Here we go with yet another round of Bullet Reviews! This week: Age Of Ultron #4, Dial H #11, Fairest #14, Godzilla: The Half-Century War #5, Phantom Stranger #6, Spawn #230, Superior Spider-Man #7, and Thanos Rising #1!
AGE OF ULTRON #4 (Marvel NOW!)
This series is rather interesting and not in a good way. We have a start so slow that it makes watching paint dry seem exciting. It doesn’t fit into any current continuity because the bulk of Marvel’s titles don’t even acknowledge it. The art just isn’t exciting. The list goes on.
When it does have something interesting like the Vision reveal in #3 there is almost nothing built on it. The only follow-up we get here is Utron is controlling things from ‘the future’ which is very anti-climatic. Honestly this is all I can say about it. There is nothing here that is interesting or exciting, nothing keeping my interest but I’ll try to grab the fifth issue, maybe, but if I do that might be it for me and this ‘event’ which means I haven’t been able to stick with a Marvel event since… Siege? But, honestly, there just isn’t anything here for talking about and even less to be excited about. Which makes me sad. -Skott Jimenez
DIAL H #11 (DC)
I can’t help but think China Miéville wrote this issue with David Lapham in mind. Lapham’s tacky sense of humor helped make Dial H #6 the series’ best issue so far, and in many ways this issue mirrors that one. Alberto Ponticelli is an artist who is no less gross than Lapham, which is appropriate to a scene where Nelson wakes up next to his elderly friend/mentor Roxie (the two of them having had sex while “dialed” into superhero personas last issue). Miéville pays off the scene Lapham drew where Nelson ogles Roxie while she’s a hero with a more sexual identity. Now, he’s horrified at the collision of fantasy with reality (“You…wrinkled old…”). That he then uses the dial–transforming into the Flash–is emblematic of the superhero’s arrested development.
Where Ponticelli falls short is his application. Everything he draws is hideous, whether it’s the lead characters, the violent Centipede, or even the Flash. This goes beyond Ponticelli’s wrinkly line work, as a number of his scenes show a misunderstanding of spatial relation (the Flash, for example, is introduced in a panel where he and the room he’s in don’t seem to exist in the same universe, based on the perspective. This is to say nothing of the Liefeldian anatomy on display). Where Lapham would use the grotesque as punctuation to a scene (as in The Ride: Southern Gothic), Ponticelli uses it habitually, which undermines Miéville’s sympathetic portrayal of Nelson and Roxie’s awkwardness. A bit of a wash. -Andrew Taylor
FAIREST #14 (Vertigo)
This is a stand-alone issue featuring Reynard Fox and Princess Alder, one of Geppetto’s creations essentially a tree in human form. This issue also features a long-overdue appearance by both Peter Piper and is wife Bo Peep.
It’s a story about love and dating. Alder wants to be with someone and tells Bo about the total disaster that is her dating life. We learn that you should never give flowers to a woman who is a tree and never assume that she will have sex with you. The sex thing threw me off for a second but the explanation is there and I won’t spoil it. She tells Bo and Reynard about how the Fable men just aren’t right for her and Reynard makes a shocking suggestion: Why not try him? It’s known that he can turn into a human when he wants.
From here we have more than a few entertaining moments from Alder getting ready, including Bo’s suggestion that she start wearing clothes, to Peter helping Reynard. The date itself is an interesting moment and becomes a disaster when Reynard insists on tasting Alder’s favorite meal which happens to be manure, she is a tree don’t forget, and ends in a totally disastrous good-night kiss.
While the main story was more than entertaining and worthy of Fables, the more interesting parts for me was seeing Peter and B0. They clearly don’t get enough of the spotlight and I hope this is just the beginning of their activities on the Fables-verse.
I would be remiss to not mention yet another amazing cover. This one was the background on my phone for a while. Absolutely stunning! -Skott Jimenez
GODZILLA: THE HALF-CENTURY WAR #5 (IDW)
It seemed like it took a full century for this final issue to come out! We end the story as we see Murakami near the end of his life. He’s spent his entire adult life trying to stop and kill Godzilla and now he seems to have found a weapon to allow him to do it. So he basically steals MechaGodzilla, built to defend Earth against the two space monsters King Ghidorah and Gigan. But the weapon of choice to actually get rid of them, Dimension Tide, shoots them with a miniaturized black hole and is the absolute last line of defense for the Earth. The mission is to put the monsters in the machines line of fire.
So, with the arrival of the space monsters AND Godzilla, we get this final part underway and have one of the more exciting monster fights ever in comics. Even the moment we think Godzilla understands the situation is amazing. But, in the end, all the monsters are in place and Murakami finally achieves his mission and defeats Godzilla in a moment that I will long remember.
This whole series is one to remember, actually. It certainly ranks as one of my all-time favorite Godzilla stories in both writing and art. IDW can bring James Stokoe back for another Godzilla story any time! -Skott Jimenez
PHANTOM STRANGER #6 (DC)
OK, I was gonna pass on this book before. I really was. But, since the Phantom Stranger is gonna be a key element of the upcoming Trinity War, I had to give it a shot and I picked up the first 6 issues (plus #0). Now, while I cannot say that this is a great series, it is growing on me. I did not know the Stranger well from the previous DCU, so was not wanting to get into this book, partly because there was way too much mysticism in the New 52 and I didn’t like much of it. But this book… First, it actually has the plot written by J.M. DeMatteis, known for… well, lots of things. I know him best from classic Justice League International, where he had some humor, but he also did Marvel’s “Kraven’s Last Hunt” in the Spider-Man titles in the late 80s and that is one of my favorite stories ever. Although his humor is more subtle here, it’s still there (so I am guessing the slapstick moments from JLI were more from Giffen). I mean, the Stranger sits down to play poker – Hades Hold ‘Em – with the sons of Trigon. Yes, Trigon – the father of Raven, who is now appearing in Teen Titans but who first showed within the New 52 in the pages of this book. This book has also brought the Question into the New 52 as another one of the “Trinity” – and readers of many DC titles from the relaunch have seen the third – Pandora – already make an appearance. Yes, this is tying into one of those epic Claremont-style stories that are missing these days and is turning into one of the most enjoyable books from DC right now due to intrigue as well as fantastic writing from DeMatteis. -Kelly Cassidy
SPAWN #230 (Image)
A lot of this comic is so disjointed, with individual pages that don’t quite work. Szymon Kudranski isn’t an artist falls short on the more straightforward talking panels, due to his plastic, unemotive faces. This being a Spawn comic, there’s a lot of talking panels, usually about Heaven, Hell, and sinister plottings related to such, but TV news report scenes aren’t out of the question either! And Todd McFarlane’s re-creation of chat-speak (a subplot where three nerds theorize about current Spawn Jim Downing) could charitably be described as bad. Muscling through this, though, it’s just a great comic. Kudranski uses distorted inset panels (as with his depiction of suicide) and mixed media (one character markers in the Spawn costume over Downing’s picture), keeping the reader disoriented, like Dave McKean doing anime.When the Clown gets an underling to possess a dead person, the scene has this oily menace to it, which takes on a tragic/ironic dimension when that character has a tender, romantic moment with another in the next scene. Keenly, Kudranski has the light shining so brightly on these two they become shadows.
This scene also illustrates how McFarlane’s narrative from day one, despite all that excessive talking and bits of superhero fantasy, has really been an allegory for how war damages people. Angels and demons exist in perma-Cold War, treating the planet as their own personal chess match. People, in this universe, aren’t rewarded or punished for being “good” or “evil,” only played and manipulated by cold, indifferent forces. Before, this was shown with Al Simmons (veteran-turned-CIA-operative) living on the streets amongst the mentally ill and the hopeless. Now it’s Downing suffering memory loss and shellshock, while the people around him suffer just as much. -Andrew Taylor
SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #7 (Marvel NOW!)
Cardiac is back and he’s… um…. back. Honestly I forgot about this guy, I do have a few issues of Amazing Spider-Man he appeared in but that was about it. He’s not a villain…he’s really a good guy using his powers to help others but doing it in a very illegal way. This brings him to the attention of the Superior Spider-Man who nearly kills him but is stopped when the ‘spirit’ (if that’s what it is) of Peter Parker screams loud enough for Otto to apparently hear him. The confrontation ends with Peter forcing Otto to pull a punch, sort of. So now Otto is beginning to wonder what’s wrong and he’s probably going to figure out that Peter is still around but first he’s got a bigger problem: The Avengers have been keeping an eye on him and they find his recent actions to be not very becoming of an Avenger and they want answers.
This could very well be the beginning of the end for Spider-Man as an Avenger but while Otto thinks he can take on the likes of Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Spider-Woman, and Wolverine, he’s not taking into consideration that Peter has started to exert some influence on his body. Of course on the flip side I don’t think Peter is considering the damage the Avengers can do to his body if he isn’t careful. All in all this means the next issue is going to be very exciting and gets us even closer to the game-changing ninth issue of The Superior Spider-Man.
And it’s only the beginning apparently because as we get closer to July we also get closer to even more Superior Spider-Man as I’m sure you’ve all seen on this very site with the announcements for Superior Foes Of Spider-Man, Superior Carnage, and Superior Spider-Man Team-Up. It’s shaping up to be a great summer for not just fans of Spider-Man but SUPERIOR Fans of Spider-Man! -Skott Jimenez
THANOS RISING #1 (Marvel NOW!)
I really love the character of Thanos. I have since I was first introduced to him during The Infinity Gauntlet. I followed him as much as I could through the years and bought any book with his name on the cover I could find. When he appeared at the end of The Avengers movie I knew we’d be seeing more of him and worried about how much of his history would be destroyed to make him ‘more accessible’ to people who honestly couldn’t care less about comics. Thanos Rising is the result. The story, supposedly, tells the origin of The Mad Titan and wants us to believe that, as a child, Thanos only wanted to be accepted and was a skinny geek. He’s shown as an artist and as someone who only wants to have friends. He has reoccurring nightmares about someone trying to kill him at birth, this was due to his mother trying to kill him the moment she laid eyes on him.
I’m sorry, guys and gals, I know I’ve been really hard on the Marvel NOW! books but most of them are not worthy of the Marvel Comics legacy. This is another one. The book is a jumbled mess of forcing longtime fans to forget what’s been established in order to make Thanos a ‘tragic villain’ while making him, essentially, the victim of bullying. On top of the bad story is the equally horrid art. The look of Thanos in this book is so bad I won’t even waste time coming up with ways to describe it. Thanos Rising #1 is yet another attempt to force the 616 to match the movies and it only succeeds in destroying a great character’s legacy. It’s also the only issue I’m buying. -Skott Jimenez