Aright, you know the drill by now, if you are having a small week on your pull list then check out some of these recently released books! Let’s jump to it, shall we?
AVENGERS #14 (Marvel NOW!)
How do you explain what is happening in Avengers right now? It is so friggin’ complicated! We have so many things spiraling in motion. Nearly every single other comic book title has said that “The Avengers are in Space” but it really didn’t feel like every single Avenger was in space, did it? I mean Wolverine and Spider-Man were with them but in Superior Spider-Man he isn’t on the space mission…come on now Marvel. Don’t even get me started on Wolverine who has to be in 15 places at once since Marvel has to slap him on every single title, including two of his own. I am getting hung up on one issue here, so we should actually talk about the issue. The big thing is this is the prelude to Infinity, Marvel’s next big event. It is another typical issue with nothing spectacular happening and sticks out as being just as bland as any other Prelude issue where absolutely nothing happens. Wait, no, something does happen! A.I.M does something that will have drastic consequences, DUH DUH DUHM! What a shocker. Another prelude issue you can easily avoid and miss next to nothing. The Thor and Hyperion conversations were entertaining but that is all this issue offers. Until next time Avengers, easily the most disappointing book I read these days. -Nick Furious
BIRDS OF PREY #21 (DC)
Birds of Prey is one of those New 52 titles that had a creative team change a while back and it wasn’t a big announcement. Current writer Christy Marx, who previously wrote the Amethyst story for Sword of Sorcery a while back, has taken over the book and I must say I am really getting into it now. What’s really nice about this issue is that it crosses over with another Bat-family book, Talon, as it showcases the meeting between Calvin Rose (the Talon from his own book) and Mary Turner, a.k.a. Strix, who is the Talon in this book. The 2 personas are very different, but you can still tell what their background is. The team has changed somewhat over the last couple of issues, with a team member betraying the core members, but we still have our core membership of Black Canary and Batgirl, along with Strix and Condor. This issue has several people labeled as artist, including Romano Molenaar, Scott McDaniel and Jonathan Glapion, and it’s actually a really nice book to look at. The images flow clearly from one page to the next and, apart from a few panels where it’s kind of awkward looking with some of the angles, the artwork is done quite well. The story has a budding romance between Canary and Condor, which should make for some interesting twists in the future. What I did not like? I am not sure where this fits in with the current Bat-titles. Batgirl has the bat-logo on her uniform here, but in her own book and in the recent Batman and Batgirl #21 she had removed it as she was embarrassed about what she did and felt she did not deserve this. Hopefully the timing of this story can be explained as to where it fits into that scheme. Also, we now have 2 Talons active in the DCU. I like that both are distinct; I just hope that there aren’t a ton more to come out of nowhere. Talon is one of the few unique creations to emerge out of the relaunch a few years back but too much could make the character(s) a lot less interesting. Regardless, this book is worth a read, although you will need to pick up the next issue of Talon to see where this is going in classic crossover fashion. -Kelly Cassidy
DARK SHADOWS: YEAR ONE #3 (Dynamite)
Evil comes to Collinsport in the form of Reverend Trask, a famed witch-hunter who uses his place in society to accuse anyone of being evil and has the free reign to kill them as he sees fit. He’s searching for the source of the evil in Collinsport and the person responsible for the deaths in the small town. This will, naturally, bring him face-to-fang with Barnabas Collins who is trying to get some control over himself as well as get his beloved Josette back in his life. Sad thing is she doesn’t really accept him after seeing his dead body and the idea of him being a vampire and possibly turning her into one gives her the worst nightmare possible. Well, it gives Angelique the idea of implanting such thoughts in the young girls mind and it’s those thoughts that drive her to Widow’s Peak and a rather gruesome ending. This all happens shortly after Sarah, young sister of Barnabas passes away.
It’s too much for the vampire to handle and he lashes out at the mocking witch Angelique and kills her… possibly.
I have to be honest here, with this issue I’m not sure which series I like more: this one or the main series that follows the Collins Clan in ‘modern’ times. Both have their own distinct feel but they also fit together perfectly. This companion series could not be a more perfect fit in the Dark Shadows universe! -Skott Jimenez
EVIL ERNIE #6 (Dynamite)
It’s the big showdown between Ernie and Buford with everything on the line! Ernie wants to save Thana, pretty much the only truly good person he’s ever known, while Smiley continues to try to push him to kill Buford once and for all for his own reasons. Buford is the 666th soul Ernie promised to deliver to Hell an Smiley wants to collect. But what happens in this issue not only wraps up the bulk of this story but leaves plenty open for future stories, mostly the lingering question of exactly what Smiley is and what’s his game? He claims to be Ernie’s friend but its obvious he’s got his own schemes.
It’s nice to see Ernie getting more control over his powers and testing their limits some, we even see the extent to his durability when the President, possessed by an angel, decides to try to put an end to this madness with a nuke. In the end, Ernie loses everything except Smiley who, through telling some of his story, drop a hint of a possible connection between him and… Buford?
I’m sad to see this book come to an end, especially after the high praise the received from numerous comic book sites, including this one, but I do hope Jesse Snider and Jason Craig can convince Dynamite to do more stories. They don’t have to be ongoing books, back in the day Chaos! Comics thrived on miniseries that held an ongoing story. That can still work.
I hope Dynamite considers this and gives us more Evil Ernie! -Skott Jimenez
FANTASTIC FOUR #9 (Marvel NOW!)
Spectacular issue. Not anything like what I expected. Matt Fraction’s run has been getting better and better. Sure he has the occasional filler issue but for the most part we are talking about a story that has some very entertaining situations. But this issue in particular is another “Ben” central story. But this time we flashback to the era of Ben Grimm in college. Ben thinks he might have had something to do with the creation of Doctor Doom. So we get another flash into how Doom was created. A type of retcon maybe? One where Ben Grimm is the one responsible for Victor Von Doom’s transformation? Wouldn’t that be interesting!? It wouldn’t be anything brilliant or innovative as far as storytelling secrets go, but it would go miles to make Ben that much of a tortured soul and I LIKE THAT. Ben Grimm is one of the greatest characters in the Marvel Universe and I am so glad Matt Fraction knows it. Mark Bagley continues to produce excellent artwork to pair up with Fraction and his strange stories he is choosing to tell. Personally I think any story with Doom is a good story, but a story where Ben Grimm is the main character of the story? Magnificent. No matter how you look at it these slightly stand alone stories are well worth the time to read, especially when the fate of Victor Von Doom ever becoming the ruler of a nation is in play. Keep it up boys. -Nick Furious
INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK #9 (Marvel NOW!)
The fact that he writes both series means that we as Marvel fans know that it was inevitable for a Daredevil/Hulk meetup sooner or later. Rather than push it off too far into the future, Mark Waid has made it happen sooner. And how they integrated Daredevil, or rather Matt Murdock, into the mix was quite ingenious. Bruce/Hulk has made an agreement to work for SHIELD, but he doesn’t trust them implicitly. So, he has undertaken Murdock as his lawyer who, if he doesn’t hear from Banner on a weekly basis, something will happen – probably outing the organization as using the Hulk. And Maria Hill does not like this arrangement one little bit. She finds her own way of getting back at Banner for forcing here into such a situation, and at times it’s actually quite amusing. (Probably the best line of the book is DD calling Hill “adorable”… seriously, you have to read it to see how she puts her foot into her mouth.) There is some interesting revelations about how Hulk may be controlled, as shown by DD to Hill, which is a new take on the character and one that actually fits with the characters. Also Waid using DD’s usual tactic of walking into a bar to get information is made that much more humorous when the group of patrons raise their weapons to the man without fear… and then a Hulk walks in behind him. How many weapons are left in the air? I’ll let you guess. And then the ending of a villain one wouldn’t normally relate to the Hulk or DD appears… and it has me really interested in finding out more. Mark Waid continues to spin a great story here, giving some new life to a character that many cannot always get a handle on or know what to do over a long period of time. The artist for this arc has changed yet again as we have Matteo Scalera taking over the duties. I am not usually one for the artist changing all the time, but his style suits this story quite well. He has a heck of a time following Walt Simonson’s story arc, so I wish him well. If this issue is any indication, he will do just fine. I am definitely looking forward to what comes next in this story as the villain unveiled could lead in so many different directions… Thank you for keeping me on my toes, Mr Waid! -Kelly Cassidy
NEW AVENGERS #7 (Marvel NOW!)
Finally someone has the balls to make Black Panther and Namor discuss the animosity between them. For Pete’s sake Namor flooded Wakanda! And these two are just gonna go about business like nothing happened!? Animosity in comics is one of my main interests. It drives characters in the direction I want. That is probably the reason I love this version of the New Avengers. The Illuminati are not friends. They are not teammates. They are a group of people assigned with a specific task of watching over the infinity gems. Some of them don’t even like one another. But they put up with one another because they know each gem is in very capable hands. But there is no real animosity quite like T’Challa and Namor. Two men who rule their own respective domains. But now Wakanda and Atlantis are set to go to war. This isn’t your typical war. These are two people who have seen battle more than peace. They will stop at nothing to kill one another. But only when the time is right. If anyone could kill Namor it is Black Panther, if anyone could kill Black Panther it is Namor. Although I don’t see either one of these men dying anytime soon, I have a strong feeling both nations are going to pay the price dearly. -Nick Furious
SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #12 (Marvel NOW!)
Slott has done such a smashing job of keeping his story going without having to bring in new elements. And each “new” element he has used has been a past element just waiting to happen. Of course Spider-Man has been a lethal protector and his hurtful tactics are coming back and biting him in the ass. So much for all these villains being in the hospital, Alister Smythe has fixed them up with his technology and pretty much upgraded them. Only problem is J. Jonah Jameson has told Spider-Man his job is to kill Alister Smythe, and we all know Otto is plenty capable of doing just that. We have all of these people who Spider-Man is supposed to protect but he won’t be protecting anyone except his own ass. Every single thing that happens to every single character in Dan Slott’s web of stories has a future. It is as if he has written each character with a specific purpose. Not just Spider-Man, but every single person he interacts with. Yes Otto will complete his mission and kill Alister Smythe but that isn’t where this story is headed. The story is where is Slott taking us? Otto isn’t Spider-Man because Marvel wanted a change-up. No, Otto is Spider-Man because Slott has a plan, a beautiful plan that he is weaving before our very eyes. And if you can’t see that, then I just feel plain sorry for you. -Nick Furious
ULTIMATE COMICS: SPIDER-MAN #24 (Marvel)
In the continuation of the “Spider-Man No More” story arc we have the first full issue with Ultimate Cloak and Ultimate Dagger. The issue basically serves as a flashback to how they become who they are, and I love it. It’s close enough to the original to make sense, but different enough to still have them as different characters. Their backstory is told in such a way that you get the picture without it being drawn out over a ton of issues (something I have accused writer Brian Michael Bendis of doing throughout his tenure on Avengers). We see the two young heroes taking a stand and understanding that they can try to do the right thing, even if they’re new to the game. Their powers are forced on them, and seeing how they handle it is something inspiring… especially to the right set of eyes. Miles Morales sees what’s going on here and it starts to open him up as to maybe donning the webs again. Miles “retired” as Spider-Man after the death of his mother and he’s been living with a “what if” in his head ever since. This is his first full retirement piece – I call it that because how many times did 616 Peter quit before donning the suit again? – and it’s hitting him hard. He and his father are in danger, as is Gwen Stacy who works at the restaurant they coincidentally visited, and he just wants to keep his dad safe. Bendis has a terrific story here, but my biggest concern is the timing. This is supposedly a year after the Venom attack, which happened shortly after the Ultimate universe was at war. As far as I can tell, a year has not passed in Ultimates or Ultimate X-Men at all, so what gives? When will the series sync up again? We all know that Miles will don his suit again – mostly because he is the one who spots the entrance of 616 Galactus into the Ultimate Universe at the end of Age of Ultron #10. And I am looking forward to that… Not only because it sounds so freaking cool and the Spider-Men crossover was actually really, really good, but because USM artist Dave Marques is also doing the art for the Hunger series which showcases that event. And speaking of Marquez… he killed it this issue. I mean, this is probably one of the best visual books I picked up all week. And I picked up 20+ books – that’s saying something. -Kelly Cassidy
ULTIMATE COMICS: THE ULTIMATES #26 (Marvel)
A while back, I talked smack about writer Joshua Hale Fialkov when he wrote Alpha. I didn’t know who he was, and I just thought the story was not up to snuff. After reading the last 2 issues of the Ultimates, I have to say this: not every writer can write any character. But when they find a book that is really perfect for them, it works out well. And that’s what has happened here. This is the best written issue of the Ultimates of this run since early on in its inception, and I am glad I stuck around. We have an enemy team who now exists to take on the Ultimates, but they’re not exactly evil per se. They have power and they are using it to better the world, so they say. And how are they? Quicksilver, Kang (a female Kang who has a surprise identity we have been teased about for a future issue, Mr Fantastic (Reed Richards), and the Hulk. Oh, and did we mention that the Hulk has the Infinity Gauntlet? Yeah, that’s here. This group is trying to bring about a true utopia, equality for all. But the teams do not see eye-to-eye. Captain America captured and Hawkeye comes to his rescue – only to be confronted by Kang. I have my suspicions as to who she is… Sue Richards confronts Reed, but she brings back up in Benjamin J. Grimm. Hulk takes on Thor… in a bar. And Quicksilver recovers another Infinity Gem… right behind Iron Man’s back. Fialkov has taken a series that I was going to drop and turned it fun. It was a great read, well written, personas were down… Maybe he just was not suited for Alpha, but he is definitely suited for the Ultimates. And add to that, he is teaming up with USM artist Dave Marquez for the upcoming Hunger storyline which just looks plain AWESOME. For the longest time Marvel was able to keep that book under wraps – which is amazing considering much of their past track record, but I am glad that they did. This is a miniseries that is an event on its own without going on too long, it sounds like, and without requiring too many other buy-ins to get the story. Let’s not forget about the artist on this issue of the Ultimates, Carmine Di Giandomenico. His is a style that at times reminds me of Tom Raney, one of my favorite X-Factor artists, and I like that comparison. Not all artists can take on a team book well, especially with such diverse characters, but also give it a darker feel at times. I think that was achieved quite well in this book. If you wanted a chance to get into the Ultimates (which really is more like the movie Avengers than the 616 version), the last couple of issues are the time to jump on board. It’s fun again, but with a taste of darkness, and a touch of humor as well that these books tend to need. -Kelly Cassidy