Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Hawkeye and James Asmus

Sorry for being away so long. I'm still trying to work out what to do with this site! I'm so busy elsewhere that I have nary a second to work on my beloved home site. Here's some of my recent work:

Hawkeye #1 Review on The Beat

A look into episode 1 of All-Winners Squad

Marvel's teasers for new Thor and Iron Man books

July's X-Wing on Comics Bulletin

An interview with lovely James Asmus about Gambit and Thief of Thieves!

And with Greg Pak for X-Treme X-Men!

Review for Axe Cop and Wander

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Hopey and Shadows

Valiant have released yet another teaser (they really just don't stop, and it's excellent work from whoever their PR person is) today, this time revealing the reappearance of Shadowman.

It's meant to be hard to see. 

My knowledge of Shadowman is exclusively limited to his classic game for the N64, where he was friends with an Irish bone snake (not a euphemism) and stole a lot of ideas from Jacob's Ladder. It's a book about a voodoo warrior, essentially, and he uses jazz to fight evil spirits. There's no indication as to whether this is a cameo appearance or a new series -- given his popularity, my GUESS would be a series -- but it's yet another reminder that Valiant exists, and are going strong. Also, they they've managed to reclaim the franchise after it was handled by Acclaim Studios. Will Turok be next? Or is that still under lock and key?

In other news. After being fairly disappointed with The Dark Knight Rises, I decided to finally listen to the internet and buy the first volume of Love and Rockets from OK Comics in Leeds. Expect thoughts once I finish!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

5 Things I liked about Captain Marvel #1

My review of Captain Marvel #1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Dexter Soy went online last week, and it's fair to say I came away with a slightly disappointed shrug. While the issue was fine, it wasn't what I had hoped it would be, and it wasn't as powerful or exciting. I didn't feel like Carol Danvers came off as dynamic as she needed to. You can read the review, really, if you want to see into it.

But! It wasn't a bad comic. It was fine, and there were some good moments. Five. I've pinpointed five of the things I liked, and here we go with the list right now HERE WE GO

1: Dexter Soy's art and colouring.

Much of the critical response to the comic has centred around Soy's work with the issue. It's very similar to Crayton Crain in terms of sheen - I believe it's painted, and the faces have the same pointy-chin elfish quality that you see in Crain's work. However it's lighter, with a brighter tone and more agility at displaying facial expression. I really enjoyed the art. When you hire someone like Soy to do a book like this, you have to expect for him to be unique, and continue to be himself. While some mourn the lack of classic-style art on the book, Soy solely achieves the art of making the comic feel unique and interesting. Without him, the book would be far less magnetic and have far less interest. His artwork is perhaps not suited to a book of this style, but that's exactly what makes the book so interesting to look at.

2: The humour

There's a style I call 'ironic one-upmanship', which is where writers and readers seemingly love something precisely because it's stupid. If you have a dinosaur, that's fine. But then you give it the ability to talk. You one-up yourself. Then you give it a jetpack. Congratulations, you just went too far and now the sole reason to like the dinosaur is because it's a ridiculous thing. It's a difficult balance to make, and is the reason why a lot of webcomics fall apart. If you only have ironic one-upmanship, you can't make the characters work. DeConnick manages to make it funny, however, in the opening sequence with Crusher Creel. Although his sexism is awkwardly inserted, his declaration that he wants MOON ROCKS because they give him MOON POWERS is brilliantly fun. Similarly, Carol's put-downs are the most entertaining lines of the issue. I want more of that.

3. Done-in-one

Possibly a dangerous move, but there was no hook for readers to stick with the book in the long-term. It told a one-and-done storyline of sorts, in which everything was ostensibly wrapped up at the end of the issue. Granted this was because there was no particular storyline here, but I did enjoy the boldness of the creative choice. The issue could've been a one-shot, but instead feels like a prologue. Readers might have picked up the issue, got to the end, and then decided not to bother with any subsequent issues. Instead, the main reaction seems to have been that this was a prologue, which will segue into the series proper, and readers will stick with it until then.

4. The supporting characters

Not the human characters, who I didn't care for and didn't provide any interest. Captain America and Spider-Man, who came across as human versions of their typical personas. Steve Rogers was inspiring but you could also sense an old-fashioned sense to him which made his jokes feel flat (and DeConnick almost certainly WAS deliberately writing his jokes as a bit flat. Meanwhile Spider-Man was slightly annoying, slightly childlike, but still absolutely himself. That human approach took the style of Brian Michael Bendis but provided decent dialogue, which you can read more than once (seriously -- TRY re-reading an issue of Powers. It's no fun at all).

5. The positioning

It was spot-on to portray Carol Danvers as an All-American, military woman. She seriously doesn't have as much charisma or appeal as you wish you could remember her having, and the cover and marketing were absolutely on the money. Make her someone to be proud of, and position her there. It's the way that Superman is typically presented, and Captain America should be. She doesn't have the clout by herself, so make the image into something which appeals to the sense of patriotism and pride.

I'll read an issue on the merits of the creative work, and not on outside factors like diversity, thanks.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

New Teaser Suggests Vengeance, Young Avengers, Kid Loki team

Marvel have spent this week teasing the above image, with a different one of the five blanks revealed every day. We've seen Ant Man and Cable pop up so far, but this image seems most interesting. Revealing Wiccan, America Chavez (from Joe Casey's 'Vengeance' miniseries) and Kid Loki, it looks like a teaser for a one-shot book spinning out as part of the Marvel Now campaign. Or, a full series? Creative people I'd like to this project? Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, or Nick Spencer. But who knows?!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Punk Jesus, Vampire Queens and Bloodshot

I picked up three books last week. UND HERE IS WHAT I THOUGHT OF THEM

Punk Rock Jesus #1, by Sean Murphy and published by Vertigo, is an incredibly well-crafted book. Not only a smart idea played convincingly, the book refrains from overexciting itself or going too far. The idea is that a TV station have taken DNA from the Shroud of Turin, and will clone it in order to create ‘Jesus 2’ While everybody promptly goes utterly crazy at the idea, we see the various people behind the decision manoeuvre around each other for position and power, with varying agendas. Presented in hatched black-and-white, the book is a superb read from Murphy, with crackling dialogue, realistic characters, and an inventive core concept which plays out in unexpected and imaginative ways.

Meredith Gran’s Marceline and The Scream Queens #1 suffers a little from focusing on a side-character from the Adventure Time TV series I’ve never seen before. While my lack of exposure to the series didn’t harm the eponymous title from Kaboom, here is likely detracts a little from my enjoyment. Marceline seems to have a unique personality which I can’t put a voice to, exactly, and the book almost certainly would be more fun for a fan of the series to pick up. Having said that, Gran’s sense of humour is on-point here, with some smart, subtle jokes hidden in the art and some slightly more obvious, still-funny-though jokes in the dialogue. It’s a fun, quirky title, as you’d expect, and sets up an unpredictable next issue. The story is simple enough to get past the fact I don’t know the characters well, and the lightness of the storytelling actually adds to the charm of the book.

Valiant’s relaunch continues with Bloodshot #1 from Duane Swierczynski, a pulp war story featuring an assassin with an identity crisis -- one forced upon him by his controllers. A little obtuse to begin with, the book quickly settles into a fast-paced, entertaining read. It’s the comic equivalent of a Tom Clancy novel, probably, but I’ve never read Tom Clancy so maybe not. It’s an entertaining, throwaway story at the moment, which has several hints of depth lurking behind the gunplay and mind-games. It’s a worthy addition to a still-stellar line-up of books from the publisher.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Kickstarter: No Enemy But Peace

Here's a very well put-together Kickstarter page from Richard C. Meyer, which does everything you'd want to see from a Kickstarter. For his project 'No Enemy But Peace'; the aim is to re-complete a book which was previously already made and distributed.

It's a true-life story about a Marine called Marco Martinez, whose squad was ambushed in Iraq and his team leader wounded. Fired upon from a vantage-point and pinned down, he managed to neutralise the attack for long enough to get his wounded team-leader to safety, before assaulting and taking the building himself. Meyer, who was in Martinez's squad, previously wrote the story and published it himself back in 2009, gaining positive reviews from sites like Newsarama and CBR. 

This Kickstarter is looking to take the book and fix it up. It was previously half drawn by artist and Martin Montiel Luna and half by Martinez himself (whose art style is actually really good! And reminds me of Shaky Kane), but the money sought here is to pay for Luna to redraw the Martinez pages, have the book coloured and inked, and have the book ready for print.

Nearing the target already, the project has 15 days left, and just under $1000 left to raise. 

That list of Image Titles in full

Image released a LOT of information this weekend at San Diego Comic-Con. Taken from my post on The Beat and including as many of the covers as I could find thus far, is a full list of the books they announced. On a weekend where Marvel had nothing to announce due to being stuck in AvX, and DC's New 52 wave also precludes them from doing new books or having anything exciting to talk about, Image (and to a smaller extent IDW and KaBoom) were the publisher who took most attention this year. The lineup of forthcoming titles from Image also reveals a number of creators are no longer on exclusive contracts. Matt Fraction writing for Image again would suggest that he decided not to try publishing through Marvel's 'Icon' line, for example. 

We also see writers like Greg Rucka, who have no books for the major companies anymore, trying something with Image. Also noteworthy that he's working with Michael Lark, who I believe he first met while writing Gotham Central for DC. There are a number of creators here who met doing Marvel/DC work, and have now decided to try something for themselves.KellySue DeConnick and Emma Rios, who first worked together on a Norman Osborne series, are now doing a western for Image. It's suggestive of a move away from mainstream works, in order to create a new mainstream where creators are valued over the characters. It's a fascinating lineup to read through, and there are some incredible exciting new books here.

Non-Humans - Whilce Portacio and Glen Brunswick
Nowhere Men – Eric Stephenson
Satellite Sam - Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin.
A murder mystery set in the world of children’s television.
 SDCC 2012 Image Announce Even More Comics Than You Could Ever Believe
Pretty Deadly - KellySue DeConnick and Emma Rios
A spaghetti western in classic style
Multiple Warheads – Brandon Graham
Saviour - James Robinson and J. Bone
About an alien invasion of earth by shapeshifters, and a stoner’s attempts to stop them
Sex - Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski
The Bounce – Joe Casey and David Messina
Lazarus promo inks SDCC 2012 Image Announce Even More Comics Than You Could Ever Believe
Lazarus – Greg Rucka and Michael Lark
Gritty sci-fi thriller set in a dystopian future
tumblr m7671z06gZ1qbjlwao1 500 SDCC 2012 Image Announce Even More Comics Than You Could Ever Believe
Reign – Chris Roberson and Paul Mayberry
robertsonOliver SDCC 2012 Image Announce Even More Comics Than You Could Ever Believe
Oliver – Darick Robertson and Gary Whitta
Point of Impact – Jay Faerber
original SDCC 2012 Image Announce Even More Comics Than You Could Ever Believe
Great Pacific – Joe Harris

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Review: The Only Living Boy Vol #1

Kickstarted successfully, David Gallaher and Steve Ellis’ newest project together is The Only Living Boy which, if you read Comics Vanguard a lot, you’ll already have heard about. The premise is fairly basic, with a young boy running away from home, spending one night alone, and then waking up into a world of monsters. And it’s a fun story, although not without a problem or two.

Interestingly, it’s perhaps the only living boy himself – Erik – who is one of the bigger problems for the story. Gallaher convincingly puts together a world full of interesting characters and struggles, but Erik’s journey through them isn’t as well-defined. He doesn’t really have a goal or ambition, which makes his story feel a little flat. He also has an overly wordy narration, which at times works well – there’s a gladiatorial scene where his narration mirrors his attempts to avoid getting beaten – and at other times is overwritten. The start, in particular, is clunky.

Once he starts meeting monsters, the story picks up, in part because the monsters are interesting and varied, and brilliantly conceptualised. Ellis’ art plays a large part in this, with a rounded-out style which seems more like his ‘Darkstar & The Winter Guard’ work than the more scratchy style of previous books like Box 13 or Iron Man. 

The dialogue also improves with their introduction, especially once the main villain walks in. The scenes in the monster prison are perhaps the best of the book, with a darkness which isn’t too overwhelming but still pushes tension onto the characters. It feels like a grim, unforgiving place, and we don’t have to see graphic violence or over-the-top depictions (a Mark Millar tendency) in order to get that tone. Erik feels more in-place here than he does when he’s wandering aimlessly, as it gives him something to attempt for.

Assisting Ellis’ art are a stunning artistic team made up of letterer Scott O. Brown (whose work here is excellent, especially when he starts trying stranger approaches to delivering the narration boxes) and colourist Mike Paar. The book switches in tone and location every ten pages or so, and each one of these feels like a different section of Gallaher’s world. The use of colour and Ellis’ storyboarding work together to build up the idea that the whole world has been taken over somehow, and that Erik really is alone here. 

The design is strong throughout, in fact, with the monsters taking on a range of forms and attitudes which don’t fall into stereotypes. There are warrior women and princesses and gruff prisoners, but Gallaher’s approach to them feels more organic and open than most. It probably helps that he has no compunction about abandoning them whenever he feels the story requires, and leaves several of them for dead seemingly at random.

That sense of cruelty gives more focus to Erik’s central journey, although the character still really needs some direction or ultimate ambition. His personality isn’t well-defined enough to really earn a big speech he tries to give, and thank goodness Gallaher realises that and interrupts it with a new monster running in to cut Erik off. The Only Living Boy is a fun, somewhat throwaway book at the moment, which plans to have three more volumes before concluding the story. If the creative team can find a reason to connect readers with their main character – and not just with the intriguing and fun side-characters – then the story will really be able to take off and grab people.

You can pick up The Only Living Boy at Comixology for a dollar, which is insanely good value for money.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Sandman and Ponies

Quick post, as I’m focused on The Beat this weekend. Announced at SDCC! Neil Gaiman and JH Williams will be teaming up to do a prequel set-up comic thingy for SANDMAN. Thankfully not written by Williams, the book, published by Vertigo, will tell the story which leads directly into the first issue of the original series.

In bigger news, Katie Cook and Andy Price have been announced as the creative team for a new IDW series called My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Yes. It’s happening.

Thursday, 12 July 2012


Everyone loves crossovers! Apart from those guys making The Danger Club at Image, I guess. Dynamite have finally jumped onto the big story bandwagon this week, with the announcement that lovely Chris Roberson and big Alex Ross are going to be the creative team for a crossover between all the company’s most famous pulp characters.

That means Zorro, Green Hornet, The Shadow, The Spider and…. Some others, are all going to appear on the same team. This’ll be Ross’ first full issue in years - we don’t know whether he’ll be staying on beyond the first issue, but he’ll be providing covers for the entire run - and also marks the first is a few new projects Roberson says will be revealed during SDCC.

Issue one of the title, which did I mention is called Masks? No I didn’t, how short-sighted of me, will be released in November.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Marvel cancel a load of stuff

The next wave of solicitation information reveals the cancellation/ending of approximately 10 of Marvel’s titles, which will presumably be relaunched/consigned to the limbo bin as a result. The books are:

Fantastic Four
Invincible Iron Man
The Mighty Thor
Uncanny X-Men
New Mutants
Captain America
X-Men Legacy
The Incredible Hulk
Journey Into Mystery

JIM isn’t a definite finale, but Kieron Gillen is certainly leaving the title, which surely counts as a cancellation in anyone’s book. The other titles are all announced as ending, aside from Punisher - which simply wasn’t listed on the solicits.

Most of these will reboot - rumours place Gillen on an Iron Man relaunch, Matt Fraction on a Fantastic Four relaunch, and so on. But this is likely the end of the line for books like New Mutants. Punisher, too, will probably not see a solo title again for a while. It’s likely he’ll be folded into an Avengers team somewhere down the line, probably.

This means we have 11 titles cancelled so far… but there are still a few more months before the 20-issue Marvel Now lineup is completely unveiled. That could mean we still have 9 more books to lose before January starts. Most likely? Secret Avengers and Uncanny X-Force, along with Brian Wood’s adjectiveless X-Men. Just rumour at the moment, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Monday, 9 July 2012

The Arctic, Alan Moore, Hellboy and Dazzler

Mat Rees has made a video chronicling the totally-real-promise story behind the making of Before Watchmen, in which a dick has to counter-react to being dicked over by some dicks. Seriously, has there been any story this year more filled with people nobody really likes? Anyway, this take on Alan Moore seems in-line with what I’ve heard from people in the know, and also shows just how influential Moore was on not only the comic-book industry, but Liam Neeson’s film career.

Mike Mignola returns to full writing/drawing duties this December, as Hellboy in Hell finally gets a release date. After getting killed off at the start of this year (right?), Hellboy now finds himself in an environment even more filled with monsters than any he’s been in before. Who would’ve thought it, right? 

Interestingly enough though, Mignola says that this version of Hell is going to be more like John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ than anything else, which suggests it may start to ramble interminably halfway through, before picking up steam towards the end when some more familiar characters show up. Also, that there’ll be a whole load of weird raping going on. At least it’s not based on Pilgrim’s Progress!

Kickstarter news, and I’ve been sent an email by Christian Sager and Kelly Williams about their lovely-looking proposed project ‘The Cabinet’. At 110 pages long, it’s quite the mission, for both the creators and the cast. The story sees a group of doomed explorers attempt to conquer the arctic, only to go mad and so forth. Like The Thing! Which, as I read further down the press release, is actually exactly how the team are describing the book. Nice work reading my mind, you guys! You can find the Kickstarter here, if you so wish todonate towards the project. They’re about halfway there, with only a few days left!

And finally, who wants to read an interview I did with Greg Pak about X-Treme X-Men? Why, you do, of course! Right? RIGHT? Head to Comics Bulletin for more!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Marvel Announce a Video Game About a Monkey

"Monkeys are inherently funny" sayeth the internet, and thus comes a video game from Marvel and Activision based on Daniel Way and Dalibor Talijic's 'Hitman Monkey' character. Yes, this happened, and yes, most people tried to forget that it happened. And yet here is a game based on the character. In the game, you will play a monkey. You will have guns. You will shoot things. This is, apparently, what you've demanded.

I hope you're ashamed of yourselves, Internet.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Catwoman, Spider-Trilogy, Oatmeal and Carnage

Judd Winick will leave Catwoman after the end of the first year, with luxurious Ann Nocenti taking over with the ‘zero’ issue and continuing on from then. Excellent news on the Nocenti front! Surely, the character she is most suited to writing? And Winick will keep busy, as he turns his attention to a new all-ages graphic novel, the details of which are still under wraps.

This is the new Marvel teaser for a third Carnage miniseries, presumably to be written by Zeb Wells. 

The lawyer who wanted to sue webcomics site The Oatmeal for strange reasons has dropped his suit, and claimed victory. Why he’s done this when the whole case has been a massive backfire for his credibility, reputation and client is beyond me, although I suppose any publicity is… some publicity. CBR have an overview of the story over on their Robot 6 blog

The official facebook page for Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man film – out now, fact-fans – has announced that this film will be the first in a planned trilogy. If you’re going to see the movie this weekend, make sure to stick around after the credits for, you guessed it, a bonus scene setting up a sequel. The movie has had a lukewarm reception, with many people not interested in seeing another origin story and all the same story points used again – but noting that Andrew Garfield is a superior Peter Parker to Tobey Maguire, and that the love story with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy is excellently done. Who will appear as the villain in the next one? Norman Osborn again? Or will we see a previously unused villain like Shocker, Rhino, Hobgoblin (a PROPER one, I mean), Mysterio or, uh, The Jackal?
For the next five days on The Beat I’ll be running down the nominees for this year’s Russ Manning art award, which is given out at San Diego Comic-Con. The first one is up now! 

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Marvel Now! Becky Cloonan's Thing! Monkeybrain! More

Marvel have announced that they will be revamping (don’t call it a reboot, or Dan Slott will scold you) their entire line after AvX, with most of their books getting cancelled and replaced with new ones. Brian Bendis will write All-New X-Men, with the original 5 X-Men returning to the present. Which is, he tells us, important or something. Can’t really tell why, because it’s not like this hasn’t been done several times before. It seems like a quirk title, which isn’t the case for the other three books. So far we have Uncanny Avengers, with X-Men and Avengers mixing together so the popular X-Men can carry rubbish Avengers like (and I am assuming wildly here) Hawkeye and Vision.

The other two books are by Jonathan Hickman, and are Avengers/New Avengers. Characters have been redesigned! Jerome Opena, Dustin Weaver and the Kubert brother who works for Marvel are involved somewhere! This does seem exciting, and a case of a good writer being put on a book which needs a revamp. Although giving both titles to one writer still seems ridiculous, when a range of different voices would surely make the books more exciting for fans (which is how the X-Men/Spider-Man books have operated recently). Random characters are involved at random points for all four titles, and the main draws at the moment seem to be regular monthly appearances for character-turned-plot-device Scarlet Witch, John Cassaday returning to draw for Marvel, and Jean Grey showing up via time travel. But when are they announcing a return for my beloved Winter Guard?!

Becky Cloonan and Sholly Fisch have been wandering in and out of the DC Universe for a while now, but Fisch gives the first indication he’ll be taking over as main writer for Action Comics in October, as he writes an annual for Superman. This will fill in some of the five years between the start of Morrison’s run and the start of George Perez’s run in the main Superman series. This is part of a series of annual releases, including Becky Cloonan drawing a Swamp Thing annual (perfect casting for her: her short stories The Mire and Wolves show she can draw trees like no other) and Frankenstein showing up for a Justice League Dark annual.

Gail Simone will write a Batgirl annual, as she continues to try and get this ship moving.

Chris Roberson and Allison Baker have launched a new comic imprint, called Monkeybrain Comics. This will see a range of different creators put comics up on Comixology, which will range in size and price. Bandette, which I reviewed for Comics Bulletin, is the pick of the five titles released so far, but the books are fascinating all-round. Some are better than others, but the model is intriguing. Will fans go for short, cheap comics? Once the various stories, which will be released on varying schedules, have enough pages to fit a lovely trade, they’ll be sent to print and put in your local stores. Roberson and Baker have put something amazing together here, and it’d be thrilling to see it succeed. With many writers moving mainstream comics (Ed Brubaker being one of the latest, as he announced he will be stepping away from Captain America later this year), it looks like comics are starting to really expand as a medium for fans. But will fans follow them!?

Read how people don’t like it when I like things! Black Lightning is returning to DC! http://www.comicsbeat.com/2012/07/04/dc-finally-remember-that-black-lightning-is-amazing/

Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey’s ‘Comic Book History of Comics’, published by IDW, has sold out, and is going to a second printing! Here’s how they chose to break the news:

Amethyst’s creator Dan Mishkin is unhappy – as are we all – with the idea that the character is going to be revived WITHOUT THE FLYING PONIES.

He’s done an interview with CBR about it, and you can go over there to read it I’m not going to bother cut-pasting it yo. It’s also a reminder that many creators are still unhappy with their treatment over the years. Tony Isabella, you may have noticed in that article about Black Lightning, isn’t happy about that character getting brought out again. Yikes!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Lizard is as Lizard Does

If you haven’t read Zeb Wells’ ‘Shed’ storyline from back in the Brand New Day era of Spider-Man comics, I heartily recommend you do so before picking up issue #688. Yes, we’re into lizard territory now, and your enjoyment of the movie cross-promotion story will increase if you’ve already read about the creation of the current lizard. In that previous story, Curt Connors (the human alter-ego of lizard) turned into the monster, completely shed his human side, killed his own son, and went down into the sewers by himself. The human side seemed to be completely disintegrated, as animal instinct destroyed human reasoning.

Which is where we start with the first part of the current storyline. Dan Slott has very slowly brought us a new Peter Parker breakdown over the past few months, cleverly introducing a new motto for the character which he could never hope to live up to. ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ is an aspiration and moral. ‘Nobody dies’ is an impossible mission statement. And so it proved with the end of ‘Ends of the Earth’, a final battle between Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus in which one of Spidey’s allies apparently died. With his ambition broken already, we have a repentant and angry Peter Parker in the books at the moment, who has turned from defensive reaction to aggressive action by the time this first issue in the lizard battle starts.

Drawn by Giuseppi Camuncoli, who is simply one of the very best around at the moment, issue #688 anticipates new readers and develops the new status quo for Peter Parker deftly, without going too far into angst and woe. We also get to check in briefly with all the other members of his supporting cast, and see how his universe works at the moment. The Peter Parker side of the story is brilliantly done. The lizard side is a little less built-up, and really does rely on the reader knowing about ‘Shed’. The story is simple enough that new readers will be able to jump in – but the payoff is far greater for those who know what’s been happening for the past few years.

The story flashes between present and past quickly, establishing a battle between Spidey and lizard before going back in time to show us how he got to this point. It allows Slott to make this first issue almost a one-shot in nature, with next issue starting with a new storyline that builds from here, with the same antagonist. It’s an interesting approach, and Slott has really been trying out some new approaches to narratives recently. Primarily known for writing short arcs, here we’re seeing a three-issue story cut down into a one-shot followed by a two-parter. It’s an interesting experiment, although it does mean that it’s hard to evaluate the story without having the whole thing in front of me.

It’s a little bit slight, which is a worry, but Slott’s last page manages to build on both Peter Parker’s old and new mission statements, and leaves the story in an interesting place for next issue.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Birds in the Wild

Artist Travel Foreman reports back for duty with old ally Duane Swierczynski, and yes I have totally memorised his name by heart that’s just how professional I am, in Birds of Prey #10. Coming off his acclaimed run on Animal Man, we see a more subdued art style from Foreman here, perhaps because he has a different colourist in the form of Gabe Eltaeb. It makes for an interesting, if slightly off-kilter, introduction to the series.

At this point, the lineup for the book has solidified to Black Canary, Katana, Swierczynski original Starling, Poison Ivy and Batgirl, as they go off on varying spy missions. And it really is a spy book, for the most part, even though Swierczynskiu infuses the book with more pulp styling than before, and throws in a bit of wild adventure to the mix. The dialogue remains strong, even while the storytelling is deliberately obtuse and long-winded.

This issue sees the team fresh from their tie-in to ‘Night of the Owls’, with an injured Poison Ivy requesting to be taken to the Amazon in order to recuperate. So Starling arranges a lift from a local cocaine dealer, they get blown up by a mysterious plane, and then get attacked by bizarre plant creatures. Business as usual for one of the better team books in the New 52. It’s all an excuse for Foreman to have some fun with misshapen plant monsters, which he does with some aplomb. He was never much for perspective or attention to anatomy, and that pays off in the wild forests of the Amazon. Less so with the characters.

When drawing Animal Man, Foreman’s style was tripped-out and crazy – which doesn’t translate so well when the characters aren’t hallucinating, transforming their bodies into weird shapes, or monsters. Some of the artwork is particularly off in this issue, such as a scene in which Black Canary yells at Batman, and her head morphs a giant forehead. Little things like perspective are skewed, and it works on a 50/50 basis. This is also Foreman’s first time drawing superhero women in a while and the breasts are, in several cases, drawn larger than the faces. Which is also a little unsettling. Eltaeb tries to calm down some of the wilder missteps, but this does at times serve to accentuate them.

The writing continues to highlight the strengths of the characters, in a mismatched team. Batgirl is here portrayed as someone trying to follow in Batman’s footsteps, but not sure whether she wants to be drawn into his darkness or the darker side of her teammates. Starling continues to be a brilliant new addition to the New 52, while Black Canary gets a slight upgrade in her power set. Which, really, serves to make her into a DC version of Siryn from Peter David’s X-Factor series. The sound effects are the same and everything.

Birds of Prey #10 is a standard issue for the series. Poison Ivy, one of my favourite DC characters, sits this one out – well, she lies this one out, in a glass container until the last page – while the rest of the team muck around and are rather entertaining. It’s another decent story from Swierczynski, if a little lacking in any particular momentum at present. Birds of Prey needs a mission statement rather badly at the moment, but if the narrative keeps getting distracted by fun side-stories like this one, then I can wait a while longer.