartoon, so they obviously do have the rights to do Brood. Maybe they didn’t because they’re gross.