Friday, 30 September 2011

George Perez Leaves Superman

Nightmare news! George Perez, the writer for the main Superman series over at DC, is going to step down after issue #6. This is devastating news because Superman was shaping up to be the most glorious mess we'd ever seen, and now we're not going to get any more lines as good as "it was a tower of babel of incomprehensibility". We still have five issues though, you guys! We'll just have to treasure them when they arrive.

Keith Giffen is going to step into the void, making this the second DC title he's inherited within the past month. He will also be taking over Green Arrow, replacing JT Krul.

Keep your eyes glued to ComVan, because we're going to be giving you a thorough review of Superman #1 over the weekend. SPOILER: Superman throws the Daily Planet globe at someone!

What the heck is Mark Ruffalo Doing

Thursday, 29 September 2011

DC Review Fest: Justice League Dark #1

By Peter Milligan, Mikel Janin and Ulises Arreola

Justice League Dark was my most anticipated book of the New 52. With Shade the Changing Man, John Constantine, Zatanna and Madame Xanadu all appearing in the book, Milligan was only a Yorick Brown and Animal Man away from assembling all my favourite DC characters in one place. It feels, more than any other title, like the book which bridges the gap between the DC Universe and the Vertigo line of characters.

And the best thing about issue #1 is how Milligan basically manages to tell a Vertigo story, but within the DC Universe. The main threat of the issue is the relatively unexplored mystical character, Enchantress, who has gone mad and is throwing curses all round the World. Madame Xanadu has caught onto this, and is - sort of - assembling a team of magic-users to combat the rogue magician. But that team isn’t assembled by the time the issue is finished. Constantine and Dead Man both have only one page each of introduction, whilst Mind Warp makes only a small cameo on the first page, as a Tarot Card.

Like all the best Vertigo titles, Justice League Dark focuses on establishing the World more than it does on establishing the characters. Whilst those one-page intros are both well-done and hook readers in for issue #2, both of them are used more to tighten Milligan’s world and give it a localised focus. They don’t appear until after the middle section of the issue, in which the Justice League make their move.

It was smart for Milligan to use the JL halfway through the story, when only a little bit of his story has been revealed. By sending them into a battle they can neither understand not win, he shows their strength as characters and weakness as characters in this storyline. He necessitates the need for a Justice League Dark before he goes ahead and actually introduces them. Seeing Superman being attacked by witch-teeth is hilarious and a great way to combat the accusation that the JL’s existence makes other characters redundant. Many people say that Superman or Flash are too overpowered, and that they can never be outmatched because of that - Milligan proves them wrong.

And although that scene plays out a little too quickly - it wraps up Wonder Woman, Cyborg and Superman unconvincingly - Milligan then delivers an effective scene which basically introduces the new Zatanna to the DC Universe, and takes out Batman in the process. It would be PRUDISH to neglect to mention Mikel Janin’s work at this point, because not only has he drawn this issue, but he was also responsible for redesigning the characters. Whilst Constantine and Shade aren’t much changed from usual, Janin’s redesign of Zatanna keeps the spirit of her character whilst ditching the fishnets and top hat. She’s reinvigorated by the costume change, and it’s always enjoyable to see someone outwit Batman.

Shade is perhaps the most developed character here, perhaps because he’s one of the lesser-known names for long-time DC readers. It’s been a very long time since he was active in the DC Universe, and Milligan quickly paints a picture of a very, very broken hero. Of coruse you’d expect Milligan to understand the character inside-out, but the new wrinkles in Shade’s ego are absolutely fascinating. The revelation about Shade’s love-life is the most surprising twist I’ve read in a comic all year. He’s fascinating, and his positioning as the male lead is something I really wasn’t expecting to see.

The World of Justice League Dark is brilliant fun to read about. Milligan is clearly enjoying himself with this story, more than I think I’ve ever seen before. Little details throughout the issue - backed by Janin, who seems to perfectly understand what Milligan is going for on each page - bring a smile to your face. From Madame Xanadu’s tarot cards to the double-page splash at the start; through to a suicidal power plant and the ominous last page, Justice League Dark is the best introductory issue for a New 52 team-book, and the best book overall. Entertaining, smart, and filled with Milligan’s dark wit, it’s a treat from start to finish.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Best Daredevil Cover Of All Time

Marvel's December solicitations have been revealed. While The Defenders relaunch is taking up a lot of attention, and the Regenesis and Spider-Island fallout looks set to take those franchises in a new, bold direction... WE JUST DON'T CARE BECAUSE PAOLO RIVERA HAS DRAWN THIS COVER FOR DAREDEVIL

The single most exciting thing to happen to comics this year has been the friendly competition between Paolo Manuel Rivera and Marcos Martin to see who can create the most incredible, unbelievable, mind-blowing Daredevil artwork. And while both men have put in stunning work, this cover has slightly tipped things in Rivera's favour. Will Martin's rebuttal in January even the battle? We can't wait to find out.

Ultron Returns!

I love it when a teaser image explains everything so I don't have to. Laziness rules supreme!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Nova Returns!

A few months ago Marvel stated that they were going to try something new with their second wave of 'Point One' introductory titles. As well as giving new readers an accessible, stand-alone story which will help them jump into series which sound interesting, the next set of books - written by people like Matt Fraction, Brian Michael Bendis, Fred Van Lente, Chris Yost and more - will also tease some of the events occurring in 2012.

Which bring us to this teaser, released SCANT MINUTES AGO by Marvel. Apparently Nova is coming back as part of this big build-up! Last seen during The Thanos Imperative storyline, it appears that Richard Rider is all set to make his big return as part of an oversized, 64-page one-shot released this November. What brings him back? We don't know! A series of writers will each tackle a segment of the story, alongside artists like ComVan favourite Ryan Stegman. Judging from this teaser, it looks like Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness are going to be handling the return of Nova.

It looks like there'll be another teaser tomorrow. Oh, the suspense!

Uncanny X-Men Covers #1 & #2 Revealed

Marvel have finally thrown out their silhouette-making machine, which means the cover for Uncanny X-Men #1 has now been revealed. It looks like this, and reveals that Storm, Namor and Hope Summers are all official members of Kieron Gillen's team. It also confirms that Hope is one of the fastest runners in the X-Men, while Namor's winged feet make him a cautious jogger.

The cover for issue #2, however, shows us the new story arc. The inferior version of Sinister - the male one - seems to be back, and this time he's placing his interest in Hope and Emma. He's also wearing a rather dapper tuxedo, so at least he's making an effort this time round.

Random Review: Hellblazer #283

By Peter Milligan, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Stefano Landini, and Trish Mulvihill

Probably the most iconic British comic-book character outside Dennis The Menace, one of my favourite writers handling the script, Cammo on art, and that delightful worn-out paper that Vertigo opt for. There’s nothing about Hellblazer #283 which doesn’t feel like it was specifically aimed at a market of me.

Hellblazer is the incredibly long-running Vertigo series which properly gave us the character of John Constantine, who has made appearances in series like Swamp Thing, Sandman, and, uh, Brightest Day. Constantine is a Scouser who fights demons, and you may have seen him in the American film adaptation which I secretly kinda enjoyed. In his time, Constantine has been written by just about every British writer imaginable – from Ennis to Carey, Morrison to Diggle, Gaiman to Delano and beyond. So it was only a matter of time really before Peter Milligan got his hands on the series. This issue signals the start of a new storyline, which made it quite easy for me to jump on despite my incredibly limited knowledge of the series. “The Devil’s Trenchcoat” is a dry, funny storyline, which sees Constantine go up against… yes, a demonic coat. Bear with me.

Milligan’s approach to the character appears to be relaxed, with Constantine nonchalantly watching blood flow from the walls of his ceiling and having tantric sex magic with his blue-haired girlfriend. Much of what happens is played for laughs, although the awareness of each scene varies depending on the protagonist. Constantine seems to have seen this all before, and takes everything with a pinch of salt. The coat, though (yes, the coat is one of the protagonists, try to keep an open mind) possesses a random unfortunate and proceeds to use him to fulfil its fantasies. The humour is less subtle in these sections, as the coat gleefully arranges sex for its owner and then offs him once it gets bored – but the tone works in the issue’s favour. The overwrought thought boxes clash nicely with the fact that it’s, y’know, an evil coat thinking them, and there are a few twists which keep things from feeling too simple.

The Constantine scenes are the more interesting, though, mainly because Milligan cycles so viciously through genre on every page. From broad comedy to family drama to mafia doings to the aforementioned tantric sex magic, Constantine’s life never seems to slow down. It’s a good thing that Camuncoli is the artist for this arc, then, because he’s one of the most versatile and gifted artists currently working for any company. His style is instantly recognisable in the wrinkles he puts by Constantine’s eyes, or the sheer range of expressions he gives the various characters. Camuncoli nails London as a location, giving it just enough grime to make the glamour seem unworldly. The double-page splash (that is a pun) on pages four and five is absolutely gorgeous, helped in no small part by Trish Mulvihill’s eye-popping colouring. Camuncoli’s eye for composition is spot-on here and throughout the issue, but Mulvihill does such a great job that it’s hard to tell who to have more admiration for. The artwork for the issue is lovely.

Now, the issue does have address a lot of things which new readers won’t understand. I have no idea why Constantine’s niece Gemma is so angry with him, for example, or why a demon is chasing her around and asking her to do a murder. There’s several scenes which allude to past stories, and at one point Gemma pulls a piecing out her cheek for apparently no reason. Long-term fans of the series will probably know what the significance of all this is, but I was stranded. Not that it mattered, because everything that was important was explicitly brought up and reiterated for me. Milligan can deliver pages and pages of exposition without you realising about it, and his sly style works once again here. After finishing the issue I felt like I understood everything that makes these characters tick. Milligan is a natural fit for this kind of storyline, and while I can’t say if he nails the characterisation, I can certainly say that the characters who were here all seemed fully-realised. So even if this is an out-of-character version of Gemma, at least it’s a completely fleshed-out mischaracterisation.

I’m a big fan of Mike Carey’s Felix Castor series, which treads similar ground to this – so perhaps it was never too much of a surprise that I was going to end up enjoying this issue. But Milligan and Camuncoli are onto a winner here, with a mad premise that actually manages to tap into the heart of these characters and explore what really drives them. Combining macabre humour with deft characterisation and an unbeatable art team, Hellblazer #283 is a delight.

With tantric sex magic in it.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Let's Discuss this Pixture by Steven Sanders

I hope that you see what I've done there. By cleverly combining the words "Pixie" and "picture", I have invented a wordplay. That's something you can cherish for the rest of the day, readers. The Comics Vanguard Difference.

Steven Sanders is one of our favourites, despite the fact he spells his name incorrectly - with a "v" instead of the professional "ph". Along with people like Steve Ellis, Stephanie Hans, Ryan Stegman and Skottie Young. And like all those artists, Sanders' sense of humour filters through into the art and gives it a unique edge. We all enjoyed his work in SWORD, tolerated a story about "Gorilla Man" and "Deadpool" because he was drawing it, and gasped as he changed his art style for an eight-page Wolverine story with Jason Aaron that one time. Well, now Steven Sanders has stretched himself once more, with a task which has broken many a lesser artist: he has done a drawing of beloved X-Men character Pixie.

Pixie is one of our favourites. Uh, also. She's fun, flighty, Welsh and causes walking hallucinations. She's aces, more or less. And here we have a picture of her wherein her classic Vespa is unseen. Where her coffee is ambiguously daring you to guess if it's caffeinated or not. And where she's wearing a scarf. You can see that she's been smart enough to bring a flask with her - some of that classic Welsh wisdom, as we can attest to. For all we know, Pixie is currently sat on Aberystwyth Pier, and a marching band are just off-screen. In fact, that's what we're going to assume here. She's brought her coffee out early, because she didn't want to miss the Colliery Band perform.

You can buy this pixture! It is available through Etsy. It will keep your reassured during long dark nights of the soul. Hurray for the existence of this.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Phil Noto Adds Realism to Catwoman #1

There have been a lot of parodies of the final page to Catwoman #1, wich range from the funny to the generic. Or in the case of certain websites, massively sexist. But our favourite parody of the lot comes from ComVan favourite Phil Noto - who will be drawing the next arc of Marjorie Liu's X-23 series - giving us a look at the reality of the situtation. How will issue #2 begin? Probably a lot like this:

You can find Phil Noto drawing new stuff almost daily over at his tumblr account, which is fantastic.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Apparently telling everybody your Technorati rating is important

With that in mind, Comics Vanguard have just been listed onto the site, and currently sit at position 565. Is this really news? Apparently so, according to other websites. So there we go. Comics Vanguard: cracking the top 600!

The Superman #1 preview is a Tower of Babel of Indecipherability

CBR has the exclusive preview of Superman #1 by George Perez and Jesus Merino, presumably because DC knew that CBR wouldn't mock the writing. No such qualms over at Comics Vanguard! While we see what Perez is doing here, mixing the fight scene with a later newspaper report of the battle... there is absolutely not a single newspaper editor on Earth who'd let a writer get away with the line "its language still a Tower of Babel of indecipherability". That's far too much 'of' for one sentence to handle!

A few pages before that narrative highpoint, there's a line from Superman about "snuffing out" the fire monster attacking Metropolis. Which leads us to believe that the reboot has severely affected Clark Kent's writing ability.

Hey, guys. Here's a thought. Do you think "a Tower of Babel of Indecipherability" should be Comics Vanguard's new tagline? Vote in our poll!

Slutty DC Characters UPDATE:

Laura Hudson's published her article on the depiction of several female characters during the DC Reboot, focusing - of course - on Catwoman and Starfire. As you'd expect, it's a great article, well written and expressed. Hudson makes several scathing points against DC, and generally leaves them battered. And as she should, because the mainstream comic-publishers have struggled with female characters for years now, and largely failed to progress their standards.

However, in the final third of her article, when she turns her attention to Ron Marz's 'Voodoo' book, her argument overextends. She argues again that this sequence is another sign of the demeaning attitude that comics have towards women. All we've seen of Voodoo is one black and white page, which shows the character at a strip club - this page:

The context is apparent - the character is a former stripper, and this is her origin story - but it's still wrong to assume anything about the story at this point. Some of the strongest works of feminist fiction feature stripping, prostitution, or exploitation. And by the way, did you see how I just connected stripping with prostitution and exploitation? That's how easy it is for a writer to make you assume the worst about the adult industry.

It's unfair to assume that being a stripper is by definition a misogynistic role for a woman to have. Defining a woman - defining anybody - by their job is unfair, and prejudical. How many people actually get to have a job with self-definition? Not many. Most are working in offices, doing generic work with generic co-workers. To say that stripping is demeaning for women is what makes stripping demeaning. You can argue that any form of creative expression is demeaning in some respect - look at the ballet scenes of 'Black Swan' for example, or Stephanie Meyer's writing in 'Twilight'. We've not seen a word of Ron Marz's dialogue yet, and already people are pre-judging the title. And that's absolutely unfair. It assumes a lot about him as a writer, and it assumes a lot about the entire creative team.

But nothing is easier than picking holes in a somebody else's argument, guys, and we're not trying to give you the impression that we're totally okay with what's going on with female characters in comics. Hudson's article asks a lot of questions that DC won't be able to easily answer. There are too many female characters in comics who are defined by their objectification. For every Lois Lane, there are about twenty Star Sapphires, a Starfire, and a handful of Zatannas. It might be perfectly in-character for every one of the Star Sapphires to dress provocatively. There's nothing wrong with showing female promiscuity in a comic, as it is a part of the human experience - there are women who define themselves by their appearance, by their reaction to men, by their sexuality. The problem, and the main question which DC (and Marvel) need to provide an answer for, is: why is the ratio of "slutty" women to "typical" women so staggered?

Thursday, 22 September 2011

DC Review Fest: Wonder Woman #1

By Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang and Matthew Wilson.

Wonder Woman and Animal Man are the books to beat! Brian Azzarello enters the DC relaunch with a brilliant, simple, and elegant take on Wonder Woman. He takes a character I knew virtually nothing about, and shows us why she matters to the DC Universe. And notice how I say ‘shows’ – the issue is focused on the story, and not on the character. Azzarello shows off his talent for long-form storytelling by weaving approximately four different plot threads into one seamless…. well, I guess a seamless narrative scarf is the metaphor I’m heading towards here. Oh dear.

As a new reader of the character, who only knows her through fleeting glimpses on TV, film and the odd comic, I’m looking to see if Azzarello can define her for me within a few pages. While I know the mythos of Superman and Batman… Wonder Woman has a lasso and an invisible jet. She’s iconic yet I feel I know nothing about her.

So what I got from this issue #1 was that Wonder Woman is a character all about action. The sparse dialogue she has shows a guarded, calm figure who will race straight into a fight she knows nothing about, if that’s what it takes to protect someone in danger. And I like that idea a lot. The first half of the issue doesn’t even bother to show her or foreshadow her whatsoever – it gets the story underway and shows us what’s going on before even a glimpse of Amazonian foot is spied. When she does come in, it’s not in a big splash sequence or a flashy hero pose. She is accidentally brought into an already unfolded adventure, and simply goes along for the ride.

Cliff Chiang’s artwork here, it should always be noted, is sumptuous. He has a glimmer of Dodson around him, but coupled with a more stylish flair for dimension, perspective and expression. Wonder Woman looks powerful, but also looks like an actual woman. What I get from the issue is that she’s a dynamic character, but because she doesn’t revel in her own power. While it’s great to see her visibly enjoying a fight scene towards the end of the issue, the most telling moment of the issue is when she refuses to be called ‘Wonder Woman’. Her name is Diana, and that’s all you need to know about her.

The villains seem interesting, too. I know Wonder Woman has some vague ties to Greek mythology, so when I see a woman with a cloak of peacock feathers I know that Hera is getting involved in the action somehow. And when I see a Sun God appear, I know it’s probably Apollo. Those details are incidental, however, as Azzarello is – once more – more interested with the story than the dialogue. Not to say that he doesn’t do interesting things with the dialogue, but it’s not the strongest suit of the issue. That would be the way he remains committed to giving readers an interesting, layered narrative. The villains strut in and out of the story where necessary, with Apollo getting a fascinating introduction. Azzarello throws in some violence where it’s necessary, but the way Chiang structures this opening sequence shows that a scene can be just as effective even without blood.

Wonder Woman has come straight out the gate with a high-spirited, exciting issue. The creative team – not forgetting to mention Matthew Wilson’s super work as colourist – gel immediately, giving us perhaps the most cohesive and self-assured issue of the reboot so far. It’s certainly the most entertaining issue of any comic that I’ve read in a long time.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Catwoman #1 is going to make The Internet angry

Spoilers for Catwoman #1 are scattered in this post. Be wary!

SO HEY, YOU GUYS! Catwoman #1 came out this week, written by Judd Winick. It's one of a few female-led books DC are publishing as part of their relaunch, along with Supergirl, Wonder Woman, and Voodoo. This also happens to be the same week that Batman #1 comes out. So baring in mind that not everyone who reads Catwoman is going to be reading Batman, this issue needs to establish its protagonist both as her own person and in relation to the Dark Knight. Winick needed to make it clear what kind of anti-hero Catwoman is, and what her thoughts on Batman - the man who inspired her to be who she is - might be.

And boy, did it ever sort of manage to achieve that task! The issue concludes with an on-panel sex scene between Batman and Catwoman, in which she straddles him while they both wear their costumes.


Now this is quite a big thing, no pun intended, to show in a mainstream comic. That you're meant to be pitching at new readers, many of them young. And it's an especially notable event when the comic happens to be one of a small handful of female-lead comics being published by the mainstream comic-book industry despite more and more female fans signing up to wordpress every day to express both their breast-ownership and enjoyment of Gambit stories.

It also comes a few months after a massive row broke out at San Diego Comic-Con because fans felt that DC weren't employing enough female creators. And it also comes only a few months after Comics Alliance, Comics Beat, and several other blogs (many of them featuring the suffix "-girl") had endless discussions about the perceived 'boys-club' mentality of the industry, which targets a young male demographic and leaves female comic-book fans twisting in the wind.

So after all that happened online, DC have still decided that they're going to go ahead and publish this sequence. Needless to say, people are starting to gather their pitchforks and storm to the blogs. Marvel could have literally strangled Ms Marvel with a thong, and nobody would have noticed in the stampede to complain about Catwoman. I'm not underselling the impact this scene is going to have - the internet is going to be really upset, you guys. Especially Scans Daily. Expect riotous anger to erupt over the next few days once Laura Hudson finishes gathering her thoughts.

DC Review Fest: Batman #1

By Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and Fco Plascenscia

Batman #1 has two goals. Firstly, it’s determined to reboot nothing. Secondly, it damn well wants you to know that Batman Inc still happened. Almost every page seems to have some kind of reference to Grant Morrison’s stories with Batman, from the cameo appearances of the circus freak villains, Flamingo and Professor Pyg through to Dick Grayson’s current status-quo and Damian Wayne’s existence. If you were a fan of Morrison’s run with the characters, then you should be pleased to know that everything from it remains intact (apart from the Joker, but that’s Tony Daniel’s responsibility). Even the Tim Drake/Damian rivalry crops up.

So let’s discuss the way Scott Snyder handles this #1. For starters, he gathers a whole group of famous villains and frontloads the issue with them, as Arkham Asylum riots and Batman is left to try and put them down. While it allows for Snyder to delve into Batman’s thought process and show off Bruce’s intellect, this does also have the negative effect of making all the classic villains seem like cannon-fodder. We see Two-Face, Riddler, Black Mask and several others get smacked in the face over the course of the first few pages, before they vanish and are presumably left in Arkham. Now, we were going to complain that none of the villains had been rebooted, because this seemed like a great time for DC to start over with Batman and try some new origin stories – or an Amazing Spider-Man-style gauntlet, even – with the characters. Instead we have them all in prison, condemned as repeated failures. BUT! We’re not going to complain about that (although I sneakily just did) because Snyder finishes off the story with the hints of two new villains. So it looks like he’s more interested in immediately moving Batman to new territory, rather than redefining the past.

Which is fair enough, really. Retelling Harvey Dent’s downfall would only invite comparisons to some of the most beloved stories in comics, so Snyder has nothing to gain from trying it. Snyder’s approach to the issue seems to be a continuation of Batman Inc, only without the ‘Inc’ part of it. Tim Drake, Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne are all present in the issue, and showing a semi-united front. As we mentioned before, all of Morrison’s run seems to remain in-continuity, which allows for some interesting dynamics between the four characters. Snyder has a handle on all of them, it appears, with Grayson a little more sensible than the other two and Tim still reckless. Alfred and Jim Gordon show up too, and apart from Gordon’s younger-looking hair they’ve not been rebooted at all, either, by the looks of things.

Moving away from those two sticking-points, then. The art by Greg Capullo is for the most part perfectly suited to the tone of the book, with his work on Bruce Wayne standing out in particular. While Bruce has been de-aged (which makes it a bit weird to see all his side-kicks standing around with him, because they look more like a gang of teenagers than a guardian and his wards) he remains a powerful businessman within Gotham. The scene where he pitches his plans for Gotham’s future is the strongest of the issue for Capullo. His work looks a little like Giuseppe Camuncoli, which can only be an excellent thing. The introduction of a new mayoral candidate is a little difficult, however, as now we have a fifth black-haired male hanging around the book, and they all look kinda similar to each other.

You may be able to tell that I’m damning the title with only faint praise. Which is because, while it’s a decent comic, it’s certainly nothing more than that. It reads a little slowly, and the story isn’t compelling at the moment. We’re expecting things to pick up as the arc continues, but this is a rather dull beginning, and it’s absolutely not the shot of adrenaline we thought would come from a #1 issue. Although an okay comic, we’re certainly hoping that the next issue provides us with a more interesting, dangerous, and compelling story.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Random Review: Pigs #1

By Nate Cosby, Ben McCool, Breno Tamura and Chris Sotomayor

Pigs #1 seems to be on a single-handed mission to make people show more respect to their mothers. Every mum in this issue is ferocious, powerful, and terrifying. Clearly writers Nate Cosby and Ben McCool have spent a lot of time dealing with matriarchs, as the strongest characters in this issue are by far the older women. Whether they be sat stone-faced at an interrogation desk or calmly threatening to kill their extended family, they add a sense of menace and delightful dread to proceedings.

The story here is massively - and purposefully - disjointed, making it hard to tell what’s going on until the end, where we get a broader view of the current events. Jumping around through time, the narrative slowly reveals itself to be concerned with a group of KGB agents who may or may not be living in Russia. After the events of the Bay of Pigs fiasco during the 1960s, McCool and Cosby (sounds like a TV detective team, right?) pitch that Cuba invited several Russians to set up a base in their capital. Among these Russians were a small agricultural team. Once the Cold War fizzled out, all the Russians went home.

Apart from that agricultural team.

So we’re dealing with a conspiracy story, really. The only thing is that the timeline is so fractured that the reader doesn’t realise that until the end - and in our mind, that’s a huge risk for a comic to take. Luckily, the writers have a solid grasp on writing interesting, enigmatic lead characters, who lead us through the story even when we’re not sure what’s going on. The issue benefits massively from the focus on character - and the writers are also smart enough to know how to hold back. There’s no feeling of exposition here, and there are countless scenes which unfold with a minimum of dialogue. The writers are happy to allow artist Breno Tamura to show off his gift for pacing and story for extensive periods of time, and the gambit pays off with some beautiful, scene-setting work.

The book reads like a cross between something Brian Michael Bendis would write and The Bourne Identity. Scenes of interrogation are contrasted with quiet (ish) family scenes and a scene where a guy rides a bike and whistles for three or so pages. While the interrogation features snappy, Bendis-esque dialogue, the rest of the comic is more laid back, careful, and mysterious. The central mystery is not even revealed in this issue - the last page is the main hook that the creative team have to grab the readers’ attention. That the book remains as gripping and exciting as it does is a testament to the collaboration between the three, and the magnificently-handled pacing of the issue.

It’s funny, too.

Pigs #1 is a massively promising debut issue, and we can’t wait to pick up the next issue to either find out what happens next or be further snared into the labyrinthine, fascinating storyline. Stellar, effortlessly entertaining stuff.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Squirrel Girls Scramble!

Amanda Waller: Origins?

Spoilers for Suicide Squad #1 below, although you've probably already read them already by now.

First noticed by the folks over at Comics Alliance, perhaps the biggest shock provided by DC this week wasn't to do with Green Lantern, or Batwoman, or Superboy. Instead it came in the pages of Suicide Squad, a series totally disregarded by most commentators as soon as they saw the cover. But now the issue exists and is in shops and you can buy it, several reviewers have caught on to the surprise reveal that the formerly full-figured commander of the team Amanda Waller... is now a skinny rake-woman.

The thing is, that change takes away the striking visual which defines the character. During John Ostrander's run with the Suicde Squad, Waller became famous in the DC Universe as the most powerful will in the Universe. She was the only person who scared Batman. Nobody dared defy her, as she led the Suicide Squad on several no-hope missions and usually got them back in one piece (well, there MAY have been a few... or several... casualties, but still). She was a larger woman, became iconic in the eyes of the fanbase because she was the only woman in the DC Universe who wasn't routinely sexualised and abused. She became known as "The Wall", because nothing would stir her. If a new Green Lantern was needed on Earth, it'd be her - her willpower was defiantly unstoppable.

So there was quite a lot of anger at the fact that she's now apparently lost all her weight and become just another person. Her full-figure was unique in comics, and to see it shrink is a huge loss in this visually-driven industry. But before you raise those fingers of yours to weigh in on the matter, let Comics Vanguard make a quick suggestion to calm your rage-driven digits. What if this new Suicide Squad is an origin story for Amanda Waller? She starts off as a thin, ambitious young woman, and grows into the fierce and powerful Wall as the story goes on. Perhaps a sub-plot will develop in which the stress of her job makes her binge-eat every evening, while she panics over the next mission? What if we're seeing AMANDA WALLER: ORIGINS?

While Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman start from the beginning all over again, would it be too strange to suggest that Waller is going to do the same? First she grows the attitude, then she fits the frame. As her attitude takes over the DC Universe once more, she will start to turn back into the indomitable force that fans known and love.

Have we nailed it? I think we've nailed it. Crisis over, people!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Every Comic-Book Website Gets Sent Regenesis Teaser Art Apart from Comics Vanguard

In an act which will DEFINITELY see them shed thousands of potential readers, Marvel have sent teaser artwork for Kieron Gillen and Billy Tan's 'Regenesis' one-shot - in which the various members of the X-Men pick a side to stay on, either with Wolverine or with Cyclops - to every major comic-book website apart from Comics Vanguard.

Why would Marvel do such a thing? Do they not realise that Comics Vanguard commands the attention of over five (it might be more) people a day? Needless to say, we're going to post links to shops where you can buy copies of Doom Patrol online. Why not buy several copies of the trade and give one to all your friends?

You can find the Regenesis teasers at:


among others.

The Best DC Reboot Comics So Far:

You may be wondering to yourself; "hey, are Comics Vanguard going to do a rundown of their favourite comics of the New 52 DC Reboot so far?"

If you were wondering that to yourself, then surely you must be the most satisfied person on Earth, with neither care not doubt ever crossing your mind. Why would you spend so much time wondering about a hypothetical like that? What sort of person is so content with their own life that they have time to waste on comic-book blogs like this one? Well, y'know what? We're complimented by your worrying. So OF COURSE Comics Vanguard are going to do a rundown of their favourite comics of the New 52 DC Reboot so far! In fact, you're seconds away from reading it! The things we do for you lot, eh?

6: Batwoman

On second read, perhaps we were a little harsh on Batwoman during our review, which you can scroll down the main page to read. It's not a bad comic - it's clunky, and the pacing is poor, but the art, colouring, and design of the thing can't be argued. It may tell a slight story, but the character of Kate Kane is so realised by this point that she stands alongside Bruce Waynce as one of the most compelling heroes in the DC Universe.

5: Action Comics

Grant Morrison made good on the 'Action' part of his title, as we see Superman chase around, swing bulldozers with one hand, outrun a train and catch a bullet. But the comic does suffer from having so many obvious seeds for future storylines scattered about. You can tell that, after twelve issues, this issue is going to have a whole lot of new meaning and insight for readers. And until we know just what the deal with the gangsters, or Luthor, or the trio looking for Clark, or... you get it. A lot of this issue hinges on stuff which is yet to happen.

4: Demon Knights

Alright, so Madame Xanadu didn't come off too well in this issue. But on the plus side we have perhaps the best introductory issue of the lot. About seven characters appear to be on this 'Demon Knights' team, and Cornell introduces them in very different ways. Jason Blood and Madame Xanadu get the majority of the panel time, but Cornell also quickly throws in several other characters one after another, who will presumably grow in later issues. Some writers have struggled to make their casts accessible for new readers: Cornell has decided to not bother with any of it. He's going to introduce the characters when he damn well pleases, and that's a refreshing approach that we're eager to see develop over time.

3: Swamp Thing

Prepare thyself for a gasp of astonishment! Comics Vanguard DO NOT LIKE ALAN MOORE! His writing is bloated, overdone and far too rapey. So it was with dread and faar that we approached Scott Snyder's new series featuring the titular swamp creature (or 'thing', if you will). But we should not have been foreboded! Because the issue was brilliantly done, with new readers able to jump right on in AND THERE WAS A MINIMUM OF RAPE! Huzzah for Scott Snyder. Yanick Paquette did a great job establishing a tone for the story, too - while creepy, this wasn't as horror-y as Jeff Lemire/Travel Foreman's Animal Man series. It had a unique style and approach, and a great last page.

2: Red Lanterns

Of course Peter Milligan was able to take this one-note cast of characters and give them depth and variety. Of course he introduced the characetrs without it feeling forced or too full of exposition. And of course he gives us a two-page spread of a dread-kitten going "RARRRR" at the reader. Red Lanterns promises to offer a compeltely different approach to the DC Universe, and we're jumping on for the long-haul. Great fun, well paced and with a great grasp on the characters, Milligan has pulled off the seemingly-impossible by making these characters fun.

Of course.

1: Animal Man

So, so good. If you haven't already bought it, then get thee to the comic shoppe!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

DC Review Fest: Demon Knights #1

By Paul Cornell, Diogenes Neves and Marcelo Maiolo

Demon Knights #1 is a very British, very old-timey, very continuity-dense comic which rewards long-term fans of the DC Universe but also succeeds in welcoming in new fans. The book, which is about several people wandering around Britain just after King Arthur has died, is written by Paul Cornell, which explains why it's so British and welcoming. The book is also drawn by Diogenes Neves, a friendly face who first appeared on the scene during 'X-Men: World's Apart" by Chris Yost. Diogenes Neves is not particularly British, but is rather welcoming throughout this issue, delivering some great work - until a last page splash which is just a teensy bit dreadful.

Let's work forward from the start. Arthurian Britain was a hotspot for activity in the DU Universe, with Madame Xanadu running about alongside characters from Grant Morrison's 'Seven Soldiers: Shining Knight' miniseries. And it's with those two series that Cornell begins the story, gradually weaving them together until they stand together as one coherent narrative. While Xanadu larks about with some demons, the villains of Morrison's story loom over Camelot and prepare to attack. It's a fun premise for a book, albeit one which requires the reader to have not only read Seven Soldiers but also to have understood it (no easy task) if they want to grasp the full story here.

The only problem with the issue is that it's set in England. Cornell is eager to make the series sound authentic, but putting phrases like "sod this" and "bugger" into Madame Xanadu's mouth is wildly out-of-character for her. I get that this is a reboot, and maybe now she's happy to sound like Mary Poppins - but Xanadu was great before, and this restructuring of her is really really irritating. She sounds like a carbon copy of another Cornell female: Faiza Hussain from the decent 'Captain Britain and MI13 series'. Neves captures the dialogue brilliantly, with his expressive pencils allowing Xanadu to smirk her way through the story without a care in the World.

But again, that doesn't sound much like Madame Xanadu, does it?

The issue wings along at a fair old speed, flicking between Xanadu and Seven Soldiers, and pausing from time to time to make in-jokes for long-term readers who've read those series in the past. By the time the confused-looking last splash page appears, you'll know if you want to pick up issue #2 or not, ultimately. For us, the draw of the story was Xanadu, which means we're going to be careful about the next part of this storyline -- but y'know, the narrative is fine, the other characters are all decent, and the villains do something really nasty to a baby. Which is what we want, right? It's a fun issue, if somewhat fast to finish. I sort of recommend it!

DC Review Fest: Batwoman #1

By J. H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman and Dave Stewart

Nothing happens in Batwoman #1. That’s the thing. Artist J. H. Williams III has a brilliant handle on composition, resulting in lovely two-page spreads as far as the eye can see. But without Greg Rucka at the helm, the storytelling side of things is expository and those gorgeous layouts have a noticable lack of structure. There are seven double-pages spreads in this issue – that’s the majority of the pages here. And while Williams and colourist Dave Stewart nail many of them, the ones that don’t work REALLY DO NOT WORK.

On one of the spreads Batwoman and her blonde companion who was never properly explained in the issue so I didn’t know who she was; undress to put on their uniforms. The first time we see them get changed, the dialogue justifies any element of cheesecake which might and does occur. This is a scene which sets the tone for the character and gives the reader a sense of who their heroine is. Batwoman doesn't see this as being a superhero - she instead sees this as a military operation in which every little detail must be completely planned out. It's an effective way to demonstrate her unique attitude towards her role. But then there’s a second scene where they get undressed, and this time Williams intersperses a large spread of the two girls taking off their clothes with scenes of them fighting villains. Now, is it just me, or wouldn’t you rather see the fight scene focused on in this panel, instead of Batwoman standing around naked?

I suppose both sides of that argument could be argued, but still. From my perspective, the focus on naked women takes away from the important character-beats Williams and co-writer W. Haden Blackman try to fit into the scene. We’re meant to be seeing a superhero and her sidekick have a fight: instead we’re looking at all of Batwoman’s usually-hidden tattoos. This happens a few times throughout the issue – the danger of having so many double-page spreads is that all your attention turns to the splashy art, and your eyes keep skipping important bits of dialogue. If the eye is caught by the right piece of art, then everything's fine. But if you're distracted by the wrong panel, you completely lose track of the narrative.

Not that there are too many important bits of dialogue in this issue though, when you really boil it down. The issue is surprisingly light on narrative, with an effective opening sequence immediately thrown away in favour of a middle section which doesn’t tell readers anything important. The first time we see Kate Kane, the current Batwoman, is when she’s staring at a picture of her ex-girlfriend Renee Montoya. The scene doesn’t really know why it’s doing that, though, so we’re first wondering if Renee is dead in the reboot universe, and then wondering why Kate is openly talking about her last girlfriend to the new woman she wants to date. It’s clunky dialogue, and annoying to read.

The dialogue isn’t all bad, though. Let’s be fair. That opening sequence showcasing the new villain is really creepy, and the creative team are really in their element drawing murky, dread-filled atmosphere. The subsequent scenes catching up on the villain’s handiwork – complete with a young-looking Jim Gordon – are the strongest of the issue. But that’s then followed by another awkward double-page spread where Kate has a fight with her father and tells readers everything that’s happened over the past two Batwoman story-arcs. It’s expository in the extreme.

The final scene comes about so quickly that you can’t believe the issue is already over. The impact is therefore lost, and the stunning art and colours simply can’t make up for the poor pacing. Batwoman was one of our most anticipated series. On the basis of this issue, it’s something you’re better off collecting in trade.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

X-23 Joins The Avengers Academy

She's been with the X-Men, X-Force, the FF and now she's heading towards Avengers Mansion! X-23, the best there is at what she does but who then cries and cuts herself afterwards is going to be the focus of an upcoming issue of Christos Gage's 'Avengers Academy' series.

Sent by the X-Men in the hopes that Tigra and Hank Pym can help her get through some of her issues (not your best idea, Cyclops), it looks like X-23 is going to work on those psychological issues through the medium of violence. As if there's any other way!

Monday, 12 September 2011

COMVAN EXCLUSIVE: We've Learnt the name of this one character from "The Extinguished"

If you write a comic with The Winter Guard in it, then you can be guaranteed of two things: one, that you have done the World a service. And two; that Comics Vanguard are going to pay attention to everything you do afterwards. WE'VE GOT OUR EYE ON YOU, FRED VAN LENTE.

With that in mind, let's turn our attention to ariter/artist team David Gallaher and Steve Ellis, who over the past few years have joined forces several times - from their Harvey Award-winning run on gothic western "High Moon" through to their celebrated "Darkstar & The Winter Guard" miniseries for Marvel last year.

Now, a few months ago Gallaher (or was it Ellis??) posted a teaser image for a new collaboration, known as "The Extinguished". The image showed some characters in a pirate ship, fighting off the advances of a giant squid. It was amazing. And then... nothing. Things have been remarkably quiet about the series for quite a while now. We've heard nothing about the book, the characters, or the story.

WELL THINGS ARE REMARKABLY QUIET FOR NO LONGER, WORLD! Comics Vanguard have used their stellar powers of interrrogation to get right into the heart of the matter and find out the name of one of the cast-members for this series. Specifically, we've found out the name of this guy:

He's called Leland. EXCLUSIVE REVEAL!!!

Mikel Janin Debuts Trailer for "Justice League Dark"

While Marvel toil away with teaser images, DC have spent the past month editing together movie trailers for several of their most high-profile titles. And today, artist Mikel Janin is the latest to debut a teaser. The appointed artist for Justice League Dark - ComVan's Most Anticipated New Series of 2011 - Janin's work looks set to be among the creepiest and darkest of any within the New 52. Travel Foreman has set the standard so far, but the art previews seen here are spectacularly spooky. The trailer looks amazing (we're less sure about the music) and reveals the hook of issue #1. If you want no spoilers whatsoever, do not scroll below the video!

It looks like Enchantress, who appeared in Milligan's Flashpoint: Secret Seven series, is going to be the main threat of the first issue. She appears to be possessed by a demon of some kind and then let loose on the World, causing massive loss of life. Superman, Wonder Woman and Cyborg from Geoff Johns' Justice League are shown arriving at the scene, but apparently at a loss for what to do. So who will step into the breach and sort things out? Only The Justice League Dark team, guys!

We really couldn't be more excited for this series than we are right now!

Marvel Release Fairly Boring Teaser Image

After weeks of X-Men teasing - which we mostly ignored, you may have noticed - Marvel have turned their attention this week to The Avengers. The release of the following fairly vague and definitely uninteresting teaser tells us absolutely naff-all about whatever this storyline is, and to be honest we really couldn't care less. The only interesting aspect is the belief some people have that the crosshairs represent the X-Men - that this is going to be an Avengers Vs X-Men storyline.

But that's not very interesting either, and in fact the prospect of losing valuable 'Regenesis' months to an Avengers/X-Men crossover is rather irritating, when you think about it. Who wants to see Cyclops and Captain America fail to conclusively fight each other when we could instead be witnessing the return of MANKILLER to the Marvel Universe? Mankiller Vs Iron Man -- now there's a fight we'd pay for!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Ten Questions We Have About Regenesis ADDENDUM

Question 11: Where the heck is Dazzler???

Ten Questions We Have About Regenesis

So now we know the teams of the eight different X-Men books, let’s look at some of the questions this raises about the characters and storylines over the next few months. We’ve compiled the ten most nagging questions about Regenesis – how many will be answered come the end of the year? There may be spoilers ahoy, both potential and current – don’t read this if you want to come to the books totally fresh!

10: Where is Professor X?

One of the biggest questions, for obvious reasons. The founder of the X-Men appears only sporadically nowadays. Which side does he favour in this split? Will he even bother with the split? His closest ties nowadays seem to be to the New Mutants – but even then, he hasn’t been seen with them for months. Is Xavier involved in Regenesis in any way?

9: Are Magneto and Rogue split up?

Magneto and Rogue’s icky relationship has been a sub-plot in Mike Carey’s X-Men Legacy run for quite a while now. But, with this rebranding and Carey’s rapidly-approaching departure from the series, it looks like the two characters have split into different teams. Rogue has stayed with her friend Wolverine, while Magneto has opted for Magneto. Does this mean their relationship is now done? With Gambit apparently more interested in Frenzy than his old flame Rogue, what will happen to Rogue once Regenesis starts?

8: Which side is Psylocke on?

Psylocke is the sole character to appear on both sides of the Regensis divide. Or is she? Don’t forget that Psylocke had a doppleganger called Revanche for quite some time, and there were hints during Matt Fraction’s ‘Sisterhood’ storyline that she could come back. Is Psylocke a double-agent now, or are we seeing two characters with the same body? If Psylocke is a double-agent, then whose side is she really on?

7: Where is Archangel?

Speaking of X-Force members – Archangel is notably absent from these covers. One of the original five X-Men, Archangel would be expected to place prominently somewhere. In the current X-Force storyline ‘Dark Angel Saga’ he appears to have given in to his dark side and gone mad. Will he be dead by the time Regenesis starts? Or evil? Where will he be, and what will his agenda be?

6: How did Idie break Hope Summer’s thrall?

A long-running plot point in Generation Hope has been Hope’s thrall over her team. They all seem bonded to her subconsciously, in ways which make it impossible for them to disobey her or leave. With that in mind, the fact Idie has left the team and moved over to Wolverine’s side seems ominous. What does this mean for Hope, and what does it mean for the rest of the team?

5: What is the purpose of Astonishing X-Men?

Astonishing X-Men is not tied to either side of Regenesis – or to the rebranding at all. It’s gaining a new creative team of Greg Pak and Mike McKone, and Storm and Cyclops are involved. But beyond that, we don’t know anything about the purpose of the book, or what the long-term plans for it are.

4: Who is the leader of X-Factor?

Havok and Polaris have only just got back to Earth after years spent in space, and already they’re back in X-Factor. Only… in their absence, Madrox had taken over and ascended to team-leader status. He’s been the face of X-Factor for a very long time now. Will he step aside and let Havok take over? Or will there be a fight?

3: Is Wolverine re-opening the X-Men’s School?

Wolverine is moving his team to Westchester. With that in mind, does this mean he’s trying to get back to the original spirit of the X-Men? His team is the only one to feature any student-type characters at the moment, with Quentin Quire joining up. Idie is on the cover of the book too, and she seems to have a school uniform on. Is Wolverine reopening the school?

2: Is Cyclops wounded?

It looks a lot like Cyclops has taken some kind of injury to his hand. Did Wolverine cause some long-term damage to the X-Men’s leader?

1: What is Storm doing with Victor Gischler’s X-Men?

Gischler’s team – Warpath, Psylocke, Vampire Jubilee and Domino – all have a shady past. They are, in essence, a new formation of X-Force. What is their purpose? Are they a new strike-team for Cyclops? If so, then why is Storm flying in the background, watching over them? Should we assume that Storm is keeping an eye on these characters because she doesn’t trust them together… or was she the one to assemble them?

The Blue Regenesis Team: Revealed

The Blue Team are the X-Men who are staying loyal to Cyclops, and as such are remaining in San Francisco. Here are the rosters:

Generation Hope’s Roster: Hope Summers, Velocidad, Primal, Zero, Transonic and Sebastian Shaw

The cast of Generation Hope trades one character for another, as Idie leaves to join Wolverine but Sebastian Shaw turns up as a new mentor. The rest of the cast from Generation Hope - the speedster, instinctive guy, mermaid and cyber-biological arm thingy lad are all staying on, mentored by Hope Summers. Sebastian Shaw's arrival on the book is really strange, especailyl as we last saw him beating Emma Frost up during Kieron Gillen's Uncanny X-Men run. He's been pitched recently as being the third side of teh Magneto/Xavier triangle of ideaology, though, so maybe this will be his time to shine. New creative team James Asmus and Ibraim Roberson have a lot of explaining to do…

X-Men’s Roster: Jubilee, Warpath, Psylocke, Domino and Storm

Victor Gischler assembles the most diverse team of the bunch, with several character returning for the first time in quite a while. Jubilee remains a core character in the book, but the most interesting additions are Psylocke and Storm. Psylocke seems to be pulling double-duty somehow, while Storm’s willing involvement with these questionable and morally-dubious characters seems very odd indeed. Warpath and Domino return after skipping out from the X-Men after Kyle/Yost's run on X-Force ended.

Uncanny X-Men’s Roster: Cyclops, Emma Frost, Colossus, Danger, Magneto, Magik

Magik leaves the New Mutants and joins her brother’s side. Her brother, who, as a side-note, is now the new Juggernaut or something. Cyclops survives Schism, it appears, and Emma stays by his side. Kieron Gillen has stated that his team are the most powerful X-Men line-up ever assembled – and there are still three characters on the team who haven’t been revealed yet. We’re hoping for Pixie and Dazzler, because we always hope for Pixie and Dazzler. Formerly evil robots Danger and Magneto are on the team too, because why not I suppose. Somebody must presumably find them interesting, right?

New Mutants’ Roster: Dani Moonstar, Doug Ramsey, Warlock, Sunspot, Magma, X-Man

Cannonball continues to be missing after Chris Yost apparently murdered him during the “First to Last” storyline. Where’s the closure??

Anyway, the New Mutants team doesn’t change much after Regenesis, it appears. Magik leaving is the only change here. Karma is still absent, and X-Man is still present. Writers Abnett and Lanning are going to continue their “tying up loose ends” theme over the next few months by turning their attention towards Blink. Blink last showed up in Necrosha, brainwashed and evil. She was ‘cleansed’ at the end of that story, but then went AWOL. It looks like it’ll be business as usual for the New Mutants as they go to try and find her.

The Gold Regenesis Teams: Revealed

Alright! So let's get into this. For the past two weeks, Marvel have been slowly revealing the full rosters of all eight of their "Regenesis" X-Men titles. In the aftermath of Jason Aaron's Schism event, the books will divide over two lines: those who side with Cyclops, and those who side with Wolverine. These so-called 'blue' and 'gold' teams will be split relatively equally: Uncanny X-Men, Generation Hope, New Mutants and X-Men will all side with Cyclops, while Wolverine & The X-Men, X-Force, X-Men Legacy and X-Factor will all side with Wolverine.

Now, to what extent they actually tie-in to Regenesis is unknown, as X-Factor and X-Force have traditionally avoided all contact with the main X-Men titles and narrative. Astonishing X-Men, too, has avoided any contact with Regenesis and will continue to be a standalone series, written by Greg Pak and drawn by Mike McKone. The belief is that Cyclops' followers will remain on Utopia, while Wolverine's group head over to Westchester and set up a new mansion - but again, nothing is confirmed there.

Let's reveal the teams, then, shall we? We'll start with Wolverine's side - the Gold Teams. Click the image for a large version.

Uncanny X-Force's Roster: Psylocke, Deadpool, Fantomex and Nightcrawler (from the Age of Apocalypse Universe)

The Uncanny X-Force team changes in a few ways, but will probably keep the same mission statement. Archangel is mysteriously absent here, presumably because of something that happens during the current 'Dark Angel Saga' which is currently running. Wolverine has also been dropped from the cover - however, don't expect that to mean he's left the team. He'll probably still be around. The two questions for the team lie with new addition AoA Nightcrawler, and Toad. It's hard to tell if Toad is meant to be on Wolverine & The X-Men or Uncanny X-Force at the moment, because his somewhat white outfit is difficult to make out. So, we'll have to see about that.

Wolverine & The X-Men's Roster: Wolverine, Toad, Oya, Iceman, Beast, Kitty Pryde, Lockheed and Quentin Quire

Wolverine's team seems heavily influenced by the events of Schism, which saw Idie (codenamed Oya) take centre-stage and Quentin Quire return to the X-Men's lives. Oya is the girl who can manipulate fire and ice, who has somehow broken away from the cast of Generation Hope to become Wolverine's new sidekick. Wolverine seems to have also retrieved Beast from the Avengers, meaning he has two of the original five X-Men on his side. Iceman and Beast were not very friendly last time they met, so it'll be interesting to see what happens next for them. Jason Aaron has said that his book will feature about 14 different characters, though - so this isn't the full team.

X-Men Legacy's Roster: Rogue, Gambit, Frenzy and Loa

This doesn't seem like a long-term team. Mike Carey's run with the X-Men has recently taken a turn towards short storylines. Each new four/five issue arc has featured a different character in trouble, with Rogue coming to help them out. It looks like Carey's final arc (because he leaves the X-Men after this arc) will see the remaining team coming to the assistance of New X-Men character Loa, who was most recently seen in Stuart Moore's Namor series.

X-Factor's Roster: Havok, Polaris, Madrox, Longshot, Wolfsbane, Rictor, Shatterstar, Layla Miller, Monet, Siryn, Longshot, Strong Guy

Peter David's kept his team intact, despite claims that he was going to be killing off a member. However, David has obviously raced in to snatch the just-returned Havok and Polaris, because they're front-and-centre here. Havok is well-known to be one of David's favourite characters, so it looks like we'll be seeing a shift from Madrox to Havok as the series goes on. With such a big cast though - and don't forget that David also has side-plots dealing with characters like Darwin and Marrow to incorporate at some point in the future - X-Factor looks a bit overstuffed at the moment.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Northstar Vs Aurora; Cuddly Monster

So did we ever mention that Alpha Flight is now an ongoing series? Apparently it was popular enough to warrant an upgrade from "maxiseries" to "series". now, from a linguistic viewpoint that would be a visible downgrade of four letters, but in terms of business this is quite good news. It means that the series will now ongo.

So in honour of the news - announced months ago, as Comics Vanguard like to hit you with exclusive breaking news after they've cooled off a little - here's a new teaser for the series, showing Northstar and Aurora fighting while that yellow furry guy watches on. Who will win? Does anybody really think Northstar can beat his superior sister in fair combat? The questions will be answered during a vaguely defined point some time in the future!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Continuing Questions of Reverta

So we were thinking more about Reverta, the purple-cloaked mystery woman who wanders around the DC Universe as mysterious purple-cloaked mystery women are wont to do. While she’s appeared several times now, we still have several questions about her existence.

* What is she doing here?

* Where does she come from?

* Is she wearing trousers?

The third question is the most worrying, as it potentially holds the key to unlocking the entire DC reboot. If she is wearing trousers (or “pants”, if you’re a crass American), then she is in line with the editorial mandate which came down, saying that female characters are no longer allowed to show off their woman-bits. Thusly she is a part of the New 52 and exists alongside the other DC characters harmoniously.

However! If she is not wearing trousers, then she is part of the old DC, where female characters had massive cleavage, tiny waists, legs up beyond their neck and oodles of bisexuality. And she exists outside of the 52, popping in to watch as familiar characters go in unfamiliar directions.

We may not know much about Reverta quite yet. But we know this: everything hinges upon her legs.

Random Review: Casanova Avaritia #1

By Matt Fraction, Gabriel Ba, and Cris Peter.

......Feeling very self-conscious about my writing style right now.

If you type “Casanova” into Twitter, you’ll find endless testimonials for Matt Fraction, Gabriel Moon and Fabio Ba’s series coming from people like Warren Ellis, Ed Brubaker, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Laura Hudson and OTHERS. The series, which reads like an amphetamine-enhanced update of the James Bond/Blade Runner template, sees lead character Casanova Quinn run about through parallel universes, blowing them up or something. In the meantime, he also goes around shooting people who’re dressed up in bandages, having sex with green women, and showing off his flaccid penis as often as possible.

This is the most indie of comics. After reading the first five pages, the most immediate thought is that this comic is going to be massively enjoyable, if not running high on comprehensibility. While reading the next section, the niggling doubt starts to seep in that nothing you’re reading makes any sense, or was ever designed to. The finale is incomprehensible.

But, y’know, maybe that’s my fault for trying volume three without making any effort whatsoever to learn what the series was about, or what had happened previously.

Avaritia is a bizarre sort of comic, and perhaps fans of the series will have a better grasp of what happened that I could hope to. But from what I could tell, Casanova is currently in a captive state, both in and out of the story. The main character is currently being forced into service, which makes him jump through time? Or space? Or dimensions? Or Indian goddesses? and that’s got him feeling very depressed. Meanwhile the narrative captions make fun of him, and his father isn’t his real father.

It all sounds pretty rough, although the emotional beats of the issue don’t work for a new reader. I had literally no idea how I was supposed to react to the intimate, quiet scenes here, because they rely on the reader already knowing the characters. The final page cliffhanger also takes new readers to an inexplicable place, more so than any comic I’ve ever read before.

The writing is great. It flows very very quickly, and Fraction is obviously really enjoying his return to this world and the characters. It’s professional. But it is impossible to understand what’s going on.

Gabriel Ba’s art I’m used to, from reading Daytrippers. The artwork here is brilliant fun, mainly ignoring anatomy in order to create dynamic, immediate impact on a page-to-page basis. When the comic uses a more structured style of storyboarding, Ba shows his ability to portray emotion and character. But when people get shot IN THE FACE, he makes sure that you really understand just how SHOT IN THE FACE they are. The colouring especially deserves celebration, because it’s the most enjoyable thing of the issue, for me. Every page is gloriously coloured, with Cris Peter doing a superlative job creating a consistent tone even when the comic is jumping through dimensions/time/space/Indian goddesses.

If you’re Warren Ellis, Kieron Gillen, Ed Brubaker, then you’ll probably love every single flick of this comic. If you’re a new reader, however... it’s probably best to start right at the beginning. Avaritia is a wonderfully-executed comic, but it doesn’t allow you any entry. If you were thinking about picking it up to see what all the hype was about? Go back to the very first issue. This is for fans-only.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Tale of Reverta

If you've picked up any of the New 52 DC titles then you'll have seen a purple woman, in a cloak, wandering around in the background. She's been in every single issue so far, being ominous and watchful. In case you haven't noticed her little cameos, then perhaps you'll know her from this more blatant appearance at the end of Flashpoint #5.

Her name is Reverta. Why is that her name? Because I've just called her that. She's the reset button in case this 52 thing doesn't work for DC and they need to go back to their original timeline. Reverta comes from the previous DC Universe, but has somehow crossed in to the new one somehow. She was in Action Comics, sat on a bus. She was also in Animal Man, wandering around in the background. Sometimes she is drawn into the panel, and sometimes she is very blatantly cut-and-paste into place (hello, Justice League International!)

What you have to remember is that her name is REVERTA. Because I've decided that's what her name should be, and I've also decided that it's about time Comics Vanguard made an everlasting mark upon the DC Universe.

Reverta. Look out for her. She'll be in every DC issue you buy this month. And then probably return in a year for some kind of Geoff Johns event storyline.

Or maybe she's a sign that Grant Morrison's long-rumoured "Multiversity" project is finally about to happen?

She's called Reverta.


ComVan Reviews Animal Man #1

By Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman, and Dan Green.

Superman, The Flash, Spider-Man and Cyclops may have pin-up status and a glamorous jet-setting lifestyle, but there’s one thing they don’t have anymore: a marriage. Which is where Animal Man races in, adapting the speed of an emu as he goes. Animal Man (Buddy Baker, but don’t tell anyone his secret identity) has one of the best families in comics, with his nonchalant wife and eternally optimistic kids. This support-system in place for the character gives him a sense of security, and warmth, which other DC characters don’t possess. Their faith in him gives him the conviction to go out and save the day, every day. Forget about the idea that Animal Man once became ‘self-aware’ of his status as a comic-book character: the core of the character lies in the interaction he has with his family.

Which is why Jeff Lemire’s tactic on this fresh #1 is to crush the family.

Animal Man #1 is a solid issue. It perhaps overdoes the foreshadowing a little, but that in no way detracts from the story itself. While there’s a lack of action or high-drama – this is an Animal Man book, go elsewhere if you want to see presidents getting kidnapped or car chases – Lemire makes up for it by perfectly capturing the voice of Buddy Baker, along with the rest of his family. We get to see Buddy use his powers in several quirky little ways as the issue goes along, serving purposes which range from calming down a hostage situation through to making sure he doesn’t wake his kids up when he comes home. Lemire completely nails Buddy’s unique tone of personality, and in several places adds new little wrinkles to him. The opening page, which explains Baker, who he is, and what drives him via a faux-newspaper interview, immediately makes it clear that Lemire knows what he’s doing here.

Travel Foreman, who I know from his time on Immortal Iron Fist, settles into the character too – although it does take a few pages for him to fully iron-out the style and tone of the series. Lemire and Foreman are joined by inker Dan Green, I should mention now, because Green’s inks play a large role in making Foreman’s art work. It isn’t flashy, but feels wiry, and fits Lemire’s tone of voice. The connection between writer and artists only starts to really come into its own towards the end of this issue, as a dream-sequence comes along which easily stands as the best section of the comic. Foreman’s work in this section is elaborate, clever, and fascinating. While he has a decent grasp on the conversational scenes at the start, and a unique way of portraying the ‘fight’ scene, this dream sequence looks and feels like a nightmare should.

Thin, reedy trees and creepy lakes of blood seem to be right in Travel Foreman’s wheelhouse, it seems.

The issue moves along quickly, with a reasonable sense of pace. While some people are going to complain that not much happens – that it doesn’t grab you, shake you, and leave you feverishly waiting for the next issue – I’d say that Animal Man #1 has more personality and heart than any other DC issue thus far. It creates a real sense of danger, and brings a unique narrative voice to the pages. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Punisher Issue #3 is Insane

You can read it below. It's completely mental from beginning to end. We've already covered how Punisher isn't going to say anything until the end of the issue, but let's just focus for a moment on The Vulture. During Spider-Man's 'Gauntlet' story, we learned the origin of this second, handily colour-coded Vulture. He's a Mobster. Then he got given weird freaky jaws and bio-implanted wings, and started wearing his shirts really high. And now...

It's insane. It's complete nonsense, but it's amazing. If you're planning to buy any one issue to read while you recover from a drink-fuelled evening whilst sitting in a drink-fuelled dumpster... Punisher #3 is it. Not only is Vulture shouting his own narration AS AN ONAMATOPOEIA, but Punisher is stabbing him with a knife while they FLY THROUGH THE AIR. This is why you give gritty characters to Greg Rucka, everybody. Because he's insane and he'll do insane things like this to them. There's also another page (not seen here) where Vulture spits green acid on Punisher, AND IT DOES NOTHING.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

The Spider-Powers Dan Slott Isn’t Telling You About

Art by soulmaninc

Dan Slott is many things – funny, clever, handcuffed to Steve Wacker’s basement with only a typewriter and bowl of water beside him. He’s also hiding the awful truth about Spider-Island from you. The Spider-Island event arc, which sees ordinary citizens in Manhattan affected by some kind of virus that gives them powers similar to ol’ Webby, is now officially underway after the release of issues #666 and #667. Several characters have been affected by storyline, including Mary-Jane Watson, Carlie Cooper, Black Panther and Shocker. It all sounds rather fun, delivered with the silly sense of entertainment which has marked Slott’s writing over the years. But spiders are disgusting, you guys. The wave of Spider-powers sweeping the country is no laughing matter. Here are some ‘abilities’ you didn’t realise that people would be receiving…

3: The ability to have no jaw

Spiders do not have anything which resembles a proper jawline. This means that the sudden influx of spider-powers will wipe out jawlines from the East Coast, as New Yorkers will be forced to contend with a whole new way of eating. Instead of biting food (and by the way, there is only one vegetarian species of spider, so most vegans/vegetarians are going to be converting back to primal flesh-eating) spiders pump their acidic stomach fluid onto their victims and wait for them to start dissolving. Once the food has been liquidised, they suck it back up like with a straw. Which is totally gross, and doesn’t it just make you want to stamp on the next spider you meet? Now imagine that process being transferred over to humans. It certainly makes The Human Centipede look tame..

2: The ability to have severe vertigo

Do you know why Spider-Man so often hangs upside-down from his web? It’s not because he thinks it’s cool, and gives him the advantage when kissing redheads in alleyways. It’s because spiders have no sense of balance or gravity. Unlike us, spiders are born without the sensors which tell us which way round we should be standing. If the body can handle the angle it is leaning at, then the body will allow it to happen. This means that spiders can hang on webs at great heights, at strange angles, and at unusual velocities (ever seen a spider-web on your wing-mirror?) Transfer this over to humans, however, and everything goes horribly wrong. We are far less bendy than a spider, and we also tend to use highly-complex devices like “cars” to get from place to place. Without the ability to sense direction or acceleration, the streets of New York are going to become a wrecking-zone. More so than usual, I mean.

1: The ability to kill and eat your boyfriend

First of all, it should be noted that spiders are one of the few creatures on Earth which practise cannibalism. You may think that spiders spend most of their time trapping flies in their web, but they’re just as concerned with killing and eating each other as they are with decreasing the bluebottle population of your garage. Couple this with the fact that spiders are, yes, yet another one of the creatures where the female is massively dominant. I respect the work that the fine wymyn of various North American universities have done in establishing a gender balance, but spiders take this to extremes. After sex, the female spider will generally eat the male spider, because male spiders are apparently delicious. Makes that perhaps post-coital scene in #666 seem a bit more sinister now, eh? Not only that, but the male spider will typically try to HELP the female in her goal, by jumping onto her fangs.

....Spider-Man is in big trouble, you guys.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Random Review: The Sixth Gun #14

Every week from now on, Comics Vanguard will be grabbing a comic at random from the shelf of our LCS (which happens to be Travelling Man, if you were wondering. Buy comics from them and say we sent you! You won’t get a discount or anything, and it’s probably inconvenient for anyone who doesn’t live in England, but it’ll for sure make US feel loved) and reviewing it! Boy, that was a sentence and a half, eh?

This comic could come from anywhere, be about anything (except Manga, obviously) and be published by anyone. My knowledge of the issue could be decent, or could be absolutely minimal. This could be partway through an arc, starting an arc, a one-shot or the last chapter of a story. Literally any comic could be involved here. So that’s the premise.

This week’s comic: The Sixth Gun #14, by the creative team of Cullen Bunn, Tyler Crook and Bill Crabtree. Published by Oni Press, this appears to be a series set in the wild west, with shades of slow-burning and so cancelled TV series Carnivale towering over it. The cover has a screaming mummy on the front, alongside a dignified image of Abraham Lincoln shaking hands with someone. Natural, meet supernatural.

Handily, this issue actually tells a standalone story, although the framing device surrounding it is, of course, completely new to me. We appear to have come straight from a fight scene, and now several characters are standing around, discussing the creature they were forced to battle. That creature was the mummy - or more specifically, it was the mummy of a man called Asher Cobb. His origin story is the main concern of this issue.

And it’s a nice enough story, coupled with a few interesting twists and turns. Writer Cullen Bunn inserts a few nice beats, without introducing anything too gimmicky or bizarre. Yes, we have an odd child, whose birth kills his mother, before he gets visions. And yes, the blonde girl in town falls in love with him - sort of. It’s a little Edward Scissorhands, we’ll admit. But Bunn tells the story with charm and pace, racing past these details which might have seemed glaring if they’d been stretched out or decompressed.

There aren’t any surprises in the origin story, which means the enjoyment mainly comes from reading Bunn’s take on the characters and Tyler Crook’s amazing artwork. A little reminiscent of Daytrippers, Crook’s art will be familiar to anyone who’s picked up B.P.R.D. by Dark Horse - because this is but a guest appearance. Regular series penciller - and co-creator - Brian Hurtt steps back to let Crook have a go at drawing this western society.

I previously mentioned Carnivale as something which is similar in tone to this issue, and that creeps in repeatedly, especially towards the end. Crook’s artwork conveys a romanticism as well as a dark gothic undertone, and the colours from Bill Crabtree are spot-on.

Considering I jumped into this issue with absolutely no idea what would be happening, it was great to find that there was a standalone, easy-to-follow story going on here. And while the narrative itself is a little obvious, perhaps a little too similar to well-worn Tim Burton storytelling tropes, the art made up for it in spades. While I probably won’t be picking up the next issue, I would say that this issue was entertaining enough that I might go back at some point and try reading this from the beginning, to see what’s going on. A decent issue.