Monday, 20 August 2012

Demon Knights, Greg Pak, Sif and Avengers Academy


That's right, I got the chance to walk through issue #1 of X-Treme X-Men with Greg Pak himself! And he shared insight about Dazzler's favourite ice-cream, as well as some exclusive preview pages from issue #2! 

I started a new feature this week called 'One Year Later', where I write about the last 12 months for various books from DC's 'New 52'. After a year of the reboot, how are the books doing? Are the books which started well still going strong? Have any books become sleeper hits? So far I've done four books, with more to come at random:

Over on The Beat, I covered a few pieces of news - first that Kelly Sue DeConnick and Stefano Caselli are taking over 'Avengers Assemble.

Avengers Academy, Bendis' run on the Avengers, and The Defenders are all ending in November

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

REVIEWS: White Devil, Gambit, Nevsky, 2000AD, MORE!

I'll be reviewing a few DC titles over on Comics Bulletin this week - but what else did we have to read through last Wednesday? Review roundup time!

White Devil #1
Matt Evans, Andrew Helinski, Nate Burns
We’ll start off with this comic submitted to me by the writers – and guys, if you make comics yourselves and want me to review your work, I will EVENTUALLY get round to doing it if you contact the email on your right – Matt Evans and Andrew Helinski. This is a homemade effort, with hand-written dialogue and black and white artwork. It works rather nicely, actually, mostly thanks to the pacing and artwork from Nate Burns. There’s a slow-burn effect here, which works because Burns does such a smart job with the page layouts. Towards the end…things get very adult. So you’ve been warned!
The occult side of this is handled well, with a fairly realistic approach which is creepy and awkward and feels naturalistic. The main problem is that while half of the lettering is done by hand, the other half is done via computer, and sticks out. For a story which is focused on nature and the occult, seeing computerised font does tend to break you out the narrative here. The story also requires a jump from the reader in terms of acceptance halfway through, and you have to be open with the switch in style. It’s an decent first issue overall though, well-paced but with a few problems. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here.

Gambit #1
James Asmus and Clay Mann
I expected a lot from this first issue, and, thank goodness, got everything I’d wanted. Gambit has spent the last few years in a generally mopey state, having been thrown out the X-Men by Peter Milligan and brought back by Mike Carey after Messiah Complex. The Rogue/Gambit relationship was never properly crushed by Marvel, which meant new storylines featuring him with Frenzy and her with Magneto fell flat. With a popular relationship lifted from the cartoon series, the comic characters really needed somebody to push them apart and give them a life of their own. Asmus does this here, giving Gambit back the intelligence he had when he first appeared, as well as the cocky sense of fun which made him popular in the first place.
The artwork is decent, although there appears to be some kind of mix-up between pencils and colours which inker Seth Mann says will be fixed for issue #2. However this is a solid story, which reintroduces Gambit, makes him likeable and independent, then throws him into the deep end. A very promising start, with a good sense of humour.

2000AD #1795
My first foray into 2000AD since the Free Comic Book Day issue sees every story in the magazine currently 4 parts through. 2000AD is a British anthology magazine, which has a Judge Dredd story kicking off each issue, followed by three or four other stories afterwards, from a variety of writers. Each story is around 8 pages, which sounds like it might be short – but there’s a different ethos here. 2000AD writers tend to compress their stories brilliantly, giving a lot of information in only a few short pages. Every story here tends to share that, with a dark sense of humour included.
This issue has a fun Judge Dredd story with a neat cliffhanger, but the highlight is probably the five-page long Aquila story from Gordon Rennie and Leigh Gallaher. It’s about a gladiator who was put on the cross to die by the Romans, only to be given immortality by the gods in exchange for his becoming an avenger on their behalf. He goes around killing evil people, basically. The story here is short, but sharp, and twists around a few times. The artwork from Gallaher is excellent, with a neat approach to drawing Boudicca, amongst others.
With all the stories partway through already, it’s not an issue to jump on with. But the stories are still fun, with other short strips from Andy Diggle, Jock and Rob Williams amongst the fun here. When we next hit a jumping on issue, I’ll return for a proper look over the magazine.

Ben McCool and Mario Guevarra
An original graphic novel based on the life of Russian warrior Nevsky came out from IDW recently, which if you know me? You’ll know it appeals to me. I do enjoy me some Russians. And this is a nice story, paced smartly from McCool despite a few problems with the supporting cast. It takes a few reads to properly grasp all the subplots at work here, with tiny stories given to each member of the cast. Which is great, it means more read-throughs are necessary, and better value for money. It does mean that Guevarra struggles a little to differentiate all these strong Russian guys, with beards and armour. Despite the slight overcrowding though, the story mixes action with tactics in an entertaining way, and manages to teach even the dumbest of comic book reviewers a little bit about Russian history. Oh no! Comic books are trying to educate us now?!

Batman & Robin #12
Peter Tomasi and Mick Gray
Despite a somewhat boring villain, there are still some neat moments in this 12th-issue wrapup from Tomasi. Batman and Robin are fighting a villain with a countdown clock on his chest, and it’s a fight issue. You’ll see the twist regarding the countdown from a mile away, and the ending is a bit rushed. The highlights actually come from a guest-starring Nightwing, who has been a bit of an unsung star of the New 52 so far. Tomasi gives Nightwing all the best characterisation here, and also Batman climbs into a robot suit halfway through. So, there’s that.

Friday, 10 August 2012

This Week: Black Panther, Mobsters, Doop and Hepzibah

What have I been up to this week, loves?

I wrote about the break-up of Black Panther and Storm, and got shouted at a lot in the comments

Reviewed Joshua Williamson's Masks and Mobsters comic from Monkeybrain

Doop Alert!!

Hepzibah Alert!!!

Teamed up with Paul Brian McCoy to cautiously delve into Howard Chaykin's Black Kiss II

Took a look at all the new Marvel NOWWWWW titles coming out in November and made up a fake teaser for Pixie Strikes Back II

Pondered about Marvel playing trades with their film rights

And came SO close to pushing Simon Spurrier into writing an ongoing Pixie series, you guys

Monday, 6 August 2012

REVIEWS: Rotworld, X-Men, Green Lantern, Shade, Batwing, MORE!

Insane-o Review Extravaganza!!

Okay! Mondays are now going to be Review Day, and that’s the last I’ll hear on the matter until I forget to make Monday Review Day and at that point feel free to hurl abuse at me like the French hurled boiling oil on anybody who’d ever attempt to lay siege to one of their castles. I’ve got a MEGA backlog here, so let’s get through them at some kind of pace shall we?

The Shade #10
James Robinson and Frazer Irving
So here we are, living in a World where James Robinson is able to complete his 12-issue Shade miniseries. What a great world we live in. This issue, part 10 of the story, sees Shade tied to a chair, powers muted by Egyptian Gods and being subjected to lectures by a white-haired ponce. This is great fun, with Shade’s put-upon retorts making up most of the best moments of the issue. There’s an initial worry that Irving is doing a series of splash pages, instead of a comic, but this quickly gets quelled as the story opens up a little. Shade’s escape plan is perhaps a little bit too obvious by half, but there’s something really enjoyable about watching somebody smart defeat a group of idiots.

The First X-Men #1
Christos Gage and Neal Adams
Adams provided the plot for this, which explains a lot of the problems with the book. Essentially going back into history to rewrite it, this mini decides that Charles Xavier was not the first to set up a group of X-Men – Wolverine was. Which, that means Xavier’s legacy is now completely destroyed, and his character lost. The previous stories featuring him revealed that he was a jerk and a coward, and now we see that continued alongside the new idea that he didn’t even bother creating the X-Men. At this point, Xavier is ruined.
The book isn’t very good, either, with jump-cuts, plot holes, and mischaracterisation (at one point serial rapist Sabretooth claims that he isn’t interested in jailbait, for example). Adams’ art is what it is – if you like his work, you’ll enjoy this. If you find teeth distracting, you’ll be put off. Gage does his best, but the premise is garbage and the book was never going to work.

Green Lantern #11
Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke
This book really didn’t pay any attention to the New 52 reboot whatsoever, offering a continuity-heavy, faintly impenetrable story for readers. I’m fairly aware of what’s been going on, so could just about wade through. Sinestro and Hal Jordan and currently co-lanterns, working together to try and prevent the upcoming crossover ‘The Third Army’ storyline from happening, and still bickering all the time. Johns’ dialogue can sometimes come across as too annoying, but he strikes a reasonable balance here and keeps things somewhat more bearable. Hal Jordan is still pretty unlikeable, but at least Sinestro calls him on it nowadays. Here we see Black Hand come back as a threat, although Johns now seems to be treating him more as a dark comedy character, which takes away any idea that he might be a thread. This is still a pretty uneven title, with strong points and weak points which tend to mix between each other. Mahnke’s art is still lovely, and colourists Tony Avina and Alex Sinclair do great work. This is the most prominent job for colourists in the industry, and they acquit themselves well.

Blue Beetle #11
Tony Bedard and IG Guara
Here we have an issue which collapses at the end. It’s fairly fascinating as a study of how not to do a tie-in, because the book completely loses the reader after first offering a very strong start. Booster Gold comes for a chat with Blue Beetle this issue, which quickly turns into a fight as you’d expect. Then, however, the fight gets broken up and the reader is told “see where this is going in Justice League International Annual!”
We are literally told that the story we’ve been following is a red herring, and will actually be given to us in a different comic, of a different series. It’s an absolutely excruciating marketing decision, and undermines/destroys the good faith readers had in the issue. We then cut to a last page which has no bearing to anything that happened before, as we see who the ACTUAL issue #12 villain is going to be.
It’s such an incredible misstep that I can’t believe DC allowed it to be published. It’s terrible!

X-Factor #241
Peter David and Leonard Kirk
The much hyped (by X-Factor standards) ‘Breaking Point’ storyline begins with this issue, as Peter David decides to bring together as many of his plots as possible and smash them into one another. This means some of the more enjoyable stories – Madrox and Havok’s douche-off for leadership, Siryn’s father issues – have to mix up with the godawful Strong Guy/Monet relationship. The issue powers through that, though, with another strong piece which suggests the book is truly starting to shrug off the pacing and plotting issues it’s had for the past two years or so. Siryn’s single page is by far the most engaging piece of this story, but hopefully Strong Guy’s defection from the team will finally lead us into endgame for the character, and he’ll be killed off soon. He drags this book down so much, you guys.

Animal Man/Swamp Thing#12
Jeff Lemire, Scott Snyder, Steve Pugh, Marco Rudy.
So the big crossover finally comes together for these two books, which slow-burnt their way into early cult-favourite status but then proved to have no momentum whatsoever, and killed off much of the critical acclaim. This book shows the strengths and weaknesses of the story, as nothing happens – but the story is utterly polished, totally professional. Lemire and Snyder know these two heroes completely, but they simply haven’t woven this story into something big enough to hold interest. There are token subplots but it looks like the next six or so issues are going to go nowhere, before we reconvene for the big finale in a few months’ time. These books had a lot of potential, but the story plods along with no grace, and bores. This is why I don’t like long-form arcs.

Astonishing X-Men
Marjorie Liu, Mike Perkins, Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Once Walta takes over art duties, the current storyline immediately transforms into something superior and investing. A rewind issue which explores Karma’s past few weeks as a brainwash-victim, Liu manages to finally nail down some characterisation without it seeming treacly. Her pacing for this arc has been an utter disaster from start to finish – this issue ends with the exact same cliffhanger as the last issue – but here she thrives. Given a single story to tell chronologically, she weaves together past continuity beautifully, and Walta’s art perfectly complements her choices for Karma. It’s a great issue sandwiched midway through a fairly awful arc.

Batwing #12
Judd Winick and Marcus To
Wrapping up the first year of stories for Africa’s Batman, this is a fight scene issue. Batwing and the Justice League International work to try and defeat the amazingly named villain LORD BATTLE. They fight, Marcus To’s art plays well to the battle, and this issue is fine. It’s standard comics-making, rather than exceptional work. There are some neat ideas, including the end, but there’s nothing here to really distinguish Batwing from any other hero. He doesn’t really seem to show any of the initiative you’d expect from a member of Batman, Inc, but at least his armour looks cool. A solid title, if not yet aspiring for more.