I guess my Monday deadline somehow morphed into Thursday….
Hello, readers. Guess what? I read some books! And I have opinions about them! Shocker, I know. Also, I totally lied with half those covers I posted last week. Sorry about that.
I’m sad. :(
I’m sad because I really want to like this title. I really, really do. But it’s so … it’s so … I don’t know how to explain why it isn’t working for me. I guess, when it comes down to it, honestly … it doesn’t feel like Barbara. It just doesn’t feel like her to me. This new role of hers, it’s so … “forced” is the best word I can think of to describe it. It’s not Barbara—not the one I know—and that’s kind of shocking considering that Barbara Gordon is Gail Simone’s bread and butter. If anyone at all understands that character, it’s Gail—they’re practically interchangeable. Yet, as much as I want this to succeed, it just isn’t firing for me.
I wish I could explain it better … it’s just not right. It doesn’t feel right. And the writing style … there’s so much narration. That worked in Gail’s Birds of Prey when you needed the POVs of several characters, but it’s not clicking here. There’s too much of it; there’s too much telling and not enough showing. It’s so flat, and I … I don’t know how much more of this I can back. And that makes me so, so sad.
You know what else? I have read this story before. I think that’s what’s really bothering me more than anything here, is that it still feels like we’re going backwards. Which, we are—literally, we’re dialing back the clock in terms of character ages and whatnot, but I also mean to say that we’re going backwards allegorically. The stories and the progressions of these characters have taken giant steps downward. This idea of a character called Batgirl finding her footing—I have read this before. I read it in Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl run, and I even read it in Chuck Dixon’s Batgirl: Year One. Why am I reading it again? I’m not getting anything different this time, not one bit. Barbara healing and regaining use of her legs is only influencing this story on a very minor level—it isn’t enough to make these issues feel fresh or different. This issue was all about reuniting Batgirl and Nightwing. I should have been moved by it, but I wasn’t. Not even close. I put this book down, blinked a few times, and wondered what was wrong with me for leaving it feeling absolutely nothing.
So … what does one do in this situation? Do I keep reading this in the hope that once the groundwork is laid and some of the setup “fluff” is out of the way, I might have a more interesting story? Might I feel more for this character by issue #13, as opposed to issue #3, and is it even fair to have to wait that long? Ardian Syaf’s artwork has been great. Other than that, I haven’t got much. A part of me doesn’t want to give up on the title, because I do love Barbara and this is apparently the only Barbara that I’m going to get for the foreseeable future. I also have a certain level of faith and respect for Simone, and I want to be able to lean on that. But with every issue of this so far, I’ve only left feeling disappointment. And I never thought I’d say that.
…And with that, an interesting idea turns into utter horse poop, as Nick Spencer fills this issue with preachy drivel and a needlessly despicable downturn that I guess is meant to be humor. Biggest waste of $3.50. To say I was mortified while reading this on the train is a massive understatement. And to top things off, I read the solicit for #4 to find it isn’t even due on the shelves until April. Buhbye; I’m OUT.
I was a little worried when this was first solicited, because with a title like “Not a Hero,” my immediate thoughts were that they were turning Magneto into a villain again. That would be the worst thing you could do to the character in my opinion, and just as bad a regression as Barbara Gordon re-donning the Bat cowl. Magneto has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years, and I’ve always enjoyed him as a villain, but I find I love him even more on the side of the angels. His presence is still so very grey—he’s so ambiguous, and in the hands of a writer who knows how to use it, that’s an invaluable quality. And so I shook my fist at the sky for a bit at the thought that this wonderful drama might be taken away for something as utterly boring as Magneto turning “bad” again. Happily, upon reading this issue, I find that this is not the case. Not yet, anyway.
Our introduction to this story centers around what is something of a storytelling cliché—Magneto is being framed for murder. Exciting, right? Bet you’ve never read anything like that before. It’s okay, though, because there are things here that make up for the questionable originality, and by the end of issue one, we can see that ultimately the story is going to deal with much more than who’s framing Magneto. I have to hand it to Skottie Young—everyone knows him for his great artistic talents, but he’s making a transition to writing here, and he’s not doing a bad job of it at all. It most certainly beats out a majority of the crap you see on the Marvel shelves these days, and rather easily at that. Young has a good handle on the characters in issue one, particularly in a scene that involves Captain America and Iron Man calling out Cyclops and Mags to get their act together. The cliffhanger reveal at the end—I really should have seen it coming. I can’t believe I didn’t. It’s some good stuff.
And Clay Mann on art duties … wow. What can I possibly say to do this guy justice? In a short couple of years, he’s hands-down become one of my favorites, and every book he’s on makes me drool a little bit. He’s wonderful. He’s coming to Boston Comic Con next year, and I am getting a sketch from him if I have to wait in line all weekend. Outstanding.
Did this book blow my mind? No, but it did some things well, did other things great, and was all around an enjoyable read. I wasn’t asking for much more than that.
More happiness! Have you seen this little bit of WIN called Princeless #1? Well if you haven’t, then you’re sorely missing out.
It’s soooooo great. It’s so great. I remember reading about this on the internet somewhere and I wasn’t really planning on checking it out, but then I found it on the shelf and read the first three pages and was like OH MY GOD, THIS IS SO WONDERFUL. Three pages—that’s all it took. And, you know, that’s kind of a big deal in a situation where you’re paying four bucks for a book when you weren’t anticipating having the expense at all. But this was so worth it, and I absolutely can’t wait to have the next issue in my hands.
This is a story about a princess named Adrienne who grows up being read stories about other princesses who get locked up in towers and have to be rescued by handsome princes who slay dragons and ultimately win the princesses’ hearts. Adrienne is baffled and outraged by this idea, criticizing and belittling the stories, and makes her mother promise her not to lock her up in a tower, only … of course you know that’s exactly what happens, right? The resulting scenario is nothing short of hilarious, adorable, brave, and pretty much unlike anything else on the comic racks right now. Whitley’s writing is beyond clever, and I found myself laughing at something on every page of the book. It’s smart enough for adults to enjoy, yet still written with a young audience in mind. This is exactly the type of thing you should be giving to the little girls in your life. Introduce them to comics now, with this. And actually, I take that back—it isn’t just for little girls; not even close. Adrienne is not the only character in this book—don’t let the “princess” thing fool you. Boys will enjoy this as well, and I encourage you to pick it up to find out why.
If I could get you to read one book and only one book this week, I would give you Princeless #1, and I wouldn’t even blink.
Since the debut of this title, I’ve had nothing but praise for Uncanny X-Force and Rick Remender. That hasn’t changed yet, and I don’t see it on horizon any time soon. Just when I think the story has reached a plateau and couldn’t possibly get any better, another issue comes out and BAM—I’m smacked in the face with the awesome.
The problem with loving a book this much is that it makes it insanely difficult to review. When you have no criticisms, there isn’t much left to say beyond shameless, unabashed gushing. And you have to admit, that’s kind of boring to read.
But I literally have nothing bad to say. There is nothing I would change about this book—not a thing. Not the writing, not the pencils, not the pacing, not the colors. Well … I suppose I might change the price … and maybe I’d make it ship twice a month, because I can’t get enough of it. But that’s all. Not much to ask.
If you’ve been subbing to this title, you know that Remender has been building up the Dark Angel Saga for quite some time—since day one, in fact. It’s some of the most well-timed and patient writing I’ve seen in recent memory. The thing I love about this book is that when I pick up an issue, I can tell that Remender has taken his time with it. He isn’t writing with collected editions in mind or decompressing the story, as one might accuse of Bendis’ Avengers titles. No; there’s a level of thought and care and precision to what Remender does, and it comes through in his scenes and character interplay. It’s harmonious. It’s a melody to which I never want to stop listening. If even a quarter of the other books Marvel puts out demonstrated this much attention to their craft, I’d be a much happier comics reader.
Jerome Opeña on art is no different. You look at these pages, and you know instantly that these babies were not rushed to meet looming deadlines. Opeña is careful, crafty, and deliberate, and the results are a joy.
On the surface, this is a black ops book. It’s assassinations and unspeakable deeds; it’s an X-Men book that’s not very X-Men-like. But read deeper, and you know these characters are about much more than that. This isn’t just about taking out threats before they become threats; this is a story of addiction, inferiority, self-worth and self-hate, fear and perceived altruism … and so much more. But Remender lets you figure that out for yourself; it’s underlying, and he doesn’t beat you over the head with it. I love that. The mark of a good writer.
Big changes are coming up for this team, and I can’t wait to find out what Remender has planned for the next year of this book. Best one on the X-shelf.
Hahaaha, oh my. This is getting worse and worse. Rob Liefeld on a new Hawk and Dove series? I just might have to buy that. The 90s are coming … I’m getting my suspenders ready!
As I try to quell my heartache over all of the DC news this week, I offer you some blurb reviews. I didn’t realize until I was finished that they’re all Marvel. There’s a chance that’ll become more often the case in the coming months.
And also, let me clarify one thing: despite what the last issue of the newsletter said, “Suicide Girls” was damn well NOT my pick of the week. You can thank my comic shop colleagues for that loving display of antagonism and embarrassment … but I suppose I had it coming. :)
The Mighty Thor #2 – I was surprised to like this book. Given my tendency to dislike Matt Fraction’s writing, my expectations for this title weren’t very high. The main factor that convinced me to pick it up is Olivier Coipel pulling art duties, and I was right to fall for it, because he shines as bright as ever. His crisp style does the same wonders for Thor here as it did during Coipel’s run with JMS not long ago, and his representation of the Silver Surfer is seriously awesome. Story-wise, it’s nothing particularly ground-breaking yet, but entertaining enough without feeling as lethargic as I usually find Fraction to be (more on that below, unfortunately). The plot involves Thor getting hurt while retrieving the World Seed, while the Silver Surfer warns earth of Galactus’ impending arrival. So far there’s a nice split of focus between Thor, Odin, Loki, and Sif (my favorite—I bet that doesn’t surprise you), and it’s just fallen into this groove of “light reading” for me. The title doesn’t seem to cross over much into Journey into Mystery so far, which is the better book of the two, but I wonder if that doesn’t have to change at some point. I’m sticking with this and drooling over Coipel’s artistic candy for now.
Fear Itself #3 – **SPOILERS**
I knew I shouldn’t be reading this. I knew I shouldn’t have bothered, but here I am, never one to resist the horror. My warm feelings for Matt Fraction don’t extend far beyond the above Mighty Thor post, readers, because—I’m sorry—this is some lazy, dumb shit we’ve got going on here. Okay—I’m going to completely avoid all the other nitpicks I have with this issue and just focus on the one big one, which is BUCKY. Poor, poor, dear old Bucky. It’s a testament to the languid storytelling here that by the end of the issue, I wasn’t even sure if he was actually dead. I had to take to the internet and get other people’s reactions in order to know for sure what was going on. Even the incredible Stuart Immonen couldn’t save this for me, and from what I’ve read, I wasn’t the only one left confused. But, yes—it’s confirmed that Bucky is very dead. Again. And I cannot for the life of me understand why they thought this would be a good idea. So Marvel wants Steve back as Cap? Okay, fine. Let’s do it. But that is absolutely no reason for Bucky to have to die. Marvel brought him back against a bunch of pissing and moaning from the fans, gave him to Brubaker who turned him into a really great character and let the spotlight shine on him for a couple of years, won all the fans over and now they’re taking all that and throwing it away just for one poorly-constructed scene in an event book. It makes no sense. It doesn’t sell any extra copies of the book, it didn’t add anything to the scene, and it didn’t take away from how blah and boring the rest of the story has been. It was nothing. Just a nothing scene. Despite my love for the character, I felt absolutely nothing reading this. Not to mention it made no sense at all to keep him completely out of the first two books, then turn around in issue three and off him out of nowhere. WHAT? That is damn LAZINESS, Matt Fraction—LAZY. YOU MAKE KITTY CRY.
Daken: Dark Wolverine #9.1 – Rob Williams writes this issue in place of the tag team of Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu. I’m not sure if this is a permanent change or just a fill in—I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that Marjorie Liu won’t be co-writing anymore, but I could be wrong. At any rate, the title’s been a little hit and miss for me. I enjoyed most of the earlier stuff, but as soon as the crossover with X-23 happened, I got a little turned off. With that done and over now, all of the attention is rightfully back on Daken. Despite the “point one” suggestion that this is a good jumping on point to read the book, it really wouldn’t hurt to go out of your way and pick up the stuff that came before it. It’ll only give you a fuller sense of the story and a better understanding of Daken as a character. Issue #9.1 mainly deals with Daken ascertaining his dominion over … well, himself, really—who he is, what he’s about, and the fact that he’s not Wolverine. As the issue opens with one of Daken’s victims chastising him with the reality that all he ever does is destroy—never does he create anything—Daken actually takes it to heart and decides to act. How he acts, I’ll leave it for you to see, but something kind of falls flat this issue. While the story idea isn’t terrible, it’s also not particularly strong, and just feels a bit recycled. That said, the impression we’re left with is that Daken will be launching into something better moving forward. Ron Garney on art is, like the story itself, hit and miss, but I haven’t given up on this yet. Let’s see what the next few issues bring.
Uncanny X-Force #11 – The Apocalypse personality continues to cause trouble for our dear Warren Worthington in the lastest issue of what has easily become one of my favorite comics on the shelf, and it’s up to the rest of the X-Force team to cure Warren of what ails him. Unfortunately, curing him means trusting in Dark Beast of the AoA and following him back into his own time in order to procure the life seed (what’s with the “seed” theme this month?) that will temper the Apocalypse personality within Warren. The character interaction here is great, not only among team members, but also with the surprise guests that pop up from the Age of Apocalypse timeline. You know when I said that X-Men: Legacy was the best X-book out there right now, and that the rest is toilet paper? Well, at the time I said that, I’d apparently forgotten about Uncanny X-Force. This title has been oh-my-word good since issue one, and Rick Remender is showing no signs of slowing down. This is the quality of writing—character, plot, and setting—that I look for in every book I pick up each month, but only seem to get in a handful. If that. I’ll take this over the 800 Fear Itself tie-ins any day.
Black Widow – This book has seriously gone down the sink hole with the new creative team. It’s sad, too, because Marjorie Liu did an awesome job on her first arc, only to be replaced by unimaginative drivel. I’m hoping the upcoming Widow Maker cross-over with Hawkeye & Mockingbird (another title biting the dust) writer Jim McCann will maybe breathe a bit of life into Black Widow, but I’m not optimistic. This may be beyond saving, as Marvel had clearly already given up on it with the end of the first arc. If the horrible front cover doesn’t give it away….
Halcyon – Huh? What?? Reading this title’s first issue was upsetting; I’d heard so much hype and praise, and it most certainly let me down hard. The thing is, it’s a great concept; I just find the execution sorely lacking. Not a fan of the art, not a fan of some of the lamer scenes, and ultimately closed the first issue without any love or attachment to the characters at all. I thought I might give this one another go next month, but honestly, I have better things to read. Like Return of the Dapper Men.
Uncanny X-Force – Now this is what I’m talking about! Issue one got me so excited; issue two just pumped it up further. This book is going to be a great ride, and I’m already waiting eagerly for #3. Rick Remender is on his game—the character interaction is fantastic; the concept and execution are clever; the artwork is fitting. Uncanny X-Force jumps to the top of my reading pile every time it comes out.
Other Recent Yeas: X-Men Legacy, Amazing Spider-Man
Other Recent Nays: Uncanny X-Men
X-posted at Nerd Caliber
Since I fear my constant bellowing over female-driven titles is giving you guys a skewed perspective as far as what is actually in my reading pile, I thought I’d do a quick “What I’m Reading” rundown post. I am a couple of weeks behind on my comics, what with the holiday rush coming up and the exhaustion of 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. work days, but I’ve been trying to keep up during my commutes. Please feel free to chime in with your own reading lists!
Batman, Inc. – Post on this coming soon!
Batman: The Return – Loved this one-shot. Very intrigued. Lots of questions. Want more.
Avengers: Children’s Crusade – So torn! Every issue of this mini has been spectacular so far, but its chronic lateness is killing me and kind of makes me not want to support it.
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents – Enjoyed the first issue a lot, having never read the original book. Very much on board for now. That Frank Quitely cover is lovely and a great homage.
Halcyon – Haven’t actually read it yet … hoping to make it to this one on the train ride home later.
Amazing Spider-Man – I gotta be honest, I rarely read this book. But I hear Dan Slott’s got a ton of awesome stuff lined up for his run that kicked off with the last issue, so it kind of piqued my interest. Also, the Black Cat cameo made me happy—I want to see Black Cat on the Avengers alongside Cap and Spidey, I would geek out pretty hardcore for that.
She-Hulks – No idea what’s going on here. Thought this was the launch of a new ongoing, but apparently it got busted back down to a four-issue mini-series. No idea who Lyra is or anything—haven’t read any Shulkie since her last Dan Slott/Peter David series got canned (which made me sad).
Scarlet – Ehhh … kind of like it, kind of don’t … still reading.
Daken: Dark Wolverine – Marjorie Liu and Daniel Way = Win. Also really liking the art on this book. Haven’t gotten to the latest issue yet.
X-23 – An issue behind. Enjoying it so far.
Uncanny X-Force – Second issue comes out today and I can’t wait to pick it up!
So, there’s my short list of just a few things from recent weeks. Any suggestions? What recent releases SHOULD I be reading that I’m not? Opinions, comments, questions welcome.
At the end of the tragic car wreck that was the “Second Coming” storyline, Cyclops disbanded his super secret black ops X-Force team as the result of much scrutiny when the news of their existence leaked to the other X-Men. Little does Cyclops know, however, that Wolverine and Archangel have taken it upon themselves to continue their black ops missions of their own accord with a new crew of members. Gone are X-23, Warpath, Domino, etc. Welcome: Psylocke, Deadpool, and Fantomex.
Not exactly who you’d expect, right?
Neither did I. But oh my God, does Remender make this work.
It’s perfect. You’ve got two strong leaders in Archangel and Wolverine. You have comic relief and general hilarity in Deadpool. You have depth and conflict in Fantomex. And you have ninja badassery in Psylocke. The cogs in this fit tremendously well, while still maintaining the potential for great conflict down the line.
I read an interview with Remender a few weeks ago where he described his take on the series and characters—how they work individually, and how they fit in together as a team—and it filled me with confidence that he knows what he’s doing. Now that I’ve read the first issue, that confidence has only been further cemented, and I’m beyond excited to see how it all develops.
Issue one opens with Deadpool doing some scouting of a threat as-yet-unknown to the audience. He sends out a distress signal to Archangel for assistance, who receives it after waking in the middle of the night beside Psylocke, with whom he has re-started a relationship. What’s more, Psylocke is now using her telepathy to keep Warren’s belligerent Archangel persona in check, and the two characters have a little heart-to-heart in regard to their fears of controlling “him” (Archangel).
Elsewhere, Wolverine thwarts a heist by Fantomex, and the entire team convenes in E.V.A. to rescue Deadpool. Along the way, Warren briefs them in regard to what they’re about to face—Apocalypse is back, he believes, and he wants to take him down no matter the cost. As the team fights its way to Deadpool, we’re privy to some excellent narration and analysis of the team from Fantomex. Remender does a fantastic job of using Fantomex’s observations as an insight to this group of characters, and gives some great foreshadowing of what we can expect to see of them in the future.
The issue ends with a confirmation that, yes—Apocalypse has indeed returned—but not in the manner you’d think. Jerome Opena’s art does well in these revelations, which is a pleasant surprise. After seeing a few preview pages, I expected not to like his work, but he actually suits the book and the characters quite well. So far, Uncanny X-Force has been very much what I’d hoped and more. I think the creative team on this book is on to something clever, and I’m absolutely psyched to see how they handle it.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Written by Rick Remender
Illustrated by Jose Opena
Colors by Dean White
Letters by VC’s Cory Petit