Welcome to Bullet Reviews #100! Normally I list the books we cover but we have a LOT of them this week so I’ll just say Thank You to everyone who has both followed and contributed to column. Bullet Reviews wouldn’t be what it is without each and every one of you!
Alright, now let’s get to comics starting with still more reaction to Age Of Ultron #2:
AGE OF ULTRON #2 (Marvel NOW!)
If I were going into Age of Ultron expecting supreme comic book art, I would have been kidding myself. This was always going to be Bryan Hitch slumming it, and doing so willingly. His drawings are sloppier, with characters having fish-lips or depicted with bored expressions (a guy who is supposed to be scared of Black Widow’s mangled face just calmly scratches his cheek). But can you blame him? It’s an easy paycheck. Why should he try?
It’s not like Brian Bendis is working hard, with a script almost exactly the same as the last one (last issue ended with Cap sitting in a corner; this one ends when he stands up; next time, he will order a pizza). If Bendis isn’t writing super-people whining in a sewer about how the robots have taken over and humanity sucks while people are gunned down in the streets, he’s having the heroes shooting drug-addicted sex slaves (Hawkeye, last issue) or chastising office workers for not murdering in cold blood (Black Widow, this issue). Such contempt for the working class and the poor is so pronounced, so in favor of Marvel’s ever-elite IP, one could call it cryptofascist. Then again, that accusation gives Age of Ultron more credit than it deserves.
Even phoned in, Hitch still draws a great two page sequence of Peter Parker waking up to the world ending. The panels start on Parker’s life (unwashed dishes, sleeping on the couch, etc.), progressing until he is dwarfed by Ultron’s machines. It’s a postmodern, Kirby-style apocalypse, which Parker the Everyman slept through until it was outside his window. There’s the bonus of those pages not including any dialogue, though I’m sure Bendis is kicking himself for not writing another “Ow! My ass!” -Andrew Taylor
Age of Ultron Book Two is about as worthless as Book One. We get a whole lot of nothing. For someone who has blown me away with All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men, Brian Michael Bendis sure has shit the bed with Age of Ultron. Book Two continues the concept of nothing happening. These covers look super bad ass with Moon Knight and Black Widow beating some Ultron ass but none of that happens in the book! So far they have just been in hiding! Parker outed his identity and we all remember the last time he did that and how that got retconned with that awful Brand New Day. I guess we will find out what exactly happened to Parker in Superior Spider-Man #8 because how do you just wake up and Age of Ultron happened while you were sleeping? The end of the book is supposed to make you cry out in joy: There is Hope! But I just didn’t care. They have yet to show me why I should care that Ultron is so scary. That is what I want Bendis. I want to see the Marvel Universe vs. Ultron. For that matter where is Pym in all of this? I would just wait for my book 3 review and skip the first two. -Nick Furious
I have to admit, this story is falling apart faster than it’s getting set up. While this issue shows more of the scope of Ultron’s attack it doesn’t really do much to solidify any reasons why we, the readers, should care. The way these issues are being presented I think hurts it. It might be because I’m not a fan of Hitch’s art but with more panels without dialogue it makes the issue go faster thus making the book feel shorter. I’m thinking that a better way to present this would have been double-sized issue, sort of the length of Marvel Annuals, and put two issues together which would have shortened the run time of this story by half.
But, enough of the low points of this issue, how does it compare to the first issue? Well, it continues the story. That’s about all I can say, really. There still isn’t enough here to tell me if this is a good story or not. It doesn’t fit in continuity anywhere and there really is a problem with how Spider-Man is portrayed here. He seems to be Peter Parker and not Otto Octavious. Does that mean this takes place AFTER the current events of Superior Spider-Man? It’s impossible to say. I’ll stick around for one more issue, after being disappointed in Fear Itself and not having any interest in AvX I really would like to have a Marvel event that I can get behind. So far it doesn’t seem as if this is going to be it. -Skott Jimenez
47 RONIN #3 (Dark Horse)
Not nearly as compelling as Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo, but not because of its subject matter. The 47 Ronin tale is one of Japan’s most famous, involving loyal samurai avenging their disgraced and executed master with a plan that takes years and ends in their own ritual suicide. It’s a story not only about feudal Japan’s code, the Bushido, but also presents a unique question to its central premise of “honor” (the samurai pretend to dishonor themselves by becoming mercenaries, drunks, and vagabonds, in order for their plan to succeed). Over and over in the comic, the samurai are presented with the challenge of how best to follow the code: when the shogun sends soldiers to claim their (now dead) master’s home and possessions, custom dictates they fight, even if doing so is treasonous. Yet, not fighting (the patriotic move) would make them pariahs. This cognitive dissonance results in one samurai gutting himself to maintain his honor.
So, the problem with 47 Ronin the comic book isn’t the plot. Nor is it Sakai’s sharply inked artwork, which shows his solid grasp of craft and emotion (his vistas of castles and farmland marking the passing of seasons are gorgeous). The problem lies with Mike Richardson’s script. Rather than informing through action (Sakai’s specialty), Richardson opts to explain every facet of the era through stiff, formal exposition. He might as well have everyone, including main character Oishi, walk onto a scene saying “Hello, I am a Person, I am going to explain something to you now,” for all that personality they lack. Rather than bring humanity back to history, 47 Ronin favors the social fabric which did in its protagonists. -Andrew Taylor
ALL-NEW X-MEN #8 (Marvel NOW!)
I don’t care how long you have been reading comics, how many issues you owned, The Original X-Men really weren’t fully developed. The characters really didn’t find who they were until they started growing up a bit and really facing some serious shit. Now if you go read X-Men:Season One you can see a bit of the character traits and quirks that they have established over the years from a much younger age, but for the most part most dialog between the character was remarkably similar. Enter All-New X-Men. A chance to show why the five original X-Men really are the best of the bunch. How no one has made a movie about the original five is beyond me. These kids are all still green, but they are getting a glimpse at how horrible things are going to be. The horrendous things that are looming in the future. How would it feel to know that things never got better? They just got a lot worse. Worse than you ever even thought possible. In issue #8 we find that Angel is still against being in the future. Young Warren knows something really bad happened to him and no one wants to talk about it. That is some scary shit! Each past X-Men member is already starting to show signs of becoming their future selves. This is not what Beast had in mind when he brought them here but goddammit I’m glad he did. It has been wildly entertaining and it feels really good to see the original X-Men back where they belong. -Nick Furious
ALPHA: BIG TIME #2 (Marvel NOW!)
This comic works so much better if you set your phasers to sarcastic. Even the quiet, dramatic moments, like Alpha talking with his grandma (who seems more masculine than him) or his apology to a mugger he nearly killed could at best be partially sincere, since there’s a lot of shifting the blame going on. It’s not as good a use of sarcasm as Hawkeye, where characters trade barbs to cover up their own insecurities, but it is refreshing after a shot of Brian Bendis’ self-pitying Übermensches from Age of Ultron to have snide characters we’re not meant to like.
Part of the appeal comes down to Nuno Plati’s artwork. His Alpha looks aloof and smug, eyes perpetually half-shut and hair ridiculously coiffed, Peter Panzerfaust-style. It actually becomes fun when his ego gets undercut by a doctor, a punk chick, and a firefighter. Even when Plati flubs–Alpha is told to get dressed for school when he’s clearly dressed; there’s a slightly unclear fight scene with a giant monster–he’ll quickly recover with a time elapsing sequence worth a chuckle or two. This isn’t a comic that is better than the sum of its parts, just good at being silly and disposable. -Andrew Taylor
AVENGERS #7 (Marvel NOW!)
Avengers finally went back to being Avengers…sort of. Tony Stark continues to be the face of Marvel Now! even with the Avengers. I can not believe they didn’t make him part of Uncanny Avengers. This pleases me, but they threw in Thor, Cap and Wolverine, all they were missing was Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Hulk to have the big six. As the white event continues, it seems to have hit a point that I care about. Some random dude is about to get enough power to defend the Universe. A new Captain Universe? This guy is an enormous pussy who serves burgers at a university. I am thinking more along the lines of this kid being a bad guy. Or starts off being a bad guy only to be redeemed a good guy. The most clever part of this issue? The flashes to random scenes with very “dull” dialog. Scenes portraying life problems, life issues that are easily dealt with. But that wasn’t what we were supposed to see. We were supposed to see a little guy on the sidelines in all of those panels. Someone people don’t even bother to say Thank You too. This is the guy who is going to get all the power to defend the universe from the incoming horrors. Congrats Marvel, I didn’t regret buying this issue. In fact, I was rather pleased. Welcome back Hickman. Welcome back. -Nick Furious
AVENGERS ARENA #6 (Marvel NOW!)
While we are still learning who these kids were before this series started, Arcade is getting a little impatient in waiting for something to happen. He offers them some supplies which forces the different groups of teens to figure out the best way to gain the prize, and some to wonder if it’s even worth it. He also seems to know how to set certain people off, like X-23. As all this is going, we are really getting some character development in the ‘now’ of the story and some of these characters are really beginning to flesh out nicely. I am looking forward to seeing where this series goes from here.
However… there was no, I repeat NO Darkhawk in this issue. Not a major thing because I’ve already decided that I’m dropping this series in favor of grabbing the trade from here on in. By no means does this reflect poorly on the series, no. It’s one of the more unique books Marvel is publishing and actually has the tone of the books Marvel USED to do so it’s certainly a book I can, and will, recommend to anyone who will listen. My decision to switch to trade is more from cost and need. I want to continue to follow this series but I don’t have the funds to grab it on a monthly basis. While I enjoy the heck out of it, it doesn’t have the status on my pull list to keep it going. I’ll show my support for this series in buying the trades.
For those of you who haven’t picked this up yet, the first trade will be available soon and I honestly do recommend it. The concept is out there but for some reason it works really good! -Skott Jimenez
CRIMINAL MACABRE/30 DAYS OF NIGHT: FINAL NIGHT #3 (IDW)
This crossover of 30 Days of Night and Criminal Macabre ratchets it up a notch in issue #3 of Final Night. Steve Niles doesn’t hold back during this issue. There is one big surprise in the issue, so I will keep this spoiler free of that big surprise. In this issue we finally get to see our harden and beat down hero, Cal McDonald, face Eben, the leader of the vampires. Eben can tell Cal is not going to be a challenge at all. Before all of this occurs the vampires lead a gang style assault on the ghouls of L.A. These pages and panels are done very well. You get the sense this is war between these two rival supernatural gangs. The ghouls seem like they have the upper hand at first but then the tides change. Also in this issue we see more of Mo’lock becoming a central figure. He always is by Cal’s side but this time he brings out his demons and takes it out on some vampires. These vampires don’t last long versus a pissed off ghoul. From the looks of it the vampires really underestimated the pain this ghoul can wield. All in all, this issue is done very well and sets us up for the final issue, because it can’t end how this issue ends. We need to see it truly end. And as Steve Niles said this would be the end of one of these franchises. So will it be the end of the vampires or our favorite drug slinging private eye Cal McDonald. Whichever series goes down, I’m sure it will be a bloody conclusion. Til next time, you freaks and ghouls. -Tony Calandra
FANTASTIC FOUR #5 (Marvel NOW!)
As Matt Fraction continues the adventures of Earth’s Mightiest Family, we find ourselves visiting Caesar. But not the Caesar from the history books. A very different Caesar. I won’t spoil it for you but I would say that Fraction just found a way to make a slightly historical time travel title riveting and entertaining on a whole new level. Just because historical events happened doesn’t mean they happened the way we think. All that matters is that, overall, the moment that was recorded in history is correct. Whatever happened to make that event correct is irrelevant. Think Marty saving his skeevy pervert Dad from getting hit by the car. All that mattered was that his mom and dad went to the dance together and fell in love. Didn’t matter how. Fraction plays with history and has fun doing it. Issue four was absolutely stunning and sweet, while this issue was dashing, heroic, and obtuse. Mark Bagley continues to make the artwork perfect for this book as his historical artwork definitely stands high and tall among even the most glorious action sequences. I will keep reading Fantastic Four as should you. -Nick Furious
FIVE WEAPONS #1 (Image)
Kids with pointy sticks. What could possibly go wrong? Well not that much apparently. As much as I think Jimmie Robinson’s previous series, Bomb Queen, is utter rubbish, there’s not all that much to fault here. It’s cute and deadly in equal measure with enough intrigue to keep you hooked for the following four installments.
Five Weapons #1 introduces us to Tyler Shainline, son of the world’s two most deadly assassins. Unlike his parents, Tyler is a pacifist and this raises a few problems as he attends a school of deadly wannabe assassins. But not to worry – Tyler is blessed with a superhuman intellect… which is never really demonstrated.Then again we can’t really expect Jimmie Robinson to write an intelligent character well.Let’s be honest: if Bomb Queen taught us anything it’s that Jimmie Robinson isn’t all that clever. If you think this is harsh just read some of the pedophilia jokes in Bomb Queen.
This character flaw aside, Five Weapons #1 is a pretty decent comic. Robinson’s art really shines here and he seems to have quite the knack for drawing expressive pre-teen faces. Throw in the fact that it’s playful and fast paced and you’ve got yourself an entertaining read. -Christof Bogacs
IRON MAN #7 (Marvel NOW!)
Yes Iron Man. A book I don’t normally follow and would generally have no interest in is being reviewed by me. But it isn’t because I think the character is suddenly cool or I’ve opened my eyes to the magic of the series. No, I’m getting this only because of the appearance of a character I’ve loved for years.
Okay, so the story is apparently Tony Stark as been imprisoned on an alien world and is being put on trial because of his part in destroying the Phoenix back during the AvX story. This world drew much of what it is from the Phoenix Force and they hold Tony responsible for its destruction. With the help of a rogue Rigellian Recorder, Tony invokes an ancient rite in hopes of allowing the Recorder time to get his armor and help him escape. The rite is basically trial by combat. For each of the charges Tony faces he can fight a representative of the people and if he defeats them then he is found innocent of those charges. It’s in Tony’s advantage for a while because these people aren’t warriors. However, one of them knows how to possibly stop Tony and that’s by hiring someone to stop him. The person hired is Marvel’s resident Freelance Peacekeeping Agent… that’s right: Death’s Head!
So, yeah, I picked this issue up because Death’s Head appears on the final page. I can’t help it, I love the guy and any chance to see him I’ll take. He’s also on the cover of the next issue so expect to see that covered here.
As for this story, well, I don’t follow Iron Man but the story is interesting and the best part was I could follow it without feeling lost. No doubt because Kieron Gillen is writing it. The… art is by Greg Land, not one of my favorite artists for specific reasons. -Skott Jimenez
KILL SHAKESPEARE: TIDE OF BLOOD #1 (IDW)
I really don’t understand the appeal to this series. It may be because I didn’t read the original Kill Shakespeare series (and let’s be honest that’s probably the main reason), but Kill Shakespeare: Tide of blood #1 was confusing, convoluted and thought it was a lot cleverer than it actually is. The story is really just a glorified fantasy mash-up of some of Shakespeare’s most popular characters that fails to do justice to any of them.
Othello, Hamlet, and Romeo and Juliet all take centre stage as Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery turn them into vanilla action heroes. The dialogue is just plain stupid as it mainly involves Del Col and McCreery trying to mimic a Shakespearean writing style without actually knowing the first thing about it. It would surprise me if neither of these two has actually read Shakespeare in any depth.
That said the art is pretty. Really pretty, but it doesn’t cover up the fact that this book is over-hyped and overrated. -Christof Bogacs
MARS ATTACKS #8 (IDW)
This is one of those issues that gets into the fact that not all the Martians are against the human race. There are some who think the humans don’t need to be destroyed. The story this month focuses on Blyx, a Martian who has seen the good in humanity and questions the wisdom behind killing them all. He even works with a human, Ray Delvechio who is only out to save his own skin, and tries to show the other Martians that the human race isn’t all evil. But what he doesn’t know is Ray is simply trying to keep gangster hitmen from killing him and staying alive is more important than his fellow man. He manages to stop the hitmen and even turns over the man who created the only weapon that has had any impact on the Martians but it all goes for naught when the scientist he betrays turns the tables on him at the last-minute.
I have to admit that I’m a little concerned with this series, though. It seems to have lost some steam and the ‘Attacks’ part of the title seems to have been forgotten. I totally understand the need for character development and fully setting this story in its new world but it would be nice to have more chaos and carnage. You know what I would really like? An issue written or drawn by Keith Giffen. I’d love to see an issue drawn in the style Giffen was using back in his Lobo days. Overall, though, the book is still very fun, I just think a little more action would be nice. Also… that cover is very unsettling! -Skott Jimenez
MEGA MAN #23 (Archie Comics)
Heading into a crossover with Sonic the Hedgehog promises to derail this comic, but Ian Flynn and Ryan Jampole give it a nice send off before that happens. Mega Man is celebrating his birthday (both in-universe and the character’s 25th anniversary), which is given the holiday treatment of parades and a press conference with the gloryhound mayor. Of course there’s a fight scene–Dr. Wily sending Proto Man to spoil the fun–which is drawn well by Jampole, though I do miss Ben Barnes’ penchant for mimicking screenshots from the old NES games. The more interesting part is the actual conference, where Flynn conflates the hero-worship of Mega Man to consumerism (three Robot Masters decide to buy him a gift card) and politics (the mayor insinuating Mega Man endorses him for re-election). The payoff to this joke is the renaming of the town into Mega City (probably not a Judge Dredd reference, but a guy can dream, can’t he? Can’t he?), the ultimate display of shady business types pandering to the masses through something beloved by children. This extends to subtle touches in Jampole’s artwork: a Mega Man T-shirt worn by a child and a billboard where the hero (ever naive) sells an energy drink. It’s not exactly a political statement, but sly and subversive for an Archie comic. -Andrew Taylor
NEW AVENGERS #3 (Marvel NOW!)
Perhaps the biggest irritation in the Marvel Universe comes from every character partaking in so many stories due to appearing in multiple titles. You have to really grab onto the concept that one event is just that dire at that moment and these people can only assemble (insert certain members) at this time. The world is always on the verge of being destroyed in the Marvel Universe. That is just how it is. But why do the Uncanny Avengers stop Red Skull? Why isn’t that an Avenger thing? Strength in numbers? Or an X-Men thing since it was a man looking to kill all mutants. Now we have New Avengers which is basically the new Illuminati book. Well, of course minus Xavier, but add Beast as his replacement. Steve Epting does a phenomenal job of drawing Beast as he looks awesome. Some artists just can’t draw Beast but Epting has what it takes. New Avengers takes on the serious issues that are labeled “tough choices” such as destroying a world to save your own. A father would do it. A leader of a great nation would do it. A king of the ocean would do it. But the world’s greatest hero of all time? Not on his watch. And just like that tension has hit as Captain America is an Illuminati member no more. How convenient…just when Black Bolt had returned. Overall, New Avengers is not only solid writing by Hickman, the artwork is great and the plot isn’t brand new, but the concept of doing the right thing when billions of people are going to die in exchange of saving ourselves. What would you do? These are the kinds of things they face. That is what makes this title so good. -Nick Furious
TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE #89 (IDW)
I know I should be more concerned with what’s happening on Earth with Prime hoping to help the humans rebuild and the whole thing with Starscream and Galvatron on the Ark and the remains of Shockwave being connected to said Ark, but the happenings on Cybertron are just too interesting!
Hot Rod ends his search for Primus and finds some artifacts that may help him in his leadership role on Cybertron. What he finds, as he runs from some feral Cybertronians, is the Sword of Primus and the Covenant of Primus. One is a weapon and the other is wisdom. He chooses answers and learns who and what the things chasing him are as he sees into the distant past of Cybertron.
While that is going on, Scorponok is furthering his plans to remake all the Transformers in his image. There appears to be pieces falling out of his plan though as some are beginning to question the ends. But that is the least of his worries as Grimlock has located his fellow Dinobots and tries to reason with them. They still hold a grudge over his ‘betrayal’ and it’s going to take a lot, I think, to make them see he actually has a plan this time.
For a series that’s picking up where it left off years ago, this has got to be the most fun I’ve had reading a Transformers book in a long time and I didn’t think anything could top what IDW had done up to All Hail Megatron! Transformers Fans: This is the book you need to be reading! -Skott Jimenez
UNCANNY SKULLKICKERS #1/SKULLKICKERS #19 (Image)
Jim Zub has always been a cheeky Bastard but in SkullKicker’s #19, or should I say The Uncanny SkullKickers #1, any attempts at being subtle about it are as dead as Shorty. The name alone is a hilarious poke at Marvel’s current obsession with adjectives and renumbering and what takes place in its pages is nothing short of fun and energetic. Right from the first page, The Uncanny SkullKickers #1 reminds you why it’s one of the most entertaining books on comic shop shelves.
Talking swords, angry snapping turtles and a fun-times jungle montage: what more could you want in a comic? Well, better story pacing and better dialogue flow would be a start, but – heh – nobody’s perfect.
So while it’s not the most polished or technically brilliant comic on the shelves, the Uncanny SkullKickers #1 is bloody entertaining. In a market flooded with some truly shitty comics, most with a Marvel NOW! label stamped all over them, that’s more than enough to keep me coming back for more. -Christof Bogacs
UNCANNY X-MEN #3 (Marvel NOW!)
Did the Revolution X-Men just school the Avengers!? Not just the Avengers but the A-List Avengers!? Yup that just happened. Uncanny X-Men continues to have plot twists and turns that aren’t brilliant by any means but will definitely have repercussions in the very near future. But I’m gonna talk about the cover for just a minute. The cover for Uncanny X-Men #3 is awesome. One of the best Marvel Now! covers, maybe even the best cover thus far. The whole black and white with shades of other colors works so well for this book, especially for this cover which Bachalo and Townsend make Magneto seem mischievous and cunning all at once. Cyclops and Magneto finally have the “who is the real leader here” talk after the traitor is outed. Rather than seeing a great fight between the two, they come to resolution quickly, but I can see that won’t last long. Remember that bitter rivalry between Logan and Scott…look how that turned out. Cyclops wound up killing Xavier. Who knows what will happen this time around. The issue ended with Cyclops going to do some recruiting at the Jean Grey School. This next issue better be good, it practically writes itself. All I ask is that you not forget that these people looked to Cyclops for leadership for YEARS! They have known him for most of their lives. Even though he has lost his mind they wouldn’t just give up on him. Uncanny X-Men continues to win gold stars even with the character issues I have. I’m a tough sell but I’m still buyin’. That is a good sign, X-Men fans. -Nick Furious
THE WALKING DEAD #108 (Image/Skybound)
And things just keep getting more and more interesting. This issue gives us the introduction of Ezekiel and his ‘realm’ which he calls The Kingdom. He has fashioned himself as a king and seems to be a basically good guy despite his obvious delusions of grandeur. But Jesus, who has become part of our group, knows and vouches for him so all things considered, I suppose he’s a good guy. Bottom line is he seems to be tired of Negan and wants him and his Saviors out of the way and that puts him and Rick on the same page. Then there’s Dwight, one of Negan’s men, a guy who had half his face melted off and his wife taken (both by Negan) and seems to be willing to do anything to take the maniac Negan out. Only thing is, Rick knows what he’s capable of and knows what he’s done under Negan’s leadership and is having a very difficult time trusting him.
Which brings me to something I’ve noticed lately: Rick is getting more… ‘feral.’ He’s more willing to lash out than listen to reason which may cause him more problems in the obvious coming confrontation with Negan. Of course, I have to wonder if once Negan is out of the way if Ezekiel will be more of a friend or if he has desires to take Negan’s place at the top of the food chain. Regardless, this series is entering both its tenth year in publication AND a very interesting era. I have a feeling that by time this story is over we will have lost more longtime characters and others will step up to fill the gaps left behind. I can’t wait! -Skott Jimenez
And there you go, a huge offering for you in hopes that you can fill out a small week or, even better, check out a new series based on our humble opinions. Naturally, I invite you all to fire back and let us know what you think below in our comments section. See you next week!