Comics // Weekly Pull List // 11/11/2015

Here we are again, new comics! It’s a quiet-ish week though with a few books that I possibly/maybe/might pick up.

Captain America: White #4 – So I will definitely be buying this book because it features more lovely Tim Sale artwork, but I must admit to being a little underwhelmed by the series as a whole. Whether it is the result of being on the shelf gathering dust for a few years, or that it so closely resembles other books in the Loeb/Sale Marvel Spectrum series isn’t clear, but for whatever reason I’m just not that excited by anything in this mini-series.

Captain America White #4 Cover

Descender #7 – I’m excited to see this book is back after a brief hiatus. This year has seen plenty of new indie sci-fi books, most of them very good, yet this is probably one of the best (alongside Bitch Planet). It’s an interesting universe, beautifully drawn, and compellingly written.

Descender #7 Cover

Secret Wars #7 – The event to end all events (at least for another year) continues it’s late running story. It really has been a terrific book so far and I’ve no doubt it will be equally strong as we go into the final 3 issues.

Secret Wars #7 Cover

Spider-Gwen #2 – This remains a solid book even if the magic from it’s first few issues seems to have dissipated a little (I’m not sure why that is, maybe because the narrative doesn’t seem to be moving forward very much?)

Spider-Gwen #2 Cover

Thought Bubble 2015 AnthologyThought Bubble is one of the UK’s best sequential art festivals/cons (that I will be attending again this year) and their annual comic book always offers a great selection of artists and writers. Besides the awesome Babs Tarr cover this has a Tim Sale short (as did last years) so I am all in! Also the profits from the book go to charity so what’s not to love!

Thought Bubble Anthology 2015 Cover

Possibles

All-New Wolverine #1 – I want this book to be good; I’m a fan of X-23 and it would be cool to have an exciting new Wolverine on the block. Unfortunately the brief preview that I have seen is chock full of stupidness and bland writing. I’m a sucker for mutant-led books though so it’s a maybe!

All- New Wolverine #1 Cover

DC Bombshells #4 – Marguerite Bennett’s writing is really strong on this book, but some of the art doesn’t sit well with me (purely on grounds of personal taste). When Marguerite Sauvage is drawing it, it is a really great book, but the rest of the time it doesn’t work for me, and this issue looks like it is sans-Sauvage so I probably won’t pick it up.

DC Bombshells #4 Cover

Diesel #3 – I love Tyson Hesse’s art on this book, but the writing is super choppy. The main character is really quite annoying and there isn’t a strong enough narrative core pulling all of the characters/happenings together for it to be compelling. This one will depend on mood – the art could pull me in, but it might not.

Diesel #3 Cover

Comics // Weekly Pull List // 14/10/15

Many of the so far great Secret Wars tie-in series’ are bowing out now with a couple more ending this week. Just in time too, as the all new, all different, all at the same time Marvel universe relaunch has already started (even though the main Secret Wars book hasn’t even finished!).

Weekly Pull List 14.10.15

A-Force #5 // Secret Wars – Writer Marguerite Bennett can do no wrong at the moment, and working here with co-writer G. Willow Wilson, she has delivered a great start for what will hopefully become a regular all-female Avengers book. Although this series started off a little slow it has really grown into an exciting epic that has been well worth the read.

DC Bombshells #3 – The second book from Bennett this week and it is great to see artist Marguerite Sauvage return, albeit not for the full issue. Sauvage’s art is so perfectly matched to this world and story that it really elevates the entire endeavour.

Captain America: White #3 – I never thought I’d see this book come out at all, let alone regularly. Tim Sale’s art is as amazing as ever, nuff said!

Civil War #5 // Secret Wars – The original Civil War was a solid superhero blockbuster event and I wasn’t sure where this return would really have to go; fortunately Charles Soule has managed to find a very interesting alternate history that remains true to the characters involved. Lenil Francis Yu has also delivered some great art to complement the epic tale. I’m very excited to see how this one wraps up.

Diesel #2 – Tyson Hesse’s indie book about an overly eager young would-be captain and the flying city ship she inherited has some wonderful ideas and gorgeous art in its favour. The dialogue in the first issue felt a little off though, with a few jokes and scenes that didn’t quite work for me. There is a lot of potential here though, so I’m looking forward to another look at this world.

Spider-Gwen: Radioactive #1 – I have literally no understanding of how the timeline/multiverse elements of this book reconcile with the events of the still unfolding Secret Wars. My understanding is that the new Marvel U books take place 8 months after the end of SW, but whether that is true of Spider-Gwen’s pocket universe I do not know. Basically I’m imagining that this book will continue straight from the last issue, which is totally fine by me!

Comics // Review // DC Comics Bombshells #1

Concise //

Just like the pulp adventures from the Golden Age in which this book is set Bombshells delivers high peril, breathless derring-do, and heroism with well placed confidence, heart, and a dash of smart humour. The art and dialogue are both top-notch, offering a wonderful sense of time and place, with deft world building quickly working to establish a rich and complex backdrop for these characters to inhabit. This is a book that takes a great concept and runs with it all the way, evolving it into more than just a simple idea on a page – it’s an adventure!

Bombshells #1 Cover Art

Spoilerful //

DC comics are a curious outfit at the moment; Convergence for all it’s promise of boundless creativity was ultimately a flat and lifeless event, more concerned with uninspired match-ups than the potential to revisit much loved incarnations of our favourite heroes. And then, as soon as that event ends, a book like Bombshells finally sees print, full of brilliantly re-imagined characters, vibrant world building, and compelling narratives. Even the development of this project is a curious one, the book began life as a set of inventive variant covers and then a series of collectible statues before it was ever a coherent setting or story. Such a beginning could have led to this being a soulless cash in project, or worse, an insultingly simplistic appropriation of an important period in feminist history. Fortunately the creators behind this project deliver on every front, giving this concept-cum-comic a genuine and indeed stirring beginning.

Just as with the recent Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps. this book vividly re-imagines the Second World War home front as a place where superheroes do their work (some would justifiably argue it already was). Writer Marguerite Bennett has crafted a world inspired as much by Rosie the Riveter given four colour life as it is by the history of DC comics, with remolded versions of Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer crafted almost in Rosie’s image. Kate and Maggie are still Gothamites, Kate being the star bat-woman on the Gotham Knights baseball team and Maggie working for the GCPD, and they both endeavour tirelessly to protect the city from unsavoury types. But that doesn’t stop them feeling out-of-place, given to a notion that they are somehow not all they could be.

Over in Soviet Russia meanwhile we meet two young women eager to become pilots so that they can take the fight to the Nazi’s. These sisters are revealed to be Kara and Kortni, or as we might know them Kara (Supergirl) and Courtney (Stargirl). The decision to transplant these characters to Russia is a great one, not only does it broaden the scope of this world, allowing exploration of the wider war effort, but it is also unexpected and refreshing (a character who basically wears a star-spangled banner is now a Soviet fighter pilot!) The other key character introduced in this issue is Wonder Woman, and whilst she arrives in genuinely spectacular fashion she is so far the least interesting of these re-imagined characters. That is because she so far doesn’t seem that different to her classic DCU counterpart; sure she is kick ass but she is still queen of the Amazons and she still seems to be on course for a romance with that nice young pilot Steve Trevor. This is far from a problem given that so much excellent ground work has already been laid and there is plenty of scope for the progression of this story, but it is surprising that perhaps the most iconic and recognisable heroes featured in this book’s line up is also the one that is left the most untouched (although the cover art offers a glimpse of the amazing reinvention we may yet have to look forward to).

Structurally this is a first issue that does everything right. There are a lot of characters to introduce, a whole world to establish (albeit one grounded in two worlds we know quite well, WW2 and the DCU), and a core narrative to set up. The pacing and action beats are perfectly aligned here, ensuring that each character received a sufficiently high-octane introduction without the need to forgo the important character building. In fact it is the character moments that stand out as especially effective, offering as they do hints into the nature and desires of our heroes without laboring the point or relying on clunky exposition. The arrival of Amanda Waller and her incredible helicopter plane plays like the end of an issue, but then this internal cliffhanger, the presumed imminent formation of a super team, goes on to cast an intriguing shadow over the introductions of Wonder Woman, Supergirl and Stargirl, after all we can only assume they end up on the team too, but right now it is anyone’s guess how!

Marguerite Sauvage brings this world to life with a skilled hand that succeeds in capturing the physicality and easy grace of Golden Age comic art at the same time as constructing perfectly paced layouts and action scenes. The dog fight above Themyscira, suddenly complicated by the entrance of a glorious flight of Amazonian warriors, is a particular action highlight where the art and colouring delivers on high spectacle amidst an epic and foreboding storm. Elsewhere subtle character work and narrative points are seeded into the layouts and art; Kate and Maggie have a wall of photo’s from wistfully (and presumably mistakenly) consider their ‘action’ heydays and this is mirrored in the panel arrangement around them as they sleep – the artifacts of their current lives arrayed around them like pictures on a wall. Similarly the long walk that Kara and Kortni must make from the depths of the bread lines and military police patrolled streets to the airfield offers an insight into the world in which these characters have grown up.

This is an issue that at once tells a myriad of small stories, all of which form the basis of a much great tale, and every single one is delivered with delightful ease. Quickly establishing a strong narrative anchored by reinvigorated interpretations of classic characters this is a book that looks set to be something special. The art, the writing, the plotting, everything here is on point and I can’t wait to see how these bombshells will come together and how they will be fighting this war.

Bombshells #1 Panel

DC Comics Bombshells #1 // Writer – Marguerite Bennett / Artist – Marguerite Sauvage // DC

Notes //

– The opening of the book sees Batwoman step in to prevent the Wayne’s murder and the subsequent origin of Batman is presumably averted! No need for a Batman here anyway, Kate Kane’s got you covered son!

– I’m pretty sure Rosie the Riveter makes a cameo on a billboard eating a burger, aces.

– I wasn’t able to find a genuine song that matches the lyrics Steve Trevor hears as he passes out, let me know if you recognise it!

– Kara and Kortni wander past some Soviet propaganda for a General Arkayn; it doesn’t seem like this is an actual Soviet general and there isn’t a DC character with the same name either, but if we take the Kortni Russian-ising approach it could be that this is a hint to the Swamp Thing villain Arcane. Too much of a stretch?

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!

Comics // Review // Years of Future Past #2 / Secret Wars

Concise //

Marguerite Bennett delivers a strong second issue that remains true to the spirit of Claremont era X-Men whilst offering up some fresh ideas and modern characterisation.

Years of Future Past #2 Cover

Spoilerful //

The fear with a book like this is that the new characters, in this case Kitty and Colossus’ daughter Chrissie and Wolverine’s son Cameron, eclipse the classic characters we are here to see at the same time as being underwhelming on their own. Fortunately writer Marguerite Bennett has pitched these new characters perfectly and uses the supporting cast liberally enough to stop the new overshadowing the old. Chrissie and Cameron narrate the opening of this issue, explaining in parallel how they came to be who they are and then how they met one another. This is a neat opening, and whilst the differences between the two characters are perhaps a little on the nose, it serves to demonstrate how they could fall for one another even though they are so different. It also acts as an effective build up to Chrissie challenging Cameron’s treatment of Blob (whom he killed pretty brutally last issue).

Cameron, having been raised on the meanest streets there are by the best killer there is, doesn’t have time for mercy or second-guessing himself (and isn’t keen on working with former ‘super villains’). He explains his world view to Chrissie in a succinct manner, there will be no more mutants after them “we’re all we’ve got” and whilst his pessimism is understandable given the world he lives in, it is also pretty defeatist. But even with all that he’s not as gruff as his dad; he tries to cheer Chrissie up (or win her over) by laying on a little charm and making bad jokes. In these scenes we get a chance to see Chrissie’s character more clearly; she is strong and independent, but at the same time vulnerable and caring. What really impresses though is how she is already becoming a leader and mutant activist, she calms the group down and keeps everyone on mission. Even Mystique stays in line.

Shortly after this Colossus takes some time out to deliver a pretty emotional monologue to Chrissie and Cameron; Bennett and Norton make a great choice with this scene by removing every extraneous detail, the characters stand stark against a white backdrop with only Colossus’ words to draw focus. This works both in the world, Chrissie is so drawn in to the power of her father’s monologue that the entire word drops away for a moment, and as a device too – we are similarly forced to give this speech the weight and attention it deserves. Colossus speaks of the dark path a society can walk once personal freedoms are sacrificed out of fear of the other. I was struck by how much this moment of intense morality reminds me of Claremont’s writing, as well as acting as some pretty compelling social commentary too. Bennett has crafted a powerful ideological argument for continuing to fight oppression, even in this wasted world, and it is perfectly in character for the gentle hearted giant Colossus.

Norton continues to deliver a great blend of classic X-Men and modern style. I am particularly keen on the way he draws Chrissie in a very similar way to the Byrne Kitty from the original story. There is also a classically posed villainous Magneto in one panel as he offers up wisdom one can assume is from personal experience “with good editing, you’re the villain of any story“. The bombastic panels of Mutant versus Sentinel action are also a high point with the Doom-Sentinels possessing an imposing stature and Mutant powers looking suitably exciting.

This book continues to be a successful reason to revisit the past future; the art is great, the writing is nuanced and characterful, and the plotting is tight and inventive. Even though we’re only two issues in I’m pretty confident in saying that this would make a great ongoing, or else Bennett would be a very welcome addition to any of the post-Secret Wars X-book creative teams.

Years of Future Past #2 Panel

Years of Future Past #2 // Writer – Marguerite Bennett / Artist – Mike Norton / Colourist – FCO Plasencia // Marvel

Notes //

– Rachel discovers that the Doom-Sentinels are powered by Storm herself and quickly moves to free her; this is a great and terrible reveal that really demonstrates the sheer darkness of President Kelly’s administration (it also reminded me a little of Magneto’s use of Rogue in the first X-Men movie). I was a little surprised at how quickly Storm was ready for action though, I guess it couldn’t have been that draining to power an army of robots!

– Some nice retro touches included the Morlock graffiti on the Centrum tram and the use of what looks like a classic image for the Kitty/Colossus family photo

– Still no mention or sign of Franklin Richards; I’m guessing he has been removed from this version altogether, perhaps to avoid having to explain to everyone who he is (or maybe due to something more sinister, after all where are all the FF books these days?)

– Could Cameron’s mother be Jean, maybe after Scott died (although Rachel is presumably still their daughter so that timeline might not work)? Or will she be someone totally else?

– The reveal of the ‘Little Guard’ was a really fun moment; it seemed pretty likely that it would be Kitty’s old friend Lockheed, but his growth spurt came as a welcome surprise!