Thursday, 30 September 2010
Sunday, 26 September 2010
Saturday, 25 September 2010
Friday, 24 September 2010
Collecting in trade very soon, here’s our final verdict on Darkstar & The Winter Guard, a story told in four parts although the first part was called something different. Always written by David Gallaher and always drawn by Steve Ellis, the four issues tell a gradual tale and bring an old team very much into the forefront of the contemporary Marvel Universe. The Winter Guard, and Darkstar herself, are Russian heroes created by a number of different people during the 70s and 80s. Darkstar came first, created by Tony Isabella and later developed by Bill Mantlo. Mantlo and Fabian Nicenza then spent time with the other Russians, popping them into stories wherever possible and attempting to develop them via cameo. Over time, four of the characters stood out from the others a little. They were:
Red Guardian, the leader of the team and a Captain America analogue for Russia. There have been loads of Red Guardians, and they often served as cannon fodder for other writers.
Crimson Dynamo – a version of Iron Man for Russia, and as a result spent most of his time fighting Tony Stark. Again, Crimson Dynamos were treated as highly expendable indeed.
Darkstar, who joined the X-Men briefly before getting shot and killed. Oh dear.
Ursa Major – a man who turns into a bear. Has managed to not get killed.
While popular with fans, the characters have never been anything like well-known enough to sustain their own series. They had a one-shot once, which introduced about twenty other Russian characters all at once, but apart from that it’s been mainly cameos for the group. So this was a fun chance to finally develop the characters on their own, without cramming in Iron Man or the Avengers to keep sales up. As a result, we got to find out quite a few things about the Winter Guard superhero team.
For one thing, we found out that things in Russia were pretty tense. Whilst the main four team members were still operating at the time the story began, only one of them was the original. The Russian Government had hired three replacements to take over from the deceased Darkstar, Crimson Dynamo, and Red Guardian, while the original Ursa Major tried to keep them all functioning as a team. This was done so that the Russian Government could pretend that their heroes were invincible, thus giving the impression to the Russian people that they were safe. Meanwhile, the other Russian heroes had all left in disgust as a result, and gone off to their varying retreats. The series focuses on the return of a few certain heroes, and how their existence puts the entirety of the Winter Guard program at risk.
So that’s the basic setup. We’re trying to review this without giving anything away, but it’s difficult to explain the setup without letting a few things slip out. Basically we have four issues of awkward team dynamic, mixed in with the occasional undead dinosaur attack or an invasion from an underwater King. While we do get to see a lot of characterisation in the miniseries, the problem Gallaher faces is that he has simply so many characters, all of whom are partially characterised and desperately wanting to be used. And only a few pages. So at times, the characters have to be painted in broad brushstrokes. This works okay for the most part, but it does mean that some characters show up briefly, say one or two things, then leave again. There just isn’t the space for them. The four main characters are well-cast, however, and provide a wide-ranging dynamic for Gallaher to play around with. Red Guardian is a jerk, Crimson Dynamo is unappreciated, Darkstar III is worried about whether she’ll be able to live up to the legacy of her predecessor, while Ursa Major is trying to make everyone play nice. Throwing the four contrasting personalities works well for the series, and acts as a good way of grounding the reader before everything explodes.
Because everything does explode. Given that the Winter Guard have typically been used as cannon fodder, marshalled one-by-one to their deaths, it’s amazing just how many of them are still around for Gallaher to brutally destroy. Things go horribly wrong in this miniseries, and the stakes are raised just enough to make the last few issues genuinely unpredictable. About 50 characters die, several others are wounded, and at least one character has their head stolen. It’s absolutely mental, everything that can happen does happen. Starting off immediately with a tentacle monster trying to eat Russia, the series only gets more bizarre and silly as things go on. The combination of weirdness and violence is interesting and new. Grant Morrison offered high-quality versions of it, but most other writers either pick one or t’other. Fred Van Lente and Jeff Parker are two other names who stand out for managing to flip from one to the other, actually. In this case, the silliness carries on during the violent bits, which makes this perhaps the only comic you’ll ever read where one moment a bear is teaming up with a gorilla to fight villains, the next he’s watching his teammates get eaten by aliens. Everything is in this mini.
Top Five Obscure Russian Characters Who Don’t Appear In This:
4. Gremlin. Hee. Gremlin is silly. Do a comicvine search for him.
5. Synthesizer. A couple of fused scientists who were, like, all electric and that.
3. Elena Ivanova. A psychic, or something. She was cool.
2. Sibercat. An over-enthusiastic man-cat thing.
1. Blind Faith. Is both a Priest and blind.
The art team are on top form. Steve Ellis’ artwork starts off looking scratchy and interesting, before morphing into a more structured but still interesting form. Val Staples puts in some stunning work as colourist, especially towards the end when lots of different power signatures are flashing around the place all at once. Scott Hanna’s inking is likewise very well done (inkers represent!) and adds to the hectic style of Elli’s pencilling. Things get thoroughly off-kilter by the end, and the art team manage to handle having a lot thrown at them all at once. And meanwhile, let’s not forget either that Scott O. Brown letters the mini with an eye to giving each character their own voice. Everyone is on fine form.
Most of the intellectual debate we have for the series is posted elsewhere on the site, in our review for… was it the second issue? Think so. We’re more focused here with doing a simpler review which basically conveys the point that the series reads as a fun, mad, weird and sometimes campy update on the original characters, moving them forwards and giving them a proper place within the MU. It reads, actually, as a love letter to Bill Mantlo’s writing, and you can find a tribute to the writer on Gallaher’s personal website, if you so wish. As far as we’re concerned, this was proper what comics are meant to be like. Entertaining, but built around the characters rather than anything else. Sometimes there was a stray line which sounded odd, or a scene which played out strangely, but the focus on the main four characters pulls everything together and holds it in place. If nothing else, the team have completely cemented Ursa Major as the greatest hero in all of comics.
Our meaningless rating: 8/10. Really good fun.
Monday, 20 September 2010
Andy Lanning and Dan Abnett are the writers, whilst Brad Walker draws. And here's the team:
Uatu The Watcher
We added a few at the end, but apparently ALL the other characters will be appearing somehow in this series. We know what you're thinking: who is Paladin? We're wondering the same thing. He sounds like a holy temple. We'll have to wait and see if this is the case or not.
We've never seen a temple-based super-hero before.
The game is simple - somewhere on the opening page from X-23 #1 we have drawn a poodle. Just the head of a poodle, actually, and it may not even look that much like a poodle. Art was never our talent. Anyway! If you are the lucky first person to spot the poodle and identify its location in our comments section, then you will win a SENSATIONAL PRIZE! The prize is nothing. This may well become a monthly feature. Here is your first challenge:
Sunday, 19 September 2010
Saturday, 18 September 2010
Friday, 17 September 2010
As Mr Bolt is currently unavailable, Medusa appears to be stepping in to fill her husband's shoes. This is fantastic news for at least one reason, said reason being that MEDUSA IS AMAZING. The other notable change is that Namor has finally been kicked off the team, for reasons as-yet undisclosed. Perhaps they finally got tired of his smell, perhaps he quit because he wanted to spend more time pestering Emma Frost over in Uncanny X-Men. We may never know. Until, that is, we know. Which will be soon! The return of the Illuminati will occur in Bendis' Avengers series, drawn by John Romita Jr.
Currently in Avengers: Thor bashing Galactus round the head with a hammer. True story! At any rate, the return of the Illuminati looks set to be the second story arc, and we're excited because we actually like every member on the team (Prof X! We just want to give you a big ol' cuddle). It's been a long time since we could say that. You've been patient with us, so here's the teaser image by Romita Jr.
Baseball isn't a sport, America! When will you learn?
Thursday, 16 September 2010
Coming in December, art possibly by Harvey Tolibao... nothing else in known yet. It might not even be an ongoing series. But at least we know that Elektra and Falcon are going to be in it - for us, Falcon is an insta-buy character, but we don't know what your thoughts on awesome characters who totally control birds and fly with science-wings are. Maybe you're anti, maybe you're pro. If you are anti, then frankly we don't want anything to do with you and pray you don't pass on these instincts to your children.
Tuesday, 14 September 2010
Monday, 13 September 2010
The image is almost certainly a Harvey Tolibao 'joint', and suggests one of two things: an Elektra miniseries or an Elektra ongoing. Which is more likely? Well, we're thinking that it will be a miniseries, but hoping it's an ongoing. If it IS an ongoing, though, just imagine the possibilities. Elektra has ties to Daredevil of course, but also to SHIELD (Secret Warriors), Natasha Romanov (Black Widow), Wolverine (Wolverine) and many others. Think of what we'd get! Our guess would be that Zeb Wells will be the writer, as he's been her unofficial patron for the past year or so. But, as ever, only time will tell for this one.
Sunday, 12 September 2010
Saturday, 11 September 2010
Friday, 10 September 2010
10. Squirrel Girl
Best to get her out the way quickly, or you'll be expecting her to top the list. Squirrel Girl can't appear in a movie, ever, because it takes away all the tension. How can an audience worry about the fate of the World if they know that Squirrel Girl is on the case? She'll lick the villains within five minutes, then go back to her beloved Central Park and forage for nuts. She's too powerful to work within a movie.
9. Howard The Duck
For one thing, it'd be hard to find an actress who'd be willing to put on Psylocke's frankly painful-looking costume. And then there's the fact that Psylocke is white, but at some point gets turned into an Asian woman. Is there any way that someone could pull off that story on the big screen without looking like a massive racist? We don't think so.
7. Captain Mar-Vell
One and a half hours of utterly inspired space action, as Captain Marvel races through the cosmos looking to save the Universe from total destruction! Followed by half an hour of him slowly contracting cancer, and dying in bed while the villain gets away with it.
Like Wolverine, except the lead character is a young prostitute who murders people with a footclaw and sniffs the ground a lot. She doesn't talk much, rarely offers any glimpse of a true personality, and spends the first hour of the movie being tortured by a sinister American agency. Y'know what? Maybe we'll pitch this to Eli Roth.
5. Black Bolt
The lead character can't talk! He wins all his fights by whispering a word at his opponent! There is absolutely never any variation in the way this character wins battles! It would be insanely boring to watch a Black Bolt film. He works in comics because he doesn't appear so often, but in a film? And besides, if in Space, nobody can hear you scream.... how the heck do Black Bolt's powers work?
Because it'd be weird. Charlize Theron, dressed up as a she-cat complete with fur and tail? The World just isn't ready for that kind of thing yet.
Well, maybe Japan is.
3. Wonder Man
Nobody cares about Wonder Man. He don't count.
2. Captain Britain.
For one thing, Americans have never really taken to the character. For another thing, nobody in Britain would ever take it seriously. He calls himself "Captain Britain"? Not very modest of him, is it? He needs to scale down the ego and realise that nobody from England would ever be accepted by Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. It'd never sell, unless it was made a deliberate satire and the BBC was involved. Maybe Robert Lindsay could be Captain Britain, while Zoe Wanamaker plays Meggan.
1. Uatu The Watcher
And this one upsets us deeply. We love Uatu. He is probably our favourite character here at ComVan, with his wise ways and solemn stares. What a loveable lug! Sadly, the idea of watching Uatu watch other heroes for two straight hours would probably be too difficult to work out, with all the different licensing and scheduling conflicts that'd be created by having five minutes of Captain America followed by ten minutes of X-Men followed by twenty minutes of Luke Cage. Incidentally, our ideal casting for the guy would be a bald Judi Dench.
Tuesday, 7 September 2010
Punisher makes his proper return in a miniseries following the finale of Frankencastle, called 'Punisher: In The Blood'. Also written by Rick Remender, the five-issue miniseries will feature both the return of Roland Boschi on art duties and the the two Jigsaws. That's right, Punisher-fan! Not only is the current Jigsaw showing up, but the ORIGINAL Jigsaw will also appear. Back from the dead. So they'll be causing trouble in New York which can only be solved by shooting people zzzz. Not to knock the creative team, of course! But you can only flog a dead horse for so long before some kind of wildlife authority shows up to arrest you.
At the end of In The Blood, Remender plans to leave the series. Pitch for a Morbius ongoing, Rick!!
With Matt Murdock currently doing suspicious and murderous things in Shadowland, will Diggle actually go ahead and bump him off proper? And if so - which character will do it? We've got Ghost Rider, Moon Knight and Kingpin all walking around in this story, along with Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Punisher...
Marvel have already released a list of possible replacements for Daredevil which included Gambit and Falcon. If it does come down to some sort of contest to see who gets to look after Hell's Kitchen then heck, we're on Falc's side. Gambit can barely wash himself, let alone save innocents from ninjas and gangster. Although then again, it might be that Daredevil Reborn isn't about replacing the character at all - maybe he will literally be reborn. In which case, we're placing bets on Misty Knight being the mother.
Daredevil Reborn #1 comes out in January. The final issue of Daredevil (issue #512) will come out in December. Natch.
Monday, 6 September 2010
The Living --
There are three squads. Gamma Flight are the third and most minor of the teams, and their team contained Madison Jeffries, Diamond Lil, Wild Child and Witchfire. None of them are important for McCann’s story, but at least now you won’t send us complaints that we left them out. FYI many of them are currently dead.
Half of Alpha Flight are dead, and half are alive. The ones still alive are:
Northstar – Jean-Paul Beaubier. He has superspeed and now lives on Utopia with the X-Men. His boyfriend is very annoying, but rarely appears anyway so it doesn't matter too much.
Aurora – Jeanne-Marie Beaubier. Who has the same powers. She is Northstar’s sister but has yet to join up with the rest of the X-Men. She is likely in Canada. She runs a snowboarding company!
Sasquatch – Walter Langkowski. He is a big yellow monster dude with enhanced speed and strength. He is in Canada. Nobody cares much about him.
Snowbird – Narya. A Demi-Goddess who can transform into any Canadian animal. She's the one that people like the most. She turns into bears and owls and stuff. It's ace.
The Dead --
Guardian – James MacDonald Hudson, married to Vindicator. He uses a battle suit to give him powers. He was killed by Michael Pointer in an awesome issue of New Avengers.
Vindicator – Heather Hudson, who also wears a battle suit which enables her to fly and do heroic things. She was also killed by Michael Pointer.
Shaman - Michael Twoyoungmen. He was, predictably, a shaman. Killed by Pointer. They all died off-panel.
The only two important members of Beta Flight are Marina and Puck. Puck was killed by Michael Pointer. He had a demon possessing him, so when he died it’s likely that his soul went to Hell and is going to imminently meet Wolverine’s.
Marrina – Marrina Smallwood. An amphibian who fell in love with and later married Namor. She was later turned into a giant sea monster, which forced Namor to kill her. He then threw her mutilated giant snake monster body at Norman Osborn and went off in a huff. Oh, Namor!
In McCann’s one shot, we’re going to see Northstar, Aurora, Sasquatch and Snowbird deal with the return of Guardian, Vindicator, Shaman and Marrina. Got it? Hope so!
Chaos War: Alpha Flight comes out in Novermber.
Sunday, 5 September 2010
Elsa Bloodstone! Hired by Morbius and Werewolf-by-Night and all the others, we're going to get several pages of Elsa-on-Castle action in this issue. If only this period of The Punisher's story never had to end...
Frankencastle #21 comes out on November 29th.
Saturday, 4 September 2010
The issue comes out September 22nd, and we didn't even make a reference to Planet of the Apes. Arentcha proud?
Friday, 3 September 2010
5. The Gorgon
A man who works for HYDRA, and was killed by Wolverine during the ‘Enemy of the State’ storyline. Wolverine more or less lucked-out in this battle, only winning out of chance. Gorgon has since been resurrected in the pages of Jonathan Hickman’s ‘Secret Warriors’ title, but he doesn’t appear to have a soul – his soul is probably still in Hell. If Aaron wants to make things tough for Logan, than it would make a lot of sense to bring in The Gorgon to makes things difficult. Also, Gorgon appears on this cover:
4. Silver Fox
We're expecting at least one of Wolverine's exes to turn up in Hell, and it seems that Silver Fox is the most likely gal for the role. Although Itsu has a connection to Daken, and Mariko is connected to the Silver Samurai (who appears in the backup of Wolverine #1), it seems that Aaron has a fondness for the Weapon X team. Maverick has already appeared recently, and with Sabretooth never too far away and Wraith turning up in the most recent issue, Silver Fox is needed to help complete the squad. And it'll drive Wolverine INSANE to see her turn up in Hell. We've seen how Mystique is inferior to new chick on the drive Melita, now let's find out how the new gf compares to Silver Fox.
Based on the events of the ‘Road to Hell’ short story that came out this week, this seems almost certain. Yes! A writer is actually going to try and tackle the continuity of Xorn in a comic! You may remember that Xorn was the alias used by Magneto at the end of Grant Morrison’s run on ‘New X-Men’, and was killed at the end of the Planet X storyline by Wolverine, after Xorn killed Jean Grey. Magneto/Xorn has since been roughly retconned so that Magneto was never a part of the story. All along, Xorn was simply a Magneto fanatic who pretended to be Magneto pretending to be Xorn so that well anyway this is what Jason Aaron is going to be stepped into if Xorn shows up. The murderer of Jean Grey… showing up in Hell… after being murdered by Wolverine… it’s certainly got potential.
Wouldn’t it be interesting, though! Kurt Wagner got a giant hand whomped through his chest during Second Coming, and died after saving Hope Summers. Logan has understandably been devastated by the loss, so wouldn’t it be the perfect gut-punch if it turned out that the Catholic had been sent to Hell? It’s not particularly likely, however, as Aaron’s Wolverine is slowly becoming a man of faith and it wouldn’t really suit the story if he had assistance in Hell. But hey, maybe we could see him slowly descend from the sky with a harp and angel wings during Logan’s darkest hour, and punch out Satan again!
This one is guaranteed. You know how we know? Because he’s on the cover to issue #3. The last time Wolverine saw the real Sabretooth, he was looking about a head shorter. When he goes down to Hell, Logan is bound to meet up again with the notorious beclawed murderer and rapist. Will they fight? Almost certainly! Will Sabretooth be a talking head or a complete body once more? That’s up for debate. In Road to Hell Sabretooth appeared as a head alone. But could that change once Logan hits the floor of Hell proper? We’ll have to wait and see, but it’s going to be a painful wait.