I’ve mentioned my general plans for this year’s Halloween Scene and even discussed my history with Vertigo, so now it’s time to jump into the actual reviews! The first three books I tackled are the entire run of House Of Mystery, the fourth volume of Animal Man and the modern day vampire tale Blood + Water!
Just about every weekend I spend a few minutes sitting in front of the twin to-read longboxes of trades I have sitting in my closet and pull out a small pile to read. I rarely get through all of them, but I tend to do pretty well. As such, I wind up reading a lot more books than I can get to when reviewing doing one, sometimes two, Trade Posts a week. So, I’m going to run through a quartet of Marvel books I’ve read in the past few months.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, drawn by Oliver Coipel with Michael Lark, Lucio Parrillo & Jim Cheung
Collects Siege #1-4, Siege: The Cabal & FCBD 2009 (Avengers) #1
First up you’ve got Siege. This was the big Marvel event that came out in the beginning of 2010. If memory serves, this was the big header to the massive, ongoing story that started off with Civil War, marking a pretty dark time in the lives of that universe’s superheroes. At this point, Norman Osborn was leading H.A.M.M.E.R. which used to be S.H.I.E.L.D. after supposedly saving the world from the Skrulls at the end of Secret Invasion. Jeez, that’s a lot of continuity to remember.
The story itself revolves around Osborn — who’s bug nutty crazy, by the way — attacking the floating city of Asgard which hovers above a town in Oklahoma. This attack draws all the heroes together — both registered and unregistered, harkening back to Civil War — to help defend Asgard against Osborn’s army of Dark Avengers and villains.
At the time, I was excited to see an event comic coming in at only four issues and to see how this would lead into the more positive, less dark Heroic Age at the company. As a story, it involves all the things you’ve come to expect from comic events these days: big group shots, copious amounts of dialog from newscasters, wildly violent moments to let you know things are serious, deaths and splash-page worthy moments returning important characters to their status quos. Maybe it’s because we’re so far removed from this era of Marvel comics — which I wasn’t a huge fan of in the first place — or maybe it’s because this feels like a lot of familiar elements being perpetrated by different people, but the story didn’t do a whole lot for me. It’s beautifully composed by Coipel who’s a top notch talent. He does as well drawing Captain America talking to people as dozens of superpowered folks battling at the same time.
Basically, this book served its purpose by making the good guys good and the bad guys bad again and it’s definitely necessary if you want to know what happened between roughly 2006 and 2010 in Marvel’s books, but it doesn’t really stand out as the kind of book that needs to be revisited.
I’ve written about this here and there, but I am a huge fan of Reginald Hudlin’s Black Panther series. I think it was an amazing mixture of action and drama that did a great job of cherry picking fun characters from the Marvel sandbox to play with. Because of that run, I’ve become a fan of the character and done a bit of checking in on what he’s been up to here and there.
Doomwar finds Wakanda under attack by the likes of Dr. Doom. With Storm framed for treason, the X-Men come in to help T’Challa and his sister — the then-current Black Panther — clear her name and save the country. As the story — which feels like an event, but was contained in just these six issues — progresses, the scope gets bigger and brings in more characters. I like when comic stories do this, combining an epic feel without making me buy or read a huge stack of comics.
I also like that this story works as both a continuation of the Black Panther story, but also works well as a Marvel Universe story. Doom is such a classic villain that it only makes sense to throw as many heroes at him as possible while keeping his machinations HUGE. And huge they are. I won’t spoil his end game, but it actually works and winds up changing a chunk of the Marvel U. Of course, this is comics, so that may or may not last (or might have already been changed for all I know). I also really dug Eaton’s artwork which has a dark boldness that works on everything from giant monsters to armor-covered heroes. I’ll definitely be keeping this one around.
Hey look, another Black Panther comic! This one also stars Captain America, a character who I have grown to love thanks to Ed Brubaker’s run on that book and teams him up with T’Challa’s dad during WWII as the pair face off against Baron Strucker, Red Skull and their band of evil Nazi supervillains. Just like his run on the regular series, Hudlin does this great thing where he grabsgreat characters — like Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos, Master Man, Tiger-Man and Warrior Woman — and just has fun with the story. These four issues basically fully tell a story more briefly mentioned in Hudlin’s early days on Black Panther.
On one hand, Flags Of Our Fathers works as a cool team-up story pitting heroic good guys against dastardly bad guys, but there’s also some really great dramatic and personal moments going on here. I really enjoyed seeing Howling Commando Gabriel Jones interacting with Captain America as well as T’Chaka and his people. There’s a really great dynamic there where Gabe is mentally balancing a love for his own country even while a large part of which fears and hates him. He’s even offered Wakandan citizenship, which gives him an interesting problem to mull over coming to a conclusion that isn’t super surprising, but felt natural and earned.
Cowan’s an artist whose style doesn’t always hit with me. I really enjoyed him on The Question because he let his get syper sketchy which really fit the tone of that book and I really like him on this mini series too because he reigns that sketchiness in a little bit while still retaining his style. As with Doomwar, I’ll be adding this one to my collection as fun stories featuring two of my favorite characters.
The Peter Milligan/Mike Allred run on X-Force which quickly turned into X-Statix is one of those comics I’ve heard great things about for years, but just never got around to checking out until a few months ago when I got the Good Omens book from a Sequential Swap trade. I had forgotten that this concept actually kicked off in the pages of X-Force and wrongly assumed that this would be the beginning of the story.
The big thing about this team at the time was that they weren’t afraid to put their names out there, let the world know they were mutants and grab their share of the spotlight. This arc follows the darker side of that as a reality-warping mutant named Artie whose an obsessed superfan of the recently deceased U-Go Girl causes trouble for them while at the same time, there’s also a rival super team that offers the team more competition for the spotlight than they’ve previously known.
I should note that this is not really the best place to start reading these characters. As I mentioned, the story really started in X-Force and ran for 14 issues. Huge, huge portions of the Good Omens storylines are based on what went before it. However, even though I wasn’t completely caught up on what was going on, I never felt completely lost. In fact, I was still so interested in these characters and events that I’m trying to figure out the best way to read the whole thing. There’s an out of print omnibus that has everything, but there’s also a hardcover and two softcovers that collects the X-Force stuff as well as the four volumes of X-Statix. I guess I’m on the hunt for a few more books now!
Wow, that is one heck of a title, isn’t it? Seems to me you could either ditch “DC Comics Presents” or “100-Page Spectacular” or possibly both. Also, does it really need a #1 on the cover? Anyway, it seems to me this tiny, cheaper collection format was designed to put out random Batman storyarcs from the two core Bat-books, Shadow of the Bat, Legends of the Dark Knight and the myriad minis starring our hero. I would imagine that, for the most part, many of them will land with me how this one did: just alright. It’s a clever tale that features the Riddler finding some old Gothamite cultist’s journal and getting possessed by a demon. Demon Riddler puts Batman through this series of paces that SPOILER winds up putting him through the motions to prepare him for a dark ritual.Well played Eddie.
As you can imagine, the book is pretty dark, darker than I thought for some reason even though this was well into the grim and gritty period. Seeing Batman stab a dog with a knife is pretty intense. Anyway, the story was a little slow and felt familiar to this long-time Bat-reader, though I can’t pinpoint why. The Riddler reveal is pretty interesting, but it’s kind of like watching a movie you’re not that absorbed by with an interesting twist. Oh okay, cool. What’s next?
Meanwhile, the Detective Comics issue which was also written by Milligan with Tom Mandrake art was just the opposite for me: an interesting story about Bruce Wayne trying to figure out why he wasn’t Batman/where the Batcave had gone, but with an ending that made me not care about what I had just read. This collection’s biggest fault, to me, though is not reprinting the Mike Mignola covers between issues. For the record, there are 88 pages of story in this book, some ads, a 4 page The Search For Swamp Thing preview and a DC Nation column which means there was plenty of room to run the covers. But, if you maybe haven’t read a ton of Batman comics and want to read a darker tale that actually does something interesting with the Riddler, you probably will be okay spending $8 on these four issues.
Since I complained about the overly-long Dark Knight, Dark City title, I’ll take a moment to complain about this title as well. I actually think this one should have had an additional subtitle, like Legion Of The Damned. I’m guessing that would not fit on the spine, though. Again, not a big deal, just something that popped into my head.
I moved this mini-trade to the top of my “to-read” pile after reading the first adventures of this incarnation of the Legion. I completely forgot to mention this collection in that post, which was funny because I was literally staring at it while I wrote the post. As it turns out, this bad boy practically ends both the regular LoSH book and Legionnaires. There’s one more issue of each book which leads into the epic and well-received Legion Lost (anyone know if those last two issues are collected in the Legion Lost hardcover?).
Okay, enough about the book itself, how about the content? I really dug this story and it makes me want to keep an eye out for single issues of the previous books and the DnA-written Legion book that followed at cons. I have no idea what went on before this, but the first issue opens with Earth being overrun by the Blight a kind of organic Borg that has overrun the planet and even possessed most of the Legionnaires. Just when Chameleon thinks he’s the last of the bunch, Cosmic Boy, Brainiac 5, Monstress and Apparition return from a wild trip in space that kept them out of this mess as it was going on. Now it’s up to them and a few others–who I won’t spoil, but are on the cover, so I guess it’s not spoiling–to defeat the Blight and save the day. It’s a pretty fun, tight story that really screwed up the Earth and Metropolis, something you don’t really see in comics much without some kind of loophole or get-out. By the end of this book, the Blight have been defeated, but it’s not like Earth and Metropolis are back to normal.
It should also be said, that I wasn’t too confused by what was going on, even though there was a pretty huge gap between my reading of this series. Sure, there’s some characters I didn’t know (Monstress) but it’s not hard to jump into the story because the good guys and bad guys are pretty well defined, so even if I don’t know which Legionnaire Monstress has a crush on or whatever, I know she’s a hero fighting the villains. Nuff said. I was also impressed with Coipel’s artwork. It might not be what you think of when you think of him now because it’s a little sketchier and looser, but still really detailed and stylized. I also appreciated how he drew some of the Legionnaires as if they were actual teenagers. I never for a minute thought that any of the kids in the first trade were younger than 17, so it was good to get the feeling some of them actually looked like their younger age. All in all, this was a great book, definitely worth the price of admission for me and a great precursor to get me excited about the Legion Lost collection.
I mentioned this when I talked about Finals, but I really appreciate that DC has created this new format for collecting their comic books. Purists might not refer to them as trades because they have ads and issue numbers on the cover, but I don’t care about that stuff. In fact, it might be kind of fun to look back and see what was being advertised back in the day. Finals is sitting on my trade shelf between Fallen Angel and The Five Fists Of Science, sure there’s a few more inches of gobbledegook than need be on the spine, but that’s no big deal. My only real complaint (that title stuff is mostly grousing) is that they’re not including the covers in these things. I hope DC keeps doing these even with the relaunch.
HELLBLAZER: INDIA (Vertigo/DC)
Written by Peter Milligan, drawn by Giuseppe Camuncoli & Simon Bisley
Collects Hellblazer #261-266
Reading Hellblazer books is always a little tricky, especially if you’re like me and only read them in bursts and bits thanks to trades either gotten from Sequential Swap, $5 trade boxes or friends. Putting all the pieces together can be difficult, especially with a character like John Constantine who has been built to have a million skeletons in his closet and old friends to call on him. Unless you’ve got an encyclopedic knowledge of the character, it’s hard to know if whoever’s asking John for help is an established character or someone new being introduced to move the story along. I guess it doesn’t really matter–it’s not easy for a comic geek to let go of his hold on/knowledge of/desire to understand continuity, but I’m working on it–so I’m trying to just jump in and figure it out. For whatever it’s worth, if you’re curious, I’ve also reviewed The Fear Machine, Empathy Is The Enemy and The Roots Of Coincidence. I’m sure I have or will repeat myself in this post compared to those, so maybe you shouldn’t read them…
Anyway, like those other volumes, I quite liked this one, though, also like those others, I’m still not sure if I have any more of a grasp on Constantine as a character aside from him being a badass with ties to the dark arts, but sometimes that’s enough. This book is split between two stories, a 4-parter called “India” and a 2-parter called “No Future.”
“India” is pretty rad, with Constantine traveling to the titular country and facing off against a demon who used to be part of the British effort to take over India. Nowadays, he has virgins sacrificed to him by a Bollywood movie producer, but the system gets a wrench thrown in it when the producer falls for the latest potential sacrifice. Oh and Constantine of course. The story was a lot of fun and pretty tight, but I absolutely love Giuseppe Camuncoli’s artwork. Dude just has such a sick style that fits this book so perfectly. I probably said this before, but he would be awesome on a Hellboy book or maybe one of DC’s upcoming darker books (he might have actually been announced on one, I haven’t been keeping up with the announcements).
I had an even better time with “No Future” because it goes back to Constantine’s punk rock roots (I’ve actually read one of the books that explained this). His buddy and fellow former punk rocker has built this cult that worships a dummy that supposedly has the spirit of Sid Vicious (I refuse to link to his Wiki page, you should either know he he is, look it up yourself or just watch Sid & Nancy). Constantine’s friend is having his people taken away by the new Conservative party which is made up of zombie demons. Another quick and dirty story, I had a great time with “No Future” especially seeing John done up as a green-haired aging punk. I also really appreciated Simon Bisley’s artwork. He’s a dude I’ve always heard of and appreciated from covers, but not actually read any interiors of, so this was a treat, especially given the subject matter.
With the exception of his relationship to a blue-haired girl who is still alive and a woman who he clearly loved and must have passed away in an earlier volume, I think India is as good of a jumping-on point for new readers. Like I said, Constantine’s a strange character because he seems to know half the planet (the more salacious and devious half, of course) so it doesn’t matter who you know and who you don’t. The holes are filled in for the most part as far as understanding goes. I have a feeling if you picked up the very first Hellblazer trade, he’d be running into old friends and enemies and killing demons or whatever, so why not just jump in here?
FLASH: THE HUMAN RACE (DC)
Written by Grant Morrison & Mark Millar, drawn by Paul Ryan, Ron Wagner, Pop Mhan, Joshua Hood & Mike Probeck
Collects Flash Vol. 2 #136-141, Secret Origins #50
Even though I have great respect for what Geoff Johns did with the character, my favorite version of Wally West was the crazy horn dog from Justice League Europe. He was very fun, to me he was what I always heard Spider-Man to be, cracking jokes and loving the whole superhero thing, but looking to get down whenever possible. Books like this one and Johns’ trades are swaying me more towards the dating Linda Park version of the character. Mind you, I always liked LInda and Wally when he was with her, but it always seemed like when your crazy friend starts dating someone and starts to calm down. You still like him, you just kind of miss the old version of him. Anyway, this is the second trade collecting Morrison and Millar’s run on the book, but you don’t really need to have read the previous book to understand this one. The trade collects two basic storylines, the first being Wally running across dimensions against his supposed imaginary friend from childhood for the fate of the world and the second being Wally dealing with Linda’s apparent death and the Black Flash. Both stories are great, as you might expect from the pairing of writers (though I’m no fan of Millar).
The book does a great job of showing why Wally is cool without telling you, which is something that Johns hasn’t been doing a great job of with Barry since his return in my opinion. First off, he saves the whole universe by running. It sounds simple, but it’s across time and space, so not only does it look cool, but really gets into his head in some smart ways that I really liked. Then, you see Wally at one of the lowest points of his life. He basically quits on the hero gig because he lost his speed and is devastated by Linda’s death. He does come back, though and that’s what makes him a hero. The inclusion of the Morrison-written Flash Secret Origin story is a nice extra that I appreciate for completist sake. The art in the book is kind of all over the place, but the Pop Mahn stuff really stands out for me.
HUMAN TARGET (Vertigo)
Written by Peter Milligan, drawn by Edvin Biukovic
Collects Human Target #1-4
After checking out an episode of Human Target on Fox, I wanted to read the comic to see how similar the two are. And the answer seems to be very little. I know this Vertigo take on the character probably doesn’t exclusively follow the history set up in his previous adventures, though it does seem like it would fit in, but the whole concept of the Human Target in comics is that Christopher Chance takes on the potential victim’s identity to draw out assassins and take care of them. From what I could tell of the one episode I saw (and I haven’t seen any more after that) he’s just a bodyguard, so I’m not sure why they bothered shelling out the licensing fees for just the names. Anyway, this book is okay, but not necessary for anyone to read. The plot is a bit overcomplicated with Chance’s former assistant actually taking on Chance’s identity and then that of a pastor. His problem is that he wants to be anyone but himself, which laves his wife in the lurch. Milligan handles all the twists and turns of the story well, but I felt like the story should have been more about Chance himself and not him dealing with his old protege. It reminded me of 100 Bullets, but didn’t hit me anywhere as much as that book did on a nearly monthly basis. Also, Biukovic’s art looks a lot like Eduardo Risso’s but it’s a little more rounded. So, while this book didn’t really do anything for me, I would like to check out some other Human Target comics because I like the concept. It’s such a strong concept, in fact, that they should make a TV show out of it.
BOOSTER GOLD: REALITY LOST (DC)
Written & drawn by Dan Jurgens with some Chuck Dixon issues
Collects Booster Gold Vol. II #11, 12, 15-19
This is the third trade collecting what I think has been a great run on a book starring a character I’ve had a fondness for since I first picked up Extreme Justice and some other Justice League books backin my formative years. Since his 52-era reboot, Booster’s been running around keeping time safe for humanity learning lessons about what you can go back and save and what you can’t. You might think this isn’t the best place to start, but issues #11 and 12 were written by Dixon who took over from Geoff Johns and my buddy Jeff Katz and then Jurgens takes over as writer with issues #15. I’ve gotta say that it bugs me anytime a trade like this doesn’t just collect everything in one volume. Would it really have been such a difficult task to include the two issues written by Rick Remender and drawn by Pat Oliffe? I’m not a big fan of those guys thanks to how the ruined All Star Atom at the very end, but I’d rather be able to skip some issues in a book than have to read things all out of order.
Anyway, the story starts off with what should have been a simple stopping of a crime and ends up involving several trips back to the same Killer Moth job. Dixon wrote these and while they might seem like throwaways, Jurgens uses them later on in his story which involves all kinds of time travel, past stories and two Boosters teaming up to fight a former colleague of Rip Hunter’s. The story did get a little confusing because it goes in and out of previous issues and I always wonder what happened in the issues that aren’t collected. But, it will go back on the shelf with the first two trades so I can read them all in one sitting later. Also, Jurgens has been killing it art-wise on this book as far as I’m concerned which is great because after Battle For Bludhaven, I really thought he had lost it.
Part two in my argument why Black Panther is an awesome comic.
X-MEN/BLACK PANTHER: WILD KINGDOM
(Black Panther #8-9, X-Men #175-176)
Written by Reginald Hudlin & Peter Milligan, drawn by David Yardin & Salvador Larroca
X-Men/Black Panther: Wild Kingdom isn’t exactly the best example of why Black Panther is awesome. As I mentioned last time one of the big reasons I like this book so much is that it feels like it’s firmly entrenched in the Marvel U without getting too detailed or confusing. That all gets hindered when you bring in the X-Men. I know a lot of people are all about the X-Men, but I still find them to be the most difficult franchise to get into thanks to the incredibly dense history. It’s not even that Milligan’s story is all that confusing, I just have a hard time placing this story in the long history of X-Men. You’ve got Gambit and Rogue on the same team, but what’s their deal? Emma’s there too, but is this still when Astonishing was going on? None of this really matters to the story, but it is distracting. I do like how both writers handle Storm and Wolverine though, two characters who will be important in their own ways coming up.
The story of this book is that the Red Ghost wants to start a new commie ape society in Africa. There’s something about mutant animals, which gets the X-Men interested. BP of course gets involved too because this is his turf. For those of you unfamiliar with the Red Ghost, he’s a communist scientist who can turn intangible and has created super powered apes who talk. There’s another scientist guy in the story who can absorb mutant powers.
I’ll be honest, the larger story here isn’t all that interesting unless you’re a huge Red Ghost fan (and I know some people out there are). What is cool about this story is seeing Storm and Black Panther together. Like I said before I don’t know much about either character aside from what I’ve read in this book, so I’m not sure if there were any previous hints of their relationship or if this is the first readers saw of it, but I like how they are around each other, especially considering how adversarial they tend to be towards one another. It’s cool to see the beginning of their love story (even if it’s not the chronological beginning).
Oh, Dragon Man’s in the book too which is pretty cool, but, again, the overall story isn’t all that interesting. As far as my collection goes, I’m not all too concerned about adding this one to my collection, unless I can get it on Sequential Swap (a great site to get rid of some of your old trades as well as get some cool new ones). But, don’t let that deter you from checking out my future installments of Black Panther Is Awesome, as Part 3 will focus on Bad Mutha, the arc that got me interested in this book in the first place.