Comics // Review // Weirdworld #2 / Secret Wars

Concise //

Fantastic creatures, playful puns, and some of the most sublime art on the shelves these days and come together to deliver a wonderfully strange adventure. The action is fast and intense, the script is funny, and the world itself is constantly inventive. If you’re looking for something a little unfamiliar that delivers on the promise of a no-rules fantasy world then this is definitely it!

Weirdworld #2 Cover

Spoilerful //

I had no idea what I would be getting into when I picked up Weirdworld, I’ve never read any of the original Weirdworld comics or even seen Arkon in a regular Marvel book. I suppose I had some notional sense that we would be getting a magical world with barbarians, and that the thing would look beautiful what with Mike Del Mundo on art duties. I definitely didn’t expect it to be so fun, or grand, or inventive, or for there to be instantly memorable characters and or that rarest thing of all puns that make you smile rather than groan.

The mighty barbarian Arkon remains a lightly drawn character; all we know about him is that he is a great fighter, he is possibly the lord of his realm of Polemachus, and that he has a very thick skull. But this is all by design, Arkon is our window on to the mysterious, dangerous, and slightly unhinged Weirdworld – he is a stranger there as much as we are, even if he has had time to draw a very detailed (if indecipherable) map of the place. He has two defining characteristics, both of which make him a compelling hero. First is that he will stop at nothing to find a way home (such is the power of his desire that he would rather headbutt a door until it kills him than let it get in his way), and second, that he is most likely just as crazy as the other citizens of Weirdworld (did you hear that door-headbutt story?)

The real star of this issue was not Arkon though, nor was it the lords of Apelantis (great though they are), it was Warbow the mightiest warrior of Crystallium. First appearing as a disembodied eye peeking through the cell wall we are introduced to Warbow in a way that should foretell of his madness. He is pure Alice in Wonderland, a talking eye that sees all, acts little, and patronises the ‘foolish’ Akron for trying to escape. And then he reveals himself, towering over Akron, and offering salvation. Warbow is fun because he is a picture of what Arkon might become (already is?) – he is a great warrior who was lost too long in this place and left his sanity behind somewhere, but the real magic comes from how straight the character is played throughout the book. He seems to have everything sorted out, he knows what he is doing and even has a map of his own, so when the final reveal comes and it is clear that he is a mad as a bag of crystals it is all the funnier. Yet it is also tragic, both for Warbow himself, whose cool, calm, murderous efficiency is all for naught, and for Arkon, who has just traded one trap for another.

Mike Del Mundo consistently delivers rich, deep, and beautiful pages and this book really is no different – every panel in this thing is marvellous. The sense of impact and movement, the almost tangible sense of scale, everything in Weirdworld is simultaneously glorious and somehow off, it all looks like it could kill you in an instant (as it probably could). The two page ape-fight in the depths is a true standout, but it is not without competition as the first reappearance of the dragon and the Crystar reveal are so brilliant too (seriously though, Warbow’s face when he says “And my best friend” is absolutely perfect).

I came to Weirdworld for the art, Mike Del Mundo is one of my favourite artists working right now and this book has so much to offer in that regard, and yet Jason Aaron’s inventiveness and fun writing has made the book even more worthwhile. The plot is incredibly simple, basically an a to b to c D&D adventure, but the cool monsters and smart gags bring it all together in a satisfying way. This isn’t comic book writing that will change the industry,  but it’s a lot of fun, and the art is just perfect.

Weirdworld #2 Panel

Weird World #2 // Writer – Jason Aaron / Artist – Mike Del Mundo / Colours – Mike Del Mundo & Marco D’Alfonso // Marvel

Notes //

– Moltar is a tremendous name for a man made of magma. Plus, how great and Tron-esque do these lava guys look!

– Warbow and Arkon infiltrating the Baroness’ magma palace is a thing of greatness – Warbow’s rise from the lava alone is amazing stuff.

Comics // Quick Review // Master of Kung Fu #3 / Secret Wars

Master of Kung Fu #3 Panel

Writer Haden Blackman has form when it comes to martial arts masterpieces having previously been responsible for the wonderful Elektra series and he has great fun building a broad world in which to tell his story. This book draws on the rich mysticism of the Marvel universe, reforging it and everyone who lives in it into a fantasy alternate reality of kung fu schools, evil emperors, martial tournaments, and magical chambers, where exiled kung fu expert Shang-Chi must face his inner deamons.

This has been a fun book so far and this issue is no different; the familiarity of the central plot (drunken and disgraced martial artist must regain his self-belief and lead a band of mis-fits to glory) actually lends itself well to this nostalgia laced book (the original has its roots in the 70’s kung fu craze). It came as no surprise that Shang-Chi entered the tournament and had to fight literally everyone else (wouldn’t some of the other combatants have knocked each other out by now?)

The other warriors of the Thirteen Chambers include fantastic reinterpretations of characters like Moon Knight and Jessica Drew that give this setting an interesting and playful feel (unlike other Secret Wars titles there seem to be few nods to the overall Doom-centric universe). The action scenes are particularly engaging, a bonus in a kung fu comic, and the costume design and overall look of the place are both great.

The book ends on a high note with Shang-chi ready to take on fantasy versions of Danny Rand and Elektra so that he can take the fight to the the emperor himself. It may be predictable, but the art, writing, and concept make this a fun read; I’m looking forward to how this ends (and how it might tie into the Secret Wars book too).

Master of Kung Fu Title

Writer – Haden Blackman / Penciler – Dalibor Talajic / Colourist – Miroslav Mrva // Marvel

Comics // Review // Years of Future Past #3 / Secret Wars

Concise //

This issue sees a central mystery is resolved in an unusual way whilst the core plot takes an unexpected swerve away from it’s previous trajectory, giving rise to a certain discordance with what has come before. That said, Bennett and Norton are continuing to tell a strong story in this book, one that both pays sincere and justified homage to classic X-Men and delivers inventive and exciting new twists on every page.

Years of Future Past #3 Cover

Spoilerful //

Things go from bad to worse as secrets are revealed, the team are split up, and traps are sprung. We left last issue with the team taking refuge in Centrum, the last mutant city, whilst robotic invaders in the form of the Doom-Sentinel’s were getting closer to finding them underground (shades of The Matrix’s Zion perhaps?) The final page reveal was of Lockheed, formerly Kate’s cat-sized alien pet and now a hulking great dragon, and we are immediately reintroduced as Kate explains his fate in this Sentinel-riven world. Even poor Lockheed has been irradiated, beaten, and blinded by the Kelly administration, but that won’t stop him putting up a heck of a fight when danger comes knocking. The action quickly kicks in and Centrum is being evacuated – Lockheed and the newly free Storm team up to get into the fight against the Sentinels (artist Mike Norton delivers some great action panels on these pages). With all of the chaos going on the team are split up and Kate, Chrissie, and Cameron head off to seek the safety of God himself, in the church of Doom.

Whilst there is plenty going on here, the bulk of this issue is really spent dwelling on one secret in particular; who are Cameron’s parents. Since his introduction as Wolverine’s son in issue 1 there has been a mystery surrounding his mother’s identity (with meta-knowledge of X-Men lore lending itself to a guessing game), so the first surprise here is that Cameron isn’t even related to Wolverine. During the evacuation Kate reveals his true lineage, he is her son, and Colossus is the father. This is a pretty surprising twist. Dealing first with the now unfortunate romantic element that had been present in Chrissie and Cameron’s interactions thus far – it’s a bit weird, but at least it was addressed by Cameron in his references to Star Wars and awkward sexual tension (though surely they can’t just hug it out, call each other “bro”/”sis” and then everything is nuclear family, right?) Maybe it’ll just go Wanda/Pietro weird from here on out. So that aside this is actually a really neat device. Until now we had seen the world from both of their view points; at first this appeared to be a star-crossed lovers deal, but really we were seeing siblings growing up in two completely opposite environments. Sure, Chrissie was in a Sentinel camp, but she was surrounded by loving family, friends, learning, and some comforts, whilst Cameron grew up with the greatest loner the Marvel U ever produced, forced to hunt to live and hearing nothing but war stories. Perhaps growing up in such different ways would lead to wildly different outlooks and ideologies, and maybe we saw evidence of that when Cameron killed the Blob. Or maybe their shared heritage and nature would draw them together and give them the same sense of purpose. A final thought on Cameron and Chrissie as siblings, their powers are similar to both their parents and each other which is quite nice as a visual link – Chrissie can turn into shape changing metal whilst Cameron turns into a sort of elasticated metal that can move through objects.

Cameron and Chrissie both remain upset with Kate (but surprisingly quickly coming to terms with their new relationship to each other), but that doesn’t stop our old friend Nightcrawler from making an appearance. He may have died in the original story, but here Kurt is in fact the priest at the Church of Doom, a sanctuary that not even the Sentinels would invade, which is a fun surprise (as was Kurt’s Reed-esque grey hair). In the middle of a conversation between Chrissie and Cameron Kurt makes a very sudden and unnecessarily urgent appearance wherein he reveals that next to the church there is another mutant concentration camp. It is really unclear to me why, besides narrative convenience, Kurt is so desperate to show them this camp as there is no way in and he doesn’t have any kind of plan to rescue the people there – maybe a little planning might be in order. Alas, no, as Chrissie makes the rash decision to go in all guns blazing whilst Cameron stands there making the case not to act. This is an interesting choice as one might suspect the book smart Chrissie to be the considered agent whilst raised on the streets Cam would be the ‘act now, think later’ type. Either way things don’t end well; the guards have anti-bamfing tech and there are plenty more behind the fences, and they’re not alone. In another really nice moment we finally get to see what happened to the rest of Mystique’s brotherhood from the DOFP two-parter – Destiny, Avalanche, and Pyro are right here, and they look ready for a rematch!

There were a few minor problems with this issue yet none of them stand in the way of this being another great instalment in this book. It is easy to put the enjoyment down to nostalgia (which is definitely a factor), but that would be to ignore all the smart writing, clever ideas, and action-packed art on display.

Years of Future Past #3 Panel

Years of Future Past #3 // Writer – Marguerite Bennett / Artist – Mike Norton / Colourist – FCO Plasencia // Marvel

Notes //

– Art Adams and Paul Mounts deliver a great cover for this issue; who wouldn’t want to read a book about a space dragon fighting Sentinels!

– The group get split up pretty quickly so we currently don’t know where Magneto, Storm, Colossus, Rachel, or Mystique are right now. Or how Lockheed is doing. There was a moment there where I wondered if Kate was actually Mystique for this whole issue (we don’t see Mystique at all) telling Cameron lies about his parentage to mess with him, but then that would make the emotional arc of this whole issue into a curious dead-end. Also Kate uses her phasing powers in the fight with the soldiers so I’m glad I didn’t believe my own theory for long!

– One of the guards who collars Nightcrawler says “Ha. Never wondered where we got the tech against you freak?” which I don’t understand at all – he doesn’t reveal anything about the tech so I’m not sure why he is having such a smug moment!

Fantasy Casting // X-Men: Days of Future Past in 1981!

With Secret Wars offering up a glimpse into the past and the recent movie sequel it seems like a reasonable time to take another crack at else-world else-time fantasy casting. This time I’m concerning myself with one of the X-Men’s most vaunted adventures – Days of Future Past!

The Rules / So here’s the rules to the fantasy casting business – I’m looking to find the most appropriate cast, primarily based on their ability to embody the role, for the characters in the original version of the adapted story; the kicker is that they have to right for the roles if the movie were released the same year as the comic.

The Book / Running to only two issues the original Days of Future Past story appeared in Uncanny X-Men #141-142 way back in 1981, written by Chris Claremont and with art by John Byrne. The story is roughly the same as that seen in the movie, although there are a few major differences (including Kitty being the time displaced the lead not Wolverine) and the central cast is quite different. That said, the X-Men are still the X-men, Mystique is still Mystique (leading a misfit brotherhood), and the future timeline (2013!) is still a Sentinel controlled hell-hole!

Kitty Pryde / Karen Allen

1981 DOFP Casting - Kitty & Karen Allen

1981 was the same year that Raiders of the Lost Ark was released where Allen played Marion Ravenwood with the kind of gutsy independent spirit that would be perfect for future Kitty. Allen also looks the part for young Kitty and has the ability to imbue the role with the necessary vulnerability.

Storm / Pam Greer

1981 DOFP Casting - Storm & Pam Greer

Leader of the X-Men and an elemental force to be reckoned with Storm could only be played by someone with an incredibly strong screen presence; Pam Greer has that in spades, along with a don’t mess with me attitude that is perfect.

Colossus / Arnold Schwarzenegger

1981 DOFP Casting - Colossus & Arnold schwarzenegger

Still a year away from taking on the role of Conan the Barbarian Arnie none the less has the right look for the big hearted metal man Colossus. He can also play a man of few, but meaningful, words as demonstrated by his breakthrough smash a few years later – The Terminator.

Wolverine / Kurt Russell

1981 DOFP Casting - Wolverine & Kurt Russell

The gruff, knowing, cynical, but beneath it all caring Wolverine would be in good hands with Kurt Russell. An actor with incredible versatility and presence.

Nightcrawler / Jackie Chan

1981 DOFP Casting - Nightcrawler & Jackie Chan

The joyous, physical, funny Nightcrawler? Who better to play him than the best action comedian that’s ever lived! The timing is perfect as this is the year Chan began breaking into Western cinema with a role in Cannonball Run.

Angel / Warren Beatty

1981 DOFP Casting - Angel & Warren Beatty

Handsome and rich and with a butter wouldn’t melt vibe; all of which would cover a certain missing something and a sense of doom in his future. Beatty would nail this role.

Professor Xavier / Patrick Stewart

1981 DOFP Casting - Professor X & Patrick Stewart

Sure he was a lot younger, but this was the same year Stewart turned in a performance full of gravitas in Excalibur. In any case, the Professor was a young man once.

Magneto / Laurence Oliver

1981 DOFP Casing - Magneto & Laurence Olivier

Magneto is seen only in the future timeline where his wisdom and gravitas are on full display. Who better than the acting legend Laurence Oliver, who just got finished playing Zeus in Clash of the Titans.

Mystique / Meryl Streep

1981 DOFP Casting - Mystique & Meryl Streep

For the character that can take any form the actress that can play any role. Streep released The French Lieutenant’s Woman the same year and already had an impeccable catalogue of roles.

Pyro / Michael Caine

1981 DOFP Casting - Pyro & Micheal Caine

The Englishman Pyro had a dangerous streak and a certain charm. Caine just finished up Escape to Victory, so maybe something a little more realistic movie would be a refreshing change!

Destiny / Sigourney Weaver

1981 DOFP Casting - Destiny & Sigourney Weaver

Potential assassin and possibly Mystique’s lover Destiny was a little older in the book, but Weaver, who completed Alien two years earlier, proved that she can handle scifi and special effects movies whilst delivering a real, emotional, and powerful performance.

Avalanche / Carl Weathers

1981 DOFP Casting - Avalance & Carl Weathers

Avalanche is not a foe to take lightly and he causes more than a few problems for Colossus and the X-Men in this issue, hence the need for a strong, charismatic actor in the role. The chance to see Weathers and Arnie go head to head a few years before fighting side by side in Predator would be too good to miss.

Senator Kelly / Christopher Reeve

1981 DOFP Casting - Senator Kelly & Christopher Reeve

Superhero legend Christopher Reeve proved beyond doubt that he made an excellent good guy, but his range was far greater than just playing heroes. Reeve could play intense, self righteous and dangerous just as well, and he would have delivered a knock out performance as Kelly.

Are there any of these that you completely love (or hate) the idea of? Let me know what you think in the comments, as well as any better suggestions you have!

Comics // Pull List // July Comics

With DC’s underwhelming Convergence finally over and Marvel’s Secret Wars delivering some great titles this is looking likely to be another good comics month. Here’s a few of the books I’ll be picking up:

Prez #2 / Mark Russell, Ben Caldwell

The story of how Beth Ross becomes the first teen president is one of accident, corruption, and serendipity. It’s also full of pretty unusual characters and situations, and all of it is drawn with the elegant beauty of Ben Caldwell’s pen. This is a book that could go either way; get mired in the social commentary or deliver on the promise of fun hijinks in the oval office (or even perfect a blend of the two).

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Weird World #2 / Jason Aaron, Mike Del Mundo

I’m still not sure what to make of this book, telling the tale of a lost warrior on a truly mad journey, as it makes for an exciting if confusing read. The nature of weird world, and even the history of the central character, remain something of a mystery, but the book is full of epic adventure and artist Mike Del Mundo continues to outdo himself with every page.

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They’re Not Like Us #7 / Eric Stephenson, Simon Gane

The most intense and compelling comic coming out at the moment reaches it’s penultimate chapter, at least for the first volume, and the writing, art, and colouring remain as impressive as ever. This is a book unlike any other right now, it is well worth reading.

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E is for Extinction #2 / Chris Burnham, Ramon Villalobos

Spinning out of perhaps the greatest X-Men story ever (bold claim!) this Secret Wars title immediately and stylishly established it’s premise and core narrative – Charles Xavier died when Cassandra Nova entered his mind; X years later and the X-Men are has-beens whilst Magneto’s school is the centre piece of a mutant utopia. This book is almost as outlandish and inventive as Morrison’s run was with new ideas and smart innovations on every page. It is frantic, chaotic, and otherworldly in all the right ways.

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Batgirl Annual #3 / Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher, Mingjue Helen Chen, Bengal, Ming Doyle, David Lafuente

Between the core book, the Endgame tie in, and the recent Secret Origins it feels like there’s been a whole lot of Batgirl lately, and thanks to the stellar creative teams involved that is definitely a good thing. Fletcher and Stewart are still on board for this annual, sadly though series regular artist Tarr once again steps aside to let a number of artists, including Endgame’s Bengal, pick up the reigns (the artists in question are all good, but I’m always happy to see more of Tarr’s work).

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