For the past two years, Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force has been something I quite looked forward to on Wednesdays. At a time when many of my favorite superhero comics were not that great or being cancelled, Uncanny X-Force was a consistently good title and filled that superhero space in my heart. So, when the opportunity presented itself for me to review all 37 issues of Remender’s run, I jumped at. And here, lords and ladies, is the finished product – my Uncanny X-Force MEGA review. Cheers!
This dynamic duo hits some big books for the week over at Newsarama. Click here to check out our Rapid Reviews of Uncanny X-Force, Fatale, and Batman & Robin.
If you get your comics from your LCS every week, you know it isn’t cheap. Prices ranging from $2.99 and sometimes up to $4.99, multiplied by four or five books a week. Well, you do the math. Some books are more than worth it, others are not. The titles that are worth it hit hard and make you anticipate the hell out of the next issue. Titles that do that for me are Batwoman, Chew, Uncanny X-Force … and now Sweet Tooth.
Rewind a couple of months.
One of my besties lent me the first trade of Sweet Tooth, a title that was on the long list of things I want to read. I devoured it. Next trade, please. I also read that voraciously. On to the third, Sweet Tooth: Animal Armies. It is probably one of the most intense stories I have ever come across in a comic. It ranks up there with moments in Y: The Last Man and something else really awesome that I can’t think of right now. But then I had to wait for the fourth trade. That was more than I could handle. Continue reading
There’s nothing like a hefty Wednesday haul, especially when the books are as good as mine were this week. From a promising upstart to two venerable titles that took their bows, there’s quite a bit to cover. Here we go:
The Bionic Man #1: Can a comic book based on a classic TV show withstand the white-hot expectations of readers full of nostalgia? Or will said nostalgia warp one’s view, resulting in an overly positive or negative response?
Though Dynamite’s new Bionic Man comic had me at “Oscar Goldman,” I still approached it with caution. Col. Steve Austin, astronaut, loomed so large in my childhood that I successfully lobbied my parents to buy me his doll – uh, action figure when I was 7 or 8. As I began reading, I thought of the great RuPaul’s advice to his drag competition contestants: Don’t *%$! it up.
The pull list was pretty meager this week, but discovering Steve McNiven’s art made the drive to my LCS worth it. The lovely Zatanna is unrepresented here only because I overestimated the amount of cash I had on hand Wednesday. She’s coming home with me tomorrow, but here’s a brief, double Marvel rundown.
Captain America #2: By all accounts, longtime writer Ed Brubaker has done a masterful job with his Captain America stories. For people like me who are way late to the party, this freshly-launched volume is an excellent point of entry. As a man out of time, Steve Rogers is constantly confronted by ghosts. His former love and fellow soldier Peggy Carter has just been buried. He knew Jimmy Jankovicz as a boy who could cross dimensions and even touch people’s dreams, but Jimmy is now a catatonic, elderly man in a wheelchair. Continue reading
A couple of years ago, a friend and mutual comic book fan handed me the first trade volume of Ultimate Spider-Man. Sure, I liked Peter Parker and had always related to him as a nerdy underdog who was fast with a quip. But I hardly expected this book to become such a treasured and long-lasting part of my comics reading experience. If my budget had ever forced me to reduce my pull list, Ultimate Spider-Man would have been one of the very last to go.
Major comic book character deaths have become so commonplace that they barely register. With rare exceptions, we know the publisher will find some way to bring them back. In the months leading up to Ultimate Spidey’s death in issue #160, I was certain it wouldn’t bother me … much. Of course, by the time Peter gave up the ghost after a brutal showdown with Green Goblin, I was one sad puppy. Continue reading
Uncanny X-Force #9
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Billy Tan
Colors by Dean White
* There are minor spoilers contained in this review. *
I initially picked up Uncanny X-Force #1 on a whim. I like the premise of the X-Force team, and Esad Ribic’s covers are seductive. The issue turned out to be an art powerhouse and a character goldmine. I love my team books, and this is a team book of bizarre proportions.
One thing that Marvel does, and I wish DC did, is provide continuity summaries. I knew nothing about Fantomex, Deadpool, and Archangel, but I was interested immediately. Rick Remender’s X-Force is disturbed and dark, and not in the lovable psychopath, Secret Six kind of way. Continue reading
Confession time: This is the first standalone Iron Man comic I’ve ever read. My knowledge of Tony Stark has been limited to team books like The Avengers, his guest appearances in other comics, and the recent movies. So in a way, I’m probably the ideal audience for The Invincible Iron Man #500.1, which is essentially a recap of Stark’s life from childhood to present day. While there’s probably nothing new here for longtime fans, it’s an absorbing, attractively presented story for newbies.
Tony narrates his story during an AA meeting, and writer Matt Fraction uses the classic flashback storytelling device. However, the script never seems cliched or movie-of-the-week manipulative. What’s most interesting is Stark’s exploration of how he became an alcoholic; how drinking almost destroyed his life but probably led to his reinvention as Iron Man. It’s clear that he has a tenuous hold on sobriety, and that his addiction has been deeply humbling. He’s a billionaire bachelor and a genius superhero, but at AA, he’s just another guy with a cup of crappy coffee who’s trying to stay on the wagon. Fraction does a very good job of conveying Tony’s basic persona and his vulnerability. You just can’t help but root for the guy despite the considerable damage that he’s done to himself and others.
I really responded to Salvador Larroca’s art, particularly his gift for realistic, detailed facial expressions. His closeups of Stark feature heavily in this intimate story, and it works. Frank D’Armata’s coloring is muted, but his palette suits the narrative’s tone. I don’t often pay close attention to lettering unless it’s done poorly, but Joe Caramanga’s stood out for the opposite reason: They’re quite good.
It’s impossible to give a full picture of such a storied character in one issue, but Iron Man #500.1 hits all the highlights: His relationship with his parents, how he became a crime-fighter, and the toll that his drinking took on his relationships with women, business associates, and the other Avengers. Seeing all that dysfunction crammed into a single issue is heavy stuff, but also touching. There’s a moment toward the end where he calls Pepper Potts, and that brief exchange reveals a great deal about their connection.
For the people who already know this stuff, Iron Man #500.1 might seem extraneous and a waste of their time. But for readers not terribly familiar with Tony Stark, it’s a solid, enjoyable read and a very good entry point.
There’s a whole other commenatary — a book, really — to be written about the phenomenon of romance comics that were published from the 1940s through the ’70s. It’s a bizarre, fascinating, sexist genre that is ripe for examination and analysis. But for now, let’s take a look at one of the grooviest: Marvel Comics’ My Love #14: “It happened at Woodstock!” Continue reading
Every now and then, it’s a good idea to evaluate the old pull list instead of running on autopilot. Though my queue tends to be DC-heavy, there are several indie titles that I read either in trade or via review copy that are plenty good. Since V. and I are asked what we recommend or books that rock/suck, here’s assessment of what I’m reading and where it falls on the Great-to-Dropped scale. Those listed under “Promising” have not yet been added to the file, but they’re well on their way.
Morning Glories: Image is firing on all cylinders with this book about a scary private school that traps and traumatizes its adolescent charges. Comic shops can’t keep it in stock, and that’s no surprise given the roller coaster of a plot, snappy dialogue and pretty art. Morning Glories is further proof that there’s some stellar work being done outside of the big publishing houses and the capes genre.
Fables: Since I get this in trade form, I’m not current. The last volume, “The Great Fables Crossover,” was only so-so, but this book has been otherwise excellent. It also continues to evolve and expertly mixes fantasy and comedy with flat-out horror. I can’t wait for the next trade, “Witches,” to drop in December.
Batman and Robin: I’ve written before about how much I dig this book, so I won’t bore you with another love letter. Grant Morrison is handing the reigns to Peter Tomasi soon, but I’m a fan of Tomasi’s work and eagerly anticipate his work on Batman and Robin — especially since he did such a good job during his all-too-brief Nightwing run.
Madame Xanadu: After the most recent (and brilliant) issue about a deadened supermodel named Neon Blue at the height of late ’60s-fame, I was even more depressed that this comic is coming to an end. I have V. to thank for educating me about Madame X just in the nick of time. At least I’ll always have the back issues.
G-Man: I initially started getting this Image comic for my children, but like Tiny Titans, it’s a smart, kid-skewing book that’s better than much of the fare for grownups. The most recent arc, “Cape Crisis” centers on young hero G-Man, who gets powers via a magic cape. The problem is that all of his peers (and his kid brother) want a piece of the action, and the results are darn funny. The news that Chris Giarrusso’s book is returning made me very happy, and the kids will have to pry it from my hands.
Red Robin: I didn’t like this comic at all when it debuted, but it has found a consistently good groove and done right by one of my favorite characters. Fabian Nicieza writes Tim Drake and the extended Bat-family well, and Marcus To sure can draw.
Birds of Prey: The Gail Simone incarnation of BoP was instrumental in getting me back into the comic book habit, and it’s been a fine reunion. While I’m not as mesmerized as I was the first time around, BoP is one of the books I look forward to most each month, along with …
Secret Six: This comic vacillates between “great” and “good,” so I have been spoiled. I love the characters and their bloody misadventures, and there is some real tenderness and heart underneath piles of bodies. My expectations for a Secret Six issue are probably unfairly high, but if it came down to cash flow, there are a whole lot of books I’d drop before this one.
Love and Capes: This book about a superhero married to a non-superpowered bookstore owner is light, bright and utterly adorable. I’m also reading this in trade, and there’s a longer overview here.
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man: As with Red Robin, I’ve already heaped lots of praise on the latest incarnation of Brian Michael Bendis’ long-running, consistently winning comic. The love-triangle drama between Peter, Mary Jane and Gwen is heating up again, and if enjoying juicy teen drama is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
Hawkeye and Mockingbird: When I started reading this title after the “Read This, Too!” challenge, I immediately thought that this is the book Green Arrow & Black Canary should have been. The vibe between the title characters — formerly married, now dating — is sexy and fun, and the book is full of action.
Welcome to Tranquility: Another Gail Simone gem about retired superheroes and supervillains, and a whole lot of secrets and lies. See a recent review here.
Mystery Society: I was late to the party on this five-issue series about a wealthy, urbane husband and wife who uncover government conspiracies and recruit odball characters along the way to join their adventures. The story is a kick, but it’s worth reading for Fiona Staples’ artwork alone.
Thunderbolts: I read my first issue a few weeks ago and thoroughly dug it. Luke Cage is leading a group of formerly bad guys trying to go legit, and Jeff Parker spins a good narrative (with ninjas!). Declan Shalvey’s art is impressive, and as a Thunderbolts newbie, I found issue #148 easy to jump into. And no, I’m not reading Shadowland.
Freedom Fighters: I bought this comic based on Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s Power Girl work, and I liked the first two issues quite a bit. It’s always a joy to see Nazis getting beaten up, and chances are good that this will be a dynamic team comic. Stay tuned.
Lady Mechanika: I’ve never been a Steampunk gal, but the artwork in this Aspen Comics title by Joe Benitez blew me away. The story focuses on a rifle-toting character named Mechanika, who is part human, part machine. It’s set in late 1800s London, and based on issue #0, it’s going to be a wild ride. My Newsarama review is here, but suffice to say that it’s worth checking out. If my stomach were sufficiently flat, this would SO be my con costume.
Wonder Woman: I think I got all the Haterade out of my system in this post, but I’m buying this book purely out of loyalty. I don’t want to give DC another reason to treat Diana like a stepchild, so I can’t bring myself to drop it.
First Wave: At this point, only Rags Morales’ awesome illustrations are keeping this in my LCS file. This pulpy, character-heavy comic involving The Spirit, young Batman, Doc Savage and an alternative Black Canary got off to a nice start, but the long stretches between issues killed some of its momentum for me. There are only two issues to go, so I’m not sure it can deliver on its early promise or do justice to all the players.
Brightest Day: Pretty, but too draggy, convoluted and crowded. I might read it in deeply discounted trade form.
Power Girl: Judd Winick’s first few issues were better than I expected, but they just weren’t good enough to justify my $2.99. Part of the problem is that the previous creative team was so good that any successors would have a challenge on their hands. I don’t care enough about PG to read her adventures if the comic is just middling, so I cut it loose with no regrets.
Justice Society of America: I stuck with this book after Bill Willingham finished his “Fatherland” arc, but James Robinson’s follow-up just didn’t do it for me. I almost kept buying it just for Jesus Merino’s illustrations, even though story quality fell off in a major. The book is getting a new creative team, so I might give it another shot. Maybe.
In its 13 issues so far, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man has proven itself to be just as much of a crackling page-turner as its long-running predecessor, the nearly identically titled Ultimate Spider-Man. Writer Brian Michael Bendis’ style may not be for everyone, but I happen to love his take on beleaguered teen superhero Peter Parker. Even when he’s doing something stupid, Peter is endlessly endearing, and Bendis’ UCSM dialogue often reads like the script for a really good young adult TV show. Think “Freaks and Geeks” meets “Smallville.”
After establishing the nutty state of Peter’s personal life — friends Johnny Storm, Bobby Drake and current girlfriend Gwen Stacy are living with him and Aunt May — Bendis has upped the ante with identity theft: A shape-shifting villain has kidnapped Peter, assumed his visage and … well, let’s just say he’s doing conspicuously uncool things. All comic book villains are bad in their own way, but there’s something unnervingly sinister about this shadowy figure, and he’s not working alone.
One of the interesting things about this arc is the way the nameless bad guy (I call him Anonymous Tool) has pondered Peter’s choices — why a kid with such amazing powers lives in Queens and puts up with idiots like Flash Thompson. He considers Spider-Man a chump who’s wasting his advantages, but he quickly realizes that being him is harder than it looks. Swinging across the New York skyline with a homemade web-shooting device isn’t for the faint of heart, so Anonymous Tool has to give Peter some props, however begrudgingly.
To say that things end on a shocking note is an understatement. Secrets are uncovered (or at least figured out), and without giving too much away, you’ll see newspaper mogul J. Jonah Jameson — or at least an approximation of him — in an entirely new light. Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #13 is a terrific issue overall, and a great deal of credit goes to artist David Lafuente. His pencil work is crisp and energetic, and certain panels — a close-up of a long-faced Jameson comes to mind — really grab and hold the reader.
I’m eager to see if and how Bendis reintroduces Peter’s former flame Kitty Pryde, who remains a fugitive following a disastrous, anti-mutant showdown at school. And now that everyone knows Peter’s immediate ex-girlfriend, Mary Jane, is still in love with him, the unavoidable arguments and relationship renegotiations are sure to be intense. In the meantime, it’s hard to see how Peter is going to escape the truly awful jam he’s in, which has nothing to do with the women in his life. But judging from that last panel, something tells me he’s going to get by with a little help from his super friends.
I got caught up on a bunch of comics this week. Here’s the lowdown:
Brave and the Bold #33 (Yeah, I know this came out last week, but whatever.): DC’s Brave and the Bold hasn’t been on my pull list since the “Book of Destiny” arc closed out a few years ago, but I approached issue #33 with cautious optimism. Jesus Saiz’s cover image of Zatanna, Wonder Woman and original Batgirl Barbara Gordon walking over the bodies of felled bad guys was irresistible. And since current B&B writer J. Michael Straczynski begins writing Wonder Woman in July, I wanted to get a sense of his vision for my favorite comic book character of all time. No pressure.
This comic not only exceeded my expectations, but also reassured me that Diana is in good hands. (Spoilers ahead) Straczynski’s Wonder Woman is a certified badass. Early on, she takes down a terrorist by snatching him out of his bomb-rigged clothes, pinning his nude body under her heel and daring old boy to try something. When Zatanna compliments her crime-busting flair, Diana’s response is sassy and genuinely funny.
Zatanna, who’s been plagued lately by unsettling visions, decides a girls-only night out with Diana and Barbara is in order. It’s a blast to see these three out on the town, complete with killer nightclub attire (I swear Diana is wearing a Gucci heel.) Artist Cliff Chiang’s pencil work is lovely, and a panel of the trio doing a karaoke performance of “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” put a big smile on my face.
It isn’t immediately apparent where Straczynski’s story is going, which is why the ending packs such an emotional wallop. I may have shed a tear, but you can’t prove anything.
Justice Society of America #38: Am I the only one who thinks the last two issues of JSA have been more powerful than any event comic this past year? Bill Willingham is not playing with this “Fatherland” storyline, which takes place in a future, Nazi-ruled America. Sapped of their powers and imprisoned, heroes like Mr. Terrific, Batman, Superman and Blue Beetle are relying on good, old-fashioned teamwork — and spilling a lot of their own blood — to take down the Fourth Reich. Kid Karnevil is now “The Fuhrer,” and he’s as much of a sociopathic asshole as that title suggests. What I love about this story how it defines heroism as something beyond winning and breaking villains’ faces — though I dearly wish someone would go all Sopranos on Kid Karnevil. Willingham and artist Jesus Merino are bringing their A-game to this book, and I’m glad my pal Chocotaco put me on notice.
Green Lantern Corps #47: I can’t decide what I liked most about Peter Tomasi’s Blackest Night epilogue. Arisia clocking a Guardian Laila Ali-style? Guy Gardner’s trademark sarcasm? Penciller Pat Gleason’s panel of Mogo releasing thousands of emerald rings into the universe to find new bearers? There are plenty of solidly nifty moments in this issue, though I still hate Kyle’s mask.
Wonder Woman #43: Writer Gail Simone is closing out her run on this title with a bang. Part 2 of “Wrath of the Silver Serpent” reveals the backstory of Wonder Woman’s mass-murdering aunt, and it’s pretty jacked up. Meanwhile, I officially have a crush on Nicola Scott’s version of Diana, who has an elegant athleticism and truly gorgeous hair. I still don’t care about Steve or Etta as supporting characters, but I am looking forward to the showdown between Diana and her first cousin, Theana, who appears to be a sort of Bizarro Wonder Woman. Um, she’s scary.
Ultimate Spider-Man #9: Peter’s current girlfriend, Gwen, and his two exes, Mary Jane and Kitty, gang up on him to give him a haircut, and Johnny Storm falls hard for the mysterious Spider-Woman. As usual, this book crackles like a good TV episode, and there’s a heck of a cliffhanger as Kitty stares down anti-mutant feds who’ve barged into her classroom. I’m gonna put my money on Kitty.
Justice League: The Rise of Arsenal #2: I’ve enjoyed some of writer J.T. Krul’s previous work, but everything about this series so far feels clichéd and silly, despite the fact that Roy Harper is facing overwhelming tragedy: the death of his daughter, Lian, the loss of his arm and the very real possibility of drug relapse. The best thing about this issue is the opening sequence (illustrated by Mike Mayhew and Andy Troy), which is right out of every parent’s nightmares. Unfortunately, the rest amounts to awkwardly drawn panels of Roy being angry, throwing things and generally going off on everybody. (Is there any particular reason heroes always come to funerals in full costume? Anyone ever hear of a private ceremony?) I get that Roy is grieving and in physical agony, but I’m not sure I want to keep paying $2.99 to see him knock over furniture and brandish an oozing arm stump. Plus, isn’t it just cruel to keep putting Cheshire’s kids in danger and/or killing them off? Have a heart, DC.
What did you like this week?