Trade Pile: Tokyo Ghost, Sonic/Mega Man & Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Tokyo Ghost Vol 1So many trades, so little time so let’s jump right in! A friend of mine suggested I check out Tokyo Ghost, which didn’t take too much pushing because I love Sean Murphy’s artwork in books like The Wake, Punk Rock Jesus and Joe the Barbarian and I’ve always thought that Rick Remender’s stories work better in worlds that he fully creates and that’s exactly what you get with Ghost. Continue reading Trade Pile: Tokyo Ghost, Sonic/Mega Man & Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Killer Comics Trade Post: Suicide Squad Trial By Fire & Uncanny X-Force The Apocalypse Solution

Suicide Squad Volume 1: Trial By Fire (DC)
Written by John Ostrander, drawn by Luke McDonnell with Bob Lewis, Karl Kesel & Dave Hunt
Collects Secret Origins #14, Suicide Squad #1-8

Sometimes I plan these Trade Post columns out really well and sometimes it just so happens that two books I’ve read within a given time have a similar theme. The latter happens to be the case with this particular one. I’ve been sitting on this first (and possibly only) volume reprinting John Ostrander and Luke McDonnell’s excellent Suicide Squad run. I had a little experience with this comic while coming up in comics and an iteration of the idea became very prominent in DC comics around Infinite Crisis and the surrounding events, but it was my pal Ben Morse who turned me on to this book specifically. He’s a big fan and has all the issues. A few years back, when we were still at Wizard he let me borrow a big stack of issues and I tore through them. Luckily, my memory is pretty crummy, so I didn’t remember everything when I sat down to read this book recently. As a nice bonus, this trade not only brings the first eight issues of the series together, but also the team’s origins that were printed in Secret Origins. I love when companies put a little extra time in to do something like that.

The idea behind this book is essentially The Dirty Dozen with superheroes and villains known from throughout the DC Universe. Amanda Waller rejuvenated an old idea with the son of a former leader in Flag who wants to prove himself and also die a little bit. These early issues feature characters like the original Captain Boomerang, Bronze Tiger, Deadshot, Enchantress and the Penguin, some of whom are part of the regular team while others pop in to help out in certain cases. Their early adventures are actually pretty real world-based, even if they do still involve people with super powers. You’ve got them taking on a foreign terrorist group, the Female Furies, a white power group and vigilante and Russians.

I really like how grounded the stories felt even given the more super elements. It reminded me a lot of the Mike Grell run on Green Arrow or Dennis O’Neal’s run on The Question. This series would go on to have a healthy 66 issue run. I hope that DC decides to collect them all, including The Janus Directive a crossover that involved books like Checkmate, Captain Atom and, I believe, Firestorm. It looks like they solicited a second volume, but it has yet to come out, so it’s probably not looking good.

Uncanny X-Force Volume 1: The Apocalypse Solution (Marvel)
Written by Rick Remender, drawn by Jerome Opena with Leonardo Manco
Collects Uncanny X-Force #1-4, Wolverine: Road To Hell

Much like Suicide Squad, I was encouraged to check out Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force by Ben Morse. I recently read his first arc on Venom which, while well done, just wasn’t the kind of book I was looking for but had also really liked what he did with Punisher and the wild FrankenCastle story. From what I’ve read, Remender’s excellent at coming up with capital A awesome ideas that sometimes might not get to be as cool as you want them to be because he’s working within the Marvel Universe, which can have it’s fair share of constraints, as do all of the shared, multi-book, multiple creator ones. That’s just how those work.

So, I was curious about his X-Force and when I saw it on sale for a reasonable price from an Amazon seller I was buying a few other things from, I bit. I knew that this first story was about a new X-Force team consisting of Angel, Wolverine, Psylocke, Deadpool and Fantomex deciding whether or not to kill a resurrected Apocalypse who came back as a child. I think I wrote something about it for Marvel.com, otherwise, I probably would not know all that. And that’s basically what this book is about. I don’t know how the previous X-Force team ended and it doesn’t really matter because this is an all new direction, so none of that really matters. All you need to know is that X-Force is a team of mutants who send themselves on the dirty jobs that Cyclops and the X-Men don’t want to deal with personally, as it has been since the wonderful Messiah Complex.

And the story is as straightforward as I mentioned. Sure there’s inter-character things like Psylocke helping Angel keep his Archangel persona in check and Deadpool being, well, Deadpool, but the main thrust of the story is first finding this new Apocalypse, fighting his new Four Horsemen (or Final Horsemen as they’re called this time around) and then deciding whether or not to ice the kid. The four issues did a weird thing where they at times felt rushed and at other times stretched out, but I think the end result is a well balanced story. I have questions about some of the technical stuff, but I’m guess that’s because I don’t know much about the X-Men and even less about Apocalypse.

Overall I did like this comic, it was a fun, interesting read that got me interested in Fantomex, a character who is so weird, he clearly came form the brain of Grant Morrison. An external neural system that can also turn into a spaceship connected to a guy genetically created to murder but instead pulls of elaborate capers and based his life on a French novel character? Yeah, that’s Morrison. I will also say that SPOILER I was really surprised with how they ended this arc. Seeing as how Apocalypse was a kid, I really did not expect them to kill him. As they were discussing the possibility of taking him with them and training him to be good, I was excited to see where that would go and then, literally, bam. It’s over. And that’s essentially where this trade ends too. I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to purchase the next volume, but I will definitely keep my eyes peeled on Swap to see if anyone’s got an extra.

Marvel Trade Post: Escape From The Negative Zone & Rick Remender’s Venom Volume 1

Uncanny X-Men/Steve Rogers Super-Soldier: Escape From The Negative Zone
Written by James Asmus, drawn by Nick Bradshaw, Ibraim Roberson & Max Fiumara
Collects Uncanny X-Men Annual #3, Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier Annual #1 & Namor: The First Mutant Annual #1

Escape From The Negative Zone is one of those books I wasn’t super interested in, but I had set up a Swap with someone when it turned out they forgot about trading one of the books I wanted. I scanned the list, saw that this starred a post-Reborn Captain America and thought it might be a fun read. And, luckily, that’s exactly what it is.

I don’t believe I’ve ever read one of Asmus’ comics before, but I thought he did a great job combining superheroes I’m (mostly) familiar with, a situation that’s fun (them trapped in an alternate dimension) and even some prison-escape elements. Basically, Cyclops, Hope, Dr. Nemesis and Namor get accidentally teleported to the Negative Zone where they run afoul of Blastaar. Blastaar wants to kill Reed Richards and asks for him to come to the NZ, but Steve Rogers goes instead. The five of them then need to work together (well, four because Namor’s going crazy without water) to get home as their previous mode of exit changes.

I also like that this is the kind of story you can enjoy without knowing much about the characters. It’s not the kind of story where you get a lot of background — I still know next to nothing about Nemesis or Hope — but you get a good feel for the characters. You might not know what Steve Rogers’ deal is, but you know from the way he’s written what kind of guy he is, same for the other characters. Dynamics and attitudes are shown instead of told in a way that doesn’t feel shoehorned. All that combined with a fun story that never slows down until the end and you’ve got a really fun comic.

Oh and the art is bonkers-good. I don’t believe I’ve read comics by Bradshaw, Roberson or Fiumara before, but I definitely want to moving forward. Bradshaw looks kind of like Art Adams in the amount of detail he puts in but a little cartoonier.  I definitely want to see more of his stuff. Roberson is a different matter all together, his figures are big and bold and everything looks painted, sort of like a far less digital Ariel Olivetti. Then you’ve got Fiumara who’s something else altogether, kind of a cross between Jae Lee and Skottie Young with style in spades. I’m not always a fan of a collection with so many different artists, but I loved this one, specifically because these guys are so good.

My only complaint about the collection is that it’s pretty pricey. Mind you, I didn’t actually purchase this book, I traded for it, but somebody out there is. I appreciate that it’s a hardcover and in the deluxe format, but $20 for a book whose comics would have cost you $12 total is a bit rough. Still, the larger size really shows off that rad art and story, plus they went with a white color for the cover which really stuck out to me for some reason.

Venom By Rick Remender Volume 1
Written by Rick Remender, drawn by Tony Moore & Tom Fowler
Collects Venom #1-5

The complete opposite of EFTNZ, I was actually really looking forward to checking out Rick Remender’s run on Venom. He’s a guy whose work I’m slowly catching up on, but has a real talent for coming up with rad concepts that are sometimes a little too awesome for Big Two comic readers (I’m thinking specifically of Frankencastle). However, I was left a little flat after reading this collection.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept behind this book, it’s that the government has captured the (a?) symbiote suit and, by using drugs and whatnot, have essentially turned it into living armor for a soldier. In this case the soldier is familiar to Spider-Man fans as Flash Thompson, a vet who lost his legs in service for his country and now uses the suit to take on bad guys while trying to keep control of the suit and not get addicted to it.

My biggest problem with this book is that it seems to have been printed funny. I kept having trouble focusing on Tony Moore’s art in the first issue which was bothersome because I think he’s great. I’m not sure if the lines didn’t come out right or if something was just the slightest bit off, but the whole book had a kind of fuzzy quality to it that I had trouble pinning down. Making matters worse, it’s not a consistent problem throughout the book. I’d be squinting and trying to focus, turn the page and then get treated to some crisp art, but it would be something less than dynamic like two characters talking.

I had a few story problems as well, but I think that’s because I don’t read Amazing Spider-Man or have a deep knowledge of Flash Thompson. For instance, I assumed the Betty that Flash is dating was Betty Brant, but her last name wasn’t actually said until something like the third issue. There’s also a point later on in the book where Thompson says something about his boss being blind, which there was something that came out of nowhere for me. I even went back and looked at his other appearances and saw no indication of him being blind, though it could have been mentioned in the dialog and I missed it.

Aside from those problems, though, this is a really fun idea. One of my favorite What If?! stories has Punisher getting his quite-gloved hands on the Venom symbiote. There’s a lot of that idea here, but instead of Thompson mentally defeating the symbiote, Flash is constantly in fear or losing control, something that I’m not very interested in. That’s your basic werewolf premise and something that’s all over the place in comics. I also could not help but wonder if this idea would have been better serviced as a creator-owned comic. I know it wouldn’t have had the fan wow factor, the pedigree or — I assume — the financial benefits, but I wonder if Remender’s the kind of creator who might wind up working much better outside the set constraints of a shared universe like Robert Kirkman does. But, like I said, it was a fun story that I’m sure Spidey fans dug, it just wasn’t the kind of thing that really got me excited.