Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Mr Terrific is a book you might buy

This week brought us the release of no 'New 52' titles from DC whatsoever, so in their absence Comics Vanguard decided to go along and pick up a whole load of comics that nobody else does. Are we talking about small-press titles worthy of attention? Hah! No. We're talking about the second-tier DC titles like Mr Terrific, Catwoman, Birds of Prey and more. In the first of our looks at how these less-publicised titles are faring, we're going to tackle Mr Terrific, an African-American hero with the power of being very very clever indeed.

What We Knew Before We Read:

Despite the title not getting that much coverage from the comics internet (or at least the parts of the comics internet which we've discovered yet), we do know that Mr Terrific's title is meant to be all about science vs freakiness. Every month the character appears to have fought a different threat, using some kind of "Science-Ball". The art is meant to be fun, and the writing relatively light and straightforward. He is also, as mentioned before, African-American, so people are worried his series may not continue for as long as a white male's solo series might do. That's just the tone we've picked up from other people's articles, you guys -- we're going to go read the issue now. While you wait, here the first page of the issue:

Mr Terrific #3

Yes, we're jumping straight into the third issue here, so forgive us if we don't catch everything that's going on. Regardless, the story seems pretty simple thus far - Mr Terrific has a genius intellect, billions of dollars, science gadgets, cool tattoos, and a single fan. By the end of the issue, he loses one of those three things. This issue sees him fight a blue mind-succubus called "Brainstorm", who wants to absorb the intelligence of every single person in Los Angeles. Mr Terrific isn't keen on that idea, so he punches Brainstorm a few times. Brainstorm activates his ultimate plan, he is punched in the face once more, and promptly defeated. Then the issue goes into a weird melodramatic place which we'll go into in more depth later.

For the most part, though, this comic is absolutely straightforward. The plot doens't throw up any surprises - apart from the weird change in tone towards the end - but is enjoyable enough for what it is. Writer Eric Wallace knows a lot about technobabble, which is helpful, but the villain this issue hardly shows himself to be an intellectual. At the same time, the plotting is a little strange, too - Terrific has these Science Balls which each do something different, which means his solution to every problem is simply to throw a ball at it. He has ones which teleport things, ones which act as stunning devices, ones which cause people amnesia, and ones which let him levitate. That's a little too easy as a plot device for my tastes.

But at the same time, this does give the series an admirably goofy vibe. More than any other comic from the New 52, this feels like a tribute to the golden age of comics, where villains were melodramatic and heroes ultimately always do the right thing. Wallace's script spells out absolutely everything for the reader, which makes this a good comic for kids to read (although these is a little bit too much blood in the fight scenes, perhaps). This reads like an all-ages title, which attempts to entertain a wide audience - and actually succeeds, for the most part. Not densely written but certainly not decompressed, Wallace gives readers a lot of content over the course of the issue. Most importantly, Mr Terrific comes across as a likeable central character.

There's a spoiler for the issue, but we're only mentioning it because it's an interesting part of the story. If you don't want the issue spoiled, skip back upwards for more CLASSIC VANGUARD CONTENT.

The reveal halfway through the story illuminates a strange side to Mr Terrific (can you imagine?) and takes things in a radically different direction. Upon finding out that the death of his wife was due to the actions of this Brainstorm guy, T'riff goes mad and starts beating the villain to death. In front of his fan. Now that's fairly understandable, but the random reveal here seems rather anticlimactic and bizarre. It comes from absolutely nowhere, after a fight scene which leapt about from interesting to stilted, and ultimately doesn't add anything to the villain. He already comes across as a bit rubbish - in a goofy way - and this seems more like the kind of thing you'd expect from an arch-nemesis. Perhaps it's just that Brainstorm isn't set up as anything other than a melodramatic, idiotic golden-age style bad guy, but hearing him admit to murder is rather strange.

What does come out of this is interesting character work for T'riff, though. Wallace and artist Scott Clark (I don't know where Gianluca Gugliotta is, whose name is credited on the cover) play out some obvious but nicely-structured beats where he has to simultaneously accept his wife's death and adhere to his "fair play" policy which defines him as a hero. Subsequently, he goes off on his own and enters some kind of odd dimension portal thingy in his lab. And meets some random aliens. YES YES YES. There's a silly sequence where we see his board members plan to roust him from his company, and the completely ridiculous moment where we see a possible new villain revealed - the writing really doesn't leave anything to your imagination, everything is completely spelt out - but the comic ends with ALIENS. Hurray!

Monday, 28 November 2011

In Which Comics Vanguard Rushes Off a List of Batman Villains who'd be good in the next Arkham Game

Which we imagine will be called Arkham A3ylum.

1: The Arkham Family

The founder of Arkham Asylum - Amadeus Arkham - was driven mad by the murder of his wife and child (as seen in Grant Morrison's dense and artistically-unreadable story "A Serious House on Serious Earth". In the original Arkham Asylum game we found out that this story was still in-canon, and that the "Spirit of Arkham" was apparently still hanging around, tormenting the inmates and Warden Quincey Sharp. Although that seems to have been explained away as merely Hugo Strange using mind-controlling hats on Sharp (what a wonderful thing comics are, you guys, that they let me write such a sentence), that doesn't mean the Arkham family aren't still about somewhere.

2: Red Hood

Jason Todd was the second Robin, and was hated by fans. He was killed off by the audience surrogate, Joker (and you NEVER considered what they suggested about you lot, DID YOU, EIGHTIES AMERICA?) and thought gone forever. Which, obviously, never actually happens. He came back as a villain called 'The Red Hood', and caused barely any problems for Bruce upon his return. In the game universe, however, he's not been mentioned yet. While we've seen Dick Grayson and Tim Drake wandering around, Jason Todd is mysertiously absent. Is he going to show up in the third game, perhaps?

3: The Ventriloquist

Teased repeatedly in the first two games, the rise and fall of dummy "Scarface" has had players riveted for hours. That may be an overstatement. But after Batman's spent so much time fighting monsters like Bane and Killer Croc, what could be more dehabilitating than matinee vaudeville acts?

4: All Grant Morrison's Characters

We're talking Doctor Hurt, Professor Pyg, Flamingo and more! They're already incredibly demented characters, perfect for a game about villainous depravity and excess, and Pyg's three-issue stint in Morrison's Batman & Robin run is still thought of as one of the most crazy, defining moments in recent Batman history. He, in particular, would be amazing in Arkham Ci-Three

5: Killer Moth

Okay, let's get serious. Killer Moth would be ridiculous. But could he be RIDICULOUSLY AMAZING? No, probably just ridiculous. Let's not waste any more time on him.

6: Maxie Zeus

Now we're talking! This walking Greek God-delusion has yet to appear in the game series, although his cell was in Arkham Asylum and his presence ominous in Arkham City. He'd be a flashy, dynamic, awesome mid-level boss, if not intellectual enough to prove the mastermind behind everything.

7: Crazy Quilt

Legitimately exists.

8: The Synaptic Kid

Again - legitimately exists.

9: Joe Chill

Tha man who killed the Waynes! He's not been even referenced in either game to our knowledge. Is that because he's been excised from history, or is it because Bruce has yet to find ou the identity of his parents' killer? Either way, we hope to see Joe at least referenced when the time comes for Arkham and Robin.

10: Bat-Mite

Not, strictly speaking, actually a villain for Batman. But we would FREAK OUT if Mite ever showed up in a gritty, realistic Batman game. He'd be all floating about, making snide comments about Batman's mental health, and it'd be FANTASTIC. Bat-Mite is probably the purest form of Batman that exists, and it would be a crime for him not to get his moment of glory.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Random Review: Aquaman #3

The majority of reviews have one particular complaint about Geoff Johns’ and Ivan Reis’ series (aside from the way it makes people feel self-conscious about their use of the possessive apostrophe) , being that the series is overly concerned with the idea that civilians in the DC Universe feel that Aquaman is a joke hero, a third-rate Superman. Despite being on the Justice League, commanding the seas, having an awesome wife to back him up, and a shiny gold trident, he has a PR problem which means nobody understands his powers or his life. Every time he talks to a member of the public, they make fun of him, misunderstand something about him, and ask patronising questions. While this certainly doesn’t stop in issue #3 of the series (at one point somebody makes fun of him for living in a lighthouse WHILE HE IS STOOD RIGHT THERE), Johns does temper it with something he does very well – he involves the civilians in the story.

So at this point in the story, the only thing which appears to have happened is that giant cannibal monsters have jumped out the sea to eat humans. You can jump on with this issue and I don’t think you’ll have missed out on any story – this was my first issue of the series, and I picked up the razor-thin plot immediately. So in this issue they attack, get fended off, and then Aquaman takes one of the bodies to be investigated by a marine biologist/former childhood mentor/current ambiguous villain. Like we said: razor-thin.

That’s not to say the series isn’t enjoyable. Johns has a great ability to take simplistic plots and mould them into blockbuster-esque action films. We get a decent fight sequence at the start of the issue, which is where the civilians get to show their skills. Instead of Aquaman and Mera fighting the monsters while they stand around and get killed, Reis and Johns are careful to display that the humans are fighting back themselves, with whatever comes to hand. When a rogue monster attacks once everybody thinks the coast is clear, it’s a police officer who shoots it down. That’s good use of the environment by the creative team, and shows you a more realistic, enjoyable portrayal of DC’s society. While they may be constantly irritating with their slights against our protagonist, at least they get to display courage and personality. Most writers wouldn’t allow that.

The main problem with the story is perhaps that Aquaman is written as a bit of a simpleton. When he looks at the bio-luminescent skin that the monsters has and says “this looks a lot like the skin of animals who live deep down in the sea”, we would surely then expect him to go investigate the sea and work out where they are. Or, as he seems to have some kind of ability to talk at them, surely he can follow their trail through the sea. Instead, Johns sends him to a biologist to work out things which Aquaman should already know. In fairness this does appear to be Johns’ way of setting up future plots – like he did with Hector Hammond in his run with Green Lantern – but the second act of this issue comes off as unnecessary, and doesn’t feel remotely as interesting as the starting sequence.

Especially as the biologist’s response is “this creature came from THE TRENCH”. Y’know, the one place in the sea which Aquaman doesn’t have complete knowledge of? From what we can tell, the main problem with the series is that it’s being decompressed in order to fit Johns’ love of long, flashy arcs. It’s all very well and good, but Aquaman doesn’t have the immediate flash of Green Lantern or… uh… The Flash. He needs to be properly showcased, and all we have at this point is the fact he’s grumpy about people making fun of him. This is half a fun, bouncy take on the character, and half a routine, rote storyline which doesn’t quite know what to do with its protagonist.

The Best Part of the Issue:

I’m a bit tired of negative reviews, because I generally love reading comics. So from now on, even with comics I don’t like, I’m going to make mention of my favourite part. And in this issue, without a doubt Mera’s small sequence during the fight was the standout page. Her power-set, which appears to be water-karate, plays right into Reis’ strengths, and looks spectacular on the page. Colourist Rod Reis does a spectacular job in these early pages, too. The opening page in particular starts off with a gorgeous sunset over the ocean, and looks absolutely beautiful.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

We seriously need to talk about Fantastic Four #600 you guys

Clocking in at around 100 pages, with no less than five stories (two of which are full-size comics), Fantastic Four #600 may have struck you as a hefty dent to your wallet. Let me be not the first to say that every page is worth it, with perhaps seven or eight pages being amongst the best pages seen in any comic this year. That’s right, people – Fantastic Four #600 is a worthy addition to the team’s legacy.

The five stories – all written by Hickman – follow on from one another despite jumping around locations and timeframe. So let’s touch on them as they occur in the comic.

The first story continues the main thread from FF, which is that an alien armada of Kree warships is converging on Earth, hoping to destroy it or something. To this extent, they are sending in ground-troops instead of simply firing a big laser at it. Which just goes to show that the Kree still haven’t learned their lesson, even after decades of failing repeatedly to invade the Earth, because of their bizarre inability to build giant lasers. Steve Epting draws the issue, and manages to get across the scale of the invasion rather successfully – which is to say that he keeps things on a ground level, detached from the details of the attack. We instead keep tight on the four members of the FF as they attempt to deal with the invasion pragmatically. And, as Reed Richards remains one of these four characters, that means things get very very pragmatic indeed. Also, The Thing teams up with Red Hulk and She-Hulk to punch a giant robot into three pieces. Then takes on the remaining four by himself. THAT is why he’s everybody’s favourite blue-eyed thing, ladies and gentlemen. Hickman knows what you want.

The ending is obviously the biggest deal here, but let’s not go into that. Needless to say, it is the only way Hickman could possibly have ended the book, and the best thing is that once he’s finished, there’s another 22-page comic immediately afterwards! He sets people up for an agonising wait, but then tempers it with a flick of the page. Story two, drawn by the amazing Carmien Di Giandomenico, follows on by rewinding the story and showing you how things all join up. Hickman’s story here is simple enough, but the dialogue is the spectacular part of the tale. He immediately makes it clear why the story is important, by giving us some of the best character-work I’ve ever seen in a comic-book. His handling of the characters is simply fantastic, and quickly promotes to the very top of Marvel’s roster.

Ming Doyle jumps in for the shorter third story, which centres on Medusa and Black Bolt. This story provides a much-needed insight into the minds of these two characters, even if it does seem to present a version of Medusa who is far more subdued than normal. Medusa stands by her husband no matter what, but given the events of the past few months? It would be nice to see a little more fury in her. But still. Doyle’s artwork seems simple at first, but quickly segues into a beautifully-drawn mindscape world where the characters can talk without, y’know, Black Bolt blowing up the Moon.

Part four skips around through time once more, to introduce what will likely by an upcoming story point. Reed and Susan travel to meet Galactus, who wants to have a quick chat with them about something. That this something just ‘happens’ to tie-in perfectly to Matt Fraction’s run on Thor suggests that the FF are soon going to become far more tied-in to the core of the Marvel Universe next year.

And part five features the most fun art of the book, as Farel Dalrymple handles duties as artist and letterer. This story acts much like the second one, in that it rewinds to show how one random utterance in the first story is actually a reference to something much deeper and far more troubling than readers could have imagined.

You may fret when you see the price, and remember that sometimes Hickman likes to write an issue made up solely of set-up and plot-placing. But Fantastic Four #600 is a payoff issue. Things really start to race with this comic, and the future looks exciting. Jonathan Hickman proves to us all that eh really is one of the best plotters in comics – he ties up so many plots and sets up so many more in this issue, you’d be amazed. The issue is massively rewarding for long-time readers, and enjoyable even for those just jumping-on to the series. Earth invasions, talking bugs, existentialism and clobbering: the book’s got ‘em all.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

REGENERATION X: Astonishing X-Men

Many would consider Astonishing X-Men to be the flagship title of the Marvel Universe, where writers like Joss Whedon and Warren Ellis take the characters and shake them around in some kind of grandstanding manner. Comics Vanguard would suggest that the title hasn’t been big news since the end of Whedon’s third arc – specifically, the point where it became clear that Emma Frost wasn’t actually returning to villainy. That specific moment signified the end of Astonishing X-Men as an important – some would say entertaining – title, and sicne then nothing important has happened. Over half the life of this series has been an exercise in treading water.

I’d like nothing better than to say Greg Pak and Mike McKone’s takeover of the series signals a return to form, and is not merely the latest in a procession of creators phoning it in. I'd like nothing better than to be able to say those words, and have it be true. I can't.

Let’s start with the cover, which is a great tease for fans. Storm and Cyclops kissing? That’s sure to incense people and get gossip flowing. It’s a fun cover, playing off fan reaction brilliantly. It also spoils the first of Pak’s two ‘twists’, both of which are fairly obvious anyway: Storm and Cyclops kiss in the story. This is meant to come off as a surprise, I’d say, judging from the art and dialogue. Storm’s return to Utopia is meant to be business-as-usual for the characters, with nothing out of the ordinary going on. But we know they’re going to kiss, so already we’re looking for signs of flirting or anything else – which we get.

The second big twist is also fairly easy to work out. If you’ve been reading comics for more than a month and the ending comes as a shock to you… well, that’s your gain, I’d say. Spoiler coming – alternate realities are involved here. Having read the issue, I can now tell exactly what will happen in every remaining issue of the arc. It’s the definition of bog-standard.

Greg Pak doesn’t choose a character to develop, and so we don’t get any feeling of closeness to anyone. The characters feel hollow and under-developed. And the twist, let’s just point out, leaves things ludicrously vague. Which character belongs where? After reading this issue, we have no idea which characters belong to which reality. Is Storm the only one? Or are Cyclops and Emma from different realities too? This could well be part of Pak’s overall plan, but it leaves things so maddeningly vague that I can’t imagine many people will want to stick around to find out.

Unfortunately, Astonishing X-Men #44 continues the trend of Astonishing X-Men being as dull as dishwater. A real shame

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Thought Bubble 2011: Part 2

And on we head, into the depths (sometimes Murky, more on that later) of the convention. While other conventions may boast scores of big-time DC and Marvel writers, Thought Bubble prides itself on collecting together some of the best upcoming British talent. For every Gail Simone or Tim Sale there are countless self-published and small-press creators bringing an alternative approach to comic-books. We spent a fair amount of time wading through, chatting to them about The Jolly Postman and having neurotic competitions. Here are merely a few of the many amazing people who were present at Thought Bubble this year, and where you can find more from them.

Let’s start with John Allison, whose self-published and web comics have been charming a cult fanbase for several years now. The writer of strips like Bad Machine and Scary-Go-Round had several comics available at Thought Bubble, including Giant Days, a thoroughly charming and surprisingly accurate account of the first few days of University life in Britain. Focusing on Esther, a fresher entering University slightly worried and confused about who she’ll meet, the story showcases Allison’s ability to create realistic characters who still offer relentless comic potential. He was also one of ten creators to be immortalised in Lego by Adam Cadwell – we spotted a tiny lego Emma Vieceli too. Did anybody spot the others?

Milton’s Life creator Noel Curry was also in attendance, conveniently situated right next to the bar (which, judging from conversations we had towards the end of the day, people were really taking advantage of). Alongside postcards and other little gifts (including a heartbreaking Winnie The Pooh cartoon) he also had cartoons from his other projects, which you can find at and

Go Wildlife! is an anthology comic created by Gill Hatcher (part of the Team Girl Comic team) and Adam Smith, focused on mixing facts about animals with the threat of an Otter Uprising. A series of short comics about various wild birds and animals – including a great segment on The Great Auk. Hey, now there’s a sentence you were never ready to hear about.

Mister Hope was doing commissions, so we took him up on the offer, handing over a copy of Marvel’s renowned miniseries ‘Darkstar & The Winter Guard’. He came up with this:

Cute as a button. He also has a comic out at the moment - ‘365’ - which showcases a year of sketching. Challenged by the lovely missus hope (we assume this is her name) to draw one sketch a day for a whole year, he rose to the task and put together a load of cute nonsense. Which, as you’ll know, is the finest kind of nonsense available.

Friend to the site Nicholas Dishington wasn’t at the convention because he had some urgent lazing about to do, but Terry Martin at the Murky Depths table has Dishington’s photo comic ‘Shadowraith’ available for purchase. A bleak noir story which quickly gets bleaker and bleaker and then some monsters turn up and start shouting at people, it represents one of the latest releases from Murky Depths’ publishing division. The MD anthology series continues apace, mixing text with comics, photos, and anything else that falls under the creative banner. You can read old issues at their website.

Lani Irving had some delicate-looking comics available, which unfold neatly to reveal delicate-looking stories. But aside from revolutionising the way in which people can read comics, Irving also had fond words to offer for sensational children’s series ‘The Jolly Postman’, which we’d also like to recommend to anyone reading this. Irving’s table was filled with different merchandise, from postcards to her comics to embroidery, all of which was amazing. We’d also like to take the time to commend her for her next-to-impossible twitter handle, which is @laaaaaani

And finally, we had a nosy over at A Little Lost Shop, who must surely have won the award for most packed table at the convention. Titchy little comics sat next to full-size comics, jewellery, postcards, bookmarks, choose-your-own-adventures (one of which, A Useless Super-Hero, we picked up – silly, quirky fun), stickers and too much else to describe. Her business card, which we picked up, also had several tiny other sketches inside, which fell out when we opened it.

Thought Bubble, you guys! So much going on, and that’s without talking about the row of severed heads, cosplayers, roller-skating volunteers, or remote-control K-9’s buzzing around the place. Let’s end our roam through the convention… with Batman.


Saturday, 19 November 2011

Thought Bubble 2011: Part #1

Thought Bubble 2011 is a two-day comic-book convention in Leeds, Yorkshire, ENGLAND. And England is either in the UK or in Britain, dependant on your political/religious affiliations. Comics Vanguard have been going for the past three years, although up to this point our main success had been giving Kieron Gillen a picture of him hugging a mermaid.

This year was going to be different! And after the Leeds transport system broke down and refused to give me a bus to the convention, none other than Madrox the Multiple Man stepped in to guide me to Savilles Hall. And that is a literal truth, as is the fact that we were ultimately joined by two steampunkers, an anime character, and a man with a horse’s head and ukulele in our walk to the centre. So without further ado, let’s reveal what the various writers and artists present this year had to say.

Our first contact was with Gail Simone, off of Wonder Woman, Secret Six, Batgirl and Firestorm. I caught her just as she arrived, and my assertion that Comics Vanguard were Team Supergirl was countered by her realisation that she liked my T-Shirt. This led into a discussion about American comedian Paul F. Tompkins, which naturally segued into talking about which was the most cruel murder sequence in Secret Six. Conclusion? The dad who gets pushed off a bridge.

Peter Milligan, current writer for Justice League Dark, Red Lanterns and Hellblazer offered some details of the upcoming Hellblazer annual, which will feature painted interiors by artist Simon Bisley. The story was inspired by Milligan’s early fascination with a local London landmark called ‘Suicide Bridge’, so called because it became known as a hotspot for jumpers. The annual will see Constantine return to Liverpool to see some old friends, only to be drawn into a cold case. One of his childhood friends went missing when Constantine was only young, and was never found. After meeting this friend’s dying mother, John promises to solve the case as her dying wish.

Milligan also spoke warmly about Mikel Janin, his artist on Justice League Dark. Janin has already turned in artwork for at least the first five issues of the series, and seems eager to deny any fill-in artists the chance to draw Zatanna and Xanadu. Milligan and Janin recently met for the first time in Lille, last week, and they took the opportunity to plan out their future arcs together. And speaking of collaborations, Milligan discussed his work with Mike Allred on X-Force/X-Statix. Milligan’s favourite character amongst the team? Edie Sawyer, also known as U-Go-Girl. When talking about her with then-editor Axel Alonso (who has since gone on to become EIC, as you likely already know), the two finally realised what it was about her that they liked so much – they both wanted to f*** her.

Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie are almost unique amongst the comic-book community in that they are both aware of the existence of Comics Vanguard. Now, you’d think that’d mean they’d be careful when speaking to me, aware that every piece of news they let slip would then be read by literally tens of people. But no! Kieron was candid and open – some people would read his words as sarcastic and joking, but I’ve decided they were candid and open – about Uncanny X-Men’s future. After nodding and telling us that, yes, Jean would be returning in 2012 and taking over all the X-Men, Gillen went on to reveal that Cyclops will be crippled by the Marvel architects as a result of the ‘it’s coming’ storyline, leaving him a wheelchair-bound mentor. I asked if he’d be keeping his hair, and Gillen confirmed that this would be the case – but Psylocke would indeed suffer from nervous shock, and develop alopecia. She’ll be wearing a wig for all of her 2012 appearances.

It’s tradition to hand Gillen some artwork as part of TB, so this year we followed up on the mermaid picture with the aftermath. While 2010 saw Gillen happy to write Laurie, aka Transonic, as part of his Generation Hope team, this year’s Thought Bubble came after Gillen left the title to focus full-time on Uncanny X-Men. So Comics Vanguard are pleased to reveal this year’s “Thought Bubble Gillen Gift”:

This led into discussion about the Magneto/Rogue relationship, which has been met with mixed-feelings by fans. Gillen, aware of these concerns, told me that he had decided to end the Magneto/Rogue relationship in favour of a Magneto/anyone with a pulse relationship – that’s right! Starting in Uncanny X-Men #6, Magneto is going to recklessly f*** his way through the X-Men. Gillen believed this was the best way to relieve the tension Magneto has been feeling with the rest of his team recently. When asked if there would be a scene of Magneto getting busy while Gambit watched through a window and wondered where his libido had done, Gillen definitely thought about the possibility. On that topic, and perhaps the only part of the discussion which people might read as “not lies Gillen was telling you”, he mentioned that his favourite upcoming scene in Uncanny X-Men was a team-up between Hope and Namor. On a final note, Gillen seemed receptive to our suggestion that Beast’s devolution should continue, turning him into a talking caterpillar who sits on Wolverine’s shoulder and talks about science.

Jamie McKelvie is also very busy at the moment, as he’s in the process of drawing the “X-Men: Season One” graphic novel. A retelling of the original X-Men stories, McKelvie revealed that the novel would contain roughly five comics’ worth of material, clocking up to over 100 pages of work. The story will be roughly episodic, kicking off with an X-Men vs Magneto storyline before heading on to battles against the Blob and Krakoa. He agreed that the graphic novel should be renamed “Series One” in Britain.

Nick Spencer spoke for a little while about his recent Cloak and Dagger miniseries, praising Emma Rios’ art. If there’s one message he wants to get out, it’s that people should “yell” at Marvel editor Steve Wacker about the need for more Cloak/Dagger stories. That is absolutely what Nick Spencer demanded fans do for the characters. On a related note, you can contact Wacker at

David Aja was busy sketching all day, including an expansive two-page Daredevil cover. But when two young boys walked over and asked him how much sketches would cost them, he smiled and told them “for you? Free”. He mentioned that he is preparing to work on a new project, presumably for Marvel, but was reluctant to mention which title it would be for. The only hint he gave was that there would be “lots of characters” to design and draw.

Antony Johnston has spent the past month growing an impressive moustache as part of Movember. But, also, getting his creator-owned series ‘Wasteland’ back on a regular shipping schedule. Although never officially on hiatus, he noted that there had been some delays over the past few months. With an issue shipping both last month and this month, Johnston told us that a new artist would be taking over the series in January, and already had several issues drawn. Johnston recently spent a week sitting down and plotting out the endgame for the title, which he’s confirmed will end at issue #60. With the series now heading past the midway point, fans should be aware that he has explicitly decided to make sure the ending is better than, say, Lost, which he wasn't too pleased with. Here at Comics Vanguard we rather enjoyed the final episode of Lost, but are aware that it was a divisive episode. What did you guys think? Johnston also talked about Season/Series One of Daredevil, which he will be writing with Wellington Alves on art. On top of giving us a new, in-canon version of Daredevil’s origin story, he will also be sprinkling in new plot beats and characters not present in the original, to give us a more contemporary version of the story.

Roger Langridge spoke a little about the future of Snarked, the series he is both writing and drawing for Kaboom! On top of the prelude #0 issue which came out a few months ago, the series is ultimately slated to run for #12 issues at present, with the final issue concluding the story of the Princess. However, that may not spell the end of the series particularly, as Langridge has some interest in continuing with some of the characters – such as the Walrus and Carpenter – and sending them off into new adventures. He also hinted at future plans working with IDW on one of their licensed products… and then drew some amazing sketches of various muppet characters. Those two thoughts are probably not connected, you guys.

Emma Vieceli is incredibly busy at the moment, working on The Avatar Chronicles for Oni Press as well as more books in the Vampire Academy series. All of this will lead up to a second Dragon Heir title as some point in future. She’ll be publishing that one herself, so keep an eye out for it when it launches – we’ll keep you up to date on it. But hey, we know what you want to see. You want to see the sketch of Darkstar that she drew! Well here you are!

Andy Diggle’s initial plans for ‘Six Guns’, his current project for Marvel, had seen six gunslingers team up in the Wild West to take on trouble. But when he realised he could grab the Two-Gun Kid, he scrapped the sixth guy and moved Marvel’s classic cowboy into the mix instead. He mentioned that he is planning several different projects at the moment, pitching some creator-owned series and miniseries alongside freelance work for Marvel and possibly DC in future.

Jeff Lemire gave us perhaps our best scoop of the con, discussing in some detail his plans for Animal Man and Frankenstein. Whilst the latter will be crossing over with OMAC for issue #5 of both series, you don’t need to buy both issues to get the full story. Rather, each issue will tell the same story but from the differing perspectives of their respective protagonists. On the subject of Animal Man, Lemire revealed that after a full year of uninterrupted stories, the series will move into a crossover with Scott Snyder’s Swamp Thing which will last for six months. Starting with issue #13, the crossover will last five issues of both titles, before – we think – an epilogue issue will close the storyline, provisionally titled ‘DEADWORLD’. So readers can expect at least eleven issues of Swamp Thing and Animal Man working together.

And finally, Simon Spurrier told us about his five-issue miniseries ‘X-Club’, coming out soon at Marvel. He revealed that something is going to happen to Kavita Rao over the course of the mini, as well as his favourite member of the team – Dr Nemesis, who may or may not be a surrogate for Warren Ellis. Spurrier also revealed the original title for the mini, which was ultimately decided against – “WE DO SCIENCE” – and that Marvel came very close to downsizing the miniseries halfway through the writing stage. Luckily, the intervention of heroic editor Daniel Ketchum blocked the plans to cut the mini by an issue, leaving Spurrier free to have fun with science for five issues.

Blimey. And that’s even without all the small-press creators I got to meet and chat with today. Here's an idea - we’ll tell you all about them tomorrow!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Daken, Ghost Rider Cancelled

Marvel have announced a double blow for Rob Williams, as both Ghost Rider and Daken will end their runs next year. It's believed that the cancellations are due to sales, but the two titles follow X-23, Black Panther and All-Winners Squad as part of an unexpected

This also follows the firing of several prominent Marvel editors, leading some to believe that the company will soon be following DC's lead and starting a relaunch. No.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Black Panther Ends

Another title hits the chopping block in February, as David Liss' long Black Panther storyline concludes with issue #529. The title appears to be concluding the story that Liss started over a year ago, so this appears to be another case of a book ending, rather than being cancelled. Much like with PunisherMAX.

Now, this finale may be because BP is possibly moving elsewhere, or because fans were largely apathetic to Liss' interest in characterisation and story over flashy displays of power. The lack of Wakanda has also been claimed to be a sticking point, with several fans even going so far as to boycott the title in protest. But that's all gossip and rumour. Sales had been perilous for a few months now, making this cancellation ultimately an inevitability.

BP's future is uncertain. If he doesn't move to the FF, then it appears he will be heading into limbo.

Daredevil Update: Daredevil still the best book available

PunisherMAX ends with issue #22

As reported by CBR and confirmed by the man himself, Jason Aaron's run on PunisherMAX ends this February. Teamed with Steve Dillon, this run on the series has been notable for introducing 'name' characters into the 18+ imprint, from Kingpin to Bullseye and Elektra. While at first it was believed that the series may have fallen foul to the cancellation gun which took out X-23, Alpha Flight, All-Winners Squad and Fred Van Lente's Destroyers, at least now we know that Aaron is going to wrap up his story before the book ends.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

C'mon everybody it's time to admit that Batgirl is a good comic

Most websites won't tell you this, because they're not keen on Oracle being un-crippled and returned to the role of Batgirl. And also because while Batman and Nightwing have started off brilliantly, Batgirl hasn't kicked down the doors upon arrival. But it's time for us to stand up and admit that Batgirl, by Gail Simone and Ardian Syaf, is actually a pretty decent comic.

Issue #3 is where things settle down and start to fit into a rhythm, which is perhaps another reason why people have been a little unhappy with the series thus far. Simone's take on the character requires the reader to spend a fair amount of time with Barbara before she starts to properly sink in and flourish as a superhero. The writing also seems to set out to encourage female readers, instead of male readers, to enjoy the character. Which explains why Nightwing shows up this issue, because women love Dick Grayson. He's DC's version of Gambit, except he washes.

That's not to say the comic is excluding male readers, but more to suggest that the tone and style of the comic - more narration than story - inherently appeals more to girls than to boys. Like Mamma Mia! And it's nice to see a comic book courting a different audience, with a different approach to storytelling. Batgirl comes across as a likeable alternative to grim Bruce Wayne, extrovert Dick Grayson, and moody Kate Kane. She's a realistic enough character that you can make her fight a bizarre character called 'Mirror' who likes blowing up trains and it doesn't seem strange. Syaf's artwork is a big help, as his sequences are striking and graceful, mirroring Barbara herself - who points out several times that she used to be a ballerina, the athletic equivalent of a chess-club member.

Let's just get that out in the open, guys. Ballerinas are geeks. Mila Kunis was the exception to the rule.

So Batgirl stands as a unique, interesting take on the idea of the Batman format, light-hearted and unafraid to be goofy. We don't really know why Batgirl decided to start punching Nightwing in the face, but it's probably something to do with the fact that girls are an eternal mystery. We came to the comic not expecting to like it, but there's something charming about the central character, and that carries even an issue where not a lot of plot goes on.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

X-23 Cancelled

Always a poisoned chalice, it's been announced that Marvel's ongoing 'X-23' series has been cancelled. The book, which featured the soulless female clone of Wolverine wandering around the world; kissing vampires, being distracted by Gambit, cutting herself, and generally playing second-fiddle to superior side-characters (such as Daken, Ms Sinister, Susan Storm and others); is widely reported as being Marvel's only female-led title right now. Which forgets the fact that Fearless is about Valkyrie, Generation Hope is about Hope Summers, and that X-Men Legacy has been a Rogue title for about three years. For example. But that doesn't help people cry feminism over nothing, so those details are generally ignored.

Let's get down to it: X-23 was notable for being a series about a character who didn't have any deep thoughts - who wasn't naturally prone to narrative, dialogue, or characterisation- and yet got all three on several occasions. The title also featured artwork from Sana Takeda, Phil Noto and Will Conrad, and so looked fantastic throughout. January's issue #20, which seems to wrap up many plot threads before sending the character over to Avengers Academy, looks to be the last issue for the creative team. X-23 will also be appearing in some kind of mini-event alongside Venom and... dunno, some random other characters. We've not really been keeping track of that one. So you've still got that to look forward to, X-23-fans!

The series is survived by reams of relentless, comprehensive and explicit Gambit/X-23 fanfiction.

DC Reboot Darkseid's Tunic

The solicitations for DC's February-debuting titles have been released, and we'll be scouring through them with all the fine attention of a gold-sifting hick in due course. For the moment though, let's focus on the primary concern brought up by Jim Lee's cover for Justice League #5 - Darkseid's skirt/tunic thing is a victim of the "Krypto Curse". That is to say, it has vanished into limbo.

Now, we're all for villains wearing skirts - it certainly worked for William Wallace. So the fact that DC have removed one of their most proudly man-dressed-as-a-woman characters from continuity, and replaced him with this stern, thigh high boots-less figure, is both worrying and, actually, perhaps for the best. Anyway, let's move on. I'm sure the solicitation for Catwoman #5 will be offensive somehow, so let's go catch up on that.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Eloquent Hulk Reviews DC Titles

Comics Vanguard are too busy to review every comic we don't have sent to us in advance by the big companies, as the Leeds Thought Bubble convention kicks off this week and we're going to try and actually grab interviews, exclusives, and grammar (that's a joke for you facebook fans to enjoy) for you all. So in our absence, we're sending in our new and largely unloved mascot - Eloquent Hulk - to quickly review some of DC's New 52 books, in seemingly random order.

The Flash #1

My friends, let me be quite frank with you hereonin: nothing tickles my purple-shorted fancy more than a perfectly-executed page of comicbookery. And bless, but if Francis Manapaul doesn't provide the reader with at least four examples of this ravishing rendering during Flash #1, the starting issue of his and Brian Buccellato's new run with the character. Many will point their lengthy indexes to the page of Flash falling through the air, crashing calamitously with the pavement as the penultimate stop on his route to the sewers. But for I, the Eloquentest of Hulks, the finest page comes directly afterwards, with Flash clasping eyes on Iris West for the very first time. Magical. The story leaves a little to be desired, as multiplied marauders manage a murderous melee.

Justice League #2

Geoff Johns and Jim Lee are still working on this series despite all suggestions to the contrary, and Lee doesn't have to cede space to any other inkers or artists. Indeed, he draws the entirety of the second issue, in which Flash and Superman join in with Batman and Green Lantern's box-hunting fun. There are several double-page splashes to emphasise how the story is 'widescreen', and Lee succeeds in making many of these feel as though they are being shown in supreme slow motion. Otherwise this issue is business as usual, with doomed Darkseid deathbots charging around, black characters being blown up as is their very wont, and no sign of Wonder Woman or Aquaman whatsoever.

Justice League Dark #2

My very soul thrills to the sight of a freshly-ironed Peter Milligan story gliding through the letter-box. Justice League Dark continues to be the very finest of DC's 52 comics, and issue #2 even dares to double down on the number of pages featuring John Constantine. Which is to say, he appears in two pages this issue. The story sees every supernatural sorcerer or omnipotent omniscientist crushed and demolished by the fruits of sordid plans hatched by.... well, I can't really allow myself to disclose. Deadman steals the majority of the story, and almost seems like a workable character by the time of the final page. Oh, Eloquent Hulk, you cry! Your baseless immediate dislike for Deadman is clouding your gamma-charged analysis! Perhaps so, good friends, but we shall have to see if time can change my mind. My mind, which I should repeat is GAMMA-INFUSED!

Swamp Thing #3

Debauchery in the delinquent home! Swamp Thing expands its focus, giving us an issue almost entirely devoid of Swamp Thingery. In it's fauna-encrusted place we have the villain announced, a woman with a haircut, and the sight of a man dying from tongue tumours. Scott Snyder jumps into some true horror with this issue, and as such Eloquent Hulk recommends that you do not show this story to your younglings! Unless, that is, you wish for them to suffer a trauma! I suffered a trauma. A GAMMA-INFUSED trauma! Snyder and Paquette's book has quickly become one of the true must-reads of the New 52, even though it does not live up to it's promise of motorcycle-based shotgunnery.

Demon Knights #3

The once-humourous Demon Knights has become a hotbed of headlessery and cruelty! None would have thought this possible of Paul Cornell, and yet reading the issue will make you realise that perhaps your thoughts should have been reversed. Indeed! We continue to have fun and games and mostly puns with the main seven characters, but it is now quite clear that everybody else is expendable and must be expediently extinguished by the villains. Shocking horror from the creative team, made all the worse for the glee they are clearly having.

Animal Man #3

What's this? A series of positive reviews, with nary a thought for inferior inkery? This is the realm of Eloquent Hulk, dear friends, and I'll thank you not to mess with my gamma-infused thought process. Travel Foreman's art falls apart in a frightfully fantastic way this issue, with anatomy and composition heading into unknown territory - mcuh like the peerless protagonists themselves. Lemire's writing has already proved itself to be eccentric, and Foreman ably joins him on a quest into the heart of 'the red place'. When the front cover warns you that this will feature a strange man on a stranger journey, take heed. The issue features a sequence of a man turning into a lion and being bitten by a giant fanged fly. Wonderful stuff!

And now... on I go. Hulk must smash, after all!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Ryan Dunlavey Teases New Comic

Are those wrist-mounted laser guns we see? Then it must be time for Ryan Dunlavey to return to comics after admittedly not a particularly long break, to give us all something fun to read about. Both written and drawn by Dunlavey, formerly of Action Philosophers, Comic Book Comics, and various MODOK-related madness, Bad Guy looks to be exactly the sort of thing that Dunlavians worldwide will be pretty spiffed to read.

Bad Guy will be a three-issue digital comic released through MTV. Yes! MTV. Plans are in place for the comic to then be transferred over to print once the story wraps. And beyond that, we do not know. You'll hear more once we hear more!

Bill Mantlo

Of all places, we head to the National Underwriter Life & Health Magazine today, after their publication of a long, detailed, and unbiased account of the life and times of Bill Mantlo, which focuses in depth on his troubled health in recent times. The creator of Black Lightning for DC and Cloak & Dagger for Marvel, Mantlo's work within comics started as a colourist and quickly moved up to fill-in writing for Marvel. In time, this turned into full-time writing assignments on titles like ROM and The Incredible Hulk, working alongside writers like Chris Claremont and artists like John Byrne and George Tuska.

It was during his time at Marvel that he helped create The Winter Guard, building life into characters new and old to form a unique superhero team made up of a blond lady who could manipulate dimensions, some robots, a God or two, a man who turned into a bear, and an angry ginger communist who gave Comics Vanguard their name. It's that combination of silliness and engagingly bizarre characters which made Mantlo so popular with fans.

Mantlo is nowadays perhaps best-known for the tragic hit-and-run accident which left him with serious injuries, which have sadly kept him from writing for almost twenty years now. But his legacy continues to inspire writers and artists to this day, and his characters remain fan-favourites. This past Wednesday, Mantlo turned 60. Happy Birthday, Bill!

Psylocke Vs Archangel

Well, now we know the solution to that old question: in a fight between a genetically-twisted angel and a genetically-twisted white girl, who would win?

All this week, Marvel's teasers have related to the end of 'The Dark Angel Saga', the current mammoth Uncanny X-Force arc which reaches an end next month. We've been teased about Dark Beast, about a Fantomex/Archangel fight, and now this -- which appears to tell us the end of the storyline. Or does it?

It probably does.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Piggin’ Out #3

Waiting to find out where the rest of the President is? You may need to throw cold water over yourself. Issue #3 of Cosby and McCool’s Image series 'Pigs' is more focused on developing the Russian kill-crew dead-set on causing some kind of trouble for the USA. This issue flicks back and forth between a flashback in Cuba and modern-day hijinks in America, quickly developing up the characters in a cheery way. And by cheery way, we mean some child boxing followed by people yelling at each other.

The series seems to have slowed down a little from the hectic opener and measured second issue, which is both good and bad. Obviously it’d be nice if we could jump through this bit of story and get to the part where the President gets chopped up by a stone-cold Russian woman, but we also have about twelve different characters wandering around in the story, and it’s nice to have them defined more. We now know that there are five members of the kill-crew, and five people masterminding the operation. While Felix’s mission progresses along, we get to flashback to the five people who are seemingly in charge of things here.

Oleg and Yuri are two of them, with a mystery beardy-bloke (is he the one who dies in issue #1?) and two mystery women also present at the ‘meeting’. Oleg is the mardy one, while Yuri is the soft one who doesn’t want to force children to fight each other in preparation for their possible future involvement in a presidential assassination. The women may well be the two women we’ve seen in issues 1 and 2, who are currently sat in FBI custody and a family home, respectively. At this point, McCool and Cosby and still holding things close to their chests.

On the present-day side of things, Felix’s mission seems to be going well. They’re sent to the home of an American senator, who is apparently going to give them some information. But judging by the final page, it may well be a *slightly* forceful negotiation. Never bring a bazooka into your bedroom, guys. The infiltration at the end of this issue is the only part which feels a little wonky, as the writers’ decision to stick to realistic dialogue means we aren’t really told what’s going on. It looks as though somebody has replaced all the bullets with tranquiliser darts, but I don’t really know who, or why. Felix would’ve been my first bet, but he’s in the battle just like everybody else. So perhaps something else is going on?

If you have any thoughts on the issue – which was a bit quicker than the other two, a little more sparse – then share them in the comments. LET’S GET SOME KIND OF PIGGY DISCOURSE GOING ON, GUYS! Or, let’s all wait till next month, when issue #4 looks set to explain some of what’s going on right now.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Point One Stories, from Best to Worst

Matt Fraction and Terry Dodson tease DEFENDERS

From everything that we’ve seen, it does appear as though Fraction is channelling most of his attention on Doctor Strange, and bringing in the rest of The Defenders merely as backup for the master of mystical magic. But Fraction seems to have hit some kind of affinity with the character, and his work here shows a writer who is finally starting to tune into writing superhero comics. It probably helps that he’s writing this as a Vertigo-ish take on the mainstream Marvel characters, and this short story seems roughly similar in tone to Peter Milligan’s Justice League Dark. Which, as you should all know by now, is excellent.
This story is simply setting a few pieces in place, in terms of character, so it doesn’t go anywhere too surprising. But Fraction has a new take on the Doctor, and it seems like he’s going to take this book in interesting places.

Ed Brubaker and Javier Pulido are planning something with UATU THE WATCHER

The framing sequence of almost every Marvel anthology ever has involved Uatu at some point. Which, why not? Uatu is clearly one of the greatest characters in modern fiction, so it makes sense to use him as often as possible.
Brubaker’s script doesn’t sound like a Brubaker script at any point during the story, which is interesting in a few ways. For starters, well done Ed Brubaker, it’s nice to see you stretch yourself and your style. Then there’s the idea that perhaps this storyline – which sees two strange people break into Uatu’s MOON HOUSE while Uatu is meditating and upload some of his thoughts – might ultimately be something handled by somebody else. We have no idea, as readers, when this story might crop up again. But for now – this was a good tease.

David Lapham and Roberto De La Torre tease AGE OF APOCALYPSE

The most obtuse title in the bunch, Age of Apocalypse will be a new ongoing series/quickly downgraded maxiseries from Marvel which will focus on the remaining characters from the beloved parallel dimension. Lapham’s story here is a complete shift in tone from everything else, acting as a dark and interesting take on some vaguely familiar characters. Although… the characters only become familiar towards the end. Although there are a few artistic missteps, which makes the fate of one character uncertain, the story is unique and fascinating, and certainly serves as a good introduction to the world Lapham and De La Torre will soon be creating on a monthly basis.

Chris Yost and Ryan Stegman tease SCARLET SPIDER

Yost and ComVan favourite Stegman put together a decent story which reveals the identity of the new Scarlet Spider. The story is a little typical, but is made up for with some energetic writing tics and visually dynamic artwork. Scarlet Spider is a darker version of Spider-Man, which is interesting because that’s also what Venom is. Yost has a firm handle on the character, though, so the story runs along smoothly.

Fred Van Lente and Salvador Larroca invent TWO RANDOM NEW CHARACTERS

A diverting read from the creative team here, although we have no idea when the two new characters created here, a brother/sister team with fire/ice powers, will pop up again. Entertaining origin story, and it’s a shame that it has to be truncated by the format of this anthology. It’d be nice to see more of these two in future.

Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness introduce us to ASSHOLE NOVA

One of only two stories which could actually be defined as ‘not good stories’, Loeb and McGuinness seem to be creating a new Nova character here, one who is being chased by The Phoenix Force. We’re assuming that this can’t be Richard Rider, because the character is a complete asshole, and incredibly unlikeable already. He flees from a dying planet without saving anyone on it, and as he leaves he says “epic fail”. What a terrible character this one is.

Brian Michael Bendis and Bryan Hitch’s ULTRON STORY is BARELY READABLE

The creative team completely falter during this story, sadly, as we are left with barely any story and artwork which is hard to follow and decipher. The story seems to show Ultrons attacking Earth, which means the ground shakes. That also means that Hitch’s artwork shakes, so is barely coherent.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Action Comics Gets New STEEL Backup

It's one thing to be the man of steel, but another thing entirely to be a man who wears steel. Today DC announced that John Henry Irons, whom Grant Morrison used to such great effect during 52, is going to be centre-stage for an eight-page backup story written by Sholly Fisch and drawn by Brad Walker. Launching out from the central storyline of Morrison's fourth issue on the series, the story will see Irons don his famous Superman tribute costume and take on the job of protecting the streets of Metropolis.

Following that, issue 5 and 6 will have backups that focus on the Kents, Clark's Earthbound parents, with the art drawn by CrissCross. Then Walker returns for the unknown seventh backup, before issue #8 features an extended-length issue by Morrison and Morales, as they conclude the first stroy-arc.

This will be the second DC series to get a back-up, after it was announced last month that Geoff Johns and Gary Frank would be producing a SHAZAM storyline to run in the back of Justice League. Expect Detective Comics to start picking up a back-up storyline somepoint soon - likely to focus on Jim Gordon or Renee Montoya.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Top Ten Members of The Avengers Academy

This is based purely on issue #21, which IS after all the first issue of a new era. Many people told us we should jump onto the series with this issue, so here's what we picked up on:

10: White Tiger

We just can’t get behind this need to categorise people by their race. And while we appreciate the mysterious new White Tiger for trying to represent her community, it just seems like a bad idea to try and group everyone together. Basically, we’re on Reptil’s side over this debate. Wouldn’t it be interesting if she took off the mask and revealed herself to be white? A reversal of the She-Hulk issue where Spider-Man took JJJ to court for harassment, and joked “I think it’s because I’m black”.

Ahh, what a great series that was. Nice to see the new She-Hulk pop up in this issue, too. Sensational seguing!

9: Butterball

Butterball is a useless, immovable lump. But if you ever want somebody to test out your new human cannon, there’s nobody better. His fun-loving attitude is so wonderful because it comes despite there being no reasoning for it. He doesn’t say a single thing in this issue, but just look at that opening splash-page where he cannonballs into the pool. He’s still wearing his shoes, he’s an idiot. But there’s just the BIGGEST smile on his face. Shouldn’t we all strive to be that excited whilst wearing a full-body superhero costume which’ll be a nightmare to lug out of a pool which doesn’t have any visible steps to climb out with? For all we know, Butterball is still in that pool now.

8: Hollow

She’s still around! Despite being part of one of the most convoluted and messy origin stories ever written – something to do with autistic twins and body merging and bone marrow – the new Hollow, first seen in Loners, is still hanging about in the superhero community. Oh, Hollow. One day somebody will come along and make sense of you, but god help us if Grant Morrison or Fabian Nicieza ever get their hands on you.

7: Mettle

The first of the original recruits to make the list, Mettle was a Hawaiian surfer bro whose body became coated with some kind of weird shiny red stuff. So now he wanders around, skull exposed for the whole world to see. And he’s still managed to pick up a girlfriend and the respect of Captain America. Some people are just born that way, guys. Mettle’s big and therefore angry, because that’s how these things always work. But at least here we have a big angry guy who actually has a valid reason to be angry. He also knows when to throw out an apology, and you have to admire somebody with that kind of modesty.

6: Julie Power

She seems a bit formal and over-polite, but I enjoyed it when Hazmat referred to her as “double-rainbow barbie”

5: Rocket Racer

Look how happy he is on that apparently flying skateboard. He’s living in the early nineties, and just doesn’t give a damn what you think about it.

4: Hazmat

We jump into the world of properly good characters now, with Hazmat coming very close to stealing the series. An overly-aggressive girl who can’t leave, yes, her Hazmat suit due to being radioactive, she tends to get all the best lines. And some of the worst – and therefore most authentically teenage – lines too. “Go quote yourself” is great because it’s such a poor comeback. Right on, Hazmat. As long as you get the last word, it doesn’t matter what those words actually are.

3: Reptil

He may not be particularly dynamic, but you have to admire the straightforwardness of Reptil. He might be able to turn into dinosaurs, and that’s awesome, but at his heart he’s just a relatively dull guy who fits in with the rest of the cast. Sometimes you need to have a character or two who don’t do anything, to fill up the numbers and keep the rest of the cast on edge. He didn’t get into the fight, but he was the only character to get injured from it.

Every team has to have a guy like Reptil. Reppin’ it for the latinos!

2: Spider-Girl

Just wanted to re-emphasise how much better this Spider-Girl is than the last one.

1: Finesse

Probably the best character in the bunch, and the most interesting by a long way. Finesse over-analyses things and tries to run long-term plans. But, because she’s still only young, this hurts her far more than it helps her. There’s a reason why Mettle chose Hazmat over her, after all. A fine piece of red shiny hunk like Mettle? He doesn’t have time for the strategy-girl! But his presumably off-panel rebuttal is her gain, because she works best alone.

Now, we have no idea what was going on in the last two pages of the issue, but it certainly looked like Finesse was the one in charge. You know why that is? Because she’s got focus. Have to respect that.

Thursday, 3 November 2011


One of the things we learned from the side-material at the back of 'Wolverine & The X-Men' was that the two most invariably interesting and charismatic members of the team - Cannonball and Karma - had left Utopia to join Wolverine's school. And interestingly enough, they just to happen to be the two characters who'd been dropped from the New Mutants title only a few months ago, when Abnett & Lanning first took over the series. Lucky! That means we don't have to waste pages on them, when we could instead be developing Sunspot, Magma, or Warlock.

No, no that's exactly what this does not mean, because New Mutants #33 kicks off with a discussion of why Karma has left Utopia, followed shortly afterwards by a scene of Cannonball leaving. And then Nate Grey eats up a few pages. By the time this exceptionally short-feeling issue reaches a climax, only Moonstar has left any kind of impression on the reader. Magma hardly features, Magik is absent, Sunspot kicks a football around and Warlock/Cypher speak binary to each other. Before anything else, this book is a Dani Moonstar book with the New Mutants as supporting players.

New Mutants has recently been suffering from the same problem which plagues X-Men and Astonishing X-Men: it has no purpose. It exists because people buy it, but it offers nothing new to readers. Whilst X-Men Legacy was about Rogue failing to look after the kids; or X-Force was the black-ops team; New Mutants was simply a different group of mutants who just happened to have once been drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz. They have no motive or goal - they're happy to be where they are, and they laze about all day doing very little of note. At least X-Factor has a vague detective noir tone to the stories. All New Mutants has is one interesting female character and her bunch of dullard friends.

You may be able to tell that New Mutants didn't make a very favourable impression upon me. Good work. Although the artwork by David Lopez (and inked by his brother) is excellent, dynamic in a Chris Bachalo sort of way but comprehensible in a Diogenes Neves sort of way... this book doesn't do anything. Abnett and Lanning's pitch is that the New Mutants solve 'loose ends', which means their purpose is basically to wrap up plots that other writers didn't want to finish. There's nothing particuarly dynamic about that, especially after a few years of Matt Fraction 'collecting' mutantkind on Utopia. The promise of a new guest-star every few months isn't a solid premise for a book. Just look at Adjectiveless.

This issue takes the old idea of hiring in a psychiatrist who talks to the New Mutants, and establishing what they think about their lives. This means the writers can literally state what each character is thinking, because they're being open to the therapist. Peter David did this to memorable effect on X-Factor, years ago, where he managed to reveal a lot about the characters that we didn't know before. And having only read the first two arcs of this series before giving up, I can confidentally state that there was not one surprising thing revealed in this issue. Only three characters talk to the therapist over the course of this issue, and of those three? Only ONE of them is actually going to remain a cast member. Ugh.

New Mutants is a massive problem for the X-Office. There's a tremendous amount of nostalgic love for these characters, but there simply isn't a reason for the book to exist. Not even the presence of Val Staples (whose colours here are, duh, utterly tremendous) is enough to make me want to pick up the next issue. The cover is so dynamic! The story inside is so dull!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Whose Love is Real Anyway?

We’re a bit nervous about attaching labels to things now, but Sam Humphries and Steven (should be spelt Stephen) Sanders’ ‘Our Love Is Real’ is a futuristic satire about sex and society. Or is it? We shouldn’t put everything into little boxes, after all, is the main message of the story. Or maybe it isn’t? Right, let’s stop this bit and move onto the actual issue.

The story is simple, the dialogue to-the-point. Humphries has points he wants to make, and the plot is built only to progress the politics of the argument. To sum up the basics, Office Jok lives in the future and is dating a poodle. Brin also lives in the future and she only has sex with her crystals. Other people in the future prefer to mate with plants. Nobody does it with other humans. Jok, however, starts to wonder that he might like to have sex with Brin. But is that kind of love normal?

Everybody in the comic is wrong and right at the same time, in their attitudes. Whilst it’s obviously a little weird for us to hear about people having sex with dogs, stones and begonias, the characters of the future are aware that they have every right to love whatever they think is right. And they are also aware that everybody who loves something different is weird, immoral, and wrong. Humphries and Sanders create a brief look at a World where gender, sex and love have progressed from the place they’re in today. While we’re currently fighting some kind of bizarre battle over whether homosexuality is real or not, Officer Jok and Brin aren’t occupied with such mental battles.

Well, maybe Jok is a little bit occupied with that mental battle.

As the story goes on, Jok starts to realise – in-between beating vegiesexuals with his bitchmaker stick – that perhaps love is in the eye of the beholder, and you can’t label what love is wrong and what love is wrong. And then, like Galahad, his work is done. Love is a many splendoured thing, and it can take all forms. It can also lead to sex. Which can also take all forms.

Our Love is Real is brilliantly realised, a vision of a political future where anything is possible unless somebody with a bitchmaker stick spots you. It also makes you think about the nature of love, identity, sex and people. Or does it? You’ll have to decide for that. Whatever decision you make, though…. we’re sure it’s the real one.

Marvel Announce [MASSIVE SPOILER]

Only the bravest souls will click the link, to see the massive story Marvel announced today.

Are you brave enough?


Hey, how’s about that then? Apparently there is this X-Men character called ‘Storm’, who has weather powers and can fly and doesn’t back down from anybody. You’d be forgiven for forgetting about her existence over the past five or six years, because aside from a few honourable attempts by Chris Yost and Ed Brubaker, she hasn’t appeared as a leading character for a very long time indeed. Married off to an Avengers character, she’s straddled the line between supporting character and splash-page pin-up for longer than I can really remember. Why bring that up? Because for once, the cover doesn’t lie, and Storm actually proves to be the main character in Victor Gischler and Will Conrad’s adjectiveless ‘X-Men’ series.

Gischler continues from where he left off, basically, with the ‘Regenesis’ unimportant to anything that happens in the story. He’s already picked his random collection of X-Men before the story begins, with Domino, Warpath, Jubilee, Colossus and Psylocke led by Storm. The premise of the series also remains ‘X-Men Team-Up’, with War Machine showing up as this month’s guest star. The story is concerned with sinister people owning a sentinel, and the X-Men trying to stop them from using it. But this is all set-up, you guys, as War Machine jumps in, tries to order the X-Men about, and gets in a fight with them as a result.

Very much more of the same, then. The problem that adjectiveless has always had is that it has no particular voice as a book. Every arc is different, with a different guest-star, and nothing happens that affects anything. A random bunch of X-Men fight somebody, then team up with them, and save the day. Gischler tells perfectly fine stories, but there’s certainly nothing notable about anything he’s done so far. The book is a product of editoral more than anything else. The tone here is very much a political thriller type of story, and that means Gischler gets to have a lot of fun with Domino, War Machine, and Storm. Colossus also has a nice scene, but that’s more to do with Storm than anything else.

Although her costume is weird and Conrad struggles to find ways to depict her without thrusting her bum out, Storm is the centre of the issue; There’s a charm to seeing her back to her old ways, strutting around and ignoring any authority which tries to impose itself on her. Her familial side also shows up, as she stops Colossus from getting too aggressive with War Machine – Gischler does a good job of highlighting the two, competing, sides of the character. Caring and careless.

War Machine also gets a few good lines, although his role seems forced at best. He marches about, telling people off, distrusting the X-Men for no particularly good reason. The fight is especially difficult to take, unless you switch off and just allow it to happen. The plot is going through the motions, and you’ll just have to accept that nothing surprising is going to happen here. And as for the rest of the cast? Barely featured whatsoever. This is Storm’s show, and everybody else is in service to her.

She looks good, too, thanks to Will Conrad and Chris Sotomayor's art and colours. Conrad's style seems a little similar to Mike Deodato Jr - no bad thing - and his composition and storytelling is superb. He excels in particular with the action sequences, which are exciting and dynamic. He also draws a brilliant Domino, with the assassin's mostly wordless appearance benefitting greatly from his style.

Is X-Men worth picking up? Only if you like the characters. As ever, the book fails to find a particular voice or uniqueness. It tells a bog-standard story, bog-standard-ily, and nothing that surprising or interesting happens. But at least Storm is back.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Snarked #2 is Imminent!

Kaboom! have released a teaser for issue #2 of Roger Langridge's brilliant 'Snarked!' series, set in the world of Alice in Wonderland. Therefore look at it: